In the kitchen
I take it as a sign of a chef’s confidence to offer salt and pepper at the table, and chef Andrea Schnell has it and does. Not that I’ve needed it -- everything I’ve eaten on three visits has been perfectly seasoned. The great reputations that Schnell and her general manager, Mark Doherty, have earned over their 15 years at Hingham’s Square Café have drawn crowds to Sorelle Bar & Grill since it opened in late March. Now, with the chef in her prime and years of experience behind her, Schnell is spreading her already-wide culinary wings as she cooks in every chef’s dream: her own kitchen.
Schnell and her team bought the former Vin & Eddie’s on Route 18 in Abington in 2016 and totally renovated the space. Tall ceilings, wood finishes, windows, and wainscoting in earth tones give the 165-seat restaurant a contemporary feel. Diners have a choice of environments: a roomy dining room; a big, curved bar side with high-tops and banquets; or the restaurant’s patio. (It’s worth noting that the inside chairs have extremely comfy cushions.) Best of all, a wide open, stainless steel kitchen, with a red pizza oven, lies at the far end of the bar where you can watch the whole operation in full swing. New acoustic tile has been installed throughout the space, along with a fire pit on the patio, which should make for cozy times on cool nights.
On the menu
Even if you don’t want bread, say yes when you’re asked. Not just for Sorelle’s outstanding focaccia, but to taste what a sweet, stimulating flavor chives lend an olive oil dip. But that’s just the beginning of big flavor on this menu. The mussels appetizer ($12) is a bowl of small (tender, delectable) mussels, and the lobster broth they float in is a sensational soup on its own. If you want to take this flavor to a bigger plate, do not miss the Faroe Island salmon ($24): It’s a party on a plate. Grilled salmon is served on an island of Swiss chard and fingerling potatoes floating in a lemon seafood broth filled with luscious bites: mussels, large shrimp, velvety-soft, roasted tomatoes, sausage, peas. Fantastic. And fantastic keeps coming.
On one visit, we ordered the Brussels sprouts ($10), sure they’d be good like they are at so many places, but we were wrong: They were better. Not only were they cooked somehow perfectly (not at all charred, yet crisp and tender) but the umami-rich truffle aioli on the plate transforms the vegetable into a full-bodied, meaty-tasting dish. Out of this world.
The wonderful, grilled octopus appetizer ($13) is served atop a mound of borlotti beans and the surprise of sweetly-seasoned greens, which pair so nicely with the tang of shaved scallions on top. Like so many of her appetizers, the chef’s meatballs ($10) -- with good marinara and grilled bread -- are a meal in themselves. Perhaps pair them with a beautiful Caesar salad ($8) or the Margherita pizza ($9). The Sicilian baked cod ($26) is good (served on a raft of asparagus and polenta sticks), and I’ve heard that the grilled yellow fin tuna ($29) is fantastic (next time). Italian is Schnell’s wheelhouse, and her orecchiette ($19) (Swiss chard, peas, sausage, lemon, garlic) is deeply soul-satisfying with its large “ears” of pasta and a thick, clinging sauce. The perfect braised beef short ribs ($24) with mascarpone polenta and roasted veggies is code for “this melts in your mouth.” Alas, with new summer menu items about to debut, you may have to wait until fall to have it -- which would be a shame. But, hey: There’s so much else to try.
Sorelle Bar & Grill, 1400 Bedford St., Abington, 781-421-6156, sorelleabington.com.Joan Wilder can be reached at email@example.com.