Oct. 1 2014
By Ann Needle
You learn that your friend has made a dinner reservation for the gang at The People’s Kitchen, and you think, “Gee willikers, I always wanted cold cabbage soup served by Bolsheviks.” But get past that name, and you will see this Worcester restaurant has lots to offer those heading for a night out in our local “big city,” complete with contemporary cuisine that wouldn’t offend anyone.
A night out at a Hanover Theatre show is what brought a group of us Stow women out to Worcester last week. Because ring leader Marianne Sharin apparently gets out way more than some of us, she selected TPK from her pleasant memory of a good meal there. We were fortunate to have what was likely one of New England’s last warm evenings of 2014, so we dined on the enclosed patio, which the restaurant actually shares with two other establishments in the so-called Nichexchange, under the same ownership.
If you are dining out with a larger party, but dread doing the bill-splitting math, you have found the right place. Each month, TPK posts a new prix fixe menu. For $35, a diner can select one of each category of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Be aware that a few of the meat and fish dishes may have a “supplement” – say, $5 — attached. And, for a mere $15, you also may enjoy the suggested wine pairings with each dish ordered. Naturally, being the four individuals we are, not all of us chose prix fixe, but the math didn’t seem too tough. (Given I skipped off to the ladies’ room when the bill came, it seemed effortless.) Each of these items also could be ordered a la carte.
TPK only displays its prix fixe selections online, so it’s easy to forget it offers a wide variety of permanent dishes. Appetizers ranged from the traditional garden and Caesar salads, to steamed edamame and roasted garlic and Parmesan hummus. (Vegetarians and vegans, note that TPK states it is absolutely committed to offering choices under both categories at all times.) Permanent entrees include a filet mignon along with a “classic” grilled cheese.
The Mixed Bag
Of our gang of four, Amanda Bennett and Catherine Hammill went with prix fixe. Both ordered the Oyster Trio, served with a spiced gazpacho shooter. To me, it appeared the two of them were chugging salsa, but that’s the way the waiter said to attack it. Each also had high praise for the dish. Sharin and I went our own route, ordering the Caesar salad, traditionally prepared and leaving us both happy.
For entrees, Bennett had the Seared Scallops, which was served with peaches, sherry, pearl couscous, and a Yuzu caramel drizzle. Bennett puzzled over where people think these things up, but also claimed instant adoration.
Again, for reasons unknown, Sharin and I went the homey route. Declaring herself not overly hungry, Sharin ordered the 3 Cheese Mac & Cheese off of the appetizer menu. For an appetizer, it actually was a heaping bowl — and Sharin rhapsodized about the creamy goodness. My Citizen Grilled Reuben sandwich replaced the traditional corned beef with housemade pastrami; in other words, brown pastrami. Fear not, it was NOT the same as the disappointment of expecting that luscious, red corned beef in your Reuben, then being served the gray stuff, a New England tragedy. This pastrami was lean, juicy, and had very fresh Swiss melted over it all. Just don’t get all freaky over the color.
The only flat note in the night came with Catherine Hammill’s Seared Szechuan Sesame Tuna. The presentation was lovely, but biting into it, she discovered a very visibly stringy fish. Hammill did finish the tasty trimmings, which included pineapple fried rice.
After dinner, we discovered that our show started in 30 minutes. Given that dessert was ordered back at the start of the meal, we were in a pickle. So, Sharin somehow talked waiter Ted into accepting our payment, then leaving a note with the kitchen that we would be back for dessert after the show. It worked.
Post-show, we enjoyed S’mores Creme Brulee (ahhhh!) and Warm Bourbon Peach Bread Pudding. Though I normally put bread pudding in the same unholy category as gray corned beef, this one was a smash. I neglected to ask where the scoop of vanilla ice cream came from, which is too bad; it was some of the best in my years of ice cream tasting.
Returning there after 10pm gave us a new look at the complex, especially the Friday night bar crowd that had the place hopping. If you are looking for a post-event drink, this is the place to be. TPK itself is quiet, but is also terrific for those who do the dessert-and-coffee route after a show.
If you are hopping between here and the Hanover or DCU Center, know that it’s a few minutes’ walk, though each is under a mile away. Never fear, because TPK offers FREE valet parking, so you can park for dinner, then move to one of the garages closer to these venues. With that, even the Bolsheviks would be pleased.