Hot New Restaurants 2006

Owning a restaurant is often a lifetime achievement for a chef or restaurateur. It may take years to fulfill that dream — or at least a serious commitment to a bank. We take our hats off to these new restaurants and the chefs and owners whose life’s work, passion and financial stake creates a transcendental experience for our dining pleasure.

Sea Change

Commercial Street Fishery

33 S. Commercial Street, Manchester, (603) 296-0706,

Pam Kelley and Quentin Keefe, a mortgage broker, were shopping around for a restaurant location last year. The food business beckoned. When they walked into Jeffrey Paige’s Starfish Grill they knew they had found the perfect location. It was tucked into a hot mill complex, just south of Granite Street. They quickly made an offer.

They revamped the interior with a more sophisticated take, found Chef Justin Lyonnais to polish a seafood menu and added fresh lobster served three ways. The bar scene is now happening with bar-height tables and comfy seating.

Food choices range from fried fish with sweet potato chips to more sophisticated renditions of scallops or ahi tuna. The “mixed grill” contains a pound of seafood and it’s quite the feast for two. Look for Chef Lyonnais’ specials, like Salmon Cakes Lyonnais, which are an ode to his French heritage. Opens at 3 p.m. for dinner.

New Steak Out

Buckley’s Great Steaks

438 Daniel Webster Highway, Route 3,

Merrimack, (603) 424-0995,

Chef Michael Buckley followed one well-done success after another. His Michael Timothy’s Wine Bar and Jazz Bistro opened 10 years ago and set Nashua’s Main Street up for a renaissance. Six years later came Surf, his knockout seafood restaurant. Late in 2005 he opened Buckley’s Great Steaks.

Experience told him people love a good steak. At Buckley’s he focuses on aged prime-grade steak and ages it further on the premises — enhancing the beef flavor. A great steak is hard to beat and that is what you will find here consistently.

Buckley and his wife Sarah took on the remodel of a historic structure for this latest venture, replacing just about everything within sight. Now, a touch of Colonial mingles with contemporary fixtures and a few mounted animal heads. (Hey, they’re catering to carnivores.) The adjacent bar features a great wine selection, live entertainment and cozy couches around a fireplace.

Open for dinner every night, except select holidays.

History and Charcuterie

The Dunaway Restaurant

Strawbery Banke, across from Prescott Park, Portsmouth, (603) 373-6112

Jay McSharry has a track record of successful restaurants, from Jumpin Jay’s to Raddici. Dunaway is his pièce de résistance. Remodeling the former Strawbery Banke gift shop with a nod to history, the space is nonetheless contemporary in feel with wide expanses of warm yellow-gold walls, a touch of exposed beams and streamlined light fixtures.

The menu created by award-winning chef Mary Dumont is rich in local connections. She was on a first-name basis with the source of her charcuterie. The pig, Manfreddo, was raised on sous chef Ben Hasty’s family farm. The pig is long gone, but, thankfully, Dumont’s flair with paté and cured meats lives on.

From the Sea of Love

Carpaccio Ristorante Italiano

3 Lebanon Street, Hanover;

(603) 643-8600

Chef Giovanni Leopardi and his wife Melba left a mad dash life of world travel and relocation for the safety and sanity of New Hampshire. It was after 9/11 that they decided to get serious about having their own restaurant and raising their daughter in a peaceful atmosphere.

Their first restaurant, Potter’s Place in Andover, was the opening act. The effort established a reputation, but the off-the-beaten track location was problematic. In Hanover, Chef Leopardi has concentrated his focus. His preparations reflect his love of Italy from the Piedmont, outside his birthplace in Torino, to the shores of Napoli and beyond. That means fresh seafood imported via FedEx from the Mediterranean Sea and fresh truffles from France in season.

The dining room is small and intimate, but the cuisine is worldly and brings the flavors of Europe to this college town. Homemade pasta stuffed with goat cheese and infused with the essence of orange and fennel pollen; fresh sea bass with fresh herbs; and five versions of carpaccio (thinly sliced) including venison and octopus — they all sing with flavor.

In season Leopardi favors local produce and has developed a relationship with local producers. Near or far, the preparations are a class act.

Grecian Greatness

Giorgio’s Ristorante Meze

524 Nashua Street, Milford,

(603) 673-3939

No one is more happy that the new Giorgio’s is now open than owners Alex and George Sklavounos. It is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for the family. Nothing but the best for this place, with personal touches, from the imported marble to the reproduction art work to the Greek, hand-blown glass light fixtures. Now, the space is just breathtaking, including the fountain handbuilt by Alex. The roomy 200-seat restaurant replaces the Giorgio’s in downtown Milford, but the menu is more serious. No more pan pizza.

In addition to chef’s specialties like Agia Galine Seafood Stew and Moussaka, Sklavounos is offering a “Symposium,” a Greek tasting menu with authentic dishes like saganaki, stuffed grape leaves, pasta dishes and grilled fish. In all, seven courses for $34.

The owners have rightly gone back to their Hellenic roots.

Healthy Thai

Lemon Grass

Route 25, Moultonborough

(603) 253-8100

This is Mike Love’s third restaurant in the Lakes Region. Here, Love has taken Asian themes and fused them with world cuisine. Other than the Pad Thai, all presentations of beef and lamb are like nothing else you might find locally. Ginger and lemongrass are infused into fresh seafood and other dishes.

While Asian food tends to be healthy, Love has taken it a step further. All items are made from scratch, and fresh and local are the backbone of the restaurant, with 90 percent of the produce being organic. Meats, too, are free-range or natural. By offering 15 specials daily, he takes advantage of the marketplace.

Love has assembled a staff of seven chefs from all over the world to staff this restaurant, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Desserts by Donna, Mike’s wife and a pastry chef with her own shop, continue the theme with a Tahitian crème brûlée and flavors of coconut and key lime.

High Steaks

Hanover Street Chophouse

149 Hanover Street, Manchester

(603) 644-2467,

Chuck Rolocek has upped the ante for restaurateurs in Manchester. Building upon the quality and quality control at C.R. Sparks in Bedford, he bet the house on his new steak house on Hanover Street. Everything is top-notch.

From the mahogany paneling to the designer light fixtures you are transported to a super-sophisticated environment that defines the new Manchester. The dimly lit room evokes a quiet elegance. A granite topped bar and table lamps with deep red shades whisper New York City.

At first glance the fare is classic upscale steakhouse. But the depth and breadth of the menu is far from ordinary. Dry-aged Kansas City steaks and natural filet mignon are the headliners, but warm-up acts like Kobe beef carpaccio with shaved truffles and a magnificent seafood tower add all the right elements for a pleasurable dining experience.

Rolocek has learned the secret of a successful restaurant and has striven for consistency. It is a safe bet that the service, food and dining experience will be beyond reproach.

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