Phantom Gourmet: The Red Raven In Acton

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ACTON - There’s an impressive new restaurant in Acton, where you can sit outside by the water or inside by the fireplace, and where the scenes in the kitchen look like something you’d see on reality TV. The cast of culinary characters keep things interesting while they’re sautéing, searing and stirring things up at The Red Raven.

The two-tiered restaurant owned by Jenifer and John Apazidis is set on scenic Lake Nagog. It’s an energetic eatery sporting a festive bar with a two story fireplace to cozy up to; waterside dining when the weather is nice; and a gorgeous bistro-style dining room.

“People are really wowed when they first walk in,” Jenifer said. “The vaulted ceilings, the post and beam look, so it’s rustic and with the renovations we kind of gave it a modern, more clean decor but still keeping it really, really comfortable.”

While this enormous eatery may belong to Jennifer and John, it’s the kitchen who really ‘owns it’ when it comes to cooking some serious cuisine.

“This is a family run local operation. We operate as a team. It’s not a one man show in the kitchen,” Jenifer explained. “My husband and I are here from open to close every day and we meet with the chefs every day. I think it’s important for people to have a say and to be part of that team that builds the menu.”

That menu is loaded up with all things tasty, from starters like addictive wings served with a trio of dipping sauces, to the Berries Mascarpone dessert. There are elaborate boards of housemade charcuterie, elegant entrees like the crispy chicken served in a mushroom ragout and casual bar food like super soft Bavarian pretzels- a snack that pairs perfectly with a pint.

The Nevermore Burger is another timeless classic, but it gets a bit messy when you add an egg, crispy bacon and decadent foie gras.

“It’s definitely not a neat burger,” Jenifer admitted, “but all of the flavors just kind of melt together. You have the silkiness of the foie gras, the crispiness and the smokiness of the bacon and then the runniness of this fresh egg and it really makes for an amazing bite.”

The Orange Blossom Scallops are almost too pretty to eat. Presented on a bed of mixed greens with spicy sambal sauce, these scallops are cooked quickly in a Grand Marnier reduction, so they come out perfect every time.

“To get a perfectly cooked scallop like the ones our chefs do is hard to find. When I first saw the dish it was so colorful it reminded me of like those first few days of spring and summer where like all the colors are coming out, everything is melding together, there’s different pops of color. It’s amazing.”

Another popular seafood option is the Mussels that are steamed in Narragansett Lager, and served in a saffron and fennel based broth with fries.

“People normally will eat all the mussels, get rid of the shells and then dump their fries in the broth and then eat up the fries,” Jenifer explained.

Then there’s The Raven Chop: indulgent on its own, but made even more luxurious with the addition of a little marrow on top.

“My favorite thing to tell people the first time they get it is to scrape out the bone marrow; butter the rib eye; let it sit for 30 seconds, because it heightens the flavor so much. It’s amazing.”

It’s pretty clear the kitchen staff like to get creative, constantly coming up with new ways to serve the classics, like the Red Raven’s Grilled Caesar Salad.

The grilled Caeser salad at The Red Raven in Acton. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

The grilled Caeser salad at The Red Raven in Acton. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“I’ve never grilled a head of lettuce before, however I don’t think I’ll ever make a Caesar at home and not grill a head of romaine,” said Jenifer. “We take the Caesar dressing, we brush the head of romaine, grill it on a open flame grill and it just chars the outside leafs so the inside remains really crispy and fresh. Every bite is filled with so much flavor and it’s amazing.”

Even something simple like Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup gets the Red Raven treatment.

“We’re taking items that you might see on other menus and taking them up quite a few notches. Our grilled cheese is on a thick cut brioche loaf. It features Comte and goat cheese melted, and then it features house molasses, arugula, and pickled onions. So people love it.”

And as for Jennifer, she loves seeing the teamwork in the kitchen, and she definitely loves being a hands-on owner who cares about her customers.

“I try to be, you know, an owner and dress fancy and maybe come over to tables. But most of the time I’m running food, helping the bar, backing staff up, doing stuff behind the scenes to make sure that everything is working the way it needs to.”

“We care. We care about every ticket; we care about every customer that comes in the door; and we want people to really enjoy and experience the restaurant the best way for them. Whether it’s in the pub; whether it’s in the bistro; whether it’s on the deck dining outside – there’s something for everyone here.”

The Red Raven is at 3 Nagog Park in Acton or online at redravenacton.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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