NEWBURYPORT – There’s an All American Burger, homemade Italian Pasta, a French Tarte Flambe, and Chinese Style Lobster. While the flavors may be international, at The Poynt in Newburyport they’re simply trying to be a great local restaurant.
Located right on the water in downtown Newburyport, The Poynt has been open less than a year, but has already become the hometown favorite owners Laura and John Wolfe want it to be.
“We are serious about what we do, but we don’t take ourselves too serious,” John said. “We wanted to be kind of a fun, casual place with really high standards, great food, and great design.”
To handle the food, they brought in Executive Chef Peter Hansen, who’s worked in some of the country’s best kitchens.
“I’ve pulled from a lot of my background, all the chefs that I’ve work for from London to Miami to Boston itself, New York City. I mean I pulled from a lot different people, a lot of different regions that they were dealing with.”
As for the design, it was inspired by the building’s rich history as a hardware store, and more recently, a clothing store.
“The booths and the bar are men’s suit fabrics. The floor is a Chevron style, again from men’s fabrics,” Laura explained. “Lots of nuts and bolts and you’ll see pipe fittings. We really kind of wanted to pay tribute to the fact that the building was a hardware store before it was even anything else.”
Now nuts and bolts have been replaced by pot and pans. Sport coats have made way for chef coats, all of which are on full display inside the restaurant’s large open kitchen.
“It’s dinner and a show,” said Laura. “And it is fun; and it does add a different vitality to the restaurant. We wanted a very active, lively restaurant, so we decided to make sure that we had that element.”
A big portion of The Poynt’s menu is devoted to small plates to encourage sharing, like Tuna Tartar with a homemade rice cracker; the Kung Pao Roll with spicy tempura shrimp, peanuts, and chili aioli; and Crispy Fried Oysters with Black Pepper Beurre Blanc and American Caviar, a taste of luxury for just thirteen bucks.
“You’re getting sweet and salty caviar. You’re getting the sweetness, brininess of the oyster itself. You’re getting the crunch of the tempura, and then you’re getting that kind of acidic and sweet buttery Beurre Blanc,” Chef Peter described.
The number one must order might just be the decadent Tarte Flambe. It’s part pastry, part pizza, and all good; with a buttery, flaky crust topped with double smoked bacon, sweet onion jam, crème fraiche, and plenty of gooey gruyere.
“You’re getting sweet from the onions, because it’s a sweet onion jam, you’re getting salty from the bacon, you’re getting the richness from the gruyere and the crème fraiche, and you’re getting a very flaky crispy pastry shell,” said the chef. “It’s a beautiful dish.”
When it comes to entrees, there are Italian options like Lamb Bolognese with housemade pasta, and extra crispy thin crust pizzas. For something all-American, nothing beats The Poynt’s Burger, cooked over an open flame to impart that classic backyard char.
“We do fresh ground chuck and part brisket. We do a brioche bun. It’s a six month aged cheddar. It’s got all the accompaniments. When it comes off the grill it tastes, to me, it tastes like a burger you would cook with your dad in the backyard on Fourth of July,” said Chef Peter.
If lobster is what you’re looking for, get ready for a twist, because the Cantonese Style Whole Maine Lobster is one delicious head turner.
“It gets dropped on the table and people are like, ‘Whoa!’ It’s also easy to eat. It’s a lazy man’s version of a Cantonese style lobster,” Chef Peter explained.
“We tempura fry everything, and then kind of plug it all back together on the plate over this Udon noodle stir fry. So you have a nice noodle stir fry on the bottom; you’ve got all the Cantonese lobster on the top; it gets glazed with teriyaki sauce, garnished with sesame and cilantro.”
At dinner, The Poynt’s big bar is always active, but on weekend mornings, brunch is the name of the game, featuring full-flavored dishes like the Cajun Bennie with Tasso ham, Cajun hollandaise, and blackened shrimp; a Pastrami and Fried Egg Sandwich on griddled sourdough; stuffed French Toast with fresh berry compote; and Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs with sausage gravy, a southern staple Chef Peter wanted to bring up north.
“I think we do an incredible Chicken Fried Steak. I mean, it’s so flavorful it’s amazing. Melts in your mouth. It’s absolutely a beautiful dish, every component of it is unhealthy, but it’s delicious.”
Whether you come for brunch or dinner, everyone at The Poynt makes it a point to make you feel at home.
“We love being hospitable,” said Laura. “Somebody once asked me, ‘What was the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?’ And I said, when I’m in the restaurant and it’s filled, and I look around and people are smiling and happy, and they’re laughing. It makes me feel great that I’ve made this wonderful environment where people want to come, bring their friends, and make, really a lovely memory.”
You can find The Poynt at 31 Water Street in Newburyport, and online at poyntnewburyport.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.