Venue Review: Good Food on Montford
The Charlotte Observer
1701 Montford Drive
Cleverly crafted and complex, several of the small plates Kerry and Bruce Moffett put out at this rustic little place belie its oh-so-blunt name. Steamed buns with five-spice-rubbed pork belly? Torchon of foie gras with ice wine jelly? Roasted quail with strawberry tamale and “chocolate-scented pan sauce”? That's a lot going on for a place dubbed Good Food on Montford.
The bulk of the lineup is simpler, more in line with the food that made Bruce Moffett famous at Barrington's – the food Kerry cooked with him for eight years before the brothers decided to open this, in March.
The small-plate idea – like tapas, but not exclusively Spanish-inspired – seemed a natural, given the economy and the opportunity for the chefs to get creative. Dishes such as garganelli (tiny pasta) with spicy sausage and tomato sauce, or a soup of New Town Farms' spring onions with baby sweet shrimp salad, or elegant little falafels with tomato-cucumber relish, bring this plan to fruition.
And I'm a fan, too, of the more complex dishes – the lamb tagine is remarkable – but they require more of the diner. Not just in attention, to appreciate them, but in the rest of your ordering, too. That tagine is not going to seem as noteworthy if you've preceded it with the green curry mussels and followed it with crab and ricotta tortelloni over fava beans with a shellfish reduction.
Therein lies a rub with any place serving small plates, but particularly one that offers some challenging fare: It's easy to order too much and feel hornswoggled by the bill, or order badly and feel overwhelmed. To fully appreciate Good Food, stick with mostly simple dishes and choose just one that's complicated per visit per person (and yes, make the tagine – served in a tiny lidded dish – your first).
The meat and cheese plates are strong beginners; don't miss the housemade garlic sausage and the camembert-style cheese with fig chutney. Other must-gets: olive-oil poached salmon in spicy carrot broth; potato gnocchetti with house-cured pancetta, brussels sprouts and pioppini mushrooms; and the falafel side dish (at $6 for four golf-ball-sized, perfectly fried orbs, a steal). Less compelling: A bland braised pork, despite housemade ramen noodles; and an overcooked scallop atop chilled angel hair.
As far as desserts go, it's a smart, short selection of fruit or chocolate: The s'more-like cupcake sports a browned meringue top and balanced chocolate sauce, and there are lemon bars with a barely-tangy frozen raspberry yogurt for fans of the less-sweet. Mango bread pudding and espresso pot de crème were also on the list on my last visit, and after-dinner nips and good coffee are available.
Service is crucial in this setup, and ours worked well: educated on preparations, unintrusive yet available and willing to let each table set its own pace. Space was more haphazard: One night, our party of four had plenty of room; another, two of us squeezed into a table that had not enough. And though white paper is an easy table covering, glasses sweat onto it and create puddles.
Speaking of flatware, check out the simple art and sconces that employ it. Simple. Well-cast here, with the exposed brick and hardwood ceilings and general ethos. Good.