In May, after several years as chef at the Ocean Club, David Twining rounded up some of that Ocean City restaurant's staff and went north. Physically, he only moved a couple of miles across the state line into Fenwick Island.
But from a culinary point of view, he went several hundred miles north to open Nantuckets, a new restaurant with distinct New England influences.
The restaurant is divided into several cozy rooms, each with white stucco walls, floral valances and dark wood tables. Our waiter spoke so familiarly to the others seated in our dining room that at first we wondered if he knew them. By the end of the meal, his entertaining style had us all smiling at each other like old friends.
No doubt the excellence of our meals also contributed to the merry atmosphere. The food at this new restaurant is terrific.
We started with one of Nantuckets' "Tucket Pita Pie" specialties, the Sconset scallop pie ($5.95). This mini-pizza on a large pita shell featured fresh bay scallops and a cream sherry sauce under a layer of melted mozzarella. The tender scallops stood out amid the mild sauce and cheese.
Our other appetizer was a New England treat, scallop and quahog chowder ($3.50). For you Southerners, a quahog is a large Atlantic clam. Several of them and a few scallops took a swim in this chowder's delicate, creamy broth - not as thick as my favorite clam chowder, but very tasty nonetheless.
For the main course, Nantuckets features mostly New England-style seafood dishes, although token chicken, lamb and beef dishes are on the menu.
My companion chose Scampi and Chutney Incorporated $14.95), while I tried "The Best Crab Cake Dinner Around" ($16.95).
The half-dozen fresh jumbo shrimp in the scampi dish were satisfyingly sauteed with garlic and ginger, but the unusual addition of sweet cranberry chutney really made the dish something special. The broiled crab cakes lived up to the menu's promise of no filler; they were pure lumps of sweet backfin crab meat, mildly but distinctly seasoned.
Both main dishes came with a medley of steamed vegetables and a choice of new potatoes or wild rice.
Nantuckets' desserts ($3.75 each) are made fresh daily. We chose a cranberry-pecan cheesecake that had an un-cheesecake-like coarse texture and swirls of ginger, cinnamon and pecans running through it, and a dish of vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberry slices. Both were huge, attractive, topped with whipped cream and very rich.
While the food is the big thing at any restaurant, Nantuckets also does the little things well. The menu is cleverly composed, the prices are moderate.
Make a reservation. Fridays are usually their slow night, we were told, but it was packed the night we went.
David Twining's Nantuckets
Atlantic Avenue and Route 1, Fenwick Island, (302) 539-2607 or (301) 250-2770.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Credit cards: American Express, Diner's Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa.
Features: New England-style seafood.