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MANCHESTER — The newly reincarnated Mystic Restaurant and Bar joins the pantheon of first-class restaurants in the Manchester area. From its locally sourced ingredients to its brilliantly conceived and executed menu, the restaurant exudes quiet charm and confidence.

Start with its appearance outside, cheery with sparkling lights casting an amber glow. Inside, pale wooden floors, glass and smartly decorated tables suggest the low-key elegance of a French bistro. A cocktail? Sure. The Tam’fool(e)re, a refreshing twist on a Manhattan, features barrel-aged Tomcat gin from Vermont’s Barr Hill distillery. For appetizers, we had the octopus carpaccio, the acorn soup (its fall debut), and foie gras — all delicious — fresh, delicately flavored. I’ll linger on the yellowfin tuna crudo, thinly sliced, raw tuna from Vermont’s oceans (OK, sourced from the town’s fine Earth and Sea Fish Market), highlighted with dashes of chili and olive oil.

I admit that I rarely order a New York steak, priding myself on my home grilling ability. However, my teenage son, subtly commenting on my ability, jumped at the chance and ordered it. Mystic’s Strip Steak arrived perfectly medium rare, succulent, tender and deeply savory, making it a favorite around the table. The linguini, too, brought nods of approval from us all. The handmade pasta, colored black and given a soft fishiness by squid ink, was rounded out by cherry tomato, arugula and preserved lemon. The Nero D’Avola Cantine Colosi, silky and full, complemented the pasta.

We ordered two desserts. The mascarpone semifreddo was subtly sweet and balanced with crunch and fruit. The chocolate ricotta cheesecake won us all over with its mousse-like lightness and pleasantly faint cheesecake notes.

The only dissonance in our two hours of dining harmony was the noise level (I know, a familiar complaint for many places). We dined mid-evening on a Saturday, the cafe was full of contented, animated diners, and we needed to lean forward and sometimes repeat ourselves. An earlier time or a weeknight might make for quieter dining.

Throughout the evening, new owner Debbie Pazos stopped by tables, popped into the kitchen and bar and even bussed dishes and cleaned a table or two, suggesting a happy, all-for-the experience attitude present throughout the cafe staff. She is backed by Timothy Cocheo, executive chef, and Mico Contreas, sous chef, who rely upon purveyors such as Black River Produce and Meats, a co-op of nearby farms. They make focaccia bread, pasta and many other sauces and ingredients fresh daily. Alexie Myles, the head bartender, never uses pre-bottled ingredients, relying instead on peeling, juicing and cooking ingredients to create her own syrups. In short, Pazos and her crew blend New York fine dining expertise with a casual frankness well-suited to Vermont.

A note from the reviewer

In writing my reviews, I’m striving to convey what informed diners might want to know. I’ll be honest; restaurants won’t know when I’m coming, so I’m getting the same service and food as anyone else. I’ll also try to capture the pleasure of eating out. If flaws pop up, I’ll note them, trying to put them in context so that readers can weigh their importance. Finally, I’ll be dining with others, recognizing that my palate isn’t universal, and that diners who enjoy spice or escargot more than I do deserve to have a voice in these reviews. If you have comments or suggestions for a future review, email me at