WARY OF A TREK TO THE 'BURBS? Take heart: Farmstead Table is right across from the D train's Newton Centre stop.
How does a suburban restaurant compete with urban hotspots like Boston's Seaport, with its slew of chain outlets with big marketing budgets, easy interstate access, and abundant cheap parking? One tack might be to mimic the formula of successful chef-owners on the Cambridge side of the river: focus on consistently executing a menu driven by seasonal ingredients from local farmers and foragers, keep the ambiance modest to emphasize what's on the plate, hire knowledgeable yet laid-back servers to guide diners through a frequently changing menu, and build a following through word-of-mouth. That seems to be the strategy adopted by the new Farmstead Table, a charming 48-seat New American restaurant in Newton Centre owned by a husband-and-wife team, chef Chad Burns and pastry chef Sharon Burns. A couple of months in, it appears to be working beautifully.
Certainly the décor is evocative of a tastefully renovated farmhouse: think white-painted wood and brick walls, reclaimed-wood tabletops, and old-timey embellishments (antique milk bottles and canning jars, a collage of embroidery hoops, galvanized-tin light fixtures). A plate of dense-crumb white Pullman bread with quality butter establishes a homey note. Cocktails from the four-seat bar favor lighter spirits accented with fresh fruit and herbs. A vodka gimlet ($11) with cucumber, lime, and Thai basil is typically sprightly and refreshing, as is a Bellini ($10) of prosecco and fresh native peach puree. Pouring no mere vodka martini, Farmstead spikes its version ($11) with 15-year-old balsamic vinegar, which lends a beautiful pale-ruby hue as well as sweetness and complexity; a goat-cheese-stuffed olive adds a bracing exclamation point.
Appetizers reflect a trust in the simplicity and perfection of peak-of-season ingredients. Sugar-pumpkin bisque ($8) looks tiny and is barely garnished with minced chives and Espelette pepper, but makes a big impact with a healthy dose of cream and the velvety texture of a velouté; the gourd's gentle flavor still manages to sneak through. Stuffed clams ($10) elevate the humble clam-shack "stuffie" to something rarified: three Cape Cod cherrystones with the meat chopped into a bread stuffing with bacon and scallions and baked in the shells, another example of ingredient balance that showcases the star of the plate's virtues — the clams' whiff of the ocean.
Entrees, like a skillfully cooked fillet of local day-boat haddock ($25) atop exquisitely fresh corn and tiny chanterelles, continue a theme of seasonal centerpieces counterweighted by flawless produce sans showy cheffery. Delmonico steak ($28) is a handsome boneless ribeye grilled just to order and accompanied by a mere squiggle of a red-wine reduction, nestled atop pommes puree and big wax beans. Roast duck breast ($24) is similarly beautiful, its fat rendered into the crisp skin, its richness neatly balanced by a bright-tasting, rough sauce of whole cranberries. It is perhaps unusual in that it has more than two accompaniments: chewily al dente wild rice, a few pristine baby Brussels sprouts and Macomber turnips, and a foundation of buttery, vivid squash puree. The result is gorgeous, finely balanced, splendidly autumnal.