Cotton (Manchester, NH)

Back in late April, due to competing obligations and business travel, Carol and I weren’t able to celebrate her birthday on its actual date, so we decided instead to meet up in Manchester and give Cotton another try.

I like Cotton, since they are a nice combination of “old school” cuisine (steaks, chops, and the like) along with some new and funky ideas, of the sort that are usually labeled “New American Cuisine” these days. The result is usually quite impressive, yet familiar.

A good example of this is the salad that we usually get when we go to Cotton: the “Wedge Salad”. About as old-school steakhouse as you can get, a wedge salad is generally a gigantic wedge of iceberg lettuce, drenched in bleu cheese dressing, and then topped with several other items (bacon and pecans are typical).

The result is actually a really nice combination of textures and flavors that, while certainly no culinary masterpiece, is always enjoyable. I wish more places had wedge salads (the only other one I’ve had recently was at Napa Valley Grille in Providence, although Les Halles’ Frisee aux Lardons was essentially the same concept).

I ended up getting another classic dish for my main course, steak frites. Typically nothing more a steak accompanied with fries, it’s a good test of a kitchen’s ability to properly cook both these items (and, alas, these days both are likely to get screwed up). Here’s where Cotton put the “new” in “new American”, since their rendition was somewhat unusual in presentation. The frites were really wedges (albeit very nicely done wedges with a light dusting of sea salt), and the steak was piled on top of the wedges along with a nice shallot sauce. It wasn’t in the same league as my recent trip to Les Halles, but it was certainly a perfectly cooked steak, nicely sauced, and complemented by the wedges.

Carol opted for the Chicken and Lobster Carbonara, which pleasantly surprised us by being a notable exception to the “American restaurants overcook pasta” rule. The pasta was slightly firm and al dente, and very nicely sauced, with tender bits of chicken and lobster distributed throughout. A nicely executed pasta dish, reminiscent of some of the other good pastas we’ve had recently (like last year’s celebration at Trattoria Delia with their excellent orechiette).

It’s this sort of nice service and reinvention of basic dishes that keep us coming back to Cotton for the occasion celebration. I still, however, have yet to try their fried chicken (which looks excellent).

75 Arms St (in the Millyard, across from Milly’s Tavern)
Manchester, NH

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