Padanaram Village is a hidden nook of South Dartmouth – a quaint New England neighborhood with seaside charm. The heart of the Village is the Historic District, where stately residential architecture circles a “downtown” peppered with small independent retail shops and restaurants. It’s quieter than similar places around the coastline, but one new addition is making noise – Little Moss has been packing in diners since it opened earlier this year.
It’s a literal “packing in” since the inside dining room holds only 28 seats (there are an additional 25 outdoor patio seats for the warmer months). It’s “cozy” per real estate agent lingo, but what the building lacks in space it makes up for in style. The casual upscale, nautically-inspired décor is clean, bright and contemporary, replete with port hole windows and stripes to evoke the boating theme. The bar is particularly notable – slim and only a few seats, but visually captivating in its lighting and simplicity.
Craft cocktail aficionados will find an interesting menu, and with uncommon ingredients like Salers Apertif, Allspice Dram and Crème Yvette, you might just learn a thing or two. On the lighter side, you might start with A Shrubbery ($10) – Tito’s Vodka, House Pear Sage Shrub, fresh lemon juice and lavender bitters. With Jack Frost lacing his boots up, you might go for the darker Earl of Padanaram ($10) – Earl Grey Infused Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Canella Cinnamon Liqueur and Dartmouth Orchards Cider. Craft beer enthusiasts will be equally taken care of with a host of seasonal offerings.
The food menu starts with a gourmet twist on sampler platters – a Sea Board ($16) and a Land Board ($16). The former is a tasting of salmon mortadella, gravlax, smoked sablefish and house bread, while the latter was made with chicken gallantine, duck liver pâté in gelee, porchetta and house bread. I did not confirm, but I suspect these ingredients will rotate frequently. Our group tried the Land Board and it was not only delicious, but a much more generous helping than I expected. In fact, the only real mis-step of the night was running out of bread for the pâté and waiting for another basket.
The Fried Chicken ($11) was another fine starter – crispy wings without grease or overwhelming portions (though buckets-to-go are available for your next party or game day). The Ribollita ($8), Tuscan bean soup with garlic croutons and Parmesan, was a hearty choice for those less inclined to share their appetizer. Also of note, the menu includes a raw bar, and Sunday through Thursday from 5-6pm is Buck A Shuck Oyster time.
I was excited to try the Shrimp and Grits ($25) for my entrée, as I had never seen a “surf and turf” version. This dish came with smoked brisket, head-on shrimp and an Apponagansett sunny-side up egg over Sea Island grits. Other versions of grits I’ve tried usually fall into simple or spicy, but the saltiness of the brisket separated these grits into a fun middle ground.
The Bucatini pasta ($24) was topped with swordfish pastrami, littlenecks and preserved lemon. I couldn't tell if the swordfish pastrami was swordfish or pastrami, but it tasted great nonetheless. Finally, the Burger ($14) with house bread and butter pickles and Thousand Island dressing was a solid comfort food choice, though the sesame seed bun could probably benefit from being served toasted as opposed to cold.
For a truly decadent end, we went with the Chocolate Pots de Crème ($7) flavored with sea salt and topped with a rich layer of caramel. The gooey goodness left us riddled with guilt, but it was impossible to ignore. We had passed on the sunchoke ice cream, a decision I now regret since I subsequently found out that sunchokes are… a vegetable? Experimentation at its finest.
Little Moss’s creative menus – from the starter cocktails right through to dessert – will have diners guessing and learning, in addition to licking their chops. With the restaurant’s commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, diners will also benefit from proximity to the area’s many great farmers and fishermen (aka the New England “Farmcoast”). If the recent success is any indication, Little Moss and its 28 seats might soon need a bigger boat.
6 Bridge Street