AYER -- Places may come and go but friends are forever.
It would appear that the 2-month-old restaurant, Markoh's On Main, at 43 Main St., will not only make lots of friends (and fans) but will be around for a pretty long time.
This location is a sibling to owner Mark and Anne diCicco's other Main Street restaurant, Lucias Tavola. Markoh's cleverly operates from the same kitchen with the same staff as diCicco's first. An expansive hallway connects both eateries, which functions as a sort of airport for dishes that are flying back and forth. Markoh's also has a private party or events room which seats up to 100 guests which that hallway also connects.
This narrow, high-ceilinged cozy space that seats 40 was formerly an old-time apothecary shop from the 1940s. Here you'll find the original Victorian-era pressed metal ceilings that look like fancy frosting on a wedding cake.
The café has a timeless, historic feel. There are giant windows that provide a streetscape view and a large convivial bar perfect for sipping wine and nibbling on some really terrific food. Open for lunch and dinner, the menus have options that will fit anyone's mood, palate or purse.
Relaxing during an early dinner we devoured a shared starter of the crab and lobster cake, which was a generous crab, and lobster cake relaxing in a pool of lemon- butter sauce and decorated with more succulent lobster chunks. The three of us almost fought over the last lobster morsel and one of us licked the plate.
The starter of baked peppadews was a surprise; small red peppers that are doppelgangers for cherry tomatoes. These pepper poppers were stuffed with chicken, Boursin cheese, a peppered bacon dice and mozzarella. Keep your beverage handy for that slow-released pepper punch.
We shared three main courses; the Eggplant Napolean was a revolution -- a whole new way of anything eggplant. Each sweet eggplant slice was wrapped in crispy panko crumbs and layers of these were heightened by sandwiching them with mozzarella and ricotta cheese and topped with a chunky fresh tomato basil sauce. I snared the leftovers, which were breakfast the next day and they were as light, fresh and full of flavor as the moment they were served.
The bone-in Kona Coffee Crusted Beef Sirloin was hearty and plated with a shallot compound butter and sided with skin-on mashed to match this he-man favorite. The farm-raised salmon was spectacular. This filet cradled fresh crabmeat along the top and was wrapped in buttery cracker crumbs laced with Bristol cream. Not a crumb was left.
A selection of high-quality, velvety sorbets plus a deep lemon pound cake made it hard to push out from the table.
Call and find out when their roomy brick courtyard will be ready for outside dining. Mark and Anne promise it will be a lush, lit garden oasis as soon as they have the time to create it!
Markoh's On Main, 43 Main St., Ayer, 978-796-5260, open daily for lunch and dinner.