"When Capt. Calvin Howes built his grand house, Scargo Manor, on Old King's Highway (Route 6A) in Dennis in 1899, he had an old ship's chandlery on Corporation Beach dismantled and reconstructed on his land to serve as his carriage house. The building was already 100 years old at the time. Though the place has gradually expanded, with new wings added through the years, today it retains all of its original rustic glory and, since 1977, it has been home to The Red Pheasant.
Hefty posts, overhead beams and a massive hearth with a crackling wood fire dominate the dining room. Well-worn planks make up the floors. Victorian-era lighting fixtures and tables set with white linens nicely counter the otherwise rough-hewn atmosphere. The Red Pheasant is invariably described as romantic, and romantic it is, in the very best sense. There is no antique contrivance, no fussy motif, just the bare bones of the old carriage house, illuminated by a glowing fire. An inn this interesting could trade on its good looks alone, but that has never been the goal of owners Bill and Denise Atwood.
The Red Pheasant was originally established by Bill Atwood Sr., who worked as a professional chef in New York during the early '70s. He learned his trade on the job and via the famous culinary books by Larousse and Escoffier. He, in turn, taught his son to cook. Bill Atwood Jr. took over management of the inn four years ago.
"My interests have always been in southern France," says Bill Jr. "That's where my passion lies." He and his wife, Denise, the front-of-the-house manager, often travel to France for inspiration. The menu reflects this passion, as does the excellent wine list, which offers a remarkable selection of varietals from every region of France, supplemented by many American and international wines.
Atwood is also a strong advocate of the ever-growing "buy local" movement and uses Barnstable-raised lamb and produce from Jeff Deck, owner of Not Enough Acres Farm in East Dennis. As much as possible, he says, all his seafood comes from day-boat catch.
In the kitchen, Atwood draws inspiration from traditional New England fare but prepares it with all the finesse of classic French technique. His menu features the kinds of classic dishes that will ring familiar with diners but are rendered with a degree of care and quality that will surprise them.
Atwood's sole meuniere ($24), for example, is a customer favorite that never leaves the menu. The fish fillet is dredged in flour, dipped in beaten eggs, then sautéed and served in a buerre blanc sauce with lemon and capers. A mound of potato gratin accompanies it. It is a rich plate of food, to be sure, but not overly so. The citrus-spiked butter sauce is delicious over the sweet, juicy fish. The dish was perfected by Bill Atwood Sr., who once served it to the French ambassador to the U.S.
Other menu staples include a classic duck and sausage cassoulet ($17), chicken roasted with fresh herbs and served with scratch-made spinach gnocchi ($20), and rack of lamb served with goat cheese panna cotta ($33).
Atwood offers a creamy, thyme-infused chowder made with cherrystone clams and scallops ($6.50); a fresh-tasting house-cured appetizer of salmon gravlox ($10); and scratch-made butternut squash ravioli ($7/$13). Denise's mother's homemade meatloaf with sherry sauce ($12.50) is served in the smaller bistro dining room, which offers a scaled-back, affordable menu every night except Saturday.
What sets this inn apart is the Atwoods' full engagement with the product they offer and their commitment to the fine art of cooking. Their passion is genuine, and it shows on the plate. Paired with the charm and historical significance of the inn itself, it's a formula that couldn't be duplicated anywhere else. The Red Pheasant offers uncompromisingly good food in a setting rich with Cape Cod authenticity."
In nearby Dennis Village, the Red Pheasant Inn is one of the best restaurants on the Cape. Located in a 200 year old barn, it serves dishes like roasted boneless Long island duckling with local Swiss chard and dried cranberry and port wine sauce. Regulars know to ask for a table in the Garden Room, a converted porch with a lovely view of the garden.
"It is not often we visit a restaurant more than a dozen times and never come away with even a minor complaint. But The Red Pheasant consistently delivers brilliance, from its marvelous food and its romantic, rustic decor to its reliable service.
We raved last year over cedar-planked salmon and Long Island duck. This year, our taste buds were soaring following black sesame-crusted sea bass in Japanese dressing, with mussels on the side, and grilled swordfish in shaved fennel and marinated leeks.
The building might be 200 years old, but the menu is decidedly modern and lovingly presented. You could make a delightful meal out of the appetizers. Choose between lobster and crab ravioli in squash pasta, artichoke and garlic ravioli, a grilled quail or a luxurious Italian truffle and black pepper pasta in cream sauce.
Choices are difficult here, opening with the 300-bottle wine list. For dinner, we stayed local and ordered fish. Atlantic sea bass, presented atop a dark, pungent broth alongside vegetables, provided layers of sweetness while swordfish was seared to perfection. Both were delicately prepared in sauces that enhanced the flavor.
Desserts were equally mesmerizing. Take your pick between mascarpone torte with sliced figs and apricot glaze, or a fabulous linzertorte.
This is a restaurant you'll never grow weary of visiting."
My husband and I went to the Red Pheasant for our 5 year anniversary. We had been twice before and actually discussed a bunch of other restaurant options before admitting to each other that we just wanted to go back there again! We started with the greens salads--so simple but so delicious. My husband had the steak which was perfectly medium rare--I am told this is tough to achieve. I am a vegetarian and the chef made me a great plate of amazing (best I've ever had) risotto with fresh vegetables in various preparations. For dessert we split a mini key lime pie that was perfectly sweet and tart. I love the ambiance, the unhurried pacing of the meal and that risotto--now stuck in my head and calling me back again.
"A perennial pleaser since 1977...The Red Pheasant gets twin tens for atmosphere and cuisine."
"Celebrating its 25th year in business, Red Pheasant Inn offers hearty American dishes that consistently focus on flavor, originality and freshness. Ask for a seat next to the fireplace in the main dining room of this 200-year-old former barn, which was originally a ship's chandlery where boats were constructed. The wide pine wood floors, intimate Victorian lighting and classically romantic interior have preserved its yesteryear charm.
For lighter fare, stop by the new Martini and Wine Bar, where you can sip on the signature drink, The Phez (pineapple infused Ketel One Vodka with Chambord and a splash of champagne), while sampling the bistro menu ($6-$18), which includes offerings such as grilled chopped Kobe sirloin and braised breast of chicken.
The menu in the more formal main dining rooms changes up to three times per year. Among the extensive appetizer offerings are house-cured tuna pastrami and a strudel of wild mushrooms. The sweet fresh pear and aggressively strong blue cheese salad are perfect complements. Red Pheasant's signature dish, sole meuniere, is a fresh catch topped with white wine sauce, shallots and capers and served with gratin potatoes. The declared winner of our recent visit was the grilled tenderloin of beef, a melt-in-your-mouth cut cooked to perfection and served with creamy gratin potatoes. The wine list is exceptional, offering a variety of French and California red and whites by the glass or bottle. Also offered are a selection of champagnes, a wine of the month and dessert wines.
Entrées are moderately priced in the main dining room; bistro fare ranges from $6 to $18. Before or after dinner, be sure to take a leisurely stroll along the beautiful gardens that surround the inn."
"The atmostphere at The Red Pheasant, an old barn reconfigured into several cozy dining rooms, is casual, but definitely romantic. This is the place to go if you want to impress. You can't go wrong with the duck in maple sauce or the rack of lamb, but the adventurous diner will delight in the nightly game offerings, which vary according to season and availability. The Red Pheasant offers an excellent wine list and a consistently professional wait staff. Route 6A in Dennis just west of Route 134. 1-800-480-2133."
"Judging from the packed dining room at The Red Pheasant on our recent visit, we're not the only ones who find this Dennis restaurant's cozy decor and warming fireplaces a perfect setting to enjoy terrific food and an exceptional wine cellar.
And a pleasant and knowledgeable staff doesn't hurt either. We are always reassured when our server can describe without hesitation how a dish is prepared.
This was our second visit to the renovated 200-year-old barn that once resided on Corporation Beach, and we were impressed both times.
The evening had a "flawless" beginning according to one of our dining companions, who was smacking his lips over the grilled quail on portobello mushroom with carmelized cabbage and roasted tomatoes ($8.75). Every aspect of the dish - flavor, texture and balance of ingredients - was "superb." (And the ability to make cabbage delectable should not go unheralded.)
Two soup enthusiasts were also happy. Butternut squash and apple soup ($4.25) was pronounced light and, thankfully, served at the right temperature. Cherystone and scallop chowder ($5) was creamy, with a light touch of fresh thyme and tender seafood.
When escargots are offered, one of us is sure to order them. The Red Pheasant's twist is a cassoulet: tiny white flageolets with tomato, garlic and Swiss chard simmered with the tender snails and topped with seasoned bread crumbs ($8.75). It was an unexpected and pleasant change from the standard offering of escargot in the shell.
The baba ghanoush appetizer ($7) had enough of the Middle Eastern eggplant puree for three people. We were a bit put off by an unexpected sharp, rather than smoky, flavor. But the marinated lentils, field greens and focaccia crostini that accompanied it were all delicious and would have made a lovely appetizer on their own.
In a nod to salmon's flexibility for light or dark treatment, the restaurant pan roasts theirs ($18), tops it with shiitake mushrooms and glazes it with a sauce of ginger, shallots, wine and veal juices. It was delicious, and we agreed an even darker tone wouild have worked. One of the evening's nicest surprises was the hazelnut-crusted chicken breast ($15). The exceptionally moist and tender meat had a perfect coating of buttery ground nuts, and we dubbed it gourmet oven-fried chicken.
A farm-raised tender venison chop ($22) and a moist and meaty half duckling ($20), both with red wine sauce, were pronounced delicious.
Beef tenderloin ($25) was topped with delectable foie gras butter and accompanied by a meltingly yummy puff pastry mushroom strudel. In fact, a notable aspect of all the plates was the thought that went into preparing the tasty vegetable side dishes. There's no giant pot of steamed broccoli in the Red Pheasant's kitchen. Each entree had unique and suitable accompaniments.
Chocolate cups with a trio of mousses and a chocolate cake with ganache didn't disappoint (though we wished the cake's raspberry sauce had been mentioned).
When we stopped in at the restaurant the following day to retrieve a forgotten article, the aroma from the kitchen was so delicious, we wanted to seat ourselves right down and do it all again. But next time we plan to sit closer to the fire."