560 Harrison Avenue
A welcomed edition to the new restaurants of the South End is Gaslight, a posh French bistro with an excellent brunch and dinner menu. The restaurant décor reminds me of the kitchen from Clue the movie: Walls lined completely with white tiles (reminiscent of a metro station) are met with shelves lined with bottles of Pernod making the dining room an aesthetically pleasing place to enjoy a meal.
I highly recommend ordering from the raw bar. The oysters and shrimp are superb, and the cocktail sauce that accompanies a shrimp cocktail is perfectly balanced with just the right amount of horseradish for a pleasant kick. I've enjoyed oysters on the half-shell several times, and they have been consistently fresh and delicious. While the items from the raw bar are set at market price, they have always been incredibly affordable with oysters usually ranging from $2-$3 per oyster and likewise for the shrimp.
My favorite thing to do at dinner was to pair either oysters or shrimp with the duck rillettes appetizer. However, on my most recent trip to Gaslight, I was saddened to see that this item has been removed from the menu. Subsequent trips to their website have confirmed this as well. If the chefs at Gaslight happen to be reading this, please bring this appetizer back.
Gaslight makes enjoying French food in Boston affordable. Hors d'oeuvres like, pâté de campagne ($7.50) and escargot ($8.50) are not only delicious but nicely priced. The pâté is served with toasted baguette (and this is in addition to the warm baguette and fresh butter every table receives upon beginning a meal) and wonderful Dijon mustard. The only disappointment are the warm slices of pickles that they include instead of cornichons (but you can--and should--ask for a jar of cornichons instead.) The escargots--as expected--are very well done in an herbed butter sauce. Those wishing to try snails for the first time will not be disappointed by Gaslight's presentation.
Dinner entrées range from the simple croque monsieur ($9.75, which is served w/ french fries even though it did NOT say so on the menu. Points have been taken off because when we ordered a side of french fries to go along with the sandwich, the waiter did not inform us that french fries would already be coming with the meal....the menu now reflects that fries come with the dish--thank you) to more sophisticated dishes including duck confit ($17.50) and steak frites ($19.75). The duck was perfect and served with beautifully delicious herbed potatoes. The duck leg was served over warmed greens. The steak frites (order rare to medium-rare) can be served with herbed butter or bernaise sauce but is such a good and flavorful cut of meat that it does not need any help. This meal--as the name suggests--is also served with French fries--and Gaslights' fries do not disappoint. I am slightly disappointed by the dessert selection. Luckily, you can finish your meal by sampling a selection of Gaslight's cheeses (selection of artisan cheeses: $10.75).
While Gaslight offers a very fun experience at the bar as well, it must be noted that while the portions of drinks--like wine, champagne, and cocktails--resembles a smaller, European size; the prices remain American. I have not been disappointed by Gaslight's wine list (I spent my birthday there downing glasses of good champagne), but their cocktail list, full of specialty concoctions (including some drinks made with Absinthe) does not necessarily appeal to me.
The quality of the food and the atmosphere both outweigh the small fact that the drinks aren't as big as in other Boston restaurants. You can feel confident bringing a date (although I highly recommend reservations if you are on a timetable) or a group of friends to the restaurant. My advice: sample a few appetizers, don't miss out on the raw bar, and make-up for the fact that the drinks are small by having two or three and enjoy a leisurely dinner just like the French.
Gaslight gets an A-/A.
(For a review of Gaslight's brunch, go to BostonChomps)