Thursday, August 14, 2008


Headlined as a sumptuous French-Mediterranean restaurant, we find Mistral teetering on the edge of Columbus overlooking the Mass Pike. For those interested in trivia, “Mistral” is a type of cold wind that blows from the Mediterranean into France, so I kind of expected a hint of French influence when I walked into the restaurant. But what I found was a typical urban Boston restaurant, with the occasional large terra cotta pot, and iron grates hanging on the walls. The décor surprised me a bit, because it almost reminded me of a Mexican restaurant, albeit a nice one. But it was a subtle décor--the nicely set tables and settings taking the main vantage. Smooth down-tempo, jazzy, lounge music played at a reasonable level throughout the night. Enough to remind you you’re in Boston, but not too in-your-face, like at 28 degrees.

Our table was ready exactly at 8:30 (our reservation), and an extremely well dressed and handsome host lead us to our table, a 5-person round top with a curved banquet for 3 and two chairs. My chair, unfortunately, was almost directly in the path of traffic for the rows of tables on either side, so I did have to deal with waiters, old women in hats (!), and two woman I could only assume were prostitutes by the leopard-print clothing moving past me all night. But the conversation for my friend’s 30th birthday did a good job of distracting me from the traffic behind me. The acoustics where a bit lacking, as everyone noted that it did get a little loud. Understandable, as the ceilings were easily 20 feet high.

All of us ordered from the Restaurant Week menu. I got the Native Tomato & Mozzarella Salad, Basil, and Vincotto. I found it light, tasty, and just the right portion. Tim got the Chilled Corn Soup with Crab & Avocado, Jalapeno Oil. He loved it. I though it tasted like someone drained a can of creamed corn into a bowl and added light cream, but that was just my taste. The other two people who got the soup also raved about it. No one got the Caesar salad…but I imagine it tasted like a Caesar Salad.

For our main courses, I got the Skillet Roasted Hanger Steak, Maître d’Hôtel Butter with Pomme Frites. It presented very well. The steak was perfect. The pomme frites were spaghetti-thin and served in a bird’s nest presentation. A lot of it. When seeing the dish from across the room, all you could see was the nest of frites. But practically, it was hard to eat. You could only eat a few strands at a time, and they fused together and got your fingers greasy and spilled on the plate. I really enjoyed the presentation, but did not actually enjoy the frites themselves or the process of eating them. The first bite of the steak was amazing. The butter sauce really heightened the taste, and I said to myself “Wow, one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.” But half way through the meal, I realized the butter was a little overpowering, and it tasted like I was eating hot buttered popcorn steak. Almost as if someone went to a movie theatre, put my steak under the butter pump, and went to town on it.

Tim had the Roasted Statler Breast of Chicken with Peach Barbeque, Roasted Summer Fruits & Cornbread Panzanella. In his own words: "The roast chicken breast was sensationally basted to perfection. Slow cooked, the initial aroma brought me back to my childhood home. Sunday afternoons and home from church, mom would have a chicken roast already cooking in the oven, its juices sizzling and sputtering while its skin became toastedly browned. This chicken breast brought back those pleasant memories of family.  The accompanied risotto was made with fresh ingredients and flavored close to excellence, being a bit salty for my taste. Underneath the risotto I found a vegetable of some kind, decidedly spinach--I think. Though physically present, it was absent in shape and flavor."

Dessert for me was a chocolate mousse. Very chocolaty. Tim got a blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. My bite of his cobbler tasted like a mint leaf--but not in a good way. The staff served John his dessert with a candle, wrote “Happy Birthday” in ganache, and someone ordered a bottle of Tattinger so we could all toast.

The service should be noted as one of the most accommodating and accomplished in Boston. Not only was the wait staff attentive and attractive, but they worked seamlessly together to provide a surprising intimate experience. As if in-tune through ESP, the team developed a sixth sense about when to remove plates and precisely replace silverware associated with the particular dish ordered--all while filling waters and wine while clocking removals and placements to exact increments of time. The great thing was that it wasn't determined by their schedule, but rather tuned to our tempo of consumption and conversation. As an added bonus, when Tim left the table he came back to his chair with a tucked-in napkin neatly folded.

My overall impression of the restaurant was good. I did not love the food to the point where I would spend the average $44 an entree off Restaurant Week, but the service was amazing, the people where nice, and I felt like this was what a typical fancy Boston restaurant should be. I have been there before and got one of their signature tuna tartar appetizers, and loved it. So, I would recommend going there, sitting at the bar, having a drink and getting a few appetizers.

Tim White contributed in large to this review

Mistral on Urbanspoon

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