Sunday, August 31, 2008

Petit Robert Bistro

Petit Robert is a bistro style restaurant in the South End (as well as the Kenmore area). It's an intimate setting for a traditional French meal. The walls are a buttery yellow, the rooms, a tight squeeze. Tables are covered in crisp white linen and patrons are sat very close to one another. Their signature metal Eiffel tower stands out front adorned in Christmas lights while waiters dressed in traditional white shirts with black ties and pants scurry around (some with distinct French accents).

Last night, a large group of us went to Petit Robert Bistro on Columbus Ave to celebrate a friend's upcoming marriage. We arrived at the restaurant on time but due to the small size of the place, we had to wait for our table since another large party was still using the table. We decided to get drinks at the bar. Although we had to wait almost an hour (not the restaurant's fault) we had a nice time mingling with the locals (and tourists). The restaurant's bar area lends itself to small chit-chat among patrons and seems like a nice alternative to the bars we normally frequent.

We sat down and ordered wine for the table as we looked over the menus. We were brought bread and butter, which was delicious--but not really enough for our large group who had worked up quite the appetite by this point. Our waiter seemed a bit flustered at the party size but he was very nice and not only took our orders but offered to take our pictures a few times throughout the evening.

Bryan ordered the Coq au Vin (which is traditionally rooster but most restaurants--including PRB--make it with chicken). The Coq au Vin was served in a bowl and consisted of both light and dark meat and was served with buttered noodles. It was the first time Bryan had the dish and he thought it was really delicious. It's a simple dish, but the flavors were strong and it made Bryan want to learn how to make it at home.

I ordered the beef Bourguignon (I like to say this in my best Julia Child impersonation). The beef came in steak-tip sized pieces and was covered in the traditional bourguignon sauce (red wine, garlic, onions, carrots, mushrooms, etc). The beef was good, the sauce was incredible though. After I had finished the meat, I used bread to sop up the sauce and then even picked up the bowl to finish the rest (compliments to the chef!). I looked around and noticed other people at the table doing the same thing.

Since we had to wait for awhile to get our table, the chef sent out a few free desserts. A giant profiterole, smothered in vanilla ice cream and hot fudge, seemed to be the crowd favorite but the chocolate gateau Petit Robert won the prize for coolest looking....a chocolate Eiffel tower adorned the side of the plate. We also had a molten cake that was pretty good, although not nearly as good as the one from Fleming's.

Overall, we had a wonderful time at Petit Robert. This was not our first time going, and so far, we've never had a bad experience. The food, although simple bistro food, is packed with flavor. It definitely beats out Gaslight in terms of food quality and taste (there are no croque monsieurs on this menu). If you're looking for a small intimate setting with good traditional french food, then this is the place to beat. We'll be back again very soon.

Petit Robert Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Excuse me please, if I may...

Last night, we treated ourselves to dinner at L'Espalier. Still feeling the tightness in our belts after many delicious meals during Restaurant Week(s), we would normally have waited; BUT, this is actually the last week in their Back Bay location before they move to their new digs in the Mandarin, and we wanted to experience L'Espalier in this historic location while we still could.
It was our first time, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. When we walked through the gorgeous entryway, we were greeted by two nice hostesses. Our reservation was verified, and we were asked to wait for the maître d', who then took us to our table. We were sat in the smaller back room at a table in the rear bay window on a cushioned window seat. It was comfortable--although perhaps a little far away from the table. We were greeted immediately by our server, who made a fun comment about my tie. I thought this was a nice way to start, but then he immediately asked whether we'd like some champagne or other apéritif. I wasn't prepared to make such decisions and was a little flustered, honestly, at this immediate request to perform. (Yes, it felt like a performance since no one in the entire small and intimate room was talking, and you could feel all eyes on you as he awaited our response.) We just asked for the wine list, and he said he would bring one when one was available. He left, and we felt slightly awkward. My point in mentioning this is to say that at L'Espalier, whatever you ask for, they will bring...I just think we were not prepared to ask for what we wanted. I should have just said, "Bring me a Hendrick's martini garnished with a pickle!" and have been done with it. (Because, yes, that's what I really wanted.) When you go, you should be ready to ask for whatever you want and not worry about what is on the menu. It is obvious that they want their customers to have a perfect experience.

The food was absolutely delicious--

Wait--before I get to that, I want to mention something else about the service. I don't mean at all when I describe last night's experience that the service was anything less than impeccable...but I think that's where I am struggling. As wonderful as the service was, it seemed forced, and it was so to the point of being distracting. I mean, honestly, did the sweet girl that was bringing our bread, refilling our waters, and clearing our spent plates REALLY have to say "Excuse me, please, if I may." EVERY SINGLE TIME she came to the table? No. The first time, that's fine, but we felt like after three hours of visiting us every 10 minutes-or-so that we should be familiar enough with each other to dispense with at least some of those Excuse-me-please-if-I-may's. As I said before, one can see the effort made in every aspect to ensure the highest-quality meal possible; but, seriously?! She made us chuckle.

As I was about to say, the food was absolutely delicious. We chose the "Farewell Dégustation" created in honor of their last week in the Gloucester Street location. It was, as our server described it, made up of some of their most popular items. I want to give it justice when I describe it and not forget a thing, so I went to their website to get the menu. Unfortunately, what's posted on their site is not the updated menu, so I've asked them to send it to me. I'm still waiting on that, so--excuse me, please, if I may--I'm going to post this in installments....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Addis Red Sea, South End

The most recent cuisine to enter into my all time favorites is that of Ethiopia in Eastern Africa. Several summers ago my best friend and I decided to try as many new and exotic restaurants in Chicagoland as we could within a single summer, and ever since going out for Ethiopian has become a regular thing for us. Familiar with a few Ethiopian establishments back home in Chicago, I was excited when I saw that the South End was home to Addis Red Sea.

Walking down into the quasi-subterranean restaurant you immediately are struck by the decor and earthy glow of the place. A variety of paintings of Ethiopia and her people fill the walls and a colorful patterned carpeting extends throughout. The chairs are all wooden, seemingly hand-crafted, and all center around a mesob, which serves as a table in Ethiopian tradition. They are typically hand-woven from straw, dyed, and covered with a top that is removed when it is time to eat. Those unaccustomed to Ethiopian cuisine might want to know one thing in particular about going out for Ethiopian beforehand so as not to feel totally bewildered - you eat with your hands. The entire meal is presented upon a large portion of injera, a sourdough-tasting porous flatbred made from a grass grain indigenous to Ethiopia. Everyone's dish is subsequently spread out upon the bread. Diners are supposed to rip off pieces of additional injera provided to grab their food - the porous nature of it is especially helpful in mopping up delicious sauces!

In terms of appetizers, nothing I have had there has been truly spectacular, but if you're hungry I definitely wouldn't steer you clear of them. The Ye-Awaze Dabo - "thick Ethiopian bread with a dip of red pepper sauce" and "spiced with ginger root and berbere" is very flavorful, but given all the bread consumed during the main meal I wouldn't go out of my way to advise having more bread as your appetizer. The sambusas (similar to Indian samosas), with both a meat-eater and vegetarian option, are tasty and are a less-bready alternative.

For a first-timer I would very much recommend the Addis Red Sea Special Combo for two. With is you get to try Doro Wot (chicken marinated in lemon sautéed with butter and stewed in a red pepper sauce) Doro Alcha (chicken simmered in a mild sauce of butter, ginger and onions) Lega Tibs (lamb chunks sautéed in oil seasoned with onions, green peppers, rosemary and black pepper) Zenge (Exotic Beef Stew), House Salad (basically seasoned tomatoes and onions) and Gomen Wot (Chopped collard greens cooked in herbed oil with onions, green pepper and garlic). I literally love each and every one of these dishes, so in my opinion you can't go wrong!

If you're into steak tartare and like a bite to your food, definitely go for the kitfo, Ethiopian style steak tartar seasoned with herbed butter sauce and hot chili powder (mitmita). To accompany your meal I highly recommend the Ethiopian Pilsner Harar - the honey-like finish is perfect to balance all the spices in your dish. If wine is more your style, Addis has a number of Ethiopian honey wines, also with that great honey flavor.

While not my all-time favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Addis Red Sea does a great job introducing Boston and the South End to the rich cuisine of Ethiopia. If you're going on a date with someone that loves to try something different, why not try this? Try to be seated upstairs, though, since the atmosphere downstairs is entirely different and more modern, resulting in a loss of some of the restaurant's charm.

*First photo courtesy of

Addis Red Sea on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tremont 647/Sister Sorel

Looking for a place where everybody really does know your name? Look no further.

No, not Cheers - Bostonians don't actually go there, by the way - I'm talking about Tremont 647, that South End stalwart that has, for nearly 12 years, been one of the most popular gathering places for the neighborhood.

Opened in December 1996 by Chef Andy Husbands, Tremont 647 - and its counterpart, Sister Sorel (named so for Husbands' sister) - have stood the test of time in an area where the loyalty of restaurant patrons can be ephemeral, at best.

The atmosphere of the establishment is relaxed and inviting, from its glass-walled facade - which in the spring and summer opens up, letting the restaurant spill out onto Tremont Street - to its open air kitchen, there is nothing pretentious about it.

Though a rainbow flag hangs proudly outside, 647 is itself a microcosm of the evolution of the South End in recent years. Just as the area lying between West Newton and Berkeley Streets can no longer be tagged solely as Boston's "gayborhood," Tremont 647 isn't a gay hangout, or a straight hangout - it's just a neighborhood hangout. On any given evening, you can find a mix of anyone and everyone: professionals, students, blue collar, white collar, hipsters and preppies of all backgrounds and orientations - dining and drinking with the sole purpose of having a good time.

The menu here changes seasonally, with Chef Husbands and his team often adding items to all menu categories - appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts and drinks all tend to get a make-over as the weather turns. More worldly items such as braised lamb over Parisian gnocchi rotate in and out, but the full-time menu sports dishes that reflect what seems to be Husbands' passion - American comfort food, specifically, BBQ.

There is a decidedly southern influence to most of these dishes, using ingredients that are a bit alien to a northern crowd - the incredible buttermilk fried chicken is served with steamed collard greens, and a grilled biscuit with gravy.

A personal favorite is the wood-grilled flat iron steak, served up with garlicky (as in, don't expect any kisses for a while) broccolini and a side fontina-stuffed tater tots, an amazing taste that can - and should - be ordered up as an individual side if you choose a different dish.

The chef's signature rib dish - Andy's "180" Ribs - are served up with cornbread and cole slaw, with the optional add-on of...wait for it...a Pabst Blue Ribbon 16-ounce "tall boy."

Not to be outdone by the entrees, there are two appetizers that are especially worth noting. First, the lobster mac 'n' cheese is a favorite among patrons, to the point where The Improper Bostonian noted it in their "Best of 2008" issue, and rightly so. Served up in its own mini-skillet, the dish delivers exactly what it promises - a heaping portion of gooey, al dente mac 'n' cheese with chunks (not the "need-a-magnifying-glass" pieces you often find) of fresh lobster baked right in.

Second, and in my opinion, best, are the momos. For anyone unfamiliar, a momo is a Tibetan dumpling which is stuffed with any number of ingredients. At Tremont 647, the preferred preparation is fried, with a pork filling. Simplistic, but absolutely addictive, these are served with soy sauce and sriracha (ask for extra), and are often gone far too quickly. While these may seem like any fried dumpling you can get at any Asian-influenced establishment, there is something unique about this dish, and is a must-order for any first-timer.

For dessert, make sure you dig in to Andy's signature banana cream pie, drizzled with chocolate and caramel, and topped off with nut brittle.

For all the cuisine, it's the restaurant's drinks that draws many in, and keeps them in Sister Sorel (which, while connected, is primarily a stand-alone bar) late into the night. Three of the more popular mixes are the 647 raspberry vodka gimlet, made with a house-infused raspberry vodka, the Tremont Tang, blending papaya vodka and fruit juices (and a rim lined with Tang mix), and the Sidecar from Hell, which,

Trumping everything else, it's really the staff that makes the popularity of Tremont 647 what it is. From servers to chefs to bartenders to hosts, you get the vibe that no one working there is just sticking around for a paycheck - they're also having fun, which puts guests at ease, and makes for an even better experience all around. They remember repeat customers, and often go out of their way to to recognize them, whether it be with a greeting, or if you're lucky, a complimentary round of momos.

It should be noted that on weekends they host a wildly popular pajama brunch (where the staff go all out in various combinations of pajamas, robes, long johns, curlers and most anything else they can get their hands on). The brunch has its own menu, which can - and likely will - be review unto itself.

Finally, make sure you keep an eye out for special events at the restaurant. These range from small celebrations, such as the recent "F! Restaurant Week" party, celebrating the end of Boston's bi-annual, price-slashing Restaurant Week promotion (which, as the party's name insinuates, are not the most loved weeks for those in the food service industry), to the upcoming Bourbon & BBQ night on October 13th. This reservation-only night includes bourbon tastings, passed appetizers and a family-style BBQ dinner.

Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel are located on the corner of Tremont and West Brookline in Boston's South End. More information and full menu can be found at

Tremont 647 on UrbanspoonSister Sorel on Urbanspoon

Chili Duck

When Kasia came to visit me in Boston for the first time four years ago we stumbled upon Chili Duck in Back Bay and had a really delicious Thai meal. With her being back in town this week along with her boyfriend, we decided we'd give it another try and go for dinner.

The interior is similar to most of the Thai places I've been to - rather dark lighting, colorful walls, and somewhat awkward additional decor- in this case christmas-esque lights around the ceiling border. We were seated immediately in a candlelit booth and presented with our menus. The menu is quite extensive -not quite Brown Sugar cafe, but a lot more than Bangkok Bistro, with different types of rice, noodles, and curries dominating one's options. One appetizer item that caught my eye was the 'golden bags' - ground chicken, onion and corn deep-fried in wonton wrapper with thai sweet dipping sauce. The picture on the menu looked fun and cute, so we gave it a try. It was nice and fresh and crunchy, though the filling tended to spill everywhere if you weren't careful. The dipping sauce was a standard sweet chili sauce - good, but nothing special.

After agonizing over the menu for some 15 minutes I finally decided I would just stick to something I know I love and thereby be able to get a better idea of how it compares to other restaurants. I chose the Pad See Iew -Stir-fried flat rice noodle with broccoli and egg in a dark sweet soy sauce. Since were after all at Chili Duck, I thought I'd order duck as my accompanying meat. Shortly after my meal came on a nice colorful plate with ample pieces of duck, skin included, throughout. While everything was delicious, I must say that I have had a better Pad See Iew. I did find it a bit annoying to have to cut off the layer of fat/skin from every piece of meat, but at least it made it that much more flavorful.

Kasia had a similar problem in choosing her dish, and ended up with the crispy version of Pad Thai - Crispy egg noodle stir-fried with chicken and shrimp, egg, bean sprouts and scallions topped with ground peanuts. It was an excellent example of the dish, something I think we take for granted as always having to be stellar considering it is the "standard" Thai dish.

Ben was the only one of us to step outside the box and order something he had never seen before, the 'Fisherman Hot Dream' - Tempura style shrimp, scallop, squid and mussel topped with house sweet chilli sauce and served with white rice. I must say I was quite amused by the name and was excited to see what the dish would be like. There ended up being plenty of seafood, which was great, and the sweet chili sauce added a great additional flavor to every bite. My only complaint is that the seafood wasn't overly crispy, something I would have expected since it was described as coming "tempura style". Perhaps serving the sauce on the side would alleviate this problem, as the breading then wouldn't become soggy so quickly.

All in all we had a very reasonable, comfortable, and tasty meal with excellent service by the wait staff. While not my all-time favorite Thai place, I would recommend giving it a try if you're in Back Bay and craving some Thai.

Chilli Duck on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beach Treats in Ogunquit, ME

Beach towns always have a certain feel about them. The laid back nature of the inhabitants, the smell of salt in the air, the je ne sais quoi of it all. One thing a beach town has that makes it extra special, though, is its niche food market. Things you wouldn't find or eat anywhere else seem to be readily available in a beach town. Suddenly your stomach is calling out for seafood specialties it normally never even thinks about! It's the beach treat mystique and it always puts a smile on my face. This past weekend, we celebrated our metaphorical "end to the summer" by going to Ogunquit, ME. I decided to capture a few of beach treats we had along the way. Back in Boston for not more than an hour, I'm already nostalgic for the smell and taste of it all. Enjoy!

Ogunquit has a really awesome non-chain coffee shop and bakery called Bread and Roses Bakery. We made a pit-stop here on the way to the beach during our first morning. The pastries tasted just as good as they look!

Here are some fried clams (left) and fried Calamari (below). The clams we had on the beach and the view was amazing. They came with fries, coleslaw, and tartar sauce. The Calamari we had at a new tapas place in town.

Most beach towns have some sort of candy shop. Inside, you can find an assortment of treats. My favorite is salt water taffy. We stopped off at The Harbor Candy Shop after our friend recommended it. While its specialty was chocolate (the chocolate dipped nuts were to-die-for) they had a ton of other products, including salt water taffy. If you're in Ogunquit, this is a must-see (and taste!) destination for any foodie.

We dined on traditional steamers at a casual beach restaurant. To the left are the steamers, to the right is the view from our table.

After walking along the Marginal Way, we were hungry for some sweets. We stopped off at nearby Perkins Cove to have ourselves some ice cream at Ayla's Sweet Wonder. I got two scoops of one of my favorites that I can't seem to find that often in Boston, Peppermint Stick (with rainbow sprinkles of course)!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bàobīng (Taiwanese Ice Cream)

Bàobīng (ice shavings) is an extremely popular dessert in Taiwan.  It most closely resembles traditional American ice cream, however it is considered to be lighter and healthier (!!).  The base of bàobīng is composed of extremely thin ice shavings.  Sometimes water is frozen with milk and then shaved off to create a slightly more substantial texture.  The ice shavings can then be topped with a variety of fruit (strawberries, passion fruit, coconut, plums) as well as the more traditional toppings such as sweetened red beans (see picture).  The entire dish is then usually topped with sweetened condensed milk.  I never thought beans would play such a leading role in my desserts, but hey, when in Rome...
They do have a few more 'standard' toppings such as chocolate syrup, but for some reason that seems to resemble the taste of nail polish instead of chocolate.  There is also a version (if the description wasn't lost in translation) where the original ice shavings are mixed with a type of peanut butter to create a kind of peanut butter ice cream also topped with condensed milk.  I have yet to try that one but luckily its always perfect ice cream weather here, year-round (aka. always really hot).
More to come as my adventures continue...

Friday, August 22, 2008

At the peak of good eats at Mt. Everest Kitchen!

After a great morning out on the Atlantic for a whale watch, Kasia, Ben, and I headed back to Allston for lunch at Mt. Everest Kitchen, our first experience with the cuisine of Nepal.

Situated near the intersection of Allston Street and Brighton Ave., the restaurant is rather simple both inside and out with perhaps a dozen tables and pictures of Mt. Everest and Nepal on the walls. Before our waitress could even come to the table, we were fortunate enough to be greeted by a rather large beetle climbing on the wall - nothing a quick swat couldn't fix. The front door was open to the outside, so we didn't think anything of it.

Kasia and Ben both opted for one of the 'set meals', consisting of a choice of one appetizer, rice, lentils, salad, and achar served with choice of lamb, goat, or chicken curry, plus coffee or tea. For the appetizer both chose the vegetable Mo-mo, typical Nepali vegetable dumplings with fresh coriander, ginger, and garlic.
They were very delicious and fresh-tasting, but I think my favorite part was the selection of three sauces with which they were served.
The first was 'mild' and seemed to consist primarily of diced coriander (cilantro) and fresh mint, providing a really interesting and refreshing combination of mint and spice. The 'medium' was orange in color and nice and tangy while the 'hot' (not very much at all, however) was more acidic and salty in flavor.

For my meal I chose the Khasiko masu, diced goat meat cooked in a traditional style, garnished with fresh coriander leaves. The goat had a nice flavor as did the mild-curry tasting sauce. Where Mt. Everest really shined, however, was in the set meals ordered by Kasia and Ben

The set meal can basically be likened to a Japanese Bento box - it is served on a single plate, but with each consituent neatly separated in its own compartment. The 'salad' seemed to be of the collard green family, steamed and served with a really great spice combination. The 'achar', which according to Wikipedia is "a variety of spicy pickled side dishes or condiments" was quite interesting. It was essentially an assortment of potatoes, peas, carrots in a really unique sauce. It almost had a mild pepper flavor, but at the same time cooled your mouth as if it were menthol. Kasia and Ben both agreed with this crazy description! The curry was sweet and savory - I could have just eaten the sauce as a soup. The basmati rice was pretty standard, and the taste of the lentils might be compared to the aroma of one of the Tibetan stores on Newbury Street.

Finally, our meal was accompanied with rooti, the Nepali version of naan bread - we had the lasun ko rooti, which was clay-oven baked with garlic and herbs. Delicious!

When the bill came, we had barely spent over $30 combined for a delicious meal and a great first experience with the food of Nepal!

Mt. Everest Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Boston College Club

Being an Alum of Boston College, I have always wanted to eat dinner at the Boston College Club. Unfortunately, it's quite expensive to become a member and, at this point in my life, I don't feel the urge to pay monthly dues to private dining clubs. So, imagine my delight when I saw that the BC Club was participating in Restaurant Week! I called to make reservations and to confirm that you did not need to be a member to dine there for the special menu. The woman was very nice on the phone and confirmed that I was indeed eligible to eat there during Restaurant Week! Whoo-hoo! We were on our way! (For Boston, For Boston, we sing our proud refrain!).

Four of us (two BC alums, one BC grad student, and 1 Clark U. graduate) arrived at 100 Federal street a few minutes earlier then expected. We couldn't believe it. Was this where the BC Club was located?! The famous building that slants IN towards the bottom? I've always joked that this building is held up by suspension support..."suspension of disbelief" (my crude attempt at architectural humor). We entered into the lobby and were asked to supply ID's. I showed mine and my name was checked off a list. The bars that blocked us from the rest of the lobby swished to the side and we made our way to the elevator.

The club is on the 36th floor (there are only 38 floors to the building) and I was very excited to see that the Club even had it's own labeled elevator button. We were living large now!

After our ears had popped a few times from going so fast and high up, the elevator doors opened and we walked down a nice hallway to the front desk of the club. We told the woman we had reservations but were a bit early. She told us that that was fine and we could have drinks in the lounge or at our table if we wanted. We glanced over to the lounge and it was beautiful. The view was absolutely incredible but since we were hungry we thought the table would be best and made our way down the right hallway that showcased members private wine selections under lock & key (very cool).

We got to the host stand where we were greeted by name and escorted to our table in the Harbour Dining Room. The room was quite large and very tastefully decorated. The chairs were wood and upholstery with pictures of ships on the back. The walls were covered in damask wallpaper and one whole side of the restaurant was glass. We were seated at a table right by the window. To the left was a view of Back Bay, straight ahead, Cambridge, and to the left, the harbor. I didn't feel comfortable taking pictures but I tried to sneak one of the view.

Our table was set with Boston College china. Not tacky china but really eloquent looking china with scroll work and Boston College written around the rim. One of the walls was covered in a mural that I recognized to be a Zuber Cie mural. Zuber Cie specializes in hand painted murals (which I have an affinity towards and why I recognized the company) and I was excited I finally got to see one in real life. The restaurant week menus were already on the plates ready to go. We could choose from a few options.

For appetizers we could get crab cakes or a tomato mozzarella salad. I got the salad which was divine. Small slices of tomato were laid on top of fresh basil and arugula, followed by a slice of mozzarella and then repeated again to make something that resembled a sandwich without the bread. The top was drizzled in a balsamic vinegar and salt, that tasted like it was dipped in a bit of sugar, was gingerly sprinkled on top. It was the best tomato mozzarella dish I've ever had. Everyone else who got the crab cakes agreed that they were just as fantastic; nice and plump they looked delicious.

For the main course, we could choose from grilled tenderloin, chicken Marsala, or salmon. Between everyone at the table, we got each one. We had four waiters at this point come to our table with silver-domed plates. They set them down in synchronization and did the reveal at the same time which was really something we hadn't expected and a lot of fun. I had the chicken Marsala which was very good. It was smothered in mushrooms (which I don't usually eat but found these to be quiet good). The steak, I hear though, was the dish to beat. It looked and tasted great. It was thick and juicy, cooked just right and underneath was a potato gratin that looked awesome.

For dessert, we tried the apple crisp, strawberry shortcake, and lemon budino. All of our desserts were just perfect. The apple crisp was the best Adam's ever tasted. The lemon budino was light and refreshing and my strawberry shortcake was a neat variation on the traditional dessert with strawberries drizzled in between two powdered biscuit cookies.
The service at the club was great the whole evening. Our water glasses were constantly refilled, we ordered a bottle of Grgich Zinfandel (apparently, a good choice and a house favorite) and our glasses were topped off whenever we needed them to be. The mixed drinks were also very good. I had a dark and stormy with my dessert which I had been dying to try and it was really delicious.

We left the BC club totally satisfied with the food, service, and atmosphere. If you can manage to get in, the BC club is a fine dining experience not to be missed.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse

One of my favorite steak houses in Boston’s is Fleming’s. The first time I went to Fleming’s, I was incredibly impressed with their quality, cut and taste of meat. It was no surprise that when I saw Fleming’s had a restaurant week menu, I called up my friends and headed out there as soon as possible.

That first time to Fleming’s, I had the Filet Mignon. It was delicious, the best filet mignon I’ve ever had. Better then Capital Grille, better then Burton’s, better than Smith and Wollensky’s, the filet melted in my mouth and left a wonderful taste of seasonings behind. For dessert, I (reluctantly) had their molten cake. (I say reluctantly because I wasn't a big fan of the molten.) I’ve had it at cheap-eat joints and never have been impressed and have even had it at Finale in Boston and was not too thrilled with it. I always thought that the mythical molten just wasn’t my thing. The Fleming’s molten proved me wrong. After the first bite, I realized that THIS is what a molten cake is supposed to taste like. Warm, rich, a liquid center without being gross, the Fleming molten cake was one of my favorite restaurant desserts ever.

For restaurant week, the menu consisted of a few different options. A NY strip broiled at 1600 degrees caught most of our eyes right away while Bryan and Bob opted for the Salmon. For an appetizer, I had the peach soup. I never have had peach soup before and it sounded intriguing. It was served in a thick, tall, martini glass. It was pretty good but also pretty weird. The consistency was the exact same as yogurt with bits of peach and and it didn’t seem much like a soup at all. Perhaps a mismarketed mismatch? I’m glad I tried it but I wouldn’t get it again.

At this point, it would be good to note that I elected to try the wine flight. The Fleming’s wine flight lets you personally mix and match any three wines from the menu (that are sold by the glass) and pay about 1/3 the price. I chose three wines to match my courses. For the peach soup I chose a champagne, a cabernet sauvignon for my NY strip, and a French Alscatian sweet wine for my turtle pie dessert. The waiter commented that it was the most interesting flight he’s seen anyone order (I think he was mocking me) but I felt that the choices were suited to the dishes flavors. Below are the names of the wines:

1. Gloria Ferrer Champagne, California
2. St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignaun, California
3. Domaines Schlumberger, France

The flight came with the wine glasses about 1/3 full (it should be noted the glasses are a decent size and so each pairing lasted me through to the next course) and cost me around 15 bucks total. The St. Supery glass alone would have cost me 17 dollars so it was indeed a great bargain. Fleming’s also writes the name of the wines down for you to bring home in case you want to research your picks (which of course, I did).

Onto my main course. The NY strip was fantastic. I ordered it medium rare and got exactly that. I know Adam was excited when he ordered it rare and it came rare. Too many times, chefs overcook meat these days! The meat was tender and juicy with a wonderful buttery herb sauce basted on top. The filet came with mashed potatoes (these were wonderful as well) and green beans (a bit undercooked). Plenty of food.

For dessert, I had the turtle pie. It was good, nothing too special. Definitely, no molten cake. It had a lot of nuts in it which I enjoyed but Marco thought there was too many. It was supposed to come with some sort of chantilly cream but our waiter (who, I am guessing, was disenchanted with us for ordering off the restaurant week menu) never brought it.

I do think it’s important to mention that a top quality restaurant should never lack in service, style, or flavor during restaurant week, even though the meals are reduced prices. A top quality restaurant should always be...well, top quality no matter how much the costumer is spending. While the food at Fleming’s certainly demonstrated this, our waiter did not. I’ve experienced good service at Fleming’s so I am going to chalk up this waiter’s poor service to maybe a bad day.

Bryan describes his meal as follows: I started out with the wedge. I've been craving a wedge ever since Restaurant Week started. I know, it's probably the cheapest possible thing a restaurant can make, but I just wanted one! It was good. They gave us a nice amount of delicious blue cheese, and the grape tomatoes were nice and sweet.

Despite the server's recommending the steak or the pork chop for mains, I went with the salmon, which was served Oscar-style. I'd never had anything Oscar style before, and thought this would be a good opportunity to try it. I love crab, and I love hollandaise sauce. I must say, though, that it was a bit much; It was delicious but extremely rich. The salmon filet itself was nice. There were a few bites that were quite salty, but I think that's because they salted the outside unevenly since the dish as a whole was not too salty.

The sides that came "family style" were also very good. The mashed potatoes were fantastic. They were topped with peppercorn butter, and were just delicious. The green beans weren't much to write about.

My dessert was decadent: the turtle pie. Rich and gooey with a nice addition of walnuts, it hit the spot. It would have been nice to have some of the crème chantilly; but, as Peter said, our waiter didn't think he needed to bring us any. Nevertheless, the dessert was delicious.

Overall, our experience at Flemings was great. The food was very good (the steaks incredible) and the portions were good as well. No one left hungry. I’m excited to go again to try another wine flight (and another waiter) but next time, I’m sticking to the molten for dessert.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Delicious Oishii

For lunch on Sunday, we went to Oishii (おいしい - 'delicious' in Japanese). The name is fitting. Oishii is rated the second best restaurant in Boston according to the Zagat 2008-2009 Boston Guide.  So we were anxious to see if it lived up to it's high ranking. There is no signage above the door (a new trend in the south end it seems?) and the only thing that reminds you that there is a restaurant inside are some umbrellas and tables outdoors (who knows what happens in the winter!). When we walked up to the stark-white building on busy Washington Street in the South End, I didn't quite know what to expect. I was nicely surprised, however. The inside of the restaurant is the yin to the façade's yang. Maybe this wasn't on purpose; but, that was my experience, and it was pretty cool. The inside is dark and tranquil with a water feature running down one of the walls. On the main floor, where we ate, there are two large modern dining rooms, painted in dark colors, that help to give a hip and trendy vibe to the place.

A hostess took us to our table, which was along a wall across from the sushi counter. The cool thing about Oishii is you can see all of the ingredients that the chefs use. They are displayed in long glass cases in front of you. Long pipes covered in frost keep the fresh fish cooled. We were able to watch the sushi chefs from our table during the whole course of our meal without it being too distracting..

We took advantage of Oishii's Restaurant Week menu (it was the only lunch menu they provided that day anyway), and it was a bargain from what I hear about the normal prices. We both got the Sweet Potato Tempura and Pork Gyōza as our first course. Light and delicate, Peter thought they were some of the best dumplings he's ever had. The gyōza were fantastic. The Sweet Potato Tempura was good--a bit greasy, but I think that's the nature of the beast with anything fried. The two dipping sauces they provided (one for the dumplings and one for the main course) were both delicious.

For our main courses, P got the Chicken Teriyaki (which he liked just fine), and I got a nice sushi combination, which included a spicy tuna maki, a salmon nigiri, and Oishii's delicious "Route 66" roll, which consisted of salmon tempura, crab stick (kani), avocado, cream cheese, and cucumber. It. Was. Amazing! The main course alone was worth the $20.08 price for the entire meal. 

For dessert, we both had the red bean ice cream, which was also fantastic. P even said that it might have been his favorite part. 
The service at Oishii was very good as well. We didn't have to wait too long for the food, they refilled our waters numerous times, and we had three servers who attended to our needs. Would we consider Oishii to be the second best restaurant in Boston? It's hard to judge. For sushi, service, and décor it was excellent but there is a part of me that is hesitant to compare it to a restaurant like No. 9 Park. Perhaps it's because Oishii didn't feel stuck up or stuffy as some prestigious restaurants can? Either way, Oishii IS a great place to get great sushi. Second best restaurant in Boston? You be the judge.

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