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 2 Mojitos = Fair 

Aquitaine is a French bistro and wine bar in Boston’s South End. It is modeled after Parisian neighborhood bistros by Chef/Executive Owner Seth Woods. The decor is warm and modern, French artwork lining the walls, evoking a true Parisian atmosphere. While I have heard great things about Aquitaine, it’s wine, food and service, my Restaurant Week experience was far from wonderful. Improperly executed food and poor service which was only saved at the very end of the meal thanks to my prompting, left me thinking that as far as Restaurant Week experiences go, Aquitaine is clearly not at the top of my list.

Getting There

Aquitaine is located on Tremont Street in the heart of the South End. Getting there is easy whether by car, train or bus. Valet parking is offered by the restaurant if you wish to partake of that option. If not, there is metered parking along the streets and public parking garages in various nearbly areas. The restaurant does get crowded so I recommend making reservations.

The Ambiance

The restaurant is decorated in warm tones of chocolate brown, mahogony and taupe, the walls lined with French artwork that makes you feel like you are sitting in a Parisian bistro. The oversized windows at the front of the restaurant are divided by cream-colored organza curtains that overlook Tremont Street. Soft white globe lights are hung from the high ceiling creating a pleasing glow throughout. The room is lined with leather booths on one side and a long banquette on the other, giving those sitting at the banquette a clear view into the kitchen. Our waiter was almost robotic — he showed little to no expression and barely feigned interest in taking our orders and making our meal a pleasurable experience. While staff was flittering about constantly,  when we needed proper service it was difficult to find.

Starters

Chilled Corn Soup

The chilled sweet corn soup was a refreshing summer treat. While not as good as Lumiere’s hot corn soup, this one ranks a clear second. Served cold with a roasted poblano pepper and corn relish, the soup had that added spice to it that, with the sweetness of the corn, provided a nice contrast in flavor. It was served in a white ceramic crock and was well-presented.

Salt Cod Croquette

The salt cod croquette was a creative and interesting starter. The salt cod, melded into an oblong, oval-shaped croquette was battered and fried, producing a well-seasoned croquette. The one criticism — the croquette could have been less thick, allowing for each bite to incorporate the crunch of the batter on each side of the flaky cod center. As it was, thick and oval, each bite only allowed for one side of the battered cod portion to be tasted at a time, taking away from the crunchy/flaky combination that is so vital to the dish. The croquette was served with a tangy and tasty Sauce Roullie and lettuce with a chardonnay vinaigrette.

Entrees

Pan Roasted Striped Bass

All three of us at our table ordered the pan roasted striped bass. Sadly, while one of us was served a properly cooked piece of bass, the other two of us were served undercooked pieces of fish, raw in the center. While it is common for tuna to be seared, the bass should have been cooked through. When we contacted our waiter to inquire about our undercooked fish, he first looked at us puzzled and then admitted that, yes, both pieces were woefully undercooked and robotically mumbled some words of apology. Our two pieces of bass headed back to the kitchen and we were left watching our other dining companion eat her fish. Not only were we unable to enjoy our meal together as we should have, but while we sat for between 25-30 minutes waiting for our properly cooked bass, we watched plate after plate of bass pass us by headed to other tables. To add insult to injury, the manager did not come and apologize to us and our waiter made no effort to expedite our meals so that we could enjoy dining together. When our dining partner was practically through with her dinner, our bass arrived properly cooked. It was served with local green and yellow wax beans and tomatoes and a pistou vinaigrette. While tasty given the tang of the pistou vinaigrette and the fresh vegetables, the dining experience was marred by the poorly executd dish and the even poorer service given how it was handled. Although the menu stated that the fish was served with toasted almonds, I could find none in my dish.

Dessert

Kir Royale

The Kir Royale, a champagne gelee, strawberry compote and cassis sorbet was just passable. The dessert, overall, could have been served colder. The gelee had a strange consistency — somewhere between gelatin and shaved ice. The gelee tasted clearly like champagne and was too strong of a taste unless paired with the strawberry compote in the center. Between the three of us, we could only handle a few tastes before putting our spoons down having had enough. If you had to choose, I would skip this as a dessert option.

Honey Roasted Plum & Brown Butter Tart with Lavendar & Honey Ice Cream

The honey roasted plum and brown butter tart had the crisp consistency of a shortbread cookie. It was dotted with plum pieces throughout the crisp, cookie-like tart. I expected something more moist, with sliced plums, so the dessert in no way matched my expectations. The lavendar and honey ice cream did not have a strong taste. In fact, if someone had told me it was vanilla ice cream, I would have believed them. The honey and lavendar flavors were indistinguishable. Of the two of us that ordered this dessert, we only had a few bites. It was not delectable enough to keep us going back for more.

Service

I usually do not include a section on service, but after our entree debacle, I decided, after we asked for our check, to speak to the manager. I informed Tina, the manger, of how disappointed I was at Aquitaine, having heard such great things about the restaurant from so many people. I explained how our fish had been undercooked to the point of being raw in the center and how, not only did no one apologize to us (the waiter attempted a few mumbled words, but it was so expressionless and mumbled, that it was not at all reassuring), but more importantly, several fish dishes went out to other tables before we ever received our fish. When a kitchen turns out poorly executed food, I told her, it is important that the customers affected receive their redone dishes first because the restaurant needs to make those customers a priority, showing them that they are appreciated and improving their dining experiences for the better. Tina, handled my comments with professionalism and grace, profusely apologizing, blaming herself for not taking an interest in the problems we had had with our food, and stating that they had had several problems in the kitchen. She then credited our check for the two meals that had been ruined and gave me her card with her name and number, urging me to return to the restaurant, calling her first so that she could ensure a wonderful dining experience. Had it not been for my interaction with Tina, I would have left Aquitaine, never to return given the subpar food and the even worse service. Although I had to initiate the conversation with Tina, I appreciate her response and the care she took with my concerns and for that reason only, I will return to Aquitaine and give it another chance.

Summary

Aquitaine is a warm, beautiful space with Parisian flair in the midst of the South End. With an extensive wine list, popular bar and French inspired menu, it is a unique locale. Our Restaurant Week experience was just fair — the appetizers were decent, our entrees were tasty only after being sent back to the kitchen for being undercooked and the desserts were nothing to write home about. The service during dinner was mediocre at first, and once we had problems with our food, poor at best. Thankfully, the management, when prompted by me, was responsive and acted promptly in a polished and concerned manner. This is truly what saved Aquitaine in my book and made it so that I would return. Because the experience during Retaurant Week was only fair, I give Aquitaine 2 Mojitos.

569 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

(617) 424-8577

 

1.5 Mojitos = Passable

33 Restaurant & Lounge is located in Back Bay. The decor is quite modern with options for outdoor and indoor seating. The restaurant does have a lounge downstairs which gets busier and busier once 10pm hits. The menu is contemporary American and while the menu is well-written and the food sounds appetizing, our meal left much to be desired.

Getting There

The restaurant is easy to get to, located in Boston’s Back Bay. If you drive, there is a valet parking option and also a large public parking garage just down the street where you can park your car for only $9 in the evenings. The restaurant is also just off of the Back Bay T-stop and commuter rail line stop which makes it easy to get to if you’re not interested in driving and paying to park.

The Ambiance

The restaurant decor is unique and modern. Dimly lit, the LED lit stairwells that become the bar are continuously changing colors and enveloping the room in varying hues of light. There are purple heart floors, rolling maple ceilings, and brick arches that only add to the creative decor. The night we arrived for dinner at 7:30pm, there were only 2 other tables filled inside, none occupied on the outdoor terrace where wrought iron tables are surrounded by palm trees creating a dimly lit, jungle-like oasis in the city. By the time we left dinner at about 11pm, there were about 5 tables occupied inside and many tables occupied outside, along with a line outside for patrons waiting to enter the lounge below, velvet rope, bouncer and all. Our service was extremely slow. My iced tea alone took about 25 minutes — apparently, it needed to steep some more. Our food took at least an hour. The waiter was inattentive overall despite how sparsely populated the restaurant was. The decor, although edgy and hip, was not enough to make up for the poor service we encountered or the lackluster dining experience.

Entrees

Chicken Pot Pie

The chicken pot pie, described as a classic with roasted vegetables might be the worst I have ever eaten. The chicken pot pie itself looked appetizing as it arrived, the pastry puffed and golden brown atop the white, ceramic pie plate holding the fillings. The pie plate was place on an oblong serving platter with 4 crisp, thin slices of french bread (think oversized croutons). On first glance, I imagined a creamy filling swimming with vegetables and fresh chicken, the filling so delicious that I would want to scoop it up with my crispy bread pieces. I could not have been more wrong. While the pastry on top was tasty, crisp and buttery, the filling was thick mashed potato based. The creamy filling was nonexistant and I could not figure out the purpose of my crisp bread pieces — to scoop thick, almost-too-dry mashed potatoes?! The mashed potatoes were bland, dotted with peas and carrots and barely any chicken. I was looking forward to comfort food and this did not fit the bill.

Grilled Brined Pork Chops

The pork chops were well-seasoned, served on a bed of wilted greens with edisto style grits and an apple-jack sauce. The pork chops were served bone-in and properly cooked. The grits were an interesting accompaniment, but nonetheless made for a tasty combination. The sauce is what made the pork chops seemed well-seasoned, what made the dish appetizing. While not the best pork chop I have had and definitely not a reason to head to 33 Restaurant & Lounge, if you find yourself at the restaurant this is a far better option than the chicken pot pie. You may not rave and want to return the following week to repeat your meal, but you will definitely leave full and satisfied with your menu choice.

Dessert

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

The presentation for the bread pudding, I must say, was a little off. The two pieces of bread pudding (cut into sqaures) were on the left side of the long, rectangular dish, the chocolate ice cream on the right. The chocolate ice cream, however, had been dragged from the bottom right of the plate to the top right, creating a chocolate ice cream smear across the plate that did not positively add to the presentation; it only made the dish look messy in presentation. The bread pudding itself was average as far as desserts go. The squares were moist, dotted with what tasted like caramel and topped with sliced fresh banana. The chocolate ice cream is where the dish went very wrong — this time not in presentation, but in taste. The ice cream, as all of my dining partner commented, was salty. We have all seen chef reality shows where the salt is confused for the sugar and, for the first time ever in my dining experiences, I believe we lived that accident. I cannot imagine that the chocolate ice cream was supposed to be salty – there was no indication of that on the menu. Yet, there it was before us — salty chocolate ice cream. After waiting so long for our food, desserts and drinks, we opted to eat the bread pudding, skip the ice cream and ask for the check.

Summary

33 Restaurant & Lounge is a hip spot in Back Bay that was clearly designed to be a space unlike any other in the city. The LED lighting around the bar and down the stairs makes the modern locale a nice place to stop in and grab a drink with friends. The service and food, however, were not where they need to be for a restaurant charging what they are for food. We expected creative, well-executed dished and polished, prompt service and we got neither. I would say, head to 33 Restaurant & Lounge if you are looking for a trendy bar or if you want to spend some time in their lounge, but if you are looking for a great meal and excellent service, there are other places to head to in Boston that will provide you a more pleasurable experience. For these reasons, I find the food was just passable and I give 33 Restaurant & Lounge 1.5 Mojitos.

33 Stanhope St. Boston MA 02116 

 (617) 572-3311

 

  4.5 Mojitos = Delightful

Lumière is an upscale, modern French bistro where Chef Michael Leviton makes the trip to Newton more than worthwhile during Restaurant Week. The food is a fusion blend of French and fresh, seasonal Californian fare. The restaurant has both an extensive wine list and a full bar and the service is superb.

Getting There

Lumière is located in West Newton and is easily accessible by car, by T (Green Line — Woodland) and by the commuter rail (West Newton). Metered parking is available along the streets and also in the rear of the restaurant at a small lot. Make sure to make a reservation before you dine because the restaurant is small (seats about 40) and, with Restaurant Week, it is even more crowded than usual. A 3-course menu is $33.08 and a 3-course menu with wine pairings is $48.08. With the wine pairing, each dish on the menu features a different wine complementing its flavors, most from Spain and Portugal with a few US and French wines as well.

The Ambiance

Lumière is casually elegant; a relatively small neighborhood restaurant catering to a variety of types from yuppies out on a first date to families dining with teenage kids to older couples enjoying a delicious meal. The restaurant has a warm feeling to it thanks to the wood floors, dark brown hues in the decor and the billowy white fabric decorating the ceilings. There is bench seating along one side that accomodates a number of tables for two. Although the restaurant is not large, you won’t feel cramped nor will you experience the loud din that is often the case when there are too many diners talking in too small of a space. The service is superb — our waitress knew the ins and outs of the menu and because the servers work together there is never an empty water glass that is not filled or an empty plate that is not cleared. Silverware was traded out beautifully and not a single detail was overlooked. Our server was also able to make recommendations on the menu that were insightful and helpful (almost a rarity nowadays where the response is often “I actually haven’t tried that.”)

Starters

Sweet Corn Soup

The Verill Farm sweet corn soup was more delicious than my dining partner and I ever imagined sweet corn soup could be. The soup was served piping hot (important, but something many restaurants find an impossible task) and smelled of delicious summer sweet corn. The soup was topped with a fresh roasted corn and black bean salsa that had just the perfect amount of jalapeno to add some kick every now and then. The soup’s flavor was complex — deep, aromatic, sweet — it was corn’s true essence captured in soup. The salsa is what made the soup go from excellent to superb; it added the necessary texture, acidity and heat to counter the smoky sweetness of the corn soup. The soup was so good that I’ve been craving it since I left and am tempted to return again this week to sample another steaming bowl.

BLT Salad

The BLT salad is a must for any BLT-lover. The fresh romaine lettuce was served with heirloom tomatoes (a personal favorite of mine for the variety in color, flavor and texture), bacon and a bacon-chive dressing. The bacon in the salad was crisp and flavorful, not that limp, soggy bacon you often get when you order a salad that has bacon as one of its main ingredients. The dressing worried me as bacon can often overpower every flavor, but it was a delicate balance of creamy dressing, chive flavor and bacon essence. The salad tasted fresh and unique and my dining partner has commented on how wonderful it was several times throughout our meal. If you are someone that enjoys a good BLT, make sure to try this salad.

Entrees

Chatham Bluefish

The line caught Chatham bluefish was the most well-prepared bluefish I have sampled at any of Boston’s many restaurants.  The bluefish was crisp on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. What made the fish so delectable was the mustard crust that enveloped it in bold, tantalizing flavor. As if that mustard crust was not enough, the tapenade vinaigrette, with the flavors of kalamata olives and balsamic vinegar only added to the complex and robust flavor of the fish. The summer vegetables served with the fish were a nice complement adding fresh flavor and texture. This was the favorite dish of the night — a fish with such well-rounded and strong flavors is something that you do not often find (even in New England). The bluefish was beautifully presented, the mustard-crusted fish atop its balsamic tapenade vinaigrette, sprinkled with summer vegetables. The variety of colors just added to the already appetizing aroma of the dish.

Hake

The Gloucester hooked Hake was also prepared well, crisp on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. The hake, although dutifully executed, in no way matched the powerful flavors of the bluefish described above (which, when comparing the two, is our only criticism of this dish). The hake was a bit of a play on Spanish cuisine. Served in a parsley sauce that was just of the right consistency, the hake was complemented by chorizo, new potatoes and mussels. The chorizo was well-cooked and flavorful, served in slices that were later cut into 4 smaller triangles. The mussels were served out of their shell and were properly cooked so as not to be too chewy to be pleasurable. The hake, for those that enjoy chorizo and mussels and are able to appreciate how subtle flavors can come together to make a delicious dish, is a great choice. For those seeking striking flavor from the first bite, tastes that dance along your tongue, the bluefish is a better option than the hake. The hake had lovely presentation thanks to the contrast of the bright-green parsley sauce on which the crisp white fish sat, surrounded by the potatoes, mussels and chorizo.

Dessert

Lime Sorbet

My disclaimer for the lime sorbet is that you must really enjoy lime if you order this dessert. The sorbet is freshly made from real limes and is as close to eating a lime as you will probably ever come. Paired with the Kimball Fruit Farm nectarine compote, the acidity of the lime is somewhat tamed, but not enough for those that are not able to handle sour fruit. The sorbet will definitely make your mouth pucker a bit when the acidic iciness first hits your taste buds. The sorbet does, however, provide a refreshing end to the meal. With the lime, mint and nectarine compote it is at times reminiscent of a mojito (minus the alcohol). The sorbet received mixed reviews. I will say that the sorbet is well made and I appreciate that Lumière did not load the sorbet with sugar to cover up the true tartness of the fresh lime. If you are one that enjoys tart citrus or are looking for a fresh end to a delicious meal, the sorbet is a good option. If you do not fit the description above, then another option might be best for you. The sorbet was presented wonderfully in a highball glass, two scoops enveloped by the nectarine compote and dotted with fresh mint leaves.

Blueberry Shortcake

The blueberry shortcake fulfilled all the requirements of a delicious shortcake (Meritage could learn a thing or two here). The biscuits were baked perfectly, light and airy and sweet thanks to the lightest sprinkling of sugar on the biscuit top. The local blueberries were quite fresh and cooked without excessive sweeteners so that they retained their wonderful fresh blueberry flavor. The lemon chantilly cream was light and had only the slightest lemon flavor, the perfect accent to the satisfying blueberries. The presentation was, again, wonderful. The slightly open biscuit was topped with the lemon chantilly cream and a spoonful of the deep blue-purple blueberries, additional blueberries lining the plate.

Summary

Lumière provided the best of the Restaurant Week experiences I have had here in Boston. The servers were polished and attentive, working together to assure that every need was met throughout our meal. The menu was inventive and unique, highlighting local, fresh flavors. From start to finish, our dishes were properly executed with flavor combinations that highlighted the main aspect of each dish. The only two miniscule criticisms are that the hake could have had a bit bolder flavor and that the lemon sorbet could have been created to be a tad less tart (whether this means in the actual preparation of the sorbet or what is served alongside the sorbet to complement the flavor). Because of its superb Restaurant Week performance, I give Lumière 4.5 Mojitos.

1293 Washington Street, West Newton, MA 02465

(617) 244-9199

 3 Mojitos = Good

Meritage, located in the lavish, waterfront Boston Harbor Hotel just along the wharf is known for superb seasonal fare impeccably paired with wine. The restaurant’s reputation, the high prices of the regular menu and the location within the beautiful waterfront hotel make Meritage a go-to eatery for locals during Restaurant Week. If you are thinking of heading to Meritage during this Restaurant Week, make a reservation and read this review before you go.  This review applies only to the menu and service during Restaurant Week (Summer 2008 only) and should not be used to judge Meritage, it’s food or it’s service outside of Restaurant Week.

Getting There

Meritage is located on the second floor of the Boston Harbor Hotel, located on Rowes Wharf. The hotel offers complimentary valet parking. The valet attendants and doorman are well-mannered and friendly. The restaurant is also central to various T stops depending on what line you are traveling. If you must park on the street, there is meter parking available near the Seaport World Trade Center. Meters are free after 6pm.

The Ambiance

As you come up the stairs, you will notice the large windows facing the harbor. As you wait for your table, decide if you would like to sit just outside the restaurant to take in the view through the floor to ceiling windows or at the bar to enjoy some cocktails. Our reservation was at 8:30pm and we were not seated until almost 8:45pm so be prepared to wait a bit due to the Restaurant Week patrons crowding the tables. The lighting is just dim enough, windows look out onto the water and the yachts docked below, beautiful flower arrangements fill the room. The light dances beautifully off of the “leather” paneled walls featuring modern paintings. Wine is central to the decor and you will see various chilled cases of wine from the moment you enter. The music was subdued but enjoyable. There are individual tables that offer more privacy closer to the windows and along the left wall there is a long booth bench that houses various smaller tables, mostly for parties of two. The staff was fairly attentive, but not as attentive as I would expect for a restaurant of Meritage’s caliber. A wine pairing is available with the meal for $17 and includes a Pinot Grigio, a Merlot and a Port.

Starters

It took 15 minutes for us to be served water and be given bread. I blame how crowded the restaurant was due to Restaurant Week, but for a restaurant like Meritage, I do not believe this is an excuse for how slow service was moving. Also, at a nearby table, the waitress referred to the woman dining as “young lady,” which coming from an older waitress might have been acceptable, but coming from a younger waitress was offensive to the diner. I would expect better from Meritage — perhaps the high volume of patrons was too much for them to handle.

Once the bread was served, we received three types of bread: (1) a sweet, dark bread studded with raisins which was moist and flavorful; (2) a slice of a baguette dotted with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and rye which was dryer, but savory; and (3) a ciabatta roll which tasted great with the fresh whipped butter, accented with the Meritage “M,” of course.

Soft Shell Crab

The pan-fried soft shell crab was lightly breaded with a well-seasoned breading that only added to the delicious flavor of the crab. A few of the crab’s legs were a bit over-fried leaving them a tad too dry. The crab was served with a corn, tomato, asparagus and champagne salsa that complemented the crab’s texture nicely. The dish could have benefitted from some acidity — the tomato in the salsa was not enough — but overall, the crab was well-seasoned and the salsa provided a nice contrast.  The dish was nicely presented, the whole crab served above the corn mixture with a dollop of the champagne salsa on the corner of the plate.

Pork Tenderloin

The goat cheese and roasted tomato filled crispy organic pork tenderloin was served alongside some steamed turnip greens. The presentation was lovely, the pork was rolled around the filling, served just next to the turnip greens. The pork was well cooked and melded nicely with the strong goat cheese flavor with hints of roasted tomato. The turnip greens were quite bitter, at times almost so bitter that the goat cheese seemed more sweet than pungent.

Entrees

Red Snapper

The red snapper was pan-seared and served along with squash blossoms and snap peas with a saffron butter sauce.  The fish was well cooked — golden on the outside, moist, white and flaky on the inside — and obviously quite fresh. The fish did lack seasoning, however. Eaten alone, it was unclear whether it was even seasoned with salt. The only flavor the fish had was the flavor of the red snapper itself. The vegetables were cooked just until crisp-tender and sliced diagonally and in smaller cubes to add to the presentation. The saffron butter sauce was disappointing, tasting more like thickened, salted butter than saffron. The dish had beautiful presentation, once again, but flavor was lacking. It was light and fresh, but tasted like a meal cooked in someone’s home more than a meal coming from Meritage. Had the butter exuded more saffron flavor, perhaps that would have been the dish’s saving grace.

Duck

The black currant glazed duck was served in 5 sections in a “pinwheel” shape over fennel and leek handmade ravioli. The duck’s jus was the savory sauce on the ravioli. The duck was properly cooked — the skin was crispy, the meat cooked to about medium well, the fat between the meat and the skin cooked just enough to add moisture to the meat. The ravioli was well made, the filling of leeks and fennel, a nice contrast to the duck’s flavor. One disappointment with the dish — the black currant glaze was not as prominent as my dining partner and I would have liked. We were expecting sweeter duck and more savory ravioli, but the black currant flavor was much more subdued and did not create the contrast of flavors we were hoping for.

Dessert

Red Fruit Tasting Plate

The red fruit tasting plate consisted of the following: (1) a sweet cherry and vanilla cream tart; (2) a frozen raspberry tower; and (3) a buttermilk strawberry rhubarb shortcake. The shortcake, two triangles of buttermilk biscuit filled with a mixture of chopped strawberries and rhubarb was the least favorite among my dining partner and I. The biscuit was dry and tasted more like a scone than a biscuit. The filling was extremely tart and there was not enough sweetness to the biscuit to counteract it. Although rhubarb is known to be tart, this was too tart to be enjoyable. The frozen raspberry tower was a triangle tower of raspberry “mouse” served upon a thin, delicate and airy circle of white cake. The “mousse” was fruity, refreshing and a pleasure to eat. The sweet cherry and vanilla cream tart was delicious. The tart shell was sweet and crisp, filled with a vanilla creme and sweet, tender, sliced cherries — this dessert ranked as the favorite from the red fruit tasting plate.

Chocolate Tasting Plate

The chocolate tasting plate consisted of (1) a chocolate espresso pot de creme; (2) two milk chocolate bon bons; and (3) a white chocolate cheese tart. The chocolate espresso pot de creme received mixed reviews at our table. My dining partner found it delicious, a perfect meld of dark chocolate and espresso in a dense “mousse.” I found myself overwhelmed by the rich dark chocolate flavor and was unable to take more than a couple of bites before having to move on to the other offerings on the plate. The milk chocolate bon bons were filled with chocolate ice cream which was quite a surprise. The bon bons were lovely and were gone pretty quickly given how scrumptious they were. The white chocolate cheese tart was served on a chocolate pastry shell. There was a cheesecake like filling thinly spread along the pastry which was topped with white chocolate shavings and a white chocolate sauce drizzle. Of the chocolate tasting plate items, this was the favorite among my dining partner and myself.

Summary

Meritage is a sophisticated eatery nestled along Boston’s harbor serving fresh, seasonal fare perfectly paired with wine. It is known among locals as one of the finest restaurants in the city which explains its popularity during Restaurant Week. If you choose to visit during Restaurant Week, be prepared for service that is not quite up to snuff for Meritage and food that leaves you wondering why this restaurant is so famed given what you just tasted. Among Restaurant Week restaurants, it’s one of the better options, but compared to Meritage outside of Restaurant Week, it leaves much to be desired. For it’s perforamance during Restaurant Week only, I give Meritage 3 Mojitos.

Meritage, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
(617) 439-3995

 

4 Mojitos = Excellent 

Mul’s is the true diner experience, red vinyl booths and all. A Southie gem, locals flock to Mul’s for its filling breakfasts, satisfying coffee and Boston charm.

Getting There

Mul’s is located in South Boston, walking distance from downtown. You can walk, come by T or drive. Parking is easy and free at the parking lot across the street from Mul’s located on the Amrheins property. Most breakfast items are under $8 and include coffee. With the large portions, you’ll be full until dinner if you clean your plate. Mul’s is cash only so be sure to bring cash with you to pay the bill. If you forget, there is a generic ATM located inside for your convenience if you’re willing to pay the additional fees.

The Ambiance

Mul’s is your traditional diner with red retro-style red vinyl booths lining the walls, smaller tables in the middle and red vinyl stools lining the counter along the bustling kitchen. On a typical Saturday or Sunday morning expect to wait in line as Mul’s is a local, but nevertheless crowded, Boston breakfast spot. Luckily, the line always moves fast and you will be eating before you know it. The crowd at Mul’s includes a bit of everyone — families with children, yuppies, students, older couples. The wait staff is friendly, experienced, moves quickly and ensures that your breakfast is as you like it — whether it means puttig “buttah” on your wheat toast or not. The service is quick — meals are usually served within 5 to 10 minutes of the time you place your order.

Entrees

Eggs

Mul’s has eggs down to a science. Whether you order scrambled, over easy, sunny side up or over medium, they will be perfect every time. Unlike other establishments where eggs can be a bit too greasy, they are not so at Mul’s. If you order scrambled eggs, be prepared for 2-3 eggs as the portions are quite large.

Potatoes

The home fries are diced, seasoned potatoes, cooked crisp on the outside. They are served as a side to most breakfast items. Use your judgment to decide if you will eat them as is or cover them with tabasco or ketchup — it’s up to you. Any way you choose to eat them, they will be the perfect complement to your breakfast.

Meats

The bacon is crisp and served hot and fresh. If you choose bacon as your meat, expect to be served 4-5 strips with your meal. If you choose to go with sausage, you will be served 4-5 links, each crisp and hot on the outside, tender and meaty on the inside. The sausage is served as traditional links, most of the time, linked to one another (kids get a real kick out of this!). The ham is served in large sliced, cooked crisp on the outside and served hot. Whatever breakfast meat you choose to go with, be prepared for the large portion.

Pancakes & French Toast

Pancakes are large and fluffy, served with a dollop of butter. They are just dense enough to absorb the maple syrup. The french toast are dusted with cinnamon, cooked golden brown on the outside and served with a dollop of butter. I find that the butter, melting on the french toast as it makes its way to the table, can be a bit too much. I prefer to ask for the french toast without butter. Even without the extra dollop, the french toast are buttery enough to taste delicious with syrup.

Coffee

Coffee can be as important as the meal itself when it comes to breakfast. Mul’s serves a great cup of coffee. Always steaming hot, dark enough to get you up and going. The wait staff will never let your cup go empty without them asking if you would like a refill. Since coffee is included with most breakfasts you can drink all the coffee your body can handle and not pay a single cent more.

Summary

Mul’s is a great neighborhood diner serving up large, well-made breakfasts at very reasonable prices. The retro-style diner decor and Boston locals will make you feel at home as you enjoy your hearty meal and wake up with endless cups of perfectly brewed coffee. If you have not been to Mul’s, take a trip to South Boston and enjoy a delicious breakfast. Just remember — Mul’s is open 5am-2pm so don’t sleep in too late or you’ll miss a great breakfast. Judged by its worth as a diner, Mul’s is the best in Boston and deserves its rating of 4 Mojitos.

Mul’s Diner, 80 W Broadway , Boston, MA 02127, (617) 268-5748

 3 Mojitos = Good

Chilli Duck, down the steps from the crowded sidewalk of Boylston Street beckons you in for Thai food after a busy day shopping on Newbury Street or the Pru. The food is consistent, reasonably priced and the portions are large and satisfying. Although it’s not the best Thai food I have eaten, Chilli Duck is definitely someplace I would return if I were in the neighborhood and had a craving for Thai. Entrees range from $10.50 for a majority of dishes to $22.50 for some seafood dishes.

Getting There

Chilli Duck is located just down some steps from the bustling Boylston Street sidewalk. Parking might be tricky along Boylston Street or Newbury Street, but if you drive around enough times, you will eventually land a metered spot. The T is convenient to Chilli Duck and it’s also a short walk from many of the popular shopping areas near by. If all else fails, there are plenty of parking lots that are willing to take your cash in exchange for a parking spot — most average anywhere from $12-$24 depending on location.

The Ambiance

The wait staff is quick to greet you upon your arrival. The restaurant is on the smaller side, with some added character given the Christmas lights strung about and the other colorful light fixtures that dot the dining area. Nearest to our table was a lit star-shaped pendant, hanging from the ceiling which alternated from Red to Green to Orange-yellow, causing our entire table to be cast in an alternately colorful glow. While I did not mind. my dining partner was a bit peeved about it during the middle of our meal. When it came to the wait staff, the waiters worked more as a team although they were not exceedingly friendly.

Starters

The only starter that we sampled was the chicken satay. While the chicken was flavorful, I would have preferred thinner sliced meat cooked to a more golden brown. The food was plated nicely, however, and the dipping sauce was tasty. I will update with more starters upon a later visit.

Entrees

The Pad Thai portion was quite large and could easily serve two if you are not extremely hungry. The noodles were well cooked, the Pad Thai sauce was not too sweet and there was just the right amount of egg, scallions and bean sprouts. There was not, however, much chicken distributed throughout the Pad Thai. Although, the vast amount of noodles was in and of itself filling, I would have preferred more meat in the noodle dish. The Pad Thai was not served with any lime as a garnish so I had to request some. Once I added the lime, the  Pad Thai sauce tasted just as it should, but I still missed the chicken.

The Pad See Iew was also served in a large portion. The noodles were well cooked, but the dark soy-based sauce could have been bolder. The intense flavor of the sauce was missing. The broccoli and egg in the dish and the large portion, however, was enough to make it filling, despite leaving some flavor to be desired.

Summary

If you are craving Thai food and are nearby, Chilli Duck is not a bad place to stop in for a quick bite. The portions are large, the staff is amiable and you will definitely leave full. Because the flavors could be more bold and the pad thai would benefit from more meat and a lime garnish, I am rating Chilli Duck 3 Mojitos for good, reasonably priced Thai cuisine in Back Bay.

Chilli Duck Thai Cuisine, 829 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 236-5208

Tremont 647, 647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA

Tremont 647

4 Mojitos = Excellent 

Beantowners, if you are looking for an intimate brunch spot with plenty of character, then Tremont 647 is your place.  Note that Tremont 647 serves the same brunch on Sundays as it’s sister restaurant next door, Sister Sorel. You can visit either, but for simplicity’s sake, I am reviewing Tremont 647. Entrees range from $8.50 to $16. 

Getting There

Tremont 647 is located in foodie-heaven South End. You can take the T or drive — finding a parking spot along the many South End streets is not too frantic and definitely possible. For many of you Beantowners, you might even be able to walk (preferably, in the summer!). The restaurant does take reservations. If you don’t want to risk a wait for a table, call ahead of time and make a reservation.

The Ambiance

As soon as you arrive at Tremont 647, you will notice that the staff is in their pajamas. After all, it is “Pajama Brunch.” Guests dining at the restaurant can wear pajamas too, but I will say that in my two visits I only saw a couple of diners in pajamas. Feel free to set the trend, though. The restaurant definitely encourages it. The wait staff has a definite “team” mentality and they work well together. The restaurant is small, but the decor is modern and pleasing, with pastel-colored striped walls and dark wood seating. All the tables are near the kitchen given the size of the restaurant. Personally, I enjoy seeing the hardworking chefs in action, but others may disagree. The restaurant can have a wait for brunch. Luckily, there is a bar serving all of your favorite cocktails that will ensure your wait is pleasurable.

Cocktails

The mimosas here are splendid — the perfect combination of fresh orange juice and champagne. They do serve two sizes. A regular mimosa is served in a champagne glass and is a typical mimosa serving size. The “Big Girl Mimosa” is served in a larger glass (more akin to a red wine glass) and equals roughly two traditional mimosa servings. I went for the Big Girl Mimosa and it was so tasty it was almost gone before my entree arrived. The coffee is strong and served hot (which is not always the case everywhere you dine). The wait staff is attentive and will not let your coffee cup sit empty.

Starters

Who orders a starter with brunch, you might ask? Well, if you are dining at Tremont 647, the answer is you. The shining jewel at Tremont 647 is Joanne’s Pop Tarts, the homemade pop tart starter. The filling flavors vary. On the two occasions I dined there, the filling was strawberry-rhubarb — a delightful combination of sweetness and tartness. Combined with the warm, flaky crust and the gooey icing dotted with colored sprinkles, this starter takes your childhood pop tart to the gourmet level. On the first visit, my dining partner and I shared one and we were definitely fighting over the last piece. On our second visit, we each ordered our own and were much happier with that decision.

Entrees

The scramble with house made Italian sausage, spring vegetables and fontina cheese was well cooked. The eggs were moist and just cheesy enough, the Italian sausage adding a spiced sweetness to the dish. The scramble was served with breakfast potatoes, bacon and toast for a satisfying breakfast meal.

The gingerbread pancakes have that satisfying gingerbread cookie taste that take you back to holidays and childhood times. They are served with tart lemon custard, caramelized bananas and fresh blueberries. Although unique and tasty, the sweet breakfast treat might be too much for some. I would recommend splitting the pancakes and a less sweet dish with your dining partner so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

On my most recent visit, I ordered the breakfast special — the eggs benedict with ham. I would consider myself somewhat of an eggs benedict connoisseur as I make it a point to sample eggs benedict at almost every breakfast spot. Tremont 647′s version is served on sweet potato cakes. While I admire the ingenuity, I less so appreciated the flavor. The airy lightness of the traditional English muffin base was missing, replaced by a heavier, denser and more difficult to cut sweet potato bread. The egg was well poached and the ham added the salt that the dish needed. The eggs were topped with the perfect amount of hollandaise which was done properly. Were it not for the sweet potato bread base, I would highly recommend this dish. You can try it and judge for yourself. The dish was served with breakfast potatoes and grilled asparagus spears which added a nice touch.

Summary

Tremont 647 makes brunch fun with it’s Pajama Brunch concept. The pajama-clad wait staff is friendly and attentive, working as a team to bring you the best service possible. Joanne’s Pop Tart is the highlight of the brunch experience, taking a childhood packaged treat to a chef-inspired, tantalizing level. The breakfast items, overall, are creative and satisfying. Rating my experiences, I give Tremont 647 4 Mojitosfor it’s excellent Pajama Brunch. With some tweaking, it could be 5 Mojitos, but it’s not there quite yet. 

Tremont 647 (and Sister Sorel) also have a very intriguing dinner menu. Stay tuned for a review.

Tremont 647 (and Sister Sorel), 647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA (617)266-4600

http://www.tremont647.com/

 

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