Monday, April 22, 2013

Tremont 647

Lesson I learned yesterday: finding parking in the South End sucks. Unless you live there and have a South End resident parking sticker on your car. In which case ALL of the parking is reserved for people like you.  Lucky you. But then what do the rest of us do when we want to go to one of the yummy restaurants in your neighborhood for dinner?

I'll tell you what I did - I drove circles around Tremont and Columbus street for about half an hour and came very very close to pounding my head on the steering wheel. Eventually we made it over to Tremont 647, which was another restaurant recommendation from my friend Meghan

The front part of the restaurant is dominated by a bar, where 4 of us spent a few minutes milling around when initially the hostess refused to seat us until our entire party had arrived. We didn't have to wait long though, after Aaron decided to pull the doctor-card: "Our friend [Ammara - and by association - Colyn] got stuck in the operating room but now she's on her way. If you could just seat us now..."

In retrospect I don't know if the doctor-card actually worked, or if instead the hostess simply didn't want us irritating the customers at the bar. Or, maybe it was our offer to purchase drinks and appetizers that got us seated almost immediately afterwards.

When we finally became a complete party:

 Both Colyn and I ordered the wood grilled hanger steak medium rare:

The steak was prepared well, and also came with a side of two jumbo tater tots (not pictured because I forgot, and I ultimately gave mine away anyways)

Aaron ordered the lamb, which came with ricotta gnocchi:

There was only one vegetarian entree on the menu, which was a Vietnamese-inspired wrap with coconut jasmine rice (Ameeka obviously went with this option, since she doesn't eat anything that can stared back at you before you butcher it):

According to Ameeka, the rice was very good, but the vegetable wrap not so much. Figures, since Tremont 647 describes itself as delivering "Adventurous American Cuisine" and "American"-style restaurants don't generally do a great job of duplicating Asian food. Not racist - just stating a fact 

Spyros ordered the 1/2 pound "Burger Daddy" which came with a mountain of fries. Seriously - a MOUNTAIN OF FRIES:

Ammara opted for the buttermilk fried chicken which came with a delicious-looking rosemary biscuit: 

(+) points to Tremont 647 for not over-cooking my steak. (-) points for not having parking and nearly making me blow an aneurysm in the car

Overall rating: 7/10

647 Tremont St. 
Boston, MA 02118

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tea at the Four Seasons, Boston

Last Saturday Ameeka and I had the chance to have tea at the Four Seasons Hotel, near the Boston Commons. Tea is held in the Bristol Lounge, which looks more like a restaurant than a lounge.

Like at the Taj, the treats accompanying tea came on a 3-tiered tray, but unlike at the Taj, the dessert selection was limited. No Madelines or chocolate covered strawberries here...

For my tea, I chose the Jasmine flavor - which was (as you would expect based on the name) very flowery. I usually love to drown my tea in sugar and cream/milk, but that didn't seem appropriate in this case, so I drank it China-style: sans-condiments

The condiments were offered in a cute way: rather than sugar packets, our table was served sugar sticks, and the honey came in tiny little pots:

Rather than two flavors of scones, the Four Seasons offers one scone - of the cranberry variety:

and a "tea bread" which was poppyseed in flavor:

The tea sandwiches included the typical cucumber with cream (stingy on the cucumber at the Four Seasons) and chicken salad sandwiches:

as well as a smoked salmon with cream cheese:

Desserts included a pistachio cream puff, walnut cake, and lemon tart:

I was more a fan of the atmosphere at the Four Seasons than the food. It was classy - as you would expect from a luxury hotel setting, but also casual: there was a bachelorette party at one of the tables near us. I don't think that I would choose high tea for my bachelorette event, but hey - whatever floats your boat...

(Photos courtesy of my handy Droid - not quite the quality of my D90, but more portable and was the one with a charged battery...)

Overall rating: 6/10

Four Seasons
200 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02116

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Sustainable cuisine has been rather the "in" thing in the restaurant scene for the last several years - especially on the West Coast, where my tree-hugging friends and family like to wear their hemp clothing, Doc Martens,  and dreadlocks, while cruising over to the nearest Whole Foods to fill their reusable grocery bags with Macintosh apples and raw almonds...

At least that's the common perception that some of my East Coast colleagues carry about my Seattle-homies. It was just a few days ago when one of our minimally-invasive-surgery Fellows told me that people in the Pacific Northwest "don't like to wash their hair" and "like to dress like homeless people." False, dude. FALSE. Seattle is remarkably metropolitan, and plenty of my pals back home dress with just as much style and flare as those from NYC. Plus, we LOVE to shower/wash our hair in Seattle. We have an abundance of water, AND it's not like we're 13th century France... sheesh...

Anyway, the food scene here on the East Coast appears to be just as enamored of the sustainable cuisine concept as those on the West side. Bondir happens to be a popular place in Cambridge that advertises itself as specializing in "sustainable modern American cuisine." My friend Meghan has wanted to try this place for a while, and reservations have to be made several weeks in advance. I thought that the restaurant's popularity was a good sign in regards to the quality of the food, and I jumped at the opportunity to join her for her first experience there.

Meghan, Vaughn, Ammara and I finally got reservations for this last Friday night and we trekked over to Inman Square in Cambridge (rainy and cold as it was... dammit Boston - make up your mind about what season it is!!!!!!!).

We opted for the prix fix menu: a 4-course meal ($75) that included a cold appetizer, a hot appetizer, an entree, and a dessert

The amuse bouche was a soup:

For my cold appetizer, I chose the pig ear terrine:

[Yuzu Kosho and Maine Kombu, Ajowain Poached Sunchoke, Pickled Honshimeji Mushrooms, Black Garlic Vinaigrette, Sesame Tuile, Arame Seaweed]

Everyone else chose the spice-roasted spring beets:

[Bergamot Caramel, Pickled Vidalia Relish, Black Mustard, KaƱiwa with Smoked Pistachio Vinaigrette, Pickled Watermelon Radish, Bronze Fennel Seed Lavash]

Unfortunately, the beets had a very strong earthy smell, and Vaughn couldn't stomach them. Fortunately, the flavor was better than the aroma, and according to Meghan, they were mildly sweet and pleasant

For my hot appetizer I chose the stone ground blue corn grits:

[Smoke-Brined Wellfleet Oyster, Stinging Nettles, Washington Morel Mushrooms, Garden Basil Snails, D’Avignon Radish]

While not the most attractively presented grits I've ever seen, the mushrooms were yummy, and I'm always a fan of oysters

 Everyone else chose the Dorset custard tartine:
 Sadly I was unable to retrieve this photo from my Droid... will keep trying...

[Chestnut Flour Shortcrust, Butter Confit Shallot, Seared Teff Polenta, Perilla Seed, Vegetable Mignardises, Pomegranate Snow]

Again this had a very earthy aroma (Vaughn and Meghan described it as smelling like feet...) but the taste was better than the smell, and Vaughn was a good sport and able to finish most of the dish

For our entrees, Ammara, Meghan, and I all chose the roasted duck breast and confit leg:

[Rhode Island White Flint Cornmeal Cake, Malt Vinegar Roasted Vidalia Onion, Jacob’s Cattle Beans, Pickled Corn and Pepper Jelly]

While the breast was delicious and tender, the piece of confit leg was actually very dry and hard to tolerate. The cornmeal cake had a good flavor but was also a bit dry

Vaughn ordered the Alaskan King Salmon:

[Salt Poached Potatoes in Fumet, Roasted Leeks, Blood Orange Marmalade,
Crisp Greens, Dill, Blood Orange Sea Foam]

She enjoyed this the most out of everything

Finally came dessert:
I had a selection of 3 ice cream/gelatto flavors: from back to front:
Arabic Coffee Gelato
Malted Chocolate Sherbet
Buttermilk Thyme Ice Cream

Meghan and Vaughn decided on the Caramel-Poached Rhubarb Tart:

Final sweet touch were some tiny short-bread cookies with the check:

While I appreciated the experience that Bondir had to offer (it was a tiny -slash cozy- restaurant that is designed to resemble a French farmhouse in the interior, and our server had a matching French accent), I'd be lying if I said that I loved the food. I have no better way to describe the cuisine other than "earthy" (I know I've already used that word multiple times in this post, but it's the best one I can think of), and the chefs were pretty heavy-handed when it came to the use of mushrooms and root vegetables.

Kudos to Vaughn though, who stepped far outside of her food comfort zone, and was a great sport. Merci to Meghan for making the reservations and tolerating our grimaces and complaints :)

Overall rating: 5.5/10

279A Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Butcher Shop

 Last weekend Meghan and I had lunch at The Butcher Shop, in Boston's South End. The Butcher Shop is very appropriately named, since aside from being a restaurant, it also serves as a real butcher shop.

Being the carnivore that I am, I've been excited to try this place for a long time.

 As an appetizer, I chose the duck liver mousse:  (they didn't give me extra bread for this... I wonder if people are expected to eat it as-is...?)

While Meghan had the house salad:

For our main dishes, Meghan had the butternut squash soup with kale and chickpeas:

Whereas I went for the Orecchitte: with cauliflower, gouda cheese, and romanesco

Here's a second, slightly closer look at the yummy cheese and cauliflower:

Given the concept behind this place, I was surprised that the menu wasn't composed entirely of different slabs of cow or pig. Granted - the lunch menu IS pretty limited.  However, the pasta I had was yummy, the atmosphere was very relaxed, and I didn't find myself being disappointed in the end.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

552 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02118