Market

Last year my friend went to Market in the W Hotel just after it’s opening and said it was a must, so it’s been on my “To-Eat” list ever since. The W itself is quite modern and chic, located on Stuart Street in the Back Bay, and Market wasn’t any different. The dining room on Thursday evening was packed and lively, as was the bar located in the back of the room. While we were not seated in a booth, I have to make note of the fold down arm rests; I’ve never seen that before and I was thoroughly impressed/excited!

Bread: Sour dough, yum! Served in slices with a small round of softened butter. They refilled our basket automatically, which is a plus b/c 90% of the time people want more bread.

bread

bread

Menu: Divided into 7 sections featuring: Simply Raw, Pizza, Appetizers, Fish, Meat, Simply Cooked, and Sides. I was a bit torn b/c they had entrees under the Fish and Meat sections complete with sauce & sides, and then similar Simply Cooked items that were served a la carte and required you to choose a Side. After much deliberation among the soup, salad and entrée choices, I finally made a decision.

cheese fritters

cheese fritters

Presentation/Taste:
Cheese Fritters: The boys ordered these for the table so of course I had to try a bite. Basically just fancy mozzarella sticks in ball form. They were warm, gooey, and quite cheesy! 😉
Butternut Squash Soup: My bowl was set in front of me containing small chunks of butternut squash and then a server poured the soup at the table. I ordered it sans mushrooms (b/c chucks of shrooms scare me) and I’m sure it was just as delicious! I love soup, chunky or not, and this is definitely a fall favorite.
Yellowfin Tuna Steak: I ordered this “simply cooked” which meant it was only accompanied by lemon and some peppers. The steak was definitely smaller than I was expecting, but it was cooked just as I asked, seared on the outside and rare on the inside.

yellowfin tuna steak

yellowfin tuna steak

Bathroom: Really pretty counter tops and blue tiled accents around the mirrors, which unfortunately were ‘fat mirrors’ (girls, you know what I’m talking about – at least the full length was forgiving). Multiple stalls with dark wooden doors.

bathroom

bathroom

Wait Staff: Our waitress was fantastic as she was able to deal with our crazy & loud crowd (and throw in a few 1-liners herself)! Even when we had a major issue with the bill which ended up being our fault, she was understanding (upon receiving the check we noticed that the 2 bottles of wine we ordered at $25 a pop were in fact double that price – turns out we were looking at the ½ bottle page…).

Overall: The portions are small. The prices are on the high side. And it doesn’t help that most items require you to order a side or an app to go with it in order to make a full meal. I have no complaints about the taste, but the size of the meals were disappointing; my poor friend Jess ordered the Beet Salad (consisting of 2 endives and tiny cubes of beets) and the Black Truffle Pizza which looked like an app. Dessert however was fantastic: a caramel sundae with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, & caramel popcorn! And cheesecake topped with sobert.

dessert

dessert

The Perfect Bite: Butternut Squash Soup. The chunky pieces of squash really made this a winner.

butternut squash soup

butternut squash soup

http://www.marketbyjgboston.com/

Towne Stove & Spirits

Hooray for birthday dinners! My original plan was to allow my parents to treat me to a night at Sorellina (which normally I can’t afford), but I heard about Lydia Shire & Jasper White’s new restaurant Towne in the Hynes Convention Center and couldn’t resist. Upon entering it appears to be a small neighborhood bar, but round the corner to the left and you’ll find yourself in the cozy & contemporary dining room, complete with booths, tables, and a 2nd bar. Each table top is adorned with picnic patterned cloth napkins, lab beakers in replace of water glasses, and salt & peppers shakers that resemble sink faucets.

table top

table top

Bread: 3 different types with 3 different spreads. Unfortunately I couldn’t fully understand the server who delivered the bread but on the right we have an eggplant puree, the middle is butter which I didn’t try b/c the spread on the left was too damn good. Not spicy, but had a nice bite to it!

bread & spreads

bread & spreads

Menu: Large & laminated. Oversized menus annoy me; there’s never any room for them on the table (and mainly I’m concerned that I’m going to knock over a wine glass with it). The print & style of the menu was reminiscent of Lydia Shire’s Scampo: sections read vertical & horizontal and are divided into a variety of categories (Crustacea, Wood-Fired Rotisserie, Ocean, Rice etc…). Random flags appear next to certain meals representing their country of origin. After bouncing from one food group to the other I eventually landed on the “Salmon… charred wild king w/ tart key lime & palm sugar gastrique… okinawan yam”.

salmon, okinawan yam

salmon, okinawan yam

Presentation/Taste: I can’t say much about the “tart key lime & palm sugar gastrique”, mainly because I don’t know what/where it was… but the salmon was topped with swiss chard next to the beautifully displayed okinawan yam puree. I’ve never tried the purple yam before and I’m sorry I haven’t! The salmon was cooked ‘medium’ like I requested and paired well with the yam. And for dessert: Brown Butter Angel Food Cake. Known to certain diners as “The Don King”, the cake was topped with a mound of brown sugar cotton candy. What a b-day dessert this was! The cake itself was a bit too dense for me to consider it an “angel food cake”, but I wasn’t complaining, especially after trying the caramel ice cream.

brown butter angel food cake

brown butter angel food cake

Bathroom: Clean, sleek, with an odd green theme: the countertop is lime-ish green and the brick walls were a lighter shade of the same hue. I really enjoyed the sinks: motion activated and the water came pouring right out of the faucet. Always appreciate something different!

bathroom sinks

bathroom sinks

Wait Staff: Wonderful. When I called earlier in the day to add my uncle to the reservation they said it wasn’t possible, but upon arrival they were more than happy to change our table or pull up another chair to our 1/2 booth. Our waitress was personable, had answers to our many questions, and pretended like my over-zealous bday attitude was charming … therefore, I thoroughly enjoyed her.

Overall: While the menu doesn’t excite me to tears, there are still a few items I’d love to try. This is a fairly new restaurant (which I believe opened in July 2010) but I would have loved to see some seasonal dishes (not a pumpkin/butternut squash meal in sight!). Some items are over priced – the $21 hamburger for instance – but you can still have a full meal without digging too deep into your wallet (salads run around $11, pizzas around $17).

The Perfect Bite: Just give me the okinawan… purple yam all the way!

 

Sel de la Terre

 

apple street farm poached eggs

apple street farm poached eggs

Mother’s Day brunch is a must, and the first place that came to my mind was Sel del la Terre in the Back Bay. I’ve been there once with mom already and we sat at the bar for lunch; who knew there was a beautiful restaurant upstairs overlooking Boylston Street. A warm & casual atmosphere, we were seated at a high top directly on the window with a gret view of the busy street below. This French restaurant’s cuisine focuses on rustic fare from the South of France; all ingredients are fresh, and some locally grown.

Bread: Since it was brunch, we received a basket with a French croissant, blueberry muffin, and cinnamon scone (all homemade) with a side of strawberry jam. Each could have easily been split between 2 people. Mom & I immediately devoured the light & fluffy croissant, and I had no choice but to try the other 2 treats. The scone was crumbly & delicious, and the jam made for a perfect spread on the moist muffin.
 
Menu: Their menu is quite specific so I recommend checking it out online before making a reservation. The brunch menu had 3 sections: small starters, more traditional brunch items, and main courses. Mom went for the “Brioche French toast with apricot compote, honey roasted almonds, vanilla butter, & Vermont maple syrup”. I’m an egg girl and always will be; I opted for the “Apple Street Farm coddled eggs (which I changed to poached), potato hash, & house-made English Muffin”.
 
Presentation: My poached eggs came in a small cast iron skillet over the potatoes & onions, with the English Muffin on the side. The eggs were so delicate they looked like meringue! I placed the eggs on the muffin and was pleasantly surprised by my first bite: the bottom of the muffin must have had some salt or something that I couldn’t put my finger on, because it was the most delicious English Muffin I’ve ever tasted. I usually prefer to top it with some jam or butter, but this needed no add ons. Potatoes could have been crispier, but I really didn’t care since the eggs/muffin combo stole the show.
 
Bathroom: There’s something about using shutter doors on stalls that pleases me. And it’s always nice to see clean & bright tiled floors/walls. The paper towels were arranged in a wicker basket next to the sink.
 
Wait Staff: An old co-worker of mine came over to say hello and surprised me as the manager of the neighboring L’Espalier and was filling in at Sel de la Terre to help with busy Mother’s Day brunch. I learned that the chef delivers many ingredients fresh from his near by farm in the North Shore. Turns out my eggs came from straight from the hen! Our actual waiter was great and you could tell he had a love for the restaurant and it’s food.
 
Overall: The main reason I choose Sel del la Terre for brunch was because I was craving their Bloody Mary. It’s tough to find somewhere that makes them right, and while theirs could use a little more spice, it’s one of the best I’ve tried. The menu is creative and breaks the norm of typical French cuisine. Dinner is a little pricey for my blood, but it’s a great spot for lunch with their varying combos of 1/2 soup, 1/2 salad, 1/2 sandwich deals (and I hear the “SDLT Burger” with rosemary pomme frites is incredible).
 
The Perfect Bite: Poached Egg on top of the delicious English Muffin. No condiments needed.

www.seldelaterre.com

Cottonwood Cafe

six chile chili

six chile chili

222 Berkeley Street in Boston’s Back Bay is home to Cottonwood Cafe, a southwestern themed restaurant with award-winning margartias. By the pitcher or glass you can order your choice, frozen or on the rocks; or if you prefer sangria they make a traditional red or a mango & watermelon liqueur infused white. We were seated in a booth in the main dining room, surrounded by cactus light fixtures and strings of “Christmas” lights that decorated the wooden beams above us. This was my 2nd time at Cottonwood, but my first time for dinner.

Bread: When my mother asked for bread & the waitress said “let me see what I can find”, I wasn’t surprised. Being at a south-western restaurant I expected chips & salsa instead, but even those weren’t complimentary! We had to order a side of tortilla chips with our appetizers, and they weren’t much to brag about. The tri-colored chips were flakey & could have used a little more salt.

Menu: I was impressed by the amount of options and different types of food: the apps, soups, dinner salads, sandwiches, pizzas, entrees, & specials kept me busy for a while. I eventually settled on the cup of Six Chile Chili & the San Mateo Salad with chicken.

Presentation: The chili came in a small cup garnished with a few tortilla chips & topped with shredded cheddar cheese. I had to spoon out a little excess oil (I can be a tad picky), but other than that I really enjoyed the meat, peppers, & tomatoes. My salad could have been on the boring side with the generic sliced carrots, cherry tomatoes, & celery, but was saved by the dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, roasted almonds, & golden raisins. The citrus habanero dressing added just enough flavor without soaking the lettuce.

Bathroom: Clean with 2 stalls, it felt sort of like a generic public restroom. Separate from the sink was another counter & mirror, with a pretty vase that held some fresh flowers.

Wait Staff: We didn’t see much of our waitress, but she was nice & met our needs. The main course came out before our appetizer dishes were removed from the table which always causes for unneccessary shuffling of plates.

Overall: The menu had a lot of options for a restaurant with a specific theme. If I liked tequila I’m sure I would have really enjoyed their famous margaritas; instead I tried the white sangria, which really didn’t taste like sangria at all. The fruit was almost non-existent (one slice of orange & a maraschino cherry), and the watermelon liqueur really over powered the drink (which I thought was tasty, but it just didn’t resemble a traditional sangria). The prices were reasonable but I wouldn’t rush back.

The Perfect Bite: The tortilla chips made for the perfect spoon to go with my chili!

Mistral

March 27th, 2012
Almost 2 years later exactly I returned to Mistral for my second Restaurant Week experience. I thought it was only necessary to share with you the amazing dishes I tried this time around…

Beef Sirloin Carpaccio, Black Truffle Aïoli, Parmesan & Toasted Brioche
Two years ago my friend Jess ordered this as her first course and I haven’t heard the end of it since; the best she’s ever had! How could I not order it this time around? The beef was cut paper thin and paired well with the creamy texture of the black truffle aïoli.

Braised Pork “Osso Bucco” with Garnet Yam Polenta, Roasted Maitake Mushrooms & Marsala
The sides once again decided my entree for me. It was between the ‘Roasted All Natural Statler Chicken Breast with Green Asparagus & White Mushroom Risotto, Fine Herbes’ (aka RISOTTO) and the Osso Bucco with POLENTA. I ended up choosing the latter b/c I can’t justifiy ordering chicken at a restaurant of this caliber. The pork was so tender I didn’t even need a knife to cut it. I don’t care for mushrooms but the polenta was of course delicious, I just wish there was more of it!

Classic Profiteroles with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Dark Chocolate Sauce and Pistachio Croquant
Two profiteroles were stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with slightly hardened chocolate sauce and pistachios. For me, vanilla ice cream is a bore but I did enjoy this dessert. I liked the sweet/salty combination, but it was one notch too salty for my palette.

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March 26th, 2010
Stop #3 for restaurant week: Sorellina’s sister establishment Mistral, located between Boston’s Back Bay & South End at 223 Columbus Avenue. It wasn’t hard to tell that the two restaurants have the same owner/chef Jamie Mammano (and possibly the same stylist), as the overall feel & décor upon entering is comfortable, sophisticated, & cohesive. You may think the whimsical wrought iron chandeliers, the French pottery, and the stone that covered the floor, walls & bar countertop would give off a cold vibe, but I felt the complete opposite, as if I was dining in my own chic living room. Before the sun set the room was filled with warmth & light thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows & their soft yellow curtains. The small lounge upon entering held cushioned patio-like lounge chairs, a couch with a plethora of pillows, and short tables that reminded me of wooden spools. The 40 person bar is separated from the dining area by 3 large illuminated rustic photographs, which are each sandwiched between 8ft tall narrow trees. My friend & I were led to our table and I immediately grabbed the booth seat, which was not unlike that of Sorellina: long banquette seating. I was connected to the other diners and had my very own pillow to make the evening even more relaxed. 

Bread: The small round loaf came pre-cut into about 6 pieces, along with a plate of butter and a chickpea hummus mix. Warm, full, and crunchy, this sourdough bread was a nice surprise and tasted great with both condiments (so great that my friend took ½ the loaf to go with her leftovers).  

Menu: This restaurant week menu had 3 options each for the Appetizer, Entrée, and Dessert. The regular day-to-day online menu differs from the one that I saw this evening, which makes me believe that the meals change daily so as to use the freshest ingredients possible. From the 3 options I had for restaurant week I choose to start with the Caesar Salad, continue with the grilled 12oz Sirloin (complete with “Potato Lyonnaise”, port wine reduction & gorgonzola butter), and finish with the Belgium Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Sabayon Brulee.  

Presentation: The generous portion of Caesar salad was done just right with shaved parmesan cheese, crunchy croutons, and a light dressing. This dish can often be too creamy, but Mistral’s Caesar dressing was barely there & exceptionally flavorful. The Sirloin was served over the potatoes cubes & a few greens. I guess the gorgonzola was melted on top of the meat, because I saw a hint of butter but could barely taste it. The potatoes were soft & paired well with my medium rare steak. I don’t know the last time I ate an entire 12oz Sirloin, and didn’t anticipate finishing my enormous meal, but it was cooked so well that I couldn’t help myself. The chocolate mousse was served in a martini glass with a top layer of vanilla brulee. Light, rich & fluffy, I was shocked that I didn’t lick the glass clean (although I’m glad I didn’t after finishing off 12oz of meat).  

Bathroom: This was the highlight of my evening! Complete with 4 stalls each with a shutter door that swings in & out, I wouldn’t mind having this style of bathroom in my own home. The stone theme rang throughout, from the floor to the countertops. The bottom ½ of the walls were decorated with tiles, the top ½ painted a warm tan that gave it a rustic & homey feel. Soft napkins with a “Mistral” print were piled in between the 2 sinks, and disposed in the 3 large wooden baskets beneath.  

Service: We didn’t interact too much with our waiter, but when we did he was pleasant & friendly, and noticed when our wine was getting low. My only complaint was that my water wasn’t refilled until the glass was empty when we were receiving our check.  

Overall: Absolutely love the banquette seating, but our tables were so close to our neighbor that I felt like we were dining together, and this seemed to be the case throughout the room. I’ve decided that any restaurant I visit during restaurant week I need to make a point of going back to in order to experience the full menu. I enjoyed everything I ordered but the options were of course limited, so I’d like to return to try the fish which I heard is outstanding. The meals weren’t as inventive as Sorellina, but the atmosphere was just as sophisticated, warm, & comfortable. The regular prices are high so I won’t be (and frankly can’t be) rushing back.  

The Perfect Bite: I had a hard time determining what my favorite part of the meal was. I was satisfied with every course but there wasn’t one that stood out from the rest. Not many places can do a Caesar salad just the way I like it, so I’ll have to go with the appetizer: shaved parm, crunchy crouton, romaine lettuce coated with just enough dressing (that didn’t upset my lactose intolerant stomach). 

www.mistralbistro.com

Sorellina

Pappardelle with rabbit ragu

Pappardelle with rabbit ragu

Walking into Sorellina at 1 Huntington Avenue, I already knew I was in for a treat. I had heard nothing but rave reviews of Chef/Owner Jamie Mammano’s sister restaurants: L’Andana (located outside the city in Burlington MA), Mistral (my next stop for restaurant week!), Mooo… (I visited last year& am searching for a special occasion to return), and Teatro (a theater district gem). After being led to our table I was confident that my evening would live up to the expectations. My party of 4 took our seats; the boys in their chairs & the girls on the booth side which extended from one side of the room to the other, connecting all the diners on a sofa-like seating arrangements. Every few tables even had pillows to lean on! I hadn’t even opened the menu and I was already thrilled. From the floor-to-ceiling windows, to the back-lit full wall mural, to the tree/branch theme, I was enthralled with the atmosphere and felt welcome & comfortable.

Bread: On a rectangular plate we were brought a 10” loaf with 4 pre-cut pieces. I enjoy when the bread is appropriately rationed out, so as not to waste any leftovers. The pieces were generous in size, had a crunchy top, and tasted great with a little butter. We asked for more, but I held back on seconds – I had my 3 courses to focus on.

Menu: This restaurant week menu had a couple more options than others, which made it (almost) difficult to make a decision. I was torn between the pasta meal & steak dish for my entrée, but after seeing the mushrooms that accompanied the meat I was able to choose the following for my 3 courses: Calamari, Pappardelle, Ciocollato.

Presentation: The grilled calarmi primi must have been a special addition, because in doing my research I couldn’t find it on any Sorellina web menu, so my description may lack some detail. What I can tell you is that I’ve never had grilled calamari like this before. Presented in a bowl with a narrow bottom & wide rim (making it difficult to scrounge up every last piece!), the squid was accompanied by what I believe to be a ‘tempestine’ pasta (imagine an orzo pasta but smaller and round.. something you’d find in a soup). The combination gave the dish substance & the hint of red pepper flakes provided the right amount of zip. The pappardelle came with braised rabbit ragu & shaved Pecorino Toscano (cheese made from sheep’s milk). The ragu came underneath the pasta, soaking in a delicious, slightly buttery sauce, which gave the pappardelle major flavor. The pairing of the pasta with the tender rabbit made this dish outstanding. The table also ordered a side of truffled fries with parmigiano, which came in a small cast iron pot. I was dining with a few ketchup freaks who asked for a side, and we were delivered a generous portion in a small square bowl which they requested I make a note about 🙂  The ciocollato is described on the menu as a chilled chocolate Budino, with crème fraiche & amarene cherries. Really, all I saw was “chocolate” and I went for it. I’m not positive what a “Budino” is, so I’ll describe it as a torte, which was thick & rich with a strong smokey after taste. My two friends ordered the same, and one could barely eat hers because of the “torchy” taste. I’m assuming this feature was on purpose, and I didn’t dislike it enough to stop eating. It was definitely a taste I never had before in a dessert (besides S’mores), and despite leaving some on my plate (it was just so rich), I did enjoy it.

Bathroom: While they are single stalls/rooms, there are at least a couple women’s & men’s doors to choose from in case one is occupied. The restroom itself was chic & modern with a small-tiled warm toned floor. The mirror was large and circular hanging from a rope/ribbon. The sink was rectangular, smooth and somewhat transparent, lit from below. No complaints except for the old-fashioned lock which almost held me captive.

Wait Staff: The front of the house was welcoming and led us to our table in the center of the triangular-shaped room. Our waiter Kirk was attentive & able to suggest for me a dry red wine when I was having trouble telling them apart (I love red wine, but usually stick to Merlot or Malbec). I have to say I was a little intimidated by him though; he was knowledgeable & delivered everything promptly, but he didn’t really smile and seemed to be strictly business. He did have a few accessories which I noticed & loved: the waiters’ blue pin-striped aprons were a smart touch in a room filled with blacks, browns, and whites; my girlfriend’s cocktail was delivered on a “disco ball” metallic tiled serving tray; the entrees were delivered while my boyfriend was using the restroom and his meal was kept warm with a metal covering; the crumb scraper is always an A+, making a smooth & clean tablecloth after the main course (ok I’ll admit it, I tend to be a messy eater).

Overall: I think I can safely say this is now one of my favorite restaurants in Boston. The food of course has a lot to do with it, but I just loved the atmosphere & décor. I really appreciated the little touches of decoration that tied the whole theme together: the plates/chargers that were on the table (until we ordered) held a beautifully simple tree print; the unique box within a box chandeliers were scattered above the diners; the massive back-lit wine rack took up a large section of the back wall. It was warm & stylish, energetic yet relaxed (2 thumbs up for the couch-like booths with pillows). I felt as though I was at a hip new spot in NYC! They also have a complimentary car service for anyone who lives within metro Boston. The regular prices are definitely out of my league, so perhaps I’ll return when my boyfriend is treating me for a birthday dinner 😉

The Perfect Bite: The calamari was like no other, but that was one of the better ragu pasta dishes I’ve tasted. Pappardelle is one of my favorites, and the sauce & pieces of rabbit meat worked perfectly together.

www.sorellinaboston.com