Pasta Tasting Menu at No. 9 Park

My best friend recently moved back to Boston from San Francisco, and I knew she would be one of the few people who would splurge with me on a food based activity. It’s ok to spend almost $100 on a meal if it’s justified by a special occasion. So… Merry Christmas to us!
I’ve always wanted to try a Chef’s Tasting menu of some kind, and when I heard No. 9 Park had a Pasta Tasting menu I knew this would be perfect for us. What’s also perfect is that one of our oldest and best friends happens to be one of the sous chefs at No. 9, and each sous chef gets his/her turn at preparing these pasta dishes.
The descriptions below are details I received directly from the No. 9 kitchen, courtesy of my dear friend Chef Benno. The menu typically comes with 6 courses including the dessert. There is an option for an additional course (served as course 4), which we had the pleasure of being served
Don’t ask me to choose a favorite course, because it’s nearly impossible! However if I must narrow it down my top 3 are: Bigoli with crab, Cappellacci, and the prune-filled Gnocchi.
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Octopus Salad: smoked ricotta, braised celery, bottarga
Spanish and baby octopus are braised in red wine, olive oil and aromatics. The baby are left whole and the Spanish are cut into segments. They are warmed to order in the braising liquid with some boiled fingerling potato coins and celery rib diamonds that have been peeled and braised in vegetable stock, white wine and lemon juice. This sits on top of whipped and smoked ricotta that has been seasoned with black pepper. Garnishing the plate are pickled cippolini onions, toasted pinenuts, and grated bottarga.
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Bigoli di Nasturzio: peekytoe crab, tangerine butter, toasted breadcrumbs
No. 9’s standard pasta dough (flour, semolina, eggs) is seasoned with a puree of Nasturtium and rolled into bigoli. The pasta is tossed with peekytoe crab and a butter sauce seasoned with white wine and tangerine juice. Breadcrumbs toasted with the zest of the tangerine finish the plate.
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Plaesentif di Viole Cappellacci: bacon confit, chantennay carrot, aged balsamic
No. 9’s standard pasta dough (flour, semolina, eggs) is rolled out and filled with plaesentif di viole, a cow’s milk cheese from northern Italy. Chantennay carrots are roasted along with bacon confit. A pan sauce is made with a little butter, jus and aged balsamic. The plate is topped with fried sage and pecorino.
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Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi: foie gras, almonds, vin santo (supplemental course)
This is a No. 9 Park house signature dish. It’s a standard gnocchi dough filled with prunes cooked down in vin santo. The sauce is made from foie gras and butter. It’s topped with slivered almonds, diced prunes and seared foie gras.
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Carnaroli Risotto: swiss chard, currant pecan vin, ricotta salata
Carnaroli rice is cooked risotto style and finished with braised and ground swiss chard as well as lemon whip. Topping the rice are pecans and currants dressed in EVOO and sherry vin. Ricotta Salata to finish.
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Duet of Beef: beef sausage, hen of the woods mushroom, cocoa short rib raviolo 
Beef short ribs are braised in red wine, pulled apart and the meat is glazed with jus seasoned with cocoa. This is used as a filling for a raviolo that sits with roasted hen of the woods mushrooms and beef sausage seasoned with pork fat parsley, white onion, and chili. Quince mostarda finishes the plate: quince, white onion, white wine, sugar, dijon and whole grain mustard.
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Apple Bread Pudding: honey crisp apples, calvados caramel, mascarpone glace
Bread pudding is made from apples cooked out in calvados, brioche, eggs, cream, sugar and cookie spices. It sits on a caramel sauce made with reduced calvados. Mascarpone glace finishes the plate.
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Mooo….

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When my good friends from the Columbus Hospitality Group asked me to come in and try Mooo‘s new Sunday Brunch I absolutely could not resist. I have only been to Mooo once, and it was for dinner about 5 years ago. I can’t remember what I ordered but I know I left impressed and more than satisfied. As Mooo is located in the XV Beacon Hotel, it is open 7 days a week and offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. The brunch menu has been recently revamped and I was one of the first to try the new offerings.

Let begin with cocktails! The drink menu features 3 signature concoctions as well as a variety of Bloody Mary’s. I’m a huge Bloody Mary fan but wanted to try something outside my comfort zone and went with the Honey-Bee: Hendrick’s, house-made thyme honey syrup, and St. Germaine. Luckily my husband ordered a Bloody Mary that I was able to taste, however he went with the classic version. I personally would have tried the Bloody Caprese with an addition of fresh mozzarella. I’ve never had cheese in a drink before but I’m not one to turn down mozz.

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cocktail list

cocktail list

The menu is broken down into sections: Juice Bar, Appetizers, Eggs, Specialties, Steak & Eggs, Sandwiches, With Maple Syrup, Sides. If it wasn’t for my cocktail I would have ordered the Lean & Green Monster Smoothie. I was thinking of making that my appetizer but instead we ordered the Kobe Dumplings, a Mooo signature dish. Four steamed dumplings stuffed with Kobe beef sat in a salty soy broth. Every part of this dish just about melted in your mouth! Next time you’re at Mooo I suggest trying the Kobe beef in any fashion it’s offered.
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In place of a standard bread basket we were served warm Cinnamon Rolls. I don’t think there are enough words to describe how incredible these were! Doughy, soft, topped with crystallized sugar, lightly swirled with cinnamon, this may have been the best part of the meal. I tried unbelievably hard to only have one but ended up putting down a second at the end of the meal. I just couldn’t resist…
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Whenever I go out for brunch I always want to order a sweet meal like Belgian Waffles, but always end up ordering a savory egg dish. This time was no different as I picked an item from the Specialities section, the Poached Eggs & Salmon complete with savory bread pudding, dill crab hollandaise sauce, and roasted tomatoes. The eggs were perfectly done, soft and fluffy on the outside and runny on the inside. There was a large amount of salmon under the eggs which topped the eggy bread pudding.

Poached Eggs & Salmon

Poached Eggs & Salmon

Matt ordered the Egg White Frittata which came with goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, and basil. This would have been my second choice, and I probably would have ordered it had he chosen something different. The creamy goat cheese melted into the thin omelet-like frittata. I wasn’t able to steal a bite but Matt cleaned his plate which can only mean one thing 🙂

Egg White Frittata

Egg White Frittata

Overall Matt & I really enjoyed the brunch experience. Our server was great and checked in on us at just the right times. He even placed a warmer over Matt’s dish since Matt was in the bathroom when our meals arrived. The menu had a nice variety of options, the high-backed chairs made for a comfortable meal, and the live mood music in the background was a perfect touch. Next time you’re planning brunch I suggesting making a reservation at Mooo. Order the Bloody Mary Flight and tell me how it is!

www.mooorestaurant.com
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The Paramount

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Bread: Five slices of soft focaccia type bread was brought for the 5 of us, served with a dipping sauce that we determined was a thinner type of hummus. Great way to start the meal.
bread

Menu: Appetizers, Salads, Beacon Hill Grill (burgers & sandwiches), Entrees (pastas, fried chicken, noodles, and tacos), Paramount Classics (fish, steaks, chicken), Side Dishes. Each section had plenty to choose from and I was eyeing a few dishes from each category. The Salmon Burger, Black Bean Burger, Sweet BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos… they’ll all have to wait for my next few visits. They also offered a few specials which included a soup, salad and a couple of entrees.

Food/Presentation:
BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad: black beans, sweet corn, tortilla strips, sliced avocado, jack cheese, tomatoes, ranch dressing
This salad is a perfect dinner size serving, with a mound of chopped BBQ chicken and plenty of toppings. I substituted the ranch dressing for lime-avocado vinaigrette which was a great move. Lots of flavor and a perfect combination of extras!
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Restroom: A one room/stall restroom with minimal space to decorate. The brick wall added a bit of character.
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Overall: This was my first time at The Paramount in Beacon Hill and I was pleasantly surprised. They have a great variety of menu items at decent prices, with entrees topping out at $20. The food is mainly American cuisine with a few Mexican influences of “made to order” guacamole and tacos, and Asian inspirations seen in teriyaki glazed items and the random Pad Thai entrée. There’s enough on the menu to please everyone’s palate and wallets. I’m dying to return for their cafeteria-style brunch. I hear it’s one of the best in the city!

The Perfect Bite: A giant forkful of BBQ chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, and tortilla strips dipped in the lime-avocado vinaigrette.

http://www.paramountboston.com

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For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page, follow me on Twitter, or find me on Instagram!
http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

 

No. 9 Park

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, click here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

 

My third of five RW dinners was last night at Barbara Lynch’s prestigious and original Boston restaurant, No. 9 Park.

Bread: We were each served a small white roll with a round dish of softened butter. It was room temperature, soft, and chewy. We ate them well before the appetizers and were then brought another roll to have with our entrees (which was perfect b/c I needed something to mop up the pasta sauce!).

Menu: No. 9 offers 3 options for the 1st and 2nd course and 4 options for dessert. This is probably one of the most limited menus during Restaurant Week as some places provide at least 4 items per course and others the whole menu! But you won’t experience this quality of food just anywhere. Click below to see No. 9 Park’s full restaurant week dinner menu:
http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/no-9-park/

Food/Presentation:
Scottish Salmon Tartare: almond soubise, shaved vegetables, dill
I’ve never had tartare quite like this before. It was extremely flavorful, delicate, and almost smooth. I ate it with a fork but kind of wanted to spread it on a crostini! This however needed no vehicle or anything to accompany it; it was pretty perfect as is.

Handmade Ricotta Gnudi: summer vegetables, pistachio pesto, Pecorino-Romano
I typically don’t love gnudi (or gnocci which is very similar) but I knew Barbara wouldn’t disappoint, and the pistachio pesto sounded great. My friend who is a cook at No. 9 suggested I order the Hake or Pork Shoulder but I’m so glad I went with my gut (after all, I’m a pasta kinda girl)! Surrounded by green beans, roasted tomatoes & shaved Pecorino-Romano, this ricotta gnudi was incredible and basically melted in my mouth.

Cocoa Financier: bananas, malted caramel, ganache
This linear dessert plate came with dense chocolate cake, caramelized bananas, a piece of brittle, and a dollop of chocolate ganache topped with sea salt. The cake itself wasn’t bad, the bananas were tasty, and the ganache was out of this world.

Bathroom: The restroom had 2 stalls with cherry wood doors. The sink and counter were sleek and squeaky clean! Minimalism seems to be a theme among most of Barbara’s restaurants… from the bathrooms to the table tops!

Service: When dining at a restaurant of this caliber you expect the service to be top notch, and it was. Our server was actually friends with my friend Benno (who was cooking that night) and on behalf of Benno brought my mother & I an amazing complimentary mid-course paired with a Chardonnay-type of wine, which may have been the highlight of our evening! Turns out the server is from our home town and we know the same people… it was nice to connect with him and have a real conversation. Lynch’s restaurants are known for their incredible wine program and he was very well versed on the varieties they served.

Overall: No. 9 Park is quaint, quiet, and not as pretentious as I was expecting. Yes it’s a fine dining restaurant but it didn’t feel stuffy or too high-end. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that I was surrounded by Restaurant Week diners and not their typical clientele (and we were seated in the bar area, not the actual “dining room”). Either way we had a great evening and the food was excellent; portions were on the smaller side but when I’m having 3 courses I don’t need or want large portions of anything. There’s a stylish bar and a small lounge/waiting area up against the windows looking out onto Park St. and the Boston Common. I’m not sure I could afford No. 9 Park on a random evening, but it will be 1st on my list for Winter Restaurant Week, that’s for sure!

The Perfect Bite: Mid-course of a Cavatelli type pasta with sage sauce, lobster meat & caviar. Unreal!

www.no9park.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

Grotto

Stop #1 for Winter Restaurant Week 2012! I’ve been to Grotto once a couple of years ago and remember having an incredible bolognese, so I knew this place made great Italian food. After looking at their RW menu offerings I immediately made a reservation. It was time I return!

Bread: About 6 slices of soft white bread was served with a side dish of EVOO and olives. This almost had the consistency of potato bread, which I’m not complaining about! We could have used a little more EVOO, or perhaps some parmesan to sprinkle on top?

Menu: Most Restaurant Week menus are limited, but not Grotto’s! There were 9 Primi options, 9 Secondi choices, and 4 Dolce offerings. I had to study the menu for days in order to mentally prepare myself. As I had already tried their Bolognese years ago, I ended up going with my selections below (but of course tried a bite of everyone else’s dishes!).

Food/Presentation:
Zuppa: garlic soup, black truffle, parmesan, toasted bread crumbs
Served in a wide bowl, this soup was not a puree nor was it exactly broth based. It didn’t contain cream, but had a liquid-y creamy texture. Really flavorful and not too filling which was perfect … I just adore soup!

Zucca: sweet potato ravioli, amaretti, sage, brown butter
Six ravioli were served, each topped with a tiny mound of shaved parmesan. When I ordered this entree I mistakenly said “butternut squash ravioli”, as I usually think of these 2 veggies as one in the same. I clearly have not had sweet potato ravs in quite some time; this was the sweetest pasta dish I’ve ever tasted. Rich and full of different flavors, I really enjoyed it!

Budino: banana bread pudding, caramel ice cream, spiced walnuts
The bread pudding was topped with a giant scoop of creamy caramel ice cream, and surrounded by a scattering of spiced walnuts. This was unbelievable, but after cleaning the plates of my first 2 courses I regrettably couldn’t finish this one. The bread pudding was moist and delicious; I should have at least taken that part home!

Bathroom:
Grotto itself is a small underground restaurant, and the bathroom reflects that. Located in the back past the kitchen, this one room unisex restroom didn’t have many unique or warm characteristics. I did like the fruity smelling soap though!

Service: Our server was nice and able to answer our menu questions. Our water glasses were constantly being refilled, which as a ‘conscious hydrator’ I always appreciate. We were seated for a good 2 hours, which I thought was a bit long, but sometimes it’s nice to take time in between each course.

Overall: Grotto is a small cozy establishment, seating only about 44 people (and up to 55 for private parties). Whether it’s Restaurant Week or a regular Tuesday, I highly suggest you try Grotto for an excellent hearty Italian meal. All of their Primi, Secondi, and Dolces on the regular menu are the same price ($10, $21, and $9 respectively) and they also offer a daily prix-fixe dinner menu for $36.

The Perfect Bite: Each of the three courses I ordered was fantastic! If I have to choose… I’ll go with the Garlic Soup. It was light, delicious, and quite flavorful.

 www.grottorestaurant.com

For more photos and descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page. Be sure to “Like” it! 🙂
http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

Toscano

Let me first start by saying thank you to Chris Aversa for being a stud and taking his date to Toscano in Beacon Hill, otherwise I wouldn’t have known it was such a winner! Restaurant Week began Sunday night as did my 1st of 4 reservations I have this season. Aaaand we’re off!

Bread: Four small focaccia pieces and four rustic Italian loaf pieces were covered by a cloth napkin in a small basket, served with a bottle of EVOO. I didn’t try the focaccia but the Italian loaf was excellent. If it wasn’t for the 3 courses coming my way I would have had seconds.

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bread

Menu: Toscano provided 6 options each for Starters and Entrees and 4 options for dessert; this was a treat considering some restaurants only have 2-3 options per course. I really wanted to try the tomato bread soup and the Mediterranean Sea Bass but opted for the selections below. My dessert choice wasn’t an issue…

Food/Presentation:
Caprese – imported bufala mozzarella, beefsteak tomatoes, basil
Three slices of fresh beefsteak tomatoes were each topped with a thick slice of buffalo mozzarella and sprinkled with slices of basil. Besides the lack of basil – I expect at least a full leaf per slice of mozz – it was a great start to the meal.

caprese

caprese

Orecchiette Vitello – ground veal, mushrooms, tomato
The four of us were pretty bummed there wasn’t a pasta option in the entrée section of the Restaurant Week menu. The regular menu had plenty to choose from, so in order to get our fix Benno ordered a full serving of the orecchiette for in between the 1st and 2nd course. The Bolognese/ragu type of sauce was great and the pasta was cooked just right; I enjoyed it so much I didn’t even notice the mushrooms!

orecchiette

orecchiette

Salome Asparagi – grilled atlantic salmon, asparagus, mustard sauce
A perfect portion of fish was served with 3 stalks of asparagus and a side of mustard sauce. I was surprised/happy the sauce wasn’t drizzled on b/c I love my mustard and was pleased I was able to dip each bite. The asparagus was cooked well, I just wish there were a couple more pieces.

salmon

salmon

Tiramisu – Toscano House Specialty “Budino Style”
We made sure to ask about this “Budino Style” before ordering and the waitress said it wasn’t a typical square piece of tiramisu with layers of lady fingers, mascarpone, etc. It was served in a martini glass and seemed as though a normal piece of tiramisu had been balled up into the size of a generous ice cream scoop. It was an unbelievable take on the traditional dessert, like a tiramisu ice cream pudding medley!

tiramisu

tiramisu

NOTE: Two apps I didn’t mention were the Polpettini Fiorentina(veal/beer/pork meatballs) and the Rigatoni Toscano (with double smoked bacon, tomato cream and herbs). I’m extremely picky about meatballs and these honestly tasted like the could have been from my Gram’s kitchen. The rigatoni dish tasted like bacon had been pureed into the sauce – I don’t like bacon and therefore I didn’t love the flavor but I respected that it was delicious and well created.

bathroom
bathroom


Bathroom
: 2 separate unisex restrooms. I like the heavy wooden doors with their intricate designs/carvings and the sink’s faucet!

sink

sink

Service: Really excellent service. Our waitress was helpful in choosing wine and gave us a couple ordering options when we told her we were craving pasta. Each course was delivered to each of us at the same, plates were warm as they should be (trick I learned from Benno!), water glasses we refilled, and wine was poured as our glasses were emptying. They also fold the napkins into a little spiral design when you get up from your seat… top notch!

Overall: The atmosphere suggests “finer” dining with the white linens, pricey wine list, and stellar service. The Restaurant Week menu had plenty to offer, and their regular menu was almost overwhelming (in a good way) with Antipasti, Zuppa, Insalata, Pizza, Formaggi, Pasta, Risotto, Carni, and Contorni. Their pastas come in ½ portions which I love. Prices are moderate, but the meat entrees are as high as $36. I’ve seen worse!

The Perfect Bite: The pasta dishes definitely stole the show, but that tiramisu… oh Madonna mia! I have to give props when a chef can take a traditional preparation style and switch it up to make it taste even better.

http://www.toscanoboston.com

Clink

Stop #1 for Summer Restaurant Week 2010! 

Located on the Lobby Level of The Liberty Hotel, Clink takes on the persona of the old Charles Street Jail, the base which the hotel was build around. Bars from original jail cells are seen throughout the L-shaped restaurant, separating diners from the open kitchen. We were seated at the first table/booth, up against the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the hotel entrance.
  
Bread: The multi-grain sourdough was served on a rectangular flat plate with a circle of butter. Points for the pre-sliced bread, and double points for the softened butter. It also helped that the bread was scrumptious!
bread

bread

Menu: I of course paid no attention to the actual menu, and instead focused on my Restaurant Week options. My decision: 

  • Heirloom Tomatoes with mozzarella pearls (Eva’s Garden) & opal basil
  • Bershire Pork Loin with stone ground grits (Anson Mills), cipppolinis, & dijon mustard
  • Stone Fruit & Blueberry Cobbler with brown butter ice cream
heirloom tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes

Presentation: The tomatoes & salad were served on a small square flat plate. I personally would have preferred the “Heirloom Tomato” dish have more tomatoes than greens, but salads usually skimp on the cheese & there were enough mozzarella balls to go around. The pork & onions were drizzled with a syrupy type of dijon – I love mustard and wish the dijon had a bit more of a bite, but the pork was cooked well, so no complaints. The grits were topped with grilled corn which added something different to the textured polenta-esque side dish. I was so excited once the warm cobbler was placed in front of me in its ramekin that I forgot all about trying to actually taste the brown butter ice cream. It could have been vanilla for all I knew, I was too delighted with light doughy crust & the fresh fruit!
stone fruit & blueberry cobbler

stone fruit & blueberry cobbler

Bathroom: The bathroom was located down the hall, past the ballroom, rather than in the actual restaurant (which gives easy access to the bar patrons). Stainless steel, sleek, and clean. Multiple stalls & a full length mirror. There was even a table set up with individual cloth napkins for drying your hands. Well done for going green!
 
Wait Staff: This was the disappointment of the evening as our waiter was not personable at all. When I asked him how the pork was prepared he responded with “In the oven.” Are you kidding me?! My parents, bf, and & I were so taken aback but laughed it off. Most waiters/waitresses would have understood what I was asking, and would have answered in more detail with an education response.
 
Overall: Besides our odd waiter, we all had a great time. The wine (Malbec), while expensive, was smooth & just what I wanted. Our 1/2 booth had a great location with a view out of the grand windows. I do recommend Clink, more for the food & location in The Liberty rather than the “jail cell” appeal, which there could have been more of.
 
The Perfect Bite: Pork loin. Slice of cippolini. Ground grits. Those creamy gritty grits!!
bershire pork loin

bershire pork loin