Blue Ginger

Bread: Three varieties of bread came with a small side of butter. The flat cracker sesame bread and potato-like bread didn’t need any butter as they had their own unique flavor, but I did spread a little on the slice of plain white.
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Menu: The structure of the menu is simple, offering Appetizers and Entrees. There’s also a note at the bottom of the page about the Chef’s Tasting Menu, but I didn’t inquire as I had a hard enough time with the options in front of me. The prices are definitely steeper than I’m used to but I knew this going into dinner, as Chef Ming Tsai is one of the best in MA, is nationally known, and has appeared on The Food Network numerous times. This is the kind of meal you don’t mind paying $40+ for because you know you won’t be disappointed, and it will probably be one of  the best versions of whatever it is you’re ordering. That being said, I was torn between 3 dishes and opted for one of the signature dishes which has been on the menu for over 10 years.

Food/Presentation:
Tempura Sole-Avocado Roulade with Black Garlic Aioli and Ponzu Vegetables
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this appetizer, but our server did a great job of describing how it was prepared. Three sushi roll-like pieces topped the vegetables and were surrounded by small dollops of black garlic aioli. The typical “rice” section of this roll was actually the sole which encompassed the avocado and carrots. The outside may have been deep fried but it didn’t make the dish heavy or greasy. Definitely a great way to start the meal!

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Garlic-Black Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice: Pea Tendril Salad with Tamari-Ginger Vinaigrette
For my entree I was deciding between this and the other signature dish which a friend recommended, the Sake-Miso Marinated Sablefish (a.k.a. Butterfish). I think either choice would have been a good one, but I’m really glad I chose the lobster. The shell of the body was stuffed with spinach and rice, and the plate was covered with big pieces of lobster tail, more rice, a few mushrooms, tomatoes, and incredible flavor! A fantastic lobster dish without the typical mess and work that comes with de-shelling.
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Peanut Butter Creameuax: chocolate sorbet, pomegranate jelly, black sesame cocoa shortbread
The dessert menu looked to good to pass up, so my cousin & I split this take on PB&J (one of my favorite combinations). The chocolate sorbet had a strong flavor, the jelly was amazing, and the peanut butter component had a smooth mousse consistency. Great way to end the meal!
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Restroom: The women’s room has 2 private stalls with wooden shutter doors (my favorite), a nice granite countertop, and warm and comfortable hues. I wouldn’t mind basing my home bathroom off of this design!

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Service: Our server was well informed and shared with us the signature and popular dishes as we had never been to Blue Ginger before. When deciding on appetizers he made a helpful suggestion; we were thinking of ordering the Tempura Sole-Avocado Roulade and the Shiitake-Leek Springrolls but he pointed out that they were somewhat of a similar appetizer, so we went with the Caesar instead. We were taking our time with the first course and he was great about not rushing us. When our entrees were ready and we still had some salad left on the plate he asked if we wanted to delay the second course until we were done with the first. We said it was fine to bring the entrees over, but it was nice of him to ask and make sure we were ready!

Overall: Blue Ginger is Ming Tsai’s first restaurant, opening in 1998 and serving East meets West cuisine. A recent 2008 renovation added private dining rooms as well as a modern lounge featuring an Asian style tapas menu. The casual and chic dining room is set up with free standing tables and banquettes. Based on the high prices I thought the dining area would be a bit stuffy but I was happy to see it was more of a comfortable atmosphere. The service was great and the food was really excellent, just be prepared to spend! Appetizers run from $10-$17 and entrees range from $22 for a tofu dish to $41 for lobster or the signature sabelfish, most plates being $30+. Blue Ginger has an impressive beer, wine, and cocktail menu as well. I went with the Polly-Tini: Ketel One, lychee puree, and pink grapefruit. The menu of course has Asian influences but offers standard items like scallops, halibut, beef, lamb etc. I highly recommend whether you’re in the Wellesley area or not, Blue Ginger is a must try.
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The Perfect Bite: Lobster, fried rice, and all the goodies!
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http://www.ming.com/blue-ginger.htm
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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