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

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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