We ate there two nights ago, and really liked everything. Charcuterie tray was great. Agree on Hunter's sausage and liked the lardo and lomo a lot. Two of us had fish. The cobia was escabeche and the citrus was nicely integrated. The skin was perfectly crunchy. I had the char and it was cooked to a warm center, which i loved. We also thought the sides were outstanding, especially the mushrooms and carrots and the wilted greens with pine nuts. Side portions were enough for 3 each.
My friend had a Straight to Hell and really liked it. In fact, he had 3. I had a really nice $8 red from Spain.
Service was friendly and professional, except for very in-depth tour of the entire menu when we sat. No way they can do that once they get busy - it must have taken 3 minutes.
To correct a geographical inaccuracy that i learned today from Boston.com, Tavern Road is in the Innovation District, fka Fort Point Channel. Different from the Seaport. No chain restaurants yet.
Will be happy to go back.
If you haven't been to the Waterfront in a while be prepared for restaurant-land, especially on the other side of the World Trade. However, Sam's is close to the ICA, has a nice menu and has lots of outdoor seating. It is on top of Louis (yes, that clothing store), about a minute walk from the ICA.
Not to discount the problems you encountered, but "it all fell apart" seems like a harsh judgment. No doubt you should have receive the filet the way you ordered it, and the waiter should have been more responsive. However, the bar was great, the appetizers were good, and your friend "happily ate" the beef. The manager seemed to have made a sincere apology and reduced the bill, twice. If we all crossed off every restaurant where we encountered this level of problem, none of us would have many places left to eat.
Thanks SoupKitten. That is exactly what I meant by future plural language. I don't find it offensive, but rather stilted and faux-formal. No one speaks that way in normal conversation, but it is pervasive in restaurants. That leads me to think that it is in fact consistently taught. Why?
I am surprised to hear that some people find "What would you like" is too familiar. That does put the server in a tough spot. I hope diners view servers as professionals, and not servants.
Well, with the exception of the off-topic argument about slow eaters, this thread clearly reveals that the biggest service challenge is meeting diners' widely varying expectations and preferences. In fact, I am not sure that trends are pervasive enough to be able to generalize as in KaimukiMan's "no one wants to eat that way" statement about when dishes should be cleared.
This variation in expectations highlights the value in tailoring the service experience to individual parties or diners, especially as the meal progresses and the staff can observe and learn about the table. At thee Inn at Little Washington in VA, they have a structured approach to this. At the beginning of the meal, the first server assesses the mood of the table, assigns a score of 0-10 and describes the approach that will result in the guests reaching a 10 by the end of the meal. Then, as the meal progresses, they tailor their service accordingly. This of course leads to very different approaches to different tables. Patrick O'Connell, the owner and chef, even wrote a short case study in Harvard Business Review describing this approach.
Two followup questions:
What are the "shared assumptions" about service that every server should provide?
Is it possible to tailor the experience beyond relying on the experience and insights of the individual?
This post was triggered by a meal we had at Bistro du Midi last night, but applies to most of the better restaurants I have eaten in across the US, with the exception of New York. Our server last night was polite and friendly, knowledgeable about the food and offered us several useful suggestions. Bistro du Midi uses a team approach, so other servers, the wine guy and the front room manager were also at our table at various points. They shared the server's positive qualities.
However, there were some other aspects of the service that were bothersome:
1. All the staff used this stilted, formal language when talking with us. "What will you be having?" "Tonight we have available ...", and my favorite, "How are your items tasting?"
2. They cleared used dishes and glassware 3-4 times as we finished our entrees rather than all at once, with a request each time.
3. The person who cleaned and prepped our places after the starters were cleared was so intent on his job that I found myself looking at the top of head as he whisked the crumbs away.
4. Several of the dishes were placed in front of the wrong person.
I admit that these are not huge issues, and my dining companions called me a snob when ti tried to discuss them afterward. But I encounter them so consistently in many restaurants in many cities that I have to conclude that the staff is purposefully trained to do 1.-3. and that 4. is a problem of immense complexity that resists a solution.
Regarding server-speak, the people who serve at most high-end restaurants are carefully selected and trained, and their performance is monitored and improved. I guess that the great majority of them are articulate and able to express themselves naturally and accurately in normal conversation. So, clearly who decides that they should use future plural language when talking with customers? Is it somehow considered more formal and gracious than more direct sentences? Is it a way to insure that all servers speak grammatically and courteously?
The decisions behind the other issues really puzzle me. Why would a restaurant decide that it is preferable to interrupt dining conversation several times during a course, rather than when everyone was clearly finished? A server wouldn't need to ask permission if they waited. Cleaning each diner's place between courses is nice, but it adds yet another interruption, in this case a physical presence in front of the diner.
Finally, I know that it is possible for a group of servers to know who ordered what and deliver the right dish to the right diner. I just don't understand why it happens so infrequently.
The goal of great service is to be informative, anticipatory and unobtrusive. We know it when we experience it. Part of it is instinctual, I believe. However, many of the core elements can be designed, taught, and implemented consistently. So, who decides on approaches that seem, at least to me, to be inconsistent with this ideal?
I strongly recommend Special Teas. Very good selection and info on their site, fair prices and free shipping for a $50+ order. If i order before noon, the tea often arrives the next day!
Thanks to all who posted recommendations about Barcelona. Here is a long story about my meal at Coure
Getting Stuffed in Catalonia
Where to Eat? - The Big Decision
Last week, I was in Barcelona for a conference which was held in an outer neighborhood, so I stayed an extra day and a half to really see the city.
I knew the food options were good but was overwhelmed by Chowhound posts – there are LOT of great restaurants cooking modern Catalan cuisine. After all, this is the home region of Ferran Adria, the father of molecular cuisine. After much consideration and hand-wringing I chose Coure based on reviews and websites. (If I spent as much time on important decisions as I do on where to eat in a new city, I would be, well, someone else I guess.)
I had my hotel make the reservation for 9 pm, which is of course when the restaurant opened. I decided to make the 30 minute walk from my hotel. The neighborhood is beautiful, and similar to Paris in a number of ways.
Getting Seated and What To Eat?
I arrived ready to eat. However, the hostess/waiter/manager (more on this late 20’s Supergirl in a moment) didn’t have my name. But, she said no problem, they could seat me. However I noticed that one of the other restaurants on my list, Hisop, was across the street and I went over just to make sure that either I, or the hotel, hadn’t made a mistake. They didn’t have a reservation either. (Although weirdly they had a reservation for a Fleming the following night. Since that was noted to be a 50th wedding anniversary, I was pretty sure it wasn’t mine.) As I thanked them and left, the host at Hisop said cheerily that if for some reason Coure couldn’t serve me, they would find me a table.
So consider for a moment what just happened – two top end restaurants both offered, happily, to seat me as a single, without a reservation. I can’t imagine that in many other places.
Back to Coure. The two rooms are below street level with white walls and really nice art. Seats about 30 people in total at about 8 tables. As I watched while eating, I realized that the woman who seated me also took the orders, poured the wine and served, with the help of only 2 others. She had time to discuss both food and wine when she came by my table. Very good service from a very small team.
Barcelona is big on seafood. The menu had about 10 starters, 5 fish dishes and 5 meat/vegetarian entrees. It is customary to have both a fish and a meat dish. Coure’s theme for some of its dishes is “interpretations” of more recognizable dishes. No weird food science going on, but lots of deconstruction. I chose the tasting menu, at 45 euro.
At Last - The Meal
The amuse bouche looked like a fried egg, but wasn’t. Instead it was a puddle of pumpkin cream with a scoop of vanilla cream in the middle. On the side were sautéed death trumpet mushrooms. (Among other talents, Supergirl knew all the English names for each dish and ingredient.) As with many of the dishes, it was served room temperature. Based on this dish, my hopes soared.
My first course was “onion soup” without the onions. It features a low-cooked egg (poached at 150 degrees for 25 minutes, giving it a custard consistency) nestled on a bed of crispy (flash fried?) quinoa. On the side was a ravioli stuffed with melted comte cheese. It came in a bowl, and the waiter then poured chicken stock on the side, turning the quinoa into something like delicious oatmeal. The egg flavor was extremely concentrated and the ravioli delicious. However, it was hard to make sense of the dish in its entirely. .
The salad looked like a fishy version of Caprese, but again I was fooled. A small cluster of micro-greens (from a very small garden plot, no doubt) and blanched and seeded tomatoes (the advantage of sous-chefs who can be worked like dogs) was contained by several sardines chasing each others’ tails. The surprise was the “mozzarella”, which was in fact a soft Spanish cheese, whipped with cream and CHILLED to ice cream! The deception was so good that I was shocked at the temperature when I first tasted it. The sardines were among the best I have had – essence of ocean. The whole thing was a marvel.
Next came their version of gazpacho, I think. Barely grilled squid was sitting on a bed of diced green beans, avocado and pesto. On the side of the bowl were mystery white beans, that had a seed-like texture. By now the wine may have been having an effect, as they turned out to be huge almonds. Again, this dish was barely warm.
On to the fish pizza. A rare-grilled sea bream was nestled in a tomato oregano sauce. The fatal flaw in this dish, for me, was cantaloupe. (I would rather be water-boarded than eat the appropriately names musk-melon. At least I imagine I would.) Even though I avoided the vomitous poison, this dish just didn’t overwhelm me as much as the rest of the meal.
The onslaught continued with the meat, which wasn’t disguised as anything else. In some ways that was a relief by this point in the meal. Lamb shoulder was served with a reduced stock and goat milk froth (try getting that at the corner store). On the side were some perfect white onions. The lamb had been cooked sous vide (French for “can’t do this at home”) for 24 hrs. I am always amazed at how the flavors get concentrated in sous vide. Amazing dish
Wait, there’s more.
Of course, what meal would be complete without cheese? In this case, 5 Catalan cheeses, arranged in order of strength. Except for cabral, I hadn’t heard of any of them. Several were outstanding, the others merely excellent. The obligatory quince paste and fig jam were served on the side (Has anyone every had quince paste anywhere but on a cheese plate?)
For some reason, I was then served a savory dessert - pear ice cream with diced poached pear and herb syrup redolent (what a word) with rosemary. I am a big fan of herb desserts, and this one was the best I have had.
By now I was in a food and wine coma, so was barely aware when Supergirl placed a sweet dessert in front of me – a slice of almond cake with poached apricots and a coffee reduction. If I said I remembered what it tasted like, I would be lying.
I Drink Alone (a nod to G Thoroughgood. Turn up the volume)
The wine list was small and, as with the other lists I saw in Barca (or is it Bartha?), very reasonable. The most expensive bottle was 60 euro, and there were lots in the 15-25 euro range. I started with a glass of a vignonier that had some depth and herbal shit going on. I then ordered a bottle of 2005 Mas Perinet from Priorat. It was a Rhone blend, and worked well with all those varied and weird tastes after the 3rd course. Even though I left some in the bottle, the last note I took on the meal was “gbng”.
It was midnight, for God sakes! I begged for mercy and they relented and brought me the check.
So that about wraps up my report. Any questions?
Here is an odd option - Jae's in the South End. I have watched many events from the bar, on small but close TVs. You can usually get the staff to turn up the volume to a moderate level. Bar seats are almost always available and my friends and I are (or were if people like this idea) the only ones watching.
Freisa. That was it!! Thanks for the answer.
4 of us went on Sunday, and since there hasn't been much posted since the initial flurry, I though I would share.
We all enjoyed our meal and experience very much. Here are my thoughts, after reading others comments and our dinner.
1. The menu is interesting, in terms of ingredients and preparation. Lombardia is a generally overlooked region, so there is lots of unfamiliar territory for us. This is a plus for any serious diner.
2. The service was attentive and personal. Joan, one of the owners, took our orders and served the wine. Chef Charles was in the room all evening, and stopped at every table. Both of them were interested in answering our questions and making sure we had a great meal and excellent experience.
3. The wine list is great. I was very surprised by all the comments about the lack of affordability. There are a number of wines under $50, several around $40, and as Joan pointed out, all of the wines by the glass are available by the bottle for 4x the glass price.
I think the way the list is organized may lead to these comments. The list is by geography, and then by alphabet (I think). That means that very expensive wines are next to inexpensive wines, instead of at the end of the section or on a Reserve list. Maybe there is sticker shock for some people. For Boston, there are probably more wines over $70 than most lists, but I find this range of prices attractive.
There are lots of very interesting and unusual wines. Since we didn't want to go with the familiar Tuscan or Piedmont choices, we asked for help. I gave Joan a price target of $80 or less. She immediately recommended a very good, and unusual wine for $42. (Unfortunately, I didn't note the name.) It was almost frizzante and had great fruit. It was from Lombardy I believe. It was a great match for our fish, squab, rabbit and boar mains.
4. The cooking is subtle. I may have been influenced by Devra First's review, but I found that, in comparison to other high end Italian restaurants, the flavors at Erbaluce are more subdued. In some ways, you have to work harder to figure out what is going on in a dish, but the effort reveals lots of layers and tastes.
5. The food ranged from good to excellent. Two of us split the gnocchi with boar ragu and the others had an arugula and dandelion salad. The gnocchi were light and wonderful and the sauce was perfect. I felt that the wilted bitter greens that were placed over the dish were too strong for the other flavors, but my co-eater liked them. The salads were an exercise in simplicity - fresh greens with some shaved vegetables, lightly dressed. Very nicely done.
The boar has been written about extensively, and didn't disappoint. The rabbit was a big hit, and was tender which is always a challenge. The squab was very good.
I did not like my entree as much as my DC's liked theirs. I had a fish, mormora, that I felt was slightly overcooked and lacked a distinctive personality. It had fascinating scales that had popped up in perfect rows across the skin after cooking, but I didn't like the taste they imparted.
Desserts were great with 1 slight imperfection. I had a cheese plate that was among the best I have ever had, anywhere, including France. 5 cheeses from Vermont and Italy, headlined by an aged Pecorino. The plate included pistachios, honey and a delicious tiny apple. The panna cotta and the poached pear were also excellent. The chocolate tort shell was too thick and somewhat tough, but was otherwise excellent.
6. Love the understated room and the artwork and think that the bar would be a great place to have a low key supper. The bar has an entirely different and interesting menu that can be ordered in the dining room. And vice versa.
Bottom line, Erubaluce is not quite perfection, but pretty close, and more interesting to me than many other Italian or French restaurants in the general price range.
As suggested we went to the Julien Bar at the Langham for drinks and apps on Saturday, Dec 20. The room is beautiful, and the service was prompt and attentive. Which isn't surprising given that there were 4 other people in the lounge when we arrived. By the time we left, at 8:30, the place was hoppin' with at least 15 people. Despite lack of buzz, we had a good time. Apps were standard but good, and prices were reasonable for a hotel.
We went to the Bristol Lounge for New Year's afternoon drinks and food. Everything was a notch above the Langham, including the prices.
Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I had to look up the Langham before realizing that it was the old Meridien. Shows you how often I get downtown now. I used to work at Milk Street!
I agree with both comments about the Liberty - great, soaring space, but the bar feels like a lobby bar. Probably because that is what it is.
Don't worry about the Bristol Lounge - it is out just because we are going there for New Years Eve.
I will report on selection and experience. Happy Holidays.
We have a tradition with our neighbors of going out the weekend before Xmas to celebrate the holidays. We have been to the Oak Bar at the Copley for several years. It fits the bill admirably - elegant, somewhat formal, decorated for the holidays, expensive drinks and food. This year, I want to try someplace different. Bristol Lounge is out. Any other suggestions, or should we stick with a winner?