Escape to Paris… if only for one night

Ready for winter to be over or in dire need of a mini-vacation? How about an evening in Paris with some good friends and feel-good food? If you can’t afford to fly to Europe for one night (or at all) –then head down to Gaslight in the SoWa (South of Washington St.) district in the South End — and be transported to an inviting and authentic French bistro for the evening.

Located at 560 Harrison Avenue, Gaslight, Brasserie du Coin, (literally brasserie on the corner), boasts an “eclectic mix of bar, café tables, communal tables, booths and banquets” and offers free parking! A rarity anywhere in Boston…

The first thing we noticed when we arrived for our 7pm reservations last night was that the place was PACKED. On most date nights, our 7pm reservations make us some of the first diners to be seated; not so in this place. Most tables were taken and the place was filled with the conversations and laughter of the many bar patrons and dinner guests. The atmosphere inspired feelings of walking into the neighborhood brasserie in a hip and trendy part of Paris. Young couples smooching, groups of friends enjoying martinis and apps and reserved, more mature, ladies and gents enjoying a cappuccino, traditional French cocktail or the Plat Du Jour.

The tables, dishes and glassware are casual at best, but fit in with the crowd and the decor. Darker lighting, marble tables, antique mirrors, tile floors and of course — gas lights, adorn the dining room and entry way.

We started with cocktails. Dan ordered a Crown Royal and Diet Coke ($8) and I went with the Fluer de Lis ($9.50), their signature cocktail made with Parfait Amour Violet Liqueur, gin, Mathilde Peach, white grape juice and a champagne float. My drink was interesting, though I was disappointed to find it missing the violet notes I had hoped for. The flavor came from the grape juice and the drink itself was very alcohol-intensive.

Shortly after our drinks arrived, so did our French baguette served with fresh butter. The bread was clearly baked in-house, was served warm and came in a traditional paper bread bag. Nice touch… (and it was good to boot)

For appetizers, we decided to share half a dozen, fresh-shucked Oysters on the half shell; market price for the evening was $2 a piece. The oysters were delicious. We cannot remember the variety… it may have been bluepoints, but we’re honestly not sure, (we had a difficult time understanding what our server said). In any case, they were plump, briny and scrumptious.

For dinner, Dan opted for the Steak Frites ($19.75) — since I don’t eat red meat, he doesn’t indulge very often — so he took advantage of the rare opportunity. The steak was topped with garlic butter (a little too much — and we asked for it on the side) and was very good… cooked exactly as he asked and very tender. The frites were good, but nothing special.

I decided to try the evening’s special — a Pan-fried Sole Filet served with brown butter and herbed mashed-potatoes ($25.95). The server told us my dish came with haricot verts; however, they never made it to the table. We also ordered a side of the Roasted Mushrooms with thyme and sea salt ($5.75). My sole was excellent… though a bit over-priced for a rather inexpensive fish. It was drenched in butter and sat atop a delicious pile of whipped potatoes. Definitely not low in calories (but is any French dish???). The mushrooms were delicious as well… again, probably b/c they were swimming in a sea of butter as well.

Even though I was feeling pretty full, I decided that the low calorie appetizer (oysters) afforded me the privilege of dessert. I went with my favorite stand-by… Crème Brulee ($6.95) and Dan ended his meal with a Cappuccino ($3.50). The Crème Brulee was a hefty portion and pretty good. A little too much sugar on top and very standard in flavor; nothing surprising or interesting. Same thing with the cappuccino.

Our overall experience was a good one, considering several of my friends have had a less-than-desirable experiences there. Is it date night worthy? Yes… I think you would have a good time. The atmosphere is social and food is tasty. Is it worth a second visit? Probably. It wasn’t good enough to blow us away, but it was good enough to pique our interest. C’est la vie!

Gaslight in Boston

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