As mentioned in my previous post, our bi-weekly Date Night pilgrimage led us to Sibling Rivalry in the South End. After much anticipation and a few cancelled attempts to visit this popular Tremont Street restaurant, we made our way into the city, valeted it (for $16) and showed up 15 minutes early for our reservations.
We were seated right away in the main portion of the dining room that faces the open kitchen –offering views of the primary chef, Chef Bob, busting butt in the kitchen (pun intended — Ham was one of the key ingredients on the menu).
The decor is warm and inviting, the host was very friendly and accommodating with our early arrival and the fast movement in the kitchen made for an interesting backdrop. The wait staff orchestration was sort of weird. It appear as if we had two servers almost “tag teaming” us… but without explanation. Server #1 brought over menus and took our drink order. Shortly after, Server #2 came over to also take our drink order… unaware that Server #1 had already been over.
I began with the Algeria ($11), a strong cocktail made up of Brazilian rum, lemon and lime juices and simple syrup– served on the rocks. It reminded me very much of a Caipirinha, which I love. My better half had the Kirkland Cocktail (also $11), a mojito-like concoction of Gin, lime juice, mint and a sugared-rim — served straight up, martini style.
Before our drinks arrived, Server #1 brought over a little Amuse Bouche from the chef… Apple Cider Gelee topped with whipped creme fraiche and chopped fruit and nuts. A tart but refreshing start to our meal. I love anything with creme fraiche on it!
Server #1 brought our drinks over and a bread basket arrived shortly after. The menu mentions that all breads our house-made and available for purchase. Our basket included Irish soda bread, which was very good, a fruit and nut bread and some type of egg bread. All were tasty… so we tried our best not to fill up on them.
Server #2 came over to take our food order. The menu contains a list of seasonal ingredients (see previous post for specifics) to chose from. On either side of the ingredient, each Chef (Bob & David) offer a menu option that features the primary ingredient; appetizer’s appear in red, main courses appear in black. I started with the Vietnamese Crispy Fried Squid served with a green papaya, carrot and daikon radish salad and a Thai basil, cilantro and ginger-lime-chili dipping sauce ($12). “D” started with the Salad of Roasted Beets, goat cheese fondue, walnuts, bib lettuce and sherry vinaigrette ($11). Both were Chef David’s creations and we shared both dishes.
The fried squid was lightly battered and very tender, consisting of thicker-cut rings. The salad was missing the green papaya, which was a little disappointing because I was curious to try it. When I asked Server #2, she said the salad did have the papaya in it… so I guess we missed out. The dipping sauce was also good, with just enough heat and a sweet and sour bite to it.
The beet salad was very thinly sliced yellow beets, topped with mixed greens (not just bibb lettuce), chopped red beets and what I would call a goat cheese crouton (vs. a fondue) on top. It was also good… but not remarkable. Out of curiosity, I looked up the term “fondue” on wikipedia… just to see what the actual meaning is. The Frech term fondre means ‘to melt’; in the past tense fondu means ‘melted’. I suppose the crouton was sort of melted… it was encrusted in some type of breading and heated to the point of being soft. I think calling it a ‘fondue’ was pushing it though.
About half-way through the appetizer course I finished my drink and was ready for a second. Unfortunately, neither Server #1 nor Server #2 came by to see how our apps were or to check on our drinks. No exaggeration… 20 minutes later… Server #2 finally came back over to ask if she could clear our plates. At that point, I asked for another drink –which took another 10 minutes to appear. A little disappointing…
Our dinners arrived right after my second drink did. Both of our dinners were selected from the Chef Bob side of the menu. I had the Salmon Paillard with a citrus picholine olive salad, seared artichokes, chickpea fries atop an artichoke/lemon sauce ($26). The salmon was cooked perfectly with a crispy exterior. The artichokes were lemony and delicious. The citrus salad consisted of both blood orange and another citrus (tangerine?) segments, but I didn’t see or taste any olives. The chickpea fries were okay, but not great. We had ones that were much better at 51 Lincoln, so our opinion was probably a bit biased. The final aspect of the dish was the artichoke/lemon sauce, a light green puree with good and consistency. I loved how the the sauce paired with the fish and seared artichokes.
“D” got the Pan Roasted Chatham Haddock with mushrooms, Agnolotti, Porcini broth, creamed leeks, chanterelles and haricot verts ($26). The fish was moist, flakey and tender, but the sauce it sat atop (a combination of the creamed leeks and the broth?) was just too rich. It tasted very buttery and almost meaty — from the mushrooms — unfortunately overpowering the fish. The agnolotti, which are small “preist hat” raviolis, were stuffed with a savory mushrrom blend and were quite good. While “D” did enjoy his meal, it was too heavy to finish and he probably would not order it again.
Though we were feeling quite full, we decided to accept Server #1’s offer for dessert. We shared the Pineapple Tart Tartine, served with homemade coconut ice cream and a macadamia nut praline ($9). The ice cream was extremely good. The pineapple tart was also good, with a caramelized sugar glaze. I couldn’t eat the praline, but “D” seemed to enjoy wolfing it down.
Overall, our meal was very good. I was hoping I would be able to say phenomenal… but I’m sticking with very good. The servers were very attentive for the first half of the meal, but became lacking as the dinner crowd picked up. The food itself was fresh and cooked perfectly. The flavor combinations were good, but not superb. We were definitely drawn to more “Chef Bob” dinners from the menu — which has a lot of meat on it. On a side note, the menu indicates that the chef will create a special vegetarian entree (using that night’s ingredients) for $18, which is good to know.
Definitely worth a date night visit. A little too crowded for kids, especially on weekends. I think sitting at the bar that faces the open kitchen would be fun and would like to try that next time. We will probably try it again, but not for a while.