So Friday night we hit Boston Public for our bi-monthly date night. I figured I would treat Husband to a “steak house”, seeing how we’ve been frequenting places that focus on seafood, fish and vegetarian options. Not to say Husband doesn’t like these things… it’s just that he’s on this protein kick and I figured he was up for a change of menu.
In any case, I picked Boston Public because 1) we hadn’t dined in Back Bay in a while and 2) because of it’s location. I used to LOVE Restaurant L (which was the previous restaurant in this space) — located in the bottom floor of Louis Boston — and I was curious to see what had replaced it.
Our reservations were for 7:30 and since it was raining we decided to valet it ($15). The Louis lot had available spaces, so the valet parked our car right near the door and actually gave us our keys back… saying we could leave the car there as long as we liked and just get it ourselves later. I thought that was pretty cool… and wishing the weather was better so we could do a little strolling after.
When you first walk in there is a bar to the left and a reception desk directly in front of you; the dining room is to the right. The bar had an ‘interesting mix’ of 6 or 7 people sitting at it. Funny enough — based solely on stereotyping — they sort of looked like a pseudo-biker crowd. This was the first of many oddities during the evening.
The hostess took our coats and brought us into the dining room… which was EMPTY. We were only the third table to be seated. I found this a bit odd too… Friday night, 7:30, Newbury Street… what was going on here? My expectations dropped down to zippo.
Our waiter came over almost immediately, gave us our menus and a wine list and asked us if we were ready to order our drinks. I was like “uh… gives a second to look at the wine list buddy!”. I requested a cocktail menu and some tap water… so off he went to fetch our things.
A few minutes later he was back… asking if we were ready yet. I said I was going to look at the cocktail menu first. He also asked if we had any questions about the menu. It would be pushing it to say that we had been seated for more than 2 or 3 minutes at this point. Not sure what this guy’s rush was… but he was quite the anxious character (to say the least).
As we began to peruse the menu, the very first thing I noticed was that it was different than the menu on their website. This annoyed me… I hate that. It doesn’t take that much work to keep your website current.
The second thing I noticed about the menu was that it was organized and laid out in a very unintuitive way. It didn’t flow right… and was sort of hard to follow. On the website the various “sections” of the menu are displayed as a list; however, on the actual menu each section appears in a little box, haphazardly presented on the paper (I suppose they were going for an artsy feel — it didn’t work). My expectations kept creeping lower and lower. I wasn’t even sure that I felt like anything on the menu… but I was famished because I had skipped lunch.
Our waiter came back again to see if we were ready to order our drinks or food. We said we both wanted cocktails and asked if he could make any recommendations. He admitted that he hadn’t had ONE cocktail on the menu. His excuse was that “the bartender gets mad when the staff orders drinks”. Did he mean during working hours??? Freak.
I decided to stick with a drink I know, a Caipirinha ($12) — a traditional Brazilian drink made with Cachaça (Brazil’s most popular distilled alcohol – according to Wikipedia), sugar and lime. It was good and strong. If you don’t like tequila, you won’t like Cachaça. It’s technically like a rum… but to me, really has that tequila–esque taste to it.
Husband got BP’s take on the classic Long Island Ice Tea… called the Boston Harbor ($14). Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes that night and the drink is not listed on the website menu (neither are). Basically, from what I remember it was made up of cola, ginger beer, lemongrass and rum. It was actually very interesting… Husband liked it.
When we were finally ready to place our order, our waiter was like “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about a few specials we have tonight”. When I say this guy came to our table at least 4 or 5 times before we ordered… I am not exaggerating. How could it be that he only remembered the specials now??
Before I proceed… I have to mention that our waiter was at our table an unusually high number of times throughout the evening. I don’t know if he was bored because the place was dead, was a weirdo or just had no idea what the hell he was doing. It was a bit annoying and made us feel like he was constantly hovering.
Okay… on to the food. During one of our waiter’s many visits, he brought over a bread basket for us. The bread served at BP is a recipe created by the chef that mixes the principles and flavors of both Naan (a traditional Indian bread) and Focaccia (a traditional Italian bread). What’s funny about this is that Boston Public is an Asian influenced steak house. That said… the bread was DELICIOUS. Like… really, really good. It was served with a miso/honey cream cheese, which was also very good and an interesting take on the whole bread and butter thing.
For appetizers, I decided to play it safe and started with the Tomato & Buffalo Mozzarella Salad ($11). I know it’s not hard to mess up this dish (and it happens to be one of my all time favorites) — but this salad was really nice. The presentation was beautiful… with a layer of overlapping tomatoes in a vertical line across the plate, topped with a few chopped tomatoes, oven roasted tomatoes and huge chunks of the buffalo mozzarella. The cheese was extraordinary. It was fresh, had an amazing flavor and was seasoned perfectly. It really does make a difference when you use buffalo milk vs. regular cows milk to make fresh mozzarella.
Husband went with the Crab Wontons with Herb Dipping Sauce ($10). Again, wanting to play it safe, he was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. The wontons almost looked like large, fried tortellini. The wrapper was delicate and crunchy and the filling was tasty. The dipping sauce was almost like a heavily-herbed aioli. It was really good.
All dinners are served ala carte, but we opted to skip the sides (despite our server’s recommendations). I went with the Glazed King Salmon ($28) served with picked vegetables and Husband got the Black Angus Filet ($35).
The salmon was served medium rare and was amazing. The fish was cooked perfectly, it was tender, the flavor was melt-in-your-mouth and it took all my control not to lick the plate clean (needless to say, I left an empty plate). Husband’s steak was also very good. It was tender, cooked perfectly, had a delicious flavor and was served with a small amount of butter on top. It also came with a side of miso dipping sauce. His plate was completely cleaned as well.
Unlike me, I passed on dessert. Husband got the Strawberry Shortcake ($8), served in a wine glass, trifle style. It was okay. He really liked it, but the ‘cream’ part was some type of cream cheese mix. I wasn’t a huge fan. Clearly the chef has a little cream cheese thing (between the bread accompaniment and the dessert). A Cappuccino cost $5 and was not good at all. It was really an espresso with a splash of milk — It filled only half the cup and was really lacking in dairy.
Even though the overall experience was kind of odd and the dessert and coffee were only okay, the food was actually exceptional. I’m not sure why the place was so dead. The manager came over during our meal to see how things were and I asked why it was such a slow night. His guess was that it was a “DJ Night” and often things pick up much later when the music starts. On a side note, the manager was dressed head to toe in black velvet — very Interview with the Vampire. He was another odd ball. He spoke VERY fast and was kind of weird. Strange, very strange…
Despite all the oddities of the night and the freaky staff… I still have to recommend this place. The food was that good. Definitely worth a date night visit… Perhaps another night and/or a differnt staff member could make all the difference.