Persephone Exposed

After my conversation with Michael Leviton (of Lumiere and Persephone) a few weeks ago, I decided to rearrange my Date Night schedule and bump up Persephone to last week. I was very intrigued by his descriptions of the space and the types of plates he offers and couldn’t wait to check it out for myself. Plus, I used to live in the Fort Point area (on Melcher Street) and was very curious to see how the place had changed in the last few years. I had heard good things…

To the Husband’s dismay, I did not print out directions on how to get to Persephone (located at 283 Summer Street), nor did I actually write down the street address. I figured it couldn’t be that hard — I know Summer Street and how easy could it be to miss a restaurant???? Pretty easy…

Persephone is located in a converted warehouse, as part of the Achilles Project – an ambiguous rehabilitation project that includes a high-end clothing boutique, Xbox 360 and Wii players (for customer use), both DJ and piped-in music, free WiFi and of course, a restaurant and bar — all piled together in one open space.

The entrance to the space is pretty non-descript– no valet guys standing outside, no signage– aside from a rather innocuous “Achilles Project” etching on the front doors. We drove right past.

After banging a U-ey at South Station, we came back past and were able to find on-street parking about a block down. It was after 6pm, so the 2 hour limit had been lifted. They also list a few parking garage recommendations on their website, though valet would be preferred by this diner.

To be honest, I didn’t even notice the store front or what was in the windows… it sort of blended in. This would be my first concern for a restaurant in this space; though, to be fair, this is supposed to be a new concept.

When you enter the space, you walk directly into the clothing boutique (housing designer duds that were WAY our of my price range) and must walk through it to the bar area. I must admit I was a little confused at first, as there aren’t any folks near the front door directing people… just a couple of hungry sales people hoping to score a commission. We worked our way through and found the bar area. Again, we weren’t quite sure where to go to be seated, but after a moment, realized that the hostess was located right at the end of the bar. We were a little early, but were seated immediately.

The space is interesting — wide open, with exposed bricks and large windows, lots of local artwork, an almost industrial feel to the furniture and a very casual vibe (more so than I thought it would be). The tables are large, flat wooden planks, supported by chunky pieces of steel. Lots of tiny pendant lamps hang from the ceiling… which was a little busy for me. It’s sort of loud because of the hardwood floors and openness, but not so much that you won’t enjoy yourself. The crowd is young, trendy, hipsters… and the after work crowd hovers around the bar, making it quite crowded.

Our reservations were for 7pm and the space was still moderately quiet at that time; however, by the time our meal finished the bar was packed and the restaurant was full. It was actually very difficult to navigate our way out of the place, as you have to walk through the bar to get to the boutique and ultimately the exit and the bar patrons were not over anxious to move out of our way.

Our server, Megan, clearly knew the ins and outs of the menu and “got” the concept – she was able to articulate the chef’s goals quite well. We started with a few signature cocktails. I had a Climate Control — Kimoto sake, lychee purée, English breakfast tea, lemon-mint syrup, lime juice and ginger-infused cognac ($12). The Husband had an Ode to a Player — Funaguchi-kusui sake, Cointreau, Crème de Mure, ginger-pear puree and ginger beer ($12). My drink was very good, but the Husband’s was delicious! In fact, I got one for my second round… but it wasn’t quite as good as the first — it was a little too sweet.

Keeping in line with the Chef’s design of the dishes (see my previous blog post), we opted to share two “Small” dishes and one “Medium” dish and get two individual entrees (labeled “Large”). My only complaint about the menu is that the layout is weird. The top of the menu starts with Large dishes, followed by Extra Large — with Small dishes to the right, then the Sides list, followed by Cocktails — with Medium dishes to the right of that. I’m sure there is a method to the madness, but I didn’t get it.

First to arrive was the Artichoke alla Giudea – a flash-fried artichoke heart dressed simply in lemon juice, garlic and parsley ($6). This dish gives you all the flavor of an artichoke, without the work of peeling the leaves off and removing the choke – with a very light fried exterior. It was quite good.

Next, the Sweet Pea Croquettes arrived – served with a fava bean purée and a bacon aioli ($8). I saw a picture of these scrumptious little dumplings in a local Boston magazine and knew I had to try them. The interior is a shockingly-bright green, with both smashed and whole fresh peas. The exterior is slightly crunchy and adds a nice texture to the dish. My only complaint? When the meal runner brought our dishes over, he never told us that he included a small crock containing the aioli (the lid was left on) — so we never even noticed it was there! Kind of annoying, but the dish was just as good without the sauce… though it would have been nice to have been made aware of it.

The last shared dish to arrive was the Grilled Local Squid (personally recommended by the chef himself) — which was served as a salad of parsley, chickpeas, preserved lemon and cured black olives ($14). The melding of the flavors was very Mediterranean and very tasty. The preserved lemons slivers were delicious and the vinaigrette was perfectly paired. However, that said… the calamari rings were over cooked. They were tough and difficult to chew. I think I even had to swallow a few whole. I happen to know the chef was not onsite this evening, so perhaps the staff was a bit lax?

For our main dishes, I had the Line-caught Gloucester Halibut (also personally recommended by the chef) — served with Verrill Farm beets, orange supremes and a chervil vinaigrette ($30); it was out of this world. I was too full to finish it, but I ate as much as I could. The Husband opted for the Grilled Niman Ranch Prime Angus Beef Bavette Steak – served with French fries, beef jus and aged balsamic vinegar ($26). A VERY good piece of meat — not necessarily the best he’d ever had (as we had hoped), but very tender and delicious none the less, (and the French fries were great to boot).

Just when we were about to pop from all the food, over came two complimentary desserts (thank you Michael!!!). We split both… a Tahitian Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee (normally $9) and a Strawberry Shortcake — with freshly picked berries and whipped cream and served atop two house-made biscuits (a special, so not sure what it normally goes for). Both were delicious. The crème brulee was chock-full-of vanilla bean specks and the biscuits were buttery and delicate. If only we had saved a little more room!

All-in-all, we had a very good experience. I would definitely go back and probably opt for group dining next time – or perhaps even sitting at the bar. I think based on the menu and how the tables are setup, [as Michael intended] this place is really meant for a group of folks to break bread together, sharing the experience and chatting away.

With all the activity that is going on in the Fort Point area right now and with all the planned construction and additions, I think this restaurant has a really good chance of being around for a long time. My only advice would be to beef up the signage out front… let folks know you are in there!!!

UPDATE: I spoke to the chef earlier today and he told me that they actually do have valet parking… the valet must have been parking a car. Also, my interpretation of the menu layout was off. I must have been handed then backwards and was reading it wrong! Lastly, regarding the signage… it’s out of his hands. The space is following committee and neighborhood governed sanctions. Thanks for the clarification ML. 🙂

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