L’Espalier, Boston

Elegantly perfect! When I found out that L’Espalier was going to move out of their current location to the new Mandarin Hotel we decided our anniversary would be a good excuse to try this restaurant before the move. I wanted to try this Boston institution in the location they have been for some 20 years rather than a fancy new hotel.

We arrived a little early for our 7:30pm reservation and were taking pictures outside. The hostess came out and asked if she could take a picture of the two of us, so kind! Then we walked into a lovely long corridor and she asked for the name on the reservation. I told her and she said she would get the maître d’. When he came to seat us he greeted me by saying, “Good evening Mrs. X, Happy Anniversary!” How nice!

We were seated in an elegant, cozy room with taupe walls and beautiful crown molding. The seating was intimate and comfortable. We were presented the menus and started to look at the wine list. Our waiter came to ask us if were interested in a drink and we said that we were considering a bottle of wine and within a minute the sommelier came over to help us. We discussed with him some of the things we enjoy in wine and finally settled on a 2000 Château Canuet (Margaux). It was a beautiful wine! Smooth, well rounded, and wonderfully complex!

We decided on the seasonal degustation menu which includes 4 savory courses, followed by a cheese course, a sorbet and dessert. Though they suggest 4 savory courses any of the dishes can be selected from the three course prix fixe menu. We made several changes so that we could each different dishes!

G had the following:
1) Big Ox Farm mesclun with Shy Brothers Farm “Hannahbell” cheese; champagne vinaigrette
2) Scallop ceviche with sunflower shoots and cantaloupe melon; tahini vinaigrette
3) Seared bluefin tuna with sweet and sour peppers and crab summer roll; chili and pineapple foam

4) Port poached beef tenderloin with bone marrow and summer savory ravioli; beef shin and mushroom consommé

I had:
1) Butter poached Maine lobster with braised pork belly and sweet corn
2) Haricot vert salad with coddled egg and crispy prosciutto
3) Almond crusted rack of Colorado lamb with chickpea panisse; grilled plums and Sparrow Arc Farm spring greens
4) Roasted Vermont rabbit with potato gnocchi and peas; brown butter thyme jus

All of the food was beautifully prepared with perfect French technique. But, even in all of these great dishes a few stood out. The haricot vert salad was lovely! The coddled egg was perfectly cooked and added a rich creaminess to the salad. The beef tenderloin ravioli was excellent! The mushroom consommé was a perfect sauce with an earthiness that complemented the beef but still had a delicate texture. The stand out dish of the entire evening was the lamb. It was just perfectly well cooked and the chickpea side was a great accompaniment! The savory courses were followed with a cheese course. The waiter described each of the four cheeses which were selected that evening. It was a nice variety with mild to strong cheeses. They were served with three accompaniments, a date jam, honey with pine nuts and another fruit jam (which is escaping me!). The cheese course was followed by a plum consommé and apricot sorbet. The desert was set and was brought to us with a candle. It was a plate with a steamed chocolate mousee served on a miso ‘cracker’ and a chocolate ‘ravioli’ with sea salt. The mousse was dense almost like a flourless cake and the miso cracker was thicker than a cracker but added a nice salty, tangy flavor to the dense chocolate. I felt there was too much of the miso and left about half behind. The chocolate ravioli didn’t have a pasta covering but seemed to be more like a skin. The sea salt enhanced the richness of the chocolate. The desert was creative and beautifully presented but not amazing. Finally, our check came with petit fours which were wonderful!

What a wonderful evening! The service was impeccable! But, more impressive to me was that it was comfortable and unpretentious. I didn’t feel like it was over the top or too snotty. The sommelier was approachable and discussed with us the wines even though we aren’t connoisseurs. The wait staff was present and available at every step without being smothering. The food was delicious and beautifully prepared. Overall, of our dining experiences in Boston this has been the best!

L’Espalier
774 Boylston Street – as of September 2008
Boston, MA 02115
617-262-3023

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