Saturday, July 26, 2008

Disappointed.

This week has been a very sad one for me and fine dining. Yes, I had great success with my return to India Quality. But the other three nights I went out for dinner this past week, I was incredibly disappointed in my experiences.

Being that I'm a small business owner myself, I try to keep my whining about other small local businesses to a whimper. If I had a bad meal, eh, it happens. But all three times I went out this week I was left feeling not only disappointed but also a little embarrassed because it was I who suggested we all go to these places.

I use to think Boston was ok with sub par food but some places made me really differently about that. One of them being Oleana and another one being Rendezvous, back when it first opened. I found dining in Boston wouldn't ever be in the stratosphere of New York but it would be fresh, decent and well executed food. But lately, my theory about Boston dining has been challenged and I'm left feeling a bit cheated. So it's with a heavy, heavy heart I offer up my most recent opinions on these places. I won't go on yelp or foodbuzz with these negative criticisms, but I do want to air them and so I will keep them here.

Our first dining experience this week happened at Tremont 647. I had heard about a "grilling social" that was suppose to occur and I had two friends and E pony up $40 each. The chef Andy Husbands has a rep of being a great BBQ-er and so I was excited to think that maybe we'd get a sampling of his work. Nope. Not even close. I won't go into excruciating detail on this one because E already did a very comprehensive overview of the evening on her food blog. Here:
http://resonance.typepad.com/hedonism/

All I will say is that since it was my idea to go, I felt responsible for how much the event/food/experience sucked. Needless to say we're not going back anytime soon for dinner.

My next dining out experience happened on Wednesday. I talked E into going to dinner at Burton's Bar and Grill downstairs from my apartment and around the corner from one of my shops. She agreed to give it a shot. I had gotten a recommendation from customers of mine who said they even liked Burtons better than Eastern Standard. Whoah!

So we gave it a whirl. Burton's is a local chain and it was pretty much chain style food. Everything was fairly bland and over buttered or oiled up to taste good. Even the sugar snap peas that came on the side of E's crabcake dish were bathed in oil. And sugar snap peas are so sweet and tasty on their own that to coat them in butter or oil with no sort of seasoning was kinda unnecessary.

My tuna dish was perfectly cooked with a rare middle. But the tomato sauce surrounding it did little to enhance the flavor of anything. And the artichokes, capers and peppers were sparse and yet again did nothing to help up the flavor ratio. Luckily E was able to turn our leftovers into great little salad fixings for lunch the next day. Another place crossed off the list of possibilities.

And lastly, one of my friends (and future Maid of Honor) Mark was in town for the weekend. So yesterday we had dinner at the Franklin so Mark would have a chance to meet E. We opted to sit at the bar and eat there. The drinks were great and the falafel appetizer E and I shared as we waited for Mark was very nicely executed. Since none of the main dishes appealed to me, I opted to get two appetizers as my entree, but I couldn't choose between the scallops or the mussels. E persuaded me to get both and she's help me eat it all. So I got the fish taco, mussels and scallops. Both Mark and E got the trout.

The first sign of problems was when they wouldn't let E switch her side of spinach to asparagus. Hmm...yeah we're finding that more and more restaurants in Boston refuse to be accommodating to side swap requests. Even if one offers to pay more, no dice. It's not only strange but a little frustrating. From now on I might have to resort to my Mom's line of "I'm allergic to tomatoes".

The second sign of issues was that the kitchen messed up and put my mussels out first. Our bartender, Nathan (who seemed like a nice enough guy) covered the mistake by telling us he thought we'd like them first because that way there wouldn't be too many dishes at once in front of us. Hmmm.....

The mussels were smoked and decent. They were served with melted butter and since I like butter I was okay with this on the side. The salt and smoke were great on the mussels and I kinda wished that they had done a little broth on the bottom to really utilize both aspects of what made the mussels good.

Finally the mains/rest of my appetizers came out. I was really bummed out by both of my dishes. The fish taco was really a deep fried fish quesadilla. The taco shell had been deep fried and it was still a bit greasy. The filling was covered in cheese. E commented, "I can't taste the fish". And she was right. Everything that I love about a fish taco...the light summer feel of it. The crisp cabbage, the freshness of the fish wasn't there. It was kinda awful.

The scallops were overcooked. E had them sent back for me. I hate sending food back but on this one it was the right call. With only three scallops to have all three overdone seemed more than a bit lacking. The dish came back and the scallops were perfectly cooked this time. I don't remember much about the accompany salad on this dish or anything else so I guess it was okay or perhaps forgettable. I like scallops a lot so I liked this dish but would I ever go out of my way to order any of the dishes from that evening. No. No. No.

E gave me a bite of her trout and while it was well cooked, it was still kinda bland. It seemed under seasoned and uninspired.

For a meal that was an important meeting of two people in my life, I was hugely let down yet again. The dinner wasn't great. It was okay but certainly not something I'd come back for anytime soon.

Sigh. Looks like I'll be cooking a lot more at home these days. Certainly not a bad thing but still it'd be nice to have a reliable mid range dining experience.

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