My very first, full-fledged restaurant review! How exciting. For me. And probably me alone.
The honor of the first review goes to Stella, where Kanchan and I dined following the parking/change/baked goods debacle described (in detail!) previously (can you smell the scientist in the air?). The room itself is beautifully designed with wide open space with high ceilings, a tall window lining one entire wall of the restaurant, and no color to be seen - the room was practically all white. The impression left on me was of someplace very clean and modern, but not uninviting. Kanchan and I started with a cocktail - the Camparinni. The main ingredients were Campari and grapefruit juice. It was very good - not too tart, not too sweet, with the freshly squeezed (!) grapefruit juice balancing out the bitterness of the Campari. And it was pretty! The picture above may not do it justice.
The unbearably adorable, flaming server (this was the South End, after all) took our order, and soon brought out our starters: roasted beet salad with goat cheese (left picture), and crudo misto with salmon and tuna (right picture).
The quality of the ingredients was the star in both of these rather simple dishes. The beets were so incredibly sweet : thinly sliced rounds of yellow beets, topped with diced red beets and creamy, fresh goat cheese. The dressing was plain so as not to distract from the abovementioned stars of the dish. Likewise, the marinated salmon and tuna in the crudo platter were tender and flavorful, but here, the dressing made all the difference. The first bite was surprising : tangy, yet not sour enough to overpower the flowery olive oil. The salad (lamb's lettuce?) and breadstick on top added color and texture contrast, but were not interesting enough to detract from the fish. After lingering for quite a while over the starters and cocktails, it was time for the main course.
I ordered entirely out of character for myself. Not only did I order pasta, but it was in a cream sauce! Yes, I ordered a cream sauce. And here it is!
Linguine in asparagus and truffle cream, topped with a poached egg. It was very rich. Almost too rich. I did not pick up the truffle flavor, but I will take the menu's word for it. As much as I absolutely hate to do this, I have to agree with Alison Arnett of the Boston Globe and her review of this very dish at Stella. Now normally, I would disagree with her on principle, but she got it right this time - I pretty much just tasted the cream. I think Kanchan may have won the ordering game this time. She had the spicy, saffron-flavored cioppino with every manner of seafood : squid, mussels, cod, shrimp... you get the idea.
They were not kidding about it being spicy! It was more heat than I expected, but not so much that it overpowered the saffron. The cioppino was a good order : the presentation alone was worth it. Check on the copper lidded vessel (of some sort). On a personal corkboard. Pretty cool, huh? I am a fan of accessories in restaurants. Makes it a bit more of an event than a simple dinner, no?
The presentation of the dessert, likewise, did not disappoint. Wait, did you really think we didn't order dessert? That's just silly. The chocolate mousse was served in a chilled martini glass and topped with almond biscotti cubes.
And check out Kanchan's tea pot! Did I mention that I like my dinner accessorized? The chocolate mousse had a very pronounced almond flavor - Kanchan thought that the combination of the almond cookies and the almond mousse was a bit much. I tend to agree. But to be honest, I was running out of taste buds at this point in our evening. You see, the linguine combined with the mousse is probably the most cream and butter I have ever consumed in one sitting in my whole life. Not kidding. The red wine did a fine job of cutting through the fat, but it did add to the aloofness : fat + wine = ... fill in the blank. I did not need the taste buds to appreciate the texture contrast between the mousse and the cookie - an absolute necessity in any creamy dessert, I think.
All in all, it was a great evening. The starters were fantastic, the entrees quite good, and the cocktails were excellent. I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant - its ambience, if you will - very open and modern yet inviting enough to linger for a comfortable three hour-long dinner. Wait, you mean people don't normally spend three hours at dinner?