Thursday, August 23, 2012

Climbing All the Way Upstairs (on the Square)

The second stop on my Restaurant Week journey was Upstairs on the Square (, located right in Harvard Square.  Susan Regis, who has been named the "Best Chef in Boston" twice by the Improper Bostonian and recognized as "America's Best Chef - Northeast" by the James Beard Foundation in 1998, serves as the Executive Chef.  

The restaurant is divided into two separate dining rooms:  the Soirée Room and the Monday Club Bar, with the former being the slightly fancier of the two.  Both have a very whimsical feel as if after climbing that mountain of stairs, you've somehow arrived in Wonderland.  

Both dining rooms offer their own Restaurant Week Menu, although the Soirée Room costs a little more at $43.12 for the three courses.  We decided to go with this option.  

We were already starving by the time our reservation arrived, so were happy when they brought the bread around.  They also kick started our palates with a beautiful Amuse Bouche (a tiny bite of food meant to literally "amuse the mouth") of thinly sliced zucchini topped with smoked salmon and jalapeños.  It was the perfect little bite to get me excited for the meal.  

For my first course, I opted for the Corn Velouté, which is a kind of sauce/soup.  Right in the middle was an irresistible scallop, perfectly seared and seasoned.  I started out with the velouté, which was creamy and sweet and smooth.  Then I took a bite of the scallop with the soup.  Mouth fireworks!  At the end, my sister and I both lamented that it wasn't socially acceptable to lick the bowls clean.  

A gorgeous bowl of Corn Velouté surrounding a Diver Scallop

Unfortunately, the only disappointment of the night happened in between the first and second courses, at which point we had to wait for what seemed like an eternity to get our entrees.  Luckily, I had some excellent company, so the only part of me that was truly upset was my stomach.  

When my Canard au Cerises (duck) finally reached me it was a little bit on the chilly side, but it was pretty tasty looking, so I didn't let it damper the experience too much.  It was served two ways: a seared breast and confit leg, both over a cherry glaze and some greens.  

Canard au Cerises

The breast was tender, but the skin could definitely have had a little bit more crunch.  The leg, on the other hand, was super crispy.  The cherry sweetened thing up nicely.

Up to this point, my meals had achieved the perfect combination of salty and sweet, but now it was time to give in wholeheartedly to the sugary side of things.  And what better way to finish a (relatively) classic French dinner than some Chocolate Mousse?

The mousse was so creamy and rich it came close to being pudding, but its airy weightlessness kept it firmly in mousse territory.  A sweet cherry sauce lined the glass in which the mousse was served, adding depth to its already wonderful chocolately goodness.  For the second time that night, we restrained ourselves from lapping the remainders up with our tongues.  I did my best with a spoon:

I left feeling perfectly contented, and of course, full.  I also had a pressing urge to use the restroom, as the servers never left my water glass less than half full.  If only my duck had come out hot, this dinner would have come close to my idea of perfect.  I'm sure I'll be giving them another chance to get it right soon enough though.  

Are you enjoying any restaurants this week?  Let me know where you're eating and what you think, and maybe I'll stop in too!  If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments, feel free to email me at!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Expanding my Diameter at Radius

I know it's been a while, but I'm back!  I recently switched positions at my company, so I will no longer be able to "eat America."  Instead, I'll continue profiling the wonderful meals I enjoy right here in Boston.  And what better time to pick up than Summer Restaurant Week!

I started off at Radius (, a swanky restaurant downtown.

The dimly lit, circular dining room has cream colored walls, which are offset with primarily red decor.  It has a very modern, though not impersonal, ambiance.

A wide, winding marble staircase leads to their impressive wine cellar and (less impressive) restrooms.  Hundreds of bottles of wines can be seen through an open, foot-thick vault.  A card-key operated glass door protects them, so I'm assuming the vault is just for show.  Who knows though?  They did have some REALLY expensive wines on that list ($4500 bottle anyone?).

Their Restaurant Week Menu was pretty limited, only offering two or three dishes as options for each of the three courses for the $33.12 inclusive price.  They did offer more choices, but these came with (often hefty) supplemental charges.

For the first course, my boyfriend and I split the Red Oak Leaf Salad and an order of Foie Gras.  The Foie Gras had a $16 supplemental charge, but we couldn't pass it up.  It was served with several pieces of brioche, which made for a super-rich combo.  For me, rich is always a good thing.  I loved every bite, but for my heart's sake, I was happy that I was only having half an order.

The salad was pleasant, though nothing special.  It was supposed to have feta, "confit cherry tomatoes," and be dressed with a cucumber vinaigrette, but it looked like plain greens and tomatoes to me.  Perhaps the subtlety escaped me.  It did make for a refreshing follow-up to the foie gras though.

For my second course, I went with the Roasted Skate Wing.  For anyone that doesn't know (I didn't), a skate is like a sting ray.  I'm going to skip the biology lesson, but if you are really that interested in the differences, you can get more information here.

It was roasted in brown butter, and served with dandelion greens, peas, and preserved orange.  I was a little wary, considering I had never eaten skate wing before, but I figured Radius was probably a safe a place as any to try something new.  It was great!  It did not have an overwhelmingly "fishy" flavor.  When eating all the components together, everything was well balanced.  However, if I did get too many dandelion greens in one bite, it got bitter.  I also wasn't a huge fan of the preserved orange.  I didn't mind it at first, but as the meal progressed, it was all I could taste.  I ended up fishing (no pun intended) out the remaining orange pieces to avoid overpowering the nice taste of the roasted skate.

The dessert was my favorite part of the meal.  I had the Lemon Mousse, which was served in a little tartlet along with some blackberry sorbet and some black olive caramel (it tasted as interesting as it sounds!).  The mousse was light, and along with the sorbet, very refreshing.  The black olive flavor was very present in the caramel, adding a nice earthiness to the dish, but it was never overpowering.  I could taste it when I would first put a bite in my mouth, but it would fade as all the other bright flavors came rushing in.

The service was great, and all in all, I had a wonderful meal.  My waistline is the only thing that was disappointed.  For now though, Radius will remain a Restaurant Week restaurant for me, as it's just slightly outside of my price range with its regularly priced $38 entrees.

Are you enjoying any restaurants this week?  Let me know where you're eating and what you think, and maybe I'll stop in too!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Boston Restaurant Week: Lineage

Sorry for the hiatus, but what a better time to pick up the reviews than Boston Restaurant Week! A few nights ago I started the week out strong (but slightly salty!) at Lineage in Brookline.

It is a small restaurant in Coolidge Corner. The interior has a high end, yet rustic feel, with white tableclothed tables set on wooden floors and a wood burning stove behind the bar.

We started out with some wine (I loved my glass of 24 Knots Pinot Noir, 2009), and some sea salt topped rolls, which were freshly plucked from the stove behind the bar. The butter was served in a small white cube at a perfect temperature, so it could be easily spread on the soft bread.

For my appetizer, I got a mushroom and parsnip soup topped with brioche croutons. The soup was super tasty, and I can happily say that I could distinguish the flavor of the mushrooms in the puree. The croutons were quite overpowering, and when taken with a spoonful of soup, were all you could taste: like pieces of buttered popcorn. I found it off putting, but I ate it all anyway.

I also tried their salad special. It was delicately dressed, with only a few accompaniments: candied almonds and pickled rhubarb. While the rhubarb was incredibly sour, it complemented the almonds and lightly dressed greens well.

For my entree I got the ricotta gnocchi served with green beans. They were light and fluffy, but were pretty boring as far as flavors go. The star of the show was definitely the duck confit. It literally fell off the bone. The meat was so flavorful, but I was disappointed with its counterparts: cannelloni beans over a shallot puree. The beans were hard and flavorless, as was the puree, and there was very little color in either this dish or the gnocchi.

As much as I loved the duck at the start, the tender meat's flavor became increasingly salty with every bite. I wanted to love it, but the salt took over. I was relieved I had the gnocchi dish to calm things down in between bites.

For dessert, we finished off with chocolate mousse, topped with almonds and served with a biscuit. It was rich, and the velvety chocolate paired well with my pinot. I was stuffed from the rest of my meal, but I was able to get about half of the little ramekin down with pleasure.

It wasn't a flawless meal, but it certainly had its merits. I would definitely get the soup again, and I'd be happy to give the duck a second chance if it found some new companions and went on a low sodium diet. There was plenty left on the menu that I'd like to try, so I'm sure I'll be back.