Went to Bonfire in the Park Plaza Hotel last nite after a drink at the old Ritz bar, which looks exactly the same as it did before the renovations. Their cobalt cosmo was good (at $12 it better be). We really wanted to go to Via Matta but were too late in making plans so we ate at the Bonfire bar. I'd had a few apps there once but we got dinners. I think sticking with appetizers is the way to go cuz those tacos are really interesting and tasty. We split scallop ones and for $9, they could have thrown one more tiny one on the plate to make it an even four (they were about 4" long). They gave corn bread sticks on request that were good as was the mango margerita. But I didn't know what to order and went on the bartender's recommendation of the skirt steak (or flank steak) and it just didn't do it for me. Almost seemed like it was bbq cuz of the thick sweet sauce which wasn't advertised. Came with nothing except a few onions which were fine, so I ordered caramelized onion/potato hash which was basically large chunks of very overdone potato and wasn't good and not very hash-like. We mentioned it to someone who asked how our meal was (not the bartender, looked like a chef but we didn't see him cooking) but we weren't comped or anything. On the other hand, the pheasant special ($32) came with two sides and my friend really enjoyed it. I should have gone for the salmon which was a special too. It ended on a great note tho with Indian pudding cake w/ ginger ice cream and cranberry compote ($9). Bonfire's a pretty fun place, nice orangey colors and it's fun watching everyone working the various stations from the bar.
Went to East Coast Grill for only my 3rd time, was disappointed 2 years ago when our large party could barely hear each other and the tuna didn't live up to its rep. Ate at the bar and hada bowl of wonderful clam/corn chowder ($5.95). There's some sweet potato in there too and cornbread croutons. Very good. We split an order of cornbread and I didn't order smartly cuz I got clam/bacon hush puppies and at that point, I was cornmealed out. They were decent and had two kind of strange sauces, a shrimp butter and a honeyed chili sauce. I was stuffed and couldn't make a visit to Christina's. My friend got their chicken which seemed fine. He lives upstairs from them so he's a regular. The girl bartending didn't know how to make a caprinha but did pretty well from his intructions (seems like they'd be on top of the Brazilian drink scene). Chris S. was next to us hanging at the bar but we didn't approach him. Everyone seems to be in a good mood at that place.
Both these places can be very, very good.
On the other hand its possible to spend a hell of a lot of $$ for something thats just ok.
You kind of need a plan: either specials, ie. ECG's
'Hotter Than Hell nights'(twice a year) are a complete trip. with great food and everyone in a good mood (must be the endorphans) or just sitting in the volcano room feeling goofy could make up for a food snafu or 2.
We hit Bonfire during that new 'dine boston' thing this summer where they do a 3 course steak dinner for maybe $25- at that price you can make allowances for a simply good hanger steak. Having a friend or even a hound recommend a couple of good items when your trying a new high end place helps too.
re: Deius ex machinia...
Hotter than Hell isn't for me, I like spicy but I don't want to be in pain. And I just like to try a restaurant without asking everyone here for recs beforehand. As I said, we had very good luck at Bonfire before when we just had their tacos and a side of wonderful tempura green beans. I shouldn't have listened to the bartender and gone with the salmon instead.