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Report: Meritage

c
C. Simon Jun 25, 2003 04:49 PM

Although you will not save any pennies by dining at Meritage ($100+ per person for meal, drinks, tax, and gratuity) you will do very well on the WOW-factor. Nearly all ten dishes we sampled at Meritage were excellent. Indeed, based on one visit, Meritage is near the top of a very short list of restaurants to take or send out-of-town visitors in search of a "four star" meal.

Meritage is a new restaurant in the Boston Harbor Hotel. As our waiter announced to us before our meal, the philosophy of the restaurant is to take the concept of the annual Wine Festival held at the Boston Harbor Hotel and extend it year-round.

Accordingly, the restaurant has two quirks. First, the menu is organized not by appetizer, entree, etc., but rather into six sections, each section reflecting different style of wine (e.g. Sparklers, Light Whites, Full-Bodied Whites, etc.). Second, all dishes are available in small ($14) or large ($28) portions. Our waiter told us that the restaurant strongly recommends that diners order small dishes so that they can sample many tastes, and because many of the dishes are intended to be small. This turned out to be good advice. Our waiter also recommended that each diner have four small dishes. In our opinion, that is too many. We were more than full after ten small dishes and dessert. Three per person should be plenty. Note: If one eats slowly, and somewhat lightly, it is possible to visit Meritage, to a certain extent, "on the cheap."

Although it is very difficult to choose preferences among dishes as expertly prepared as the ten dishes we had, I will try to list the dishes from our favorite to the least favorite:

1. Honey Brushed Cornish Game Hen over Ricotta Stuffed Cialsons and Roasted Leeks

Beautifully cooked hen, slightly sweet from the honey. The strong flavor of the leeks just stopped short of overpowering the rest of the dish.

2. Grilled Sea Scallops with Oregon Morels

I find morels and scallops to be a perfect pair, and this version was, indeed, perfect.

3. Yellow Tomato and Lime Ceviche of Blue Point Oysters with Wild Arugula

The Duxbury oysters could have been brinier for my taste, but I'm really stretching to find anything wrong with this wonderful morsel.

4. Soft Shell Crab with small tomatoes and large lima beans

Best soft shell crab I ever remember having. Period.

5. Black Pepper Seared Rare Yellow Fin Tuna with Zinfandel Butter

Again, I'm stretching to find anything wrong with the dish by observing that the tuna was not as rare as I like it to be, but it was unusually full of flavor for a fish that can often be bland.

6. Red Wine Braised Pork Cheeks over Spring Dug Parsnip and Parmesan Cheese Risotto

Delicious combination of flavors.

7. Slow Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast over Spring Vegetables and Burlat Cherry Sauce

Your classic duck with fruit dish, brought up to date.

8. Wood Grilled Summer Savory and Horseradish Rubbed Bob White Quail Over Green Chick Peas and Shredded Baby Artichokes

Worth picking up and sucking the bones for every last morsel of the tasty flesh.

9. Cumin and Cilantro Roasted Rack of Lamb, Fava Beans and Sardinian Cous Cous

Very mild lamb. But, darn good.

10. La Belle Foie Gras over Spring Braising Greens and Organic Rhubarb Pinot Compote

The evening's one disappointment. The bitter greens and rhubarb compote would have been delightful with an Alsatian sausage, or something similar. With the foie gras, however, the flavors jarred. Even the die-hard foie gras devotee at the table declared it the evening's least impressive dish. They need to fix this one.

Incidentally, the place was nearly empty. No trouble getting in. Helpful service. A beautiful, wood-floored space overlooking Rowes Wharf. Even wine prices were fairly reasonable. In short: a great place to splurge.



Link: http://www.meritagetherestaurant.com

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  1. j
    Joanie RE: C. Simon Jun 26, 2003 02:59 PM

    I've been curious about this place plus R. Nadeau gave it such a good review a week or so ago, this really makes me want to go. But when you say about the tomato/oyster dish: "this wonderful morsel", what size are you talking? Morsel sounds really tiny to me. Is it one of those two scallops for $14 kind of places? Ten small dishes is a lot of $$ just for food it seems.

    Link: http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/f...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Joanie
      c
      C. Simon RE: Joanie Jun 26, 2003 03:20 PM

      The oyster dish is just four oysters, which is well above-market price, but I suppose you pay for the preparation of the lime and tomato ceviche on top.

      Most portions are at least as big as your typical appetizer at a fancy place. Probably a little bigger, actually.

      Diners could get by on just two small dishes and splitting a dessert. Especially if they pig out on the wonderful bread. But, most diners will probably want three small dishes. That's $42 for food.

      Another decent option is the tasting menu. It's five courses, each paired with wine, for $85.

      1. re: C. Simon
        j
        Joanie RE: C. Simon Jun 26, 2003 03:49 PM

        Thanks. I guess since you described 10 dishes, I thought you needed a ton to fill up. Am I blind or did you not mention dessert? The $85 tasting sounds good too.

        1. re: Joanie
          c
          C. Simon RE: Joanie Jun 26, 2003 03:54 PM

          Three of us shared ten dishes.

          I neglcted to mention dessert. (Must be my lack of a real sweet tooth.) We had the dessert tasting for two ($17). It was quite good, but not memorable.

    2. d
      divinebella RE: C. Simon Apr 6, 2008 07:05 PM

      I had a good experience here. The food was prepared well, which I was impressed with. My filet mignon was perfectly tender, and the juice.. wow. The establishment takes great pride in their presentation as well. The view is certainly a factor when determining a date destination. This makes for a lovely date spot, overlooking the harbor. The bar is also rather popular during the after-work hours. See my experience with photos at http://divinebella.blogspot.com/searc...

      Meritage is a fine choice for Boston restaurants, and the wine list will not disappoint.

      1. i
        InspiredChef RE: C. Simon Aug 14, 2008 03:46 PM

        Went during Restaurant Week - Summer 2008.

        It took 15 minutes for us to be served water and be given bread. I blame how crowded the restaurant was due to Restaurant Week, but for a restaurant like Meritage, I do not believe this is an excuse for how slow service was moving.

        Once the bread was served, we received three types of bread: (1) a sweet, dark bread studded with raisins which was moist and flavorful; (2) a slice of a baguette dotted with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and rye which was dryer, but savory; and (3) a ciabatta roll which tasted great with the fresh whipped butter, accented with the Meritage "M," of course.The pan-fried soft shell crab was lightly breaded with a well-seasoned breading that only added to the delicious flavor of the crab. A few of the crab's legs were a bit over-fried leaving them a tad too dry. The crab was served with a corn, tomato, asparagus and champagne salsa that complemented the crab's texture nicely. The dish could have benefitted from some acidity -- the tomato in the salsa was not enough -- but overall, the crab was well-seasoned and the salsa provided a nice contrast. The dish was nicely presented, the whole crab served above the corn mixture with a dollop of the champagne salsa on the corner of the plate.The goat cheese and roasted tomato filled crispy organic pork tenderloin was served alongside some steamed turnip greens. The presentation was lovely, the pork was rolled around the filling, served just next to the turnip greens. The pork was well cooked and melded nicely with the strong goat cheese flavor with hints of roasted tomato. The turnip greens were quite bitter, at times almost so bitter that the goat cheese seemed more sweet than pungent.

        Entrees
        The red snapper was pan-seared and served along with squash blossoms and snap peas with a saffron butter sauce. The fish was well cooked -- golden on the outside, moist, white and flaky on the inside -- and obviously quite fresh. The fish did lack seasoning, however. Eaten alone, it was unclear whether it was even seasoned with salt. The only flavor the fish had was the flavor of the red snapper itself. The vegetables were cooked just until crisp-tender and sliced diagonally and in smaller cubes to add to the presentation. The saffron butter sauce was disappointing, tasting more like thickened, salted butter than saffron. The dish had beautiful presentation, once again, but flavor was lacking. It was light and fresh, but tasted like a meal cooked in someone's home more than a meal coming from Meritage. Had the butter exuded more saffron flavor, perhaps that would have been the dish's saving grace.
        The black currant glazed duck was served in 5 sections in a "pinwheel" shape over fennel and leek handmade ravioli. The duck's jus was the savory sauce on the ravioli. The duck was properly cooked -- the skin was crispy, the meat cooked to about medium well, the fat between the meat and the skin cooked just enough to add moisture to the meat. The ravioli was well made, the filling of leeks and fennel, a nice contrast to the duck's flavor. One disappointment with the dish -- the black currant glaze was not as prominent as my dining partner and I would have liked. We were expecting sweeter duck and more savory ravioli, but the black currant flavor was much more subdued and did not create the contrast of flavors we were hoping for.

        Dessert
        The red fruit tasting plate consisted of the following: (1) a sweet cherry and vanilla cream tart; (2) a frozen raspberry tower; and (3) a buttermilk strawberry rhubarb shortcake. The shortcake, two triangles of buttermilk biscuit filled with a mixture of chopped strawberries and rhubarb was the least favorite among my dining partner and I. The biscuit was dry and tasted more like a scone than a biscuit. The filling was extremely tart and there was not enough sweetness to the biscuit to counteract it. Although rhubarb is known to be tart, this was too tart to be enjoyable. The frozen raspberry tower was a triangle tower of raspberry "mouse" served upon a thin, delicate and airy circle of white cake. The "mousse" was fruity, refreshing and a pleasure to eat. The sweet cherry and vanilla cream tart was delicious. The tart shell was sweet and crisp, filled with a vanilla creme and sweet, tender, sliced cherries -- this dessert ranked as the favorite from the red fruit tasting plate.The chocolate tasting plate consisted of (1) a chocolate espresso pot de creme which received mixed reviews (delicious v. too rich); (2) two milk chocolate bon bons filled with chocolate ice cream; and (3) a white chocolate cheese tart.
        ~InspiredChef
        Went during Restaurant Week - Summer 2008.

        It took 15 minutes for us to be served water and be given bread. I blame how crowded the restaurant was due to Restaurant Week, but for a restaurant like Meritage, I do not believe this is an excuse for how slow service was moving.

        Once the bread was served, we received three types of bread: (1) a sweet, dark bread studded with raisins which was moist and flavorful; (2) a slice of a baguette dotted with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and rye which was dryer, but savory; and (3) a ciabatta roll which tasted great with the fresh whipped butter, accented with the Meritage "M," of course.The pan-fried soft shell crab was lightly breaded with a well-seasoned breading that only added to the delicious flavor of the crab. A few of the crab's legs were a bit over-fried leaving them a tad too dry. The crab was served with a corn, tomato, asparagus and champagne salsa that complemented the crab's texture nicely. The dish could have benefitted from some acidity -- the tomato in the salsa was not enough -- but overall, the crab was well-seasoned and the salsa provided a nice contrast. The dish was nicely presented, the whole crab served above the corn mixture with a dollop of the champagne salsa on the corner of the plate.The goat cheese and roasted tomato filled crispy organic pork tenderloin was served alongside some steamed turnip greens. The presentation was lovely, the pork was rolled around the filling, served just next to the turnip greens. The pork was well cooked and melded nicely with the strong goat cheese flavor with hints of roasted tomato. The turnip greens were quite bitter, at times almost so bitter that the goat cheese seemed more sweet than pungent.

        Entrees
        The red snapper was pan-seared and served along with squash blossoms and snap peas with a saffron butter sauce. The fish was well cooked -- golden on the outside, moist, white and flaky on the inside -- and obviously quite fresh. The fish did lack seasoning, however. Eaten alone, it was unclear whether it was even seasoned with salt. The only flavor the fish had was the flavor of the red snapper itself. The vegetables were cooked just until crisp-tender and sliced diagonally and in smaller cubes to add to the presentation. The saffron butter sauce was disappointing, tasting more like thickened, salted butter than saffron. The dish had beautiful presentation, once again, but flavor was lacking. It was light and fresh, but tasted like a meal cooked in someone's home more than a meal coming from Meritage. Had the butter exuded more saffron flavor, perhaps that would have been the dish's saving grace.
        The black currant glazed duck was served in 5 sections in a "pinwheel" shape over fennel and leek handmade ravioli. The duck's jus was the savory sauce on the ravioli. The duck was properly cooked -- the skin was crispy, the meat cooked to about medium well, the fat between the meat and the skin cooked just enough to add moisture to the meat. The ravioli was well made, the filling of leeks and fennel, a nice contrast to the duck's flavor. One disappointment with the dish -- the black currant glaze was not as prominent as my dining partner and I would have liked. We were expecting sweeter duck and more savory ravioli, but the black currant flavor was much more subdued and did not create the contrast of flavors we were hoping for.

        Dessert
        The red fruit tasting plate consisted of the following: (1) a sweet cherry and vanilla cream tart; (2) a frozen raspberry tower; and (3) a buttermilk strawberry rhubarb shortcake. The shortcake, two triangles of buttermilk biscuit filled with a mixture of chopped strawberries and rhubarb was the least favorite among my dining partner and I. The biscuit was dry and tasted more like a scone than a biscuit. The filling was extremely tart and there was not enough sweetness to the biscuit to counteract it. Although rhubarb is known to be tart, this was too tart to be enjoyable. The frozen raspberry tower was a triangle tower of raspberry "mouse" served upon a thin, delicate and airy circle of white cake. The "mousse" was fruity, refreshing and a pleasure to eat. The sweet cherry and vanilla cream tart was delicious. The tart shell was sweet and crisp, filled with a vanilla creme and sweet, tender, sliced cherries -- this dessert ranked as the favorite from the red fruit tasting plate.The chocolate tasting plate consisted of (1) a chocolate espresso pot de creme which received mixed reviews (delicious v. too rich); (2) two milk chocolate bon bons filled with chocolate ice cream; and (3) a white chocolate cheese tart.
        ~InspiredChef
        http://beantownsbites.wordpress.com/

        1. v
          vealchops RE: C. Simon Oct 15, 2008 07:56 AM

          Three of us ate there last night. One drink ($13.50), one bottle of Amarone wine ($138), three "small" plates each ($16 each plate), three coffees totaled $330 plus $70 tip. The waiter was French and very professional. Impeccable service. The food was wonderful and the atmostphere very nice. The place was about 2/3 empty. This is our third visit, in about 3 years. We go back for very special occasions. I like the choices between a large plate and a small plate of everything on the menu.

          2 Replies
          1. re: vealchops
            m
            Mervyn Cruddy RE: vealchops Oct 16, 2008 05:48 AM

            We have been to Meritage once and really enjoyed the cuisine, views and professionalism. It's not a place that gets a lot of attention...I think it's a hidden jewel in Boston proper but the $$$$ is in the No. 9 and L'Espalier price point...perhaps that's the main reason it's 2/3 empty. We would like to go again for a special occasion and when we can afford it .

            1. re: Mervyn Cruddy
              l
              Lucymax RE: Mervyn Cruddy Oct 16, 2008 10:44 AM

              My husband and I finally tried this place this summer. While the food was quite good and the service was wonderful, we both felt the room was kind of cold and awkward. I am not in a hurry to go back.

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