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This is the FINALE countdown

Four more days and the Finale Coolidge Corner opens.

This will be the biggest Finale yet with a surprise room upstairs.

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  1. Meh. I think Finale's desserts look a lot better than they eat (if you'll forgive the Campbell Soup solecism).

    2 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      For sure, although the idea is really great. I wonder how it will fare in Coolidge Corner, because I don't see that as a huge late-night area.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Right on, Slim. Reminds me of my first and only time at Finale a few years back. A friend and I were taken to the Harvard Sq. branch by other friends who love the place. My (poor) grad student friend and I looked at the menu, gulped/gasped/got very angry and we both ordered watered down coffee drinks (I am still trying to figure out what happened to the alcohol...evaporated in the stratosphere?). We had tastes of the others' desserts. I was stunned at how low in quality and taste they were. Chinatown wasn't the best, but it was good by Brookline standards. Too bad it's being replaced by Finale.

      2. Finale is so lame. Pretty, but flavorless pastries. Blech.

        1. Let's not forget overpriced!

          1. They really miss the mark at Finale. The concept of dessert is a course that is indulgent and somewhat sinful. The decor of Finale does nothing to inject sex and secrecy into what could be a very fun and sensual place. Instead, it feels more like a badly lit Cheesecake Factory...no fun, no romance.

            It has also been my experience that the staff is a little too interested in giving you a point by point rundown of the restaurant and offerings. On my last visit, after informing the waiter that I had, in fact been there before, he still bounded right into a description of Finale and an itemized list of the menu rather than leaving me and my pleasant company to enjoy (such as we could).

            I have made more than one visit (three to be exact) because I enjoy the IDEA of a space dedicated to dessert. Here's to hoping someone down the line can do a better job.

            PS - Though the offerings just aren't good enough for a place dedicated to dessert, the drink selection is very nice.

            1. Sadly, I'm in agreement with most of what's been written. We were at the Park Plaza location recently and we all thought the same...not really flavorful and way way overpriced. I'm not willing to bet that the new location will stick around long. They really need to concentrate on flavor rather than artwork.

              1. I think the best "surprise" would be to have good food & live up to its promise. So disappointing, with minimal changes we could all be on this board singing its praises. But right now, ick.

                1. Ditto on the "what flavor". Stop by the renovated Modern Pastry in the North End instead. Some of their new desserts are as pretty as the Finale stuff but they actually taste *good* ;-)

                  1. Unusual to find near unanimity in a thread, but alas I agree as well. The cakes simply don't taste as good as they look. Hopefully the new location will bring desserts as good as Shaw's.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: aadesmd

                      formerly pastrytroll - but I dropped the troll part at last!
                      I don't see how the desserts can be less mediocre than at any other Finale location, since all the 'pastries' come from the same production facility! More than ditto on shiny appearance, no taste.

                    2. Terrible place. I had an awful experience in the Finale by the Park Plaza. I tried to block it out, but it does involve a dolt of a waiter, severe mess up of an order, and a small and mediocre dessert--self conscious presentation and no flavour. Definately a place to miss. If the desserts miraculously became brilliant some day, I'd still never go back. So disappointed. It had gotten written up in a travel book and I went with high hopes. Bad bad bad. Beware Chowhounds! Beware!

                      1. One need only look in the back of the house of any finale. Everything is made in Malden, en masse and shipped to each location. All the cakes and pastries are stored in a huge freezer. Nothing wrong with a little freezing if need be, but I think that this is excessive. As for the sit down desserts, you can use the best of ingredients and still have a so-so end product. When you use valrhona chocolate at $6.00 a lb you end up using less in each recipe. The flavor of the chocolate can only go so far.


                        1. Okay, some more piling on.

                          Finale arguably uses fine ingredients, but it's not just what you use; it's how you use it. The ringing, repeated criticism of Finale -- count me firmly among the chorus -- is that their desserts look pretty but don't deliver the flavor payload.

                          I don't balk at its expense: I'm one of those people who regularly shells out big bucks for sweets. I fully appreciate the costly labor that goes into elaborate desserts -- I'm married to a gifted amateur pastry chef, and I've watched firsthand the two-day labors of love. But without furrowing my brow, I can think of a dozen bakers and restaurant pastry chefs that kick Finale to the curb.

                          I wish Finale were better: it's a great concept. But I deem it the epitome of style over substance: every dessert I've had there is gorgeous to look at, and dull on the palate. It's not enough to be a feast for the eyes.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Thank you, MC Slim JB, for one of the best written and best reasoned posts on Chowhound. That said, I do think that many of the posts in this thread have been hyperbolic in their criticism of Finale. Finale's desserts are not THAT bad. But they're certainly not as good as they could or should be. I also think that the price issue is somewhat of a red herring: the desserts would not be any better at a lower price point; and many of us would happily pay Finale's high prices if their product matched the expectations set be the prices and beautiful appearance of the desserts.

                            I think MC Slim JB summed up best why many of us are so down on Finale: it's a great concept; we all just wish the execution were better.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I like Finale, but I also agree that their desserts look better than they taste, although they still taste good! Similarly, their room (at least in Harvard Square) is pleasant, but it's not particularly warm or intimate. I think it's a great concept, and while I have the utmost respect for MBA students, I think that there's definitely something a little off about Finale --- look at the language used in their job postings, for example: http://www.finaledesserts.com/company...

                              They almost seem like a big company . . . without being really big. ;) I think they're good, but wonder whether they aren't great because the people who can make decisions and the people who know what decisions to make are too far apart in their hierarchy.

                              One example --- last time I was at the Harvard Square location it was at an unusual time (maybe 3:30 PM?) and they had counter service only; no plated desserts. Okay, that's fine, the cakes in the cabinet are cute too and we were invited to take our plates and sit down in the dining room. But we were given plastic forks and knifes, paper napkins, and a totally barren table. They couldn't at least hand us metal flatware? They also found it difficult to furish us with a glass of water, although that eventually got sorted.

                              All that said, the one dessert there that I do think tastes as good as it looks as the "Just Peachy" which is distinguished by dollop of pesto next to the peach sorbet and almond short bread. This is the kind of innovative, bold pairing that reminds of me places like Room 4 Dessert in New York, but is otherwise lacking in Finale. Then again, last time I was there a waiter at Finale mentioned how most people who order the "Just Peachy" request that the pesto be removed or return the plate not having touched it. Oh well . . .

                              1. re: lipoff

                                I hadn't read the restaurant's website until just now. Its "Our Heritage" page says that Finale was conceived by three Harvard B-School students with no prior culinary or restaurant background. One proceeded to work at a "startup" Mexican restaurant, another at The Cheesecake Factory, where they purportedly gained "priceless insights into the restaurant business".

                                This explains a lot to me. If I were Harvard, I might consider recalling their degrees solely on the basis of their coining the term "desserterie".

                            2. I discovered that some- not sure if all, of Finale's sorbet, is made with milk or cream. Being allergic to dairy, this fact really pisses me off. Sorbet is SUPPOSED to be non-dairy!

                              1. I agree with these criticisms. Last time we were there, the tab for 4 people came to about $70--for dessert! Given the negative reviews this place so consistently gets, how does it manage to attract new customers and stay in business?

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: rufustfi

                                  "Tourists" is the first answer that comes to mind... Both the Copley and Harvard locations certainly can't be beat in terms of accessibility to Boston visitors.

                                  I'll admit that I enjoyed the chocolate plate when my bf and I first went several years ago, though the actual name of the dish escapes me right now. Of course, it's kind of hard to go wrong when there's that much chocolate on one plate, and the port we had might have made the whole place look a lot nicer. We dropped in for a little after-dinner treat several months ago, and I was surprised at how run down it looked! The upholstery was either worn thin or ripped completely, and there were stains all over the carpet and walls. The ambiance was completely unappetizing, and the desserts weren't much better.

                                  1. re: rufustfi

                                    To the extent it's successful, it's because it's a good concept with ok execution. Yes, we'd all like the execution to be better, but I guess what they're doing is good enough to attract a decent crowd. They also have essentially no competition for what they are doing.

                                    1. re: Blumie

                                      They have plenty of competition, in my book. I routinely visit restaurants with good pastry chefs simply to have dessert and coffee and digestivi. Union and Caffe Umbra are two examples of South End places that get plenty of our business this way. There are many caffes and bakeries that also serve this purpose. Give me a pastry and a coffee from Athan's over Finale any day.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        I agree completely with you. I guess I meant they have to competition in a narrower sense of a high end specialty dessert cafe. I'm also speculating that a lot of people don't think of going to a full service restaurant just for dessert, and prefer the atmosphere and service of Finale over a coffee shop.

                                        I agree there are much better alternatives. I'm just trying to speculate as to the success of Finale.

                                        Of course we all know there are lots of places service mediocre food that are successful.

                                        1. re: Blumie

                                          If you're in Harvard square, then another dessert option is to sit at the bar at Sandrines, and have one of Lee Napoli's creations as you watch her put together tartes and desserts for others. Fun And tasty.

                                  2. Has it gotten worse, do you think? I went a few years ago, and thought it was quite good, flavorful, kind of fun. I've been twice this year, and agree with all that's been said here - overpriced, boring, sedate, quite flavor-less.

                                    1. Slim;

                                      Agree with you completely. The Modern is not that far of a walk, and the desserts at Davio's may not be as stunning in appearence, but soars above Finale in taste.

                                      1. BTW, if in Brookline, definitely go for the desserts at Dok Bua. A respectable selection of Thai desserts.