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Boston's Best

I'm coming up from DC. I have one night in Boston. I expect to have a long hard day, after which I want to wander over to the bar (or a small table) at one of Boston's finest restaurants for dinner and wine by myself. Price is no object, nor is cuisine, but I'm looking for a place that would be the one you would pick if you only had one night and could go anywhere you want. I'd kind of like to stay around Beacon Hill/Downtown but could be convinced to go further if it works out that I have time.

Here are some I'm considering, but steer me another way if that's what you think --- No.9 Park, Clio, Locke-Ober, Craigie Street Bistro. I've been to Hammersley's already.

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  1. Clio is a great choice. Food is superb. If you like sashimi, go to Uni downstairs first for a few treats before you come back to the bar to dine @ Clio. Both restaurants are connected. Clio is easily one of the best fine dining restaurants in the city. Very comfortable eating at the bar without the stiffness of Hammersley's.

    #9 is another very good call. Food and bar service is exceptional. Ryan and John on the bar can usually counter the arrogance that can be rampant there.

    Mistral is another very good bar dining option. Much bigger room than Clio or #9 and more of a bar scene if that's a consideration.

    Locke Ober would only be a good option if you are looking for a very quiet night at the bar. If it's early in the week you might be the only person dining at the bar and the only people you see would be having a quick drink before or after dinner. Not as diner friendly as the 3 above. Good luck.

    1. I'd pick No. 9 Park or Uni, but also consider Radius downtown along with Mistral, add the bar at Chez Henri vs. Craigie St. (the bar is small as is the whole place) if you're headed to Cambridge...

      1. You've gotten some great recommendations here. My absolute first choice for dinner in Boston would actually be L'Espalier, but you'll be hard pressed to go wrong at any of the above.

        Two other names to toss in the mix are Aujourd'hui (at the Four Seasons hotel) and Icarus in the South End. None of the three have bars, though, if memory serves, but the food is excellent at all three.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bachslunch

          L'Espalier would have to my #1 choice, as well,
          given the OP's ultimatum of one meal, one night.

          1. re: bachslunch

            Icarus has a bar that seats about 8 and Aujourd'hui has that bar area outside the main dining room now. Not sure if they serve a full menu there tho.

          2. I have to agree that No 9 Park would be my pick, I dine alone a great deal and my number one pet peeve is when the host says, "Just one?" I am not Just anything, nor do I like the sentiment implied. No 9 Park never makes me feel that way.

            1 Reply
            1. re: trotliner

              That's funny, I watched Steve Martin in "The lonely Guy" this weekend. When he entered a restaurant and told the Maitre d' that he was alone they shined a spotlight on him and everyone in the restaurant stopped talking and stared at him as they led him to his table. Funny scene. I agree that #9 never makes you feel that way, in fact, they always make you feel very comfortable dining at the bar alone. I feel the same about Mistral and Clio.

            2. If you're leaning towards sushi (which I often do when I'm dining alone), I'd pick Uni or O Ya for omakase. O Ya (leather district) is a newcomer to Boston, but has been receiving rave reviews. Uni(Backbay/Kenmore) is a small sushi bar in the restaurant Clio.

              1. I'd go with No. 9 or Mistral. I think I would feel a little lonely at L'Espalier. I've only been a couple of times and recall that there were many couples celebrating milestones.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kittychow

                  Totally agree. Unless you are looking for very formal and QUIET dining, avoid L'Espalier.

                2. Hi

                  Mistral gets my vote if you are dining alone. They have really great food and very hot bar scene too. It is always a good place to meet and talk with interesting people and their bartenders are very professional too.

                  1. JR- Could you please report back on where you ended up and how everything was?? Thank you.

                    1. Thanks to all for your great suggestions. Mostly for logistical reasons, and because it's been on my list the longest, I went to No. 9 Park. I was not disappointed. I sat at the bar and Ryan seriously took care of me. I put myself in his hands and he anticipated my every need. I started with their signature cocktail the Palmyra--vodka, mint infused simple syrup and lime juice --like a light, strained Mojito--perfect for this unseasonably warm 70 degree day. From there I ordered Chestnut Bisque with Macomber turnip, confit bacon, and black truffle.

                      With that Ryan recommended a Cote de Jura, a very interesting white wine with notes of sherry. Throughout the meal he found wines for me by the glass that were on the tasting menu or otherwise weren't listed and his pairings were perfect. Poured at the table, the soup was lighter than one might expect, and the bacon and turnip added texture and salt to the dish.

                      I had trouble deciding what my entree should be so Ryan solved that too. He brought me a tapas size taste of the Truffled Gnocchi with Maine lobster, fresh peas, and mushrooms. Wonderful. The gnocchi was perfect, melt in your mouth pasta and every taste was rich with flavor.

                      For my main course I had the Venison Loin en Croute with heirloom apples, cardamom, shallot chutney. The venison was cooked perfectly rare with just the right amount of salt. I pictured a dish something like a beef wellington, but rather than wrapped in pasty, the venison was encased in a feathrey birds nest-like crust that detracted not at all from the meat. The apples and chutney and cardamon added sweetness and texture that nicely balanced the plate. Presentation on all of these dishes was superb. I enjoyed the venison with a wonderful glass of 2004 Martray Chorey-les-Beaune.

                      My final course was the Citrus Ricotta Custard with Meyer lemon glace, and ras el hanout. A fine finish, the lemon glace paired nicely with the small ricotta custard which was reminiscent of a silky cheesecake without the weight. That went down with a glass of Pieropan Reccioto Soave "Le Columba," an Italian dessert with with great color and a lot of blood orange citrus to balance the sweetness.

                      I finished with an espresso with a twist.

                      Overall observations -- this is masterful cooking. I've had more inventive cuisine, but everything I tasted at No. 9 was delicious, interesting, and extremely well-executed. The bar/cafe is a great spot to dine solo or with a friend for full dinner or a light bite. Both the cafe menu and the main menu are served in the bar and you can mix and match, as I did. Finally, the knowledge and charm of the bartender and his willingness to bring out tastes of food and different wines made the evening. Highly recommended.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: JRinDC

                        Nicely detailed review! I had that soup recently, also thought it pretty fine. The skill and dedication of that barstaff is about as good as it gets in the city.

                        1. re: JRinDC

                          ditto the great review, everything sounds like it was delicious. I have heard and read (recently in the dig) wonderful things about the cocktails at no. 9 park - that's pretty much all I can afford there

                          1. re: JRinDC

                            Thanks for the nice update. No 9 Park is my favorite restaurant in the city, and we always eat at the bar. One of two places in Boston I no longer choose my own cocktails (the other is Eastern Standard), but have Courtney, John, or Ryan 'surprise' me with something unique.

                            I had the chestnut bisque with a glass of Cote de Jura the last time we were there. Wonderful combination.

                          2. Thanks for posting a follow-up. I'm tempted to head over this evening for the venison.

                            No. 9 is a fave of mine. It's the kind of place I always hope to fine when I'm traveling on the company dime but usually fail to find.

                            1. Wow, that sounds like nirvana. You must have slept like a baby that night.

                              1. JR- Thank you very much for the time, effort, energy and detail in your follow-up. You've inspired me to try a few new things at #9. The staff at #9 is great. It sounds like you engaged Ryan from the get-go and the rest was history. In my opinion you set the tone for the evening with your initial greeting with your server. I'll bet the night was a lot of fun for Ryan also. Thanks again.