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Jun 1, 2007 03:45 PM

An Austinite's trip to Boston

Dear Boston Chowhounds,

This is a revised post with a slightly shorter version of my rant about Clio. I think my rant was too ranty, so you'll just have to read the short version here and draw your own conclusions.

I'd like to thank you all for your great recommendations for my trip to Boston. I spent about 10 days in Boston and ate..and ate..and ate. I wish Boston was willing to take back the 10 pounds I gained by constantly eating. Any takers? I am only including the restaurants I really remember here (for better or worse), but we really enjoyed eating in your fine town.

The good:
--Neptune Oyster: We sat at the bar and got wonderful food and wine recommendations and great conversation from the excellent bartender. The food was excellent. We tried every oyster available and were impressed that Neptune had wild-caught oysters (from Martha's Vineyard). They were all fresh and delicious. We also had bacalao, a tasty mix of salt cod and potato. If I hadn't known the bartender was on the ball, there was no way I would have ordered this. It was excellent. The standout of the meal were the fried clams. Wow. They were so fresh and tasty and fried in a perfectly seasoned, light batter. I still have dreams about these!

--Toro: We were able to eat at the bar facing the windows, which was a great spot in this VERY crowded restaurant. We saw why it was crowded, though, as each dish was better than the last. We probably tried about 10 dishes and none disappointed. Standouts included the foie gras, the beef tounge, and the corn. Everything was excellently paired with sherries (we have a VERY limited sherry selection in my hometown, so it was fun to try several different types). The service was friendly and wonderful.

--Trattorria Il Panino: We ate here for lunch and had an excellent Caesar salad and a lovely pasta with homemade ragu sauce. It was a delicious, hearty sauce, and it was great!

--Street and Co Seafood: OK, this place is in Portland, but I had to include it on this post because it is only a 2 hour drive and I think it might be worth it. I had a portuguese-style stew with a delicious spicy tomato broth, shrimp, mussels, cod, and other delights. It is the other thing I still dream about from my trip. My boyfriend had the Sole Francaise, which was simple but wonderful--it melted in my mouth.

The Bad:
--Legal Seafoods: Oh my goodness, this place is just awful. I went here with some work colleagues (and thus had no choice over which restaurant to choose). Luckily, having read your chowhound reports, I was prepared, and I ate a huge snack before going. I ordered the oysters rocakfeller, which is one of my favorite appetizers. Unfortunately, their version included TINY oysters, bland cheese, and mushy frozen spinach. Yuck. I also tried a few of my friends' entrees, with the same results. The coconut crusted shrimp were the best thing I tried, but it would be a stretch to call them "good". On the plus side, they had White Star by the glass for a reasonable price.

--Lucia: (I am pretty sure that is the restaurant's name, but there is another one with a very similar name. This one is pretty far north in the North End and is on the right). Again, I went here for a work related dinner. Our waiter was sweet, but sadly clueless. I asked if they had prosecco and she just looked at me blankly and told me it was her first night. I ended up ordering the lasagna, which is a specialty of the house, and it came out lukewarm to cold. It was also bland and boring. I ate about 4 bites, dreaming of the wonderful pastries I would get at the bakery down the street. (PS: Boston Chowhounds -- when people ask for Boston specialties, be sure to point them to the Italian bakeries--they are truly wonderful and unique to the area!)

--Tamarind Bay: This place was recommended by several chowhounds for excellent Indian food. I was surprised to find with was not the case. First, we had the quail, which were fine, but nothing special. For entrees, we had a version of goat korma that we had to send back because the goat was ice cold inside. It seemed like we were just getting re-heated food (and clearly, food that was not reheated well). We traded that for a chicken dish that our waiter highly recommended. It was "OK", but not very good -- it just seemed to lack the complexity I expect with Indian food. We were shocked to see our bill was 80 bucks after the underwhelming experience.

--Clio: This was one of the most awful restaurant experiences I've ever had in my life, which was sad, because I was expecting it to be the best. Let me set this up for you by saying that we had already eaten at two of the "good" restaurants mentioned above and had decided that Boston was a dining mecca. We were 100% positive that this restaurant, so well reviewed, would be food nirvana. Sadly, we were quite mistaken.

The restaurant itself is beautiful, and was set off by a view of falling snow through the window (I can't believe you get snow in April!). The food was also beautifully presented on all our dishes. But, sadly, the taste of the food was not as beautiful. I had the asparagus with a two-hour-egg as an appetizer. First of all, this thing was a bear to eat: it was served on a plate which rose in the center (to hold the egg) and in the "well" contained asparagus that were incredibly thin--so thin, in fact, that piercing them with a fork was almost impossible to eat them. The asparagus were slightly overdone and were covered in a sauce that was WAY too salty. The two hour egg would have been wonderful, but it, again, was too salty. It was served with ginger paper and some sort of foam. I can't remember what my boyfriend had, but I do remember that it wasn't bad, but wasn't great either. The meal was already a disappointment.

The dinner portion of the meal was a terrific disaster, and was too bad to even talk about on here. I would like to say that Clio is horribly overrated, even without disasters. I also would like to say that I've told my disaster story to several people who work in the restaurant industry in Boston and they told me more -- of lobsters served half-frozen, of wagyu beef overcooked and salty, and all with a pretentious attitude.

I feel like I’m ending on such a negative note, so let me say that overall, the food we ate in Boston was great and we are excited to go back. There were so many places that we wanted to try (like B&G Oysters and L'Espalier) that we missed and can't wait to try.

We’d also like to say that Bostonians are some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. We can’t wait to see y’all again! Thanks again for your help!

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  1. Sorry, Catarata, my fault for pushing it. Sounds like you're indeed talking about Lucia, though you're probably also thinking about Lucca.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tatamagouche

      lol that's okay. I kind of was interested to see how long it would last. Are Lucia and Lucca on the same scale? Both bad? It's a shame but it seemed like many of the North End places were just tourist traps

      1. re: catarata

        No, Lucca's actually pretty good. Higher-end--in fact overpriced--but they do a lovely rigatoni with boar sauce.
        One does have to choose carefully in the North End. The tenacious misperception of many tourists is that you can just walk in anywhere--if only.

        1. re: tatamagouche

          Holy cow - I know you noticed this first, but our taste buds must be identical. If we go to Lucca, that's exactly the dish I always order.

          Catarata - thanks for reporting back on your trip. Clio is one of my favorite restaurants, and recently I had the tasting menu for my birthday and it was one of the best meals I've had, but wow, I'm so sorry for your experience (I read the original thread). You're a trooper.

        2. re: catarata

          Lucia does have a standard "red sauce" tourist menu, but it also offers a few Abruzzese dishes that imho are worth trying and perhaps hard to find elsewhere. Desserts there are honest and good.

      2. Oh, and I forgot to add that I had a great experience at 10 tables. I went with 5 of my colleagues on vegetarian tasting menu night. It was so much fun! I've never had a tasting menu where everyone gets something different, but that's how they operate -- for example, half of us got a fennel salad and the other half got a mixed greens salad with goat cheese on the salad course. I enjoyed the restaurant a lot, even though all of the courses were not right on. The wild mushroom risotto and the gnocchi were both fantastic.

        1. Fantastic reviews, thanks!

          Which Legal's did you go to? The different locations seem to vary in terms of the quality of food and service (though I would generally agree it is not a 'destination' spot for a hounder).

          I'm a fan of Tamarind Bay and sorry to hear that you did not have a good experience. Maybe I'm just jaded (having spent time in India) and find most of the Boston area Indian restaurants to be incredibly boring. Tamarind Bay is one place that stands out for its fairly unique menu and authentic take on the ingredients and preparation - of course assuming it has not gone downhill since my last visit!

          1. Thanks for the great report. I ate at Tamarind Bay recently; the daal makhani was just as good as before, but I noticed that the mysore chilli chicken had slipped dramatically; the sauce wasn't as deeply flavoured with curry leaves as it had been in the past.

            2 Replies
            1. re: limster

              Seems like reports have been pointing to a downhill trend for a long while now. Does anyone know if their chef left?

              1. re: tatamagouche

                I have no idea, but it seems that he wasn't there that night (which was Sunday, I think). The service was extremely slow and lackluster. It just seemed like no one cared about anything, period, which is always annoying. Showed in the food, that's for sure.

            2. The original comment has been removed