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Report: Craigie Street Bistrot (long)

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Treated SO to her last meal in Boston (after 8 years of living in this city) with the 6-course chef's whim at Craigie Street on Wednesday night. CSB is where we had one of our first truly great palate-opening meals, so it seemed appropriate to bring everything back around full circle. We sat down around 9:30 and by the time we left at midnight, we'd reconfirmed why CSB is still serving the most interesting and captivating food in the greater Boston area.

The first course quickly set the tone for the evening. Zucchini and squid julienned so finely as to be transformed into noodles (squid pasta!), spun around one another to form an airy little oval, on a base of black squid ink sauce, and topped with a salty roe. The truly outstanding thing about this and every other course is the kitchen's ability to do two things: 1) coax mouth-filling flavor out of the smallest or slightest components of each dish - the squid, zucchini and roe were all clearly distinct and 2) capture the simple, unadulterated essence of ingredients - I don't think I've had squid that was so simple and so inherently ... squiddy. If you've seen Ratatouille, then you'll remember the scene where a bite of the title dish causes an intense and visceral flashback. I had that same sensation.

Phew. Moving on: next came tempura rock shrimp with salsa verde foam and small flower buds. Simple but outstanding. Again, each component contributes something coherent and distinct. It's a delight to experience the shifting nature of each bite as your taste buds find some sliver of flower or herb that is almost remarkably and unbelievably flavorful.

Next was risotto with mushrooms and small fried cubes of pork and pork fat (I think). Intensely savory and rich and truly delicious.

I had my first inkling of this kitchen's gift with ingredients when I had an egg on my first visit to CSB a few years ago, so we were delighted to see an egg-based dish arrive next. A delicately poached egg sat atop herbed potatoes in the manner of home fries with a sausage-based sauce. Server described this as "just egg and potatoes with sausage." Very satisfying dish.

Course five (and main) was coulotte steak with a disc of white marrow and snails. I can't recall the identity of the green sauce that accompanied it (but I liked it). Steak was surprisingly (and wonderfully) gamey in flavor. Once more, every little sliver of herb or vegetable burst with flavor.

Desserts were the much-loved panna cotta with fresh berries and berry coulis and sweet corn grits with maple syrup, berries and lavender ice cream.

Server steered us to two nice half-bottles of wine: a 2004 Sancerre "Les Bonnes Bouches" Henri Bourgeois and a fragrant red which isn't on their site.

At the end of the meal, I suggested to SO that at many restaurants, dishes typically seem to have just an "overall" flavor, but everything we had just eaten demonstrated a uniquely harmonic combination of individual tastes.

I had an irrepressible smile on my face the whole evening.

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  1. Sounds very similar to my experience a few months back (different food, same overall great experience). My friend was moving to Hawaii so we went to CSB for her farewell dinner. We took a chance and plurged on the 6 course Chef's Whim. We were thoroughly impressed. Every course seemed to have been made with much attention and care. The flavors were simple but all the more delicious because of that. We also had an egg dish, a poached farm egg on top of wild mushrooms, lamb's tongue and a green garlic puree...heaven (I had a chance to have a similar dish at Babbo in NYC and CSB's version, IMO, was much better). Overall it was an amazing food experience, one delicious surprise after another.