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central kitchen disappointment

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given the blustry wind & snow on friday night, we were craving comfort food and so headed over to CK on the early side. we were lucky to get a table in the relatively crowded room - success! the evening seemed to be off to a good start...

unfortunately, that was the last really positive thing about the meal. we've had a few dinners there in the past & been pretty happy - certainly not haute cuisine, but always reliably good...

this time around, we started with the octopus, which was fine, altho very, very salty - and only included two pieces, which seemed very small. for the main dishes, my DC had the lamb shank & I had the mussels and we shared the assiete of veggies.

first off, apparently, gnocchi is a winter vegetable! yes, I do understand it is made from potatoes, but to advertise a dish as a medley of vegetables, and for one of them to essentially be a starch??? seemed odd to me. the mussels were fine, although the sauce was thin & tasteless, as if made with water & a bit of garlic thrown in at the end - none of the winey-buttery richness normally in the bottom of a mussels bowl. lamb shank was dry but overcooked, as if the cooking was done on a too high heat too quickly, rather than a slow braise. it also arrived cold. accompanying lentils were quite good.

since we weren't feeling particularly sated in our need for comfort at this point, we ordered the tarte tatin to finish, hoping for the best. unfortunately, this was almost the worst part of the meal - maybe 6 slices of apple (not caramelized at all) on top of FAR too much puff pastry. undercooked and literally almost bready. to add insult to injury, what should have been a caramel sort of sauce was, I think, actually honey poured on at the last minute. ugh.

overall, there was nothing that was HORRIBLE about this meal. we didn't speak to our waitress or management at the time, because nothing in particularly was really wrong. it was, as I said in the title, just disappointing.

do we think it was just a really off night, or has anybody else had similiar experiences lately?

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  1. We just ate there last Friday and had a very good meal, so I'm wondering if it was an off night. There were 6 of us, and 3 of us had he steak frites, which is a very reliable dish there, and it was good as always (I think they are the best fries in Boston). 2 of us had the chicken fricassee, and although I didn't taste it, the people who had it liked it a lot. We started with the mussels which I have had many times there, and they were good-- the broth in particular was good enough to warrant ordering more bread to sop up. And we had the tarte tatin as well, which I thought was very good, actually. So, I'm not sure what happened when you went-- I would say it is worth another try at some point, but maybe it is better to wait a little while since the menu is small and I'm sure you're not in the mood to repeat your previous meal!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Posenose

      I LOVE the chicken fricassee dish. Just had to get that out there.

      It saddens me to see that people are having less than stellar experiences there lately. I haven't been for a few months or so, but have been going there several times a year for about 5 years and have found that most of the time it's great but occasionally I will hit a dud on the menu. So hopefully it's not on a general decline.

    2. I sadly have to agree with this post and wonder if Central Kitchen isn't due for a downhill alert -- it was one of my favorites in my profile and I just removed it -- the last three visits haven't been total failures by any means, just consistently disappointing relative to shellfish....it doesn't seem quite the place I've loved for a number of years now.

      For two of the three (most recent this past Saturday night) incidents, it was the moules frites -- a few months ago they were tiny, tiny mussels in a small portion without much flavor and this weekend they were large, seemingly fresh mussels that were both limited in flavor and hard to get completely open and successfully detached from the shell without destroying -- where they just poorly cooked? The broth is still buttery and delicious and merits sopping up with the always very fresh Iggy's bread.

      The other shellfish incident was at the bar when we were served an dried out oyster that both looked and smelled WAY past its prime - when we pointed it out, the (not regular) bartender basically said we just had to expect that and they were nearly out of their oysters at that point (is this an excuse I should have accepted? -- I just asked that they remove that one from the bill, which they did).

      The service continues to be solid with nice opinions, the wines by the glass are good/interesting and OK values, the frites are among the best in the area IMHO, and the creme brulee is way above average. I also have to say that the falafel with the octopus salad was some of the best I've ever tasted.

      Will I be back again? - yes -- will it be as regular in the rotation until firing on all cylinders again? - no.

      1. Interesting discussion. My own experience is that for a long time, I thought Central Kitchen was pretty good but not great. A lot of Hounds and other reliable sources who loved it urged me give it another shot. I went back a few weeks ago and had a superb meal all around, including some excellent raw bar -- definitely the best meal I'd had there in a long time. This was on an early weeknight, a Tuesday, maybe?

        Being served off seafood is never fun. And gnocchi isn't a vegetable.