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L'Espalier

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I am planning a special birthday dinner and thought it was a no brainer to choose L'Espalier, always mentioned as the best in Boston and shortly to be moving from its traditional location. I have just read a few reviews on this board and am shocked at the negative comments. Does anyone have anything positive to say, or should I change my reservation? Thanks. Joanne

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  1. I went in May (I think my comments are posted here somewhere). My general thoughts are that the service was excellent, the food was very good (but not quite as good as a couple of other places I have been to in that price range - namely Clio and Number 9 Park) and I liked all of the special touches. I personally did not find the service to be stuffy at all. I really enjoyed it overall the one time I was there and would recommend the whole "dining experience", but if I was purely after food I would probably go somewhere else.

    1. I explain some of the negative comments I've seen here this way: 1) the diner's expectations were set impossibly high by foaming professional and amateur reviews; 2) the diner was offended by some combination of the rather formal, occasionally affected service, the stuffy atmosphere, the elaborateness/preciousness of the plating, and/or the high prices; 3) the diner actually experienced a sub-standard meal (which has happened to me once out of my past dozen visits -- not a bad track record, but you expect a place like this to bat 1.000). It helped that the restaurant noticed without our saying anything that we were disappointed (half-finished plates), and sent us a handwritten note of apology and a nice gift certificate for a later visit.

      I also think the three-course prix fixe is more likely to disappoint; I've had far more satisfaction with the pricier 5-course degustation menus, which are really more like 9 courses with the various freebies. I've also seen some carping about the wine list markups. There certainly are plenty of scary-expensive trophy wines on that very thick list, and not a lot of bargains to be unearthed, plus a tendency of the sommelier to upsell (perhaps with altruistic intentions, perhaps not). Going with the tastings' matched-wines option is a good way to obviate this issue, and spread the risk of being disappointed across multiple glasses of pre-selected wines rather than a bottle or two; half-bottles are another strategy. Some of the three rooms are nicer than others, too: you might want to drop by for a look some evening to get a feel for them before requesting one in particular. (My favorite for a couple is the Front Room.)

      I'm definitely telling my friends to get over there before the move. It is one of the most expensive meals in town, but for a special occasion, I think it's worth it. And I'd recommend treating it as such by getting as dressed up as you comfortably can.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Could not agree more with the above. I believe it is often the expectation that is poor, not the experience.

        When does the move happen? I want to go before it does. I'm going to miss that brownstone

        1. re: marthayou

          They told me April 2008 when I was there not too long ago.

        2. re: MC Slim JB

          I was one of those who didn't love it a couple months ago. I think MCSlim is right -- the three course pre-fix is rather uninspiring and I think we probably thought that they could make uninspiring options inspiring...but they didn't (and we probably shouldn't have assumed). The five course looked much more inspiring.

          Regardless, it is certainly special and going to the townhouse was an experience in itself.

        3. I have only eaten at L'Espalier once, but I had a very positive experience. Here is the review of my evening: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/428753.

          1. I had a great lunch there a few weeks back. The service and the food were incredible. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend L'Espalier to anyone for a special occasion. The only disapointment was the dessert. After an unbelievably fantastic sorbet course, we were brought out an assortment of little dessert bites. They weren't bad but the dropoff from the rest of the meal was very noticeable.

            1. Psychology and attitude can be quite important when dining at this level, particularly regarding the notions of value and expense. Reconcile yourself to spending a lot and don't let yourself think about it during the meal. Yes it's costly, yes it's unique and excellent. Do not wonder whether any particular element is "worth" what you are paying, wait and consider that after you've taken it all in and completed your special evening.