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Jan 21, 2008 04:12 PM

Chef's Whim at Craigie St Bistrot

I haven't been to Craigie St Bistrot in years. We went once or twice and it just didn't click for us. Some friends suggested going for the Chef's Whim last night and we decided to try it.

We were seated in the back room and it was quite lovely (cozy and quiet). Strange to be eating here again after several years' absence (we were regulars when the space was the Peacock and then Cafe Celador, less so when it was Butterfish).

We decided to have the six-course Chef's Whim, and quite frankly, this was one of the best meals I've ever had. We started with citrus-cured salmon, beets, Asian pear, and salmon row. A wonderfully refreshing, light opening. Then we had fried smelts with tabbouleh. The smelts were lightly fried and delicate, contrasting wonderfully with the lemons, greens, and bulgar. This was followed by the most memorable dish of the evening: sable over chickpea puree and Maine shrimp and covered in sea urchin foam. I've never had fresh sable before and what a treat it was: it melted in your mouth and had a wonderful smokiness. Then we had a potage of Gillfeather turnips, hen of the woods mushrooms, Brussels sprouts leaves, and poached farm fresh egg (we were told to pierce the yolk and mix it in). Finally we had braised Vermont lamb rib with escarole and three-bean ragout. The meat was braised perfectly, so rich and tender. Each of us had a different dessert: a fruit cobbler with ice cream; white corn grits, fruit compote, and ice cream; chocolate mille-feuille; and gingerbread pain perdue with ice-cream.

We had a half-bottle of the Sancerres (terrific with the salmon and smelts) and a bottle of the Faugeres (a light red, but it stood up to the lamb).

This was such wonderful meal for a cold evening: true comfort food. We weren't sure we'd be able to have six courses, but the portions were perfect: we all left satisfied and not stuffed.

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  1. Sounds very nice. What did it set you back per person?

    1 Reply
    1. re: joebelt

      It was about $87 per person, including tax and tip.

    2. What a super report! It sounds absolutely delightful, although I'm curious about the sea urchin foam. I'm not a great fan of foam of any sort.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gio

        I'm not a big fan of foams, either, but it really worked here. The airiness of the foam complemented the richness of the sable, providing a flavor essence rather than asserting a texture of its own.

      2. The Chef's whim is absolutely my favorite way to dine at Craigie St. The 4 course option is quite reasonable - $40/person, I think?

        2 Replies
        1. re: gini

          I was there last week and the 4 course menu was $75 (not including tax and tip). But I think I've heard (in the Globe recently, maybe?) they have a Sunday night menu for closer to that $40 price point.

          Their website doesn't mention a 6 course menu (and I didn't see one on the menu last week) but there is a 7 Course Chef's Tasting, available after 8:30 on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. No idea how much- depends on what's on it?

          EDIT: I see Penny said the 6 course menu was $87 including tax and tip- but that was on a Sunday night. Maybe all the prices are less on Sundays?

          1. re: Chris VR

            For the sunday chef's whim, unless prices have changed in the last 2 months, they have 2 options: 4 courses ($40) or 6 courses ($55).

        2. i'm sorry, what is sable? do you mean the small mammal that people use for fur?

          2 Replies
          1. re: autopi

            Black Cod or Butterfish (incidentally that this was the name of a restaurant at the same location where we had our worst dining experience ever).

            1. re: autopi

              An old standby of Jewish delis. Smoked, it's like heaven on earth. But oily.