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Persephone

Last night I ventured with a friend down to Persephone in the Fort Point area. I know that there has been a lot of talk on this board about new stuff opening up in that area, but to be perfectly honest, I still had to look it up on a map to figure out how to get there. 6 years in Boston and I have to admit that part of town is still relatively unknown to me. That said, it is easy to access from both the 93 and 90 making it easy to get to and parking was super easy last night (however valet was also available). I kind of felt sorry for the valet guy standing outside in the cold weather with tons of free parking meters on either side of him.

The restaurant is part of the Achilles Project. I have not quite figured out exactly what a "project" is in this context - really just a fancy word for a "business". The restaurant is set in the back of a high end clothing store where the clothes are on display in glass cubes. Between the rows of clothing there were flat screen TVs where apparently one can play wii games.

The restaurant itself was very clearly thought out, and I must admit I really liked the space. The restaurant transitions first from the clothing store to a casual bar/lounge area and then into the restaurant. The space itself was quite large but its organization does not make it feel cavernous. The tables were set on metal rafters and can be set either for 4 or the tables could be split to quickly and easily make two tables for two. Very clever. The space was warm and cozy.

I am a huge fan of Lumiere and chef Michael Leviton. I live very nearby and for my husband and I it is our go to place for quick romantic dates on Wednesday nights or a place to take our friends out when we want to go out and I just don't have the energy to cook. We eat there every month or so. I love the consistency of the menu there, the ease of getting in any day of the week, the service, and the ambiance. In short, it is the perfect neighborhood restaurant. I got the sense that Persephone was aiming for the same sort of feel.

The menu was organized into 5 sections: small, medium, large and extra large plates (I must admit I hate these names, yes "I'll have the extra large portion??") plus a selection of raw bar items. In theory, our waitress explained, the small was meant for one person, the medium for 2 to share as an appetizer, a large was a main, and an extra-large could be shared by two people. This seemed reasonable in theory, but most of the dishes in the shareable category were actually kind of hard to share (a steak). Plus the small were too small for my liking: my $9 small sea scallop dish was actually only a single scallop.

The menu, for the most part was relatively standard fare, and very reminiscent of Leviton's classics: apple cider soup, scallops, arugula salad, roast chicken, roast cod, etc. There were also some nice surprises on the menu: an appetizer of roast bone marrow. The concept was seasonal sustainable ingredients so I guess they are somewhat limited in what is obtainable this time of the year. I found the menu to be somewhat lacking in inspiration: one chicken, one fish, one meat main with relatively straightforward and bland descriptions of each. But this is true at lumiere as well. I would have perhaps a bit more selection.

I selected to do one small and one medium as the medium was described to be relatively large. I ordered the sea scallop with chestnut/celery root puree and the grilled squid salad with preserved lemons and parsley. I found the sea scallop to be a bit too light (come on, give me one more scallop!) and a bit too complicated. Chestnuts have a relatively strong taste, which kind of clashed with the apple like sauce and hazelnuts served with the scallop. But it was reasonably good. The squid salad was well executed - lovely fresh flat leaf parsley with preserved lemon rind and well grille scallop. Again, it was a bit small for what was described as a shareable portion, but no major complaints. My friend had the roast chicken, which looked absolutely delicious, and also believed it was fantastic. I true Leviton classic. We passed on desserts.

Service was good but not outstanding. The general manager was on duty surveying everything so I got the sense he was really trying to run a tight ship I just think a lot of the servers were new but will eventually get the hang of things.

Small appetizers were 8-12, medium 10-14 ish, mains 20-28 ish, large 40 ish.

My general sense as this will become a great neighborhood option for people in the area. The owner talked about how they plan to start a supper club there on Tuesday nights. There is a big part of the restaurant that can be converted to a table for 18 and there will be a prix-fixe dinner. I really liked the idea of this. They also plan to start serving lunch in a few weeks. There were lots of great windows in the back of the restaurant and I can imagine that during the day the spot would be absolutely delightful.

I'll likely try it again.

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  1. I would be a little cautious about all those metered parking places being available. My recollection is that they become South Boston resident only parking after six o'clock.

    1. Thanks for the review. Sounds like the portions are sized so one can fit into the clothes at the front of the store. :)

      1. Went last night.
        Arrived at around 8:00.
        Lots of open parking at meters. Grabbed a space about 5 spaces past the restaurant, but was still approached by the Valet who said that the spaces all belonged to them (no sign though). Valet parking is $16.

        large restaurant, was pretty empty. Looks like it would be a great place for large groups, as they have tables that have tops which slide across a large base and could easily be configured to be one large table.
        My husband got there before me and sat at the bar - raved about some type of homemade pretzel that had little bits of bacon on it.

        So the small/medium/large dish thing seems to be the new trend -- not too different from Banq, though Persephone also has extra large.

        Started with Maine Shrimp -- these are small, fried, head-on,eat the whole thing including shells shrimp. They were a "small". Got about a dozen. pretty tasty, but may freak out some. Also had the Iberian (acorn fed) ham. Also a small. Very good, and I know that its an expensive product, but for $23 for a "small", i'd skip it next time.
        They had several rib-eyes - for sharing. 2 people at our table shared one. Unfortunately, we were ordering course by course and they informed us that the rib eye would take 45 minutes. (wow!). we ordered a salad course and decided to wait. Salads pretty typical. nothing special. The rib eye was probably 2" thick when it came and extremely tasty. I had the bouillabaisse. Very good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jody

          I was there last weekend and was frankly a little disapointed. The layout of the place is a little confusing(you have to walk through a sparce boutique first) I found the diningroom/bar area to be pretty hip and different from some other cookie cutter restaurants. The service was AWFUL. The server seemed oblivious to what was going on around her and overlooked many things including a couple specials, which I found out about later and our dessert menus, which we had to ask for. The food was good, however it seemed somewhat bland and could have benefitted from a little more seasoning. Overall, I would have expected a little more from a Leviton run kitchen, since I have had numerous excellent dinning experiences at Lumiere. However it is a very new restaurant and I am sure that kinks will be worked out soon. Check it out and see what you guys think

          1. re: jody

            Wow, I'm surprised that you found Jamon Iberico here. I know it can be found at the Camb and SE Formaggios and goes for just south of $100.00/lb so while high priced, you probably got a decent value. Not to split hairs, but I was under the impression that the actual acorn fed or de bellota grade was not due for import approval until July, certainly I could be mistaken.

          2. My partner and I took a friend from New York to Persephone last Friday. Reading comments here about the lackluster service are spot on. I was wondering how difficult it is to attract talent to a fairly deserted area of Boston. Our server seemed like a deer caught in headlights. She may last, though. She constantly referred to Mr. Leviton as "chef". Came off a little cultish - but sometimes kissing the bosses a** goes a long way.

            The food was fantastic. We started with the grilled squid served with parsley, lemon rind, and olives. Also tried the arugula salad (always love that). We all shared a 38 oz bone in ribeye - which was fantastic. Seared, rested, cooked, rested. Served in a balsamic reduction, with a side of fries and creamed spinach. We loved every bite of every dish. And it's not easy to please with food these days.

            I agree the initial reaction of walking through a clothing store is a little, um, weird. And the incredibly bright white lights at the bar (which the manager says are being replaced shortly) do nothing to set the ambiance. But once you're in the restaurant (in the back), you quickly forget the way in. And something about the area and the loft you're eating in make you forget the rest.

            I would definitely recommend people trying Persephone. I think it will catch on in quick order, so go before the crowds. And play a game of Wii tennis on the way out.

            One other thing - which i thought was funny. A drink on their menu is titled "the obligatory $15 chowhound anticipated pomegranate martini" or something like that. very cheeky.

            1. Globe reviewed Persephone - here's the link for any interested....

              http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaur...

              2.5 stars - the review seemed overall rather positive.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                I think the Globe review was right on: I've eaten my way through the menu a couple of times. Strong bartending, mostly terrific food, with the smaller plates better than the bigger ones. That bacon/sea salt pretzel from the bar menu is rocking. Very few losers. I've had more fun at at a low table in the lounge than at the conventional dining room tables; seems better suited to the food.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  I just read the review in the paper tonight, and had to grin at the CH reference:

                  "...a drink called "The Obligatory $15 Chowhound-Predicted Pomegranate Martini," stemming from comments made on the food website. It costs $10."

                  Those bacon/sea salt pretzels with apple mustard sound absolutely wonderful!