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SEcharles Jun 2, 2008 03:49 PM

I just walked past Estragon - they are having a private seating tonight - and have posted a notice inviting people to join them on 4 June...I live around the corner - and am very excited to have two choice of tapas so close at hand. Maybe Estragon won't be darned crowded all the time.

  1. h
    hyde Jun 2, 2008 05:16 PM

    it will have to be great to beat that location, sandwiched as it is between boston medical center and overlooking beautiful cathedral housing project!

    1. m
      marilees Jun 2, 2008 05:35 PM

      I stopped by on Saturday, and they told me Las Ventas would be opening the week after. I'm looking forward to it, as I live very close, also. I hope it's good!

      7 Replies
      1. re: marilees
        Joanie Jun 3, 2008 05:58 AM

        I'm out of the loop, where and what is Estragon? Besides a terrible name that reminds me of estrogen?

        1. re: Joanie
          MC Slim JB Jun 3, 2008 06:19 AM

          Spanish restaurant with an adjacent retail Spanish gourmet grocery called Las Ventas, at 700 Harrison Ave in the South End, owned by Julio de Haro. His ex-wife Deborah Hansen retained ownership of Taberna de Haro in Brookline.

          Aside from being the name of one of the two main characters in Waiting for Godot, the name is Spanish for "tarragon".

          1. re: MC Slim JB
            lobst Jun 3, 2008 06:38 AM

            yes, it reminds me of Waiting for Godot first, tarragon second...btw, how's the table service? :D

            1. re: MC Slim JB
              Joanie Jun 3, 2008 07:22 AM

              Oh, it's all coming back. Sad that the first thing it makes me think of is estrogen.

              1. re: Joanie
                jgg13 Jun 3, 2008 02:12 PM

                Everyu single time I see this thread when scanning the page I read it as "Estrogen", so you're not alone.

                1. re: jgg13
                  BobB Jun 6, 2008 08:08 AM

                  It's Spanish for tarragon.

              2. re: MC Slim JB
                Alcachofa Jun 6, 2008 01:03 PM

                Julio and Deborah split up? :o( Aw.

                I also only thought of estrogen, but now that I know, I'll pronounce it in my head with a Spanish accent. Es-tra-GON.

          2. s
            SEcharles Jun 4, 2008 07:46 PM

            Seems like a soft opening for them - patrons at the tables when I walked past on my home tonight - but didn't seem like anything big was happening. Las Ventas looks like it will be nicely stocked.

            2 Replies
            1. re: SEcharles
              marilees Jun 5, 2008 01:57 AM

              I stopped in last night, had a couple of drinks, including a decent sized glass of sangria for $7 (also offered by the pitcher for $25, I believe). Tried the frog legs, clams, pork belly, scallop, chilled white asparagus soup, calamari (not fried) with blood sausage, and Spanish tortilla. The scallop ($10) was my favorite by far - very big, seared nicely, accompanied by a grilled baby artichoke. They start you off with complimentary olives and bread in a bag, served with tarragon infused olive oil (hence, the name Estragon). Service was very attentive - every time my water glass was half empty, it was refilled, and they changed plates with every other course or so. Prices were typical for tapas in the south end. Unlike Toro, they don't offer a selection of larger plates (and there's no corn!). It's nice to have something so close to where I live. We'll see how it goes as time goes on..

              1. re: marilees
                skoenigsberg Jun 5, 2008 08:55 PM

                Thanks Marilees. I went tonight and was sure to include the scallop in the six plates I shared with my DC. Scallop was good, also had tortilla (fancier than I like), baby octopus (amazing!), lamb kebeb (amazing!), asparagus (good), and spicy french fries (fries awesome, sauce not spicy enough). Six plates was far too much for two of us (women with good appetities), which will be a pleasant reduction in my bill next time.

                Staff was friendly and helpful, told us to experiment and try foods outside our comfort zone. The owner Julio came over to introduce himself, wine list seemed ok, but I had the "spanish shandy", half beer half lemonade (sprite?). She had two glasses of wine, I had two shandies, we had six tapas total, bill was $110 with tip.

                I loved the decor (art deco?) and was shocked at how much extra space there seemed to be compared to what I'm used to in the city. For a new restaurant they seemed busy: both the dining room and the bar were more than half-full at peak and when we left at 11 we weren't the last people to go.

                The location did feel sketchy. When we left the restaurant, it was well-lit, police station on the corner, but reasonably deserted. I will be interested to see how they do since they won't really have casual foot traffic on that part of Harrison.

                Overall, a good experience.

            2. c
              chowfornow Jun 6, 2008 07:35 AM

              I sat at the bar Wednesday night and had a great experience. I ordered the duck stuffed peppers, the foie gras slider with sea urchin, the white ham, the sardines, the garlicky shrimp and the cheese plate.

              Everything was very good or great! The real stand out for me was the foie gras slider with sea urchin. I have always thought that I could not stand sea urchin but this was fantastic! The sea urchin was incredibly fresh. It was the perfect counter balance with the foie gras. You got the richness of the foie gras with this really fresh bright note at the end. It finished like a perfectly crisp, breath of fesh early morning air at the beach. It was a perfect "taste" portion size too. Highly, highly recommended!

              The garlicky shrimp was great too. Perfectly tender and flavorful with just a tiny bit of spicy heat from a small chili pepper in the center of the clay baking dish it was served in. I will probably order this dish every time I go. The garlic was potent and perfect!

              The duck stuffed peppers were very good; maybe a little too vinegary for my personal taste but I still really enjoyed the dish.

              I should also note that the bartender told me Wednesday was their first night open to the general public. It is very rare that a restaurant nails everything correctly on their first night. Everything was spot on: the food, the bar and the hospitality.

              I really hope they do well. Harrison Ave is the very last outpost of the South End to develop. I do think some will be put off by its location but I think that will change as the area continus to improve.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chowfornow
                Posenose Jun 6, 2008 11:51 AM

                Sounds great- I'm planning to go next week and glad to have all these recommendations. One question- what's the deal with parking there? Is it just street parking?

                1. re: Posenose
                  MC Slim JB Jun 6, 2008 12:49 PM

                  Parking a five minute walk away at the free lot near Gaslight, or in guest or metered spaces on Harrison Ave (avoid resident spaces if you don't have a South End resident parking permit; the BTD has been ticketing assiduously in the neighborhood on weekend nights, for which I'm grateful). Valet parking available soon, possibly starting tonight. Patio is about 10 days away. No reservations.

              2. MB fka MB Jun 10, 2008 05:51 PM

                back in town over the weekend and stopped in with friends.

                favorites -
                fried chickpeas were addictive
                eggplant with chorizo and pine nuts was my #1
                cod cheeks - yum

                calamari and blood sausage - great dish. I'm normally afraid of -and don't like - blood sausage but this was tasty. use the bread to sop up the sauce and onions left behind

                asparagus was solid, but I would have just as easily made this at home.

                flank steak with egg and gorgonzola was very tasty.

                there might have been one more, but I can't recall (couple of bottles of rose, too).

                service was attentive but not overwhelming, and friendly, which I like. nice touches around the place, we enjoyed the "lounge" seating in the front window - very comfy. Well appointed rest rooms, nice sinks & hardware, etc and good soap (my pet peeve is fine dining restaurants using pink institutional soap grrrrr)

                I'd definitely put this place on my return list for when I'm back in town.

                1. f
                  Fort Point Jun 13, 2008 08:54 AM

                  Stopped in Wednesday for an early dinner and sat at the bar (wine and beer). Overall impression : nice decor, nice people and an interesting menu. We had Baby eels on toast, cuttlefish with squid ink onion rings, eggplant with chorizo and seared pork belly with fresh green peas. Overall thought the food was great, even if a little on the rich side. Four dishes for two people was enough to make a dinner.

                  1. p
                    purslane Jun 16, 2008 08:28 AM

                    Went a week after opening. Love the space and service was excellent. Completely different atmosphere than Toro, but would have to say the food at Toro is far superior. Goat cheese salad with walnuts and blackberries was a miss, cod cheeks were very good, eggplant chorizo good and my favorite was the scallop. DC loved the Moorish lamb skewers but thought they could of used a sauce. Love the complimentary olives with orange zest and the sangria. Only real miss for me was that they seem to have the majority of their wine list priced between $45-60. Ordered a sparkling rose for $48 and there wasn't anything cheaper in the sparkling section. If I remember correctly, they had maybe one white wine at $26 another at 30 something and then jumped up to the $50 and above range. Similar for reds. Hate it when restaurants do that. Will be back, but will stick with the sangria.

                    1. j
                      jody Jun 26, 2008 05:46 AM

                      Stopped by on Tues. Was 8:00 and las Ventas had just closed, so didn't get to check it out. Estragon is open until 1:00 and kitchen open until 12:00, though with a more limited menu late night. I had heard that it was more traditional tapas, so I immediately searched the menu for padrones peppers and after brief disappointment at not seeing them, was informed that they were a special that evening and soon would be on the regular menu. Agree with previous post that the foie gras slider with uni was fabulous (though order one for yourself - its not easy to split). Had the baby eels on toast (try it even if you are not adventurous), octopus with blood sausage, fiery fries (sort of an americanized patatas bravas), braised oxtail (forgot exact name of dish, but this one was our favorite). Really wanted to try the octopus ceviche, but we were stuffed. Had a couple of glasses of wine including a very nice priorat. Service out of the kitchen was a little bit slow, but the bartenders were very attentive and comped us two glasses of sherry, which we never would have thought to order (not big sherry fans), but complemented one of the dishes in an amazing way. (so ask the bartender for recommendations. Also, when asking the bartender for wine recommendations, he let us taste (always a plus). All of the staff were very friendly and went out of their way to introduce themselves and ask us about our experience.

                      As previously noted, the space is very large and attractive. It is fairly noisy. Lots of bar space, couches/chairs in a front lounge seating area and several communal tables. Space would work well for any size party.

                      I will definitely come back.

                      1. f
                        FoodCase Aug 1, 2008 08:57 AM

                        Taberna de Haro is one of our favorite restaurants; small, authentic food, great service. After hearing the hype about Estragon, we went last night for dinner. I've travelled extensively in Spain. I love tapas. Especially gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp.) But Estragon missed the mark on several levels.
                        Let's start with the food. We ordered the fried chickpeas, tortilla espanola, garlic shrimp, grilled asparagus and oxtail. Although tortilla is served cold, it didn't come out until second to last. And was very potatoe-y. This one I chalked up to personal preference. The asparagus was okay but only warm and the Manchego cheese served over it was coagulated and had no sharpness. The garlic shrimp were very small, served in a tiny cazuela and had a mealy consistency. Worse yet, the oil the garlic shrimp were served in was luke warm! Warm! That stuff should come out popping hot (or piping if you like). The waitstaff cleared it before we could sop with bread which is not big deal given the quality but kind of defeats the purpose. I didn't eat the oxtail but the best my husband could say was "bland."
                        In addition, we were alternatively pecked (as in asked every 2 minutes how the food was now- remiscient of that annoying commercial "Can you hear me now?") and ignored for large stretches when we actually wanted service. They haven't figured the distribution of time and energy yet.
                        To me, it seems like a great place to go for a glass of wine, sit at the bar, get to know the neighbors. The decor was cool. They mean well. This all just needs to translate to attention to detail.

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