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Aug 15, 2008 06:45 AM

T.W. Food - tasting menu (long)

As my DC said last night, TW Food is almost a mirror image of 10 Tables: cozy atmosphere, open kitchen, small operation, downstairs restroom, brick walls, interesting menu. TW Food takes a major departure (besides the huge upgrade in restroom facilities) is in its cooking style. Where 10 Tables is rustic, TW Food is mostly refine. Where 10 Tables is bold, TW Food is subdued. My DC put this in my mind at the beginning of the night and the more I think about it, the more I can't get it out of my head. Did I enjoy the 7 course tasting menu we had? Definitely. Would I be back? Probably not. And not because the food isn't well prepared. Just simply because it didn't hit home to me. Maybe I just don't like that much puff pastry. It's definitely an issue for me.

Onto the food: 7 courses, I had the meat menu, my DC the vegetarian, but we shared everything.

To start, 2 amuses-bouches: smoked egg with aioli on puff pastry, which had a strong hit of fennel; and a smoked mussel.

First course:
Local duxbury oyster with essence of beet: I was surprised how much brininess the oyster held despite being submerged in the beet and oil puree. Bright, clean, but a bit fussy. DC had the salad: big ox farm baby lettuce, wild peaches and honey vinaigrette. While I loved the pickled vegetables, especially the beets, I was a bit perturbed at being told the lettuces were fresh snipped. A bit precious.

Second course:
We were both served the red cabbage soup: soup with onion, nutmeg perfumes and gnocchi parisienne. One of my favorite dishes of the night. I absolutely loved the smell of this soup, the beet flavor was at once bright and calm.

Third course:
beef tartare for me: grass-fed vermont boyden farm with chilled coulis of swiss chard. I've had better beef tartares elsewhere, Eastern Standard comes to mind, but the swiss chard puree was excellent. DC had sweet-savory chard ice cream, walnut tapenade, farm pickling cucumber salad, which was certainly one of the highlights of the night.

Fourth course:
Smoked soft shell crab, fried green tomato, kohlrabi and sauce “rémoulade”. This tasted like a BLT. The smoke flavor was absolutely amazing. DC had slow poached egg ragout of wild local mushrooms and saffron mousse. Tasted like a poached egg with vegetables.

Fifth course:
Napoleon of yellowfin tuna puff-pastry, creamed corn, zucchini and purple basil. There's something a bit 1985 about napoleons for me and I am not a fan of puff pastry in general, so color me surprised when this actually turned out to be pretty tasty. The purple basil, tuna and yellowfin were especially good, but this was impossible to eat in one bite. What is the point of such a presentation if I can't fit all the flavors into my mouth in one bite? Again, the fussiness of partially skinning the grape tomatoes and placing then in a bow-like configuration was cute, but I would have rather had a dish that I could actually taste all the flavors at once. Smoked kale tourte with bleu cheese fourme d’ambert and preserved apricot for my DC - rich and beautiful, but again overshadowed by the puff pastry for me.

Cheese course:
blue ledge goat, leicester, vermont
camembert au calvados, normandy, france
That camembert needs to be in my house, now. A gorgeous cheese with a calvados-washed rind. It can be found at Russo's.

puff-pastry “chausson” with liberty apples and homemade cinnamon ice cream. I was really sad to end the night on this note. Again with the puff pastry, and why apples and caramel in the middle of August if you're advertising the tasting menu as "showcasing the season"? While the cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce were both really delicious, the apple turn over was bready and soggy and not really that satisfying.

Post-dessert, they serve an assortment of cookies and truffles, which were herby and a nice way to end the meal, especially after hitting a high with the cheese course and a low with the dessert.

There were certainly some highlights to this meal - when the chef is on, his dishes truly shine. However, I'd certainly rather the tasting menu at Troquet, for example, where each dish is practically exquisite.

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  1. This was the first time I experienced a tasting menu, and I very much enjoyed it. It was very very good, but I agree that it was not quite trancendental. Food was fantastic, service was great, but a couple ehhh courses kept it from being over the top.

    Loved the space - but as I love 10 Tables, that wasn't a stretch. Small room, high ceilings, open kitchen. Very nice. Parking wasn't too bad either, plenty of onstreet parking a couple streets away but not that far.

    Amuse bouches - quite nice, nothing remarkable.

    First course - My salad was nice - the greens very herbal and summery, the peaches delicious, the pickled vegetables fine. It was pretty small and not overly special, so in my mind a blah start to a meal. I'm not a beet fan, but enjoyed the taste of gini's beet "soup" the oyster was in.

    Second - I actually do not like cabbage, but am open to trying chef's versions of anything and am so glad I did. The red cabbage soup was AMAZING. The aroma, the flavor, the color - wow.

    Third - The chard ice cream was also amazing. Clean flavor, not too sweet, delicious feel. The thin-sliced cucumber salad added a nice crunch; the wlanuts were unecessary in my mind, but very nice. The beef tartare was very good, but really paled in comparison to the ice cream.

    Fourth - I quite liked my dish - slow poached egg over musroom-spinach ragout. It smelled great, but wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked. Very good, but like the tartare, paled in comparison to the other option. The smoked soft-shell crab was to die for - rich, lovely smoke flavor.

    Fifth - The smoked kale tourte with blue cheese was the reason I wanted this tasting menu - I had to try it, and it was worth it. The smoked kale and cheese was rich and fantastically good, but yes gini, the double layer of puff pastry somewhat overwhelmed it. Perhaps as an open tart it would have been better? I still loved it though. The tuna napolean was good, but I'm still not sure why you'd pair puff pastry with tuna. The ingredients were all great - seared tuna, a delicious herb pesto, corn, even the pastry itself - but I preferred to mix-and-match the bites, not everything together.

    Cheese - Oh. My. God. That was good. The goat with herbs was amazing, perfectly creamy and tart and delicious. The camembert was out of this world. I will be at Russo's this weekend to get some.

    Dessert - Ehhh. I'm not a dessert person, but what-the-heck, it was included. I really don't understand apples and cinnamon and caramel in August. This would be an awesome fall/winter dish. But now? Berries or citrus or something would have been a bit more seasonal. Tasted fine, but I was sad.

    Overall, a slow start and end to the meal, but the middle was fantastic and the cheese was insanely good. If we could have subbed the RW soup starter and berry dessert, I would have been in heaven. As it is, I very much enjoyed it and would not be opposed to going back, but there are a lot of other places that hit the $100pp mark that are on my list to try first.

    1. I've been to TW twice, once in winter and once recently in summer (but not the same menu described here). Both times it was sublime. But the magic is subtle, it's about lightness and blending, not so much about exciting tastes that leap out at you. TW has very little in common with many other top restaurants in the area (Eastern Standard, for example), which I think of as doing an elevated american bistro thing. I found it confusing on my first try, but couldn't stop thinking about it. No longer confused, I am now simply believer.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jajjguy

        I agree with you that the food is quite subtle. As I said above, I found a few of the dishes absolutely sublime, but I found the execution inconsistent - while some dishes were incredible (sorbet, tourte, soup, soft shell crab), some were just nice. I'm not confused; I just wish every dish was as good as the truly remarkable ones.

        1. re: gini

          Cool. (Just for the record, I wasn't calling anyone confused but myself. :))

      2. Subdued/subtle is a great way to describe their style :) Speaking of the Troquet tasting menu, does anyone know how much it costs? I know there's a 5 or a 7 course..

        1. Mr. Foodie and I love tasting menus. The vegetarian tasting we did at TW over Labor Day Weekend was, we both agreed, one of the best we'd ever had--it was especially refreshing to have a full veg tasting menu that did not involve pasta or other starchy ways to fill us up. We loved the room, didn't find the decor lacking at all, and sat next to the kitchen with no complaints. Menu was:
          1) oyster shooters (not on the tasting menu), one fennel and one beet. weird, didn't love them, but good.
          2) heirloom tomato party. so incredible! We LOVED the smoked tomato especially (he seems to like to smoke lots of things.
          3) corn puree soup with cilantro-oil drizzle and curried French gnocchi. This was INSANE. The flavors were incredibly complementary and unexpected. We died.
          4) Heirloom tomato party #2 with tomato ice cream (mentioned elsewhere in the discussion). Also dynamite.
          5) Slow-poached egg over local foraged mushrooms. A perfect example of how a veggie entree can be hearty and wholesome without starch. The mushrooms were meaty and earthy and incredible.
          6) Smoked kale with blue cheese in a puff pastry tart. This was also incredible, it was a really new way to have kale and the blue cheese made it sublime.
          7) Cheese plate. Slightly simple and disappointing, but it just felt more like a palate cleanser as a result. Imported Brillat-Savarin and local chevre.
          8) layered chilled dessert: top: chamomile jelly, peach, vanilla panna cotta. This was fab. I'm not always for the jelly dessert but this was incredible.

          conclusion: GO TO TW FOOD! the wine pairings were excellent, service was great, room was awesome, highly recommended. We will be going back every season for sure.