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Aug 15, 2008 11:40 AM

Downstairs bar at The Marliave opens tonight.

From the people who brought you Grotto. A sort of "speakeasy."

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    1. My BF and I met up with a couple of friends at the Marliave after work. We all arrived separately and each had difficulties locating the entrance. It turns out that from Province St you need to turn into what looks like an alley and proceed up a set up steps to reach the main entrance. Once we found our way inside, things improved. The space is nice - sort of a cross between Gaslight and Kingston Station, but more authentic. The black and white theme does get a bit repetitive, but as my BF pointed out, they are attempting to be true to the prohibition period. The tin ceiling and original molding are interesting details.
      On to the food and drink... The cocktail list was somewhat daunting, but very boston-centric with lots of drinks tied to city history (e.g. the Great Mollasses Flood). I tried one with gin, bitters, and house made ginger beer. I was a bit nervous after the bartender didn't know what a Moscow Mule was, but the drink was good. Not too sweet, good spicy ginger flavor. We asked about food pretty soon after we got there and were told that the kitchen would open soon. 45 minutes later we saw that people around us were eating and asked to see menus. The menus were on the shorter side - 4-5 appetizers, 3-4 entrees, and 4 or so sandwiches - but I don't necessarily view that as a negative. Our friends opted to stick with a liquid dinner, but my boyfriend ordered a giant hot dog and I ordered the steak frites. The hot dog was, well giant, and topped with cheddar. I had a bit and thought it was yummy, if a bit pricey at $7.50. The steak - a very tender and well-cooked sirlion - was more of a bargain at $15.00. And the fries that came with both were great -- hand cut, salty, and crispy.
      All in all, the Marliave was promising. Although it was clear that it was opening night (and a "soft" opening night at that), the bar staff was friendly and, for the most part, attentive, and the food exceeded expectations. I'll be interested to see what the permanent menu looks like as I got the feeling that the opening night menu was somewhat limited.

      7 Replies
      1. re: meb26

        Thanks for the prompt review. I've been looking forward to the opening of this place. I like Grotto a lot, and think that area really needs a moderately-priced, stylish restaurant with good cocktails.

        I've only been to the neighboring Silvertone twice. Once there was an hour wait, which we didn't have time for; the next time was late, after they stopped serving food, and I wasn't impressed with my Caipirinha (way too sweet, although Lexi (Lexy?) overheard me tell my DC this and came to the rescue with more limes, and also offered to make me something else if that didn't do the trick). I thought the place was kind of dingy and unappealingly dark. So, although I can't fault the service at Silvertone, I look forward to trying this alternative with better drinks and atmosphere--and good food, of course.

        1. re: meb26

          I think the entrance has always been up the steps.

          We ate lunch at Grotto last week during RW and it was absolutely fabulous.

          The waitress told us about the reopening of the Marliave, which excited us since we had been going to the old place for many years (don't ask ... I know it wasn't that great).

          Anyway, she told us that the 3rd floor was going to be "Fine Dining," the 2nd floor "American Casual" and the 1st floor an Oyster Bar. Was she even close?

          1. re: C. Hamster

            If by first floor, you mean the level that's accessible from Province St. then I would say that it's not an oyster bar by any means, that landing space is really small. The 2nd floor, or the floor accessible from Bosworth St. has the bar and is what I would probably consider 'American Casual' and serves the 'Downstairs Menu'. I did not go upstairs last night because I was in a hurry to get home though they did invite us to go despite that they were doing training up there.

            1. re: avial

              The ground floor oyster bar is now open, accessible from Province St. You can get upstairs to the "Downstairs" bar and the 3rd floor dining room from there as well as around the corner. We ate at the 2nd floor bar, but the oyster bar looked very attractive for a quick stop-by sometime.

              1. re: jajjguy

                Are there two bars and an upstairs restaurant? I ask because the website only lists the upstairs restaurant and the downstairs bar. Do you know if the oyster bar serves the same menu as the other bar?

                1. re: Chrispy75

                  There are three levels: Six-seat Oyster Bar on the first floor, the main level - Downstairs at the Marliave bar (casual) - and the more formal menu and dining room Upstairs at the Marliave.

                  From the latest Marliave newsletter (9/9):

                  "The Oyster bar has a full drink list, and food can be ordered from the other dining rooms."

                  We sat down at the little oyster bar last month with some wine and enjoyed the friendly service and excellent oysters (Pemmaquid and Martha’s Vineyard). On that visit, It had only been open for a couple of days - no menus and I brought my wine from the Downstairs bar.

                  Marliave Report

                  1. re: Chrispy75

                    Ground-level oyster bar only serves raw bar, I believe, not sure about drinks there.

                    First-floor has big bar plus tables, full range of cocktails, wine and beer, and a cheaper, more causal cafe menu (most stuff <$20).

                    Second floor has big gorgeous window-wrapped dining room with a pretty expensive Continental menu: 3-course prix fix is over $60. There's a separate, smaller, quiet bar on that floor serving the same drinks as the cafe.

          2. I was there last night from about 7:45pm to 10pm or so as a group of 6. We shared 3 appetizers and everyone got their own entree. We each also had 2 drinks including the 'pitcher' of martinis that we split. Our waiter was friendly and courteous but was definitely inexperienced and did not have complete knowledge of the menu yet - he dropped a butter knife coated in marinara sauce on my sleeve and gently bumped a plate into the head of the person sitting next to me. We enjoyed the food quite a bit given the price point but thought that the drinks were very weak in general and in terms of alcohol content for the price point of $10 across the board, especially when the mixology was just mediocre. They have an interesting list of cocktail names but execution was off. Two DCs got drinks that use finely crushed ice (think Whiskey Smash at ESK) and both finished their drinks within a few sips because there was just a lack of drinkable liquid. Another DC got a fruit-based drink that was described as a fruit salad but what was left out was that it was going to be a _warm_ fruit salad which was not appealing for a cocktail. I hope that will rethink their drink list or rethink their bartending, the prices need to come down or their bartenders need to step up to the task of making those classic cocktails. They're definitely not going to have anything on #9, ESK, Green St, Deep Ellum, B-Side, etc. Perhaps my criticism is a little harsh given that it was day #2 but if you're not going to come out swinging, when are you going to?

            Drinks that I tasted:
            Jenny Churchill(mine) - equivalent to a Red Hook it seemed, good balance between the bitters and bourbon though not sure if it was because there wasn't enough bourbon in it, almost seemed watered down

            Martini (pitcher) - the presentation was very exaggerated as the waiter brought over the pitcher which was huge, 14" tall or so but it only had 4 martini's worth of liquid in it and proceeded to pour it into 4 martini glasses. The martini itself was good, perfect balance of martini flavors. I could see myself ordering a pitcher for myself provided that they let you order one for yourself (apparently they would only pour this for 4 people as the pitchers have to be reused for other purposes.

            Tomatoes w/fresh mozzarella and basil with a balsamic/olive oil dressing - tomatoes and mozzarella tasted fresh, basil was almost nonexistent, just enough dressing, not too much, not too little

            Calamari - very light batter but was slightly soggy and not crisp or crunch, rings only, marinara sauce was better than average with chunks of tomatoes while still managing to be not too heavy

            Rarebit - 5x1" thick rounds that were 1" in diameter with an iron skillet of gooey melted cheese and some pieces of bacon hidden about. My DCs complained that the toast 'points' were too thick to really bite into, I got around that by breaking the toast into half-moons so I could get actually bite into it. The rarebit itself was tasty, slightly garlicky, slightly smoky from the bacon and slightly sharp from the cheese.

            Skate (mine) - first time eating Skate as I don't see it often at this price point where I go but I thought it was very good and something that I would get often if I wanted a fish dish. The fish was tender, buttery, sweet and a bit crispy at the edges. Capers provided a little contrast to the butter. What I did not enjoy with the Skate were the bed of mashed potatoes underneath it as the texture combination of the two just did not work together, it definitely needs to be put aside, a bed of greens would have worked better I think.

            Steak - this hanger steak was mediocre according to the DC that had it and cooked slightly less than the person had wanted. I had a piece and thought it tasted like roast beef that you would get at the deli, not sure if that was due to the herb butter or not though. I did enjoy the fries that came with it.

            Mrs Marliave - the DC across from me had this and seemed to enjoy it but felt that the bred was too thick/hard to chew given the other contents (the bread reminded me of the panini bread that Trader Joe's sells, its a round bread that's pre-sliced, avg. $2.29 or so). Was also not sure what to given the over easy egg was on top which makes sense but makes it hard to cut the sandwich apart without splitting the layers. I had a small piece which I enjoyed, cheese was well melted into the layers and had a good flavor, I also did not mind the bread as I like the Trader Joe's bread.

            Hamburger - didn't hear anything about this, no complaints and good fries
            Mushroom - something about the roasted peppers made the person who got this pick them out

            2 Replies
            1. re: avial

              I went back last night for a late after-work meal and drinks with a coworker at the bar and my hopes for greatness at the Marliave were rekindled - at 7pm, it was only my coworker and I plus one other for about 1/2hr and then we had the place to ourselves for a good hour and spent a lot of it chatting up the bartender, Jacky, formerly of B-Side and Beehive at times. While she's the only bartender now, she told us that a few of the bartenders from B-Side would be migrating to the Marliave once B-Side closes which was welcome news. She also said that a few drinks were still in the works even though they were on the menu as they hadn't quite gotten all the ingredients they needed. They're also waiting to get some standby ingredients like Pernod, Absinthe, Punt E Mes and Fernet.

              I enjoyed a glass of El Jimador Reposado straight up, a Red Hook/Manhattan cross and a Negroni while my coworker had The Great Experiment and two Negronis. For food, I had the Medianoche Midnight which was delicious and came with a simple greens salad with grated parmesan on top and some kind of dressing that fit the bill. Coworker had the ravioli which he raved about.

              They open for lunch today with the downstairs menu and hope to open the upstairs dining room this weekend.

              1. re: avial

                Great to know you had a good experience and that help for the bar is on its way from the B-Side! Top-notch reporting!

            2. I was walking by via Bromfield last night and considered checking it out, however the entrance to stairs was pretty dark and it was furthermore being used as a restroom. I was skeeved out. My advice is that until they - hopefully - improve the lighting on those stairs, use the entrance from alley off Tremont.

              1. Stopped in yesterday and they were serving Sunday brunch, as well as, their regular menu. We opted for the regular menu. The DC went with the hanger steak and fries, which came perfectly cooked to order. I stole a few of the fries and thought they were quite good. My dish was the gnocci with lamb, pork, tomatos. At first bite, I thought it was a little too salty but because I tend to be salt sensitive I'm not sure I should even mention it. The gnocci was very similar to what they serve at Grotto and I was happy with it. There was only one other party dining the whole time we there which I assume is because most people don't realize that they have opened. The kitchen also sent out two complimentary orders of the tomatos and fresh mozzarella to start the meal, which was a nice surprise. The staff was great, and even took us on a tour of the upstairs which is not yet open. Upstairs looks wonderful. I especially like the lights in the main room. The best way for me to describe them would be that they look like large clear glass globes, with an old fashioned light bulb inside. The downstairs is casual, good size bar, dark woods and white tin ceilings, and the oyster bar is a rather tiny space. Although if you do manage to snag a seat I imagine it would be a great spot for oysters and a drink. All in all, they are off to a good start, and I can't wait for the upstairs to open.