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Marliave - report

Rubee and I had a lovely lunch at Marliave. What a great space. It still has that old time charm with a lovely marble bar and just a pleasant décor. We sat at the bar and had a great bartender who was also the wine director. He had a great sense of humor and was just pleasant to chat with. He seemed a bit stretched at lunch, but he handled the crowd professionally and with grace.

The food – delicious. For appetizers, we shared the Rarebits: Melted farmhouse cheeses, Vermont bacon, roasted garlic, crusty bread and the Chowder: Little neck clams, buttery potatoes, bacon, garlic crunchies. Both were delicious. The bacon quality was out of this world. The exact balance of fat and flavor and both apps had just enough to give it the flavor without overpowering the other ingredients. The chowder is not a traditional one. The stuff came on a plate, two big littlenecks, chopped potatoes, croutons and small slabs of pork belly. The soup, came in a pourer which you could pour directly onto the stuff. That broth was amazing. Rich and buttery that paired so wonderfully with the pork belly.

For the main, we split the gnocchi special – lobster with fresh corn and peas. Talk about maximizing summer flavors. The gnocchi was light and pillowy and it was just beautiful alongside the corn and lobster. Even though we were full, we both managed to finish the dish.

For dessert, we went down to the littlest oyster bar and had two oysters each – pemaquid and martha’s vineyard. We asked the oyster guy what he recommended and he said that these two were his favorites. He shucked the oysters with love and care. Each oyster was deliciously briny and juicy.

For drinks, we started off with Bloody Mary’s – expertly made and perfectly spiced. We moved on to a glass of chenin blanc (Pine Ridge?) that was the bartender’s favorite wine. The wine was delicious and paired extremely well with the gnocchi and oysters.

It’s a great spot, but the entrances are problematic. I entered through the oyster bar which was fine. The other entrance is kind of hidden amongst the construction. But, this place is well worth the trip.


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    1. This sounds great. I'm on the Grotto mailing list and received a message touting the "Littlest Oyster Bar" which I think is a nice homage to the defunct Littlest Bar. Definitely towards the top of my list to try. I've always been very impressed with what Scott Herritt turns out.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Food4Thought

        The oyster bar is great. Tiny; maybe 5-6 seats..and a small assortment of very high quality oysters on ice in bins.

        1. re: 9lives

          I tried it yesterday at lunchtime. They did a light renovation, so it still feels OLD, which I like. Same old tiled floor on the main floor dining area (upstairs is not ready yet, I think). I agree about the entrances, and am really not sure how (or if) they can comply with the Americans with Disabilities thing -- lots of stairs. Anyhow, I had a burger and thought it was superior. The bun seemed to be a brioche roll, delicious, good thick beef, with a side of very nice greens. My only problem -- no good mustard, just yellow mustard (they have to fix this, it's ridiculous). My companion had a sandwich that is like a Croque Monsieur (sorry if I spelled this wrong) but I can't remember what Marliave called it. It looked wonderful and she liked it. Service was very nice, as well. A good choice for a special lunch -- yet not super expensive.

          1. re: Lucymax

            While the mustard comes in a classic yellow mustard squeez tube, the mustard inside is a spicy brown mustard.

      2. Great report, not much to add except for that I enjoyed it as much as BB. The night before I had met Niblet and HeatherMB for dinner at Prezza (and some of us continued on to Lucca for late-night cocktails), so sat down and ordered a Blood Mary "very strong and very spicy", and Brendan the bartender delivered. The rarebits was a great way to start our lunch off - toasted bread and a cast-iron pan filled with gooey cheese and topped with slices of bacon. The bacon was so good, I asked Chef Scott where it's from, and he mentioned a small purveyor in Vermont. I loved the clam chowder, especially with that buttery broth and smoky chunks of pork belly. The gnocchi with lobster was excellent, and the delicious oysters accompanied by a glass of wine and friendly service at the tiny oyster bar downstairs were the perfect way to finish a great lunch with great friends (thanks BB and 9Lives for joining me!)

        10 Bosworth Street, Boston, MA 02108

        3 Replies
        1. re: Rubee

          i'm sorry,,, a Bloody Mary at night???

          1. re: ScubaSteve

            Lunch. It was to cure the night before.

        2. Allstonian and I decided on a whim to try Marliave out tonight, because our plans for tomorrow night fell through. From the moment we walked into the downstairs bar, it seemed like the right choice: this immediately became my top choice for most beautiful dining room in the city. It's just exactly what I like to see in a room: cozy, but not at all crowded, with a distinct aesthetic but not at all fussy or over-designed. Having never been to the old incarnation, I have no idea what and how much was changed, but I was impressed by how not-new the room felt. Definitely felt like a nice refuge from the just-enough-to-be-annoying rain.

          For drinks, Allstonian had The Great Experiment (Hendrick's gin with mint, cucumber and citrus) and I had the Jennie Churchill (basically a rye Manhattan, and a very nice one indeed). Both were excellent, although I might have mildly preferred Allstonian's. Manhattans were my go-to drink for years, but I've since gotten a bit burned out on them. This was definitely a fine example of the form, though, one of the best I've had in ages.

          Starters were the already justly famous rarebits (basically a small Lodge cast iron pan with a coating of melted cheese and bacon on the bottom, with five toasts on the side) and four of the oysters -- two Wellfleets and two Pemaquids -- and here's where my one mild quibble with the service was: I chose those two of the three varieties available because our server (one of two who were tag-teaming our table, oddly enough) spoke so quietly that even though I asked her to repeat the third oyster variety twice, neither of us understood what she was saying! And we were in the far corner of a half-full room, so it wasn't like she was fighting a lot of ambient noise. Anyway, the oysters were lovely, served on a bed of ice with a side dish containing ramekins of lemon slices, a nice crunchy mignonette sauce, and a simply outstanding cocktail sauce with a good horseradish kick and an unexpected sweet smokiness. I suspect smoked paprika. Seriously, if you get the oysters, don't neglect the cocktail sauce: it's a much better than average example of the form.

          For mains, Allstonian chose the lobster gnocchi special, deciding on that over the steak frites by virtue of its season being almost over. She chose well: the gnocchi themselves were very well done, substantial without being rubbery or leaden, and the sauce was so good that we ordered and split a side of the rosemary frites that we saw on other tables so she'd have a vehicle for mopping up every last drop. Excellent fries, incidentally.

          I had the Mrs. Marliave, basically a croque madame. (Think pan-grilled ham and cheese sandwich with an over easy egg on top.) I was a bit surprised by the bread, which was in the brioche family: not what my first thought would have been if I was making one on my own, but actually a really good idea, because it got infused with the egg yolk quite nicely as the meal went on. The baby-greens salad was arguably overdressed, but it was a really nice dressing -- fresh and citric, consisting almost entirely of lemon juice and salt, making it a perfect side to this intensely buttery sandwich -- so I wasn't complaining.

          After all that, we couldn't face the dessert menu, though the warm tapioca pudding was vaguely tempting. Tab before tip was in the $70 range, which was entirely reasonable for the quality and the ambiance.

          Speaking of ambiance, the one complaint I'd have would be the choice of music, which was a fairly pedestrian bunch of pop oldies, covering the time period between "Hound Dog" and "Werewolves of London." Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good oldies station as much as the next guy, and at least two of my all-time favorite songs (the Beatles' "I Feel Fine" and Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'") came up. But it just seemed somehow out of place in a room like this, like the sound system had been taken over by Bob from Accounting, who strongly feels that rock and roll was at its creative peak the summer after he graduated from high school. It was the soundtrack I'd expect to hear in, like, an Applebee's, and that's not the kind of place this is. As Allstonian said, the default choice for a place like this would be Great American Songbook, which would in its way be just as unimaginative. My instinct would be a blend of bossa nova and west coast cool jazz. Maybe if they wanted to go pop, something like the quieter, more twee end of indie: early Everything But the Girl, the Softies, the Bird and the Bee, Belle and Sebastian, that sort of thing. Something that goes better with the overall feel of the rest of the Marliave experience.

          Celebrity gossip: one of the Andelman brothers from Phantom Gourmet was seated right behind us. The chef/owner made a point of stopping by to say hi.

          5 Replies
          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

            I really liked the rarebits and gnocchi too. If you like clam chowder, they do a great version..with a chunk of pork belly...maybe next time.

            1. re: 9lives

              The chowder! That's the other thing I'd seem mentioned here that sounded really tempting, but as I was perusing the menu I forgot.

              However, the oysters were lovely and we don't have them often for some reason. I had also been pondering the Caesar salad. Though my heart yearned for double helpings of the rarebits, I was trying to behave...

            2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              I was there for the first time this weekend too. I know that people seem to like the rarebits, but c'mon...$10 for some melted cheese, bacon and five unremarkable slices of toasted french bread? It was yummy, sure...bacon and cheese...hard to go wrong, but it should be priced a few dollars lower.

              The oysters were also high at $2.75 each. I was told the cherrystones were also the same price, which is a huge markup. Usually, clams do not cost as much as oysters. Maybe it was sticker shock after the 6 cherrystones for $5 at the St. Anthony's festival (6 oysters for $10).

              The service also had a weird vibe - a couple of different waiters came by and kept hovering around the table. One guy's shirt fit so poorly you could see between the buttons...looked sloppy. Just seemed a little bit like amateur night.

              The drinks were fine - the location is perfect.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                I agree that the service was odd. We were primarily waited on by one male and one female server, but I think a second male server joined in to make sure that we were asked whether we had any questions THREE times while we were trying to read the menus. Our two main servers did seem to be communicating behind the scenes, but I really dislike having multiple servers, and it does increase the likelihood that nobody will know who ordered what. (For instance, I believe that our drinks, when they came, were offered backwards.)

                However, after the unspeakably amateurish service we got during our one and only visit to Grotto, this seemed an improvement - nobody poured beer on Barmy's lap - and apparently the management thinks the tag-team approach works.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  I concur about the rarebits. I was shocked how little cheese there was. I guess I am just used to the B side. The bread wasn't good either. It seemed sort of stale.
                  I probably won't be going back.

              2. I went last night for an early dinner - what a great space they have!

                They were not offering the clam chowder (which my DC had been hoping for.) Our waiter said he thought they'd offer it again when the weather cooled down more. We started with rarebit and some oysters. We loved the Moonstone oysters - meaty and oyster-y.

                For mains I had the gnocchi with meat sauce - it was good but the real hit was my DC's tuna patty sandwich special. That was moist, delicious and huge. Really, really good, though neither of us loved the french fries, which surprised me. The quality of the rest was so good, I expected better fries.

                All in all I agree completely with the other posters - this place is well worth the trip.

                1. Just to join the chorus here, this the new favorite bar in the Downtown area for many of my coworkers, my friends and myself. I work across from the Elephant & Castle which was mediocre at best but extremely convenient because it only took 15 seconds to get there. But given the lackadaisical service and lame food, I needed to find a place that replaced that convenience with quality.

                  Though my initial visit on the day they soft-opened was just so-so, I've really grown to like the place very much as the kinks in their service and menu have been slowly worked out. What does sadden me is the thought that this place will get busy and crowded and loud. This past Thursday, I was able to sit at the upstairs bar with a coworker by ourselves because the downstairs bar was packed. They even allowed us to order off the downstairs menu because upstairs was empty when we got in (5:30pm or so.) It was just really nice to sit in a laid back setting, have some drinks and chat with the bartender (Jess in this case, Jacky was downstairs).

                  I still have some gripes - for $21, their foie gras slider was incredibly small - two small pucks, each about the diameter of a JFK 50 cent coin with the thickness of about .25". Perhaps this is an average serving size for foie gras at this price point these days but my sense is that it was smaller than average. Because of their diminutive size when combined with the mini-brioche bun, the ratio of protein to carb just did not work very well.

                  Nonetheless, there's still a lot more on the menu to try and I will definitely be trying.

                  1. I went for lunch last week and I pretty much had the place to myself (I don't go until nearly two in the afternoon). The service, as you can expect, was top notch : ) I got the Great Experiment, which I really enjoyed and the bartender put a lot of care into making it. I also got the gin drink with the homemade ginger beer - who can pass up homemade ginger beer? It, too, was very good.

                    For food, I got the mushroom sandwich and the baked beans. The sandwich was disappointing, but that could be that I misunderstood. I was expecting a big piece of mushroom (or several smaller pieces), with roasted red peppers and cheese. What I got was some sort of ground mushroom burger, I guess the peppers were in there, too, and the cheese was incorportated into the patty as well. It was very dry and difficult to eat because it kept falling apart. The beans, however, were great. Smoky with sizable chunks of pork. Delicious! I will definitely make this my go to lunch spot, but I'll probably stay away from the mushroom burger.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bostonbroad

                      with regards to the 'shroom burger, a DC got it the night they had their soft opening and it was a whole portabella with thin roasted red pepper strips.

                      1. re: avial

                        That's what it sounded like as written on the menu. At least that helps make me think I'm not going crazy or suddenly becoming illiterate. It would have been much better the way your DC got it, I bet.

                    2. how do you pronounce 'Marliave'?

                      1 Reply
                      1. A friend of mine and I went to Marliave for drinks and snacks. They are running a special promotion until the end of the week – free snacking treats from 5-6:30 pm. Between the snacks, the wine and the service, it’s worth hitting it up before the month’s end. You can get these treats either on the second or third floor bar area.

                        Snacking Treats
                        burger sliders – wow, these were tasty. Little burgers with some sauce on these teeny tiny really adorable looking brioches. The taste matched the looks. The burger was not overcooked, which I think is difficult to do with small pieces of meat. The brioches had just the right amount of butteriness, softness and a bit of bit on the crust. A really nice pairing.

                        Brussel Sprouts – 4 halves with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. What brought these sprouts to a different level were the slivers of bacon. That bacon is just heavenly.

                        Pizza – these were pretty good. The dough was a bit soggy but it had an excellent flavor. I think it’s because the crust was adequately salted so you could really taste the dough v. it just being a vehicle for the cheese and sauce.

                        Pumpkin soup – nice presentation. It was served in an espresso cup. But, it was way too hot. And, once it cooled down to a drinkable level, it was oddly flavorless. Not a lot of pumpkin flavor going on. There were some pepitas to give it a nice textural crunch. But, this soup was pretty forgettable.

                        Other food – since I wanted more, we ordered a few oysters as well as the rarebits. I love these rarebits because of the cheesy, gooey, bacony goodness. The rarebits were as delicious as usual. But, I think they changed the toastettes. Last time I had this dish, I thought the bread was more toast like. These were definitely sliced brioche slices. These slices, on their own, were delicious. But, paired with the cheese and bacon, the two didn’t highlight each other. Because, let’s face it, the bread is the vehicle for me to get the cheese and bacon into my mouth. The bread was a bit too buttery to go with the dish itself.

                        Dessert – A trio of ice cream flavors. The stand out was the white truffle ice cream. WOW. I think it kind of speaks for itself. The ginger and mint were quite good as well. My preference is for a stronger ginger flavor though. But, these two flavors paled to the white truffles.

                        Drinks – we started with a couple of cocktails. For some reason, the cocktail list just doesn’t do it for me. But, I do really like the wines here. More specifically, Brendan, the wine guy, is excellent at listening and anticipating diner’s wants and needs. He does a great job of pairing wines with small dishes and the whole thing is clearly a labor of love for him. Friendly and helpful without being overbearing or intrusive, Brendan is the consummate professional and Marliave is lucky to have him.