L'Espalier or other for holiday lunch
My office of 10 does an annual Christmas lunch at a nice restaurant in Boston or Cambridge. Two years ago we went to Harvest in Cambridge (cozy) and last year we went to Umbria (BORING). Before my time they've gone to Locke Ober.
I brought up L'Espalier. Folks were excited about the food but weren't sure if the decor at the new digs would be "opulent" (their word not mine) enough. Has anyone been to the new location that can comment on the space? My bosses just don't want it to be to minimalist and austere.
And while I have your attention I'd love to hear some other nominations. The requirements are:
1) Serves lunch
2) The food served at lunch is more like food you'd get at dinner (i.e. not just sandwiches)
3) In Boston or Cambridge
4) Takes reservations
5) serves alcohol (at least wine and beer)
6)"opulent" (we are casual laid back people but once a year we like to pretend we're big shots)
Just wanted to follow up. My office did end up going to L'Espalier for our Christmas lunch and it was excellent. We were in the room next to the "library" with some nice views of Back Bay. Half of the group, including myself, got the Winter Degustation (a six-course tasting) and I must say it was the way to go. Lunch started with oysters (or rather one oyster) a citrus salad, lobster BLT, braised short ribs, cheese plate, and dessert. All were delicious and elegantly served.
The cheeses really were the shining star for me (and I don't mean to take away from the entrees) the desserts were just ok (nothing mind blowing like the chocolate truffle at Salts, or the bread pudding at Oleana)
Thanks to everyone who gave me input!
Oh and yumyum, I did end up going to Upstairs on the Square for dinner with my parents based on your recommendation. The food was outstanding (I had the tuna sashimi as an appetizer and veal two ways for an entree) and we enjoyed an excellent Montepulciano. Like L'Espalier, the dessert was just ok and I really wish I had ordered a cheese course instead because the cheeses there looked great.
A word of warning to OpenTable users: make sure you specify which room you want to dine in. The menus are completely different and you can't order off the Soiree Room menu at the Monday Club. I did not do this and when I confirmed over the phone neither party stated which room. I had looked at the menu for the Soiree room online and was excited to eat there so I was disappointed when we were seated in the Monday Club (which was really too loud for a dinner with my parents but seemed great for a party) The manager was very accommodating to us and seated us upstairs after only a short wait. In the future I will be sure to communicate better when making a reservation but if you have never been to the restaurant before it can be a little confusing.
I took a friend to the new L'Espalier last week for her birthday. Definitely not as charming as the old version, and we found the service slightly disjointed.
How about Upstairs on the Sq? Not sure if Soiree Room will open for lunch, but the owners usu do a very nice job of holiday decorating, and I quite like the food. Service is also good, and you can sometimes see Cambridge notables or minor celebs (we once saw Tovah Felschuh there, all decked out in Fendi leather).
How was the food at L'Espalier when you went for your friend's birthday? I polled the office and no one has been to the old location so they won't know the difference.
I also liked the look of Upstairs on the Sq.
And SaraASR what do you love about Sorellina? I don't know to much about that place.
My review from Yelp:
Dining at Sorellina last night puts all my other Boston dining experiences in perspective. THIS is what an amazing meal is, from start to finish!
Sorellina was amazing. It blew it's "sister" restaurant Mistral out of the water, not for just me, but if you look at the Yelp reviews, it's reviewed much better.. Service= so much better. Scene= so much better. Food= not comparable.
Going off of Yelp and friend recommendations, we started with the Tuna Tartar and Beet Raviolis. I had Tuna Tartar two days ago at Clink. This was literally 10 times better. Unlike Clink, this tuna had no fishy taste at all. It reminded me a little of the spicy tuna you get in a spicy tuna sushi roll, except the spice and aiolli was much lighter. We were given a heaping portion of tuna with crips similar to the wontons at a Chinese place, except large and flat. The textures and flavors went together SO well. We also got an appetizer portion of the Beet Raviolis. I HATE beets with a passion, but my friend said I had to try them... the appetizer portion was non-commital (only came with three), so I was happy... and they were great! Even the waiter said that people who hate beets love these raviolis. They didn't taste like dirt like beets normally do. They just tasted healthy and a little earthy. The ravioli itself was very thin, topped with toasted almonds, and served in a very light green onion butter sauce.
I had the Cod with white beans and clams. The cod was pan seared with a crispy exterior and flaky interior. It was AWESOME. Considering I was eating a lot, I wanted to have something on the lighter side for my main entree. The white beans and clams were a nice complement, but didn't overwhelm the cod which I think is a hard medium to come by. When I went to Mistral, I got a fish dish which was so incredibly salty it was difficult to eat. This... so much better.
THE TRUFFLE FRIES. If anyone has had the Met fries from the Metropolitan Club in Chestnut Hill/Natick Collection, these are basically them... but slightly better, if possible. I honestly see myself going to Sorellina in the future to watch games, get some drinks, and eat a few portions of truffle fries. You MUST order the truffle fries if you come here. No excuses.
For dessert (yes, was still able to eat), I got the pumpkin chiffon. The waiter was attentive enough to see that we toasted to my birthday, so he even lit a candle and wrote Happy Birthday in chocolate on the plate. I wish I had a picture!
The food and decor at Sorellina were top-notch, and the only place I've had better service was Oceanaire in Government Center. I think Sorellina sometimes gets overlooked because of the slightly odd location, but seriously, you must come here. Special occasion is a great excuse, or if you just want a good meal, this place is awesome. As hot as the South End is right now, this place is better than everywhere I've been in the South End.
They are going to be open for lunch in December!!!
The pictures of the dining room on their website look lovely. And the fireplace in the Monday Club is a plus. I know CHers have had positive reviews about Upstairs in the last year. I just wish the dinner menu was available for lunch.
Perhaps I should give them a call and see if they have any special menus for lunch during the holiday season.
I'm afraid minimalist and austere is pretty much an exact description of the new L'Espalier space. "Luxury-hotel-generic" would also apply. "Now a hotel restaurant, so they have to seat guests in jeans and hoodies, even if they are $300 jeans and $200 hoodies" is also apt. "So charmless compared to the old space it makes me want to cry" is how I'm describing it to friends.
re: MC Slim JB
That's too bad. But thanks for your honesty. I certainly don't want to be blamed for ruining Christmas because I pushed a restaurant with no character. And believe me, I would hear about it for the rest of my time at this office.
That said, any other suggestions? I do like the feedback I've received so far. I've been pushing for No. 9 Park for some time because I've had great experiences there. Glancing at the website for the Oak Room it certainly looks opulent. How's the food?
I think a lot of folks who loved the old L'Espalier will have this complaint, but it might not be a big deal if you've never dined there, so I'd say have a look yourself before crossing it off your list. It still looks plenty ritzy; it just doesn't charm your socks off the way the old place did.
The food and service certainly haven't lost a step, they're both fantastic; it remains one of the best fine-dining meals in town. But between the room and the crowd, it feels a whole lot less like a special occasion place now, just another luxury-class restaurant in a 5-star hotel. It's also still one of the most expensive restaurants in the city.
If that decision were up to me, with a lot of coworkers hanging on my choice, I'd do some first-hand research, at the very least a walk-through.