Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Dec 21, 2008 03:15 AM

Erbaluce - Go or no Go

Will have house guests arriving tomorrow through Jan 2nd and wanted to hit "some of the newest spots" . I read the thread on Erbaluce and am conflicted as to go or not. Folks seem to rate the food highly, but it seems as if they "soak" you on the wine prices. I have zero wine knowledge (prefer cocktails, and when I do get wine I always trust the selection to others) so for those that have been what specific wines would you recommend from the low end of their list to @ $60/bottle. Thanks

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think the food is amazing: pastas in particular are stunning. But I too have scratched my head a bit at the wine list, which is not so much gouging as it is focused on more unusual wines that are costlier. I've heard one opinion that says they're actually a very good deal, but an $80 bottle is still $80 to me, sometimes more than I want to spend with dinner.

    The solution is simple: talk to the sommelier, Joan Johnson, the chef's partner who runs the dining room. Explain you'd like to limit your spending to X per bottle, and she will point you to something affordable that goes with your meals. There aren't a ton of options under $50, so I think I've tried every one by now; they are all very fine and don't taste like budget wines. As usual, there are more whites in that range than reds.

    One red that struck me as very fine for the money was a Morellino di Scansano for under $40, a red from a lesser-known region of Tuscany. I've bought many Morellinos from various vintners at retail and haven't cared much for any of them, but that was a beautiful bottle at Erbaluce that met the evening's budget.

    If you want a pre-prandial cocktail, there are a number of full-license bars at restaurants within a few blocks: The Bristol, Via Matta, Avila, Bonfire, Smith & Wollensky, Davio's, and Excelsior all have good to very good bartending. S&W is probably the closest. (Fleming's is even closer, but I don't care for that bar.)

    1. I just went last night and was disappointed after seeing people's positive reviews. The wine prices are annoying, particularly since the two bottles of red for under 40 dollars were both unavailable when I went (if memory serves, the next lowest price was $55), but the wines by the glass were fine, and they offered to pour a sample of two different options which was generous. Another odd beverage note was they only serve homemade soda (i.e. no Coke, Sprite, etc.) which I'd never seen before.

      Since the wine I ended up having (a generous pour of a Dolcetto and then a Brachetto with dessert) was actually fairly good and reasonably priced, I didn't mind that aspect, but I also didn't love a lot of the food. As people have mentioned, the bread and (especially) the dip that goes with it was addictive, and I thought the pansotti and gnocchi with pork ragu were both excellent (the gnocchi in particular were the exact soft, light consistency that I prefer). The bread pudding budino that my DC got was decent but uninteresting, but my dessert (the chocolate and orange tart) was pretty boring - a chocolate cup filled with chocolate ganache sitting on top of some oranges on the plate. The speck appetizer was unexceptional, but the boar entree (supposedly one of the restaurant's signatures) was just a few thick pork chops, somewhat overcooked, set over a grape and lavender sauce that wasn't anywhere near as interesting as it sounds (it just added a bit of acid to an otherwise plain chop). Given people's positive reviews, I was very excited to go here, but Erbaluce didn't live up to that for me. I'd recommend if you do go here to focus on the pastas and only get dessert if they have something that really appeals to you.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Josh M

        Boy, do I have to disagree with you on the chocolate orange dessert. I thought it was fabulous, with a lovely tart shell, a rich orangey ganache, an orange scented whipped cream and a few slivers or candied orange peel. I just loved it. Reading your post again, your description sounds like there was a bit of a change in the preparation, and perhaps that makes the difference- the tart shell provided a needed contrast to the rich chocolate. In fact we loved just about everything with the exception of the minestrone, which was just missing the depth of flavor I expect from a good soup. We stuck with wines by the glass and I was pretty pleased with them but I'm ot a wine connoisseur. It was a few weeks ago, so I couldn't tell you which wines we had.

        As mentioned by others, I really enjoyed the view into the kitchen. We had the table right by the kitchen and it was really interesting to watch Chef Draghi and his crew do their work. We didn't meet the chef although I saw him making rounds- that's a nice touch if you and your guests get it.

      2. Terrible experience... Staff is knowledgeable... Food is a C-... They have much work to do... We tried the Razor Clams... F... The Boar... D...

        2 Replies
        1. re: JGood

          JGood, would you be so kind as to elaborate a bit on what specifically you had a problem with? I'm also a bit confused, if the food is a C- but the dishes you tried were F and D, were there other things you had that were significantly better?

          1. re: TPistrix

            TPistrix...The reason for the C- is that I live in the neighborhood and want to give these folks a chance... The bread we had was stale.... and we asked for 3 different beers that they were out of... to top that they were out of the wine that we asked for... The boar was raw... we had a tasteless ravioli.... I could go on, but don't want to be rude... My advice is is to give these folks some time to find their groove... They are not there yet... no way...