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Chef's Table at L'Espalier

We'll be dining at L'Espalier within the month, and I've been researching to try and figure out what will be the best dining experience. Should we do the Degustation or the "Chef's Dining Journey"? (This is part of a lovely gift I received, so money is not a huge factor, but if we do the Degustation we might get more expensive wine, which could be worth it.)

What I can't find any info on is the Chef's Table. Anyone try it? It looks interesting, but really close to the guys in the kitchen! http://www.lespalier.com/menu/chefs%2...

I wouldn't want it to be overwhelming, but if it's a special treat, with the same or similar service as the dining room, I would love to go.

Thoughts? (A little background on us: we are NYC transplants, prefer to spend money on food and wine versus material things, so far in Boston we loved Radius, No. 9 Park was too salty (was it an off night?), and Oleana. We've dined at Per Se, French Laundry, Jean George, Le Bernardin... FL being the very, very best experience.

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I found this (also posted elsewhere on the boards):

Front & Center at The L'Espalier Chef's Table
Get ready for an up-close and personal dining experience at the brand new Chef's Table at L'Espalier. Lucky diners can watch the magic unfold right from the thick of things in the heart of the bustling Boylston Street kitchen. Chef-owner Frank McClelland and his right hand man James Hackney will present guests with an unforgettable menu - prepared right before their very eyes. Here's the hitch - they only seat one party per evening (excluding Sundays) and there's only enough room for groups of two or three. Call 617.262.3023 to get your name on the list asap for this totally unique dining experience.

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  1. If I were you, I would call L'Espalier and chat with Mâitre d', Louis Risoli. Tell him what you like about other dining experiences and let him suggest what they might do to make your L'Espalier experience as perfect for you as possible.

    I've interviewed him for articles a couple of times and he is brilliant and funny and caring from all I can see. He has also been an important part of the restaurant for more than 20 years. If I were in your position and I knew about a resource like him, that is what I would do.

    http://www.lespalier.com/team/risoli....

    2 Replies
    1. re: BostonZest

      In general how much is it for Chef's Table? I guess the real question is, how much more expensive is it compared to a normal meal at the same restaurant?

      1. re: chowda

        As far as I know, it costs the same as the Chef's Tasting Journey, which is $185pp.

    2. I can't comment on the Chef's Table question, as I have not yet been to the new location, but my wife and I went to the old location for a number of special occasions, and on one particularly decadent evening we indulged in the Chef’s Tasting Journey, with wine pairings. That meal and evening is one of the singular most memorable meals we have ever had, and we have had a lot.

      Attached is the menu that they printed and gave to us as we left (how cool is that?) which gives you an idea of what is involved.

      1 Reply
      1. re: StevieC

        It is not clear if my attachment actually attached, despite my efforts. If you care to post an email I can forward it to you.

      2. i liked my few experiences at l'espalier. the chef's table is NOT the way to go though. it's poorly situated and makes service very challenging and it's reflected on the diner. it is a beautiful kitchen that looks like it could feed the mandarin and the lennox hotels but i would rather watch a hockey game from behind that plexi-glass.

        my advice is definitely sit in the dining room. service is not the best part of l'espalier (a strange version of a captained floor mixed with an element of the "not my job" union kind of thing) but, it is definitely better in the dining room just don't expect keller or jg service. the chefs table just feels like it was just slapped together just to have a "chef's table"

        in terms of wine... i also would stay away from the pairings. pretty boring stuff but, beware cuz the full list is quite expensive. highlights are some really good burgundy options and depth with age.

        my vote is for the dining room.... but i'm just one dude who likes to eat. hopefully others who have sat at the chefs table can comment as well

        1. We treated our son to the chef's table for his birthday two weeks ago on a Friday night. Not only was the food exquisite, but the service was truly excellent. The chefs, servers and sommelier (a wonderful woman who offered an in-depth explanation with each of the 10 wines she poured) literally went out of their way to be certain that we had everything we needed. When anyone from our party of four left the table and went to the bathroom, they were accompanied through the kitchen to make sure there were no accidents. The servers carefully explained every one of the 14 dishes in detail and the chef de cuisine not onky took us on a tour of the kitchen, but was available to explain any of the questions that we had about the preparation of the food, of which we had many.

          I would highly recommend this experience to anyone that has an interest in great food and its preparation and would like to demystify the process to get a better understanding of how a truly professional high end kitchen is run.

          The kitchen was very accommodating, including creating 4 or 5 different courses for the one person in our party who was allergic to seafood.

          The only problem was that with 4 people the space felt a bit cramped, yet 2 or 3 should have plenty of space. Also, there was much too much food, and we did not consume it all which was unfortunate.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Joseph Helfgot

            great... glad you enjoyed it. good to see that there was a different point of view than mine. i agree, it is fun to see how a high end kitchen is run for sure. as well i agree that there was too much food and i have definitely had dinners with far more courses and been saited not stuffed! i guess our only difference of opinion was the service. perhaps an adjustment to having the new table in the kitchen. although, i still found the service a little disjointed in the dining room as i mentioned before. it just doesn't compare to other restaurants at a level that they are striving for (or seem to be)

          2. Completely off topic ... the prices for the two seven-course menus are the same as they were almost 10 years ago. Obviously, price not an object here ... just shocking to me.

            1. Hm...great ideas all around. I think we'll opt for the dining room. Will definitely report back on service, wine, food... One of the deciding factors was amount of food. I love food, but I do get to a point with some tasting menus where I just can't keep going, then feel guilty/unpleasant. I think we'll do the Degustation menu with a couple of half bottles. Reservation is Feb 7th!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Suze123

                good choice... i hope you enjoy and would love to hear about it. i think if you have the opportunity at another time it would be fun to check out the chef table.

                1. re: Suze123

                  Just a word of caution on the degustation menu: the meat/seafood one is devastatingly rich. With my last one, I was dead about halfway through the third course. The current sample menu online is representative, I think:

                  Butter poached Maine lobster with risotto cake and butternut squash nage
                  Torchon of foie gras with pickled chanterelle mushrooms and Concord grape foam
                  Roasted Hawaiian escolar with celery root purée, puy lentils and Pat’s littleneck clams
                  Beef tenderloin a la plancha with short rib, pommes purée and wild red watercress
                  Grand fromage
                  Dessert tasting

                  In other words, "Don't fill up on bread." One way we've mitigated this is by getting one degustation and one vegetable degustation and sharing, which dials down the animal-fat content enough to get through the whole thing without gasping for a Fernet-Branca before the cheese course.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    That's a wonderful idea. Actually, I am often a fan of perfectly prepared vegetables more than meats. A taste is really all I would need of most of those courses. Oh, and in a horrible turn for the worse, I have a hard time now with foie gras. I used to love it, but I think my body has since figured out how rich it is and I can never eat very much. Regardless, we'll probably take your advice!

                2. I had the winter degustation menu a couple of weeks ago. Pretty much the same menu as the one Slim described. I enjoyed it. I knew the richness of the beef course would not suit my wife... so we substituted the lamb for her.

                  One note: I was disappointed that they plated the cheese course... one plate to share. That is a short cut that I was not expecting and should not happen in a place like this. They have a lovely cheese cart that should have been offered. I didn't complain but asked later and they said, "Of course you can request the cart if you'd like". They have it backwards... the proper way to do it is to offer the cart tableside... and then if the customer desires they can "request" that the waiter choose the selections if they don't want to mess with it. So, remember to advise them that you'd like the cheese cart when you order if you want it.

                  Personally, I'd never sit in their kitchen. I don't find it an appealing space. I think you're much better off in the dining room there.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: WineAG

                    great point about the cheese cart. definitely one of the things that should be done tableside

                    1. re: WineAG

                      Also the cheeses are way better than the dessert IMO. Even though I was quite full when the cheese came around I somehow gained the strength of 100 men to devour more than my share of the cheese.

                      I was glad I did because the little dessert platter did not impress. Cakes that were nothing special with bland french buttercream.

                      1. re: WineAG

                        Thank you! I love cheese and cheese carts and would have assumed they would bring it by, not plate it beforehand...I will certainly remember to ask.

                      2. So we went on Saturday. Great experience! I had the vegetarian degustation (asked to have the oyster dish off the a la carte menu subbed in for a supplement) and DH had the Winter degustation. Since the OP was about the Chef's Table, I'll comment on that. We were shown the kitchen when leaving and I am honestly glad we didn't choose to sit there. The table was really quite close to the action, and the seats would have been stools. A plexiglass partition would have been in front of us. I can't imagine not feeling like we were in the way (at least for the servers). I think if you really wanted an up-close, action-packed dining experience, this might be for you.

                        We enjoyed the dining room experience (sat in the Library) and our long conversations with the sommelier and our headwaiter. A note on the cheese cart...it was explained that it couldn't really be wheeled into the Library room without a lot of trouble, so we were invited to come see it ourselves. This was a fun treat, and we again had a long talk about which cheeses we were interested in. We had 9 altogether (hooray!).

                        Another note, instead of wine pairings we decided to ask for some matching white wines by the glass to begin (this was exciting for me, since I had no idea what was coming on the vegetarian degustation). We then rounded out the evening with a bottle of red. I liked this because it gave us some more time with the sommelier and exposure to some really fascinating wines.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Suze123

                          So happy you enjoyed it.

                          Now, how about some cheese recommendations from your tasting? Do you recall a favorite or two. I fall in love with new cheeses every time I have their cheese plate.

                          1. re: BostonZest

                            Oh, definitely. I'll have to check our cheat sheet that we brought home and get back to you.

                            I have never seen so many cheeses on a cheese plate. I think he took a shine to us, especially since we were so into their cheeses.

                            1. re: BostonZest

                              I am finally getting back to you! This makes me want to go on a cheese tour of Vermont…
                              The amazing cheese course:
                              1) Lake’s Edge, Blue Ledge Farm, VT – this goat was yummy, similar to Humbolt fog but less pasty
                              2) Coupole, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company – creamy and spreadable like butter
                              3) Champlain Triple Cream, Champlain Valley Creamery, VT
                              4) Colorouge, Fort Collins, CO – This was supposed to run all over the plate, but they took it out of the fridge too late to warm to room temperature. Louis apologized. It was still great and the orange rind was pretty!
                              5) Caccio di Bosco, Tuscany, Italy – Studded with white truffle. One of my favorites, especially in combination with the honey/jam/compote they served (my memory of what this was fails).
                              6) Tarantaise, Spring Brook Farm, VT – This was perfectly firm and had a bit of spice which was great!
                              7) Gouda, 4 yrs, Holland – This is a favorite. Yes, you eat it like candy. Yummy, orange, cheese-candy.
                              8) Manchester, Consider Bardwell farm, VT – I guess this was named one of Food and Wine’s top 10 cheeses. DH liked it, but I thought it had a funny aftertaste. Too earthy maybe?
                              9) Bayley Hazen, Jasper Hill Farm, VT – We had to try something from the well-known Jasper Hill. This was indeed a great blue.

                              My favorite I think was the Caccio di Bosco with the accompanying honey/jam/compote spread. A wonderful marriage of flavors.

                              1. re: Suze123

                                Thank Suze, that was a dreamy collection. And, again there are so many I have never tried. I'll have to hunt down the Caccio de Bosco for my husband. He is a truffle adorer!

                                It great to see the selection from New England producers.

                            2. re: Suze123

                              If you ever want an "in the action" but not "in the way" experience, the kitchen-side dining at Craigie on Main (not the bar- that's a separate room) is the perfect level of exposure to the action without being cramped or uncomfortable.

                              1. re: Parsnipity

                                Ooohh....I've been wanted to try both (Chef's Table and Cragie on Main). Thanks!