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Which Boston institution have I been neglecting for too long: Hammersley's, Rialto, or Mistral?

ginafly Oct 1, 2009 12:42 PM

So, I've lived in Boston for nine years and been to many of the "greatest hits," including Radius, No. 9, L'Espalier, Oleana, Grill 23... But somehow, after all of these years, I have not made it to Hammersley's Bistro, Rialto, or Mistral. Various friends tout these places to different degrees. But which one do you think is the one I should make it to, post haste? Or do all of these pale in comparison to some other place I've been missing out on?

As a note, my husband and I find that we really enjoy strong bold flavors over subtlety (some of our favorite restaurants are Central Kitchen, EVOO, TW Food, Union Oyster), and have little patience for overly precious platings (CLIO!).

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  1. Joanie RE: ginafly Oct 1, 2009 12:50 PM

    For no particular reason, I'd say Hamersley's should be first on the list then Mistral (esp. if you want a more buzzy place) then Rialto. Something about Rialto never (well, in 3 times) thrills me.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Joanie
      Gabatta RE: Joanie Oct 1, 2009 01:40 PM

      2nd Joanie's recs. I think she nails it exactly.

      I would be very excited to go to either Hamersley's or Mistral at any time. Rialto I could be fine never going there again.

      1. re: Joanie
        Northender RE: Joanie Oct 2, 2009 12:03 PM

        I like all three but Hammersley's is always a delight without any pretenses.

      2. w
        whimsey RE: ginafly Oct 1, 2009 01:35 PM

        definitely Hamersley's. They've been consistently solid over the ~15 years that I've been going there, and are always one of my first choices when I want comfort food. I used to be a big fan of Rialto, but have been quite disappointed with my last two trips (the most recent of which was two months ago). I've never much liked Mistral, so I'd put it last on my list...

        1. c
          Carty RE: ginafly Oct 1, 2009 04:52 PM

          Wait. I'd go for No. 9. In a heartbeat.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Carty
            RichardinJP RE: Carty Oct 2, 2009 03:19 AM

            No. 9 wasn't one of the options!

            1. re: RichardinJP
              Carty RE: RichardinJP Oct 2, 2009 05:52 PM

              oh, right :), sorry.

              1. re: Carty
                ginafly RE: Carty Oct 5, 2009 09:38 AM

                Have been to No. 9, although I didn't expressly list it. =)

          2. f
            feelinpeckish RE: ginafly Oct 2, 2009 04:20 AM

            as a non-bostonian i can only go by my early experience at hammersley's. it was probably the best high level dining out event i (we) have had. the chef was on hand that night in his baseball cap. everything was top drawer and yet informal. food, service - all was great. we don't get to boston hardly at all but that was a great event in our dining lives. the higher costs of today's high level dining may deter us though.

            1. MC Slim JB RE: ginafly Oct 2, 2009 04:40 AM

              They're all good, but in terms of value, I'd choose in the following order: Hamersley's (still one of the best restaurants in town at its price level, bistro fare taken to a really high level), Rialto (which doesn't thrill me quite like it used to, not since Adams went solo, changed the menu to all-Italian, and redid the dining room), Mistral (very good of its kind, but rather overpriced, in my view).


              4 Replies
              1. re: MC Slim JB
                pemma RE: MC Slim JB Oct 2, 2009 06:35 AM

                Like you, Hammersley's was one of the places I had missed and I went for the first time this year. After advice on this board I got the signtature roast chicken dish, which really was amazing considering it was basically a roast chicken. I have not been to Rialto or Mistral either. I have considered going to Mistral a few times because I've always heard good things about it but I can't seem to get past the over-the-top pricing. I guess when I'm spending at that level I want more elegance. But, one of these days maybe I'll bite the bullet.

                I think it comes down to Mistral or Hammersley's fo ryou. Also, have you been to Locke-Ober yet? If not, maybe that's where you should go. That's a real classic.

                1. re: pemma
                  greenzebra RE: pemma Oct 2, 2009 08:28 AM

                  I also went to Hammersly's for the first time recently, and had the roast chicken. Really spectacular (made even better by the patio on a beautiful early fall evening), and I can't wait to find an excuse to go back and try some other things on the menu.

                  1. re: pemma
                    ginafly RE: pemma Oct 5, 2009 09:41 AM

                    I haven't been to Locke Ober and have always wondered about it. I have always wondered if I would feel out of place there, being 30. It just seems like a place for older, wealthy Bostonians. But I find its history intriguing and also Lydia Shire's reputation is no joke.

                  2. re: MC Slim JB
                    hotoynoodle RE: MC Slim JB Oct 2, 2009 06:53 AM

                    agree with the above. as far as mistral, nothing on the menu is inspired or even newish. i don't know that it ever changes, with most items currently running having been on the menu since the inception. add in the astonishing wine mark-ups and the over the top pricing and it's a total pass in my book.

                    hammersley's is terrific and gordon is on the line nearly every night. what other celeb chef can say that? none of them because they are all running around building empires instead of executing consistent excellence on a manageable scale. i still dream about a lobsetr/chorizo/sweetbreads dish i had there several summers ago.

                  3. hotoynoodle RE: ginafly Oct 2, 2009 06:55 AM

                    to the op: union oyster is one of your favorites? i'm sorry, is that a typo?

                    and not in your list, but have you been to prezza? had dinner there again last night and it was really terrific. hits out of the park every time i go.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      Jolyon Helterman RE: hotoynoodle Oct 2, 2009 02:57 PM

                      All three are winners these days, IMO. After kind of a shaky relaunch as an Italian place, I think that Jody Adams is at the top of her game again at Rialto. I'd sit at the bar, though (the dining room service seems to be off, more often than not, for some reason). Her pastas are fantastic right now, and you can still get her famous Slow Roasted Duck.

                      Hamersley's, too, is better than ever. (Though there are two bartenders who make me never want to sit at the bar again.)

                      I'll say this about Mistral: I always think it costs about $5 more per entree than it really does, mostly b/c of the wine markups. I had a whole-but--surreptitiously-boned fish there a few months ago that was amazing (served with skin, head, etc., but with the interior bones taken out so it's wasy to eat...) I think it gets overrated.

                      Do it all!

                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                        ginafly RE: hotoynoodle Oct 5, 2009 09:42 AM

                        GACK! YES, I meant NEPTUNE. Wow, yes. I must find a way to edit my original post.

                        1. re: ginafly
                          MC Slim JB RE: ginafly Oct 5, 2009 10:00 AM

                          You can edit old posts for a little while after you originally post it (an hour or two, I think), but after that, it's in stone. At least we have your correction here! Glad to hear it, too!


                        2. re: hotoynoodle
                          ginafly RE: hotoynoodle Oct 5, 2009 09:44 AM

                          Oh, and thanks for the Prezza rec. No, we have not been, but I have heard that is one of the better bets in the N. End (along with NEPTUNE Oyster).

                        3. g
                          ginafly RE: ginafly Dec 10, 2009 01:32 PM

                          Thanks for all of the advice on this. We went to Hammersley's last weekend and agreed that we have been missing out. I had the spicy halibut with clams. It was amazing. I found myself comparing it to a similarly priced but nowhere near as good Arctic char dish that I recently had at Craigie (30 dollar fish dish to 30 dollar fish dish). My husband had the famous roast chicken and found that it lives up to its reputation.

                          I was somewhat disappointed in the wines offered by the glass. I think Central Kitchen and Hungry Mother do better in that department. Dessert was also rather lackluster...of course we were too full to really care at that point.

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