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What has happened to fine dining?

m
mrcreosoteboston Nov 2, 2009 07:16 AM

Has anyone else had a disappointming experience in the new location?

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L'Espalier
774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

  1. MC Slim JB Nov 2, 2009 07:47 AM

    I think the food and service are as fine as they ever were, but the new space is a big letdown if you loved the old one, and the abandoning of the dress code doesn't help. It kind of bums me out to spend $400 on a special-occasion dinner when the dudes at the next table are in t-shirts and baseball caps: just doesn't seem right.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    10 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      m
      mrcreosoteboston Nov 2, 2009 08:26 AM

      Was that $400 a head of for two?

      1. re: mrcreosoteboston
        MC Slim JB Nov 2, 2009 10:38 AM

        $400 for two is my general rule of thumb for a deluxe meal there including wine, tax and tip, something along the lines of the Seasonal Degustation with matched wines, which with a decent tip runs more like $425; the vegetarian version is equally stunning and a bit less. That doesn't include aperitifs in the Salon before sitting down to dinner, which easily add another $40. But that's quite the prodigal meal, which I describe it in some detail here: http://stuffboston.com/dining2009/archive/2009/10/05/mega-caloric-and-worth-it.aspx

        It's possible to spend less (the three-course prix fixe is $82/head) and more (the Chef's Tasting Journey is $185/head, plus $110 per with matched wines). Of course, the massive wine list has many more ways to blow that budget to the heavens.

        So, at that tariff, I'd be in my Sunday best, and would prefer that my neighbors made a little effort, too.

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      2. re: MC Slim JB
        aadesmd Nov 2, 2009 06:07 PM

        I absolutely agree that a restaurant has every right to set a dress code policy. However, if a restaurant does not have such a policy, I am somewhat taken aback by someone else caring about what I wear, if I have a cap on, or my general comfort level in a restaurant. I believe it is obscene for someone to wear heavy duty perfume or cologne. It destroys my meal and my wine, gives me a migraine and induces my wife's asthma.

        For such a "foodie" site, I am perplexed about the discomfort with anybody's attire. I have to admit- I will not eat in a restaurant that has a dress code. My choice, right or wrong. For me, I cannot enjoy a great meal if I am sartorially uncomforable.

        From my point of view, the best way for L'Espalier to improve its bottom line is to worry less about the dress code and more about their food. The last two times I ate there, without a cap, but on someone else's account, the food was average once and atrocious the second time. Indeed, most places that live in another era tend to become extinct- usually for good reason.

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        L'Espalier
        774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

        1. re: aadesmd
          g
          Gabatta Nov 2, 2009 06:30 PM

          I think that is the first time I have ever heard atrocious used to describe the food at L'Espalier. Do tell, what was so bad about the meal?

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          L'Espalier
          774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

          1. re: Gabatta
            aadesmd Nov 3, 2009 08:41 AM

            Actually, posted on March 29th:
            " L'espalier for a RW lunch on Saturday. Served an onion and cheese flan soup with absolutely no flavor, a hamburger (10.00) extra that was ordered rare and came well done, pork belly that could have resoled my shoes, a lobster club on stale brioche, and a brownie for dessert that could have come out of a box. The worst of the worst- the renowned cheese plate. Could not choose my own cheeses, and were served way too cold. The one shining star was the wine person,who was charming and spot on."

            I neglected to add that we waited 25 minutes for our reservations, and our waiter disappeared and had to wait for the check.

            The mediocre meal was just that- the food simply struck me as bland and not exciting. I also find the new setting rather industrial cold.

            Perhaps I simply hit it at the wrong moments, but somehow not worth spending my own money to find out. Other, "high end" places like Troquet offer so much more without the need to get my moldy funereal suit out. I think wide lapels have gone out of style as well.

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            Troquet
            140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

            1. re: aadesmd
              MC Slim JB Nov 3, 2009 08:46 AM

              Restaurant Week explains it, I think. Along with brunch, that's a meal I never use as a benchmark for what a restaurant actually does, and a $33 prix fixe is likely especially unrepresentative of a place where the average check size is well over $100.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB
                m
                mrcreosoteboston Nov 3, 2009 10:50 AM

                They currently advertise a $40 prix fixe lunch. This summer I enjoyed a $35 prix fixe lunch there very much. Delicious food and the wine pairings were excellent. A very good value. I do agree that restaurant week is not the best time to judge a restaurant although that seems rather counterintuitive as the purpose of restaurant week is to promote dining out so serving a mediocre meal then is worse than simply not participating.

                1. re: MC Slim JB
                  aadesmd Nov 3, 2009 02:45 PM

                  I concur, but with the extras and additional markups, it was $60pp before wine. Does not excuse the service, however. My second visit there was expensive, indeed around $150.00pp without wine but with a drink each. Again it may have been an off night, but as Slim has said many a time there ought not to be many off nights at these prices.

                2. re: aadesmd
                  g
                  Gabatta Nov 3, 2009 07:18 PM

                  Oh, RW...that is always a red flag. Personally I have never seen meat cooked incorrectly at L'Espalier, but then again I have never gone there for RW. Still it is hard to imagine something ordered rare coming out of that kitchen well done (as well as shoe sole pork and the other extreme shortcomings you describe).

                  I personally avoid RW, but if a restaurant is going to participate it should at least be a reasonable approximation of their normal food and overall experience. Sounds like this was something out of the bizzaro world. I am surprised you would consider going back a 2nd time after the list of issues with your first visit (RW or not).

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                  L'Espalier
                  774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

                  1. re: Gabatta
                    aadesmd Nov 5, 2009 09:55 PM

                    Not my decision. Hosting a physician giving a lecture at my medical school, but he had heard of L'Espalier and wanted to go. He was far more disappointed than I.

                    Even though you had never seen meat cooked "incorrectly", this one was. The entire meal should have been sent back, but we were under time constraints and quite honestly wanted to leave. I am sure had I spoken to a manager an edible meal would have been proffered.

                    I have not found RW to be, on the whole, a bad or mediocre experience. In fact, going to an RW with my 10 year old and sitting in the counter next to the kitchen, Davio's treated us like royalty, and the food to match. As a fitting ending, my 10 year old was presented with tasting portions of 6 different desserts. It became his favorite restaurant in Boston!

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                    L'Espalier
                    774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

                    Davio's
                    75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116

          2. Joanie Nov 2, 2009 07:54 AM

            My one time there was very nice altho I do agree that it's kinda sad to see the general 'anything goes attitude' as far as attire is concerned.

            1. g
              Gabatta Nov 2, 2009 08:50 AM

              As Slim said, the space and atmosphere are what is disappointing for me.

              Care to elaborate on your experience?

              1. n
                NahantNative Nov 2, 2009 11:41 AM

                I like the dynamic the new spot has..I appreciate the baseball hats and suits crowd, it goes to show that you're not paying for "pretentiousness", you're paying for exceptional food and amazing service. I'm pretty sure that the waiter would have helped me out in the bathroom if I were to require assistance. This place is great.

                1. a
                  autopi Nov 2, 2009 11:44 AM

                  had a restaurant week lunch there that was pretty ho-hum. it reminded me of wasp-y little-old-lady dining. i suppose the regular menu must be better.

                  1. Snoop37 Nov 2, 2009 12:10 PM

                    I went last year and i don't like the new space and not a single of the dishes stood out to me. I can't even remember what we had and I got the seasonal degustation paired with wine.... not good if nothing about the meal was memorable. Service was still outstanding, however.

                    1. m
                      mrcreosoteboston Nov 2, 2009 02:06 PM

                      Dress code not withstanding, has anyone else sensed some problems? Maybe the dress code is a indicator of this?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mrcreosoteboston
                        MC Slim JB Nov 2, 2009 02:34 PM

                        I think it might be helpful if you contributed some of your own experiences here, as opposed to just asking others to describe theirs. As I said, I don't think they've lost a step in terms of food or service. If anything, I think the desserts and certain dishes have gotten more adventurous, with some molecular tinges I didn't see coming out of the older location's tiny kitchen.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                          m
                          mrcreosoteboston Nov 3, 2009 10:54 AM

                          I very much enjoyed a prix fixe lunch there this summer as well as some memorable dinners at the old location. However, a recent dinner was over priced and the dishes not inspired. Seemed they were just phoning it in. Service was not up to standards as well. Not what one would expect for "the best" fine dining restaurant in the City.

                      2. The Chowhound Team Nov 2, 2009 07:10 PM

                        Folks, we've removed a number of off topic posts from this thread and would like to remind everyone that our mission here is to share tips on chow. While we understand that how other patrons dress is part of the ambiance, and as such, worthy of mention, long digressions about dress codes are just not what we're about here. Please help us keep this site a useful, focused source of chow tips. Thanks.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: The Chowhound Team
                          MC Slim JB Nov 2, 2009 07:58 PM

                          Is the deleted discussion appropriate for the Not About Food board?

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                            The Chowhound Team Nov 3, 2009 03:29 AM

                            We couldn't move all the deleted posts because they were made at different points in the thread and we're not able to merge posts, but we did just move the largest tangent to http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/664299

                        2. mangorita Nov 3, 2009 09:40 AM

                          I had a great meal at L'Espalier for my wedding anniversary back in the spring. We had the Chef's Tasting Menu and didn't find ourselves disappointed with any of the courses. It was one of the best meals we've had all year.

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                          L'Espalier
                          774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

                          1. s
                            seedove17 Nov 6, 2009 12:17 PM

                            I agree about the desserts. Normally I'm not huge on desserts, but IMO it was the best part of the meal. The raspberry panna cotta and choc banana desserts were playful, light, and tasty.

                            As for the rest of the meal, bland and believe it or not, overcooked. The pate tasted like whipped butter, and the sweat breads like any misc fried food. Don't get me wrong, I love me some butter and fried anything, but these two dishes were missing their yummy distinct flavors. Both fish dishes were overcooked..and one of them was oil poached. I was under the impression that if you regulate the oil temp it is very hard to overcook anything poached..but then again I aint no chef.

                            Thought service was great and sommelier very helpful.

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