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Is Eastern Standard's Food Suffering?

Hit ES on Monday. My DC had gnocci with butternut squash and mushrooms and I had a plate of fried calamari.

We also had sides of spinach and brussels sprouts.

The gnocci was eh, barely any squash, not much flava. Passable, but a totally anonymous dish that could just as readily been served at Olive Garden (ouch).

The fry job on the calamari was lousy. Soggy uncrisp calamari is a no go. Barely edible.

The veggie sides were fine, but not at all noteworthy.

I'll hit it for cocktails, but for now I'll take a pass on the food.

Eastern Standard
528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

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  1. definitely agree which is so disappointing because I loved this place. I have taken two groups of out of town friends in the last year and things have gotten progressively worse. passable is dead on. Marc Suarez has moved to Bon Savor in JP.

    Bon Savor
    605 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

    1. yep - it's pretty much off my rotation. last time there the shrimp cocktail was like a rubber biscuit and oysters at room temp. the only way i'd go now is if i knew that a couple off those big comfy leather chairs by the bar were available. i miss that spot, but not the food as of late.

      1. Last ate there about 3 months ago and it was meh. I also thought they were skimping on the cocktails by using way too much ice -- but maybe that was an illusion.

        1 Reply
        1. re: C. Hamster

          That is proper cocktail technique. It actually prevents the drink from being watered down extra than if they used less ice to reach the same final temperature (ice that is colder than freezing has cooling energy to impart before it starts to melt -- the more of this and the colder it is, the less dilution). They measure their cocktails to a 4 oz total ingredients and with 25-30% dilution from ice, it fits perfectly in a cocktail glass (some specific recipes are smaller and others are larger and need to be put into a coupe glass or other, especially their egg drinks).

          If you're talking about a mixed drink (built in a glass filled with ice and with free poured spirits), that's a different story.


        2. A lot of people here say "don't judge a restaurant by Restaurant Week."

          I say, "never dismiss a restaurant based on a Monday (or sometimes Sunday) night dinner, especially if said restaurant is open seven days a week."

          Should a high end restaurant get it right all the time, seven days a week? Yes. Does that usually happen? No. Mondays are usually the weakest link.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Alcachofa

            I know the Monday precautionary scenario. Thing is, in the past I ate their on Monday's and it was as good as any other night of the week. This time you just got the vibe that the kitchen was totally rudderless. Their Exec. Chef right now is still part timing Jeremy Sewall from Lineage. Judging by my experience and the others above he is no-timing at ES.

          2. People have been posting downhill alerts for a while. Last time I was there was in the summer and the food was fine. It's never really blown my skirt up, but I didn't notice a big difference one way or the other.

            Be curious to hear what regulars have to say.

            1. i didn't go much during sox season, but have been a few times recently and noticed no real change. had a very good charcuterie plate last time that blew sel de la terre's out of the water. and the frisée salad has been its delicious dependable heart-attack-on-a-plate self, lol.

              their entrees are too big for me, so i usually stick to apps, salads and sides. it's also not a place i'd ever order pasta.

              1. I was there on Monday as well (!) and found the food delicious. For the first time in a LOOONG time I did not sit at the bar and found the service to be a little stifling and awkward. Food though was to me as tasty as ever.
                I started with the bibb salad - simple
                Friends split the lobster in pastry and loved it. I realize now that I didn't even try a bite!

                For mains I had a trio of veggie sides: brown butter cauliflower, brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes - all were good - not stellar, but solid.
                One friend had the burger which she seemed to enjoy and the other had the roast chicken with spaetzle which she pronounced delicious. I didn't try the chicken but the spaetzle was great.
                We all split an order of the mac n cheese which now comes topped with pork belly and has a great porky/smoky flavor throughout. That was my favorite of the night - no surprise given that everything else I ate was vegetables!
                As it was a birthday we split an order of the butterscotch bread pudding for dessert - perfect size for three of us to share and very, very good.

                I'll definitely go back, but I'll stick to sitting at the bar.

                1 Reply
                1. re: heathermb

                  I've been there for lunch on Mondays w/8 peeps twice in the last 2 months & have real no complaints, ordering the chix schnitzel both times & being unable to finish it due to its near dinner-plate size. Other favs around the table have been the seared salmon, roast trout & steak frites. I usually order all the desserts to share to the delight of all; altho' last month, the pumpkin custard was a disappointment w/no discernable pumpkin flavor,& fav goat cheese & fig tart was off the menu. Our favorite round table banquet has been ready for us when we arrive for noon, & service couldn't have been more accomodating. We're planning on giving my ccurrent charges a choice of ES or Mission for 11/16; but I bet they pick ES.

                2. My wife and I eat there fairly regularly and I'd say that while it's not 100% reliable it's generally quite good. I always get the "offal of the day" appetizer (which is almost always some preparation of sweetbreads) and have only once been disappointed by it. I've had the steak frites many times and again, once it was memorably bad, the rest of the time it's been well prepared.

                  They seem to do a better job with meats than seafood in our experience. On the whole it's been good enough to keep in the rotation. And where else can you get a good Green Point cocktail?

                  1. They took the bread pudding off the menu. WTF

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Luther

                      Wait, what? The butterscotch bread pudding? I literally had it just two days ago...

                      1. re: heathermb

                        Oh good. There was a window between August and October where it was off the menu, which was scary.

                    2. I've stuck to charcuterie, offal, marrow, salt cod fritters, frisee salad with poached egg and sweetbreads, and a few other standbys over my last few visits and found them as good as before Suarez left (he's doing amazing things at Bon Savor, by the way). A friend recently had the roast chicken which I sampled: excellent.

                      I really enjoyed a lamb shoulder sandwich there a few weeks ago, though it was smaller than I remembered from before. Bartending still shining. Maybe it's like a lot of places I frequent: starters are usually better than entrees, and that's how I prefer to eat, anyway.


                      Bon Savor
                      605 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                      1. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I went a few months ago and got their grilled cheese. It was SOOOOOO greasy, oil soaked, bitter, and inedible, that I had to send it back. I can't even describe to you how bad it was. I could have made a better one with my clothing iron. You know there are at least slight issues if they can't make a grilled cheese.

                        1. Attended a group cocktail hour there last night - and my experience was just as solid (and positive) as ever:

                          1. Great cocktails carefully crafted by Bob - after a tasty Prospect Park from the menu, (Red Hook variant) - I asked for something akin to a 1919 and got his "Linden Park" creation - Michter's rye, Antica sweet vermouth, Aperol, and mole bitters - an outstanding beverage I'll have again. My wife declared her Pisco Sour the best she's had ("perfectly balanced - and I know it's out of season...") - and (unlike Drink of late) nothing was more than $10 in spite of including some pretty premium ingredients and ample serving sizes.

                          We also had delicious steak tartare (a bit more detail posted on the tartare thread) and a burger (perfectly med rare and piping hot crispy fries).

                          It was busy (8-10p) but not hectic and service was great all around. It's still a favorite.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: rlh

                            well, perhaps I'll give them another chance. I dined there when they first opened, and was blown away by the skate wing entree. about a month after, I went again, had the same thing, and was much disappointed. I was last there a yr ago this past summer, and ordered the mussels. They were not cooked, it was very strange. When the waiter came over and saw, he whisked them away. I did get another serving, and they were fine. I was just a little freaked out, and haven't been back since. The steak frites is singing my song, so I may venture back.

                            1. re: rlh

                              My last few food experiences there have been really good too. Big thumbs up to the smoked halibut and to the spiced chestnut ice cream.

                              1. re: peelmeagrape

                                i had the marrow last time and i could barely restrain myself from licking out the bones.

                              2. re: rlh

                                I agree, I was there a few weeks ago and I was very happy. I was pleased to see marrow bones on the menu, in my opinion they were better (and almost half the price) than the ones @ KO Prime.

                              3. We were there three weeks ago and were very pleased with what we had. Of course, at the moment I can't remember everything what we had (salt cod fritters for sure, some raw bar items, chicken with schnitzel, steak tartare), so it must not have been that amazing. But I remember being happy. We ate in somewhat of a hurry on the patio because we were heading to House of Blues. Service and wines were both pretty good, too!

                                1. Any updates on this topic? We're trying to pick between there and Gaslight and can't decide.
                                  That night, food will be our priority over drinks.

                                  21 Replies
                                  1. re: itryalot

                                    If the Sox are playing that night, I'd choose Gaslight, but otherwise, I think ESK has a big edge in food, and the bartending is vastly superior.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      I've been in ESK a few times when the Sox are in town and after the game starts, the bar is not at all crowded. If you have a reservation, it would be a non-issue anyway, except for a cramped wait at the bar if you have an early one.

                                      Of course, it does fill up again after the final out, but I'm not sure that's a reason to completely avoid it.

                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                        There's definitely a two-hour window there on game nights, but it's a good idea to keep an eye on the weather: a rain delay can hold the pre-game crowd over, and a game called due to rain can mean an earlier return of the baseball fans.


                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          True, true. But while I do prefer sitting at the bar here personally, again, this is pretty much a non-issue if you have a reservation.

                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            And when there, keep an eye on the television so you can ask for your check at or before the top of the 9th inning...

                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                          I managed to snag a 5:00 reservation on the patio before a Sox game two weeks ago. I found the food and service to be great (and consistent with their non-Sox game but busy night performance).

                                          The only caveat is that you'll wait a longer time than normal for a cocktail to come from the bar; but the wine service was speedy (with a few tastes poured for me to help decide between a rose and light red).

                                          1. re: JoeM

                                            Didn't even know they had a patio...

                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                              Actually a pretty nice patio, if you don't mind the Kenmore Square sidewalk parade, with some lounge seating as well as conventional dining tables, and overhead heaters for when it's chilly.


                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                Aaaaah, that space, now I know what you mean. I was thinking there was some magical space somewhere else...

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  Speaking of magical space somewhere else, there is a secret patio behind Deep Ellum in Brighton. Prav and I noticed it last night..... ssssshhhhhh!

                                                  Deep Ellum Bar
                                                  477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                                                  1. re: yumyum

                                                    That secret patio I know about...

                                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                                      Audubon Circle has a nice little patio that doesn't seem to get mentioned much, either. Of course, it's another place with a big pre- and post-Sox crowd.


                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                        Audubon Circle in general doesn't seem to get mentioned much, but we ate there yesterday (on the patio!) and were reflecting that we have NEVER had anything bad there. They had a new striped bass on the menu (at least new since last time I was there, whenever that was) that was just about the most tasty healthy goodness $16 can buy.

                                                    2. re: yumyum

                                                      If you can get there when it's not crowded on a nice afternoon it is absolutely amazing. The best Deep Ellum experience I ever had was on a memorial day weekend afternoon, while everyone else was out grilling we were brunching & day drinking out on that porch for hours. For a long time it was just us too.

                                                      Deep Ellum Bar
                                                      477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                                          2. re: itryalot

                                            The food still isn't worth the money. I've given up on them and I only go to ESK for drinks occasionally. Even those have become spotty. I think this place suffers from rich people who don't know what good food tastes like but equate high prices with quality. Any entree over $20 better blow my mind or have been locally sourced and certified "green" to be worth it.

                                            1. re: cavaluv

                                              I wouldn't say so much "rich" people, as I would say tourists. When they first opened, I felt they worked really hard to woo the locals. I was wooed. And made return visits. The first was spectacular. I had the skate wing, and it was amazing. The 2nd visit, I was even recognized by the owner as we had chatted on my 1st visit. Also v. good. But the 3rd time, the skate was poorly prepared. The 4th and last time, my mussels were atrocious, so many closed at the serving. The server did make it right, but I was v. disappointed and pissed. What if I hadn't said anything about the mussels? He tried to pass them off as acceptable.

                                              1. re: cavaluv

                                                I've had some decent to very good meals here over the last few years but had not been to Eastern Standard in at least 6 months. On Monday, went there and had a wonderful dinner and very good service. I started with a few oysters which were terrific. I then had the cuban sandwich and mac n' cheese. DC had the scallops and I was actually pretty jealous. It was three huge scallops, beautifully seared. She said they were perfectly cooked. The corn and bits of...I think it was sausage that it came with was really tasty (that's the only part I was allowed to sample and I wish I had sampled more cause it was really well done). My cuban was quite good and I enjoyed it, but she picked the right dish. Very much enjoyed our drinks as well. Service was attentive and friendly but not obtrusive. Am looking forward to going back. And getting my own damn scallops!

                                                Eastern Standard
                                                528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                                1. re: cavaluv

                                                  Codswallop. We're in there regularly and have rarely had a poor experience.

                                                  This past Friday, for example - I had a perfectly-made Green Point cocktail to start, wife and I shared a veal heart starter served in an herbed red wine reduction (their "daily offal" is almost always superb), followed by a tasty and perfectly cooked steak frites, delicious seared scallops on a bed of spicy corn and smoky tasso ham, and a decent bottle of Argentinian red. We left feeling very well fed, and the total before tip was about $100 for two people. Not exactly "rich people" level of expense. Is the food as consistently good as a place like Troquet? No, but at half the price it's a very good value and a mainstay on our restaurant rotation.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    I'm certainly willing to give them another try on yr rec. However, how many "rarely poor experiences" do you allow a restaurant before you give up on them? I certainly felt the poor mussels justified my not going there again.

                                                    1. re: CookieLee

                                                      We eat there probably six to ten times a year, and in the past couple of years I've had two really poor dishes - one undercooked and gristly sweetbreads, one overcooked, almost cold steak. My wife also had a halibut dish once that she didn't like, but there was nothing actually wrong with it, she just didn't care for that particular preparation. So what's that, about a 90 - 95% happiness rate? I can live with that, especially as I don't find it to be a particularly expensive venue.

                                                      Though, of course, if I'd gotten that cold overcooked steak on my first visit, I'd likely have been very hesitant about coming back. And I must say the service has always been impeccable, I've never encountered anything like your server trying to give you bad mussels.

                                                    2. re: BobB

                                                      I too have had mostly good experiences here. I want to dislike the place because it is so big, but each time I go I am impressed at the level of service and food they are able to maintain. I recently had the Monday special chicken cordon bleu and found it excellent and thought the house Cotes du Rhone outstanding for the price. The closest thing to a complaint I could muster was that the taste of the peach sorbet wasn't as intense as the apricot. For the money, that's not much of a complaint at all. I'm not always up for the crowd there, but otherwise I'm a fan of the place.