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Nov 13, 2009 07:35 PM

No. 9 Park

Just went after wanting to go for so long.

The food here was a very big disappointment to us. We have eaten all over the world, all over Italy, Spain and France and the best parts of the US and never had a meal we wish we had not put into out mouths.

What they did to foie gras was simply an abomination. Grilling it? Ruined every thing that foie gras stands for. It ended up tasting like chicken skin. I can't shake the food memory of that and I really want to. Badly. Dreadful consistency.

The gnocchi were ok, certainly not the best dish in town as it has been rated.

The porcelet was four types of pork completely destroyed. Alternately dry, stringy or flavored in such a way as to overpower the pork. Less IS more. The apple was the best item on the plate.

The concord grape calfouti with little cubes of grape jelly and the worst thing every made from peanuts--I wish I had never tasted this. Too sweet or too bitter depending on which part hit your tongue first. Again, just thinking about this dish makes me want to wash out my mouth.

I wish I had the nerve to send the entire table of food back. Along with the $12 glass of red wine that reeked of chlorine.

We should have gone to Hammersley's and you should too. In fact, save your $350 and go twice.

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    1. In the "Restaurants everyone seems to love but you don't" thread started in May, I named No. 9 Park. While I wouldn't put my feelings about the restaurant quite at your end of the scale, it continues to baffle me why people gush over it. I found it over-rated, over-priced, and most importantly I found the food merely passable. I would never include it in a list of “must go to” restaurants in Boston.

      2 Replies
      1. re: StevieC seems to have gone downhill since say 5yrs ago when it was more at the top of its game (especially with the lunch tasting menu which was actually reasonably priced for what it delivered) PS. the bartending is still stellar though and I did have a very competent hanger steak frites there not too long ago

        1. re: StevieC

          I think it comes down to this all too often when it comes to high-end restaurants: Status.

          Without status symbols there can be no status. The way it works is you and all your fellow elitists agree on what is considered high-end/in-style and then you all judge each other on how well you keep up. "Look at me!!!" No really, look at me. I'm special, aren't I?

          G&Ts only during summer, which high-priced restaurants are in (the more expensive the better), which cars are the best, when to wear white loafers, when not to, what's artistic and what's an abomination, etc.

          If you dare to shoot down one of the sacred status symbols in Boston, how do you plan to impress your friends?

          Give me the very best burrito, hot dog, 6 course tasting menu, churrasco, roast chicken, duck confit, excellent piece of fish, sushi, in town and I'll gladly go back, and I will pay a premium for it too.

          But don't just serve me your reputation on a plate.

          When did the restaurant business cease to be a meritocracy?

          The truth is in highly competitive markets it hasn't. Boston just isn't one.

          Maybe if the media reviewers sharpened their pencils and palates we would have a Darwinian process at work. Or if the look-at me(s) started keeping their credit cards or worse, expense accounts, only on the really best tables?

        2. i'm in the camp who never thought the place was all that. if i order 3 plates, say 2 apps and a salad, and one is a fail, that is unacceptable in that price range. that was my experience more often than not, even at private industry dinners with specially designed menus. combine that with the wine mark-ups and i simply couldn't justify the expense only to feel pillaged and hungry.

          the boston globe recently re-reviewed it and the article was telling. although by my reading furst had more complaints than satisfactions, she still pronounced it fantastic. talk about sacred cows. i wanted to throw the paper against the wall.

          i will give them an "a" for excellent service every time i have been.

          27 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Pretty much sums up my longstanding take: awesome service and bartending, solid food with a few outstanding dishes (I've never had close to the kind of dreadful experience of the OP), and murderous prices on food and wine, practically a hallmark of the empire (I've shown my math on the wine pricing). It's worse now that they shot the old, relatively reasonable bar menu and restored it with one whose average plate price is $18. That felt like a slap.

            I was surprised by Devra's re-review, too, but more for the fact that there wasn't really a great reason to do it (no reconcepting, new chef, etc.) other than to work out the ole expense account.

            I would characterize the Hamerley's comparison as apples and orange: the chefs are aiming at completely different targets. That said, I'm a big admirer of what Hamersley has done with so much consistency over the years (as summed up in my recent Stuff Magazine piece), and do think it's a better value than No. 9.


            1. re: MC Slim JB

              i love hammersley's and it gets little love on here, i think, because his food is not about bells and whistles. it's consistently executed, always. my admiration and respect for gordon is huge in that he is on that line most nights, and never succumbed to the siren song of tv.

              there is a tipping point for celeb chefs where they are more about building empires than maintaining the foundation. the wider and higher they build, the bricks simply do not hold. their restaurants coast on reputation alone.

              lynch's next project in the seaport will shoot for $145 pp check average. stuff that in your pipe and smoke it. gold-leafed foie gras fed to me by harem boys? good jeebus.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I know, Hammersley's delivers every time and it is not overly ambitious.

                I have to tell you I still cannot shake the sensation of that foie gras in my mouth. the texture, the taste. I shudder. We had to stay up until 2 last nite just to get that food to digest enough to go to sleep.

                I wish I had my $300 back, plus we got a parking ticket. I am seriously thinking of calling and asking for a refund! I have never, not even a greasy McDonalds burger, so regretted eating something.

                The service WAS excellent. The tip I would not want refunded!

                But the drinks were only so so. My husband's G&T was Beefeater. A beefeater G&T? WHO DOES THAT? And then charges $9 bucks for it? A Beefeater G&T should be free at an all you can eat BBQ place.

                1. re: lola22

                  Parking ticket? shame but not #9's fault...

                  You don't like the foie gras? why not tell them..first course, no?

                  If you hated the meal so much, maybe you should have voiced your complaint on the spot instead of the foolish idea of asking for your $300 back now..after the fact.

                  I don't know what BBQ places you go to where you get free Beefeater G&T's for free but please share.

                  9 Park may not be that great but it's not that bad either,

                  1. re: 9lives

                    We def. should have, wished we did. I just sent them a note.

                    And no, of course the ticket was not their fault! It was just the cherry on the evening.

                    1. re: 9lives

                      I disagree. I love fois gras, and the complaint was with the preparation, and not the ingredient. How could the OP know that they would butcher it. Also, many of us, me included, can be shy at No. 9 Park. I think the idea of asking for a refund, minus the tip of course, is eminently reasonable.\, sfter the fact, and would encourage this to happen.

                      1. re: aadesmd

                        I disagree with you. The OP didn't state whether she ate the entire foie gras so we don't know. If she did, she has no valid reason to ask for a refund the day after. Same with the other dishes or beverages...

                        If she didn't eat the dish and only took 1 bite, the time to make her dissatisfaction known to the restaurant is at the time it's served so the rstaurant has the opportunity to correct things.
                        If someone is shy, call your server over and softly inform them of your dissatisfaction..

                        The OP did send a note to the restaurant and maybe they'll give her a refund; more likely a credit for $50-100 for good customer relations; but in general, this type of grievance is better handled on the spot.

                    2. re: lola22

                      Jumping on the Beefeater bandwagon for mixed drinks - prefer it to Bombay, in fact. If you want something else, ask and you would probably get it. It's a well gin at Drink where they are very serious about quality of every drink.

                      I don't like No. 9 Park for lots of the reasons noted by other posters ( and haven't been there for several years), but the parking and gin issues are yours, not theirs

                      I do imagine once you think through the legit issues, Barbara Lynch probably would appreciate hearing constructive feedback from you - she seems quite serious about quality as far as I can tell.

                      1. re: lola22

                        your husband might considering ordering a different drink next time-- ordering a G&T at a bar like 9 Park is like ordering, say, a hot dog at Hamersley's, or chop suey at Peach Farm...better to play to the restaurant's strengths, which in the case of the bar at 9 Park is creative, unusual and well-balanced cocktails. He also could have asked for a different gin and I'm sure they would have obliged him. we once ordered drinks for which they didn't quite have enough of one of the ingredients (barolo chinato iirc) to make full sized pours for our group, so they made slightly smaller sized drinks and gave them to us on the house. A lesser bar would've left the ingredient out, hoping we wouldn't notice, topped off the drink with ice or tonic (or in this case, Bols Genever) and charged full price. Also (as better bars do), they will often give free tastes to help you decide what to order, which you probably won't find at an ayce bbq place

                        1. re: barleywino

                          He loves a G&T, what can I say. We try not to blindly follow food/drink rules. He love's Bombay and really likes the new Anchor Steam gin.

                          I get that they have lots of cool cocktails, but they should apply the same attention to quality to all of their drinks. If they want to make a well drink like any of the crappy bars around town they should charge $4 for it. And we will gladly pay the 8 or 9 to up the quality to a better gin.

                          1. re: lola22

                            where on earth do you get $4 gin & tonics? i'd like to know for next summer!

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              The Kells in Allston, made with Reservoir brand gin ;-)

                              Kells Restaurant
                              161 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                            2. re: lola22

                              ask them to do a G&T flight next time (which used to be on their list, I"m sure they can still do it)...3 mini G&T's, one has a maraschino wash, one a chartreuse wash, one an apricot wash, etc.

                              1. re: barleywino

                                that sounds awesome! but there won't be a next time!

                                1. re: lola22

                                  just sit at the bar and get a steak frites and some gougeres to go with your flight ;)

                              2. re: lola22

                                I don't understand why he didn't ask for Bombay if that's what he loves. Anyway, I've not been to 9 Park, but people I do know who have been have not been swept away by the food and have felt a bit gouged.

                                1. re: lola22

                                  As a number of posters have mentioned, Beefeater is a respectable brand and not exactly Poland Springs Gin. So how does using a brand not to your husband's taste equate to a poorly made drink?

                                  Honestly, I'm starting to think you just had a bad night and as a result have gone off the deep end on a rant. Just because you didn't get everything exactly the way you thought or hoped it might be doesn't make it terrible.

                                  1. re: nickls


                                    How do you figure? A bad night? A rant? We had 6 dishes, two drinks. 4 dishes were terrible. 1 ok, one good. One drink, the god forfend G&T and while it was ok, it was not worth $9. For $9 I would expect a better brand. The other drink, the wine (@12/gl) was terrible, the more it sat, the more it put off a chlorine odor. Those aren't good odds for a Chili's never mind a high priced supposedly top notch restaurant. But let me be very clear. Had this meal cost $85 all in, I would still have posted. We have a right to expect better food in Boston. That globe reviewer ought to, I don't know, have to eat 20 cubes of the deflated, separated, crusty foie gras?

                                    As for the poster that also got the calfouti, maybe my night it was overcooked? But it WAS dry, and it did stay on the plate. Those jelly cubes were dreadful weren't they? Like the jello blocks my mom made in the 70s.

                                    As for how many of those hideous chunks of ruined foie gras-- I ate one, DH ate one, and I admit, I ate the third one. Why? Frankly, I could not believe they were that bad! I figured it was the bourgeoisie hopeless wench that was eating it! Surely everyone could not be wrong!

                                    I'll tell you the only other thing I ever left on a plate. In Paris, andouillette. Go ahead, google it. I figured it must be me, right, this can't REALLY taste like $hit. I ate three bites of that too. I should have known when I ordered in barely passable French and the chef kept peeking out to see if I really ate it.

                                    As for the Beefeater drinkers out there, I'm sorry to offend. I am sure it is fine gin. I would not know, I despise all gin! In spite of the fact that DH likes a GT year round, I still love him, so quit it!

                                    And yes, I really do wish I had the nerve to say something right away. I was frankly in shock. We both were.

                                    1. re: lola22

                                      Are you trying to say that your post wasn't a rant? I mean you went off on how the majority of the dishes were not just terrible but nearly made you want to kill yourself from their sheer horridness--I would call that ranting.

                                      I have eaten at No 9 as have a number of the other people who replied and I didn't see any other complaints about disgusting wine or near-poisonous food. I liked the prune gnocchi a lot and can't imagine the kitchen would send out dishes as bad as you make them sound. Not saying your opinion isn't valid, just that it sounds overblown.

                                      What was supposed to be wrong with the wine? Are you saying they didn't store it properly? If you don't think a gin and tonic is worth $9 don't order one.

                                      1. re: nickls

                                        Nickls--Geesh! Now who is ranting, engaging in hyperbole or off the exaggeration deep end?

                                        Also, I did not use any of the words you have attributed to me.

                                        Bottomline--did not like the food, the drink, felt ripped off, don't understand why the restaurant gets any buzz, there are better places to go. I wish I read a post like mine before I went. I would not have gone.

                                        And for what it is worth, there are others here who have echoed, if more subtly, or in part, my sentiments.

                                        If you disagree with me, why don't you just let it go? Tell you what, I will. C-ya! (but not at No. 9 Park!)

                                        1. re: lola22

                                          lola, you described your dining experience using the words and imagery that you thought was appropriate and would best convey to others what your experience was like. That is what this board is about. Continue to do it, and if people don't approve of your approach (e.g. by marginalizing it as a “rant,” which could equally describe about 60% of the posts on CH) then that's their problem.

                                          1. re: StevieC

                                            Stevie--I know, right? As long as you are speaking the truth of your experience, and it is an authentic post, isn't that one of the reasons the CH board exists? It can be a terrific resource.

                                            I come here ALL the time to get steered, one way or the other. I trust CHers. I found Fuloon on here, and a great little Central-American joint in Nashua. Still haven't tried Speed's dogs, but plan to soon.

                                            If people want to come here to blow sunshine around, then the board ceases to be useful. If you want to come here to read someone else's sunshine, then you should perhaps stick to those "restaurant reviews" that are really paid advertising you find in circulars and infomercials.

                                            It really is important to speak the truth about some of these "look-at-me" places, if the ratings really aren't based on the food being groundbreaking and/or extraordinary but more on the "experience" and the bragging rights of having eaten there.

                                            1. re: StevieC

                                              Open of expression is vital, and I too thank lola for her opinion. That is the whole point of this board. I would love you to continue to post, but be aware that this bullying will probably occur again.

                                              1. re: aadesmd

                                                Thanks! You can probably tell this about me: it does not intimidate me nor does it make me back down from something I believe. My mom installed a pretty good backbone.

                                2. re: lola22

                                  If your husband has a preferred gin of choice, why didn't he specify? Beefeater is respectable gin, especially as the well.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    Look, I like Beefeater as much as the next person and wouldn't be ordering a G&T this time of year either but I think Lola is right on- if you're going to splash some well gin and tonic over ice, charging $9 for it is just absurd.

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      Beefeater isn't exactly well gin. The only places that use it as such are very high end.

                                      Beefeater kicks the crap out of Bombay Sapphire, for example. Just ask anyone who actually likes gin, not marketing.

                          2. The original comment has been removed
                            1. I was at the bar at No.9 last week just to split a dessert with a couple of friends. It was tuesday night at 9:30 and pretty empty in the bar area (dining room was still full). We ordered the coconut dessert (my friend's choice) but the kitchen sent out two desserts "because one dessert didn't seem like enough for 3 people." the bartender explained. That was nice of them. The second dessert was the concord grape clatfoutis you speak of. The bartender said it was the pastry chef's riff on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

                              Ok, based on the name it would not be my first pick off the dessert menu. However, we ate it and we enjoyed it. I didn't find it bitter. The grape cubes were not my thing but jelly things never are. The peanut butter ice cream was far from "the worst thing ever made from peanuts." It was actually pretty tasty. Sweet? Yes, but it was such a little dollop that complemented the other thing on the plate.

                              Who knows... it was free. Maybe that's why it tasted better to me. Plus my friend was in Town so I was in a great mood.
                              And maybe you were miffed about the foie gras and your legitimate expectations for a excellent meal and that changed your mood for the rest of the meal. I think that one's mood effect on one's taste is an intriguing thing.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: heypielady

                                I've gone to bat for No. 9 Park many times but I think its over for me. Mr. and I had a generous gift certificate for the restaurant so we dusted off our dressy clothes and went Wednesday night for a mid-summer celebration.

                                When we arrived we had a cocktail in the lounge. Mr. had La Palabra which he enjoyed. It featured mezcal. I wanted something refreshing and a little lighter in alcohol. No.9 specifically lists Pimm's Cup on their menu. Because of this I thought "Oooh they do good cocktails here. I bet it will be a good rendition." Aside from the drinks taking quite a long time to arrive, it was also the most boring Pimm's cup I've ever had. Even Middlesex lines the glass with a thin slice of cucumber in a helix formation. The cucumber is key to the Pimm's. The absence of the cuke and the sad sprig of mint on the 9 Park's version didn't do it for me.

                                My complaint is 90% not about the food. It was very good . I started with the prune stuffed gnocchi -totally out of season- but still as tasty as I remembered from 10 years ago. I had a seared hake with squash blossoms as my entree. The fish was perfectly cooked although I can't say I really noticed any blossoms (if they were all chopped up then what's the point?) Mr. had whatever raw tuna was offered as an appetizer and salmon for his entree. For dessert I had a fine but unremarkable raspberry brown butter tart. This was the weak point. I'm so over deconstructed desserts spread out across my plate. I just want a slice of pie. I once had a strawberry tart at No.9 Park and it was just a plain ole slice of the tart studded with a little lavender and it was exquisite... what happened to those days?

                                We had a bottle of Liveli rosé (which btw you can pick up at Central Bottle for $14 and its awesome). It was marked up to $44. Outrageous. But I signed up for it so I'm not complaining. Just giving some information.

                                When the bill came they charged me $55 instead of $44. The also doubled the price of my cocktail. I spoke up about the wine at first and of course they adjusted the bill. I then spoke up about the cocktail (which I was less certain about and didn't bring up initially) and they were kind enough to deduct the full cost of the drink. But... two mistakes on the bill left me with a bad feeling. That is part of customer service.. and it was slipping in that regard. For the prices you pay there I find two mistakes unacceptable.

                                I am not likely to recommend 9 Park in the future. Its certainly not bad but it's so overpriced. I knew even with my gift certificate that we would still have to throw down a decent about of cash on top of that. But I was surprised how expensive it was: $240 (with tip) for two with one of their most modestly priced bottles of wine. The two things it still had going for it (cocktails and excellent service) just weren't there like they used to be.

                                1. re: heypielady

                                  thank you so much for this very helpful info. what about erbaluce next time you want to treat yourselves?Always so many CH and other raves for it.

                                  1. re: heypielady

                                    Not sure there's anything new here. No 9 is overpriced? A lot of people have said that before. I have never felt that way, but it is certainly at a price level where with one flub, you are more likely to feel it.

                                    Wine selling for 3x retail? For better or worse (um, clearly worse), that's not uncommon anywhere.

                                    I did not know prunes went out of season.

                                    Desserts: if you are "over" the deconstructed thing, why order it? FWIW, my first experience with dessert at No 9 was similar to yours: I got some sort of drinkable chocolate trio. It just was a lot of fuss for nothing, I thought. I held off ordering dessert there for a long time after that. But, since then, I have had a few desserts there that have been out-of-the-park good. So, like anywhere, read between the lines of the menu to make sure if it is something you actually might like.

                                    It is odd they gave you mint instead of cucumber for your Pimm's Cup.

                                    1. re: Alcachofa

                                      C'mon Alcachofa, Re the prune gnocchi- I didn't mean seasonal as in the plum/prune plum season. I meant that its more of a winter/fall food. Instead of "out of season" I should have said "not the season." Nevertheless, I'm glad it was on the menu. I really like it.

                                      For the dessert, I ordered a raspberry brown butter tart. They didn't describe it as "deconstructed." on the menu but it was and it was disappointing.

                                      @opinionated chef: I have been to erbaluce once and I enjoyed it quite a bit. But thanks for the reminder.

                                        1. re: heypielady

                                          i know what you meant w/ the prune gnocchi remark but i have 2 thoughts:
                                          --chefs have lots of different responses to their signature dishes. they're usually grateful to themselves or whoever worked for them that created said dish- because it helped build their success, and
                                          -- sometimes they wish they could take it off the menu, but their customers "won't allow it."
                                          particularly for chefs that are famous in some way,nationally or even locally, people TRAVEL to come to their restaurants and taste that dish! (Gordon Hammersley's Lemon chicken, Jason Santos' Duck confit in sticky rice, Barbara Lynch's prune Gnocchi, Peter McCarthy's Salad of Rabbit confit,frisee, cherries, pecans etc.) If this 'signature dish' attitude were not the norm in the U.S., consider the alternative, in a different medium- traveling to Tokyo for the one (and possibly only) time in your life, and going to the National Museum with the express purpose of seeing an iconic screen that you have always cherished- only to be told that in japan, they always rotate what is on display, even their most famous or beloved pieces. sigh.

                                          I had those prune gnocchi long ago ,and when and if i return to No.9, i hope i can still savor them!

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            @ Alcachofa and opinionatedchef: I definitely agree with you! It was more a self-depricating remark. There was a chilled corn and crab bisque on the menu that was also enticing and oh so much more appropriate for the near 90 degree weather but my stomach demanded gnocchi.
                                            As an aside, its not super-airconditioned in there so leave those jackets at home in the summertime. Mr. was glad he did.

                                            1. re: heypielady

                                              that's actually so helpful that you mentioned that, pie. i am more heat sensitive than most people, and i avoid not-good-AC when it's a heat wave like last week. Mixx has been so bad, that we've eaten our frozen yoghurt in the AC car (mea culpa.)