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Coming from Barbara Lynch - Menton

Devra First posted details here: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/...

Named for a village on the French/Italian border (pronounce it nasally with the accent on the second syllable), it will be a high end Provençale/Mediterranean venue, with set menus only from around $85 - $145. She wants it to be a special occasion restaurant, a place to dress up for (good luck with that in Boston). And she modestly states, "It's not going to be precious, it's just going to be brilliant."

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  1. I find this to be particularly well-timed in light of the current economy etc.

    Also with regard to "a special occasion restaurant, a place to dress up," I have a huge collection of ascots, bow ties, and cravats that I just never have a chance to wear... now I do!

    It's not going to be precious, it's just going to be brilliant." I'm so excited.

    4 Replies
    1. re: StriperGuy

      When you're a celeb chef you can do anything you want. If she wants Bostonians to dress up, they must.

      Striperguy, don't forget to shine your shoes.
      CocoDan

      1. re: CocoDan

        Well, it will be interesting to see whether she institutes a dress code for the place. My guess is no.

      2. re: StriperGuy

        Thanks, SG - I just snorted my green tea.

        RE: Name - "I think people have a hard time saying Au Bon Pain," Lynch says. Ha !

        Menton rhymes with Louis Vuitton, which immediately started the soundtrack in my mind of Vampire Weekend's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," which somehow really seems appropriate.

        1. re: StriperGuy

          Actually, starting this at the nadir of a recession makes a certain amount of sense, in the way that "things can only get better?"

        2. this sounds like it will be great! I hope it is open by 2/21 (my bday) because it sounds like a great place for a celebration

          1 Reply
          1. re: cassoulady

            She is aiming for a February opening, so keep your fingers crossed.

          2. Not to sound too cynical (b/c like any new restaurant, I hope it thrives), and she must have done market research, but can Boston support another restaurant that is so pricey that people go "only once in a while" (as Lynch herself predicts)?

            1. So it's pronounced "Mehn-tawwwwwwwn"? That actually hurts when I try to say it!

              I wonder what will be $85 -- a bistro burger, perhaps? Man, this Oracle stock better start doing something or I don't think I'll be going there anytime soon.

              3 Replies
              1. re: hiddenboston

                Ha! Maybe you would get the truffled mornay with your gougeres, too. Or perhaps the full "menu" from Drink done as courses : )

                1. re: bostonbroad

                  I'll stick with the toasted raviolis, thank you. :-b

                2. re: hiddenboston

                  From Devra's report it sounds like the $85 menu will be at least four courses.

                3. Ok, this is all very funny - but since I don't go to her restaurants in general due to what I perceive as a poor price/quality/quantity ratio, what is it about the food that is inspiring all of these sarcastic statements?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Just a guess, but this seems like a particularly egregious example of poor price/quality ratio; coupled with an economic climate that is not exactly robust.

                    I happen to be a fan of Barbara Lynch's cuisine; mainly #9, but I too wonder whether the timing is right for a more "up market" venue. Don't get me wrong. It might be wonderful and well worth the higher cost... for those seeking fine dining. Today I'm thorouhjly enjoying my left over from Xinh Xinh..:)

                    Maybe that helps to explain the sarcastic comments...:)

                    1. re: 9lives

                      If feel like we were saying the same thing about Drink and her seemingly overpriced lunch-counter restaurant last year. Opening budget breaking, singularly focused, restaurants in a downtrodden environment seemed silly to most of us. But the products are well executed and people, though expensive, do go. She knows what she's doing.

                      1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles

                        I don't disagreewith you.. see my comments below. I was responding to Bob D's post about the high level of sarcasm.

                    2. re: Bob Dobalina

                      For me, it was really just a ridiculous pricing structure for the current climate, coupled with some left over annoyance at the surreptitious price hike at Drink. I'm actually a fan of her food and go to Drink more than I should (both for the sake of my liver and my wallet).

                      1. re: bostonbroad

                        this concept was on the boards for quite some time before the economy tanked. it's been delayed because of that, but she never pulled the plug.

                    3. That's $85 for a 4-course tasting, $145 for a 7-course tasting, which works out to about $21 per course. I'm saving my dimes now.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        If you put away only $2 per day for the next couple months, you'll have plenty to, well, pay a big chunk of the check.

                      2. So she is planning a high end restaurant which will pull customers away from other high end restaurants in Boston like No. 9 Park?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                          probably she can sell 9 Park and make a tidy profit on the real estate, or pay less rent out in Fort Point...

                          1. re: barleywino

                            Have you heard anything of the property being for sale? I would like to go again before it is sold.

                            1. re: barleywino

                              pretty sure she rents the #9 space...so no sell or pofit on the RE; could likely sell her remaining leasehold; but a big loss in value if she weren't to operate it.

                              1. re: barleywino

                                I don't think No. 9 Park is going anywhere. But a reconcepting, maybe in a slightly more casual direction, would not surprise me once Menton is open. There can only be one flagship.

                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                1. re: barleywino

                                  I highly doubt No 9 Park goes anywhere.

                                  My bet is she keep it as-is in the short run.

                                  If Menton works out, over the long-run she can take No 9 Park down-market. Her original plan was to get Relais & Châteaux status for Menton; not sure if that is still in the cards. But if Menton succeeds and she continues to push its quality (and price) higher, she can adjust No 9 Park to give her empire a wider reach. She is smart.

                                  1. re: rlove

                                    She's not only smart. She is a very driven and a very hard worker. I've had lunch at #9 and met friends at B&G right after. She was at both places.

                                    I'm not a BL groupie, 1 of her bartenders at Drink gave a good friend of mine a hard time one night; but like it or not, she is 1 of Boston's super restaurauntuers

                                    1. re: rlove

                                      There's word that Menton did get Relais & Châteaux status as of this week.

                                2. I wonder if this new place will draw in her legendary following in the construction trades?

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: nsenada

                                    Now that was funny. Good recall on a pre-opening Drink article...didn't exactly work out that way, huh?

                                    This will be interesting to follow. In the current economic climate (where job growth is not expected to rebound anytime soon), after the initial buzz dies down will she be able to keep her adherence to a tastings only menu or will their be a split to a tastings and a bistro menu?

                                    Plus the location is not exactly conducive to such an establishment. Fort Point has been the next "it" neighborhood for years, but hasn't really gotten there yet. Will the crowd needed to support such prices keep making the trek down there?

                                    1. re: nsenada

                                      Awesome Moments in Boston Restaurant/Media Hucksterism:

                                      "We're not looking to reinvent the wheel, just have a really good bar. Construction workers can come have a beer and a shot."

                                      -- Barbara Lynch, in the Globe prior to Drink's opening, sharing her hopes for its egalitarian appeal.

                                      "Toro's average check size will be $25, including drinks."

                                      -- Ken Oringer, in the Globe prior to Toro's opening, telling a whopper.

                                      "Go to Dallas. Go to Tampa. I go to Tampa once a month because of my Home Shopping Network gig and it's chain city. I don't eat for three days."

                                      -- Todd English, in Boston Magazine, revealing the altruism behind his empire-building: he wants to rescue people from eating at chain restaurants.

                                      "I'm sorry, but it's a business, and the people you're going to talk to -- it's all about money."

                                      -- Dave Andelman, to an audience of Emerson College journalism students, explaining with uncharacteristic candor how the media world works.

                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          To this day I won't eat at Blue Ginger, because I read an interview with Ming Tsai in the Improper Bostonian a year or two after it opened that said something to the effect of "I located my restaurant in Wellesley, because the locals don't have to save up to go out to dinner." From a business perspective, you obviously can't argue with that, but as someone who had to save up to go out to dinner at the time, I wasn't going to spend my money there and feel like Oliver Twist.

                                      1. Due to the current harsh economic times, i'll happily stick to spots in Chinatown for 'special occasions' and whatever extra i have, i'll donate to the local food bank.

                                        1. Funny thing, in yesterday's Wall Street Journal there was an article about the surge in "Small plates" dine at the bar restaurants. And a discussion of how Danny Meyer, one of the most successful restaurant owners in NYC just abandoned the prix fixe only menu at one of his restaurants as "too expensive" for today's economy.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            Good article: interesting that Tabla has abandoned that longstanding prix fixe. I liked the a la carte bar menu downstairs better, anyway.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          2. BL was ready for a new challenge, so she is going to see if she can pick the pockets of Bostonian on an even grander scale than in the past.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Gabatta

                                              Oh come on! It's not like she stealing into your home in the dead of night and running away with your grandmother's jewels! She delivers a product at a certain price; people decide whether they want to pay for it or not. To be sure, the hype perhaps induces people to spend more than they otherwise would, but that's no different than any other capitalist "pick-pocket"!

                                              1. re: Gabatta

                                                I don't know: that seems a little harsh. Lynch is a businesswoman charging whatever the market will bear. It's not like she's running tourist traps, restaurants with locations in heavily tourist trafficked areas that allow you to get away with sucking because you don't care about repeat business. If her formula were so awful, her prices indefensible, she wouldn't be thriving the way she is.

                                                People love her places; a dozen fans will jump in to defend her whenever I criticize Butcher Shop wine prices (okay, some of those are probably BL Gruppo sock puppets, but whatever). The economy is going to make a lot of people look at the Menton concept and scratch their heads, but you have to credit her track record: I don't think many of her ventures have been money-losers.

                                                Maybe she's spotted a chance to dethrone L'Espalier as the go-to special-occasion spot in town for folks who don't think luxury steakhouses are all that. I know I've stopped using it as my preferred birthday/anniversary/celebratory-business-dinner place since its move to the Mandarin: between the dull room and lack of a dress code, it just doesn't feel that special anymore, despite maintaining its quality of food and service.

                                                I'm a bit skeptical, but remember that the down economy hasn't hit rich people nearly as hard as the rest of us. By the time Menton opens, the kind of wealthy patrons who will make or break it may well be ready to spend freely again.

                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  I don't object to a pricey restaurant per se. Just the dorky tone of the press release, the assumption that noone in Boston can pronounce Menton, and the goofy pretense of a "dress up" place. If you have a dress code fine, but the whole tone of the thing was just dorky.

                                              2. According to the designers, Devra's scoop is incorrect. We were told that that there will not be a bar-- maybe BL was saying the drinks will be made at a menton service bar (as opposed as being made downtairs at Drink), but there won't be a "bar" to have dine on the $85/$145 tasting menu.

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    VERY interesting - makes me want to root for her! Thanks for posting -

                                                    1. re: sallyt

                                                      I think it's odd that in NYC the three most watched openings--Locanda Verde, DBGB, and Maialino--were of restaurants that have great price points. Dinner is about $90-125 per couple, tax, glasses of wine, and tip. While in Boston, Menton is aimed at dinner for two, with tax, wine, and tip, at between $250 to $450 per couple. That's as expensive as three-star Michelin dining at Per Se and more expensive than three star Michelin dining at Daniel. Does this Boston chef need reassurance by charging large sums? Do the rich see value in the exclusivity implied by these prices? It's very sad.

                                                      1. re: scotty27

                                                        Last I looked, unless you're ordering off that a la carte, no-reservations lounge menu, Per Se was $600/couple -- if you drink tap water.

                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Actually, both Per Se and the French Laundry include non-alcoholic beverages in their menu prices. So you could have mineral/sparkling water, coffee, tea etc. without extra charge.

                                                          1. re: hcbk0702

                                                            I'm one diner who is not going to a place like Per Se and not having wine. Just an odd corner to cut at that level of food. (If you don't drink, that's obviously another thing.)

                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            Not that it means anything, but to put this in perspective, I could get 800 hot dogs at Sullivan's (in March or November) for the price of a meal for two at Per Se. In other words, you could feed hot dogs to most of the town of Carlisle for what you would pay for carrot pudding, cheese risotto, and orange sorbet for you and your loved one.

                                                            But you could only get 400 hot dogs for what it would cost for dinner for two at Menton, so perhaps it's not such a bad deal after all.

                                                            1. re: hiddenboston

                                                              Or as someone once said, "Sooo....you're going to spend seven hundred dollars.....on lunch...."
                                                              Yikes!

                                                          3. re: scotty27

                                                            In answer to your first question, the chef charges what the market will bear. Good ol' capitalist, she. I won't pay for the $18 hot dog, but someone obviously is.
                                                            That leads to your second question - the answer is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspicu...

                                                            1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                              Ha! I was just talking about Veblen goods in a BU student newspaper article about shark fin and finning in which I was interviewed the other day. Not often you get to trot out Thorstein Veblen in the context of a discussion on food, food ethics, and sustainability.

                                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                Sounds like a really interesting article - the finning issue is so disturbing - any links available to the read?

                                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Fantastic article- thanks for posting!

                                                          1. re: fmcoxe6188

                                                            Agree, it's an interesting story, and we'll all watch to see how it goes. Hopefully better than the annual benefit party at the DeCordova Museum in October. Lynch's catering was touted as a highlight of the evening - but there was some spectacular disaster which resulted in food coming two or more hours late. The delay was never explained, just apologies issued from Lynch via the museum director.

                                                        3. NYC is not "littered" with places that cost "$300-400" p.p. In fact, as noted, the "trend" in NY, as is true in every other American city except Boston, is to have good food at lower prices. For example, in LA, Thomas Keller's new place will be a brasserie. The only places in NYC that cost "$300-400" p.p. are Masa and Per Se; the latter is actually $250 p.p. and that includes tip. The point is that Menton, as noted in the piece in the Globe, will indeed cost $400-500 per couple, which is absurd. BL is not French-trained, not three-star Michelin--Per Se and Masa are--, and does not have 45 cooks , as is true at Per Se, Daniel, Jean Georges, etc.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: scotty27

                                                            menton is not indicative of a trend. most recent openings, and those still on the boards, are serving "comfort food" at more everyday pricing. see post 390, bistro du midi, coppa, market and the upcoming stoddard's.

                                                            as i mentioned upthread, menton has been in the works for several years -- long before the economy collapsed. if lynch is still able to obtain financing in these rocky times, wiser heads than perhaps yours feel the risk is one worth taking.

                                                            1. re: scotty27

                                                              "BL is not French-trained, not three-star Michelin" - so only people who go to the right schools can hope to reach certain levels of success. Look, this is silly. The place isn't open yet. If it's no good, don't go! If it is, some people will go.

                                                            2. I am completely unfamiliar with the Fort Point area, so I have no predictions about the viability of the Menton concept. A few days ago WGBH's "Greater Boston" did a segment on the area. I'm not sure who the other two guests were, but the third was Mr. Krupp, of the defunct Persephone. He and host Emily Rooney were the doubting Thomases in the discussion - the other two were cheerleaders for the potential trendiness of Fort Point. One of the pillars of their argument was the Lynch factor. The always-opinionated host repeatedly made the point that there's not enough going on in the area, parking, or people living there, to make it a destination. I don't imagine the Fort Point boosters were very happy with the show.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                I'd think that when you get into the hundreds of dollars range, the neighborhood becomes less of an issue - the restaurant IS the destination. I doubt there would be any neighborhood where people would regularly pop in for a quick bite at a three-star priced restaurant 'cause they "don't feel like cooking tonight."

                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                  I'm not a huge fan of Fan Pier..great for bike riding..:) but Louis is locating there and as HT said, wiser people than me are making a big bet..with a long term time horizon. Smart people are investing a lot of $ to build a big marina,office, hotel, residential.

                                                                  I think if BL opens Menton with $400 meals and it doesn't work, she can scale back the prices as Bina did..and get more ambitious when the economy improves..and the neighborhood fills in. There's still a scarcity of Boston Waterfront and our Mayor wouuld lke to see it improved.

                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    The Fan Pier and Fort Point neighborhoods are so close yet seem so separated. So I suppose the bet is that there will be spillover, but as I don't drive I actually consider them two unrelated destinations.

                                                                    I agree that a restaurant like this would be the destination, though am unconvinced that it will be the tipping point for Fort Point. It has been the next big neighborhood for years. When Lucky's first opened developers were starting to buy up the buildings and kick out many of the artists living in their cheap lofts (Open Studios in Fort Point is always a great time, but seemed bigger and more exciting before many of the buildings were vacated) to make way for office space and condos. At least 6 or 7 years later I'm still waiting for that explosion of residents...

                                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                                      If Menton has valet parking (and maybe some nearby self-parking, which I suspect wouldn't be tough to arrange), does the relative emptiness of the neighborhood make that much difference?

                                                                      I can see the advantage of having well-heeled neighbors nearby (see No. 9 and the South End outlets of BL Gruppo), so the slow condo sales in that building have to hurt a little. But really, foot traffic seems kind of a minor concern: who walks by a place that is that expensive and decides to just pop in for a bite? It either works as destination dining or it doesn't, and I don't think the neighborhood makes that much difference on that score.

                                                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                        As mentioned, I don't know the area - I guess Congress St., where Lynch operates, is better-travelled than wherever Persephone was located. Emily Rooney said something about having to scale a rickety ladder to get there (I think that was in relation to Persephone).

                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                          Not to mention - wasn't it inside a clothing store? Even if they were designer rags, that's a little weird - no separate entrance like Louis.

                                                                          1. re: bostonbroad

                                                                            Rooney might have been talking about the stairways connecting the elevated Summer Street from nearby cross-streets below. The clothing store aspect of Persephone didn't bug me: the clothes were kept in enclosed display cases and tucked away at night: you just walked through that area to get to the bar. And I really liked their food. But its price point made it reliant on non-existent foot traffic, parking was problematic, the T wasn't super-close, and it was desolate around there at night. I think Menton shouldn't suffer from the foot traffic issue. Its customers will mostly valet park or arrive in taxis or limos.

                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                    2. Some chefs, back in the heady days of 15% taxes on non-SEC screened equity funds, private banks, and hedge funds, thought to open expensive restaurants. Why not? But that is no longer true.

                                                                      It's not a matter of Michelin or three-star training, per se, but of credibility based on critical reputation beyond one's city; having a large enough staff in the kitchen to create labor-intensive food; having a front of the house staff that is broadly anticipatory; and, using ingredients that are worth the price.

                                                                      The name says it all. Ever been to Menton in France? Not a place known for its cuisine. Like opening an upscale Italian restaurant and calling it Lago di Garda.

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: scotty27

                                                                        While not the equivalent of being a 3 * Michelin chef, BL was named by F & W as best new chef while at Galeria Italiana..(now Teatro)..pre #9 and a James Beard award for best chef in NE in 03.

                                                                        Now you could poo poo those awards but she has some credibilty outside the 617 area code.

                                                                        There's no reason she can't buy from comparable suppliers as Tom Keller, and at that price, she can hire a largeand skilled kitchen and FOH staff

                                                                        Does that translate to a $3-400 meal? I don't know. I'll reserve judgement til after itopens and I try it andhear from other's whose opinions I trust.

                                                                        Will Bostonians and visitors spend that kind of $ often enough on a meal to make it successful? I don't know that either but her investors are betting that it can.

                                                                        If I had the chance to invest in it would I? probably not..:)

                                                                        1. re: 9lives

                                                                          F& W is notorious comp-driven.

                                                                          JB award in 2003? Are you aware that the CEO @ JB in '03 is serving federal prison time for kickbacks? No joke.

                                                                          BL, unfortunately, does not buy from Thomas's suppliers: Elysian Fields, Four Stories Farms, etc.

                                                                          Further, staff @ #9 = 9 in the kitchen Who you kidding?

                                                                          What investors? I know of one.

                                                                          1. re: scotty27

                                                                            i know several people in her pool of investors, as well as others who have bankrolled her in the past and doing so now.

                                                                            there may only be 9 cooks working at night, but her kitchen payroll is much larger than that.

                                                                            fwiw, the michelin chefs who have come here haven't executed all that well. jean-georges bombed his first time here and the future of market is a wait-&-see. didier montarou, who opened miel, is long gone and sensing is full of empty seats most nights regardless of guy martin being attached.

                                                                            my post history shows i am no fan of lynch, and i finally stopped going to any of her places after being royally screwed too many times. that being said, i'm confused as to what is your particular axe to grind here? she runs a successful and respected group of restaurants as well as a catering company. she works like an animal. she got an insanely great deal on her new location. she is making a bold stroke. if the market will bear it, she will succeed. again.

                                                                            this is not her first dance. she has plenty of money, and savvy advisers, behind her to ride this thing out.

                                                                            1. re: scotty27

                                                                              You asked for critical acclaim beyond Boston and I offered it. If F&W doesn't count, it still 1 of the few national orgs that makes this type of national ranking. If a JB exec commits fraud does that invalidate the orgs selections. That would be like jumping to the conclusion that if a Heisman official committed a crime (other thn taking a bribe from Mark Ingram), would that invalidate Ingram's award?

                                                                              BL doesn't buy from Keller's producers now, but who's to say that she won't when Menton opens? and also expand the size of her staff. It sounds like you envision a carbon copy of #9 to be opened in FT Point only with higher prices and I expect we'll see an attempt at a higher level of dining.

                                                                              It's all endless speculation now, but sounds like 12-24 months from now, Boston will start to know whether it's a success or not. We can endlessly go around and around or be patient. She's certainly getting penty of publicity..good and bad; at least here...80+ posts on a restaurant that is not yet open.

                                                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                                                actually, they do share purveyors, like island creek oysters and eva's herbs.

                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                  Forgot about Island Creek. If you haven't seen it, their website is very nice...

                                                                                  http://www.islandcreekoysters.com/fro...

                                                                              2. re: scotty27

                                                                                Keller buys from purveyors in Boston as well - Cambridge Packing Company, Island Creek Oysters etc.

                                                                                1. re: scotty27

                                                                                  Bon Appetit named # 9as 1 0f best of 25 in the US and Saveur recently named Sportello as 1 of 12 most influential restaurantsbin the US...along with Manresa and other fine places.

                                                                                  I don't necessarily agree but the mags are not issued with astrerisks saying 9lives or Scotty don't agree.It's what it is....and this is what we've got.,the very definition of critical acclaim beyond one's city.

                                                                            2. I've only been to #9 a couple of times, and don't really remember much about it, either. B&G I did like the food quite a bit, but couldn't stand the service, the weird cramped basement location, or the other customers. And expensive as all hell.

                                                                              But my comment is more that obviously BL is quite a polarizing figure, she has enough devotees and enemies to make such hay over the opening of what is likely to be a flash-in-the-pan overrated joint that will likely need to be "repositioned" six months after opening. This is Boston after all. For all its pretensions, it remains a one-horse town.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                >>Maybe No. 9 just doesn't do it for BL anymore and her vision has evolved. She's taking a gamble, but if it works, it works. IMHO it's too big a gamble for this town. I<<

                                                                                With her 70 seats and price range, she is exactly at the same level as Pierre Gagnaire / Twist in Las Vegas. That is a 7 million $ restaurant.

                                                                                It is going to be interesting to see how Menton shapes up.

                                                                              2. Relais & Chateaux for a time was vaguely interested in one property in Boston: the old Federalist. But it didn't meet their standards. Lynch is not in their radar.

                                                                                Hamersley for certain looks at other chefs and menus to compare prices and dishes.

                                                                                It's not a NYC vs. Boston thing.

                                                                                Scampo has pasta & bread for $27, total, exclusive of drinks & tips. Entrees are pricey there, but why order them?

                                                                                Restaurants of interest in Boston are Scampo, Ginger Park, Post 390, Toro, and Rocca.

                                                                                53 Replies
                                                                                1. re: scotty27

                                                                                  ALL chefs watch other chefs -- owning a restaurant is a business, after all, and madly competitive. however, if you have followed gordon at all, you would know he has been happily sailing his own personal ship for the entire duration of his restaurant, (over 20 years) regardless of trends, and keeps prices below that of other places of similar standards and caliber.

                                                                                  i like scampo, but do not think $10 breads offer a good value, nor would i consider ordering naan and spaghetti there and call it dinner. 3 apps is my usual there and i am easily at $55-60 without a beverage or tip.

                                                                                  have you actually eaten at rocca, post or ginger park? rocca is so uneven it's not worth trying anymore; ginger park has become a generic pan-asian whatever and post is one of the more recent places to absolutely steam me, with ridiculous items like kobe hot dogs and $15 mac-and-cheese, plus $15 martinis. absurd, borderline insulting, and the execution is a major fail.

                                                                                  i'm sorry, but you're not giving much heft to your argument here.

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    I love Rocca.
                                                                                    Patricia Yeo, @ Ginger Park, ex- of A-Z, is enormously talent albeit quirky.
                                                                                    The mac & cheese @ Post 390 is delicious.
                                                                                    Gordon Hamersley opened 24 years ago and, you're right, stays focused on what he does there. His prices are lower than far better restaurants, which makes sense given what's served.

                                                                                    1. re: scotty27

                                                                                      with a food cost of a few cents vs. a menu price of $15 for mac-n-cheese, i refuse to be pillaged. sorry. it's ridiculous. i find nearly everything about post offensive. it's a shame, imho, because the space is gorgeous.

                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                        It has bacon in it, but you're right, it is expensive. Certainly as bad as the Bell and Evans chicken, $3 a pound wholesale, marked up to $25 a portion At Hamersley's.

                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                          So that 1/2 a chicken costs the chef $1.50, which yields a food profit of $23.50. Not bad.

                                                                                          1. re: scotty27

                                                                                            hammersley's doesn't position itself as a "value" restaurant. we're talking apples and oranges here. btw, post gets $20 for its roast chicken.

                                                                                            $18 for shrimp cocktail and $15 for a hamburger is patently offensive. that's more than at a steakhouse.

                                                                                            my perception of value is not decided by the fact that something costs less than $20. is yours?

                                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                              You mentioned Hamersley's. You're right, it's not a value restaurant.

                                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                Why would anyone eat at a steakhouse?

                                                                                                1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                  I don't know what that has to do with anything but 1 reason might be that they like eating great steaks and don't have the ability or equipment to cook it properly themselves..They'd rather pay $40+/steak alone to have it done right than screw up a piece of good beef themselves...or it can satisfy a diverse crowd of diners. Maybe it's a group of businessmen/women who are out of town and don't have a kitchen and want to go out to eat? It's a very safe choice in that situation.

                                                                                                  Other than Peter Luger, I rarely eat at a steakhouse unless I'm craving a prime rib; which is tough to do unless you have a crowd..

                                                                                                  1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                    Maybe because a boatload of top chefs have their hands in them now. I'd eat at Craftsteak, Prime, Cut, ACME Chophouse, Porterhouse New York and many more. I wouldn't step foot in a traditional steakhouse, but that's only 'cause it's not my scene. But if I can get creative appetizers and a good steak whose origin I can confirm, and great sides - why not? Believe me, though, I used to feel quite the same as you.

                                                                                                    1. re: almansa

                                                                                                      I'm not as "anti steakhouse" as I probably sounded in my post. More responding to Scotty. I agree with you re the different reasons to goto a steakhouse. I just really enjoy cooking good meat myself on a grill..bavette (which I fell in like with after you explained what it was after I had 1 at the now gone Persephone) last night, lots of skirt , hanger lately instead of strip..my old favorite. Waygu or a phone call to Luger or Snake River if I'm feeling flush and there's a pkg on my doorstep the next day. Fun to grill at 15f..:)

                                                                                                      I find that I am now able to buy better beef today than was generally available to me 10+ years ago; when you "had" to go to a steakhouse to get a great steak. Probably the greatest reason I go to steakhouses less.

                                                                                                      BtW, Craftsteak recently announced that they were closing...

                                                                                                      http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2009/12...

                                                                                                      1. re: 9lives

                                                                                                        Oh, I forgot the other reason to go to a steakhouse: I'm not expected to worship a chef who will most likely let me down in the end. I'm old. I have had a subscription to Art Culinaire since Issue No. 1. I've seen and done so much that I'm mostly either bored or offended by the food I see in restaurants. Speaking as a chef, I think we garner too much interest. We're really not that special. At a steakhouse I can slurp down some yummy oysters, have a perfectly broiled ribeye and maybe some killer macaroni and cheese. No amount of calling hake "merlusa" can top that experience. Your elderberry espuma can't add to my meal. And all the tapioca maltodextrin in the world won't help at all if you don't grasp how to balance and contrast flavors, acids, bases and amino acids.

                                                                                                        1. re: almansa

                                                                                                          Ah, well, as a chef it makes sense. Every chef I know will eat steak or sushi long before going to a restaurant with choices. When I ate with Tony Bourdain, he handed the menu to his publicist and said, "Order for me."

                                                                                                          1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                            that has nothing to do with being a chef but everything to do with "having people".

                                                                                                      2. re: scotty27

                                                                                                        you're defending a place like post as good food and good value. i find it to be neither. i'm sorry you didn't comprehend the comparison.

                                                                                                    2. re: scotty27

                                                                                                      You imply that Hamersly's sells 1 pound chickens. If indeed B&E Chix are $3/lb, though I suspect they're closer to $2.19, then half a chicken would cost $5.25, not $1.50.

                                                                                                      R&C is not, itself, interested in anything more than the annual fees, which for a Relais Gourmand used to run about $12,000 per year. As for enforcing their standards, the restaurants in Relais Gourmand and Inns in Relais et Chateaux are peer reviewed. In order to gain acceptance, GMs at other local properties (Blantyre, White Barn Inn) would make several visits and report back to HQ. I don't see a reason Menton wouldn't fit the bill, if executed properly.

                                                                                                      1. re: almansa

                                                                                                        They sell 1/2 a chicken, which is about 1.5 pounds. They don't plate by the pound.

                                                                                                        You have to apply to R&C. You're right, Menton could fit the bill. Unlikely, though: there's no R&C in Boston. Guess why.

                                                                                                        1. re: almansa

                                                                                                          R&C is not only interested in the fee. Properties apply, get rejected, etc. R&C has brand integrity, for what it's worth, with a philosophy, agree or disagree, that centers on exclusivity and pleasure. Patrick O' Connell's place is the epitome of an R&C property; other places with great quality don't have the idiosyncratic quality of R&C properties.

                                                                                                          1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                            I don't know: the Relais & Châteaux designation has some great restaurants under its banner, including many that Boston can't match (the Per Se's and Inns at Little Washington of the world). But I dine at the restaurant at the White Barn Inn (R&C approved) once or twice a year, and while I obviously like it, it strikes me as comparable, not vastly superior, to other top-tier Boston restaurants. Does it get special consideration because the hotel part of the Inn is so nice? If not, I can't see the R&C label as being out of the reach of some Boston restaurants as you suggest.

                                                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                              That's right, actually. A restaurant can be a Relais Gourmand; an inn, a Relais Chateaux. If the proprietors of the inn would like to be recognized for their cuisine above other Relais properties, they can elect to pay for both designations. It's not the norm, and in order for an inn to qualify for Relais membership at all, it still needs superb cuisine, but there are a few spots who have bothered to pay extra to stand out. Most of my earlier career I spent at Relais properties, both in the US and abroad.

                                                                                                              A Boston restaurant applying for membership in R&C would be visited by Roderick Anderson, Chris Brooks, Jonathan Cartwright and others, and they would determine its eligibility. IMHO there are a number of Boston restaurants that would make the grade, but R&C limits the number in any geographical area, so they's probably cap Boston at around 3. Is it worth the fee? L'Espalier, Clio and No 9 are all fine candidates, but would the label really behoove any of the bunch? Maybe in the summer with wealthy international tourists.

                                                                                                              1. re: almansa

                                                                                                                You're right. I didn't know about the cap.

                                                                                                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                You're right about the White Barn Inn. It's not clear why R&C has turned down Boston applicants, but here's a hint: Service, notoriously poor in Boston.

                                                                                                                1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                  White Barn Inn does indeed have excellent service. I'd say L'Espalier and No. 9 are at least its equal on that score.

                                                                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                              3. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                Relais and Chateaux, Michelin stars, celebrity chefs... you really seem to care more about external things than whether what is on the plate tastes good or not. That's what I care about.

                                                                                                                I've heard good things about the MnC at Post 390 (though not much other good about the place). I feel like if it is really insanely good MnC, then $15 is worth it, regardless of cost of ingredients.

                                                                                                                1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                  2/3 of the US R & C properties are connected to luxury inn/accomodations. There are only 7 or 8 free standing restaurants.

                                                                                                                  The Federalist might have been a candidate.I doubt most diners seek out the R & C award for their evening dining destinations..weekend getaways, yes

                                                                                                                    1. re: 9lives

                                                                                                                      There are many free standing R & C restaurants: Gary Danko, The French Laundry, Bel Air, Cyrus, Patina, Le Bernadin. Daniel, 11 Madison, Jean Georges, and Per Se are among them. All of them have vastly superior service to Boston and, except for 11 Madison and Bel Air, kitchens that turn out food that no restaurant in Boston can compare to consistently.

                                                                                                                      1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                        According to the website, there are 7 free standing restaurants in the US in R &C,,Daniel, Jean Georges,Per Se, FL,11 Madison, Gary Danko, Patina. All excellent but there are many restaurants I'd rate equally.

                                                                                                                        Of the inns, there are a # of places that I'd eat at first. To take 4 that I know, Castle inn in Newport, Charlotte Inn in MV and Wauwinet in Nantucket , Planter's Inn, Charleston are all fine places but there are many better restaurants in the US. I suspect I'd find the same result for the West or Southern properties.

                                                                                                                        Fine dining seems to be 1 of many factors when R & C selects it's properties. I think they have much greater influence in other parts of the world.

                                                                                                                        1. re: 9lives

                                                                                                                          Folks, we're getting pretty far afield here and would like to ask everyone to help keep this discussion focsused on Boston-area chow.

                                                                                                                          If you'd like to discuss the value of R&C, we ask you to start a new thread on the General Chowhounding Topics board, where we're sure the discussion will be of interest to a wide pool of chowhounds who would be interesting in both offering their opinions and learning from the discourse.

                                                                                                                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                                            OK, why is service so abysmal in most Boston restaurants? Notable exceptions: Scampo, Hamersley's, any of Himmel's properties.

                                                                                                                            1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                              Plenty of places in Boston with good service, and bad. I had abysmal service at Himmel's Excelsior and Post 390, much better at Bistro du Midi, solid at Harvest, though I haven't dined there lately. Grill 23 is generally excellent -- it's my favorite luxury steakhouse in Boston, based on the quality of its beef -- but I've experienced off nights for service there, too. You're only as good as your worst server's off night, and everyone has one of those periodically. I think it's a little much to indict an entire city's service based on personal anecdotal experience.

                                                                                                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                I think you're right about anecdotes. Ask around in Boston and out of town. Many concur. It's one reason Boston isn't taken as seriously for dining as several other U.S. cities. Another problem is in the kitchen: Ask Boston chefs their opinion of line cooks in Boston compared to other cities where they've worked. Isn't it remarkable that Boston still doesn't have one simple, good, delicious Italian restaurant? Or a French place with a national following? Or a European schooled/trained chef, other than the outpost from two star Guy Martin or three star Vongerichten? Interesting city, really. Funny, too, how Alan Richman noted in the recent GQ that Craigie on Main might be the city's best restaurant. That kind of says it all: A great neighborhood place with fried pig's tails.

                                                                                                                                1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                                  Good line cooks are hard to find and keep in Boston. Our proximity to New York doesn't help: many with talent and ambition pull up stakes and head to Manhattan, where the range of opportunities to work under nationally-acclaimed chefs, get a broader range of experience, and move up in the world is much greater. I've definitely heard that complaint from local chefs.

                                                                                                                                  But I'm clearly not getting the same anecdotes that you are: I travel around the US for business routinely, and think Boston has no reason to hang its head among cities of its size. Have you spent much time dining out in San Antonio, Jacksonville, Detroit, Indianapolis, Columbus OH? As I've often said, comparisons to places like New York are absurd for obvious reasons (13 times our size, a top 5% earning bracket that's among the highest in the world, etc.)

                                                                                                                                  No good, simple, delicious Italian restaurants? Been to Coppa yet? Erbaluce? Eaten the specials at Rino's Place? How many cities of Boston's size have French restaurants with a national following?

                                                                                                                                  I'm a fan of Craigie on Main, but can a single individual, even an Alan Richman, really know the national restaurant scene well enough to make that kind of statement with any authority? He only has 365 nights a year to dine out.

                                                                                                                                  I often wish Boston diners were a little more adventurous at every level of dining, but looked at with a sense of proportion, it's hardly dire as a restaurant town, and a helluva lot better than many North American cities.

                                                                                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                    Amen - I travel to other cities of comparable size for work and believe we are very LUCKY here to have the quality and diversity of food options that we enjoy. Some of the others are wastelands of only strip mall and chain dining or a handful of overpriced, overrated hotel spots (not to say we don't have these options around Boston as well...we just have others as well).

                                                                                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                      I think you're right about line cooks.

                                                                                                                                      I was thinking of SF, LA, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, DC, Miami, New Orleans, and, yes, NYC.

                                                                                                                                      I wouldn't compare Rino's or Coppa or Erbalcuce to Mailino, Valentino, Da Silvano, Babbo, Beppe, Lupa, Locanda Verde, or Esca. Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino, once asked me: "Why doesn't Boston have a good Italian restaurant? Why do your Italian restaurants feel they hjave to be inventive?" Or, as Andre Soltner once said: "Just roast the chicken the right way, guys."

                                                                                                                                      Boston isn't a restaurant town yet, but for sure each month it gets better.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                                        We split off a digression that was largely focused on Manhattan restaurants to the Manhattan board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/677606

                                                                                                                                        Please continue discussion of Manhattan places on that board. Thanks!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                                          How's La Morra these days? I remember an excellent barolo risotto with bone marrow. Comparable in quality to a Milanese risotto I've had an impressive Italian place in London.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                            I had a very good meal at La Morra recently. I really like their food.

                                                                                                                                            Happy New Years!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                              Excellent - especially the risottos and pastas - as long as you stay away from special events. I made the mistake of taking my wife there for Valentine's Day last year. It was prix-fixe menu only. We spent considerably more than we usually would have and got seriously mediocre mass-produced food for our money. So sad. But now I know.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                            Problem is that Boston, despite its smaller size, considers itself in the same tier as NYC, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, etc. It's not going to grin and wag its tail when told it is better than Buffalo!

                                                                                                                                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                          The service is also only as good as the management. Himmel put HUGE amounts of pressure on servers to turn tables at all costs at Excelsior (esp. when the end was in sight), with the result that even the excellent servers were asked by management to do things that were contrary to their own experience and values.

                                                                                                                                          In my experience, nine times out of time the fault (and 100% of the responsibility) lies with FOH management and owners for poor service.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: bobot

                                                                                                                                            My service issues at Excelsior were much earlier: I didn't dine there at all in its last year, though I occasionally stopped in at the downstairs bar.

                                                                                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                  2. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                                    the one time i had the tasting menu at Gary Danko, I was quite underwhelmed, didn't think it even came close to the tasting menus regularly offered at Boston restaurants like Clio or Troquet (or even that neighborhood place in Cambridge that serves fried pig tails). Haven't been to L'Espalier lately so can't comment on that from personal experience. Similarly, I think you can find pastas in Boston that are the equal of any at say Babbo, and at half the price point (I'm thinking the calves brain ravioli at pizza-serving Coppa, or the corn raviolini w/ rock shrimp at Prezza). Perhaps if you try the slow-cooked roasted pigs head at Craigie, you might change your mind about it being "just" a neighborhood place. Also I would delete Seattle from your list of cities that are more "serious" dining destinations than Boston-- Seattle has some good restaurants but (with the exception of Crush restaurant) really can't hold a candle to Boston's top tier.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: barleywino

                                                                                                                                      I think a great neighborhood place is high praise.

                                                                                                                                      I don't think pasta in Boston comes close to Babbo. For one thing, Mario uses Manicaretti pasta, which is pricier than the stuff used in Boston.

                                                                                                                                      I bet you're right about Seattle.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                                        I used to eat at Babbo about once per week, most recently was about a month ago, when I had their beef cheek ravioli and goose liver ravioli (both for the nth time). The former was good as always, although thicker and less delicate than the pastas at Coppa/Prezza which I mentioned, while the latter was grossly overpowered by the balsamic, which didn't used to be part of their presentation. Imo, a case where pastas in Boston were as good as, if not better than, some at Babbo. I've also had pasta at Scampo which I found much more tasty and texturally interesting than the bland macherroni ala chitarra which I"ve had at Babbo, and I don't think the sea urchin carbonara at Coppa is any inferior to carbonara I've had in NYC.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: barleywino

                                                                                                                                          That carbonara at Coppa is indeed phenomenal; pastas in general seem really strong there, not what I expected. (I was not surprised to love the salumi.)

                                                                                                                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                                          1. re: barleywino

                                                                                                                                            I love Scampo, but their pasta isn't first-rate. It's probably De Cecco.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: scotty27

                                                                                                                                        i'm confuzzled.

                                                                                                                                        1st you slam lynch for aiming so high, now, a few days later, you bemoan the lack of ultra-premium places in boston, an equivalent of per se.

                                                                                                                                        <<scratches head<<

                                                                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                          No, no, no.
                                                                                                                                          I'd rather see a zillion Toro's or Scampo's than one Menton.
                                                                                                                                          sorry for the confusion!

                                                                                                                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                            Funny, but the person whose marketing people advertised as a southie girl made good, the "precious" comment is one that I will cherish.

                                                                                                                            Need to get my $19.00 hot dog and my oysters oh my!