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Feb 12, 2010 01:30 PM

Symphony #8 - the finale

After giving this place a while to shake down, the two of us decided we'd go back and try the pub menu on Thursday and order some burgers.

We will not return. Why not? Let me count the ways.

The Mr. wanted a beer. A sign outside the door advertised Czechvar, which he wanted to try. After a long wait, the waitress came back and said there wasn't any. OK. Look at the list again. Two kinds of Quimay. What's the difference? Another long wait, an answer, and the order was placed.

We ordered our burgers. Time passed.

All around us, orders were being delivered to the wrong tables, by servers who were different from the people who had taken the orders. When the orders did get to the correct table, the servers had no idea who was supposed to get what.
This held true for us as well. At least the burgers were cooked medium as we had requested. Mr.P had ordered the Cayjun, and said he tasted no spice. I ordered the Mamacita, hold the cheese. There was perhaps a scant teaspoon of salsa next to the slice of avocado.

Meanwhile, the famous beer had not arrived, so Mr.P asked after it, and eventually it came. It was good.

So we ate our burgers and asked for the bill, which also took its time arriving. Mr.P noticed that he had been charged $10 for his beer, rather than the $7 printed on the menu. Another go-round, I'll spare you the details. Three bucks off bill, with the explanation that the price had been "corrected" in the computer but not yet on the menu.

So we paid up, departed, and will not go back.

p.s. This restaurant is behind Symphony Hall. (I complained a while ago that someone hadn't given a location, so I'll try not to commit the same sin myself.)

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  1. My wife and I had tickets for the Huntington last evening, and with trepidation (after reading the threads on it) we made reservations at Symphony8. Like others we were surprised how big it was inside. We sat in the restaurant, but were given both the restaurant and pub menus (I remember someone wondering that). I was not my usual self, as I am still a bit shagged from a bout of noro-virus earlier in the week, so I started with a cup of the Chicken Noodle Soup. It was far more of a stew than a soup with a thick creamy stock, loads of chicken, ziti(?), carrots and celery. I actually was looking forward to a clear broth chicken noodle, but it was by far the best part of my meal. I followed this with a Margharita pizza. I normally would have ordered a burger, or entree, but again, I was looking for lighter options. The pie came out with a thin crust middle, out to fat doughy ends. However it was an herbed crust, the flavor of which overwhelmed the 10 scant pieces of chopped basil sprinkled on the pie. Sauce and cheese were fine, but ultimately, ugh. I didn't drink any cocktails or beer, but there wasn't anything on the cocktail menu that wowwed me anyway.

    My wife had a drink (forget the name) that was bourbon, sweet vermouth and a float of Fernet Branca. First, it was so full that the server spilled a small amount putting it down (she was very apologetic and cleaned it up quickly), and my wife said it was just too much, not at all balanced. She had the house salad, which was mesclun mix, roasted red peppers and olives. Someone mentioned overdressed salad? I could smell her dressing across the table when the server put it down in front of her! The peppers and olives didn't seem to hold the dressing as much, so she basically picked them out. I tried a single piece of mesclun and was stunned at how much dressing was on it.

    For her main course my wife had the braised short rib panini, with horseradish cream. She upgraded her fries to tater tots. She is very glad she did that, as the tater tots were the best part of her meal. I know a panini is a flat sandwich. It's pressed. But this thing could not have been much more than 1/4 inch thick! After the server left, she pried open the bread, and there was the equivalent of the meat from one small short rib, shredded and spread over a piece of bread about 7 inches long, cut in half. She scraped the meat and sauce from one side, put in on the other, and ate it that way. She enjoyed the flavors of the short rib and horseradish sauce, but the quantity of short rib was truly laughable. One of a table of three older ladies near us got a panini, and though I couldn't hear her, her expression, and what she said to her fellow diners causing laughter, was obviously similar to our situation.

    One positive was our waitress, who was attentive without hovering, cleaned up the drink spill quickly, and generally seemed on the ball. They don't seem to have enough waitresses, however, as there were only two in our area of about 20 tables (our waitress told us she was covering nine table, when my wife asked). They do have food runners, so the wait staff doesn't need to run food, not sure if they were using that system on others visits.

    It's too bad, as this area is lacking in places to eat prior to the BSO, or Huntington, and we were hoping for somewhere we could go to before attending performances down there. I guess we'll need to find someplace else, as we are in no hurry to go back. I could see stopping by the bar for a beer, and maybe even a bowl of chicken noodle soup, but that's about it.

    1. I'm pretty sure there's no drink on earth that a float of Fernet Branca won't overwhelm. That's one badly conceived cocktail.

      10 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        She is a big Frenet Branca fan, and had a wonderful drink made with it at ESK one time. This just wasn't that drink, though as I said to her, that was "made" with FB, it didn't have an FB "float"!

        1. re: kimfair1

          Yep, the Hanky Panky is a lovely cocktail, one specifically designed to work Fernet in, but it's subtle; it only uses two dashes. I think The Rat (an ESK highball of Coke and Fernet) works pretty well, too. I like the Toronto as well, which I first sampled at Green Street, but the FB flavor in it is much more insistent.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I would think a drink named The Rat would smell like a frat house bathroom during hell week, have a healthy layer of sludge on the bottom that would slowly become liquified as the night went on, and punch you in the face while yelling about the evils of drugs and pre-marital sex.

            Man that place was great, nice shout out from ESK.

            1. re: Beachowolfe

              I suppose a Straight Edge cocktail would have to be non-alcoholic. The owner of ESK has his office downstairs, with his desk approximately where The Rat's old stage was.


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Not sure what I'd call the ideal sXe drink, but given how veganism became an integral part of the lifestyle by the early-mid 90s, I'd think that a flip or milk based drink would really flip 'em out. Take *that*, Earth Crisis.

              2. re: Beachowolfe

                It's nice of them to give a shout-out to the Rat, but that's an odd choice. Fernet and Coke is practically the national drink of Argentina, so it does not really match-up, in my mind. I like the sludge idea, Beacho.

              3. re: MC Slim JB

                One thing I love about ordering torontos is seeing the different levels of FB that you end up with. I really like both rye & fernet so when I get a more rye-forward toronto I'm happy and when I get a FB-forward toronto I'm happy ... well, happier as I prefer them to be very FB-forward. Given that everyone is likely working off the same ideal proportions it just goes to show how a very little difference can really change the outcome.

            2. re: MC Slim JB

              Lord Hobo's Sloppy Possum (Fernet, Canton Ginger, Lemon) is shockingly balanced and very good. The acid is a good foil for the other two ingredients. That Manhattan/FB float sounds like it would work flavorwise, except for the sugar -- all three ingredients are sweet. It would be interesting to try again with Rye, a perfect sweet/dry vermouth combo, and a Fernet (or other amaro) float. I made a Rye/Meletti "Madhattan" the other night that was pretty good; I'd make it perfect next time with half dry vermouth / half amaro.

              1. re: EvergreenDan

                My wife had the Sloppy Possum at Lord Hobo's and enjoyed it immensely. I think the main problem with the drink at Symphony8 (and again, I'm speaking for my wife as I didn't try it) was the amount of FB just completely overwhelmed everything else in the drink.

                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  I really like that sloppy possum. Bonus points for it being fun to say.

              2. We went in December (close to when it opened) and did not have a good time. Service was slow and nonchalant. Friendly, but not at all attentive. I had a dry (like, embarrassingly dry) pork chop smothered in sticky sauce. Ick. Then we went downstairs to the bar where you need a password to get in. I thought (perhaps quixotically) that it would be akin to the old Milk and Honey in NYC (the posted “etiquette” rules are very similar). Not at all. There was a 21st birthday going on, and the atmosphere was much more “frat” than “speak easy.” Just totally uncool.

                1. It figures. Symphony #8 is the Unfinished Symphony (Schubert).

                  1. Despite all the mediocre reviews, we had dinner there tonight before the BSO/Hilary Hahn concert. The main reason I picked it was because of its proximity to Symphony Hall, esp on a night like this with torrential rain and 50mph winds!

                    First of all, the decor: I don't like it at all. It's very dark and pub-like; and the bright light from the multiple flat-screen TVs was very annoying.

                    Second, service, like many of you noted, was rather slow and with an "I don't really care" attitude. Our waitress was fine, but we noticed others were not as attentive.

                    One of the neighboring table had totally unacceptable service: the couple shared the mussels appetizer. Before they had finished, their individual salads arrived. Then, before they finished their salads, their entrees arrived. Fortunately, this didn't happen to us.

                    Third, the menus are confusing - not only to us, but to almost every diner who sat within earshot of us. We were all given the restaurant menu, AND the bar (Siansa) menu, AND a special St Patrick's Day menu, without any explanation. The older patrons are particularly confused and overwhelmed by all these choices.

                    We shared the smoked salmon crepe to start. The other thread someone mentioned the crepe being warm but the salmon was cold, which made an odd combo. Well, they "fixed" the problem now by NOT serving the crepe warm, even though the menu describes it as
                    "Smoked salmon rolled in warm crepes with herbed horseradish cream"
                    Anyway, it didn't bother us that the crepes were cold. But the cream tasted like regular cream cheese. We did not detect any horseradish flavor. Overall, the dish tasted fine - I mean, it's hard to mess up smoked salmon, right?

                    I had the Citrus Glazed Duck Breast for my main course.
                    "Pan seared duck breast cooked to order and glazed with a 3 citrus sauce. Served with mashed potato and sautéed spinach."

                    This came out surprisingly good, even though I was not asked how I would like the duck cooked. It was medium-well, very tender and very moist. The sauce was fine, perhaps a bit too citrus-y. And it somehow coagulated into a gel consistency soon after the dish arrived. But still, it was a nicely flavored piece of duck.

                    Spinach was decent, except that it wasn't drained well before it was plated. As a result, the spinach juice flowed all over the plate into the mashed potatoes and the duck.

                    Overall, it was not a perfect dish, but I'm willing to overlook these minor issues as this dish is only $15.

                    Husband had the garlic shrimp with penne. He said it tasted fine, however, the asparagus looked more yellow than green.

                    We shared the Bailey's Chocolate pudding (on the St Patty's day menu) for dessert. Rather bland.

                    The *strangest* thing that I noticed after we got home, is that both our entrees were charged $1 LESS than what was listed on the menu. We were charged $14 for the duck (instead of $15 on the menu) and $13 for the penne (instead of $14). ???

                    Will we go back again? Perhaps. The sad truth is, there are so few decent dining options near the Symphony Hall that our dinner actually wasn't bad at all, esp for the price it charges. Of course, we won't go back if I had to pay $28 for the duck or $25 for the pasta, but with Symphony 8's low prices, we are willing to overlook some of the deficiencies.

                    Symphony 8
                    8 Westland Ave., Boston, MA 02115

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: y2000k

                      Actually, there are dining choices near Symphony. Not right at the door but close. I has been a perennial topic around here and some very good suggestions have been made.

                      We did a piece on it and some of our readers added some excellent suggestions. In fact we are going to try a Persian place called Moby Dick because two different people suggested it.



                      1. re: BostonZest

                        Hi penny, thanks for the links. I've read the other chowhound threads before, and most people do not recommend Betty's Wok & Noodle. I've eaten @ Symphony Sushi once and it was rather disappointing - the tuna sashimi was still frozen in the middle and none of the rest of the sashimi had any flavors (I'm a fan of Toraya). And I've also tried Pho & I before which serves mediocre food.

                        Anyway, I have no objection to any places that are 8 to 10-min walk away, but for a night like last night, I was really glad that we only had to walk 100 feet to get to the concert.

                        In addition, many BSO patrons are elderly (not us), and they may find the walk from Pru challenging; and even taking the T navigating the steps can be a hurdle.

                        1. re: y2000k

                          I'm surprised by how few people know about Symphony Cafe, located in Symphony Hall . The food is catered by Jules Catering (currently) and is served buffet style. Compared to what's proximitous to the hall, food is decent and can't beat convenience. It can be pricey for some-$34 per person- but lots of other local restaurants charge similarly. I believe seating starts at 5:30, call to make reservations.

                          1. re: PainterGirl

                            We liked Symphony8. We are BSO fans, not elderly, and attend a few concerts a year. Our servers were great and completely accommodating when we mentioned we had to make it to the concerts. They have Cuban sandwiches and chicken-and-waffles on the menu, too. Big pours. Our past pre-Symphony dinners have involved Betty's - which is good, VERY good for people with very specific dietary requirements as they can accommodate anything - they also have Cuban sandwiches:) Pho & I is good but tends to be jammed before the concerts - they take reservations too.

                            Give Symphony8 another try, they are working out the kinks.

                            1. re: PainterGirl

                              Thank you. I'll have to try that. Do you know if it's open for the rehearsals?


                              1. re: BostonZest

                                Symphony Cafe is open for the shows only, I believe. Friday afternoon lunch is $21, btw. I'll find out if they put sandwiches out for rehersals....will report back.

                                1. re: PainterGirl

                                  Sorry, the Cafe is not opened for rehearsals, only pre-concert. There are no sandwiches for rehearsals.

                                  1. re: southie

                                    Thanks for the info. I've promised myself I'll make more of the rehearsals - but I can find a lunch place those days.


                        2. re: y2000k

                          Gosh! Against my better judgement and the meh reviews here, I dragged husband back to Symphony 8 last night for dinner before the Sat eve BSO concert.

                          The Good:
                          Some issues I mentioned in my post above from a few weeks ago seemed to have improve:
                          1) We were seated in the same area (immediate left upon entering), yet the 2 super-bright flat screen TVs are off, so no more blinding bright light into our eyes.
                          2) The hostess explained the various menus that were handed to us - the restaurant ment vs the bistro menu
                          3) The food is decent

                          The BAD (long)
                          We arrived a few minutes early for our 6:30pm reservation. There's only 1 waitress for that entire seating area (~ 10 tables), so service was painfully slow.

                          I ordered a cup of chicken noodle soup and goat cheese/spinach salad. Husband ordered the pesto salmon.

                          After our orders were taken, 2 ladies were seated next to us, and when they were ordering, they told the waitress they are attending the BSO concert. (We didn't tell her; but I figured it's easy to tell based on the time and our dress.)

                          45 minutes passed by and there's still no food. The ladies next to us started making lots of noise, asking to see the manager etc. A few minutes after their complaint, their food appeared. In the mean time, we - who were seated and had our orders taken before they came in - were still waiting for our food.

                          I tried to be patient, but at that point I had enough of this. When the waitress came by to ask my husband if he needed another drink, I told her that we're still waiting for our food. She said the kitchen is backed up, then left and never came back to update us.

                          After a few more minutes, I sent husband to see the hostess to inform the manager that we've been waiting for our food for 50+ minutes. Ah, mircaculously, 2 minutes later, our food arrived. No one - not our waitress nor the manager - ever stopped by to apologize for the long wait.

                          My soup arrived with a thin film over it; as if it's been sitting that way forever. It was way too salty. The salad was fine. Husband said the salmon was okay.

                          We didn't even have time for dessert or coffee (their loss), even though I *thought* 1 hour 15 minutes would have been plenty of time for a 2-course meal.

                          Well, that's the last straw. I can't see ourselves heading back there. It's really a shame, as the food is okay and the price is decent. But since they can't handle the pre-concert crowd after all these months, I doubt things will improve.

                          Symphony 8
                          8 Westland Ave., Boston, MA 02115