Fantastic brunch at Mistral
I just had brunch at Mistral, and I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a meal that I’d eaten in Boston. Lately I have been feeling like the Boston restaurant scene has gotten a bit tired, particularly for brunch. I’ve been to many of the highly regarded brunch places, and this morning I was struggling to think of a place that I was eager to go to for brunch. I was reviewing some of the recent CH posts and saw the recommendation for Mistral. I’ve been there for dinner and always been impressed, but for some reason I’ve never gone for brunch. So I decided to check it out today and I left the meal feeling elated and rejuvenated. I now have a new favorite brunch spot. The menu had a well rounded mix of brunch classics, new innovative dishes, and some dishes that were both. And the service was excellent.
I started with Riesling Poached Seckel Pear. The pear was perfectly poached. It was soft and juicy, but not at all overcooked. It was served on top of honeyed ricotta which helped cut the sweetness of the pear and added richness and depth to the dish. The pear was topped with a ginger galette, which added a nice crunch verses the softer textures of the pear and ricotta.
For my main course I had the duck confit. It was topped with three eggs sunny-side up, served on top of small cubes of what I believe were root vegetables, and there were a few roasted cherry tomatoes on top of the eggs. This would have been the perfect dish last weekend when it was cold and raining. Nonetheless, on this sunny day it was still exceptionally good. The tomatoes were well seasoned and bursting with flavor. The egg yolks were still soft, so when I cut into them the yolks oozed out on to the duck and vegetables below. The duck was succulent, moist, and full of flavor. The seasoning on the vegetables along with their natural sweetness (carrot and possibly turnip) created a delicious sweet and salty combination that complimented the flavor of the duck perfectly. Further vegetables cut the richness of the duck and egg combination, and added a slightly crunchy texture to the dish.
I will definitely be returning to try the many other tempting dishes, including the dropped egg appetizer served on toast with asparagus and parmesan cheese.
223 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA 02116
re: MC Slim JB
One can see the cost of Mistral's brunch on its menu at http://mistralbistro.com/brunch-menu/
You'll note that, while more expensive than many Boston brunches, it's not absurdly so. Moreover, the portion sizes are large enough that one can order just an entree and be entirely sated. Nevertheless, one can go nuts and still walk away for far less than the cost of the brunch at Henrietta's, but still be just as (over) stuffed.
I need to hit up Mistral for brunch soon. I've only ever been there for dinner, and based on what I have seen and heard, it is one of the better brunch spots in Boston. Excerpt from my dinner review at http://restaurantbrat.com: A perennial contender for all manner of annual Best of Boston and Magazine/Blog Favorite awards, Mistral is a classic example of a restaurant whose reputation precedes it. And in this case, quite comfortably so, for before I had even ventured forth, the myth of Mistral seemed to surface in almost all my interactions with anyone even remotely familiar with the Boston dining scene. Oftentimes restaurants that attract such press and widespread acknowledgment fail to live up to the hype, so I was pleased to discover that Mistral was just as good in reality as word on the street had billed it to be. It is generally exceedingly rare to discover good cuisine in a setting like Mistral’s – a sleek den for both the fashion and the financier set. Thumping electronic lounge beats pervade the air, and the bar dishes out artful cocktails to gaggles of leggy young professionals in miniskirts and stilettos. Oversized sofas, massive rusted metal wall sculptures, gothic (yet modern) chandeliers – Jamie Mammano’s Provençal-inspired gem is a Temple of Hip, a swath of earth-tones and warmth. The dining room is just as lively, littered with red-faced pinstripes guffawing with a loud backslapping sort of bravado—a band of brothers belonging more to the Canali set than the Cavalli—their platinum concubines sitting flirtatiously astride. An energetic buzz permeates the scene. Mistral, at first glance, feels more South Beach than South End.
Now, do not misunderstand, I have little problem with the setting described above. Just that my expectations then change. You see, I like my party locations glamorous, dark, loud, chaotic and filled with skinny people. I like my food locations rustic, authentic, hearty, and filled with fat people. Thankfully, Mammano’s kitchen churns out dishes that work. Nothing is over-thought here, and I mean that in the most complimentary manner possible. Cuisine that would not be out of place at a traditional dinner in Provence, prepared by a French grandmother who was taught to cook by her own mother, no doubt served in a tiny countryside cottage. Back-to-basics cooking, with a focus on quality. As a result, Mistral’s menu showcases a host of uncomplicated dishes, tasty and hearty; dripping in equal measure with both duck fat and love.
The service at Mistral is impeccable, and servers are appropriately well versed in the menu. Each item is described in loving detail, down to the garnishes and the aftertaste. On a recent visit, I was left with no doubts that our waiter (a balding, skinny middle-aged man with a mild manner and a bit of serial-killer about him) had himself tasted each and every item on the menu (which was itself truly extensive by fine dining standards). Whether this was a function of Jack the Ripper’s mental capacity in keeping current, or the longevity of the menu's constituents is yet to be determined. Sharp-eyed internet users will have noticed that reviews for Mistral dating back five to six years ago extol the virtues of many of the same dishes that grace their menu today. I would like to think this is a good thing – not so much a case of Mammano being outdated as it is one of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I came to Mistral for the French and Mediterranean flavors, but was instead offered Tuna Tartare with Crispy Wontons, Ginger and Soy as the signature appetizer. I could not bring myself to order it. I cannot get my head around why chefs build restaurants around thematic styles of cooking only to undermine their concepts by inserting little incongruent personal indulgences here and there. Tuna Tartare was probably a dish that sold well at Mammano’s other establishments, or maybe it is a personal favorite of his that he felt had to feature here. Either way, it sticks out like a sore thumb on Mistral’s menu, and no matter how good it would have been, is to me unabashedly from a different time and place. I somehow doubt old Provençal peasants were infusing their sushi-grade bluefin chunks with Kikoman. Avoid the cookie cutter and go with those that sound more authentic, for they are the ones which stand out. The Seared Foie Gras with Confit of Duck is a minerally, livery throwback to a time when foie gras was simply animal offal to be savored and not an activist’s wet dream. An entire lobe of liver (measuring a full seven inches across) is balanced atop a hollowed out brioche cylinder, the latter filled to the brim with pulled duck meat. An architectural marvel. It is a magnificent dish, both to look at and to taste, and the creamy liver is the perfect foil to the tender, flavorful shards of preserved duck. The brioche does a good job of sopping up the salty juices from the inevitable carnage on the plate, what with bits of jelly-like foie gras, a canard explosion when the bread container is breached and a generous splash of cherry gastrique to top it all off.
Maine Crab Ravioli is similarly good, if not otherworldly. The seafood used here is fresh and sweet, tasting of summer and the sea, and the pasta dumplings lie in a shallow pool of tomato broth, pleasantly astringent with a hint of thyme. My only complaint: the ravioli themselves. To begin with, four piddly little pieces of ravioli constitute the entire dish, and further, each piece is a little less crab, a little more pasta. If you are reading this, my wee ravioli friends, I know you’ll be able to take this criticism on the chin, for you are thick-skinned as they come. Good thing you taste nice.
Mistral’s selection of main courses are hearty, buttery and the majority would feed a family on their own. Despite the ostensibly Manhattan atmosphere you are confronted with here, the portions are decidedly Middle American diner. One wonders how the Size 0’s that flock here are capable of putting even the slightest of dents in one of Mistral’s supersized entrees. The Half Whole-Roasted Duck arrived majestically on a sizzling-hot plate the size of a road sign; the skin oven-roasted to a delightful crisp, the meat pulling away from the bone with the gentlest of tugs, the mountain of wild mushroom risotto moist and nutty. And after half the plate, a quick breather was needed. My stomach lurching, I had a sip of my wine, took a number of deep breaths, and toweled off the beads of sweat gathering on my brow – I felt like Adam Richman in Man v. Food. Only (thankfully), I had the option of the doggy bag.
If you are feeling in the mood for a greater degree of punishment, try the Red Wine Braised Beef Shortribs. A luscious, hearty French heart attack that is presented to you earnestly by your busboy on what appears to be a medieval skillet the size of a Viking’s shield. The shot ribs are cooked to a tender succulence, and textural contrast is provided by crispy buttermilk onion rings and chunky mirepoix (in this case: carrots, onions, celery) which melt in your mouth with a sweet, comforting evanescence. A dollop of butter whipped potatoes is great as icing on each forkful of stringy beef, and just as good alone – unfortunately the bed of starch is just a little too rich to finish in entirety.
I commend the brave diner who has room for dessert after such a vicious carbohydrate and protein attack. I certainly have not been able to muster the requisite second wind, and always leave with bags of leftovers – duck confit, especially, is great for scrambling with eggs the next morning (especially when you fry up that lovely translucent layer of fat under the skin). Mistral is a very good restaurant, but at times relies a little too much on in-your-face displays of magnitude and overtly cloying richness to blitzkrieg its clientele into submission. That being said, the cuisine here is incredibly tasty and reminds me of a time when fine dining did not necessarily mean bite-sized portions fit for a squirrel, freeze-dried and put through a molecular centrifuge before being folded up like origami and served on a stick. Comfortable, hearty fare should always maintain its relevance in the restaurant scene. And as I found myself sitting amidst dramatic white drapes, basking in the merriment of a convivial crowd and the warm orange aura of Mistral’s dining room, it was not lost on me that such authentic food could indeed co-exist in a sea of douchebags and breast implants. I loved it. Up next, brunch!
Just had brunch at Mistral today, and since there aren't a tonne of reviews, I thought I would add another opinion. There were four of us, including my young daughter, and a friend from England, who wanted something other than the usual English fry-up (sacrilege!). I had initially thought of booking CoM, as my favourite brunch spot, but given a couple of rave reviews, decided to venture to Mistral -- first visit there.
The space is very airy and big, and although the decor is not to my taste (exposed brick to give a rustic feel etc), it's just right for brunch/lunch -- not sure I would fancy it for dinner. The staff were friendly -- not overly attentive and a couple of times I had to struggle to catch their attention.
Both my wife and friend ordered the smoked salmon benedict -- two large portions, and I had the duck confit. We also had the sticky buns and a side of bacon. I didn't try the eggs -- both of my DCs sounded appreciative, and it looked fine, but didn't make me drool. The duck confit was very good, but it didn't blow me away -- the runny eggs on the meat was lovely to look at, but the flavour was a little one dimensional. The bacon was very good, but not a patch on the CoM pork belly. There was also a side of potatoes which were very good but there was generally far too much food on the table, the portions are indeed, huge. The sticky buns were excellent, as were the cakes that were our 'bread'. The orange juice was a little anaemic for freshly squeezed. I also had a much touted hot chocolate which came with an enormous house made marshmallow, which was yummy, but the drink itself was only fine. My friend thought the mimosa was very good. My daughter enjoyed her food, and she's a picky eater, so that's a major plus!
Overall, I enjoyed the brunch, but mostly for the company and the atmosphere. I prefer the space and service to that of CoM, which still retains title of best brunch in my book. However, other than the pastries, nothing really wowed me to the point I'll remember the dish, unlike e.g. the CoM corned beef hash. The bill came to $120 inc. tax and tip, which I thought was fair value for three.
true, lord knows i employ a lot of abbrevs., but i do think it wise to begin w/ the fully spelled name followed by, for instance," (CoM)" and then use CoM in the rest of your piece. I have no idea what is CoM and i highly doubt i am alone in that.
Grammatical clarity aside, thank you for your very helpful review.
dan, i too have been pouring through brunch menus to find one that wowed me (none) so am delighted to read the details of your great brunch today. we definitely will try this soon.
begin rant> it continues to amaze and baffle me that good brunch places can have tempting savory entrees but i just cannot find anyone doing pancakes and waffles of substance and invention (i.e.multigrain, nuts, fruits in the batters>>texture and heft). They just all seem to go the one-note white flour/wonderbread route.(I mean , even blueberry wonderbread is still wonderbread.) Pity. Also, WHO is doing a baveuse omelet, prepared in an omelet pan with care, and producing a soft creamy wet omelet with interesting fillings? This vacuum has been bemoaned on CH before but how i wish that vacuum would disappear. < end rant.
what i need to do is suck it up that great omelet and sweet brunch food will just have to continue to be made by me and 'brunch eaten out' will continue to be more a savory lunch.
Was back at Mistral for Fathers' Day Brunch this weekend. The poppyseed ricotta pancakes with strawberries probably were the best pancakes I've ever been served in the Boston area. (Only other contender -- and it's not really the Boston area -- is The Pitcher Inn, in Warren, VT, and those are only available if you're staying at the inn.) And, as I previously noted, the prices are quite reasonable, particularly given the quality and when compared to the prices of the all-you-can-eat places like Henrietta's Table.