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Anyone Been to Menton? Any Opinions?

I have a reservation later this month - should I keep it? It will be a MAJOR splurge (not from an expense account or trust fund), so I am looking to hear that folks have been WOWED - anyone have experience to share? Did I miss a thread on it?

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Menton
354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

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  1. My question would be: are you planning on spending that splurge elsewhere if not at Menton? There's a school that says it's risky to go to any new place in the first couple of months of operation. If you are concerned about risk, wait a little while.

    The $145 tasting menu seems a bigger risk than the $95 four-course prix fixe, which offers more flexibility in choices and frankly is comparable to prices at the other three most expensive places in town: L'Espalier, O Ya, Clio/Uni. (That is, until you order from that marquee French- and Italian-heavy wine list, which probably blows up that comparison, if Lynch's typical wine pricing pertains. Maybe there are some bargains among the Austrian bottles.)

    I'm going to go out of naked curiosity, splurge or no, and I can't write it off.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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    L'Espalier
    774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

    O Ya
    9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

    Menton
    354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

    16 Replies
      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        I'm hoping it will be a worthy local occasion-dining place. L'Espalier has lost the magic for us since the move to the Mandarin, even though the food and service are as good as ever. That room just sucks compared to the townhouse.

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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        L'Espalier
        774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Totally agree regarding L'Espalier -- it's very nice, but "lost the magic" is a perfect way to put it. It just feels like a generic fancy restaurant now, even though everything is impeccable. It doesn't feel special anymore.

      2. re: MC Slim JB

        When you go to a marquee spot like Menton is angling to be (and, I assume, will be), where does the food generally come from? I'm really not sure how menus at these places are decided upon, or how often they change, and so forth.

        I'm becoming very big into sustainability and/or agricultural responsibility, and the blind menu aspect of a place like Menton has me slightly nervous. Am I right to assume that, for the prices you're paying and the quality of food you're expecting to receive, you are going to be eating something more akin to beef raised in a local farmer's back fields, as opposed to some grain-fed factory cow from the midwest? Or fish caught with a pole on a dinghy off the Cape, as opposed to something trawled up off Indonesia?

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        Menton
        354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

        1. re: FinnFPM

          sustainability is not really her calling card, nor what she's promoting here, but she does use plenty of organic and local product at no. 9.

          however, our short growing season here precludes local year-round fruits and veggies and we also don't have a whole lot of beef-raising going on.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I wouldn't expect the menu to "focus" on sustainability by any means -- I understand that's not what's being promoted here. I do, however, believe that when you're paying that much for food, the quality of the actual ingredients should (and generally do... I hope) match the talent of the chefs in question.

            1. re: FinnFPM

              I think it's safe to say that Lynch and Co. are highly focused on ingredient quality.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                it is kind of a surprising question. our high-end chefs chase the best of the best ingredients.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I sort of feel that the question should be asked by diners all the time, regardless of where they're eating. It's just too important, for a great number of reasons, to make assumptions about. Some focus on high-quality, some focus on local, some focus on both. I'm just trying to flesh out the specific attitudes behind Menton.

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                  Menton
                  354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

                  1. re: FinnFPM

                    I think you would be hard-pressed to find a fine-dining chef in Boston who doesn't claim to be focused on local and high-quality ingredients. It's been a marketing mantra for years now.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      I agree -- this is all the more reason to actually ask questions about it.

                      1. re: FinnFPM

                        i guess i have been in fine dining a long time, know who sells what to whom and feel very confident that the better chefs in the city care about what they serve and where it comes from. i know them personally and see their passion for food. none of them are slinging sysco steaks, trust me.

                        that being said, i try not to let orthodoxy get in the way of enjoying an excellent meal in a beautiful space.

                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                        The operative word being "claim"?
                        C.

                        1. re: CocoDan

                          Many restaurants now talk about their sourcing philosophy and sometimes list some of their suppliers on their websites. Examples:
                          http://www.rendezvouscentralsquare.co...
                          http://www.hamersleysbistro.com/food_...

                          Many use their menus to document the origin of every major ingredient of every dish, down to the heirloom legumes, though that's a menu prose trend that I think is waning.

                          Whether they do these things or not, my next question is: if we're really interested in a local sourcing approach, what do we ask? "Is it really local? I mean, *really* local?!"

                          If your server says yes, and maybe even rattles off some names of local suppliers, I don't see diners as being in much of a position to challenge those claims, especially once you've sat down. Do we ask to see the walk-in? The manifests of vendors? I think there's some homework to be done ahead of time, but it's difficult to know what's real and what's empty hype.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            You're 100% correct. Once I'm in my chair and pull myself up to the table, I'm going to try to get the most enjoyment out of the dining experience. As long as it's fresh, I'm a happy camper.
                            CocoDan

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              It's not a bad habit to get into but is also a bit of a worm hole. Do the names of a bunch of farms mean a lot to most people? If you really are concerned, you should also ask how the farmer raises those chickens, what they do to the hens that don't lay eggs anymore, how much they are rotated to new areas of the farm. If you find out that your meat isn't coming from Massachusetts (which is very likely), that doesn't necessarily mean that its bad meat. Maybe it comes from California but is actually raised well and ethically. A lot of chefs get their meat from Niman Ranch, which to a lot of us has a good reputation, but Bill Niman left and founded a new place because he wasn't satisfied with their practices.

                              I don't mean to be a downer here or at all minimize the importance of the question, but honestly if one decides to make a decision to truly eat ethically they should be calling restaurants way ahead of time and following up on farms and who they are. Plenty of restaurants list farms on the menus knowing that ____ Farm sounds good enough to most people, though that gives no indication of its scale, process, etc. Asking here is a good idea but we don't really know either. Making a decision at the spur of the moment is nearly impossible.

          2. Yes MC, I'm of that school of waiting a couple of months. Unless I have a client that absolutely has to go there, I'll wait for some reviews, and as I'm a true believer, let them burn in the kitchen, and weed out the staff. Boy, am I getting to be a real curmudgeon! Yikes!
            Go for it MC,
            CocoDAn

            1. My husband and I were literally the second party to be seated on opening night! I will post a full review very soon, but in the meantime I will say that the experience was absolutely wonderful. We opted for the 4 course prix fixe and added a cheese course. There was nothing about the food or service that would indicate that this was a new restaurant. The only hiccup (if you can even call it that) in service was that we received our dessert wine pairing after the food was brought to the table. That's it.

              I love the simple elegance of the space (the pre-opening pictures don't do it any justice). It feels lush but at the same time comfortable.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Momeaux

                Thanks very much for the response that includes actual experience dining there-I hope others will chime in once they've been - I still haven't been to O Ya or Clio, so maybe that's the answer, but it kind of feels like a whole different (Asian-influenced) ballgame at them...

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                O Ya
                9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                1. re: rlh

                  I wouldn't say that Clio is really asian influenced (unless you count the smell from Uni wafting into the dining room, which can be extremely offputting to the refined tasting menu). Uni and Clio are in adjacent spaces, however Uni is a sashimi bar, and Clio would best be described as new french (I think). They are very separate menus and concepts. Clio generally has a raw fish app or tasting menu component, but that's it.

                  O Ya is clearly sashimi and asian.

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                  O Ya
                  9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

                  1. re: Gabatta

                    I detect a regular strain of Japanese ingredients, flavors and presentation sensibility in Clio's food. It's subtle, not a ham-handed kind of fusion, but I think it has always been there. Clio is indeed primarily New French in outlook, but that thin Asian thread runs through a lot of the menu, mainly but not just Japanese: Indian, Indonesian, Thai, etc., but never more than as an underscoring or accent element.

                    (The Uni smell bugs me, too, crimps my excitement at checking out the handiwork of their allegedly great new bartender.)

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      re clio bartender, they do have a great house Swedish punsch...

              2. Unlike most of the responses so far, I actually have been to Menton. =) We went for dinner two nights ago. The short answer is that yes, you should keep your reservation!

                My first impression was in total agreement with Momeaux --- it did not feel like a restaurant that had been open for only four days. Unlike say Market, in the W Hotel, which had excellent food but a thoroughly confused front of the house when we went there a week after they opened, Menton felt polished and professional.

                The first thing I was surprised by is that it's a very small restaurant. It feels very formal. I found the interior lovely, if a little austere in a modern way, which seems quite appropriate for Boston. Oddly, it reminds me a little of the old L'Espalier space, which I also loved, because it's also small, and while elegant has a kind of New England austerity, although of course in a very modern way, and thus unlike the old L'Espalier in that respect. MC Slim will be pleased to know that even on a very warm night almost every man was wearing a jacket, and most were wearing ties. Nary a baseball cap in sight.

                The wine list, of course, was very extensive, but we didn't sample from it. Instead, we had some cocktails. The bar may not be as extensive as Drink next door, but the level of sophistication is very high. My companion had a Garibaldi to drink, which was exceptionally smooth. I had a non-alcoholic cocktail, that was similar in taste, but smelled of grapefruit before it was even set down. Tonic water, two kinds of bitters, with grapefruit oil and lots of fresh grapefruit zest. A South Side was also made with great care, felt smooth, and was chilled just right.

                Service throughout was very gracious and very formal. The ratio of waiters to patrons was very high, and they did all the right things --- leading you to the bathroom, folding napkins near instantaneously, parting like the Red Sea if you try to cross their paths. Only the most minor missteps were made, such as the very young runner presenting my amuse-bouche before the lady's, and someone swiping a not yet completely, but almost finished cocktail. It really felt like a restaurant that had been around for a while, not a brand new one.

                The menu itself is a real departure for Barbara Lynch. It is New French through and through, albeit with a little more lobster than you might otherwise expect. A pithy way to describe this might French preparations and technique simplified to enable artisinal proteins and heirloom vegetables to show their flavors. Not usually actually my favorite style --- personally I tend to prefer the complexity of a restaurant like Clio --- but I ended up being very impressed.

                The menu is divided into two sections --- a four course prix-fixe with three or four choices per category for $95, and a seven-course chef's tasting for $145 per person. I found the menu's mixture of French and English a little amusing. For example, we both started with Terrine of Foie Gras de Canard. Among the desserts you can have a Rhubarb Clafoutis, a Chocolate Crémeux or a Banana-Miso Tart. Why not a Tarte? Suffice it to say that there are many acute accents scattered across the pages. =)

                But the Terrine de Foie Gras of Duck was terrific, with truffle jelly nestled within the terrine, and really wonderful Muscat grapes and grape gelée accompanying it. We followed that with an Artichoke Velouté, which had tasty artichoke chips floating about, but which were too large to eat comfortably. The velouté was very fine, but ordinary, except for the addition of some toasted wild rice, which brought it to a whole new level. I thought this was emblematic --- a simple French preparation with a simple twist that created something special.

                She had the duck which was good, but the duck consommé ladled over it was extraordinary and made the dish sing. I had veal sweetbreads which were very tender and rich, and accompanied by three beautiful varieties of baby carrots.

                The aforementioned Rhubarb Clafoutis was delightful, with strong but not overwhelming orange blossom ice cream and nice pistachio. But the real star of the show for the evening was the Bitter Chocolate Crémeux, which we asked for from the tasting menu. The chocolate was great, but the best part was the olive-oil flavored ice cream and olive oil powder (a little molecular gastronomy touch). Marvelous.

                We had parmesan pudding and artichoke amuse bouche that was nothing special, some wonderful breads, and a cheese course created from the cart. The Pecorino was an excellent hard cheese, and we had an outstanding triple crème from Bourgogne. We had another soft cheese --- a mixture of sheep's milk and cow's milk, which was less inspiring. The honey, marmalade and nuts served with the cheese were well worth it --- the sourdough slices less so.

                The meal ended on a very high note with a glass globe filled with miniature French macaroons in four flavors --- vanilla, red peppercorn, basil and a very mild black-olive. What a treat! I'm a sucker for red peppercorn, especially in desserts, but I could have eaten these all night.

                Price came out, including tax and tip, to about $150 per person (again, with the four course prix fixe). Definitely didn't leave hungry, but I did find the portion size, particularly that of the entrée, to be a little too small and precious. Both were very rich, but perhaps something slightly larger would serve to distinguish them better as entrées other than simply being meats. I'm all for small plates, but a larger entrée is still satisfying. The appetizer portions were totally reasonable. The only other disappointment was the tea, which was an only slightly over-brewed but none-too-special oolong. From chatting with the GM after the meal I gather they are in the process of revamping their tea program.

                We saw the chef's table room in the kitchen (very nice) and a much larger private room that has a pleasant view of Congress St and it's own kitchen, apparently used only for private parties. We also saw glimpses Barbara Lynch in chef's whites through the kitchen doors and occasionally making rounds in the dining room.

                Already in their first week, this is clearly a professional team that has assembled a restaurant that really delivers. I think it will only become stronger. Finally, I must disclose the following: although of course there is valet parking, finding an almost certainly legal on-street space only two blocks away from the restaurant put me in a good mood for the rest of the evening, so my review should be interpreted with that in mind. =)

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                Menton
                354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

                 
                 
                 
                 
                4 Replies
                1. re: lipoff

                  Thanks for the detailed report. I loved the disclaimer at the end. Funny how things like that will set the tone for the evening. Though finding a legal spot on the street in Boston is a real coup.

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Aw shucks man, them photos ain't no thing. But they might show the contrast between the generous portion of foie gras, and the miniscule portion of the duck entrée. And the loveley macroons, of course. Last night I dreamed I was stuck inside a giant version of that glass globe and had to eat through millions of those macroons to escape.

                       
                    2. re: lipoff

                      Thanks for the report. I know what you mean about the parking! I once found a legal space a couple of blocks away from the old L'Espalier and it put me in a good mood. This was a few years ago and I still remember it as a highlight of the night.

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                      L'Espalier
                      774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

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