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Boston rec: French brasseries

i
itryalot May 3, 2010 02:22 PM

Any notable places?

  1. t
    tamerlanenj Mar 7, 2011 04:33 AM

    I haven't been in a while, but Gaslight has the best soup onion gratinee in the city. It's truly remarkable (and one of my favorite comfort foods). Brasserie Jo's version is good, but a bit too sweet for me, like they added too much sugar to the natural sweetness of the onions. The now not-dearly departed Bouchee was famous on this board for having the worst onion soup in the city, but I had an acrid, watery, inedible version at an anonymous cafe near my vacation apartment in Place de Bastille in Paris that made Bouchee's seem downright enjoyable.

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    Brasserie Jo
    120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

    3 Replies
    1. re: tamerlanenj
      C. Hamster Mar 7, 2011 07:29 AM

      Must respectfully disagree about Gaslight's soup. While not horrible (like the dreck at dear departed Bouchee), IMO it has never been that good on the many times I have tried it. Sadly, it ran out of chances. Very inconsistant. And often oddly-flavored.

      Personally, I like B-Jo's the best and haven't found it to be sweet because that would make me MAD! I also like Little Bob's very much, as well. Chez Henri's is also good.

      FOS is probably what I would request for my last meal, so I order it a lot and when it's disappointing I am very sad.

      I laughed at your comment about Paris, as the same thing happened to me there on more than one occasion! I am pretty sure I got served Knorr dry soup mix in one place.

      -----
      Chez Henri
      1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

      1. re: C. Hamster
        t
        tamerlanenj Mar 7, 2011 07:48 AM

        haha. It was such a disappointment. Here I was in Paris, thinking I would have the best version of my favorite dish, and it was HORRIBLE. i learned quickly that all those dozens of random cafes in the city might be good for a glass of wine and people watching, but most of them have absolutely crap food. Thank god for Chowhound!

        1. re: tamerlanenj
          C. Hamster Mar 7, 2011 08:15 AM

          You said it. It was the first meal I ate there, too!

    2. o
      oddcouple1 Mar 6, 2011 02:40 PM

      We ate at Brasserie Jo on Friday evening prior to seeing Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert at Symphony Hall (a treat in itself!). The food was very, very good, starting with the warm baguette and horseradish pickled carrots. I had a Cranberry Maple Martini which was quite strong and yummy. For apps, I had the roasted bone marrow and my husband had the sweetbreads- both were hot, fresh and very flavorful. Then it took almost an hour to receive our entrees. Yes, it was a busy Friday night, but we had to be out by a certain time to make the show. When it finally arrived, my Steak Frites was perfection. Hot, crisp fries, perfectly cooked steak. Husband had the Duck Confit with Lentils- 2 large duck legs, crispy on the outside and melty-soft inside.

      Unfortunately, we had exactly 10 minutes to eat our entrees before we had to run 2 long blocks to the show, so were not able to really enjoy our meals. The maitre d was at our table apologizing for the wait. He mentioned that a new menu had just been introduced the night before and there were still some "kinks" to work out, and comped us appropriately. New menus should be introduced on Sunday or Monday, so that by the busiest days of the week, they are ready to go. We were very disappointed but would go back on the food alone and hope that the service had improved.

      -----
      Brasserie Jo
      120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

      1. f
        fisherdm Feb 9, 2011 07:55 PM

        After reading this and several other threads, I visited Brasserie JO this evening. I'm in town for a few days, and am staying in the Back Bay, so it seemed like a convenient option.

        The place is beautiful, a bit more spacious than a typical Brasserie, and there were some definite successes. Experienced bar staff that could read me well and tailor their service according to my preferences, the best french bread I've had in any restaurant in recent memory, and the sides which accompanied my steak au poivre were all worth noting. Sides, by the way, were sauteed spinach and potatoes au gratin, with the perfect amount of nutmeg.

        The steak itself, however, was grossly overcooked - ordered medium rare and delivered medium well. I ate early, and the restaurant was not crowded, so there was really no excuse. I showed the steak to the bartender, who agreed that it was overcooked, and while I didn't send it back, I probably should have, as I ended up leaving most of it on the plate.

        Not having a competent grill person is a tremendous liability for a restaurant that otherwise could completely knock a dining experience out of the park.

        -----
        Brasserie JO
        120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

        6 Replies
        1. re: fisherdm
          j
          Jenny Ondioline Feb 9, 2011 10:19 PM

          That's unfortunate, and I'm sorry you had a bad experience.

          But for what it's worth, as a regular at Brasserie Jo (it's very close to Symphony Hall and our default choice for symphony dates) who almost invariably orders one of the steak options, I have to say I've never encountered a problem with overcooked steaks myself, nor do I recall hearing grilling complaints from any of my dining companions.

          Again, not to dismiss your disappointing experience or anything, but based on my own experiences, your insinuation that the restaurant lacks a "competent grill person," as if every steak that comes out of the kitchen is automatically overcooked, seems a bit off base.

          -----
          Brasserie Jo
          120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

          1. re: Jenny Ondioline
            t
            trueblu Feb 11, 2011 07:16 AM

            My wife once ordered medium rare, and it was also delivered medium well. We sent it back, and got a perfectly cooked steak back. Maybe it's miscommunication between front of house and kitchen, or maybe they have off days, but it does happen.

            tb

            1. re: trueblu
              j
              Jenny Ondioline Feb 11, 2011 08:09 AM

              Well, yeah, it's gonna happen in any restaurant sometimes. But I thought the poster's insulting insinuation that the grillman is so incompetent that all the steaks are overcooked here was out of line.

          2. re: fisherdm
            barleywino Feb 10, 2011 02:06 AM

            Try the pied de cochon farci (stuffed pigs trotter) at craigie if you get a chance (I would avoid their steak though)

            1. re: fisherdm
              t
              teezeetoo Feb 10, 2011 11:28 AM

              with due respect, you should have sent it back. it's not like it's debatable: it either is or is not overcooked according to your order of medium rare. Sounds like they missed the boat and, in the best of all possible restaurant worlds, the server should not have brought it out to you.

              1. re: teezeetoo
                Beachowolfe Feb 13, 2011 01:21 PM

                I'd prefer my server not to poke my meat, if the kitchen says it's a mid rare the server should be confident enough to serve it or else there's a bigger issue.

                I do agree that overcooked steaks happen and it's your fault if you don't let them correct the mistake, especially when the server agrees with your assessment. However, implying that the grill person is incompetent because of a single overcooked steak is wrong, you may have been given somebody else's steak which is not the grill person's fault.

            2. w
              wonderfullyweird May 14, 2010 03:04 PM

              I've been to both Eastern Standard and Gaslight Brasserie du Coin and liked them both. I really enjoy the food at Gaslight and have been there several times and look forward to going back again. The first time I went there was just after they opened a few years ago. I'm sure I'll be going back to ES as the one time I went (sometime this past April), the food was really good.

              I've never been to Brasserie Jo, but after reading this thread, I'm going to have to try it.

              -----
              Eastern Standard
              528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

              Brasserie Jo
              120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

              1 Reply
              1. re: wonderfullyweird
                GretchenS May 14, 2010 06:33 PM

                Just ate lunch at Brasserie Jo today and it was good as ever. Shared the caramelized onion tart to start, which I had not had before and which was divine. Then I had the blue d'auvergne burger which comes with excellent pickled onions and those yummy frites and my DC had the moules frites, which she adored, and which was an enormous helping. Terrific carrot salad and bread were delivered as we read the menus. Excellent service throughout. I get there about once a year and always wonder why I don't go more often.

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                Brasserie Jo
                120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

              2. d
                DeniseB May 6, 2010 01:14 AM

                Sandrine's Bistro in Harvard Square serves good French food as well. Not a brasserie, but nevertheless good.

                1. r
                  RPW02114 May 5, 2010 08:18 AM

                  Recommend scouting out Pierrot Bistrot (on Cambridge Street near MGH). I think they have some of most authentic french food in the city.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RPW02114
                    hotoynoodle May 7, 2010 06:07 AM

                    second pierrot. the food is solid, traditional and well executed. it gets little love on here for reasons unknown

                    gaslight strikes me a a "concept" first and restaurant second. i don't like it at all. feels like a french-bistro via disney.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      MC Slim JB May 14, 2010 03:38 PM

                      I like Pierrot, but when I want that straight-up French bistro thing I tend to go to Petit Robert, which is closer to home for me.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  2. CocoDan May 5, 2010 06:39 AM

                    Funny, we go there when my wife craves their blue cheese burger. It's quite good. I usually get my 10%, a salad and the mussles. I'm happy.

                    And MC, don't push too hard on the birdbath size cocktails, I keep ordering them.
                    Enjoy,
                    CocoDan

                    1. i
                      itryalot May 4, 2010 07:12 PM

                      Liking Gaslight and Eastern Standard so far. Do I need reservations for these?

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                      Eastern Standard
                      528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: itryalot
                        p
                        pollystyrene May 5, 2010 01:12 AM

                        Yes, you do. I applaud your choices!

                        1. re: itryalot
                          MC Slim JB May 5, 2010 04:30 AM

                          I like Eastern Standard a lot, but you might want to choose a night when the Sox aren't in town. Even if you don't mind being surrounded by Sox fans, it gets uncomfortably crowded. Be aware that Gaslight is really, really loud when it's full. Both are on OpenTable.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          -----
                          Eastern Standard
                          528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                        2. MC Slim JB May 4, 2010 07:28 AM

                          I guess it depends on how strictly you define the term. Americans play faster and looser with it. I tend to limit it to places that are casual but nice-looking, serve French food at all hours, generally including some Alsatian dishes, and seem to care about beer a bit more than most French places. Brasserie Jo is my personal favorite of the type in Boston, though Gaslight clearly is going for that style and is a bit more affordable.

                          ESK has a brasserie feel for sure, though its menu is a mix of French, Italian, and American; it has one of the most extraordinary cocktail bars in town. I think Bouchee on Newbury is aiming for this, but I don't like it: it's Epcot Center French. Sandrine's has an Alsatian chef and menu, but is more of a traditional restaurant.

                          I'm not sure why La Voile gets included on this list: it's a Southern French restaurant, and a good one, but it doesn't feel at all like a brasserie to me. Ditto the Petit Roberts: they're straight-up bistros, not brasseries, noteworthy for coming much closer to the French idea of a bistro than most American restaurants that use the term.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          -----
                          La Voile
                          261 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116

                          Sandrine's
                          8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

                          Brasserie Jo
                          120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                            a
                            AlisaAAM May 4, 2010 07:32 AM

                            I've always been disappointed by the food at Brasserie Jo. For very traditional, Petit Robert fits the bill. Another option is Les Zygomate over near South Station.

                            1. re: AlisaAAM
                              MC Slim JB May 4, 2010 07:48 AM

                              I like Les Zyg, too, but it's another place I'd call a bistro, not a brasserie, and it is unusual by the standards of both with its nightly live jazz.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              1. re: AlisaAAM
                                fmcoxe6188 May 4, 2010 08:13 AM

                                Ah-thank you! I recently dined at Brasserie Jo and was also rather disappointed in the food there. Im glad Im not the only one.

                                -----
                                Brasserie Jo
                                120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                1. re: fmcoxe6188
                                  MC Slim JB May 4, 2010 08:44 AM

                                  What did you order at Brasserie Jo?

                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                  -----
                                  Brasserie Jo
                                  120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                                    fmcoxe6188 May 4, 2010 08:49 AM

                                    I had their chicken and lamb special of the evening which was fine, not great. The lamb was lamb sausage and had incredibly odd taste and texture to it. My DC had their steak frites and the steak was really tough though great flavor to it. We had ordered a side of ratatouille but it was never delivered. Our service was pretty poor all the way around though so that also gave us a bit of a bad taste towards the place.

                                    1. re: fmcoxe6188
                                      MC Slim JB May 4, 2010 09:09 AM

                                      That does sound underwhelming.

                                      I love Brasserie Jo's steak frites, even if the hanger cut they use is a little chewy by most sirloin-, ribeye- and tenderloin-loving Americans' standards. That's a very tasty steak for the money, and their frites are some of the best in town. Very solid bartending, too, even if they're still slinging the now-passe birdbath size cocktails.

                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                      -----
                                      Brasserie Jo
                                      120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                        Jolyon Helterman May 4, 2010 09:18 AM

                                        I prefer Gaslight (especially lately) to Brasserie Jo.

                                        Agree on much that was said about Eastern Standard, though I definitely find that it feels like a real Parisian brasserie, despite some of the more eclectic offerings. Love going there.

                                        -----
                                        Eastern Standard
                                        528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                        Brasserie Jo
                                        120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                          fmcoxe6188 May 4, 2010 09:25 AM

                                          Completely agree that Hanger is in no way as tender as the other more popular cuts, but this was pretty tough. Its funny I actually had this exactly conversation with a chef up in Maine this weekend and he launched into quite a tirade about why Hanger steak doesnt need to be tough and its all in how you prepare it/cut it. I am certainly no expert on preparation. The flavor was delicious though! Its just not high on my list of places to try again- if at all.

                                          1. re: fmcoxe6188
                                            9
                                            9lives May 4, 2010 10:25 AM

                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanger_s...

                                            Hanger has a tough membrane running through the center. I and most chefs trim it out before cooking and it never makes it to the plate. If it's not trimmed out, you will have a very tough piece of meat. I cook it rare and it'sgenerally not tough.

                                            1. re: 9lives
                                              fmcoxe6188 May 4, 2010 10:34 AM

                                              thanks 9lives-thats exactly what they were saying this weekend! I didn't want to misquote

                                          2. re: MC Slim JB
                                            CreativeFoodie42 May 4, 2010 10:09 AM

                                            I'd have to agree on the praise for Brasserie Jo's frites which are especially great dipped in the sauce from the mussels reislings mariniere. This is one of my favorite mussels dishes in the city.

                                            -----
                                            Brasserie Jo
                                            120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                        2. re: MC Slim JB
                                          j
                                          johnnymac May 6, 2010 02:14 PM

                                          i had the pork chop special a few weeks ago and it was delicious, and there were no complaints from the rest of our party.

                                  2. C. Hamster May 4, 2010 07:07 AM

                                    My favorite is Brasserie Jo.

                                    I don't think the food at Gaslight compares, but it has a nice atmosphere.

                                    La Voile's menu is most authentic and the one time I went it was good.

                                    Little Bob is also quite good, foodwise, though I have only been to the Kenmore location.

                                    Eastern Standard is not of the same ilk and I think the food is inconsistant and never really great, though the inventive cocktails are hard to beat.

                                    -----
                                    Eastern Standard
                                    528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                    Brasserie Jo
                                    120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                    1. c
                                      carneyvore May 3, 2010 08:27 PM

                                      Gaslight on Harrison Ave., Brasserie Jo on Huntington, and Acquitaine in Dedham ( & South End) are all good. Petite Robert is o k.

                                      -----
                                      Brasserie Jo
                                      120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: carneyvore
                                        j
                                        jajjguy May 3, 2010 08:32 PM

                                        I like Gaslight.
                                        Eastern Standard is alsoo kind of a brasserie, but not traditional like La Voile.
                                        Petit Robert is a bistro. I like it.

                                        -----
                                        Eastern Standard
                                        528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                        La Voile
                                        261 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116

                                        1. re: carneyvore
                                          rlh May 6, 2010 12:49 PM

                                          I think brasserie jo is the truest, most reliable pick, but did enjoy Gaslight the one time I went there, and love Eastern Standard where the other comments are accurate. To me, Acquitaine (at least in the South End) is MUCH more a bistro than brasserie based on it's small size and limited, frequently changing menu - that said, I think it's consistently great at its cost point and the service is always impressive.

                                          -----
                                          Eastern Standard
                                          528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                        2. t
                                          teezeetoo May 3, 2010 04:10 PM

                                          most traditional: la voile, chez jo - maybe more upscale but recognizably in the category: petit robert, pigalle, bistro du midi

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: teezeetoo
                                            Allstonian May 3, 2010 04:35 PM

                                            By "chez jo" I think you mean Brasserie JO.

                                            -----
                                            Brasserie JO
                                            120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                                            1. re: Allstonian
                                              t
                                              teezeetoo May 3, 2010 06:17 PM

                                              yes of course - thanks (boiling water has boiled my brain)

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