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Aug 15, 2010 01:39 PM

Flora, meh!

Always heard good things about this place but unfortunately will never go again.

The only thing that was good about the entire evening was the corn/bacon chowder.

My salad was over-dressed and I could only eat a few bites. Entrees were mushroom spaetzle and striped bass. Neither dish had even a hint of salt, any other spice, or flavor. I am not the type to complain and I appreciate healthy food (low salt and/or butter) but this was just plain bland and boring.

For $100.00 plus, (had a few drinks) I would really expect a lot more than what we got. Maybe I'm missing something, or not getting the philosophy behind the food but I was completely underwhelmed.

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  1. Can anyone else comment on Flora? It's in my neighborhood (5 minute walk from home) and I've always considered it but the pricing for the described food always stopped me. Still, I've been considering it because it has a good local reputation and I would love to support local neighborhood places.

    Did you bring these issues to anyone's attention?

    2 Replies
    1. re: marcreichman

      We've been there once, for a wedding dinner. The bride and groom really like it and have been there often so I had high hopes. I thought the food was OK but not great. I had a steak and my hubby can't remember what he had. I don't recall that there was a lack of spice or flavor, it just didn't knock my socks off. The guests who ordered the trout said it was very good. One thing was that odd was that the entrees came out in batches - all the beef, then all the fish, the rissotto etc. There was a bit of time between each dish's appearance so it was awkward - those without food in front of them had to encourage those with food to start eating, that sort of thing. The wedding dinner took up half of the restaurant and the other half was open as usual, so I don't know if that created logistical problems for the kitchen.

      So, I was a bit disappointed. I haven't talked to my friends about it, though, because I don't really want to say that I was disappointed in your wedding dinner :-) I was surprised, though, since they are pretty down with the whole yummy food thing.

      1. re: marcreichman

        I've been a couple of times, although not for a few years. I recall it being pretty good but not spectacular - the kind of place where if I lived near by, I'd probably go reasonably often, but not the kind of place that I'd often travel 20 minutes for. They are doing Restaurant Week this week and next, so maybe now is the time to give it a shot and see what you think.

      2. Sorry to hear you had a poor experience. Underseasoning makes everything meh.

        I've always enjoyed Flora - particularly cocktails, that they use Parker Farm vegetables, and lamb. But I haven't been in some months. Time for another trip, I suppose!

        1 Reply
        1. re: enhF94

          I've also wondered why Flora gets so little discussion on the board; I suspect burbosity.

        2. Just go next door to Little Q, get some of the Mala broth, and drizzle that over the entree..

          1 Reply
          1. re: grant.cook

            Now *that's* being a hardcore chowhound. :-)

          2. Have only been to Flora twice in spite of living in Arlington for 15 years - it was fine both times - just fine - at the price point or below, I can drive a little and eat/drink much. much better - specifically: Il Casale in Belmont, Gran Gusto Cambridge, and Summer Shack Alewife - a bit further and I get to Eastern Standard, Green Street, Blue Room, and East Coast Grill. Flora doesn't measure up relative to its ambitions and pricing level, in spite of adequate upscale execution and professional service.

            East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
            1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

            Eastern Standard
            528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

            Gran Gusto
            90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

            Summer Shack
            149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02140

            The Blue Room
            Hampshire and Portland streets, Cambridge, MA 02139

            9 Replies
              1. re: rlh

                I forgot the pro service. I liked it. Once I was eating by myself (they're book-friendly) and got a wine rec so good I bought the waitstaff who suggested a glass.

                1. re: enhF94

                  Er, I bought a glass for the waitstaff who suggested it.

                2. re: rlh

                  I have been back twice this year - most recently thanks to a generous gift certificate from a friend. In spite of the nice room and top notch service, I still think the food simply doesn't live up to the prices.

                  Sunday Brunch was uninspired for the most part - we did love the smoked mackerel frisee salad and appreciated the perfectly steam fresh asparagus and nicely sauteed broccoli rabe - and the apple raspberry crumble with fresh whipped cream for dessert was awesome while the not sweet at all coconut pudding was interesting.

                  Brunch eggs need to be more special than under-scrambled with cheddar and chives, and I think a $17 buffet should have more than one egg option available. The bacon was cooked in mass and fine if you picked through for a fully-crisped slice.

                  The sirloin with rice and the large, whole sardines(???) really seemed like re-heated leftovers from dinner the night (or two...) before - blech. The anadama bread pudding was a dry, dense, flavorless failure that should be removed from the menu.

                  We still have a sizeable balance left from the gift and at a couple of future points not that soon we will probably use it to drop in at the bar for simple drinks (like gin and tonic, gimlet, etc.) and appetizers so as not to have it wasted.

                  I really love the idea of Flora, that it's so local, and it has been here quite a while - it just feels like it needs something to push it over the edge into a true dining destination - even for Arlington residents....

                  1. re: rlh

                    For years I have so wanted to like Flora . The space is so lovely. Because we had very mediocre food when the chef was cooking, years ago, we never returned. Last yr. we went to a Mycologist dinner there w/ friends. Owner/Chef Sargent was cooking. I expected that because it was a knowledgeable mushroom foraging group, the food would be inspired and fun. I can't tell you how disappointed we all were.I remember I wrote it up, it was so bland and chintzy.

                  2. re: rlh

                    I've lived in Arlington for 40+ years (was born here, back when we had our own hospital).

                    I have to agree with the consensus. Flora is uninspired and boring for a restaurant of it's price point. The dining room is very pretty, the service is usually quite good, but, yeah, the food is "meh" at best

                    1. re: sablemerle

                      I went on Sunday for the first time and was pleasantly suprised. Service was very good, attentive and knowledgable. However what I really enjoyed were their grains. We split both the semolina dumplings and the fried artichokes on polenta appetizer and mid-plate and both were really wonderful. My trout came with farrow and wlid mushrooms. It's the first time I've ever had farrow that was good.

                      I ate downtown earlier in the week and paid about 50% more for food that wasn't near as good or as creative. It's not moving up to Number 1 on my list - Bergamot will always hold that top spot, -- but I will definitely return.

                      1. re: dlibes

                        Thanks for mentioning it - I will so drive to Bergamot every time at this price point - it was firing on all cylinders and nearly perfect last time - reminds me to get back there soon! IN terms of upscale in Arlington, I am also curious how Scutra is these days?...I do know Tryst is not for me.

                        1. re: rlh

                          r, i had the single worst meal of my life at scutra maybe 4 years ago. The chef was cooking. It was actually so bad that i vowed never to return. just saying.

                  3. We had dinner there last night, off their Restaurant Week menu. Based on the comments I've read, the menu had some of their greatest hits - lamb sliders, corn/bacon/leek chowder, trout, chocolate dessert.

                    My husband had the lamb slider and I had the corn/bacon/leek chowder. The slider (singular) was good, just a few seconds overcooked, but spiced nicely, with that good raita (yogurty dressing) on the side, and nice brioche bun. The description of the slider played up grilled eggplant, but on our plate, the eggplant was a thin little slice, no more than 2 inches in diameter. GIven that we aren't big eggplant eaters, it didn't bother us but if someone expects it to be a big part of the dish, they'll be disappointed.

                    The chowder was not so good - bland bland bland - and I found one little piece of leek in it and just a few pieces of bacon. It was mostly potatoes and corn, with a pile of snipped chives on top. I added lots of salt and pepper to it.

                    We both had the skirt steak, with roasted potatoes, caramelized onions and a side of green beans to share. The steak was great, nicely done and flavorful. The potatoes were also roasted nicely but the dish was a bit dry and bland. The steak didn't have much jus, and the dish overall could have used some additional flavor, like maybe a pan sauce.

                    For dessert, we had a roasted peach in a wine reduction with raspberry granita - the peach was FAB but the granita was so sweet we had to push it aside. We also had the ginger blueberry crisp - best thing on the menu. The ginger flavor was not distinctive but it gave a great tang to the blueberries.

                    We also had the suggested by-the-glass wine pairings (mostly) and they worked well with the food. The service was a tad slow - our waiter seemed responsible for a lot of tables in the room, plus food at the bar - so we had to work to make eye contact when we needed something, although once he understood we needed him, he was right there.

                    We probably won't go back anytime soon - there are better places around in our minds - but it wasn't bad and we felt we got food value for our money.

                    190 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, MA 02474