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Estragon reviews?

twentyoystahs Feb 1, 2011 04:19 AM

Hi guys,
Has anyone been here lately? I haven't heard anything about it recently, which makes me wonder how it is doing....
I bought a Groupon a few months ago and would love to still be able to use it. Anyway, just hoping for some folks to weigh in on recent visits/thoughts/experiences/suggestions on what to order? Thanks so much...

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  1. MC Slim JB RE: twentyoystahs Feb 1, 2011 05:04 AM

    This is another South End place that I hit at least once a month and think is underrated. You might question the decision of opening another Spanish restaurant within a couple of blocks of Toro, but they're doing their own thing, and really well. I like the atmosphere, they make the most of a beer/wine/cordial license, and I was really happy to see Julio move back into the kitchen; he's doing a more traditional take than his opening chef.

    A Groupon is a good low-risk way to try it. They're like a lot of South End restaurants, busy Thursday to Saturday, slower on early weeknights. The sandwiches at Las Ventas next door (their Spanish gourmet grocery/deli) are fantastic, but that's a daytime thing (11a-6p).


    1. l
      laura jean RE: twentyoystahs Feb 1, 2011 07:04 AM

      The pringa is amazing (bone marrow, beef shank and pork belly) and the crisy spicy garbanzos are beyond addictive. I also really liked the grilled chorizo (I'm a sucker for smokey flavors). It's been a while, so I don't remember everything in perfect detail, but I recall not being as impressed with the crispy pork belly or the lamb empanada.

      They won't accept the groupon during restaurant week, even if you sit at the bar and not order off the special menu. Not that I minded, since it gave me an excuse to go back. :-)

      1. y
        y2000k RE: twentyoystahs Feb 1, 2011 09:05 AM

        We ate there a few weekends ago. Honestly I prefer Estragon over Toro, as the space is less cramped, and you can make a reservation! We only had room for 5 plates, 2 of them really stand out: the octopus (very plump and juicy) and the beef cheeks (melt in your mouth). We also had bread pudding for dessert. Although nothing Spanish about it, it was indulgent.

        1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

        1. r
          Ricardo Malocchio RE: twentyoystahs Feb 1, 2011 10:32 AM

          I'm also a fan of Estragon - and equally of Las Ventas (the Las Ventas sandwich on toasted slices is one of the best sandwiches in town) - but my most recent and probably last visit included one very great disappointment:

          No longer are Lopez de Heredia wines on the menu.

          On my first trip, Estragon featured both the 1990 Tondonia blanco and 2000 Bosconia tinto. Without the Lopez, Estragon moves down at least a notch and below Taberno de Haro, which ensures I'll only be eating at the latter.

          I know this sounds awfully picky, but there is nothing in the world like Lopez de Heredia wines. Especially today when the number of old-school rioja makers has dropped to a scant handful.

          And so, it's Taberno de Haro from here-on-out. Not only does Taberno serve Lopez de Heredia wines, they get their own section on the wine list, titled "In a class by itself" http://tabernaboston.com/menus_wine.html

          1. p
            pathfinder RE: twentyoystahs Feb 1, 2011 07:27 PM

            My DC and myself love, love Estragon. Sahil, a server and bartender, could not be more honest and accommodating. The food is great and the closest renditions to Spain that we have come across. Julio, actually gave us recommendations of restaurants when we visited Spain. I would recommend trying pringa, coles de bruselas, Alcachofas Fritas, Gambas al Ajillo and Vieiras con Crema de Albariño y Azafrán. The house made desserts are great too. My favorite is the the goat cheese sorbet!!!!

            Crema Cafe
            27 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

            1. C. Hamster RE: twentyoystahs Feb 2, 2011 06:32 AM

              Please don't steer people to Estragon! We want it all for ourselves!!

              We LOVE sitting at the bar and eating ourselves silly with $1 tapas plus a healthy selection of the more expensive offerings. Not as good as being in Spain, but good nonetheless.

              Plus the cocktails are great, even though they only have that silly "cordials license." The bartender is a sweetie, too. I am forgetting his name but he's a great mixologist and very adept at recommending menu choices.

              He also allowed us to use our Groupon at the bar and for drinks.

              But please don't go there.

              4 Replies
              1. re: C. Hamster
                twentyoystahs RE: C. Hamster Feb 2, 2011 10:18 AM

                Wow. Thanks all, for the feedback.
                I have to say, living in the neighborhood, I don't hear a whole lot about Estragon one way or the other. Because of this, I guess I keep waiting to hear that they are next on the chopping block. Sounds like they have a steady stream of fans and are definitely worth checking out. Good to know.

                Oh --one question --when are the $1 tapas? I think I unsuccessfully tried to check out their website (It wasn't working) a day or so ago which added to the "maybe this restaurant won't be around much longer" factor, but sounds like they are still going (relatively) strong. Thanks again.

                1. re: twentyoystahs
                  pathfinder RE: twentyoystahs Feb 2, 2011 10:25 AM

                  Here is a link to the website http://www.estragontapas.com/. If you click on the bottom tab events they have a $1 tapas menu from 5:00-7:00 Mon-Thur. Have fun!

                2. re: C. Hamster
                  MC Slim JB RE: C. Hamster Feb 2, 2011 12:39 PM

                  I know you're kidding, C. Hamster, but please don't keep places you love secret! I always say it's better to have them thrive and make us wait for a table than quietly close for lack of business.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    C. Hamster RE: MC Slim JB Feb 3, 2011 06:50 AM

                    I was kidding and I totally agree with you.

                    Plus I can't keep my mouth shut about places I like and dont like even if I wanted to!! :-)

                3. s
                  Spenbald RE: twentyoystahs Feb 2, 2011 12:42 PM

                  Went for the first time two weekends ago and am just joining the chorus here. Fantastic food, and the staff really made the experience. Our server took lots of time to go over menu items and was impressively knowledgeable about the wine list as well. We tried the Brussels sprouts (delicious), pringà, beef cheeks, and scallops (the only mild disappointment: I expected more flavor from the saffron-albariño cream sauce).

                  1. lipoff RE: twentyoystahs Dec 13, 2011 12:34 AM

                    I like Estragon, but just had a very mixed meal there. Two really terrific pintxos: The cider-whipped cabrales cheese, apple and honey on toast, and the beef tongue and mojo verde on toast. Especially that beef tongue. WOW. Fried chickpeas were good (although not with the more deft touch at Hubert Keller's Fleur, for instance), but the beef cheeks, shredded goat stuffed peppers, and potatoes/eggs/sausage were all real disappointments, all being seriously underflavored. The bartender made me an outstanding non-alcoholic cocktail with interesting bitters and spices (including cloves, salt and pepper). Decent flan. From previous visits, I know that the sauteed spinach, fried artichokes, and hamburguesa have all been excellent, but seriously, half of the items we ordered tonight fell completely flat. That beef tongue made up for it, however, but the menu seems much, much less consistent than Toro, while at least not having the punishing waits.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: lipoff
                      Nab RE: lipoff Dec 13, 2011 07:12 AM

                      That burg may be my very favourite in town. Much better than that slop they be slangin round the conah at Toro.

                    2. C. Hamster RE: twentyoystahs Dec 13, 2011 05:54 AM

                      We ate at the bar last Friday and everything (just tapas and pintxos) was very good with the exception of the cod fritters which came out hot and crispy but were utterly tasteless.

                      Joseph was deft behind the bar, as usual.

                      Still in our "rotation," particularly weeknight $1 tapas nights.

                      1. MC Slim JB RE: twentyoystahs Dec 13, 2011 07:00 AM

                        Based on regular visits this year, I'd call Estragon consistently good to excellent and generally underrated. Reviewed it for Stuff recently.


                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                          opinionatedchef RE: MC Slim JB Dec 13, 2011 12:57 PM

                          slim, i studied and saved that review as it has me thinking to give them another shot, after the dismal sangria and foods a few yrs ago. you raved about their paella. have you had toro's (our fav in town) and if yes, how would you compare it?

                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                            MC Slim JB RE: opinionatedchef Dec 13, 2011 01:03 PM

                            I'd rate Toro's two paellas pretty close to Estragon's two. The issue with Toro, as ever, is uncomfortable crowds, and waits, and no reservations.

                            The question I always ask folks who ate at Estragon a few years ago: were you there in the first year (I think they opened in late spring 2008), when they had a different chef? I thought that kid's food was okay, but Julio de Haro's is a big upgrade, and more traditional.

                            I still don't love the sangria, despite the super-cool bubbler/dispenser, but it's not something I order out much anyway. If I want something low-alcohol and refreshing like that, I prefer tinto de verano.


                            1. re: MC Slim JB
                              C. Hamster RE: MC Slim JB Dec 13, 2011 09:22 PM

                              I make better sangria than any restaurant. And the markup is way too outrageous to order it despite that contraption.

                              Plus their cocktail program and Joseph do a great job despite the anchor of a cordial license.

                        2. BobB RE: twentyoystahs Dec 14, 2011 07:29 AM

                          We had a generally good experience there earlier this year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/786898

                          1. s
                            SuzieCK RE: twentyoystahs Jun 7, 2012 06:31 AM

                            3 foodie friends and I had an early supper at Estragon last week. Very disappointing on many fronts. We had to wait until a student event ended at 6 pm so that we could be served -- and hear ourselves and each other--which we could, just barely. Just annoying. Ambience VERY peculiar. Not Spanish, but with odd S&M touches. Weird and not lovely. Service was very good. Attentive waiter.
                            Food? Pinxtos with bone marrow was pretty good. Tripe a tad too offal-y to be delicious. Rabbit -- one of our folks got a few pieces that were nothing but bone--no nice breast meat - disappointing, Stuffed dates rich and good. Portions really small (even for tapas). Sangria OK but definitely not worth $29 for a small pitcher of about 5 glasses.
                            We walked away having spent $40 per person for just a very so-so meal in a so-so place and we really didn't have a lot of food. Definitely would not go back -- would prefer to explore other tapas places.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: SuzieCK
                              MC Slim JB RE: SuzieCK Jun 7, 2012 07:25 AM

                              I have better luck on regular visits to Estragon (and actually like the atmosphere), but I know the menu pretty well by now and have a dozen or so favorites that we tend to get again and again.

                              My short list: pringá, leeks, the fancy jamon, tortilla (best version in town, I think), pisto, pimientos, Canary Island potatoes (though I wish they were as oily as when they served them at Taberna de Haro), littlenecks, grilled baby octopus, fried eggs on sliced potatoes with txistorra (kind of like Basque nachos), beef cheeks, callos, paella mixta. And I actually like it when tripe tastes a little funky: what's the point, otherwise?

                              I agree that the sangria is not a good deal, as at most restaurants that serve it, in my experience. Good mostly-Spanish wine list, and the level of bartending is solid these days: they get more mileage out of a beer/wine/cordials license than many bars with a full license.


                            2. yarm RE: twentyoystahs Jun 7, 2012 11:36 PM

                              We love Estragon and go there about once a month despite living in Somerville. Less flashy than Dali, and closer to food I had in Spain than many of the over-garlicked Spanish restaurants around town. I also appreciate that the menu is clearly marked as to what dishes are vegetarian and vegan, and there are no shortages of vegetarian options.

                              Standouts include the grilled leeks, torilla, their ice cream desserts (comes as a trio of flavors), and the cocktails (especially when Sahil Mehta is working and you can order off the menu).


                              1. C. Hamster RE: twentyoystahs Jun 8, 2012 06:37 AM

                                I am struggling with the description of the supposed peculiar and S/M atmosphere....

                                Are you sure you were at Estragon?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: C. Hamster
                                  yarm RE: C. Hamster Jun 8, 2012 07:25 AM

                                  Maybe that lower torso and legs mannequin piece in the front that holds that postcards fits the bill.

                                  Otherwise, I have heard the place described as art nouveau, filled with pictures of anarchists, and a variety of other descriptions. But never S&M. Unless I'm just going to the wrong nights...

                                  1. re: C. Hamster
                                    MC Slim JB RE: C. Hamster Jun 8, 2012 07:58 AM

                                    I'd say there are three distinct areas of the restaurant -- front, middle and back -- with slight variations in decor. The bar area has a nice 30s, Deco-ish feel to me. I love the Mid-Century black-and-white photos of the chef's family in Spain. The sangria fountain behind the bar is a cool, unique piece, too. The rear loungey nook is very cozy and romantic: I once called it one of the better places for some discreet making out among Boston restaurants.

                                    I don't like the postcard stand up front: I knocked it over once, not the smoothest entrance.

                                    Chacon à son goût, or rather, sobre gustos y colores no discuten los doctores.


                                  2. r
                                    Ricardo Malocchio RE: twentyoystahs Jun 8, 2012 08:26 AM

                                    I've been meaning to repost on Estragon since I sorta dinged their wine-list in my last post. Although I still think Taberno de Haro has the better list, and Estragon still didn't carry any Lopez de Heredia, they DID have some excellent options for traditional Rioja including the 2001 Muga Prado Enea (which is great, one of my favorite wines from a top vintage), as well as some nice offerings like Castillo Ygay from Marqués de Murrieta, Vina Ardanza from La Rioja Alta, and also the lower priced Vina Alberdi, and a few others that have since slipped my mind.

                                    And I completely agree with MC Slim JB: best tortilla espanola in town.

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