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Menton, Clio, or Craigie? Tasting menu blow-out for family. Recent expeiences?

Greetings fellow Hounds.

I'm coming to the great city of Boston to visit the Brother and Sister-in-law next month and want to treat them to a blowout tasting menu dinner. They are both professional classical musicians, part time organic gardeners, with two little girls, so they don't get out much for things like this (although they are very well versed in the local restaurant scene and have excellent taste in food and wine). I realize these three restaurants are not the most imaginative choices, but hey, I'm trying to make a statement, and these seem to be the "big three" for this type of thing. Before you start yelling at me and posting links to older threads (most of which I've probably read) I'm wondering if anyone would be willing to offer some fresh insights before I make the reservation. I'm leaning towards cocktails at Drink followed by the full tasting menu with wine pairings at Menton, although I've read they can be a little stuffy (although that was not my experience at No. 9 when I dined there on my last trip). Never been to Clio, which looks really good on paper but I have read multiple times that service and execution of the dishes is fairly inconsistent. Loved my last dinner at Toro, however. Lastly, I've eaten great food at Craigie, even if a couple of the dishes seemed to lack a point of reference, however I was probably seated a bit to close to the kitchen-watching a commis and food runner have their asses handed to them by Chef in the middle of my meal was particularly unsettling, as I work in the hospitality industry myself. L'Espaulier was on the short list after having wonderful snacks in the Salon after passing my Sommelier cert a couple years back, but I've since gotten the impression that the shine is off that penny. Soooo, if anyone has recent experiences at any of these establishment or can provide any additional feedback, I would be very grateful.

A little about me so you know where I'm coming from: worked for that last ten years in the wine biz in Napa (so wine program is an important consideration), currently working as a waiter/som at a restaurant in southern California (so professional service without attitude is preferable) and goes without saying my expectations of the food is very high. Have dined at most of the major restaurants on the west coast multiple times (TFL, Clio, Provenance, Sirus, Campton Place when Daniel Humm was at the helm, etc.) and I recognize Boston takes it's food very seriously, so as I said, expectations are very high. As an aside, very much looking forward to meals at Salts and Bondir on this trip as well, maybe even more than the above, just so you know I'm not star-struck.

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I look forward to hearing from you all.

j

p.s. Is Shad Roe still available in April???

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  1. Er, that is recent experiences . . .duh.

    1. Er, uh, and that's Coi, on the west coast, not Clio. I really should have proof read this . . .heh

      1 Reply
      1. re: gueuleton

        The tasting menu with wine pairings at Menton is extraordinary.

      2. If wine and food is that important, I think Troquet is your best choice. The tasting menu is outstanding and nobody in the city can touch their wine list.

        4 Replies
        1. re: csammy

          Ditto on Troquet, although I don't think you would go wrong at Clio either. Both compare well foodwise with Coi and Providence imo. Service is probably more professional at Clio than Troquet and food a bit more edgy. Cocktail program is very strong at Clio, weak at Troquet, if that's a consideration. Clio also offers tasting menus with more courses, if you like variety.

          1. re: barleywino

            I think the food at Coi is better than anything in Boston. I did the full tasting menu at Coi and it was extraordinary. I thought the food was better tasting than Alinea's. However Alinea had more inventive presentations of the dishes, extraordinary wine pairings for the high end wine pairing option (85 Dominus, 06 Grand Cru Burgundy, etc.), and stellar service. With more polished service, Coi could garner three Michelin stars in my opinion.

            I love Troquet and it's wine list with depth, age, and bargains. Chris, the owner, is a true wine pro and acts as the sommelier.

            1. re: KevinJF

              I think Alinea is in a separate category-- food that is fun to experience once perhaps for the novelty and creativity, but not a place I would come back to on the basis of taste, unlike places like Troquet or Clio.

              1. re: barleywino

                I agree on Alinea, but worth every penny once.

        2. Clio a true disappointment.

          I would favor Troquet. The food is simply awesome, and the wines to die for. Chris is a great guy.

          6 Replies
          1. re: aadesmd

            The enthusiasm for Troquet has piqued my interest. I have to say I have heard many good things. The current menu, as posted on line, seems well constructed, even as it leans on the conservative side. The by the glass list (alas, the full wine list is not printed) certainly contains some classics (although I am always skeptical when I see wines such as Krug and Yquem by the glass-how many $40-$70 pours do they really go through in an evening to guarantee it is in pristine condition?) as well as some of my personal faves (Dr. Loosen, Tres Picos, Ruinart, Ponzi, Sinskey). However, some of the btg pours also range from the tasty but boring (at least to me . . . Guigal CdR, Volver Temperanillo, Momo SB) to the downright questionable (again, to me-Hess, Sebastiani, Roth, Grand Cru). I know it is unfair and impossible to pass judgement from afar, so I will be making an effort to check the place out at some point . . . anyone else care to chime in? This has all been helpful thus far.

            1. re: gueuleton

              As an aside, agree with Kevin, Coi in SF is a truly remarkable American restaurant, intellectually compelling, experimental yet fundamentally earthy, far more so it would seem than the fantasia of Mr. Achatz's Alinea (haven't been there yet but would love too, looks like a helluva lot of fun). It seems to me that New England would be the perfect home for a restaurant with Coi's (or, say, Noma's) approach to regionalism in modern cuisine. I always get very excited to cook when I head to the North East-the seasonality and plethora of regional ingredients get the tail wagging and the mouth watering. Ok, back to the subject at hand . . .

              1. re: gueuleton

                When I did the tasting at Coi it did not seem as experimental as Clio (or say Manresa) but this was some years ago so they may have upped their game since then, as Craigie seems to have done (slightly) since winning the Beard award

              2. re: gueuleton

                Email me at flemingkevin@hotmail.com if you want to see the Troquet bottle list. I have the list from November, but it changes often.

                1. re: gueuleton

                  My dissenting view: I think of Troquet as a place to go when you really want to drink some great old wine and don't much care what you are eating. The wine list is very deep, very impressive, and well priced. The food is BORING. Obviously just my opinion.
                  Craigie is great, their tasting menu dazzling and delicious, and their wine list is well-chosen and well-matched to the food, though mostly young.
                  O Ya is another good choice at this level for a tasting meal, if you're willing to drink good sake instead of wine. (They have wine, but I can't see drinking it with their food.)

                  1. re: jajjguy

                    I agree. I was totally unimpressed with the food menu at Troquet. The wine list was really impressive. If you're a wine-nerd, it's definitely worth a visit. Food wise it just was kinda boring.

              3. Has L'Espalier fallen so far off the map in its second life as hotel restaurant that it's not even mentioned in a thread like this? L'Espalier tasting menu is still the best meal I have ever had in Boston, although that was in the old townhouse.

                Any recent great experiences?

                3 Replies
                1. re: tamerlanenj

                  I prefer L'Espailer to Menton or Clio, but they are all very good. Clio service can't touch Menton or L'Espailer and sometimes they rely too hevily on trickery (e.g. liquid nitrogen). Menton food is great, but I feel like I am in a funeral home when I'm there. I'm heading to Craige for the tasting in a few weeks, but can't comment on the tasting yet. Troquet, although good, is not the right place for the meal you are describing. While it has a great wine collection (although I wonder if the old Federalist collection in the bottom of Mooo is better), it isn't trying to be a truly special gastronomic experience. If I were truly trying to impress, I would sit at the chef's table at L'Espailer (not the hermetically sealed fish bowl at Menton) and let them know you want to try some exciting things... or I would go to O ya.

                  1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                    I concur with your assessment ScotchandSirloin. I would not send an out of towner looking for a meal in the same league as the ones the OP mentioned to Troquet. Yes, it's a great wine list, but it's not like L'Espalier, Menton, Clio, Craigie only serve Charles Shaw by the carafe. The OP is a sommelier and I'm sure can make a great pick regardless of which of these restaurants they are at.

                    The service and dining room at Troquet is not at the level of the others. I can't imagine TFL, Coi, Fleur de Lys, Manresa or other high end American restaurants seating you at a banquet (Yes, obviously this is a different story in Europe). Further, the service at Troquet is not at the same level as Menton/L'Espalier. Troquet is a great restaurant but it is definitely not top top tier and considering that our top top tier restaurants (Menton, L'Espalier, Craigie, Clio) already are a notch below the best of New York or San Fran (in my opinion, and anyone is free to disagree with me) I wouldn't recommend dropping two notches to a level like Troquet for a blow-out dinner.

                    Considering your past experiences at Craigie and the fact that its dining room is less formal than the other three, and considering that your guests will be organic gardeners and may appreciate more classical preparations of quality vegetables to modernist techniques (Clio), I'd say that either Menton or L'Espalier would be your best bets.

                    As an aside, I ate at Salts last week and really enjoyed it. The place is very influenced by Keller and TFL and the food was wonderful. Classic French techniques fused with the tiniest bit of modernist techniques that never distracted from the beautiful refined simplicity of many of the dishes. My only complaint was the wine list was over-priced and had only a single bottle (a rosé) below $55 which I find inconsiderate for a service-oriented restaurant. I remember eating at Del Posto last year and being floored that their list had 50 bottles under $50 and a number of them under $30. If I had my way of course I would be spending $200 a bottle every time I go out to dinner, but some restaurants need to be realistic that many of us love wine but aren't on expense accounts.

                  2. re: tamerlanenj

                    I for one had a fabulous tasting at L'Espalier with my sister a few weeks ago, so I would not hesitate to recommend the place for anyone who wants to a memorable meal. I don't drink but had several delicious juice pairings, but my sister was able to enjoy a glass of beautiful wine. Ironically neither of us are big cheese people, so their cheese plate was probably the one part of the meal where we were not overly excited for, but I can't deny that how they presented it and their selection was very well done, but it didn't convert either of us a into stinky cheese lover.