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Bergamot - Mixed Feelings: Talented Chef, Miserly Portions

After reading some recent CH raves on Bergamot, the location successor to our much-loved EVOO, we returned tonight for dinner, a year plus from our last meal there. In general, the food was very good to 'Wow' but most portions were chintzy. The 'Wow' was the Potato Ricotta Ravioli with chanterelles , pork shoulder and tomato (a sauce almost like a thin light summery version of a bolognese, but the sweet nutty chanterelles took it to a whole other level.) My Love devoured his chicken w/ rich demi and pickled honmeji but it left him hungry, esp. after his app. - a wisp of a beet salad . (This skimpiness was particularly evident after a much more flavorful ,complex and generous beet salad the other night at the new Park in Harv Sq.) The shaved beef tongue dish was sooo disappointing; it just tasted like roast beef, with some greens. The 'Tempura' Wellfleet Oysters were served w/ a luscious accompanying sauce but I have to say I was shocked at the plate. I have eaten Wellfleets countless times at Neptune and Island Creek, so please tell me- since when did Wellfleets become dime sized? I can only guess that they took a single small Wellfleet and cut it in thirds. And I have to say that this version has finally pushed me over the edge to disclaim the usage of the word 'Tempura' on so many current menus. This coating (no Panko) was so hard (i.e. non-ethereal) that you needed some pretty strong teeth to get through it. A Japanese would have been horrified. Our last dish, the Triple Berry Shortcake, reeled us in, but again, the portion felt needlessly miserly ( medium sized and decent shortcake, but 1/3 of the berries and lemon cream needed for it.)

Service was o.k.; she seemed positive and attentive until we received our entrees, and after that, we were basically ignored and had to ask for her to be found on a few occasions. A normal 2 hr meal dragged on to 2 1/2 and left us antsy.

The dining room was pretty full for a Thurs. and I'm sure the neighborhood is happy to have a talented chef (Keith Pooler/ co-owner , with previous stints at Harvest, Casablanca, Ten Tables) follow on in EVOO/Peter McCarthy's former location. But for us, there just wasn't enough food to warrant those prices. As I was writing this, I started to think that maybe it's the effect of the relatively high cost of Farm to Table product , but then I realized that Oleana and Strip T's, for example, are both 'Farm to Table', but we haven't left either restaurant hungry and aware of a consistent stinginess. (YMMV and we are not of the slender persuasion.)

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  1. Thanks for posting this, OC - We stopped in to Bergamot on the spur of the moment around 9:30 on a recent Saturday night - no problem getting a table. We had totally different items so I will add to the database. No apps, just entrees -

    I had the Grilled Vietnamese-Style Flank Steak, Braised Baby Leeks, Baby Carrots, Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Soy-Wasabi Sauce - 25

    The meat was perfect, good chew, the overall flavor to the whole dish was soy-wasabi, so sort of overwhelmed the veggies, but I was in the mood for steak and I was happy. I thought the portion was fine - probably smallish for some, hard to know for sure.

    My wife had the House-Made Lemon Tagliatelle, Local Foraged Mushrooms, Garlic Scapes, Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas, Creamy Herb Vinaigrette - 24

    I had a bite and it was excellent - again, the portion seemed "right-sized" and probably was a few bucks too pricey for what we got, but again, it was delicious.

    For dessert, we split the Poppy Seed Sponge Cake, Strawberries, Lavender Ice Cream, Red Wine Reduction - 9

    I was grooving on the red wine reduction, but the portion here was truly Lilliputian - three inch-high cubes of cake, a few berries and a scoop of ice cream that matched the size of the cake portion, which was appropriate given the starting point. We each had a cube to ourselves and then, in honor of the impending confirmation of the Higgs Boson, we attempted to split the third cube. (I kid) Again, flavors excellent but for the amount of cake, probably a buck or two too much.

    My wife had a glass of the rose 2011 Syrah ‘Sybel’, Rhône Valley | Yves Cuilleron - 12
    I tried it and I thought this was a terribly bland rose - good nose but like Coors Light when you actually tasted it (i.e., no discernible "wine" taste), no finish. Not looking to get mashed in a bowl of fruit and flowers, but we both agreed that it was not great.

    I went with the Elizabetta - Old Weller Antique, Amaro Nonino, Cynar - 11
    A pretty heavy-handed cocktail that paired very well with the soy-wasabi flavors of the steak.

    Service was fine and timely.

    Make no mistake - we really enjoyed the meal, was exactly what we were looking for and we did not leave feeling hungry. But I would agree with you that the price point is just a titch too high to warrant regular visits. Maybe there is something about that space, because we sort of had the same reaction to Evoo when it was there. Seems that a lot of other people really like the place, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Just something I cannot quite put my finger on that just does not get me super-excited to go back, although there is not a single thing that put me off.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      The blessing and the curse of Bergamot is that they keep changing their menu. So a dish which one might really like from one week (say, the crispy salmon belly appetizer, or the lobster gnocchi w/ coral sauce, or the beef short rib, or flounder w/ melted leeks, or acorn squash risotto, or cod in dijon, or salmon roulade ) will be gone the next week or two. Keeps things interesting at least. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705471

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        I'm cracking up. So in order to split dessert with your DC at Bergamot, you have to bring your supercollider.

        The one time I was there a month ago, portion sizes were fine, but we didn't get dessert. I know what you mean about not having a nagging desire to go back, and I can't figure out why either. The food and atmosphere are similar to Rendezvous in many ways, and I'd even give the edge on the food to Bergamot, but I think there's something less cozy about it and the service wasn't as good.

      2. As someone who worked in a real-live Japanese restaurant for years, I can confidently say that tempura shouldn't have panko crumbs. Those are two different things. Tempura is just fry-batter, ideally light and fluffy, yes, but not breaded with panko like for a katsu. If you've been eating things called tempura _with_ panko, you may need to redirect your indignation there [although anything can happen with fusion, I know].
        Chefs call things "tempura ___" because it sounds more refined than "fried ___", but it's really no different than using french cooking terms on a menu...

        I've always been very, very happy with Chef Pooler and Bergamont and have always left satisfied, but perhaps that's because I am of the more slender persuasion.

        1 Reply
        1. re: collinsgavornik

          would that your persuasion could rub off; i would gladly offer my arm! sigh....

        2. I've had mixed feelings about the portion size there. I am a grazer and hate to eat too much at once, so a three course meal is often way too much food than I can comfortable finish. I do like that Bergamot's portion size allows me to order (and usually finish) more than just an entree. I think the chef is terrific and I've never been disappointed by the food there.

          My partner has a much bigger appetite than me, so I always have to remind him when we go there to go for a more substantial first course. The one time he got a salad and fish, it just wasn't enough to really satisfy him.

          1. Your mention of dime-sized oysters got me thinking. Most shellfish have very specific limitations on the size you can take. So I went to the state site to see what the deal with oysters is:

            (c) No person shall take or have in possession oysters less than three inches in longest diameter to the amount of more than 5% of any batch unless authorized by a permit issued by the Director.

            So one could cherry pick through the catch for the tiny ones, if that was intended.

            There is also mention of limits on conch harvest. Conch? In New England waters? I think not. Those are whelks!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pipenta

              interesting. so he cut them up or i misremembered their provenance. either way, 3 dots of oyster in a way hard batter, for $13. i guess i must be insulted easily huh? reminds me of clio.

            2. similar to our experience...was still a bit hungry after eating there last year...their dishes are creative but some stuff works and others don't.

              Did you do the tasting menu? I think getting something off the regular menu might be a bit bigger, while the other of you has the tasting menu.