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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.

              1. My friends and I had dinner there last night, and I have to agree with the complaint about the portion size, which has always been my experience there. I felt as tho maybe the very tasty flank steak needed a carb to go with the small vegetable serving, and my friend's pasta dish looked like the size you get when you opt for the appetizer size. There were four medium scallops in that main dish, again with only a small veg accompaniment and no carb. I prefer a small dessert size, but not when I am paying $9 for it. The sad thing is that the food itself was delicious. It doesn't seem right to spend that much on a meal and leave ready for a snack.

                1. It all comes down to personal preference, or, as opinionatedchef says, "YMMV" - we ate at Bergamot on a Saturday night several weeks ago and LOVED it - from the food (although now I can't remember exactly what we had, and yes, it won't be there now) to the service, to the room, to yes, the portion sizes. As we were leaving we both remarked at how nice it was to be able to have 3 courses and not be holding our bellies and moaning on the way out.

                  And as for the slender/not issue - I think that has little to do w/this - I have plenty of slender friends who bemoan small portions all.the.time!

                  GG
                  http://www.semisweetonline.com

                  1. Like gansu girl, I like the fact that I can get a full course meal here, including dessert and not leave feeling bloated. The service is usually awesome, and it's a really comfortable place. I feel like they really make an effort to make you feel welcome and at home.

                    And their bartenders are the best I've seen.

                    And while their menu changes often, it does not change completely. Favorites tend to stick around a while.

                    1. I just tried Bergamont for the first time last night (it's been fairly low in my priority list for the past couple of years, TBH). Since this is the most recent thread about the place I thought I'd add my own report.

                      TL;DR version: Portion size, okay. Savory food quality, very good. Desserts, atrocious. Service, very good. Atmosphere, decent.

                      We each had the three-course prix fixe for $39.

                      I started with the charcuterie ($2 or $3 supplement to the prix fixe), which was quite generously portioned for one. Some sort of terrine (I can't recall the specifics--rustic but very good), sliced coppa, a blood sausage paired with crispy plantains (best thing I had at Bergamont last night), and a very smooth pate.

                      My wife's beet salad, on the other hand, was a fairly minimal (i.e. small) presentation of some smallish cubes of beet spread in an abstract form across the plate. It was, she said, satisfying enough, but definitely fell into the "miserly" camp in my eyes.

                      For the entree I tried a dish of sea bream (another prix fixe supplement) paired with brussels sprouts, mushrooms, bacon, and thinly sliced caperberries. Flavor and seasoning were quite good, and the caperberries really picked up the entire dish. Unfortunately the fish skin was only crispy on the edges, and the sprouts were almost raw, which really detracted. In this case portion size wasn't huge -- as is to be expected with a fish dish -- but I didn't mind at all thanks to having consumed the rather large and rich charcuterie.

                      My wife's entree was a hanger steak (still another prix fixe supplement!) served with "pho" (i.e. some flavored veal stock), bean sprouts, carrots, and basil. The meat was very nicely cooked, and I was really surprised by the depth of flavor in the broth (I expected, given the nature of the restaurant, to be totally underwhelmed by any attempt at an Asian twist). Portion size here was generous, and made up for the beet salad.

                      So regarding portions, balance wins: Ordering carefully mitigates any issues.

                      Dessert moved us into new territory. Now portions can be said to have been much too large. Which isn't to say that the portion sizes were large; my dessert was in fact tiny, and my wife's not much bigger. But the dishes themselves were simply not worth finishing.

                      I had the "bread pudding," a dish with absolutely no resemblance to anything that should ever be called bread pudding. Marble-sized "beignets" (tough/chewy fried bits of flavorless dough rolled in cinnamon sugar) floated in a pool of "kabocha squash anglaise" (which was thick, grainy, and "squashy" enough to have been right at home as a Thanksgiving dinner side dish). Strewn about were some hazelnuts (dry, not even salted as far as I could tell) and some raisins softened in a caramel sauce (the only good element of the dish). I did not bother to finish it.

                      My wife's "chocolate torte" was somewhat better. A block of bitter chocolate ganache with a very sweet "fluff," some sort of jelly (beet, possibly -- not good), and some cubes that tasted like a Butterfinger bar (these were actually really good). Much like my dessert, textures were off, but it's the jelly that threw everything out of balance.

                      I'm all for experimentation in cuisine. But don't fuck with my dessert. I left Bergamont with -- quite literally -- a bad taste in my mouth. And unnecessarily so. Had we not ordered dessert I would have been perfectly pleased with the meal. Does the place lack a dedicated and properly trained pastry chef? These definitely felt like desserts thought up by a savory cook.

                      Regarding other particulars I felt that service was properly attentive, efficient, and professional. The room isn't very interesting or special and the ambiance is overall a bit too casual for my taste. I felt there was a bit of a mismatch between the food aspirations and the atmosphere. (Which could have been because the guy at the next table was wearing some sort of track suit.)

                      All in all, I'd certainly return, but Bergamont will remain on my low-priority list. And I'll have dessert somewhere else.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        Always a fan of Bergamot food and drinks, but have to agree dessert has never been better than average and is often underwhelming - best skipped with cheese or a cocktail subbed instead.

                        1. re: rlh

                          And they know how to do a cheese plate at Bergamot. I got my introduction to the wonderful Ruggles cheeses there years ago, which are still some of my favorites. It's best to get them at Formaggio on a Monday or Tuesday because they sell out for the week quickly.

                          1. re: rlh

                            Dessert chef has changed recently. Big change in style: much more inventive and interesting than the previous conservative dessert style. I like the new style very much. David_sq_pro clearly does not.

                        2. I disagree completely - Bergamot is virtually the ONLY restaurant in the Boston area where I can order three courses and leave feeling comfortably full, not bloated. That's something I'm accustomed to doing in France but rarely encounter anywhere in the US. Portions in this country are ridiculous, and a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BobB

                            bb, if your condition becomes contagious, plse let me know ASAP. I'd like to come visit.