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Belly Wine Bar

This place is basically how I want to eat forever, until I remember that I'm supposed to eat vegetables.
Belly's by the glass wine list features a couple of really nice orange wines on the menu - both mellow ones and more aggressive options (Denavolo Dinavolino and La Stoppa Ageno, for example).

Charcuterie:
Crepinette du veau was outstanding, having been wrapped in caul fat, I would hope for nothing less.
Our rabbit rillete was a close second in terms of deliciousness, but perhaps I just love shredded rabbit.
Pork & parsley terrine was the only dissapointment - they had plated it by cutting it up into chunks, but really it was just a bit bland.

Salumi:
lamb mortadella - my DC was obsessed with it. i loved the pistachios
cured duck breast with balsamic - awesomely fatty

Cheese:
Two types, named "blue" and "earth" on the menu. I missed the names, but appreciated the honey dipper as an accoutrement along with ubiquitous fig jam and toast.

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  1. Where exactly in One Kendall is it? I wanted to stick my nose in the other day, but I was in a hurry, and couldn't find it immediately.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    3 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Take the stairs down towards the Blue Room, and take a left. They basically just put a wall through the middle of the old 2 sided Blue Room bar.

      I've been in once so far, but want to go once more before I put thoughts down on paper.

      1. re: mkfisher

        Whoa, they stole a chunk of the Blue Room bar? No wonder I had no idea where to look.

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          same owners as blue room. he just remodeled what used to be function space and was most often empty.

    2. Where else have y'all seen orange wines by the glass ?

      12 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Just had a bottle of Domaine de la Tournelle "Terre de Grypheés" from Arbois (Jura) at ICOB this past sunday. Salty, slight toffee, almonds with a beautiful refreshing acid to balance it all out. Great with oysters and fried clams. At $46 a bottle it's actually a good deal considering I've only ever seen it sold at central bottle for $22. I actually first had this wine this past winter at a supper club where it was paired with lamb; it was by far the most interesting and unique pairing I've had all year.

          That said, orange wines still aren't popular in the area (the waitress said that's why they don't list the Tournelle as Chardonnay even though it is 100% Chardonnay; they don't want people to be disappointed if they don't know what to expect.

          I still think Central Bottle is the best wine store in the greater Boston area if you're into exploring unique, interesting wines with a staff that really does know each bottle. I think they understand the idea of curation better than anyone; the idea that the wines they stock are good examples of each region rather than just another generic version. On the one occasion I bought something that wasn't to my taste, I could at least respect that it was a well-made example of what it was. That said, I can't wait to get to Belly if it's from this team.

          1. re: Klunco

            Belly had that wine by the glass. They listed it under their "rocks in your mouth" section rather than in the orange section.

            CB is my number 2 spot. I like Wine Bottega more, partly because I think their staff is, across the board, more enthusiastic and engaging than the CB staff. Their location drives me nuts, though.

            1. re: DoubleMan

              My mistake. I always thought oxidized whites fell under the "orange wine" umbrella but perhaps they are something different.

              I'll have to check out Wine Bottega, despite the fact that that's even more inconvenient than CB. I liked the stock at Terra Vino in Coolidge Corner (lots from Kermit Lynch, Jenny/Francois), but it seems like they may have just gone out of business (which would be sad after only four months.)

              1. re: Klunco

                There is a new place in JP that is supposed to be good - more in that natural wine angle.

                1. re: DoubleMan

                  I think you are referring to Streetcar in JP. It is owned by Mike Dupuy, who used to work at The Wine Bottega.

            2. re: Klunco

              Eastern Standard (same wine director as ICOB) has/had Coenobium (not the Rusticum bottling) for a good price... $42, I think. I prefer the much more, erm, rustic Rusticum, but this was very nice though only just barely on the orange spectrum. Excellent with the mussels.

              BTW, it's great to pair orange wines with really high umami flavored foods. Mussels, of course, but if you can pair it with some sea urchin roe... heaven. Also, they need to be served at cellar temp, not out of the fridge.

              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                BTW, it's great to pair orange wines with really high umami flavored foods.

                ~~~~

                indeed. like cured meats. :)

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Yes, I should've mentioned the charcuterie plate at ES - we didn't order it, but the kitchen sent out a small plate for us. Fantastic and a really nice pairing, to boot - we had just enough of the Coenobium left, about to move on to the '10 Foillard Morgon - which is also nice to see on a wine list!

                2. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                  Simple correction; Eastern Standard does not have the same wine director as ICOB and never has.

                  1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                    I posted but not sure it posted...Was a simple correction that Eastern Standard and ICOB have different wine directors and always have.

                3. re: MC Slim JB

                  I believe they do rotate with some frequency, but this past weekend there were only the following to be had, by the bottle:

                  - The Supernatural, sauv blanc (NZ)
                  - Famiglia Carfagna Azienda Altura ansonaco (Giglio)
                  - Movia 'Lunar', ribolla (Slovenia)
                  - Foradori 'Fontanasanta' manzoni bianco (Dolomiti)

              2. I thought it was more than a couple orange wines - it was a whole orange section of about 6 wines. The bigger surprise to me was that the only reds on the menu were beaujolais, which is really ballsy of them. They had about 8 listed.

                It's not cheap. 2 oz pours were mainly in the $6-8 range and 5 oz pours in the $15-17 range. One of the orange wines was $35 for the 5 oz pour.

                1 Reply
                1. re: DoubleMan

                  Wow, that is pricey! I wish they had a wine menu up on the site (unless I'm missing it).

                  While Beaujolais' are my favorite wines (they are easy to drink by themselves and are very food friendly), that would be crazy for all the reds to be strictly Beaujolais. My guess is it's just a seasonal thing though.

                  That said, besides Eastern Standard, very few restaurants give Beaujolais any respect, so it's nice to see a push to get more people into these wines.

                2. I'm so excited to try this place!

                  I mean, do we even have another place in Boston that you can truly classify as a wine bar? I can't think of any off the top of my head.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Kirs

                    Les Zygomates, Troquet, and Bin 23 are all wine bars.

                    I love that Les Zygomates web address is www.winebar.com; someone was thinking ahead.

                    But still, it is exciting to have a new wine bar!

                    1. re: Klunco

                      i am not surre that they are wine bars, but i would go to Troquet to find interesting aged wines at very reasonable prices. And yes, you can sit at the bar down stairs and drink.

                    2. re: Kirs

                      There is even another retail wine store which is opening up a wine bar in an unusual location (where I used to buy clothes):

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8609...

                    3. Wow, what a horrible website.

                      Anyways, suppose someone wasn't a wine expert - particularly for the fancier side of things (e.g. I just googled "orange wine"). How willing/capable would they be to guide a novice along a good path?

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: jgg13

                        Very capable, I think. The service was very good. But if someone is dead set on CA cabernet, this is probably not the place for them.

                        1. re: DoubleMan

                          If someone is dead set on CA cabernet, there are a lot of other places they could go though. There are a number of places that only offer domestic wines. I just looked at the menu and can't wait to go; it's nice to see something different.

                          1. re: Klunco

                            Yeah, this was my thought. Outside of simply being interested in the charcuterie I'd be interested in sampling some of the more esoteric options, I just would be incapable of choosing myself without random guessing.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              I guess sometimes at restaurants where I want to order off the specials but they aren't written in English. I'll say this: 60% of the time, it works every time.

                              That said, nobody writes menus like that unless they want to have a dialogue with customers to help them find what they like.

                              1. re: Klunco

                                The service in my n-of-1 experience was lacking. Of the team of maybe 6-7, there were 2 individuals you could have a conversation about wine with. But the wine list is incredibly fun and interesting, even to a rube like myself. Despite the fact that almost everything we ordered was pre-fab, there were agonizingly long waits for food and on a few occasions my glass went empty for long stretches. Staff was friendly and accomodating, just totally in the weeds.

                                The grub was up and down, and mostly down on the details. Like oysters with barely a lick o' liquor, and I didn't particularly care for their personal touches on some of the dishes - a balsamic reduction drizzle on the duck breast, lobster sauce with scallop boudin blanc, beef carpaccio SHOWERED in grated cheese, and an entire plate caked with cakey creme fraiche (cured salmon dish) - I did, however, really enjoy their pickled veggies that came alongside the delicious bunny rillettes. Bone marrow, jamon iberico, arugula, lamb mortadella, beet/bean salad were all terrific but the personal stunner for me was Ploughgate Creamery's Willoughby - a stanky, runny, funky cow cheese.

                                But the playground is really the winelist. Not cheap by any means, but I don't think anybody else is offering this interesting a selection by the glass.

                        2. re: jgg13

                          I have to admit, this thread was the first time I've ever heard of orange wine. And after googling for it, I want to find Moscatel Naranja, which I know isn't what they serve at Belly, but sounds wonderful.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            Our server (at the bar) was incredibly knowledgeable, but also quite awesome at guiding us to picks that we liked. You don't need to be an oenophile to go to Belly.

                          2. Contrast drawn with Belly in Devra First's review of Sip Wine Bar - http://www.boston.com/ae/restaurants/...

                            Sip apparently is the "Pascal's" to Belly's "Paradise."

                            1. Stopped in for a second visit last night. Not as good as the first. We committed to dinner this time, which I probably won't do again.

                              Three of us split the steak for two, which is a complete ripoff at $68. There is no way it is 24 ounces. It's no bigger than any ribeye for one elsewhere - less than an inch thick, six small slices total. One decently hungry person could easily polish it off, even as a second course. It comes with well-cooked, but underseasoned fingerlings and roasted brussel sprouts (these are not listed on the menu and were not mentioned by the server). The steak was cooked OK - more of that approach of a thick crust and overdone edges moving toward a rare center, rather than medium-rare (as requested) from edge to edge with a thinner crust. I prefer the latter approach and think the former is sloppy, rushed cooking. There's no way the dish should be more than $40. Overall, the menu seems like it's trying to straddle the wine bar approach and being a real restaurant, and I'm not sure it does the restaurant approach all that well. We got some snacks that were fine, but they left the benton's ham out of the bread salad, which is basically the whole game.

                              We did a little number crunching and realized that the 5 oz pours don't make much value sense. The 5 oz portion is the same per ounce price as the 2 oz pours. Some were actually more expensive per ounce at the 5 ounce size. For example, the delicious Radikon Slatnick in the orange wine section is $7.50 for 2 ounces and $19 for 5 ounces - the per ounce price on the smaller size is $3.75 and would work out to $18.75 at the larger size. Sure, not much money more per ounce, but I had assumed that the 5 oz pours would be a better bang for your buck, just like the larger sizes are at every restaurant ever. It's good to know, so you can jump around the wine list with smaller glasses and not worry about losing out on value.

                              Service was also off. Our waiter barely knew the wines by the glass list. And everything was incredibly slow. We finished two glasses before the dozen oysters we ordered arrived. The oysters (Island Creek) were perfect, though, and a fine value for the area at $28 for the dozen.

                              A glass fell off the table next to us and the shattered glass spread out across the floor quite a bit. It took them a solid 10 minutes to come and clean it up, and the waitstaff was serving other things in that area (stepping over the broken glass) during that time. That's just unacceptable and dangerous.

                              Related to that - they need to get new short tables around the side or use different plating for the food. The boards are too big and those tables are too small. A couple glasses of wine and a single board is all they can hold. And the wide base on those tables eat up a lot of space for feet. It's one of those things that I think the designer thought looked nice (they do) but never tried out in practice.

                              I know this is harsh, but it was quite a disappointing experience at $110 per person. I think I'll forego dinner there in the future and stick to a small glass or two before heading somewhere else.

                              Also quite surprising that they don't carry a single Jura red.

                              1. Finally made it to Belly last Friday night. I'm impressed. And I have a new favorite dish in town.

                                We selected an '03 Bartolo Mascerello Barolo, which was very well priced at $130 (generally $85-100 retail). We noticed that cheaper bottles were subject to a larger markup, which is as expected, but the more expensive bottles were marked up less than at many Boston restaurants, which is nice. Btw, the Mascerello was phenomenal, impressively perfumed and very high-toned, completely avoiding the usual sun-stroked stewed fruit of most Baroli from the scorched '03 vintage.

                                Belly featured two wonderful by-the-glass menus, one featuring all Barbera ("Barbera, you ignorant slut"), the other featuring all female winemakers including the marvelous Arianna Occhipinti ("Binders full of women"). We stayed in Piemonte and ordered several of a very nice selection of Barbera.

                                My new favorite dish: that unbelievably tasty cured duck breast, something very much like a duck breast prosciutto. My god, that was the duckiest duck I've been lucky enough to lay tastebuds against in ages! And I found the tiny drizzle of aged balsamico to be a very welcome touch.

                                The bone marrow was also fantastic, and cut lengthwise for easy access. First time I've had it prepped this way, and I very much prefer it. This was a very generous portion with a bright, tangy, tomato-ey topping that was an ideal foil for the marrow.

                                We also loved the crepinette de veau and the rabbit rillete. The latter was especially lovely with the Barolo. The only miss for us was the lamb bacon and eggs which tasted merely like very salty bacon without any lamby-ness nor any flavor of egg coming from whatever sort of preparation that was.

                                I only wish this place was a bit more convenient to me, or closer to public transportation. But that certainly won't keep me away!

                                1. It's the same liquor license as Blue Room.

                                  Also of note, Matt Schrage (has tended at No. 9 Park, Saloon, and elsewhere) has taken over the Blueroom's bar program and is revamping it. He spoke highly of Fanny who is running Belly's bar program. With Hungry Mother, West Bridge, Abigail's, Area Four, and Catalyst all in that neighborhood, Kendall is sure shaping up to be a cocktail destination!

                                  http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: yarm

                                    I've really liked the cocktails I've had at Abigail's, but haven't yet been to the other Kendall places you mentioned. How would your rate their cocktails in relation to Abigail's?

                                    1. re: pollystyrene

                                      have had cocktails at area 4, west bridge, catalyst and belly. they beat the pants off abigail's. so far, i think west bridge is a bit above the rest, but haven't been to blue room since matt came on board.

                                  2. Has anyone tried their arm+leg dinner or fried chicken dinner?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: viperlush

                                      I did the springtime Sardinian Lamb Feast version of the arm + leg dinner with a group of friends and thought it was sublime. Such perfect wines on the list to pair with a meal like that.

                                      Looking forward to getting a group of co-conspirators together to try the fried chicken feast sometime soon.

                                    2. I hadn't seen anyone mention the fried chicken dinner, so I decided to take one for the team and test it out.

                                      I'll admit, it didn't get off to a great start. We were promised an outside table to eat our meal (that ended up being about $120). Wonderful. We get there, and are told we have to share a communal table with another couple. I was not crazy about making a mess of fried chicken while sitting right next to someone (on what amounts to a small park bench) while they're just sipping wine. Since this meal requires a reservation, and there's only one party of 2-6 people eating it at a time, there should be a dedicated table for this meal. That said, we did eventually end up with our own table and they did their best to not seat another party with us.

                                      Now to the important stuff. We started with an order of the butter cheese, coppa and soppresata. We've had all three of these before at Belly. They are all very good, especially the cheese. This was followed by an enormous plate of fried chicken (mix of wings, thighs and breasts), two large biscuits per person, pickled fennel and a salad of radicchio, cabbage and cucumbers with a thick balsamic dressing. The chicken was really moist and had a nice crispy skin. The biscuits were very good, though not quite as good as what you get at ICOB for example. The salad was tremendous. We ended up taking home quite a lot of food.

                                      Overall, a solid meal. Not something I'd rush back for but I'm glad we gave it a try.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: mkfisher

                                        I don't think I have ever asked something like this on chowhound but how on earth does a fried chicken dinner end up being 120 $?

                                        At any rate how would you compare this to a place like Strip T's?

                                        1. re: tribalfusion

                                          The fried chicken dinner at Belly is $25/pp.

                                          1. re: Gabatta

                                            and they had cheese and salumi to begin, presumably some wine/drinks.

                                            $60pp. i rarely get out of anyplace in boston/cambridge for under that.

                                          2. re: tribalfusion

                                            The entire meal was $120 for 2 people. As Gabatta said, the fried chicken is $25pp. Add in a $40 bottle of wine, the cheese, coppa and soppresata and you're at roughly $120.

                                            I haven't had the Strip T's fried chicken in well over a year, so hard to know for sure (and I only had it once). I do remember liking Strip T's a little more, but they're probably pretty close.

                                        2. A friend and I went to Belly Wine bar before seeing Chef (If you haven't seen it - GO!)

                                          We started with an assortment of small plates ($6, each). We got preserved sardines. There were 4 decent sized fish, served atop crostini. The sardines were oily (in a good way) and salty (in a bad way). The olivade spread was a tapenade of olives, capers, garlic and ricotta. It was nothing I couldn’t have made in 30 seconds with my food processor. It was also too salty. It came with what they called focaccia, but was too hard and crusty to be actual focaccia. The cauliflower was the highlight of the meal; roasted and tossed with pine nuts, capers and golden raisins. I think I will steal this flavor combination.

                                          We also shared the duck confit ($16), which came with ramp spaetzle. The duck was good, but it only served to remind us of how delicious the Peking duck at China King was. The spaetzle was fine, but the whole dish was an oil slick.

                                          Service was slow, and we did not realize when we were seated at a picnic table for four that in the middle of our meal they would seat two more people with us. It was awkward when my friend had to ask them to get up so that we could get to the movie.

                                          gltsoi.livejournal.com