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Mr. Swank has reason to celebrate! But where?

We dine out a fair amount, and neither of us have much use for stuffiness or pretention. I'm hoping to surprise Mr. Swank with a luscious meal out. He enjoys the big three S's: steak, scotch, spicy food. Both of us enjoy creative preparations and edgy dishes. In other words, Mr. Swank doesn't require a medium-well steak and a baked potato. We can get frisky! Here are my thoughts:

1. Asta -- how is it? Anyone know?
2. JM Curley -- both of us are dying to try it, but I'm wondering if it's too barroom noisy for a celebratory meal.
3. West Bridge -- how big are the portions? Mr. Swank will want to eat a LOT.
4. Off the Boat -- Thought something quirky in East Boston could be fun.
5. Bronwyn -- again, too barroom noisy? Not celebratory enough?
6. Blue Dragon -- both of us are curious.
7. El Centro -- We love the menu. But it doesn't feel "special." Does it?

Oh Hounds, HELP! Mr. Swank needs to pop a cork.

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  1. jm curley's is definitely more of a bar vibe, gets noisy and VERY crowded. west bridge can be cacophonous too, (was there last week for lunch and left with a headache) but i do love the food at both places. neither has what i think of as typically american too-big portions, but that may be too small for the mister?

    been once to blue dragon and did like the food, but it was also very loud.

    all 3 have a pretty casual vibe to them as well.

    i lived near off the boat and it just always smelled like fried food, so it never made me go in.

    have not been to nos. 1,5,7.

    1. west bridge - quite noisy. i eat a lot and found the portions smallish.

      bronwyn - loud too but might be ok if you get a table in the non-bar room. portions are satisfying. i haven't had the haxe but it looked massive.

      1. Why not try Bogie's Place for a quieter atmosphere at JM Curley? It would take care if the steak and scotch quite well.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gabatta

          I've had two great meals at Bogie's place, and since both were on Monday nights, we had the whole room to ourselves both times. The front room is definitely not a place for a celebration (though the food is quite good).

            1. re: Carty

              A third vote for Bogie's Place!

          1. Skip Off the Boat, been a few times, meh. JM's is fun.

            3 Replies
            1. re: treb

              Be the first on your block - I think Ribelle's opens this week = call and check - it's always iffy to be at in on the first runthroughs but given Strip T's fun menu and innovative food, this may be quite celebratory.

              1. re: teezeetoo

                no matter how skilled the chef and staff i never like dropping large dollars within the first few weeks of anyplace newly opening. i prefer waiting for the training wheels to be off, rather than get run over by them.

                add a special occasion? i'm not that much of a gambler, i guess.

            2. I have had great times at JM Curley but it is loud.

              How about Citizen Public House? Tons of whiskey and pretty interesting menu. Only been once, but had a great date night with the Mrs.

              1. Portion-size might be an issue for a larger appetite at West Bridge.

                I like Bronwyn a lot, not sure it feels celebratory though, even in the dining room, which can feel cramped. Sitting in one of those big chairs is kind of fun though.

                I always like Bergamot. Their terrific service always makes a meal there feel like an occasion.

                3 Replies
                1. re: LeoLioness

                  Seconded for Bergamot - I was there once for an anniversary and it was very enjoyable. Good volume level too.

                  1. re: lossless

                    Though I will add one caveat: larger appetites should order wisely. When I go there with my partner I remind him to get a pasta and a meat, not a salad and fish if he's hungry.

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      Very wise advice. We went once, found the food delic but too precious-sized. But there are so few places doing food like theirs. We must return, and follow your advice this time.

                2. Boston Chops seems like it would fit your steak, scotch needs and the atmosphere for a celebratory night out.

                  1. I think the portions are fine at West Bridge for a big eater (I just had two bagels with cream cheese and some honey nut cheerios for breakfast to give you a barometer). Their best stuff IMO are the small plates and the large format dishes that are meant to share. You won't leave hungry after a few small plates and a large dish.

                    Agree on JM Curley being too much of a bar. Did have a fantastic pork sandwich there yesterday for lunch.

                    I did not enjoy Bronwyn, but I seem to be in the minority on that one.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mkfisher

                      belly wine bar too, but get one of those little tucked away tables, to avoid the bar din. meat, meat, meat. and some cheese. :)

                      bronwyn is not the kind of food that really appeals, so i am in no rush. i may visit when the weather cools for some wursts, but it's not high on my must-try list. nowhere in that geography is noted for its cuisine, lol, but maybe my italian heritage is pre-forming bias.

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          hey, i admitted i have an issue, lol. still not summer-time food. sorry.

                      1. re: mkfisher

                        It's nice that West Bridge has some dishes big enough for even a large appetite! :D

                      2. Asta is excellent. Idiosyncratic. Reminds me of Journeyman in this respect: go open minded and ready to enjoy on their terms, not yours. A bit loud. I don't mean to talk you out of it, definitely go, but maybe not on your special must-win night.

                        1. I second the recommendation for Bogie's Place, the "steakhouse" in the backroom of JM Curley.

                          But I'll also add: West Bridge would be a terrific place for a celebration. They have some large plates for sharing, and tons of small and medium-size plates. In other words, unless you're uncomfortable straying from the app + entree + dessert paradigm as diners, the menu is perfectly set up for any size appetite—basically, a locavore-Frenchie-New-England tapas joint! (Also, there might be a little noise, but it's a big-enough room that it feels convivial rather than deafening...to me, at least.)

                          Happy celebrating, wherever you end up!

                          1. West Bridge is certainly a place for a celebration. It is loud (concrete and glass) but the food is excellent, the menu changes, fantastic bar and wine program. The plates are small but much like tapas, you order 2-3 per person. We didnt order entree plates so cant speak to those.

                            Have you been to Giulia, near West Side Lounge? Celebration-worthy without being stuffy. And they have steak.

                            1. would the helmund in cambridge be an option? I think they are formal but not stuffy, the food as always been good and there is a far amount of beef and spice on the dinner menu. (not sure about the scotch tho)
                              I like that its not too big, it feels intimate but fun.


                              1. What about East Coast Grill? They have fun/creative dishes and they can incorporate some spice, too!

                                1. It's not special enough for what you're looking for, but if you haven't hit Five Horses in Davis Square, do so at some point.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: antimony

                                    What do you like at Five Horses? Has the food greatly improved recently?

                                    I went there once a year or two ago and tried a few things from the menu and nothing was good. Nothing was awful, but every piece of every dish had at least one thing off (burned, undercooked, improperly seasoned, etc.). It felt like someone who had only cooked once or twice was trying to make something out of a new cookbook. Plus something about the atmosphere just didn't work for me, though I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was...

                                    1. re: maillard

                                      I've never had a component have something off like that. I will note that I'm a vegetarian and some places do well with sections of their menu and not others, so they could suck at cooking meat and I'd never notice. Mostly I've really enjoyed the whiskey selection, thought the food was very good (just very good, not better than that, but consistently hitting very good).

                                      The atmosphere really works for me, personally; I'm not a trendy person, and I end up feeling self-conscious in a lot of places, especially if going after work in my (casual geek) work clothes.

                                  2. I love West Bridge and Belly (which has a pricey but unbelievable steak on the menu). A bit off the beaten path is TW Food in Huron Village, which used to have a dessert called Scotch and Cigars that is not to be missed. It's also tiny and cozy, more of a neighborhood spot with terrific food.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: stircrazy

                                      The Scotch and Cigars got a lot of talk when Tdub first opened and some people really hated it. I finally had it a few months ago and will say this: you definitely get a little back of the throat burn from the tobacco in that dish. I found it fascinating and different, but I can appreciate people being turned off by it. Tasting this, dessert or not, is unusual. It's weird to experience a food taste arise from the back of the mouth/throat.