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Aug 12, 2013 08:38 PM

Ribelle is open in Brookline

Had dinner tonight at Ribelle, the first night they are officially open. Everything was delicious, service was good, especially for the first night.
Atmosphere and menu are quite different from Strip-T's, but a worthy alternative. The men has a more Mediterranean bent, with several pastas.

There is a full and lively bar, a fairly extensive list of wines by the bottle, Wines by the glass are listed without names, such as "white #1, white #2." I found this a little precious and annoying. I ordered a white described as "dry as f**k". It turned out to be a dry Riesling.

DC and I split an appetizer of cherry tomatoes with stracciatelle cheese and figs, served with a vinaigrette. Very tasty, light, and summery. I could definitely see this at Strip T's.

DC had pappardelle with Bolognese, kale, and pork skin. I only tasted the pork skin and kale. Both were tasty. Pasta is made in-house.

For my main, I had swordfish with chanterelles, lard, and leeks. Very well done. All ingredients were fresh and worked well together. Fish tasted very fresh and was perfectly cooked.

Drip coffee and cappuccino to finish, no dessert. Both were fine.

So I realize that this sounds like less than a rave review. I would definitely go back, but I was somewhat disappointed by the limited range of the menu and the loudness of the room. This is an alternative to Strip T's, but not a substitute. Looking forward to hearing what others think.

The room is much bigger and the bathrooms is comfortable. The room is also quite loud. Set up is a little like Momofoku Ssam: a long bar/counter. Long table with multiple parties, a few deuces and fourtops.

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  1. But is using the rest room an adventure, an Iron Throne-like experience? Can you scan the prep kitchen on the way to answering the call of nature to see what kind of exotic spices, sauces, and assorted fermented umami-bombs go into their cooking? Inquiring minds, etc.

    I have heard that the opening week menu is limited on purpose and that it will expand as they get their feet under them.

    1. This is what I need to know: can you see this kind of thing at Ribelle? I hope this kind of transparency doesn't get lost in translation from Strip-T's to here.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        If you sit at the first few seats on the bar, you're right next to the kitchen and can see everything happening at once, an opportunity one doesn't have at Strip T's. A similar experience to watching the Craigie on Main or Asta kitchens from their dining bars, with the difference of having a bartender, not a cook, bringing you your plates.

      2. In answer to Slim, there is nothing adventurous about the restroom or the trip there. I think there is an open kitchen area (I was not on that side of the room) but not one where you will see anything like the posted photos. .

        2 Replies
        1. re: brooklinehound

          That's disappointing. How hard would it have been for them to put a single bathroom in the basement that diners have to navigate a maze to get to, then use a toilet perched atop a precarious little flight of stairs? Sounds like they cheaped out on the buildout.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            mc, when you have a yen and you're in the Malden environs, be sure to check out the Biryani Park facilities.

        2. Thanks for the write up. We live around the corner and were planning on waiting a few weeks before trying, but it's great to read early reviews.

          What's the pricing of the pastas/entrees? Also, what's the pricing of the btg wines? Also, in terms of the wines, do they really not tell you which wine you are drinking unless you ask? That would just annoy the hell out of me.

          The first thing that struck me on the buildout, was how much the sign looks like Momofuku milk bar's sign. But then again, when we went to Food by North in Providence, I think I remember them having a similar scripted red lit sign. Not sure if this is the David Chang sign of allegiance or just influence, but it is interesting.

          What I'm most curious about with Ribelle is if the restaurant will show Chef Maslow's maturity or immaturity. We've enjoyed Strip-T's evolution over the past two years and I like the food, but one of my biggest criticisms is that the restaurant favors creativity over editing/execution. I love creativity and have had some very exciting food at Strip-T's, but at the same time, we've also had our share of bad flavors, dishes that weren't that well thought out, or executed less than perfectly. It's not the bizarre flavor combinations of Pierre Gagnaire, where love it or hate it you can tell the combination is extremely thought out as are the elements supporting it, it's more a little sloppy. All that is to say, I'm curious if Ribelle's food will be slightly more polished than Strip-T's or if they will try be even more experimental now that Chef Maslow has a place that is 100% his from the ground up.

          21 Replies
          1. re: Klunco

            In the early going, apps are $9-17, pastas $16-22, mains $27-28, desserts $7-10, BTG wines $9-18.

            I think the idea of going with descriptions only for BTG wines is a genius idea, one I would like to see widely copied, though it probably only works for very short BTG lists like Ribelle's. They have a great sommelier, and I'll guess she has put together some atypical wines that people wouldn't otherwise try because they tend to fall back on familiar varietals and regions.

            Do you really need to know where it's from if the list gives you a few vivid descriptors of it? There's only one sparkler, one rosé, three whites and three reds, each in a distinctive style. I expect a lot of people will actually find this approach more helpful, especially given the relative unfamiliarity of the wines offered BTG, once they get past the novelty of the idea.


            1. re: MC Slim JB

              As a wine-lover and someone who also loves trying off the wall wines, yes, I would always like to know the producer, the region, the year, and the varietal of any wine I am going to pay money for at a restaurant unless it's a carafe jug wine, which would be priced accordingly. In this "black-box" of wine menus, what determines price? How do we know what the wine mark-up is if we don't know what wine we're drinking? How do we even know what to expect?

              My problem with only having descriptors is that different palates interpret different wine flavors differently. This is why wine scores are useless; I can respect Robert Parker or Doug Frost for their knowledge of wine, but when it comes to the flavors that one experiences when drinking, we could all experience different things. Probably the easiest example is a simple German dry Riesling from the Mosel. A sommelier would probably describe it as dry with great acidity (ie. the acidity balances out the natural sweetness), but some customers would taste a perceived sweetness and find the wine sweet, regardless of if there was plenty of acidity to balance that sweetness out. A dry Riesling is different than a the dryness of a Chablis. Dryness means different things to different people. Tannins, acidity, fruit, levels of brett, etc. are all perceived differently by different people.

              Further imo, it does a disservice to those customers who don't know a lot about wine; sure they may try something new and like it, but unless they go out of their way to ask what they drank what will they have learned about wine? How will they be able to find wine like that again? A single sommelier cannot be at every table all the time and people may not want to flag them down just to ask what they drank.

              While I can sort of see the idea that people might be tricked into trying a varietal they wouldn't have ordered otherwise because they are too afraid of the unknown, this rubs me the wrong way. It treats customers as afraid idiots who need to be tricked into having "taste", when perhaps a customer just wants something familiar or comforting. My issue is if you have a talented sommelier and someone wants to put themselves in their hands to select a glass or bottle for them, they can, even if the specific wines are listed on the menu, but if someone just wants to select a wine they are familiar with and/or don't want to talk with the sommelier, they are now forced to wait for that opportunity or spend $9-$18 throwing darts at the wines offered.

              It's the same reason we have menus: so people can order what they want and know what they are getting. If someone wants to be surprised or introduced to something new they can choose do a tasting menu or to go to a restaurant with no-choices. I remember going to Eleven Madison when they had the grid-menu; it worked effectively as a middle ground between these two extremes. That said, if you picked beef you knew you were getting beef, if a patron picks "dry-Riesling" who's to say whose dry we are talking about.

              1. re: Klunco

                At the bar at least, the bartender brought over the bottle and offered a taste to make sure we enjoyed what we ordered. I liked the wine desciprtions on the menu.

                1. re: Klunco

                  klunco, i'm def on your bus. i'm guessing that this is an 'opening experiment' that will be tweaked as customers respond to it. Prob. the passionate energetic sommelier said "i've always wanted to do a menu where......" Maybe they'll get printed up a few regular wine menus- as a solution for those requesting the regular info. As for us ( we usually only get reds BTG) we always ask for a tiny taste of those that appeal ,so we can choose from those. IME, it's just too hard to find 2 wine drinkers who speak the same language.(Control? did i hear somebody say something about Control? :)

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    I guess I just don't get why one would be so against an innovative/creative food/dining experience before trying it... Isn't that why we're all here. To try new things and challenge our own comforts? And how can we hate on it until we try it, I'm intrigued.

                    1. re: freshsqueezedju

                      But how can I challenge myself and try a "new" wine if I'm not allowed to see what I know I've had before and what I haven't?

                      I love the idea of having unique varietals offered, I just don't get the shame of showing their names.

                      I just think Terroir challenged people in a better way by offering a boatload of Rieslings by the glass. Closer to home, Belly wine bar kicked off their list with ten different Beaujolais. Both were a great way to introduce people to new varietals without hiding them.

                    2. re: freshsqueezedju

                      I'm game to let loose, especially on wine, but not at $18 a glass. If I'm paying in the teens for a glass of wine, I want to know what I'm drinking.

                      As I mentioned above, this isn't jug wine. I have long lamented the non-existence of a cheap glass of "wine" at restaurants like in Europe. How about offering a $3 glass of Carlo Rossi, two buck chuck, or boxed wine labeled "red wine" or "white wine." Now that would be innovative and ballsy.

                      Innovative would also be writing the food menu as this wine menu. Why tell people what they're eating?
                      Have the menu offer:

                      Pasta #1: Flavors of a summer meadow.

                      Pasta #2: Think of the sky.

                      Now that would be innovative! I don't see them doing that though. The thing is, after a certain price point be it for wine or food, I want to know I'm going to like what I'm paying for, either because I've chosen it, or because a chef is so talented, thoughtful, and confident that I am willing to put myself in their hands knowing that whatever they put in front of me I will like.

                      1. re: Klunco

                        <Pasta #2: Think of the sky.>

                        thank you for my first giggle of the day

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          I've had this same debate with Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard as well. I mean "Put on your boat shoes" is a fun description for a cocktail, but when you're with a group of six people and each person has to ask what ingredients are in multiple cocktails, it gets tedious.

                        2. re: Klunco

                          Except that most of the BTG wine descriptions aren't quite so impressionistic. It's pretty easy even for a novice wine drinker to get a good idea, if they want a glass of red, of why they might choose Red #1 vs. #2 or #3, for instance. I don't think the gap you're suggesting between individual sensibilities is so wide as to steer someone wildly off course.

                          And as I said, I think some crisp descriptions are actually going to be more helpful to most drinkers than vintage, region, winery and/or varietals, particularly with a sommelier who is deliberately looking for obscure wines and wines that flout expectations, e.g., who would expect an Australian Riesling to be any good, or far drier than the American stereotype of the grape?

                          If you're a really advanced wine drinker, maybe your knowledge is encyclopedic enough that this approach is a big subtraction from your ordering capabilities. I expect the opposite will be true for most Ribelle patrons.


                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Maybe this is what I'm missing though: why does it have to be either/or?

                            I'm not against the descriptions as long as the wine is named underneath, that way everyone can select based on which method appeals to them. Having both is helpful so I can select a wine I've never had and then be able to look at the menu and know what it is so I can find it in the future or investigate the region or winery.

                            I'm not convinced that the typical patron at a restaurant like Ribelle is going to be so overwhelmed with the concept of multiple types of red or white wine, that they shouldn't be allowed to see the varietal info. It just strikes me personally as less innovative than gimmicky.

                            Like him or hate him, Gary Vaynerchuck did a lot to innovate in the world of wine tasting notes. Cute-sey descriptions are more engaging for a portion of the market, no doubt, but why cut out another group (those of us who like to select based on region/winery/year/varietal) who wants to select based facts rather than opinion?

                            And again, a lot of this comes down to price. For under $10 I could play along, but above that for me and the game is just too rich for my blood.

                            1. re: Klunco

                              As I stated above when we sat at the bar they brought the bottle over to us. I'm assuming that the servers would also know the names of the winery, vintage, etc of the wines that they are pouring. So what's the problem? If there is an ingredient/word on a menu that I'm unfamiliar with I ask my server.

                              1. re: mats77

                                Sorry, meant to have this reply to you:

                                "I've had this same debate with Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard as well. I mean "Put on your boat shoes" is a fun description for a cocktail, but when you're with a group of six people and each person has to ask what ingredients are in multiple cocktails, it gets tedious."

                          2. re: Klunco

                            I did spit-take of my coffee with the $18 a glass price tag...You BET I wannah know whats gonnah be in that glass!

                          3. re: Klunco

                            I've been going back on forth on this wine thing.

                            On the one hand, I know next to nothing about wine and would find the descriptions quite helpful.

                            On the other hand, I do know a fair bit about beer. If I were forced to order beer by taste/color/flavor I'd be a little annoyed. There might be some combination of those things that I'm not thinking about, but because I know I like the brewery, I'll give it a try anyways.

                            1. re: mkfisher

                              The beer analogy is a good one because I think wine is getting in the way here. If the beer list were written like this, I think there would be a lot more objections from people.

                              Unfortunately, in America we over-fetishize wine which means that in most peoples eyes there are only two types of wine drinkers: idiots who can only tell you they like red or white wine, and wine snobs. God forbid anyone shows any interest in wine or knows anything about it, then they must be a snob. There's no middle ground.

                              Not every glass of wine has to be life changing, just like not every beer does. There's a time and a place for Carlo Rossi just like for DRC, but that said, as wine drinkers we don't get the "cheapest macro lager for $3" option when we go out. In Boston, there is no $3 glass of wine. The cheapest glass of wine is usually $8-9 and often even higher these days. If a beer drinker were paying $15 or $18 for a beer, I can promise you most people would want to know the brewery or style of beer.

                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                  Nope. I'm assuming they offer a $3 glass of wine? If they do, awesome, more places should be like them.

                                  They are clearly the exception to the rule though. Just compare the price of the cheapest wine to the cheapest beer at most places though and you'll see what I'm getting at. Wine drinkers get gouged at most places and if Galleria Umberto can offer a $3 glass then they are just further proof.

                            2. re: Klunco

                              Reposting as the mods removed Ribelle's PR propaganda originally replied to:

                              Clearly the wine "program" is off putting to some. Time will tell if it works or ends up being modified. The idea of discovering new wines is appealing, however the idea of paying up to $18 for an uncertainty is less so. I know the sommelier was somehow named best in Boston before the restaurant even opened, but the way the wines by the glass are handled has a bit of a 'restaurant knows best' vibe to it a la Craigie Street, which doesn't sit well with some. A restaurant has to earn that type of respect. Some succeed in this respect (Bondir, Strip Ts), but many place do not.

                              Wine aside, has anyone eaten here since opening? I am eager to see some reviews and pics. I have to say, at first glance the menu isn't making me rush over there (I'd actually prefer a meal at Strip Ts base on the menu). I'm sure it's one of those deals where you end up realizing to order anything and everything because it's all well done in unexpected ways, but I'd like to hear about the highlights so far. Enough with the hype, let's get to the great food (hopefully).

                            3. re: MC Slim JB

                              I love the idea as well.

                              Less about the stamp-collecting-like wine minutia and more about the establishment choosing a few nice wines as part of their overall food experience. It does involve a little trust on the part of the diner, and that's just fine.

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                i am not sure that their description of a wine and mine will coincide.

                                i have a fairly good idea what napa cabs, barolos, graves, mosels taste like - especially if i am familiar with the producer.

                                it would take me a fair bit of time to understand the relationship between one person's description aand what the wine tastes like.

                            4. I've had lardo in Italy ..... not my fave...

                              But why lard on swordfish with delish mushrooms?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                Depends on the lardo, I guess. Coppa does a thin layer of lardo (its own) atop its meatball app, and that's really nice.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  I guess I don't *get* lardo ( I hope it's that) on fish.

                                  I've eaten it on regular meat dishes and offal, but it sort of puts me off on fish. Call me crazy.

                                  Plus, admittedly, I don't think it adds much to the party.

                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    Is it the same idea as bacon wrapped scallops?