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So Cal 'hound looking for high end experience for celebratory dinner

My wife and I are coming to town in a couple weeks to celebrate a significant professional accomplishment of our adult son. There will be four of us and all four have substantial experience with and appreciation for great cuisine. (OK, we're foodies, but I hate that term.)

Here's what we're looking for:

a) Fabulous, inventive preparations of cuisine with (hopefully but not necessarily) a New England influence;

b) Not Asian or Italian;

c) A refined, quiet ambiance, but not stuffy;

d) Within a 15-20 minute drive of downtown Boston;

e) Price not an issue

Oh, and this is probably a dumb question for you locals, but I'm from Calif. and need to ask if it's legal / acceptable to bring in a bottle of very special wine for the occasion. Thanks!

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  1. byob is illegal in boston, brookline, cambridge, somerville.

    quiet is getting harder and harder to find, but i'll start your list with asta, salts, tw food, craigie st bistro and bergamot.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      Craigie ain't quiet. I would look at the tasting menu at TW Food.

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        i know. i have other issues with it as well and it's not usually on my list. feh.

      1. re: Capeannetoo

        Called Salts and they're closed for several weeks due to a major flooding issue.

        1. Asta is the most interesting new high end restaurant in Boston. I found Menton overrated when we ate there but I understand it has a new executive chef so it may have stepped up. If you love wine, Troquet for its wine list (food is very good but, imo, not up to Asta's).

          2 Replies
          1. re: teezeetoo

            I also recommend Asta; they have odd and interesting wines though they are weak on the classics. I also like Craigie though again the wine list is not exceptional. Some people complain about the service; I have never had a problem.

            Summer Shack (Jasper White) is a low end clam shack, but i love the pan-fried lobster, the best lobster preparation I have tried.

            Torquet is the place to go for wine.

            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

              Trouquet's cellar is a conservative one. Mostly French (& I like French wine), at excellent prices by the bottle. But don't go to Troquet looking for an interesting list.

          2. look at the Oleana menu, also Sarma. These are not high end places (but they do cost) but offer unique middle eastern/turkish tastes. Sarma in particular is not quiet. Oleana is in Cambridge, Sarma in Somerville.

            We don't have many places here that are refined and quiet without being stuffy. You've already gotten the names of those that fit refined and quiet.

            You might want to enjoy your very special wine in your hotel with some cheese and other condiments....if you tell us where you are staying, we can give you some recs for charcuterie and cheese and bread places. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and the South End are often at the top of the list here. The alcohol laws here are crazy, but we have to live with them.

            Congratulations to your son. If he lives here, let us know what restaurants he has enjoyed in the past.

            There are no dumb questions.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Madrid

              Thanks Madrid, but if I can't get my wine opened at the restaurant, then we just won't take the trouble to transport it on the plane.

              When we were in town a year ago, he did take us to Oleana, which we enjoyed immensely. Nothing like that where we live, although we did have a similar experience in S.F. at a Moroccan themed place a couple years back.

              After reading all posts, my first choice was Salts, but it's closed due to a flood. Next, Clio (menu JUST what I'm looking for) but we can't get in on Sat. the 15th and they look to be closed on Sunday. Now looking at Chef's Table at L,Espalier.

              1. re: mcgrath

                I think you would have an wonderful experience at L'Espalier. I would rank it way above Salts anyways, so don't bother regretting the flooding.

                While I love Oleana and Sarma, they are not New Englandy. And I would not call Sarma special occasion. Oleana, maybe.

                Based on your description of what you're looking for, I would also look at No 9 Park.

                1. re: mcgrath

                  count yourself lucky NOT to have a res at Clio. ugggh. I cannot tell you how disappointed i was after giving it 3 shots (and i too was sooo excited by the menu) but all i can say is that the food was a show and tell of unusual elements in flecks and dabs, but there was no greatness to back them up.

                  Asta would be my rec.; we're headed there this wk. From very sophisticated palates, I have read raves for l'Esp. Chef's Table but i have no experience there.

                  Have you looked at Deuxave?

                  Btw, the atmosphere is not what you want for the special dinner, but if you find yourself available for another dinner, or brunch (sat and sun) I think some of/the most innovative food in Boston is coming out of Ribelle in Brookline. No web presence yet ( but regularly packed w/ fans ) and menus that do not describe the amazing and complex nature of the food. Do a CH search for it to read accolades.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    oc, you're always very vocal here about how much you hate clio, but i will just allow for the op that you're in a distinct minority.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      I agree....there are many more raves for Clio than this constant need to put Clio down by just one.

                      1. re: Infomaniac

                        Just no accountin' for taste.

                        But really, i hate the thought of an L.A. food person having a bad meal on a special night, and in MY TOWN. I mean, we may not be L.A. or NYC, but we have some pretty darn talented chefs here.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        I had a pretty lukewarm feeling about Clio for a few years -- good, but overpriced, was my attitude -- but it was rehabilitated by a very strong meal on my last visit. (But I dislike the dining room makeover -- Uni got all the benefit of that one.)

                        I'm just always impressed when people have two bad meals in a row at a very expensive restaurant and still go back for a third. I've done that, but never on my own dime.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    2. re: mcgrath

                      Oh, I understand about the wine. No reason to bring it if you can't enjoy it in the best atmosphere with the best food. Boston is still the land of the puritans. Glad you enjoyed Oleana, and good luck....let us know what you decide and how your family liked it. Congratulations to your son.