Merrill & Co.
Merrill & Co. opened officially last night at 5:30 - thought it would be interesting to leave a thread out here for initial feedback as people go. I am planning on either tonight or tomorrow, stopping in for a drink and a few apps.
Went to dinner last night:
Burger was very good
Crab Dip was very "crabby" which I liked, though my wife thought was a bit too "seafoody"
Deviled Eggs - Hard to screw up, but were a nice starter
Dessert - Nutella Pie - so-so, crust was a bit burnt
Overall - this place will be a fun spot come warmer weather, especially with the patio space.
My only fear is that next to it, there will be a strong Wink & Nod smoking contingent...as last night there was a group of staff outside creating quite a cloud - that will become unpleasant quick.
Went tonight. Had a reservation but the place was packed when we arrived and people were standing around at the bar as all the seats were taken.
Apparently our table was taking a bit longer than expected to clear (they had already paid but were lingering and it seemed the staff didn't want to push them out). So we (and another couple who also had reservations) had to wait until a table opened up. (We were offered a couple of other seating options but decided to wait as the tables were out in the aisle and as it was so crowded, it would be a lot of people brushing past us.) Luckily, the wait wasn't too long and we were seated about 10 minutes after our reservation time. (I did notice the table next to us also stayed well past paying their bill so they will need to figure out a better way to space out reservations so that people aren't frustrated waiting... or maybe they just want people to wait and drink cocktails at the bar.)
Onto the food. We shared:
Fried Smelts - tasty, but a bit overpriced @ $14 I think for 6-8 pieces of fish. It wasn't too greasy for being deep fried. I can confirm that the "black sauce" is indeed a squid ink aioli. Came with a slice of lemon.
Uni French Bread - I can't say no to uni or scallops so this was on my list to order. It came serve as two palm sized pieces of bread and the uni sat atop a layer of mustard seed and pimento sauce, and topped with a sprinkling of some sort of cheese. If you like uni and aren't a purist, it's definitely worth a try.
Baked Crab Spread - I think we chose too many heavy dishes. But as much as I like uni, I also love lump crab. There was definitely a LOT of crab in this dish, mixed with mornay sauce and served with toasted bread. It was served in something similar to a small cast iron pan. Super filling, a little on the salty side, but very indulgent and we finished it all even though we were full!
Brussel sprouts - our "healthy" side dish of veggies came advertised with charred ginger and lemon but I really couldn't taste the ginger or lemon much. The sprouts themselves were a bit burnt and I could taste the added salt, but it wasn't in an unpleasant way. Nothing special though.
We didn't have room for dessert. My dining partner ordered a cocktail but I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment.
Overall, a rather tasty and enjoyable evening (minus the seating issue). One more thing to point out - the place was loud. I mean, really loud. It was more like a pub environment than a quiet dinner out. And funny enough, the place almost completely emptied out by 9pm. Not sure if it's because it was a weeknight but it did seem a little odd.
I'd go back - to try the other items on the menu... the cod and fried chicken are calling my name.
Went to Merrill & Co. last night and was overall impressed. We had a reservation for 4 but had to change to 2 last minute and they were very nice and accommodating. We were seated right away at a high top by the kitchen. Both the waiter and front of the house staff were very friendly and knowledgeable. Our waiter recommended the Jim Rose cocktail to start which my friend and I both loved- sort of a sweeter take on a Manhattan.
On to the food- We split a few oysters which were delicious. They had 3 varieties including Duxbury oysters and gave us some free shrimp cocktail with our order! We then shared the brussel sprouts, waffle fries and fried chicken. The brussel sprouts were browned with lemon and garlic and a nice side. The waffle fries, although good and excellently fried, were a bit too salty. I couldn't tell if it was from the old bay seasoning on the fries or the aioli. Regardless, we ate them all :) On to the fried chicken…the coat was crispy although fell off the meat quite easily. The meat itself was moist and tender (apparently it is brined in lipton tea). However, it contrast to the fries, it seemed a little under salted.
We finished with the nutella tart which was a rich and decadent chocolate, hazelnut fudgey tart. The crust was a bit bland but it was overall very good.
Our only complaints about the night were:
1) Our food was brought out in a weird order. First the brought the brussel sprouts, then fries, then oysters and lastly the chicken. I would have expected the oysters to come out first followed by the rest of the meal. However, it is only the first week so they are probably still working out some kinks.
2) The room was very very very poorly ventilated. It was very smoky and by the end our eyes were actually starting to burn. I'm not sure if they were having trouble with the ventilation system that night but I will be hard pressed to go back, despite really enjoying the food, until this is fixed.
I can imagine a few people objecting to the so-called shotgun style of service, with dishes coming out of the kitchen as they are ready. Anyone remember when Legal Sea Foods, back when they were one little restaurant, did this? People hated it then, too, but they put up with it because the place was doing something new and worthwhile. This seems increasingly reasonable to me at restaurants that emphasize sharable plates.
(Potential new thread: how should such places organize their menus? I share other posters concerns about Alden & Harlow's menu, for instance, where the size and richness of dishes isn't readily apparent from the menu structure, making it easy for newbies to under- or over-order.)
I happen to know the guy who did the original (beautiful, I thought) interior design of 28 Degrees, and I imagine he will plotz if he ever sees what Merrill has done to it: the new space is utilitarian, spartan, almost diner-like in its anti-prettiness. I like it having a long traditional bar, another facing the newly-open kitchen, and a third that is the raw bar. Big communal table for walk-ins is also a worthy nod to customers from the neighborhood.
My own first impression of the food and drinks was very strong: picture the virtues of jm Curley recast for a slightly older audience. (For the record, the sauce with the smelts is a squid-ink aioli, and it works beautifully, even it it's odd-looking, kind of marcasite-gray.) I just wish that the South End had had a cocktail program that precise and inventive -- it's not the first to get serious about sherries, but it's doing something really good with them -- when I still lived around the corner.
re: MC Slim JB
When dishes are somewhere between app & entree, intended to be shared, the shotgun approach does seem increasingly reasonable. Perhaps I'm a precious pansy but when it comes to raw oysters (which I like to have a little splash of gin with) I think it's a bit crass to crassostrea to chuck em in the midst of other darker, dirtier flavours.
re: MC Slim JB
Agreed. I think most people expect oysters on the half shell as a first course, regardless of how they were ordered. As a server at two tapas-style, share-everything restaurants, I can say this- a server at this type of restaurant learns how to time these things, but it takes some time to feel out how the kitchen reacts to different situations. The fire times for a half-dozen oysters can be 2 minutes or 15, depending on how many other tickets that cook has to deal with. Give em a chance to adjust, I think it'll improve...
re: MC Slim JB
I don't mind the "shotgun" style of service but oysters should come out first! It would have been nice if the brussel sprouts and fries came out with the fried chicken but I was fine with them as a pseudo appetizer.
No one has commented yet on the smokiness of the room- am I the only one that experienced this? Perhaps I went on a day when they had a problem with the ventilation system?
Tried out Merrill & Co before a performance of Carrie: The Musical at The Speakeasy in the South End last night. Had a 5:30 reservation (when they open), and there were already several people sitting at the bar, and a few tables filled. We tried the Two Stones cocktail (rye, sherry, curucao, bitters), the Grafoni (gin,campari,vermouth), and the Baby Bird (rum, pineapple shrub, aperol). All were very nice, as well as a glass of recommended red wine for my wife.
Food: We tried two specials, the uni butter grilled corn (phenomenal, I could have ordered a second plate), and the tuna ceviche, tasty, but weird with what seemed like tomato, and odd choice for this time of year. In addition we had the sugar snap peas, trio of mini burger sliders, and the artichokes with trumpet mushroom and queso fresco. Everything was excellent save the artichokes, which just seemed tasteless, no discernible mushroom flavor, just blah. They needed a hit of acid badly. They brought us the wrong check at first, which was far less than mine, and the price point is a bit high for the food. $15 for 3 sliders isn't too far away from the $20 cost of a Cragie burger, and they weren't nearly that good. All things considered, I would return as there are other things I'd like to try on the menu, and we are often down there seeing plays.
I will say that we arrived before they opened, and stopped for a margarita at Masa next door while we waited, and they were offering a rather impressively large platter of ten different appetizer bites for $5. The bar menu said it was $10, but 5-7 or so, it's just $5. We may just stop and check that out next time.
We tried this place last Friday night (4th of July). Overall really liked it and would go back - everything was delicious, although the service was a bit spotty, very friendly but a bit slow and could be more attentive.
Deviled eggs - creamy and yummy paired with a smoked pickle.
Bean salad - my favorite dish of the night. A light, lemony hummus topped with creamy burrata and a variety of delightfully fresh, crisp beans and mint. I could not stop eating this dish.
Fried catfish - light and crunchy, with a side of a vinegary slaw. Perfectly cooked.
Roasted cauliflower - this was sweet and smokey, my partner a self proclaimed cauliflower hater sneakily kept this on his side of the table out of my reach.
Sliders - by the time we got to these I could barely finish one, but they were very solid and I was wishing I could purchase the bacon onion jam by the jar.
The atmosphere was really upbeat and fun - I liked the throwback diner decor and golden' oldies soundtrack.