Catalyst - most pleasant Sunday brunch I've had in some time
We stopped in here with a party of six on the spur of the moment - the place was practically empty - Our good fortune.
The food and service were both outstanding.
We shared beignets - about 10 or so - arrived hot, crispy, good fry job, very light and airy - perfect starter or ender - could dip in chocolate, lemon curd or mascarpone. A very good beginning.
We also shared the cheese board - a cow's milk runny brie type thing - a semi-soft goat's milk cheese (maybe a blue?) and a manchego-type, with some candied walnuts, a little pot of berry jam, a few slices of pear and most importantly, several large slices of grilled bread. My DW accurately pointed out that most cheese boards skimp on the bread and put on too many accompanying bits, but this board had balance. Everyone really liked the grilled bread.
I had a Fernet flip (Fernet, pimento dram, egg) which was like a Fernet milkshake - The bartender even came over to check on my feelings about the drink. Otherwise, coffees were assertive and water refilled frequently.
Two of the ladies got the Panko Crusted French Toast, Sautéed Pear, Maple Syrup, Bourbon Butter - the panko was a really smart touch - I tried this and it was excellent.
One of the gents had a breakfast plate - homefries, eggs, bacon - that looked impressive, colorful, fresh, hefty but not heavy.
One of the gents had a turkey sandwich which he seemed to enjoy. He was at the other end of the table so I could not see it.
My DW had salmon over an orzo salad with peas and mint that she pronounced "exceptional." I sampled the salmon and it was very flavorful, fully cooked but moist.
I had an asparagus salad with an eggy-mayo dressing with capers that was freshness on the plate. It also allowed me to sample all the other plates and polish off the cheese board - all part of my plan.... ;)
Service was highly professional, funny, engaging, friendly, happily accommodating our need for a high chair - some of the nicest service I've had in Boston in recent memory.
All in all, it felt like brunch in a real restaurant with a real staff and a real chef. It felt special. The food and service made it special. I really have to get back here for dinner.
I went this past Sunday in a group of four, and while the food was all good-to-great, the service was really bad.
The outstanding dishes were the corn cake (starter), the short rib benedict, and the mushroom and goat cheese omelette. The huevos rancheros were good, but the format was a bit odd (scrambled eggs on top of a bean chili, apparently baked in a small skillet) and it wasn't entirely successful. The fresh tortilla chips were a nice touch, though.
The service started out well, with the waiter being quite helpful when one of our party ordered an off-menu drink. The problems started when another of the party asked for her drink to be changed because she didn't like it. The issue was partly flavour and partly that the drink was served with heaps of ice - one large whiskey cube and some slush as well - and she had envisioned it straight. (Nothing was stated either way on the menu, but given that it was bourbon-based it was a reasonable assumption.) When she explained that she didn't like it and would like to switch, the waiter immediately challenged her and asked her what the problem was (and not in a how-can-I-fix-it way); and when she noted the ice issue, he said quite firmly and dismissively that there was only one cube in the glass. She had to point out the slush to make him accept what she was saying, which is just... bad form. It's worth noting too that she was very polite and apologetic, and as soon as she asked for a new drink she did say she'd be willing to pay for the one she was sending back; she was not being difficult in any way. (I know I could seem biased, but honestly, that was the case.)
He finally took the drink away, and after an extended period brought her replacement, but he barely acknowledged us when he dropped it and we were entirely off his radar apart from that. The corn cake we had asked for with the initial drink order didn't come for 35 minutes, *after* our mains arrived (we actually had to ask for it two more times, once when he brought the replacement drink and once when another waiter brought the mains). And none of this was due to busy-ness; as Bob noted when he went, the restaurant was almost empty for much of our meal.
Interestingly, the table next to us also had some tricky interactions with our waiter. They had ordered the huevos rancheros, not knowing that they weren't vegetarian (there was no meat listed on the menu, but the beans were cooked with meat and there were meat chunks visible). When they asked if the dish could be prepared without meat, the waiter reported that the chef had said that the beans were pre-cooked with meat so that wasn't possible (fair enough), but was then unhelpful when they tried to find a replacement dish. They were also then given the silent treatment, to the extent that they had to wait ages for their check, and then had to wait ages again for it to be picked up - in fact, they had to get up and start putting their coats on to get anyone to come help them.
Our waiter did warm back up after we'd finished eating, and by the end was as friendly as he'd been at the start. We were unsurprised to find that the returned drink had been left on the bill; while she had offered from the outset to pay for it, we all felt that the appropriate thing would have been to remove it (as is done at many other restaurants). On the other hand, the appropriate thing would also have been for him not to challenge her when she explained what she didn't like about it, so....
After some discussion, one of our group spoke to the host as we left. While it would be a stretch to say that the bad service ruined the meal (the food and the company were still very enjoyable), it was bad enough that it did significantly affect our experience. We're all pretty easy-going, and one of the group is in the industry, so we're well aware that serving is a difficult job and we're not harsh judges. This whole thing was pretty egregious, though, and when we saw what happened to the young couple next to us after they returned the huevos rancheros, it was clear that we were not the problem.
Tl; dr: I was expecting better, and while the food was great, there's a lot of great brunch places in the area where we don't get treated like that. I won't be back.