It’s been a little while since I wrote a detailed restaurant review. This was a really special experience and I’m really excited to share it with you! Read on for some culinary inspiration or just to live vicariously through me : )
In late 2009, when everyone was holding their breath – hoping for the recession in the US to end, Barbara Lynch was deep in restaurant planning mode. She wasn’t the only one – many pricey establishments closed their doors earlier in the year, revamped their menus with more affordable, less stuffy but still quality comfort food items and re-opened for business (usually under a new name). But Barbara chose to take a completely different route and open Menton, her most prestigious restaurant yet (No. 9 Park was her flagship restaurant prior to Menton’s opening), with a high-price tag to match. Dinners start at $95/pp for a 4-course meal and go up from there.
Buzz was created – there were many skeptics for sure (including me!) but since the opening approximately a year ago, I haven’t read one bad review. Also based on reservations availability, it looks like business is going quite well. Obviously I had to check it out for myself!
We had a special occasion to celebrate and I invited my parents to join us. I’ve read a lot about the restaurant and was really excited for dinner but also nervous it wouldn’t live up to its hype or at least not be special enough to justify the price. I’m going to spoil the surprise here and say that it was. Read on more details…
Let’s start with some beverages, which helped with conversation… 😆 (sorry, I can’t find the name of my cocktail online – it had lavendar and was quite citrusy. I just love herbs in cocktails and this one was perfectly balanced).
Actually our first round of cocktails was already a sign of good things to come. Adam, my dad, mom and I each ordered a cocktail that sounded good to us. When my mom’s cocktail arrived, however, it appeared to be a lot “manlier” than she was hoping for. We all tried each others’ cocktails and made some swaps based on our preferences but our waiter noticed that she wasn’t really happy with hers. Without a word, he arrived just minutes later with a new cocktail that he thought would suit her better. This was such a nice touch and I knew we would be taken care of for the rest of the evening! [Our waiter was fantastic!!!!]
A few complements from the chef before we even had a chance to browse through the menu…
Goat cheese, golden beet and pickled watermelon amuse bouche* + a mini croissant
*don’t quote me on this description – this was a little over a week ago and my memory is a bit fuzzy. I’m sure this changes often!
I think that amuse bouche was made for me since I’m obsessed with beets, goat cheese and all-things pickled. It was a small but very powerful and well balanced two-bite dish. The mini-croissant was perfectly buttery. The perfect way to start a French inspired dinner!
Course #1: Nantucket bay scallop crudo with heart of palm, white sturgeon caviar and citrus
There is not much more delicate and subtly sweet than a high quality fresh raw scallop. I recently discovered this at a sushi making dinner and was excited to see this elevated version of scallop crudo at Menton. The hearts of palm added a slightly firmer texture to the dish, with their mild flavor still allowing the scallops to shine. The caviar added a bit more sharpness (and fishy taste) and the citrus added some fruitiness. My dad got the same first course and thought it needed more citrus. While I normally love dousing my seafood in lemon juice, I think it was important to keep the soft flavor of the scallops untouched.
Side note: each course was served by four different bus boys/girls to all of us simultaneously, each quietly describing our dish when placed on the table. This was done very smoothly and while a bit over the top, it was nice to be able to dig in almost immediately without waiting for four different (pretty detailed!) descriptions reiterated. Definitely very fancy!
Bread basket selection served “to-order”: mini baguette, sourdough roll, sweet brioche… I chose the sourdough roll
It was pretty standard stuff. We were offered another round of bread later on, so if you can’t chose – you can try them all! (The brioche intrigued me but I wanted to save room for the more special stuff!)
Course #2: Green garlic veloute with octopus, potato and sea cucumber
Veloute is a French soup type, in case you were wondering (I was!). It was poured table-side over the proteins which made for a lovely presentation. It had a really nice garlicky flavor and the bright green hue was just stunning! I think this soup was my favorite dish of the night – it was just so bright and unique (I’ve never had anything like that). The octopus was also perfectly cooked and while it had a bit of a bite, it wasn’t chewy or tough like overcooked octopus can be. No comment on the sea cucumber since I don’t really know what it tastes like on it’s own – I’m guessing it added more depth to the dish. This really was incredible!!
Course #3: Giannone farm poulet with black trumpet mushroom, brussels sprouts and fois gras jus
Chicken done 3 ways, finished with a deep fois gras sauce. This was really interesting but not that exciting to my palate. The chicken breast (the brick in the back of the plate) had a really fantastic texture – it was really moist and honestly like no other chicken breast I’ve ever had (it wasn’t stringy at all if that makes sense, totally smooth). I believe it was cooked in sous vide which allows for exact temperature and a very precise level of doneness (thus injecting moisture and retaining all juices). And while I loved the texture, it was still just “plain” chicken. The little chicken ravioli was fun and the dark meat “drumstick” showcased the fattier/most flavorful part of the bird. To be honest I took little bites of each (finished that mushroom square – yum!) and gave the rest to Adam. He was a very very happy camper. I was happy to finish the rest of the dinner without feeling like I was going to burst!
Optional cheese course
Our waiter carefully described each cheese to us and we picked a few favorites – an aged gouda (my favorite!), aged cheddar, a blue cheese (my dad’s pick- I can’t stand blue cheese… I tried!), gruyere and a few others. They had a really impressive selection so you could certainly find a few you’d love!
We sampled them all over crispy toasts, an apple/raisin medley, roasted pistachios and almonds and honey (all included as part of the cheese course – you pay per cheese so you can spend as much or as little as you want on this course… kind of cool!).
It was hard to behave at this point since I knew dessert was still coming and I was pretty sure some macarons were going to grace our table before the evening’s end.
Course #4: Gateau caramel, hazelnut tuille, chocolate star anise glace, dried apricot
It was out of character for me to order a non-chocolate dessert but I wanted to stretch myself a bit here. Unfortunately I didn’t love it. It tasted nothing like the complex description implies – all I tasted was a “standard” sponge cake with a few gimmicky twists. Sorry, Menton. Fortunately you impressed me enough in courses prior. No worries.
I also had a bite of my mom’s passion fruit pavlova…
… and my dad’s ricotta cheesecake…
I liked the cheesecake but wasn’t over the moon excited about it (they weren’t either). Unfortunately Adam did not share his hot chocolate mocha dessert with the rest of us but he polished it off, so I guess that’s a good sign.
Baby macarons. Yay!
They are teeny-tiny with a nice variety of flavors. I thought they were super cute but unfortunately that perfect delicate chewiness of a macaron does not translate to this mini size. Oh well, they still made me smile.
While this is certainly one of the most high-end (read: expensive) restaurants in Boston, our waiter made us feel very comfortable and welcomed (he was very knowledgeable but also very personable – nothing felt forced or fake). Every dish clearly had a lot of thought behind it and (aside from desserts) really worked. This dinner was definitely a meal to remember!
I hope you enjoyed this recap. For other restaurant reviews, check out my restaurant reviews page.