Erbaluce–restaurant week review

Every season something strange happens. I have no intention of taking advantage of restaurant week, yet somehow my calendar fills up for nearly every night during those 2 weeks. Despite some disappointing experiences (which happened once again this summer – details to come in a separate post), there is just something so exciting about trying a fancy place for just $33 for 3 courses. It’s hard to say no to that, especially when many of the participating restaurants are on my 30 by 30 list. I have to cut corners somehow!

Erbaluce has been on my “to try” list for quite some time now (and yes, is in fact on my 30 by 30 list!). It is an Italian restaurant in the adorable Bay Village neighborhood, with a menu focusing on local and organic produce and sustainable meats and seafood. The menu changes nightly based on availability of ingredients, which is why it’s hand written. I just love love love this concept and was even more excited about this dinner after reading the menu offerings the night we visited. It was inventive and fresh… I honestly wanted every single item (thankfully I got to try quite a few of them, since I went with a group of 6!). Once we had a chance to review the written menu (both a la carte and restaurant week menus were available), the super knowledgeable waiter then told us in detail a few extra specials (btw, why do you need specials if the menu was created just today anyway??) and made us all drool just a bit more. I was giddy with excitement. I had high expectations. I just felt like this was going to be the most perfect dinner (note to self: having super high expectations may be a way to set yourself up for failure).

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The bread was served with a creamy dip, which I hear was delicious but my bread (which was an end piece) was so hard that I feared of breaking a tooth, so I quickly surrendered (Adam looved the dip so he ended up eating my bread just to scoop a bit more of the dip).  Out of the 6 of us, 4 had end pieces which we all found to be waaay too hard. After the dinner, as we were talking about our meal, I was sort of annoyed with myself for not saying anything. This little issue could have been easily remedied (rock hard bread is still not ok though for a restaurant of this caliber – I blame restaurant week for this lack of attention to detail!)

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The sunflower appetizer was one I knew I needed to try the moment the waiter told us about it (we ordered it for the table to share). It’s basically the sunflower head (with the tough area with the seeds scooped out), sautéed in white wine, stuffed with ricotta and served with sunflower petals, sunflower stems, raisins and capers. How creative does that sound?? 

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I LOVED this! The sunflower head tasted sort of like a giant artichoke heart and was perfectly complemented by the creamy ricotta, the acidity of the capers and the sweetness of plump raisins. The waiter told us the sunflower petals tasted like carrots but they honestly tasted like flowers to me. Maybe my palate isn’t refined enough. Regardless, this won serious brownie points for creativity and ended up being my favorite dish of the night!

It was a tough choice but I ended up ordering off the restaurant week menu for the rest of my meal – I figured this was my chance to take advantage of this amazing price point (a lot of the entrees at Erbaluce are actually over $33 so it was like getting 2 dishes for free!). I started with the chilled melon soup with lemon basil and sesame.

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The sesame oil gave a decisively Asian flair to this refreshing soup. Very unique. My taste buds were confused and delighted at the same time. I enjoyed it at first but after a few spoonfuls found it to be a little too intense. I think a piece of bread would have been a great accompaniment, but I was not going to put my teeth at jeopardy again Winking smile

I typically order meat at restaurants that have organic options, but the sweet corn and sunflower risotto with basil was too delicious sounding to pass up (I’ve been obsessed with corn this summer so it’s no surprise!)

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More flowery petals! Smile with tongue out

Once again, this was unlike any risotto I’ve tried before. It was not creamy at all! The rice granules were completely separate… I suppose you can say it was a very loose risotto. The fresh corn kernels popped with every bite which at first put me off, but then it all started to make sense as I kept going back for more. The broth/sauce was fantastic and the dish quickly became addictive. The shredded (Asiago?) cheese finish brought a really nice sharpness, rounding out the sweet corn. I can tell you that weeks later as I think of this meal, I start craving this risotto again.

Adam ordered the chef’s specialty (off the a la carte menu) – rack of wild boar with wild concord grape mosto and braised greens (the greens are tops of the vegetables served that day, like beets – nothing goes to waste!)

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He enjoyed this dish but thought it was too small for $36. I’m not normally impressed with large portions so it’s hard for me to really penalize a dish for its size, although $36 is a little steep. With that, I’m personally ok for paying extra for sustainable options. After a small discussion, Adam said he would have been a happy camper if just one more slice of meat would have been included… I guess 2 pieces does not make a “rack.”Smile

Some stewed local peaches with honeyed ricotta and chocolate ganache were an appropriate summer dessert…

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… although the girls were thrilled to see some complementary chocolates with local blackberries to finish the meal. Apparently I’m not the only one that needs loves seriously intense chocolate desserts! Smile 

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I’ve heard mixed reviews of the place during restaurant week. The place did get very busy and placing drink orders mid-dinner proved to be a slightly frustrating task. With that said, I thought the food was well executed and the menu (especially the a la carte items!) was extremely imaginative. While exciting in theory, this honestly took a few moment to warm up to since our taste buds were not used the unique flavor combinations. Upon further reflection, I appreciated the inventive use of the local produce and, as stated above, have even been craving some of the dishes since! I would definitely recommend Erbaluce to adventurous foodies! I thought restaurant week was a great value at this place as well!

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16 comments to Erbaluce–restaurant week review

  • […] try every restaurant on Boston’s 2011 munch madness list (out of 64 restaurants, I haven’t been to 31). Mmm, what a tasty challenge Update on 8/28: so far tried East by Northeast, Foundry on Elm, Sportello, Towne, Canary Square, The Gallows, Upstairs on the Square, The Butcher Shop, Erbaluce. […]

  • This is actually the first time I’ve heard of Erbaluce, so I was psyched to read your review! The chef(s) certainly do sound creative, and the sunflower dish looks beautiful.

  • I haven’t been to Erbaluce during RW but I really love the place! I think they cook some of the best fish in the city!

  • I’ve always been curious about Erbaluce. I would go just for that fruit and ricotta dessert.

  • Where have I been? I’ve never even heard of this place haha! Sounds like something I would love to check out sometime…everything does sound really interesting, and I love trying new flavors! Yeah I’m losing interest in restaurant week fast…or we just go to our favorites that we know are still good that week!

    • Elina

      I think it’s sort of off people’s radar, although it did win some awards recently – made that will change things. And of course I’m doing my part to spread the word 😉
      What are your RW favorites?

  • The use of sunflower in a few dishes took me by surprise, definitely creative and now i’d love to try it!

    • Elina

      Yeah, I’ve never had it either and really loved how unique it was! Not sure if I can just make it at home though… a little scary :)

  • I love your reviews- so detailed – I feel like I’m there with you : )

    The sunflower dishes sound really interesting. I am totally with Adam- if I spend that much money on food, I expect to be full and satisfied. But I’m cheap, hehe.

    I’m working on our review of market now!

    • Elina

      Thanks! I hope they’re helpful to Boston locals or visitors :) That dinner was awesome. Looking forward to reading your review!

  • The sunflower app is very creative and different. Adam’s meal looks delicious, but the price tag is pretty steep. Glad you got to try it out!

  • Sunflower heads? Sounds so interesting! I have heard of Erbaluce but never actually knew where it was. Sounds like a good option for a date night soon.

  • I haven’t been here yet, but all of the dishes sound so interesting (especially the sunflower head). I’ve heard mixed reviews as well but still think I’ll give it a shot.

  • I have wanted to check out Erbaluce forever now! So glad they did restaurant week proud but what the heck is up with that bread!

  • Amy

    So, I’m a little late to seeing this post :)…but I had to say thanks for reviewing this place! I’ve passed it a few times and the cuteness of the building and it’s tucked away location had me very interested. I almost went here for restaurant week as well, but like you I ended up with too many other to-dos! I will definitely have to give this place a try… of course with those steep prices I may save it for a special occasion :)

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