By Staff Writer

Andrea Luca Rossi, Chef/Owner Mark Allen and Pastry Chef David James of Le Soir

In the mood for exceptional contemporary French cuisine without all the pomp and circumstance? I’ve got just the place! Le Soir, a fabulous find outside bustling downtown Boston, is the creation of Chef/Owner Mark Allen. Chef Allen, a CIA graduate and a native of Massachusetts, opened this posh French eatery in December of 2001 after honing his skills on the West Coast and garnering numerous accolades as the Executive Chef of The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston. No longer the area’s best kept secret, Le Soir entices their diners with heavenly flavors and textures as seen in the lobster and fennel profiterole with whipped dill cream, crispy veal sweetbreads with warm honey mustard vinaigrette, and twice baked stuffed potato with crab and lemon crème fraiche. Pan roasted whole monkfish and the slow cooked rabbit potpie are must try dishes, as they will no doubt lure one back for an encore presentation. Pastry Chef David James, formerly of No. 9 Park in Boston, adds to the indulgent experience with his signature winter cobbler, apple French toast with cider sabayon, and spiced chocolate pot de crème. Art culinaire, Andrea Luca Rossi, is the charming front of the house manager who runs a professional dining room and is extremely knowledgeable of food, wine, and what it takes to craft an exceptional dining experience.

Le Soir
51 Lincoln Street, Newton Highlands, MA

Upon returning from Italy after several years of cooking, eating, watching, and learning what Italian culture and food was all about, Chef Mark White joined restaurateur Steve Hanson of B.R. Guest Restaurants and opened Fiamma Osteria as Executive Chef/Partner of this sexy SoHo trattoria. White says, "I believe that with Italian cuisine, less is more. I look at what I can get out of a dish, rather than what I can put in." And what he puts into his dishes are the freshest of Italian and American ingredients. The two-story space is a chic mixture of rustic dark wood furnishings, black leather, and orange and red tones. Wine bottles frame the restaurant with numerous wine racks and rare vintage presentations. A temperature controlled fromage case is featured in the dining room, and boasts creamy imported and domestic farmhouse cheeses. A few of my favorite dishes include the blue fin tuna carpaccio with salty capers, olives and citrus oil, Muscovy duck salad, and sautéed sea scallops with baby artichokes and black trumpets. For a pasta course, I gravitate towards the "stracci," wide ribbon spinach pasta with braised rabbit Bolognese and the garganelli with prosciutto, spring peas and truffle butter. Out of the wood-burning oven come a sage scented veal chop, rosemary-roasted squab, and a mouthwatering breast of chicken with morel mushrooms. All dishes are served with wonderful al dente vegetables, as seen in the wild striped sea bass with fava beans, fennel and brussel sprouts and the East coast halibut with braised red chard and asparagus. Pastry Chef Elizabeth Katz prepares classic Italian desserts. Semifredo, tortas, and sorbetti vary in flavors according to the season, as fruit is a major component for most Italian desserts. Another major component at Fiamma is their wine list. We rely on Master Sommelier Greg Harrington to guide us through the diverse list of family-owned, artisanal vineyards as well as the more popular or unique wine selections.

Fiamma Osteria
206 Spring Street, New York

FYI, after five and a half years, Harvard Square’s popular Grafton Street restaurant and gathering place has re-opened in a bigger and better space merely a block away from the original location. The new 5,000 square foot space is twice the size as the original. Likened to that of a traditional Irish pub, owners Patrick and Peter Lee, Gerry Sheerin, and Sean Kennedy, have sectioned the restaurant into various cozy spots using a clever table layout, multi levels, and strategically hung draperies. A lively bar scene is the norm at this college student / tourist destination, but the dining room tends to keep up the pace as well. Executive Chef Kenny Jervis offers the typical pub fare finger foods – out of necessity mostly – but takes the menus up several notches with such items as mussels steamed with tomato confit and roasted garlic, steak frites, lamb stew, seafood linguini, and Dublin style fish and chips. Burgers, over-stuffed sandwiches, salads, and pizzas are a perfect match for Grafton’s extensive beer selection and wines by the glass.

Grafton Street, Harvard Square
1230 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

A true New York experience is the Bull and Bear at the majestic Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the heart of midtown. Opened in 1960, this testosterone driven bar and steakhouse has long been a favorite haunt of denizens of the financial world, as seen by the stock market symbols throughout. The bronze bull and bear and the electronic ticker tape are a dead give-away to the type of conversation – and martinis – that are served up here. Home to "the best martini in town," the scene consists of a smoke-filled bar with live piano music, men in suits with loosened ties, and a female or two scattered about. The menu is a carnivore’s dream. Large portions of charbroiled filet mignon with béarnaise, prime rib, and Porterhouse steak are served with silky creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and crispy hash brown potatoes. Icy raw bar selections include jumbo shrimp, clams on the half shell and lobster and crab cocktail. Executive Chef Eric Kaplan also offers scrumptious crab cakes, shrimp Creole over rice, and dessert staples, such as New York style cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and crème brule. While the city is constantly progressing and giving birth to new restaurants, it’s nice to know that some things never change…

Bull and Bear
49th Street and Lexington Avenue, New York

Spire, located in Boston’s swanky new boutique hotel, Nine Zero, is poised to become the Ladder District’s newest darling. Suspended one level above Tremont Street, across the street from Boston Common, Spire is an elegant French inspired restaurant under the direction of Executive Chef / Partner Jeffrey Evert (formerly of the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles) and Chef de Cuisine Matthew Morello (The Federalist, Boston). Appetizers include roasted quail with chanterelle mushrooms, seared diver scallop nicoise with golden osetra caviar and quail egg, and a trio of king salmon-cured terrine with smoked flan and tartare. Poached Tasmanian sea trout is served with mushroom crepe and petite lentils and the Georgetown Farms bison with sweet potato jam and sour cherry chocolate sauce is a truly inspired dish. Our flight of sorbets was just the thing to complete our meal and consisted of brilliant flavors of sweet basil, blood orange, banana, and espresso. The restaurant design has luminosity to it. Floor-to-ceiling windows, artisan-painted walls, plush furnishings, and a distinctive glass-enclosed display kitchen add to the allure of this sleek space. The Bar at Spire boasts glass shelves and oversized stemware while a young professional crowd sipping on creative cocktails and noshing from the "small plates" menu items can be seen. Both the hotel and the restaurant will be a great retreat for people "in the know."

Nine Zero Hotel
90 Tremont Street, Boston, MA,

"Where Tuscany meets Provence in Rockefeller Plaza," is the catch phrase for Medi, a Mediterranean style restaurant in the heart of the city. And so it is - the brainchild of Roger Verge of the world famous Le Moulin de Mougins and Roberto Ruggeri of Bice Ristorante. The two have collaborated on a culinary venture fusing their talent, passion, and love of their native cuisine. Medi is an oasis of sorts, situated among numerous quick-fix / chain eateries, it stands out in a sea of busy corporate mid-towners and awe-struck tourists. The large outdoor patio is the restaurant’s best advertisement, especially in a city where it takes an icy snowstorm to stop diners from eating outside! The interior is energized with vibrant sunflower yellow walls and sky blue Provencal fabrics. Medi has a fabulous menu perfect for sharing with a group of people, as you will want to taste as many flavors as possible. Cured meats, house made pates, imported cheeses, crusty bread, and roasted olives were a sinful prelude to deep fried squid, shrimp, zucchini and eggplant served with pepper and onion aioli. We dove into our spicy pennette pasta with tomatoes and garlic, and savored every bite of the agnolotti Toscani stuffed with veal and spinach and tossed with mushroom sauce. A classic Bouillabaisse had lobster, rockfish, sea bass, John Dory, and dorade swimming in a flavorful rouille. Roasted poussin with ratatouille and beef filet with brandy raisin sauce and chick pea cake were a few of our favorites. Dessert was a festival of sweets that included a crème brule trio, apple tart with figs and vanilla bean ice cream, and a decadent white chocolate mascarpone Tiramisu. What’s left to tell after that?

45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York

In keeping with the superlative service, excellent quality, and posh environments The Four Seasons Hotel is recognized for around the world, it shouldn’t surprise one to find the ultimate dining experience at Aujourd’hui, located at their Boston property overlooking the Public Garden. Numerous industry professionals and my fellow "foodies" have been urging me to experience this gem of a restaurant. Executive Chef Edward Gannon and newly appointed Pastry Chef Christopher Feyt offer a seasonal New American menu with obvious French influences. The indulgence begins with the luxurious dining room lined with warm oak paneling and potted palms. The sophisticated artwork, white table linens, antique china and elegant stemware set the tone for a meal fit for a king and queen.

Executive Chef Edward Gannon of Aujourd’hui

Their tasting menu (a food writer’s favorite) is billed as "Aujourd’hui Ultimate Dinner," and that it is. Our six course wine dinner began with a glass of Louis Roderer Brut and was coupled with a crabmeat and tuna roulade with radish and blood orange salad. Seared foie gras with chanterelle mushrooms was teamed with a crisp sweet French sauternes. We swooned over the Simi Reserve Chardonnay that was teamed with potato crusted European Bass with porcinis, leeks and chianti-cassis emulsion. Next came tenderloin of veal with truffled potato mousseline served with an Artese Carneros Pinot Noir. An exciting cheese course graced our table next, which was perfect with our various "left over" wines from the previous courses. Grand finale - Grand Marnier soufflé with a Remy Martin toast! But, of course…

Four Season’s Hotel
200 Boylston Street, Boston

Dos Caminos has captured the true spirit of genuine south of the border cuisine. You won’t find mass produced, Tex-Mex, cheesy fried concoctions here. Executive Chef Scott Linquist, and Executive Sous Chef Ross Gill, prepares authentic regional Mexican cuisine with a more sophisticate twist. Guacamole is prepared tableside according to your taste – ours was perfectly "heated" with fresh crushed jalapeno peppers. The wild mushroom tamale was a great mix of earthy mushrooms and roasted cornmeal filling, while the chipolte beef taquitos were full of tender braised meat with a crispy tortilla shell and covered in rich mole sauce. Tacos run the gamut from ancho red snapper, roasted chicken and pork, to Maine lobster or achiote grilled shrimp. The chile relleno is hall-of-fame worthy. This fire roasted pepper is stuffed with sautéed chicken and manchego cheese and coated with a pancake like batter, keeping the outer crust soft, the pepper al dente and radiating just enough heat to create a wonderful taste sensation. Grilled items (a la parilla) show off the chef’s knowledge of various Mexican spices, marinades, and sauces. The large space (over 250 seats) is energized with burnt orange and chocolate brown colors, hand carved wood (think tree stump) lighting fixtures, and cozy booth seating. FYI, there are over 150 tequilas available – just in case you were interested.

Dos Caminos
373 Park Avenue South, New York

Southern-inspired home cooking, bold flavors, an energizing neighborhood atmosphere, and seasoned restaurateurs Andy and Gretchen Husbands = Rouge, the South End’s latest dining destination created by the Husbands (Tremont 647), co-owner Peter White, and Chef Salvatore Fritensky. The small menu serves up big flavors as tasted in the spicy barbecue shrimp appetizer, of which I couldn’t soak up enough sauce with the garlicky toast points they were served with. Fried green tomatoes actually taste like something here and the house-made Boudin sausage over frisee with Creole mustard dressing can be addicting.

Spicy Barbecue Shrimp Appetizer
Homemade Boudin Sausage over Frisee
Steamed Cod with Littleneck Clams

The Chef’s experiences throughout North Carolina and New Orleans are evident, as seen with the pecan crusted catfish with wild mushroom ragu, lacquered pork shoulder with apples, turnips and braised cabbage, steamed cod with littleneck clams and potatoes steamed in roasted garlic and Dixie beer broth, and the crunchy fried chicken with melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuits, collard greens, black-eyed pea and ham hock gravy. The Husband’s do a fabulous job with their wine list and specialty cocktails, always offering their loyal clientele something new and exciting.

480 Columbus Avenue, Boston

Set in the ground floor and basement of a 1909 tenement building lives Suba, a contemporary Spanish restaurant overflowing with Latin influences, tastes, sights, and sounds. New York’s newest chef sensation Luis Bollo continues to raise the bar of this exotic cuisine by infusing his Basque roots with French culinary techniques. Bollo, the consulting chef, along with Chef de Cuisine Alain Allaire, create flavorful works of art for the first floor tapas lounge, the basement grotto, a dining island set in an illuminated rippling pool of water, and the skylight room, a vibrant dining room that transforms itself into the city’s hippest Latin nightclub. Chef Bollo’s signature dishes include boquerones (marinated fresh anchovies), piquillo peppers stuffed with ginger marinated tuna, grilled squid with bell pepper chimichurri, and various ceviches, which are always tangy and sensational. Braised lamb shank with white beans, grilled Atlantic salmon with shitake mushrooms in a vegetable and bacon broth, as well as the roasted eggplant cannelloni with Idiazabal cheese are some other menu stand-outs. Chef Bollo is also responsible for 2 of Connecticut’s most notable Spanish restaurants; Meigas in Norwalk and Ibiza is New Haven, where he, and owner Ignacio Blanco, have brought this beautiful cuisine to light.

109 Ludlow Street at Delancey, New York

Upon driving five hours through a snowstorm from New York to Cambridge, Zephyr On The Charles, located at The Hyatt Regency Hotel, was a site to be seen and savored. The contemporary lounge/bar/restaurant set one floor above the lobby overlooking the (frozen) Charles River and Boston Skyline, was a welcome refuge after my arduous trip. I sank into my lounge chair and enjoyed a well-deserved martini while scooping out the art deco interior. Vibrant colors, floor to ceiling windows, and Zephyr’s cool mystique quickly transported me into a comfortable zone. The "Small Plates" and "Big Plates" menu is an eclectic array of tapas style tastes and textures, ideal for grazing and sharing. I plunged right in to a smoked duck and Jarlsberg quesadilla with roasted pepper salsa. My martini was deservingly consumed and my dinner companion had just appeared. We were put in the hands of Chef Brad Ozerdem, who, luckily for us, had a slow dining room that night due to the storm, and was able to spend some time with us after preparing several of his signature dishes. "Exotic Mushroom Pasta" was a delicate sauté of wild mushrooms, truffle butter and al dente linguini. The braised halibut in tarragon broth was aromatic and came with Israeli cous cous. One of our favorite dishes was the ginger barbeque beef short rib served with sautéed garlicky spinach. A surprisingly delicious and unique dish was the portabello and green peppercorn meatloaf. The thick juicy slices were smothered in mushroom ragout and came with herb-mashed potatoes – perfect on a cold winter’s night. Also perfect was the Mission Fig pudding with warm caramel and whipped cream – so delicious in fact, I ordered some for breakfast the next morning to have with my coffee!

Zephyr On The Charles
575 Memorial Drive, Cambridge

Craigie Street Bistrot has to be one of the area’s best-kept secrets. Off the beaten path of Harvard Square, tucked into a tiny side street on the cellar level of an exclusive apartment building, Chef/Owner Tony Maws has created a humble bistro that offers thoughtfully prepared French cuisine in a friendly setting. Tony’s Mom greeted us at the door and his friends (waitstaff) took care of us throughout the night. Excited about the Trimbach Pinot Blanc by the glass, we began with Coquillage of razor clams, cockles, and mahogany clams simmered in local Britanny butter and Serrano ham. The duck rillettes and foie gras were absolute heaven – flavorful, smooth, and spiked with brandy – and served with all the right accoutrements. The market salad is not what one would expect. This is no leafy heap. This was a seasonal mélange of blanched and raw vegetables (yellow carrots, turnips, beets, watermelon), bursting with their individual flavors, and merely tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pan-roasted sea scallops were large and tender and served with sweet Maine shrimp, cream of celery root and blood oranges. Red-Chile marinated skirt steak came with grilled bone marrow, a tasty pleasure. "Hen of the Woods" was a vegetarian’s dream dish. Meaty hedgehog mushrooms were sautéed with winter vegetables and yellow split peas, making this devout carnivore a believer! Silky crème caramel was a sweet ending to this delightful experience.

Craigie Street Bistro
5 Craigie Circle, Harvard Square, Cambridge

Other Writer's Related Links:
Charleston Cooks With A Little Bit Of This - And A Lot Of That

Food is Love

Toque New York/ Boston Spring 2005

It's a Matter of Tasting...

In the Mood for Exceptional Contemporary French Cuisine
without all the Pomp and Circumstance?

Toque New York/Boston Summer 2002

Writer Linda Kavanagh - Profile





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