Posts Tagged ‘Boston Fine Dining’

No. 9 Park ~ Boston

Posted 24 Oct 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Full Service

Chef Barbara Lynch is setting Boston on fire. For the past thirteen years she’s been steadily opening restaurants while pushing the envelope on culinary creativity and service in a city with a history of embracing strong female chefs. Her restaurants (9 as of this writing) are bold, creative, and of clear intent. Although she’s generated tremendous press for her latest venture, Menton, and newer ventures like Drink (best creative cocktails in Boston),  B&G Oysters (best fresh oysters and martinis in Boston), and The Butcher Shop (best burger in the city, hands down), my favorite  Barbara Lynch outlet is good old No. 9 Park. No. 9 Park is a gem. It has old world charm with a contemporary twist and several long-standing menu items that draw me in each time I am in the neighborhood.

No. 9 Park steadily offers several signature menu items.  Lynch’s prune stuffed Gnocchi with foie gras is such a dish and it’s the main reason I love stop over as a “walk-in” and sit at the bar or one of the café tables for a snack. If you arrive right at 5:30 p.m., a table is usually available without reservation and within minutes hot Gnocchi and steaming foie gras can be yours.  With its deep stained wood floors, antique chandeliers, and cushioned seating by the bay window, the bar is incredibly relaxing and comfortable. Designed by Cheryl and Jeffry Katz of C&J Katz Design, the space draws on its colonial surroundings while remaining sleek and refined. In some ways, the interior of No. 9 Park reminds me of what the original Olives in Charlestown was like back in the day. Warm and inviting, refined, packed, loud, comfortable and mouthwatering.

Prune Stuffed Gnocchi with Foie Gras

In the culinary world, there are lineages, both regionally and nationally. Lynch can trace her pedigree back to Todd English when he was cooking at Michela Larson’s Michela’s in Cambridge.  I had a friend that worked at Michela’s at the time and she was a colleague of Lynch’s. Both were running fast and hard in the midst of an emerging Boston restaurant scene. Even then it was clear that Lynch was her own woman with a future ahead. It wasn’t long before Todd took off to open Olives and the rest is history as far as Todd is concerned. Barbara Lynch followed English to Olives and then over to Figs. When I eat the Gnocchi with foie gras I taste an echo of the tremendous, super rich, deeply flavorful, hearty and rustic foods that English used to serve and sense a bit of English’s genetic code in what Lynch is doing. The evolution of a chef and the lineage he or she draws from results in subtle similarities in menu items and techniques between the master and apprentice.  I see this as complimentary to both parties. Don’t get me wrong, Barbara Lynch owns the dining scene in Boston in a way that Todd English never has.  The apprentice is now the master cooking with some similarities.

Today, Barbara Lynch operates nine different restaurant concepts and employs over 200 people. She serves as CEO of Barbara Lynch Gruppo and has a fantastic track record adding new concepts to her portfolio. It was only 13 years ago that Lynch opened her first restaurant! She probably has another new concept in development at this very moment.  As far as I can tell, there is no other female chef in the country with such a high quality restaurant portfolio or the accolades that Lynch has earned over the years. These are the thoughts that fill my head as I take my first bite of Gnocchi, steaming slab of foie gras attached.  You have to try this dish. Go to No. 9 Park and take a seat at the bar. Order a glass of champagne and a plate of the Gnocchi to get you started, and soak in the room. This may be the very dish that launched an empire and it is one that will warm your soul.

Charcuterie Plate

Composed Salad

Black Olive Clafoutis

Chocolate Cremeaux


No. 9 Park

9 Park St.

Boston, MA 02108




O Ya Restaurant ~ Boston: Seeing and Eating the Finer Things

Posted 25 Jul 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Every once in a while I dine alone. The solitude is relaxing to me and my sense of observation is heightened when I am by myself. Being alone forces me to take things in at a slower pace and to view the world undistracted. Perhaps this is due to the hectic pace that runs like a raging river through my life. I love charging ahead each day with full force but realize that I miss the details of life from time to time. I am surrounded by people who live this way, the successful people I run with fully engage life. No one is sitting on the sidelines and we tend to run in a pack. Because of this, it’s rare for me to be alone, let alone, eat alone. When I do, my senses are heightened.

Tonight, to further enhance my experience I plan to eat at a restaurant within one or two miles of the waterfront hotel where I am staying here in Boston (again). From time to time when travelling, I walk from my hotel to a restaurant to soak in a city at street level. Walking, so long as the weather is good, helps slow things down as well. It provides heightened details about the neighborhoods and environment surrounding the restaurant that you can’t see, smell, or feel, when riding in a vehicle. For tonight’s adventure I select Tim Cushman’s O Ya which is exactly one mile from my hotel at 9 East St., in Boston. The sky is blue and sunny and I am heading that way on foot.

I leave the hotel at 7:00pm walking northwest on Congress street toward the city. The sun is just starting to dip below the Boston skyline and the city arteries are slowing down as rush hour eases. It is still 80 degrees out, so I pause for a moment and consider jumping on the Silver Line bus that runs under the seaport directly to South Station. East Street is a stones throw from South Station and riding would save me from the heat. The Silver Line station is absolutely deserted and strangely clean. This makes me uneasy for some reason so I head back up the stairs and out the door. To hell with the bus, I could use the exercise anyway.

After passing the intersection of A Street and Congress I notice a huge piece of graffiti by (now famous) Shepard Fairey pasted to a building. Fairey is the artist best know for riffing on an Associated Press photo of Barak Obama creating one of the most recognizable posters of the 2008 campaign and a heap of copyright infringement trouble for himself in the process. Four stories up next to a fire escape is a large four foot by six foot stencil of “Obey” Fairey’s 1990 ode to the professional wrestler Andre the Giant. If you drive down Congress Street you will miss this work because the building is set back behind a parking lot parallel to the street. There are thousands of these images stenciled on buildings around the world now, if you miss this one, there will be others. I click a few shots of it and move on.

A few minutes later I am on Atlantic Avenue heading south toward South Station. The stone façade of the station is speckled with sunlight reflecting off of a sky scraper across the street. Studying it for a moment, the light shifts and the building entrance, windows, and clock are lit by the reflection. What a beautiful image.

Crossing the street I am now just a minute or two from O Ya. I continue down Atlantic Avenue passing Essex Street and make a right onto East Street. O Ya is just ahead, hidden on the south side of the street. For some reason Tim Cushman and his team designed an entrance that is so completely understated that you could miss it. Located in a multistory brick building, O Ya’s street presence consists of a small sign and a door that appears to be made of graying slabs of rough hewn barn-board.


I enter into a small vestibule and approach the maître d’ station. The hostess greets me and escorts me to a table. I order a beer and scan the room taking it in. O Ya has an industrial feeling, loft like interior with concrete floors, exposed ventilation and brick. The dining room consists of a long sushi bar with eighteen bar stools on one side and, on the opposite wall, a long banquette with eight tables for two. Three large arched windows provide natural light. The wall above the banquette is painted a pastel green with natural colored wood trim and the tables are a lightly stained cherry. Wooden chopsticks on small ceramic rests are located at each place setting. My pair is made of Yew and rest on a green ceramic fish.


When my waiter arrives to take my order, I ask him to have Cushman send out four courses of what ever he feels like sending so long as it doesn’t have Wagyu or Faberge in the name. He smiles with delight and tells me I wont be disappointed.

1) My first course is the Diver Scallop with Sage Tempura, Olive Oil Bubbles and Meyer Lemon. Five pieces of scallop arrive on a pastel green square platter. Each is topped with a tempura fried sage leaf and a rich, lemony, olive oil foam. The texture of the scallop contrasted with the sage leaf is fantastic. The olive oil foam adds an almost heavy cream like richness to the dish with a wonderful lemon perfume finish.

2) Next, I have the Hamachi with Viet Mignonette, Thai Basil, and Shallot. Three, fatty, skin-on, perfect slices of Hamachi arrive. They are simply presented with a chiffonade of Thai Basil, the Mignonette, and a dusting of dried shallot and spicy red chili. The Himachi is pristine and the combination of flavors wonderful. Halfway through the first bite, the basil cuts in with the saltiness of the mignonette. After a few more bits, the chili kicks in for a nice warm, lingering finish. 

3) I have had these Fried Kumamoto Oysters with Yuzo Kosho Aioli, Squid Ink Bubbles before. They are tiny little oysters that are flash fried and served warm and sexy. The squid ink foam, when it arrives at the table, is almost purple in color and sits atop each oyster. Beneath each oyster is a small “button” of aioli that serves as a flavorful glue, keeping the oyster attached to the sushi rice. Excellent!

4) Out comes a Soft Shell Crab with Soy and Sesame mousse. Topped with a fine julienne of scallion, this dish is explosive in flavor. The soy and sesame mousse is so perfectly balanced and thick in texture that it coats my palate while I crunch on the salty, oceany flavored crab. As I dismantle the crab, small wisps of steam escape perfuming the air. Another winner.

5) Tea Brined Fried Pork Ribs with Hot Sesame Oil, Honey, and Scallions. I anticipated that this item would have some flavor overlap with the crab since several ingredients are used in both dishes but this wasn’t the case. When I took my first bit of the Pork Ribs I inhaled just before putting the fork in my mouth and got a full head of the complex flavor that made Frank Bruniof the New York Times swoon over this dish back in 2008. The tea Cushman uses in the brine adds such a depth to this dish and, surprisingly, the subtle notes of flavor from the tea remain fully intact after frying.

6) The festivities end with Soy Milk Blancmange with Chilled Thai Tea, and Thai Basil Seeds.  This is the one dish that I ordered on my own.  I chose it because the description was interesting and I have yet to find a soy cream of any sort that meets my expectation. When the blancmange arrived, I was a bit disappointed at the presentation but this changed once I tasted it. This was the smoothest, most flavorful soy dessert I have had in years. The basil seeds floating on top added such a wonderful perfume and crunch and the cream was spectacular. Heads up all you lactose folks. I would order it again.

Six courses later and I am ready to walk back to the hotel. The past 90 minutes went by quickly but I feel great. Portion sizes were perfect and O Ya is just as good as I remember it. Having a great meal like this leaves me resonating with a love for the culinary profession. I think I will take the long way home!

O Ya

9 East St.

Boston, MA 02111


Clio Restaurant ~ Boston

Posted 05 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

When I travel through Boston, there are a few restaurants I like to visit even if it’s just for an appetizer or dessert. Clio, owned by Chef Ken Oringer is one of these restaurants and I have eaten there many times over the years. Ken is one of the leading chefs in New England and his restaurants, all of which are in Boston, include Clio, Uni, Toro, KO Prime, La Verdad. Of these, Clio is my favorite.

The first time I met Ken Oringer from Clio restaurant was at Charlie Trotters in Chicago. The two of us wound up at the bar just inside the restaurants entryway at the end of a gala dinner Trotter hosted for his foundation. It was a great meal and even nicer to hang back at the end of the meal after everyone had left to have a few drinks with Ken, Charlie and a group of other chefs and industry veterans. Ken, as a guest chef, had prepared one of the courses served that night to raving acclaim. It was a good night for him. However, his intensity was still quite high while we chatted at the bar. I found this unusual particularly at the end of what must have been a very busy day. Most chefs would have settled in, enjoyed a few drinks and laughs and lightened up a bit. Curious, I asked him about his background, where he had trained (he’s a CIA grad, worked for David Burke, Joanne and George at Al Forno and with Jean Georges Vongerichten) and what inspired him. Ken started to provide some details when Charlie, who was listening at the time, interrupted and stated that Ken was the leading American avant garde chef of his generation. Ken smiled with approval and at that moment I got it. Oringer as a person and as a chef occupies the edge rather than the center. He’s inventive, creative and travels his own path, a path of his own choosing and inspiration. He’s a chef to be reckoned with, as bold as the flavors he creates. Follow or get out of his way.   

Bold, however, is not the first word I would use to describe Clio. Oringer’s flagship restaurant is refined, comfortable and smoothly running. The flavors of some dishes are bold, on others subtle and refined. The service matches the food. Ken selects his service staff wisely, after a dozen meals I have never had bad service. When I arrived this past weekend it was 6:00PM on a busy Saturday night. Within a couple of minutes my table was ready and I was seated. My favorite place to sit is along the windows on the Massachusetts Avenue side of the dining room. The windows provide adequate natural lighting for my camera (I rarely use flash) and I like being able to see the entire dining room.

Once seated my first surprise wasn’t food related it was the water. My server proudly announced that the restaurant was serving Poland Spring water due to a major water main rupture west of the city. There was a mandatory boil water order issued by the department of health yet the restaurant didn’t miss a beat. It takes a well oiled restaurant to run “business as usual” when the unexpected happens. It was also reassuring to know that the commercial dish machine in the place was properly working!

And then the food started to arrive!


Foie Gras “Terrine”

Marcona Almond Crème, Rhubarb, Violet Artichokes, Nasturtium ($20) 

I love a good foie gras dish and this was memorable. This was served with a crispy eggplan, cocoa nibs, parisienne of apple and a mini frizee salad on the side.


Cassolette of Sea Urchin and Lobster

Parsnip Emulsion, Crispy Shallots, Candied Lemon ($17)

This was an outstanding dish loaded with generous portions of lobster and sea urchin. The urchin was cooked perfectly and melted into the dish when split with a spoon. Notes of lemon and chive finish this dish as the lobster and urchin linger. Garnishes included spicy dried chili threads and minced chives. I love the “O” Luna bowl this is served in although the bowl looks a bit like a commode.


 Wild Alaskan Ivory King Salmon Confit

Sun chokes, Mandarin Orange, Black Gnocchi, Pain D’ Epice Emulsion ($38)

This dish was excellent. The fish is as ivory as the description in color and buttery smooth due to the sous vide cooking method used. Although the mandarin orange was a bit overpowering, in moderation it complimented the overall dish.


Seared Diver Scallops

Artichoke Chutney, Black Bean Sprouts, Thai Brown Butter, Young Coconut Jus ($35)

This dish was deep in umami and wonderfully complex in flavor. Rich but balanced and totally free of dairy, the flavors were outstanding. Good balance of salt, sweet, acid and umami.


Miso Dark Chocolate Cremeux

with Banana Ice Cream, Golden Miso & Cashew Butter ($11)

The Asian inspiration continued with this item. This dark chocolate cream was more of a dense ganache with mild notes of miso. The flavor combination worked very well (the salt of the miso complimented the chocolate).


A Taste of Summer

with Coconut Tapioca, Guava Sorbet, Peanuts & Fresh Passion Fruit ($11)

Another dairy free item of wonderful proportions and excellent flavor. The coconut tapioca was wrapped in a paper thin white chocolate cylinder, it oozed out when cut with a spoon.


370A Commonwealth Ave

Boston, Massachusetts 02215