My DC and I went to L'Espalier last night hoping to cap off a week of great food with a fantastic meal at a place with fantastic service. Unfortunately, we didn't get quite what we were looking for.
We arrived and were shown to our table promptly. Our server introduced herself, and we got started with a drink. I had the Smoky Martini, which was Beefeater, Laphroaig 10, and preserved lemon. It was actually quite delicious. We then started to peruse the menu. As we were reading, someone showed up with a small plate of amuse bouches. Ordinarily that would be great - but he didn't place them on the table for us to eat at our leisure. He just held the plate in front of us, forcing us to fumble with our menus, place our napkins in our laps, and take them with our hands. Not elegant.
We ordered the Autumn Degustation, and they were very flexible in letting my DC choose an alternate starter course since she's allergic to shellfish. That was a good sign, and they had even asked about allergies when confirming our reservation. However, when a second amuse showed up, the server placed the shrimp at my DC's place and the lamb at mine. Not a huge deal, we swapped them, but another misstep nonetheless.
Our first course took about 20 minutes to come out, which seemed a little long. I had the butter-poached lobster and my DC had the salad. Both were good, but I'd had much better lobster at Bergamot a few weeks ago. The salad was good, but seemed random - it had some curried cauliflower thrown in on the side that seemed to be very out of place.
Our second course was the fois gras terrine. It was served with gingerbread cookies and an apple compote. When I put some terrine on the gingerbread and took a bite, the terrine completely disappeared behind an onslaught of ginger flavor. The apple and cookies seemed more suited to dessert. They were tasty, but way too sweet.
The third course was fish, a seared escolar. It had very good flavor but a really tough texture. The grilled pineapple, however, provided what was up to this point the most delicious bite of food. It was sweet, warm, and nicely caramelized. Also, before the course was served, our server had to correct the person laying out the silverware as he had started to lay down the implements for the meat course.
The fourth course was lamb, and it was done perfectly. It came with some good sauteed greens, a tiny salad, and a little bratwurst. This course was definitely the highlight of the evening.
Following that, we had the cheese course. Five cheeses, all of them tasty. Our favorite was the blue cheese, a French variety. There was a nice chocolate-dusted goat cheese as well.
Lastly, dessert. It was a chocolate praline with milk ice cream. It was good, but nothing to write home about.
Overall, my impression was this: They were on autopilot, resting on their historical quality, and turning out rather formulaic food. The staff didn't seem especially excited to be there or excited to have us there. There was nothing wrong per se with the service, but the few mistakes show the difference between a top-tier restaurant and one that's not really trying anymore. The food was good, but nothing to make me take a bite and say, "wow". In Boston, I've had better meals at Craigie and O Ya. For service, I'm eager to make my way to Menton and see how things there are. My personal high-water mark for service is Blue Hill at Stone Barn in New York, and L'Espalier has a ways to go.
774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111
354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210
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