I've been meaning to get here for two years, having been a big fan of the chef/owner's previous space, Aspasia (which I also haven't been to since he left). Bottom line: well worth driving to Newtonville for. I didn't expect the place to have a nice little bar that makes great cocktails, for one. I'm not, however, a fan of stemless cocktails glasses here like those used at Flux. These are novel (and more sturdy), but not nearly so elegant as traditional stemmed cocktail glasses.
The wine list is another mixed bag. A handful of red wines in the $30 neighborhood, then a big jump into the $80 and up range, with almost nothing in between. That's very bad, especially when you run out of the less expensive ones. We get the last value-priced Bordeaux, and guess wrong on a California follow-on, a Merlot/Sangiovese hybrid that tastes too juicy and low-alcohol. Probably should have made the leap to that $78 Pomerol (or ordered it first, then gone to the budget Bordeaux), but that's a steep tag to swallow.
The food makes up for a lot of this. Signature app of grilled calamari on a bed of hummus studded with nice olives: fabulous, and showing traces of the chef's Greek roots, a recurring theme here. Duck consomme is pretty good, not earth-shattering, more notable for the excellent mini-raviolis floating in it than the quality of the broth. Salads are really exceptional, another Aspasia holdover. Foie gras terrine is lovely, prosciutto-wrapped, with bits of artichoke in it. Oysters are fresh, though the mignonette with pink peppercorns and pineapple is odd, and placed on the oysters before they are served, a bad kitchen decision.
Entrees really pay off: a hanger steak/short ribs duo with pureed potatoes is just about perfect for a near-zero night. Fig-glazed pork tenderloin, blue snapper, baby lamb rack (with a nice marrow-filled shank on the side), seared scallops are all big hits.
Desserts and coffee also impress, though the service is a but muddled here, maybe because it's getting late: everything, including digestifs, comes out at once. Good French press coffee, a lovely Formaggio cheese plate, Meyer lemon cheesecake, a butterscotch brulee that does not yield that Amelie-like crack but gets demolished anyway.
Service is attentive and smooth, the dining room airy and pretty, mostly booths upholstered in argyle ultrasuede in muted colors, up to the level of the food without seeming too formal.
A leisurely, soup-to-nuts meal comes to about $85/head inclusive, which we all rate a very good value. Patch that hole in the wine list and you have a place we want to revisit soon, even though it's a long cab (or trolley and bus) ride from the city.
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