Ever since Seth Woods - owner/manager of two of my favorite restaurants in the South End, Aquitaine and Metropolis - took over management of the Armani Cafe a year or two ago, I've been meaning to visit this place. The reviews I've seen have been mostly positive.
Unfortunately, my dinner there last night, with five friends, was disappointing. And I have to say I won't go back, even though I'll still visit Seth's other places.
All of us started with salad appetizers. I had one with with avocado, scallions, and cherry tomatoes ($10). This was quite good. Two others got the fresh buffalo mozzerella, red pepper, and prosciutto ($11) which also got raves.
However, the main courses were disappointing. I got the Scallop main course ($27). Four scallops simply grilled and skewered, served on a small pile of broccoli rabe. That's it! While they were pleasant, they were nothing to write home about, and expensive for what I got. Aquitaine does a much better scallop entree.
Many of the others around the table got chicken dishes, such as Marsala ($21). But what you got on the plate was a relatively small chicken filet with that broccoli rabe (or spinach), and that's it! While everyone liked their orders, everyone agreed that they were just to simple and expensive for what you got.
For wine, we got a bottle of the Sterling cabernet ($32), which was very good. We decided on a couple of individual glasses to seal the meal, and asked the waiter if they had a Cabernet by the glass. He noted that they did and suggested a particular one, but in this environment (e.g. pushing the bottled water at the start of the meal, and seeming annoyed when we asked for Tap), I asked to see the wine list. Glad I did, because he recommended one priced at $13.50/glass (I think the most expensive one on the list). I hate it when waiters do this! I chose a delicious Merlot ($8) instead.
The ambiance was pleasant, and the restaurant filled up nicely for a Wednesday night, but the music was turned up a little loud.
For the Newbury experience, I still think that Sonsie delivers the best value, in terms of friendly servers, excellent variety and delicious food and drinks.