My delightful young cousin had never seen Boston (grew up in So Cal, works in DC) so we decided to have an adventure weekend and stay in town (Friday through Sunday) at the Copley Square Hotel on Huntington Avenue, which we liked a lot. Friday lunch was at Eastern Standard which as usual delivered on both the food and service fronts. We shared steak tartar and duck liver mousse to start. Both were excellent. The steak tartar comes already mixed, with just the right components of salty, tangy, eggy goodness, with a couple of cornichons and some very nice mustard on the side. The duck liver mousse was rich and decadent, tempered with some berbere spices and complemented by small pieces of dates. We ran out of toasted baguette but more was served very quickly. I gave the steak tartar the edge and he slightly preferred the duck liver mousse but you really could not go wrong with either. I could have stopped then but he wanted the house made garganelli with broccoli rabe, goat cheese and chili flakes (which he loved) so I opted for the roasted asparagus salad with poached egg, probably the least successful item we ordered although not bad.
After touristing around Back Bay all afternoon we headed over to Ribelle for dinner. My cousin is very into cocktails and ordered the White Hat, a bourbon, pamplemousse and honey concoction. He adored it; it was a bit sweet for my taste but our waiter said they’d be glad to make me one that was less sweet and I adored that. We ordered “avocado + herbs, nori, white anchovy” which also had a wonderful chili oil – the avocado was torched and warm and it was all so good we fought over it and ended up ordering another at the end of the meal. That was the single most memorable thing we ate in a weekend of remarkable food. Next up, “trumpet mushrooms + rye, claytonia, wheat grass” which also had cured egg yolk shaved over it and spaghetti with gunciale, parmesan, egg and ramps two ways. Then “canestri + lamb shoulder, goat ricotta, soft egg” which was the least successful dish but if not in competition with the other things we ordered we’d have loved – we both thought it needed a bit of salt and maybe gremolata to really shine though. Finally, a crispy-skinned quail stuffed with bulgur wheat and some sort of meat, with charred escarole (an idea I plan to steal), foie gras soup and rye croutons which was just fabulous. Interestingly, Tim was not in the house but his team was firing on all cylinders and put out a meal fully worthy of him. I was very pleased that as a result of a recent thread I was able to offer my cousin two options for another cocktail after dinner. The Abbey was bursting at the seams so we went to the bar at Fairstead Kitchen and had another nice bourbon-based cocktail the details of which escape me entirely.
Saturday we grabbed breakfast on the run as we walked from Copley Square to the North End for tourist activities. Offered the choice between L’Osteria and Antico Forno for lunch my cousin selected L’Osteria. We shared the Artichokes Dorati (deep-fried) which were delicious as always, he had a cup of pasta fagioli and the Chicken Bracciolatini and I had the Chicken L’Osteria. Both dishes had similar ingredients – chicken, lemon, mushrooms and cheese but their sauces were quite different – the Bracciolatini sauce was deeply garlicky and the L’Osteria sauce was lemony and creamy. Both very tasty but I’ll go with the Bracciolatini next time (and there will be a next time, I have a client who loves this place). Service was pleasant and unhurried.
After the Big Apple Circus and Art in Bloom at the MFA we taxied over to Café Sushi for our 7:30 reservation at the sushi bar for omakase (yes, you can make those reservations and for us anyway it resulted in being seated directly in front of the chef who made our omakase, which was great). The omakase was as spectacular as I have come to expect from Café Sushi: the items, pacing and progression all wonderful, each small piece a work of art and truly that moment’s whim of the chef. The first offering was a sashimi of young fish that he told us was only in season twice a year: now as young fish and briefly in the fall as much more oily fish. It had tiny delicate garnishes that provided a real explosion of flavor in the mouth. We then had a series of plates of 3 or 4 nigiri, gorgeously composed and widely varying in flavor and texture. The final course was 2 very rich nigiri: one of ikura and torched salmon belly and the other of the last of the season’s ankimo, both garnished wonderfully. I love this place.
Sunday breakfast at the hotel was standard bacon and eggs, elevated by a side of roasted cherry tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms that were the set-up for a different dish and were really wonderful. Museum activities ensued.
Late (1:30) brunch at Coppa was a knockout, I am so glad this board sent me there. We started with a special of pork and potato croquettes with fermented chili aioli and sweet onion jam. They were astoundingly good and we made such a fuss over them that the tables on either side got them too and loved them just as much. Next, we got ossa di miale with mostarda, described as pig’s bones and tails, and served with Wet Naps as the only way to eat them was with your hands. Very tasty but the only things that did not blow us away. A small dish of marinated mushrooms was delicious and a perfect complement to all the porkiness around it. We also ordered small portions of both pasta dishes on the menu -- Rigatoni con Sugo (spelt pasta with pork sugo, sage, Parmesan and cabbage) and Gemelli all’Amaritriciana (semolina pasta, bacon sugo, guanciale), in each case with the optional egg on top. Both pastas were just fabulous and pasta isn’t even something I’d normally order as so often it bores me. Even though we really wanted another order of croquettes we weren’t able to quite finish the pastas and had to admit defeat. My cousin thoroughly enjoyed a couple of Aviator cocktails and they were very pretty to look at. The service was exceptionally good from the moment we walked in the door till the moment we left. The place cleared out quite a bit about 2:00 so that might be a good time to go without reservations. I will certainly be back.