I love Chef Tony Maws. I love him. Let me just make sure I say that before I get into a tiff. I love his presentation, his flavors, his use of seasonal ingredients. I love the space, the atmosphere, the courteous wait staff at Craigie Street. Why then, was last night's dinner such a let down?
Much like an inn-keeper who periodically tests out her guest bed-rooms by sleeping in the rooms to make sure her customers are getting a good night's sleep, I felt a need to check up on my often recommended favorite little bistrot.
We arrive at 7pm promptly for our dinner reservation. The place is PACKED. The wait staff, though surely running, show no signs of being slammed, in the weeds, what have you. We are handed adorable menus on clipboards. We ponder. Has the chef started to over-reach himself? There are 3 options for tasting menus as well as the regular menu.
We don't care - I order the neighborhood menu - a steal of 3 courses at $33. My sweetheart - not as hungry as I - orders the hanger steak. The house wine is a beaujolais nouveau - we pass. To accompany - a glass of cotes-du-rhone and a burgundy.
Our breadbasket comes - cold since it's, oh I don't know, -3 outside and the poor bread is just sitting in the hallway. But who cares? It's crusty, we're hungry.
Next - trois foies - a delightful terrine with massive flavor. The pickled onion and frisee and flat leaf parsley salad are crunchy and vinegary - but not much flavor there.
Our plates are cleared. We wait. We wait. 30 minutes pass. Then MORE. We wait some more. Then finally, my entree arrives. We wait 7 more minutes and his hanger steak finally makes it to the table. We complain. We've been complaining. This is de rigour, I am assured. Not in the last bazillion times I've been here.
The food - the hanger steak was melt in your mouth perfect - amazing. The fleur de sel was not needed for the sweet bone marrow. The meat sat on an over-spiced risotto. It was well presented - but the thyme (?) was so overpowering it lost the red-wine risotto completely. My roasted chicken was succulent and moist. The confit of thigh was nice - but not overly interesting. The polenta cubes were cute, and served their jobs. The roasted veggies were hit or miss - excellent tri-colored carrots - terrible radish.
For dessert - a foamy cappuccino - very, very foamy - and a fresh market fruit crisp. Now, I heat my plates when I serve dinner at home, but I do not heat those plates to a burning temperature. Scorching on the fruit crisp bowl. The flavor was earthy and the crème fraiche ice cream was deep and creamy.
The verdict - the food is still good, Chef Maws is still making his sour milk panacotta (my favorite), but I feel as though he's lost his touch a little.