Had the first really exciting meal on the first try of a new place in quite a while. Downstair lounge area is a bit cheesy, and doesn't look much like a lounge scene, what with college kids in sweats milling about. Some very elaborate cocktails being made at the bar (ex-Cuchi Cuchi bar chef, I believe), though once again a $12 drink isn't nearly as icy as it should be. It just baffles me how so many self-styled cocktail lounges can't get this simple and essential detail correct. Their neighbors at Rialto and Noir know how to do this.
Upstairs looks much more promising, a serene, Tibetan Buddhist themed space. Friendly, competent, attentive service. Starter of tomato soup and grilled cheese, the best soup Ive had in a while, a light consomme with unbelievable flavors and textures, including tapioca pearls, spherically-cut veggies, a finish of holy basil. The grilled cheese has some subtle filling that impresses only as a texture until you swallow it, whereupon it leaves an mild and pleasing aftertaste. Just an amazing dish, the highlight of the evening.
Foie gras with "Moroccan funnel cake" is clever, lacey fried dough barely perfumed with rosewater and cardamom, and an airy rendition of the liver. (I tend to think of funnel cake as carney food, though perhaps I'm ignorant of its original provenance). A very serviceable Sauternes by the glass to go with. We find a modest red wine, ~$40, a Chilean whose name I can't recall.
Entrees: duck breast and duck bisteeya is a lovely combination, rosy, moist breast slices and a flaky pastry filled with ground duck, plus some nice peppery greens. Pork duet of loin and belly is likewise gorgeous, the latter being especially lovely, cured in-house for a few days. An apple moustarda and sweet/sour cabbage on the side. Artful platings remind me of Chinese calligraphy, something spare and quietly lovely about the arrangements.
Desserts are similarly extraordinary, an olive oil cake (a bit like lemon pound cake) and a teeny, delicous ginger beer float. Tea Time has four tea-flavored items, each weird and delicious: cake, a creamy bubble tea, profiteroles, and a white chocolate/mint tart.
A thoroughly wonderful meal; we cannot wait to get back here. (It's in Harvard Square, across Winthrop St from Upstairs on the Square and Grendel's.)