I am a one time resident of Back Bay that has since moved to San Francisco. Last night I went with a few friends to check out Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square.
Summary first. The place has an excellent environment for eating and drinking. The appetizers were very good and they had a good selection of wines. The main courses were only fair, and somewhat disapppointing considering the price. Service is warm and friendly. I would definitely go back for drinks and appetizers.
Initial impressions, the restaurant and bar area were very well done, the place has a French brasserie feel, with large rounded booths but with Italian decor and modern light fixtures. High ceilings and open doors give it a breezy feeling. The bar area is particularly impressive and the outdoor seating scheme is definitely European style.
We started with Fish Fritters, Foie Gras, Mussels and Frites, and Steak Tartar. The Steak tartar was good, but pretty standard. Mussels were covered in a bernaise type of sauce which was very good. They were perfectly cooked tender and not chewy. The creamy sauce complimented them well. I didn't get a taste of the Foie Gras or the Fritters, but both folks said they were very good. I also had a couple of oysters and was satisfied with their selection.
Main courses were Spaghetti Carbonara, Shrimp and Scallop Bake, Liver and Onions, and a Hamburger. First general observation was that the dishes were over salted. I am a salt lover (I salt my salads and toast), and even I felt that the dishes were salty. With the exception of the liver and onions, which we can understand would have more salt, this was just too much. The Carbonara was fair, the noodles were al dente and of a high quality, the peas seemed fresh, and the pancetta was firm and flavorful. Although it looked much like authentic carbonara, it was fairly flat tasting and a bit too soupy. I was somewhat disappointed. Shrimp and scallop bake was very creamy and chock full of scallops. I thought it was salty but it could've been residual salt taste from my own carbonara. My fellow diner reported that the liver and onions was good. It was a heaping portion of creamy mashed potatoes with gravy and a well presented side cut portion of liver which looked like beef tenderloin. The Hamburger was thick and hearty looking, but my friend felt it was a bit salty. French fries were crisp and typical of those found in a french bistro.
My only quibble with the environment was that it was very warm bordering on hot last night. They should've had the A/C on. While I understand that the french doors are wide open, it shouldn't prevent them from running the A/c, afterall no one hesitates to run the heater and use use heat lamps for outdoor dining during the colder times.
One last yet very important element. The service was excellent. The hosts and servers were very friendly and inviting. Food came out in a timely fashion and water and drinks were promptly replenished.