We made our first-ever visit to The Federalist this weekend, and the experience was sufficiently negative in one important regard that we would sharply caution anyone from risking a duplicate experience. Before getting to particulars, please understand that this report is in the context of our visiting our favorite places - Clio, Mistral, No. 9 Park - a collective average of 20 or more times a year. This enable us to establish a certain level of expectation, for better or worse.
To cut to the core complaint: While the food was remarkably ordinary, the room claustrophic, and the service purfunctory, the Federalist's most dismal feature was what can be called "the water hustle." This is something recently featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, regarding how pricier NYC restaurants drive up diners' tabs by plying them with designer water that they don't fully appreicate that they are consuming. But we had never before encountered it in Boston.
At the Federalist, this "hustle" takes the following forms: 1) the waiter asks if you prefer sparkling or still water, but does NOT ask if you want bottled (or tap) water; 2) once the first bottle is opened, it is NOT left on the table, so you can never gauge its contents; and 3) your glasses are continually refilled, and additional bottles opened without your being asked if you would like another bottle.
Yes, yes, I know - at any point, we could have said "tap water, please." And we didn't and paid - quite literally - for the neglect. But our belief is that quality dining is an interactive, collegial, and cooperative experience between the diner and the restaurant's personnel; it is not and should not be an adversarial experience, with the diner advised to be always on guard at being taken advantage of.
Regrettably, in this regard at least, The Federalist fails miserably. Beware.