Checked out the new restaurant/bar on the former site of the Rattlesnake on Boyslton Street last night. The new look is kind of spare, with a kind of cheesy Americana theme going: lots of black-and-white photos of famous American Georges: Bushes I and II, Washington, et. al. Crappy remodeling job: our booth rocked badly until I put a couple of napkins under one corner.
Bad first impression on drinks: $7 for a short pour of a vodka gimlet. Get smaller cocktail glasses or have the barmen pour more generously. In any event, it was warmish and mediocre.
Menu is divided into small and large plates, neither quite cheap enough considering the frugal surroundings. $8-10 on apps, most entrees nudging towards the high teens. We ordered the spring pea soup (good while it was hot, not so good as it cooled), the smoked duck (a tiny portion for $10, not much helped by a tomato coulis), the chicken/smoked ham fritters (horribly oversweet, donut-like batter), and a side of braised green beans (overdone to limpness, almost saved by some nice unadvertised hominy).
This is a case of weird schizophrenia: they seem to want to jump on an au-courant wave of American jingoism, but the chef is ex-Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro, and has clearly has not lost his French-bistro roots. An all-American wine list proves a bad idea for those of us seeking bargains (where's the Spanish, Argentine, Chilean goodies?). The beer is mostly American, save for Guiness.
I was sorely underimpressed. I always hated the Rattlesnake's mallish take on Tex-Mex, but I suspect the early crowds will hate this menu more, even when the kitchen gets better at executing it. (I'll give them a shakedown-cruise pass on its quite poor early showing.) The service was well-meaning but amateurish.
We fled before hazarding dessert. I have a feeling they'll be revamping the menu within six months to something less expensive and ambitious. The menu is utterly at odds with the bare-bones, USA-USA-USA kind of vibe the rest of the place seems to be going for.
I loved this chef's food at BHHB, but he seems utterly miscast here, and has a lot of kinks to work out in getting his ideas successfully to the table. If they could just embrace the Marquis de Lafayette trope, be up front about how French-influenced food in America is in fact a great thing, maybe they'd have a chance, but I'm not hopeful for their prospects.