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Le Soir tasting menu (long)

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Le Soir tasting menu (long)

A Fish Called Wanda | Dec 14, 2004 09:52 PM

Hearing positive reviews of Le Soir’s tasting menu on chowhound, we decided to make that our splurge dinner last week. It was a very pleasant experience if not a particularly good value. Most of the food was excellent, but some dishes left us wondering what went wrong in the kitchen. When paying over $100/person, I would like to see more consistency that is sadly hard to come by in Boston.

Since we were there on a quiet Sunday night, we got one of the tables that were positioned back to back giving the diners more privacy. Most of the two people tables were packed pretty tightly, and on a busy night, it might be hard to carry a conversation. The service was attentive, but not stuffy, and made our dinner very enjoyable.

Our meal started with an amuse-bouche of a date stuffed with delicious duck rillettes and a glass of champagne. The first course followed shortly after. We were glad to see two different dishes, which gave us a chance to do more sharing and tasting. My husband’s dish was a roll of raw tuna encrusted in black pepper and roasted red peppers; mine was a bowl of cauliflower soup with chanterelle mushrooms and croutons. We used to think that it was impossible to ruin raw tuna, but we were wrong. If you add enough coarsely ground black pepper to it and don’t add any salt, it won’t taste very good. The fact that it was somewhat stringy didn’t help. The soup on another hand was exquisite – perfectly seasoned and creamy with buttery, crispy, but tender croutons. The refreshing, floral Sauvignon Blanc from Napa provided a pleasant contrast to the voluptuousness of the soup.

The fish course – Le Soir’s signature roasted monkfish – was the piece de resistance. Unlike most of the monkfish I’ve had before, this one was juicy, tender, and almost delicate. It had consistency closer to halibut than to lobster (the crustacean it is often compared to). The whole bone-in tale was served in a copper pan with roasted garlic, carrots, lardons, and addictively delicious sauce that tasted of wine and butter. The mashed potatoes served on the side must have had a healthy helping of butter and cream. As they melted in my mouth, I could feel my skirt getting tighter. The Marsannay pinot noir complimented the porkiness of lardons, but didn’t do much for the monkfish.

For the meat course, they served a squab for my husband and short ribs for me. The squab was a tiny birdie with a big flavor. It was very crispy with all the juices locked in the meat. The oats with butternut squash that accompanied the squab were a revelation. This was no morning serial – these oats had a pleasant bite to them and a deliciously savory chive flavor. My main course had all the ingredients going for it – braised short ribs and potatoes au gratin – but was not as delicious as those ingredients could be. The sauce was a sweet brothy reduction with a hint of prunes. Unfortunately, it lacked the savory depth due to underseasoning. The potatoes could benefit from more salt too. The short rib texture, on the other hand, was spoon tender. The Australian Shiraz served with the main dishes was jammy and on the heavy side. The food-wine pairing for this course didn’t do much for me, since I don’t really like fruit bomb reds with food.

We were completely full by the time desserts came. I do have a second stomach that can sometimes open if I am presented with an irresistible dessert, but le Soir desserts were impressive only in their quantity, not quality. Considering the fact that they served us 5 desserts, I was sure that at least one of them would be great, but we found all to be mediocre. Apple cobbler was kind of flavorless and too homey. At a good French restaurant I expect a good apple tart with perfectly flaky crust, not a cobbler. The crème brûlée did not have any discernible flavor either, not even vanilla. The chocolate walnut cake was very salty and peanut buttery. It tasted like an overly cakey brownie, and the saltiness was overwhelming and unpleasant. The hazelnut meringue layered with chocolate mousse was pleasant in the way that chocolate with hazelnuts is always pleasant. The coconut tapioca pudding was refreshing, but I wouldn’t get it again. We didn’t really care about the abundance of disappointing desserts because we were completely satisfied by this point. We were enjoying a pot of wonderful coffee (one of the better tasting decafs), and a pot of Earl Grey. The little black pepper biscotti that arrived with the check were delicious, and a much better way to finish a meal than all 5 desserts combined.

The check was on the heavy side. The tasting menus were $65 without wine and $85 with wine (not available on Friday and Saturday). Would I pay $220 again for this meal? Probably not. But I also can’t think of any other places in Boston that could do a better tasting menu with wine at this price.

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