Went to Menton last night, and I have to say that I was (disappointingly) disappointed. To get it out of the way, the service was impeccable. Bar none. Possibly the best service I’ve had in a restaurant, and certainly the best in Boston. It seemed like there were 7 people just dedicated to our table of 3 (obviously, that’s not true, but that’s how it felt). Every single person was knowledgeable, friendly, unpretentious, and on their game. That was a huge highlight. The thing is, I’m not really a “service” person. If it’s egregiously, bad, that could keep me from going back to a restaurant, and if it’s stupendous (as it is a Menton), I certainly notice and appreciate it, but what I really care about is the food. I’d trade amazing service/fine food for amazing food/fine service. And in my mind, Menton is the former. One more plus: The presentation of each dish—meaning the visual appeal of the composition of food on the plate—was also stunning. But again, I’d rather have it simply tickly my taste buds.
Full disclosure(s) before I talk about the food: 1) I’m pregnant, so was slightly limited in my menu choice. It meant I had to do the $95 prix fixe menu because there were certain things I couldn’t eat (like the fois gras-damn!). That said, within each selection I made, I didn’t have to alter the dish one bit (they believe in the power of pasteurization). 2) My husband and I had a whirlwind gastronomical delight trip through France in August (before the pregnancy), so I have the memories of the finest multi-course French meals in my head. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Menton to those.
Of the four courses, I would happily eat one of the courses again, and would not ever order any the other three.
First course: It was an artichoke salad. It had a little bit of yougurt crème on it, but not enough. Artichokes are muddy and earthy to begin with and, in my mind, need a creamy and acid bite to cut the muddiness. This dish was really one-note and it was all earthy. I didn’t come close to finishing it (and the portions aren’t exactly huge). One of my dining companions had the scallops crudo and said they were delicious.
Second course: I had a bass and poached shrimp dish. I was really surprised at how salty the shrimp were, and how dry and overcooked the bass was. Again, didn’t come close to finishing it. Thank goodness for the delicious bread at this point. A dining companion had the chestnut soup, and I took a taste of that—absolutely velvety and outstanding.
Third course: I had the venison, which was the standout of the night. It was two small venison loins rubbed in cocoa nibs and kissed by an angel. It was so so good—some of the best venison I’ve ever had (and I’ve spent a good deal of time out west in venison country). A dining companion got the ribeye, and he was also quite enamored with it.
Skipped the optional extra cheese course because, with a 10:00 reservation, we were all getting pretty tired at this point (it was 12:30am). Plus, if you can’t get a blue cheese (thanks pregnancy), what’s the point?
Fourth course: I had the chocolate cake choice. Which was this very beautiful interpretation, with multiple pieces of dehydrated chocolate cake on one side of the plate, and a tiny disk of actual chocolate cake with a mouse bon bon sitting on top of it. And, none of it tasted all that good. I had a small bite of each and left it. And I’m pregnant, people! I had a cupcake earlier that day that I inhaled in one bite. My dining companions each tried it and also left it to be swept away, not even half-finished. They each had the cranberry crepe, which they agreed were just OK. One of my DC’s said “wow, they really fall down on the desserts here, don’t they?”
At the very end of the meal, they bring you these adorable mini macarons, which is always a great touch. Again, perhaps it’s unfair, but they simply didn’t compare with those in France.
Sooo, a lovely evening in a gorgeous setting, but would I return? Don’t think so. If I want a Barbara Lynch fix, I’ll head to No. 9 Park, B&G or Butcher Shop (haven’t tried Sportello yet).
348 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02110
354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210