Had dinner at the Oak Room in the Fairmont Copley Plaza last Tuesday night. Had not been there in several years, and I am happy to say that the food and service were just as outstanding as I remembered. For those who are not familiar with the Oak Room, it is a throwback to the classic big city hotel steak house, complete with ornate wood panels, mirrors, chandeliers, and tuxedoed waiters. Quite possibly the most elegant dining room in the Boston area, the setting comes off a bit formal, but not at all stuffy. Jackets and ties are "recommended" but not required for gentlemen, and in fact I noticed several male patrons in short sleeved open neck shirts. No jeans or athletic shoes permitted, but it's a great place to play "dress up" if that is what you feel like - you could walk in wearing tails and evening gowns and not feel out of place. On a Tuesday evening the room was not crowded, and my GF and I were seated promptly when we arrived for our 7:30 reservation.
Upon being seated you are offered a choice between two bottled waters, but you can, of course, decline these and request plain water instead. To get you started, a basket of bagel chips and sesame covered flatbread is provided along with a tasty blue cheese dipping spread, as well as a plate containing a variety of olives. Your waiter takes your orders and oversees your needs, while underlings bring your plates from the kitchen and clear your table. The service is friendly, attentive, and efficient without being obsequious.
Red meat is the staple here, and thus a variety of prime steaks and chops are on the menu, including the hard to find Chateaubriand for two, but for non-meat eaters several seafood entrees are also provided, including fresh swordfish, salmon, and, of course, lobster. The dinner specials on this night included a steak and lobster combination (10 oz. filet and the tail of a 2 pound lobster), an exotic mixed grill (venison, ostrich, and buffalo), and Kobe beef in several portion sizes.
Our meal consisted of the following:
I like shrimp as much as the next crustacean lover, but I've never seen the point of paying the exhorbitant prices that restaurants charge for a simple shrimp cocktail, when for half the cost I can buy a pound of boiled shrimp at the seafood market and make my own cocktail sauce. But hey, my GF adores shrimp cocktail, and she was paying, so who am I to cavil?
These were luscious - juicy, tender bivalves under a voluptuous savory butter sauce.
This decision presented her with a quandary for a bit. She came in thinking steak, then heard about the steak and lobster combo and fell in love with that, then heard about the Kobe beef. She had never eaten Kobe and wanted to try it, but didn't want to give up the lobster. She solved the dilemma brilliantly by asking if they could prepare the steak and lobster combo using the Kobe beef instead of the regular filet. Apparently nobody had ever asked for this before, but they were perfectly willing to accommodate her, simply adding the difference in cost between the regular steak and the Kobe to the price of the combo (don't attempt this unless you are fully prepared for heart-stopping sticker shock). The Kobe filet was gorgeous - dark mahogany on the outside and deep ruby on the inside. The bite that I was apportioned was melt-in-your-mouth tender and more flavorful than I would have expected for such a tender cut of beef. The lobster tail was, well, lobster tail, simply boiled and split, and what could be bad? The combo was accompanied by a broiled tomato with a crumb topping and two gravy boats, one containing melted butter and the other holding Bearnaise sauce.
I was briefly tempted by the mixed grill, but quickly reverted to the item I had been salivating about all day - the grilled double thick veal chop. I was not disappointed, as the chop was superb, cooked exactly to my medium rare specifications, and served with a Merlot demi-glace, as well as the broiled tomato.
Except for the aforementioned tomato, all other sides are a la carte. In a commendable attempt to keep you from over-ordering, the waiter will warn you that each side dish is big enough to serve two. Don't believe him. In fact, each side dish is truly enormous and would easily provide a normal serving to four people. We selected two sides - creamed spinach, and potatos au gratin. I love creamed spinach, and this was easily the best I have ever had. Most places chop the spinach so finely that the resulting dish has the consistency of mush. The chef at the Oak Room leaves the spinach in large enough pieces that it retains its texture and flavor. By golly, you actually have to chew it before you can swallow it! The potatos were equally yummy, layered with cheese and cream. We ate within an inch of being stuffed, (had to save that last inch for dessert!), and still brought home half of both the spinach and the potatos.
Chocolate ganache cake (flourless, I think), served warm, with vanilla ice cream. Excellent.
I had the Oak Room's special Boston Cream Pie. This is not your father's Boston Cream Pie. This is a four inch high wedge of light, moist yellow cake with a vein of vanilla custard, spiked with rum, drizzled with chocolate, and adorned with white chocolate shavings. It went down wonderfully with my cappuccino.
Along the way we also consumed one Bass Ale and three glasses of wine.
Although the room has a very high ceiling, it is remarkably quiet. The designer has done an excellent job of providing an environment where you can have a normal conversation with your table mates, without overhearing nearby diners. Live music (on this evening a female pianist/vocalist) from the adjacent Oak Bar filters into the dining room, but never becomes obtrusive. Service is attentive, however we never felt hurried. The maitre d' stopped by our table at least once to make sure everything was all right.
This was a birthday dinner for me from my GF, so I never saw the final bill, but here are some typical menu prices:
Appetizers: $12.00 - $17.00
Entrees: $33.00 - $38.00 (Specials can be *substantially* higher)
Side dishes: $7.00 - $9.00
Wine: $10.00 - $11.00 by the glass, $23.00 - $25.00 the half bottle
There is really nothing here that would be considered cutting edge cuisine, just classic dishes superbly prepared from top quality ingredients, with the utmost of professional service. Obviously this is not an everyday type of place, (at least not on our budget), but if price is no object, for a very special celebratory dinner, or for entertaining an important client, I would highly recommend that you check out the Oak Room.