Although you will not save any pennies by dining at Meritage ($100+ per person for meal, drinks, tax, and gratuity) you will do very well on the WOW-factor. Nearly all ten dishes we sampled at Meritage were excellent. Indeed, based on one visit, Meritage is near the top of a very short list of restaurants to take or send out-of-town visitors in search of a "four star" meal.
Meritage is a new restaurant in the Boston Harbor Hotel. As our waiter announced to us before our meal, the philosophy of the restaurant is to take the concept of the annual Wine Festival held at the Boston Harbor Hotel and extend it year-round.
Accordingly, the restaurant has two quirks. First, the menu is organized not by appetizer, entree, etc., but rather into six sections, each section reflecting different style of wine (e.g. Sparklers, Light Whites, Full-Bodied Whites, etc.). Second, all dishes are available in small ($14) or large ($28) portions. Our waiter told us that the restaurant strongly recommends that diners order small dishes so that they can sample many tastes, and because many of the dishes are intended to be small. This turned out to be good advice. Our waiter also recommended that each diner have four small dishes. In our opinion, that is too many. We were more than full after ten small dishes and dessert. Three per person should be plenty. Note: If one eats slowly, and somewhat lightly, it is possible to visit Meritage, to a certain extent, "on the cheap."
Although it is very difficult to choose preferences among dishes as expertly prepared as the ten dishes we had, I will try to list the dishes from our favorite to the least favorite:
1. Honey Brushed Cornish Game Hen over Ricotta Stuffed Cialsons and Roasted Leeks
Beautifully cooked hen, slightly sweet from the honey. The strong flavor of the leeks just stopped short of overpowering the rest of the dish.
2. Grilled Sea Scallops with Oregon Morels
I find morels and scallops to be a perfect pair, and this version was, indeed, perfect.
3. Yellow Tomato and Lime Ceviche of Blue Point Oysters with Wild Arugula
The Duxbury oysters could have been brinier for my taste, but I'm really stretching to find anything wrong with this wonderful morsel.
4. Soft Shell Crab with small tomatoes and large lima beans
Best soft shell crab I ever remember having. Period.
5. Black Pepper Seared Rare Yellow Fin Tuna with Zinfandel Butter
Again, I'm stretching to find anything wrong with the dish by observing that the tuna was not as rare as I like it to be, but it was unusually full of flavor for a fish that can often be bland.
6. Red Wine Braised Pork Cheeks over Spring Dug Parsnip and Parmesan Cheese Risotto
Delicious combination of flavors.
7. Slow Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast over Spring Vegetables and Burlat Cherry Sauce
Your classic duck with fruit dish, brought up to date.
8. Wood Grilled Summer Savory and Horseradish Rubbed Bob White Quail Over Green Chick Peas and Shredded Baby Artichokes
Worth picking up and sucking the bones for every last morsel of the tasty flesh.
9. Cumin and Cilantro Roasted Rack of Lamb, Fava Beans and Sardinian Cous Cous
Very mild lamb. But, darn good.
10. La Belle Foie Gras over Spring Braising Greens and Organic Rhubarb Pinot Compote
The evening's one disappointment. The bitter greens and rhubarb compote would have been delightful with an Alsatian sausage, or something similar. With the foie gras, however, the flavors jarred. Even the die-hard foie gras devotee at the table declared it the evening's least impressive dish. They need to fix this one.
Incidentally, the place was nearly empty. No trouble getting in. Helpful service. A beautiful, wood-floored space overlooking Rowes Wharf. Even wine prices were fairly reasonable. In short: a great place to splurge.
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