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Revisitng old favorites; Mat Purphy's and Cafe Suisse


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Revisitng old favorites; Mat Purphy's and Cafe Suisse

Chris VR | Oct 20, 2002 09:15 PM

We were out and about in town yesterday and revisited 2 places we've eaten well in the past. Neither disappointed- it's good to know that there are some places you can depend on.

For lunch it was down to Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village: a favorite haunt of ours from when we lived in Coolidge Corner. You have to respect any place that has kosher salt in the salt shakers, serves unsalted butter with fabulous brown and sourdough breads and refuses to give in and serve American style ketchup (instead, they offer malt vinegar and homemade ketchup, with a strong curry taste and brimming with onions and other yummy goodness.) The quality has stayed consistent over the years and although the menu is pretty much the same, just about everything on it is simple, but done perfectly.

We shared a bowl of Cream of Turnip soup, and the attentive waitress was kind enough to bring the soup in 2 bowls, each of which looked like a full serving (their regular bowls are ENORMOUS.) This was a perfect fall meal, spicy and creamy, without a lot of mucking about with the turnipy goodness. A bowl of this soup and the wonderful bread is just what you need to soothe the soul on a cold winter day.

We both ordered sandwiches and split, so each of us had half of a roasted pork sandwich and half of an egg salad with lettuce and bacon sandwich. The pork was homey and comforting, served on hearty sourdough bread with an onion relish. On the side was a sweet yellow cabbage that was a bit too mild to get me interested. The egg salad was the only disappointment of the meal. While the hand cut bacon was wonderful, the egg salad itself was mealy-textured and boring. Both meals came with wonderful handcut french fries, not too thin or thick, and tasting purely of potato. YUM. The check for 2 was $26, with the warning that they don't accept credit cards. An ATM is right across the street if this comes as a surprise to you. On street parking is pretty manageable, and it's a short walk from the Brookline Village stop on the Green D line.

We met friends for dinner at Cafe Suisse, in the Suissotel, which I really think is a hidden gem in the Boston dining scene: and I say let it stay hidden so we can continue to walk in there without a reservation on a Saturday night and get seated in the buttery soft leather booths.

They have a standard menu, which includes a selection of Swiss specialties, and are also featuring a fall menu with lots of interesting choices, including pheasant terrine, venison osso bucco, quail and buffalo burger.

A good breadbasket with sourdough rolls and "birdseed" rolls started the meal. Some started with pumpkin bisque with granny smith apples and crabmeat, from the seasonal menu. I only tasted, and thought it was a lot milder and subtle than I had expected. Pumpkin is so often one of those tastes that slams you over the head with nutmeg and cinnamon, but this soup didn't go too far in that direction. I had a pretty good Caesar salad, which was a bit too heavy on the dressing, which I though was a bit too light on the anchovy.

We moved on to the cheese fondue, and while I know some here have said it's not authentic, I think it's perfectly fine. How can you go wrong with gooey melty cheese? One of us thought it was a little too liquery from the kirschwasser added, but the rest enjoyed sopping it all up with bread chunks, pickles, tomatoes and pickled onions.

My entree was from the fall menu: butternut squash ravioli in a sauce of oven dried tomatoes and manchego cheese. This was a very rich tasting dish, and is available in an appetizer size for $8 (and 4 ravioli) less. I wish I'd gone for the smaller size as my friend did- not that it wasn't delicious, but there way no way I could finish the meal size. (But it reheated well for lunch today!) I really enjoyed the flavors, but did feel that the butternut squash taste got lost in the mix

Hubby went lighter with a salad from the Swiss menu: Mache with a light coating of french dressing. Didn't look too exciting (or Swiss, for that matter, but I don't really know what Swiss food looks like!) but he enjoyed it. Another in our party had the quail which came nicely presented- I forgot to ask for a taste or to ask him what he thought, but he seemed to enjoy it, especially the little square of bleu cheese-topped polenta that came alongside.

Dessert was the chocolate fondue, which came with honeydew melon, pineapple, strawberries, and marshmallows for dipping. We all enjoyed it, although last time we ordered it I thought the taste was better, with hazelnut overtones. This time it was more straight bittersweet chocolate flavor, still yummy though. I can't figure out why they don't also serve it with cubes of sweet bread, or angelfood cake.

Others indulged in drinks: a house cab (nothing spectacular but a decent wine), martinis (no complaints), tawny port and a very sweet dessert wine, which came filled to the brim of a large wine glass, but still managed to get polished off pretty quickly!

The server was professional and attentive and I think the decor is perfectly nice, for a hotel restaurant. Funky art on the walls elevates it a step above the average hotel cafe. The booths are definitely the best seats in the house. It's not a cheap night, with most entrees hovering around $20-$30. We ended up with a tab of $183 pre-tip, for 4 of us. Parking in the garage attached to the hotel was $10 (weekend rate, maybe also at night?) It's right behind the Loewes Boston Common so well within walking distance of most of the T lines.

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