The "other" South End project from Barbara Lynch is open, a gourmet meat market that turns into a short-menu, small-plate wine bar at night. We wander in on Halloween night and are immediately accosted by the manager, who gives us a warm welcome and quick tour. A giant butcher block and big fridge display cases full of hanging sausages, meats and game dominate the rear. The soapstone bar up front seats about 20. It's a cozy yet sleek-looking space, opened way up from the old Rave 552 which preceded it. It'll be a butcher shop 8a-8p, a wine/snack bar 8-12p.
The wine list is interesting, ranging mostly over France and Italy, and all over the price spectrum. I grab one of the most modest ones, a Cotes du Roussillon, a spicy red Languedoc. Expert, formal wine service of the kind you rarely see locally: rinsing the glasses and decanter with a bit of wine first, very nice stemware. We're impressed with the friendliness and efficiency of the staff, though the place isn't exactly packed (it opened two nights before).
We get three small plates: figs cooked in honey and fennel (beautiful, very sweet, and about 10 times the portion we need; the rest comes home with us); a cheese plate with two Vermont sheeps-milk cheeses (one fresh, one aged) with a dollop of lovely rhubarb relish; and a small charcuterie plate ($8, also available in medium and large at $16 and $24).
Excellent in-house prosciutto and another cured meat, perhaps a soppresata, rather spicy and wonderful. Chunks of homemade, grilled weiners (what do you know, they taste much like ordinary hot dogs, but are grayish instead of pink and have a much nicer texture), some excellent pickle chips, and a dollop of good grainy mustard.
The cheese and meats plates are served with toasted bread points, which I suppose is traditional, but I don't like. (The charcuterie also comes with an oily flatbread that I do like.) I ask for some untoasted bread, and am given one of their panino rolls, which serves just fine, though I'd be happier with a baguette or some Tuscan bread.
The whole schmeer comes to $48 pre-tip, half of that wine. A fantastic way to pass an autumn evening. I'm looking forward to trying the pressed panini (they did one that looked like a dessert, with those figs, some gorgonzola, and arugula), the marrow on toast, the fois gras, the cassoulet (listed as a special), and the rest of the Atkins-friendly menu.
This also means I won't have to schlep over to Savenour's when I need pricey, restaurant-class cuts of meat for home cooking (the butcher shop menu is long, with cool items like duck fat, local chickens, and bratwurst). We're told they're hoping to do a morning service of coffee and pastries, too. If they continue to live up to our first experience here, this will be a terrific addition to the neighborhood.