Smith and Wollensky + Giveaway!

>>  Friday, July 23, 2010

It's not everyday you get to dine inside of a castle.

It's even more rare to be able to dine inside of an armory, especially when that armory still maintains and preserves much of the history of the original armory.

And how often do you get to climb to the top of the armory and look down towards Boston?

And then finish off with some fantastic dry-aged prime steaks, fresh lobster, and truffled mac & cheese?

Guess what? This has got to be one of the best kept secrets for tourists in Boston. Come to Smith & Wollensky, enjoy a fascinating tour of the armory, and then sit down to a great meal in the beautiful dining room.

Let me take you on a sneak peek of this experience!

We met with Wayne, the general manager of Boston's Smith & Wollensky, who had kindly invited us to try out their new summer grill menu. Little did I expect such a neat tour of this fascinating building.

Some background first. This castle was home to the First Corps of Cadets, Massachusetts' volunteer militia. From 1891 to about the 1960's, the Cadets lived, studied, drilled, and worked in this building. After they left in the 1960's, the building sort of sat around, falling into disrepair. It wasn't until the early 2000's when Smith & Wollensky spent $12 million restoring and updating this building to its current state today.

Upstairs is a museum of sorts where they have a collection of various types of military uniforms throughout history. Wayne knows some pretty interesting facts about each uniform, and he tells great stories about each one.
There are also some beautiful beautiful dining rooms on the upper floors. These can be rented out for private events, or are sometimes open to guests depending on the season.
Much of the architecture has been restored back to its original form. Up here, you really feel like you have traveled back in time.
The further up you go, the more interesting it becomes! Here we are at the top. As you can see, they are still working on this space and trying to figure out what to do with it. Any ideas?
Can you guess what this table was used for? Cadets would lay out maps on the large table and strategize while higher level officials could looked down from the upper floor and keep an eye on what was going on.
And then all of a sudden we are on the 6th floor turret. A turret is a small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building.
Here we are peeking through a "crenellation," a type of architecture where cutouts exist in the wall enabling fighters to discharge arrows or other weapons out towards the enemy.

At the top, signal flags could be used to communicate with the State House across Boston Common, whose flat open space afforded clear views across the top of the trees.

What a beautiful view of Boston!

After soaking in the view for a few minutes, we slowly stepped our way down to the kitchen.

First Stop: Steak Aging Room!
All steaks are butchered and dry-aged for 28 days on site. I was really impressed with the dedicated dry-aging cold room. It was immaculate, set at the perfect temperature, and seemed really well organized.
Wine cellar Smith & Wollensky
We briefly stopped by the huge wine cellar.

And then it was finally time for dinner.
And now it's finally time to look at the food! Here's a look at some of the offerings off of the Summer Grill Menu. Of course, the menu has a lot of their classics, such as their popular ribeye or filet mignon. However, it also has a lot of lighter summer fare, such as various flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads. There is a significant focus on lobster, such as surf & turf and lobster mac& cheese.
Spicy Lobster and Avocado Flatbread - $12
We both really enjoyed this dish. The flatbread was light and crispy, and the toppings were fresh and flavorful. I especially enjoyed the contrasting flavors and textures of the crispy flat bread, the creamy avocados, the juicy tomatoes, and the fragrant cilantro. Of course, Bryan loves avocados and cilantro. He basically remarked that "you can't go wrong" with this combination of toppings.
Lobster Salad - $20
arugula, butternut lettuce, hearts of palm, mango,red pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, mango-chili vinaigrette
Similarly, we both really liked the salad as well. I love palm hearts and corn in any salad, so I was quite pleased. This salad is chock full of lobster meat, so it's a bit pricier but worth the money.
Miso-glazed Chilean Sea Bass - $34
Asian slaw, lemon teriyaki
I told the waiter I wanted something lighter for my entrée, and he recommended this fish dish as his favorite. I thought the dish was well executed, with a nice crispy exterior and soft, melt-in-your-mouth interior. The miso-glaze, although not the most creative of flavors, is a solid stand-by that is reliably tasty.
20 oz bone-in Ribeye Steak - $33
Of course, this is a steak house, so we had to try their steak. Bryan always orders ribeye because he thinks it has the most flavor of any cut. The waiter took the time to caution us that the restaurant tends to cook meat on the rarer side (like in Europe), so we should take that into account when ordering.

Bryan's response?

"Great! I'll have it rare please."
They did a fantastic job.
Check out that perfect "crust" that forms a thin layer around the pink and still slightly cold inside. Bryan loved it.
Creamed Spinach, Rosemary Foccacia (complimentary), Sauteed Mushrooms, Hash Brown Potatoes
all sides are $10 except for the baked potato ($6) and are meant to be shared

We also ordered a bunch of sides to share. Their bread (upper right) is amazing and one of the best "sides" on the menu. Best yet, it's free! The rest of the sides were OK, although none blew me away. In my book, winner for "best mushrooms at a steakhouse" is still Craftsteak in Las Vegas. My favorite hash browns hands down go to The Oceanaire (just make sure you order it "a la Oceanaire" style).
Lobster Truffled Mac & Cheese ($16)
The lobster mac & cheese (summer special item) was pretty good. It's basically the truffle mac & cheese off of the regular menu but with lobster added.
Wollensky Butcher Burger - $13
One of our favorite items was actually the burger! At $13 we thought it was an incredible deal. Bryan even said that he liked it better than Tony Maws' famous bone-marrow infused grass-fed burger at Craigie on Main, which, by the way, costs almost 50% more than this one. This burger was incredibly juicy and just had a beautiful inherent beef flavor. Keep in mind these are burgers made with 28-day dry aged prime beef. It's not surprising that they are so good.
And for $13, it's a total steal. They did a great job of cooking it medium-rare just like we ordered. The fries were forgettable (I think we said we liked the ones at Five Guys a lot better), but we were so distracted by the juicy burger that we hardly noticed.
Coconut Cream Cake
Coconut Cream Cake
By this time we were pretty stuffed, but for the sake of our readers we thought we should try a few desserts. I'm not a huge fan of coconut, but I still thought this cake was nice in that it was light, not too sweet, and overall had a good, fluffy texture. It sort of reminded me of Asian cakes.
Strawberry Short Cake
Strawberry Short Cake
I love strawberry shortcake, especially one that's made with a biscuit like this one. I thought this dessert was very enjoyable, and if I were to come back, I would choose this one over the coconut cake. In general, their desserts are traditional and solid.

Any more thoughts?
Our general impression about this place was that these guys really know how to prepare and cook meat. We know that some people may not be used to the fact that they tend to undercook their meat compared to other steakhouses. However, after being used to having meat overcooked all the time, this was a welcomed relief. Plus, the steaks have really good flavor because they are prime and have been dry-aged for almost a month.

The summer grill menu items, such as the lobster avocado flatbread and the lobster salad, were surprisingly good. I especially loved the bright citrus-y flavors of the salad, which had corn, palm hearts, and lobster tossed together in a mango vinaigrette. The sides underwhelmed me, but then they are not the star of the meal anyway.

We both loved the burger and still think it's the best burger deal in town.

If you are interested in the tour, just make a note of it in your dinner reservation, which you can do through their website.

Wayne was kind enough to offer me two $50 gift certificates to give away on this blog. Here are ways to enter. Please leave a comment for each entry.

1) What is your favorite steak or burger place, and why?
2) Tweet about this Givewaway. Please make sure to include a link to this post and also mention @tinyurbankitchn
3) Blog about this Givewaway and link to this post. Please provide a link to your post in the comments here.

I will draw TWO winners next week on Wednesday night at midnight.

Good luck!
Smith and Wollensky
101 Arlington St
Boston, MA 02116
Smith & Wollensky on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: Time to time I receive products, meals, etc. for free as a food blogger. I do not receive any payment for these posts/reviews. The views expressed in the posts are completely my own. This meal (minus the alcohol) was paid for by Smith & Wollensky.

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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