>> Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Has it already been a year? It really feels like just yesterday that Bryan and I celebrated our 8th anniversary at Barbara Lynch's then flagship restaurant. And then - woosh - all of a sudden a year has flown by and, again, we are visiting Barbara Lynch's new flagship restaurant for our anniversary.
It's been nearly five months since Menton (pronounced "Mon-ton") opened in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston. With Menton, Barbara Lynch ambitiously set out to out-do even herself in offering a new level of haute cuisine here in Boston. The service, the food, the ambiance - Menton aims to be at the level of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Barbara Lynch is convinced that there is a market for fine dining in Boston, and she's willing to take the risk on Menton to prove this point.
In celebration of our 9th anniversary (which is actually today!), we visited Menton on Sunday evening.
The space is modern, bright, and airy. Bryan had requested a window seat for us (what a thoughtful husband!) so that I could have good lighting for my pictures. Of course, since it was our anniversary, we opted for the 7-course Chef's Tasting ($145). You can also get a 4-course meal for $95. The wine pairing with the Chef's tasting menu is an additional $105.
Amuse bouche: white bean veloute with forbidden rice, wild mushroom
We started with a lovely amuse bouch, which was really just 1-2 spoonfuls of a light, velvety white bean soup. Lovely flavors, and a great way to whet the appetite. The croissant came early in the meal (lower left), and the rest of the bread came a little later. I loved all the different types of bread, which tasted fantastic with whatever butter was served alongside them.
Rock Crab Salad
Grapefruit, Almond, White Sturgeon Caviar
2008 Heidi Schrock Muscat
The first course was incredible. Beautifully plated with such precision, this dish also have wonderfully complex flavors. I loved how the grapefruit added just a little citrus-y bitterness, which cut the richness of the caviar and the crab perfectly.
Clean Seas' Bluefin Tuna Tartare
Heirloom Tomato, Lemon Cucumber, Yogurt
2009 Chateau Peyrassol Cotes de Provence Rose
Again, I was really impressed with the presentation of this dish. Each individual flower seemed to be placed with the utmost care in its own special place on the plate. The tuna itself was high quality and tasted very good -not a hint of stringiness. Bryan did comment that the way in which the tuna was cut reminded him more of a poke than a tartare. He couldn't help but think about the super-finely cut cubes we've seen from other high-end establishments. To him, this slightly "rougher" cutting style made this dish just a little less refined than some of the top restaurants we've visited.*
Pain Perdu, Grilled Local Romaine, Dill
2007 Qupe Roussanne "Bien Nacido Hillside Estate"
Bryan commented that this meal felt very "New England," which I think is pretty unique. Who else than Barbara Lynch to take Boston's quintessential dishes and transform them into her version of haute cuisine? It's something unique that she can offer which distinguishes her from other chefs in other regions of the country. Bryan thought this dish tasted really good. The lobster is succulent, juicy, and poached in butter! The pain perdu on top is essentially a fancy French toast. According to the server, this is Barbara Lynch's interpretation of a Lobster Roll, deconstructed.
Summer Vegetables, Lobster Mushroom
2007 Nigl Gruner Veltliner "Privat"
Our next course was a total surprise, since it was not on the menu. The chef sent out an extra course. This deeply rich risotto had a wonderfully rich mushroom essence from the lobster mushrooms. The risotto had that perfect, chewy texture, and the vegetables tasted aromatic and sweet. Bryan was shocked to find out that this dish was completely vegetarian since it had such strong umami flavors. Really really good.
Seared Fois Gras de Canard
Wild Maine Blueberries, Lemon, Basil
NV Velenosi Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, "Visciole"
Another New England twist, this seared fois gras is paired with Main blueberries, which, according to Bryan, "works surprisingly well." I don't usually like fois gras that much, but for some reason I really enjoyed this entree and actually ate the whole thing (usually I end up giving Bryan my fois gras). The fois gras was perfectly grilled and had a nice, seared crust. Bryan agreed that it was one of the best seared fois gras he has ever had (and that's saying a lot!).
St. Canut Farm's Porcelet
Green Tomato Jam, Fava Beans, Rapini
2008 Hirsch Estate Pinot Noir "Storyteller's Cuvee"
By this point I was starting regret eating all that bread in the beginning because I was really getting full! That extra risotto course (thought delicious) did not help the stomach-size problem. This dish was an interesting take on pork in three ways. I can't remember all three, but I think it was pork loin, pork belly, and tete de cochon (pig's head - we had something similar at the French Laundry). All three bites were delicious, and I liked how the rich pork contrasted with the bitter rapini. The slight tartness from the green tomato jam was also a great addition. It really made me want to try making tomato jam.
PT Farm's Strip Loin of Beef
Carrot, Langue de Boeuf, Sauce Perigueux
Although this beef was fine, it was not earth-shattering in anyway. The flavors were nice, but did not stand out as being particularly inventive or amazing. "Solidly prepared, but nothing extraordinary."
I was about to pop when the server rolled out the cheese cart. Of course, Bryan LOVES cheese and was still very game to keep on eating. Our server did a fantastic job of describing all the different cheeses, and Bryan ended up picking the ones she seemed to rave about the most.
Hooligan - Connecticut
Nostrale di Elva - Piedmont, Italy
Chiviri - Extremadura, Spain
2007 Kracher Beeranauslese Cuvee
Excellent choices! My favorite was the Hooligan, which is great since it's kind of locally made. I also really liked the tangy chiviri, which was great on the little toasts that they gave us.
We had a few lovely baby macarons in all different flavors. Bryan thought they were way too sweet, but then he doesn't even like macarons. I thought they were sweet too, and definitely nowhere as good as other ones I've had. I did think it was unique that they had a black sesame flavored macaron though. I mean, how often do you see that flavor?
We finally ended with a lovely chocolate dessert. Read the plate!
Vanilla Glace, Cherry, Marcona Almond
2009 Marenco Brachetto d'Acqui "pineto"
This deeply rich chocolate cake was paired with a light, bright sparkling red wine - something I've never had before. The pairing worked surprisingly well, and I really enjoyed it. Even though I did not order the wine pairing, they were nice enough to give me a glass "just for a taste." In fact, they did this twice, also giving me a complimentary glass of wine with our "surprise" risotto course. It was great service on their part to invite me to try a few of these "tastes" at no cost.
After the meal, we had a chance to check out one of their cool private dining rooms called The Chef's Table. This room has a direct view into the kitchen. Isn't that SO COOL?? You can just stand there and watch them prepare food all night while enjoying your own dinner. Unfortunately, there's a $1500 minimum to reserve this room (it seats up to 12), but hey, you never know, sometimes restaurants will waive that fee if you call last minute.
We had a wonderful time at Menton and we both agreed that it sets a new standard for Boston. There's no question it's one of the nicest restaurants in Boston. It definitely reminds me a lot more of the restaurants in New York.
The service was definitely top notch. If my water glass was even a tad empty, someone would come straight away to refill it. Timing was impeccable. The moment after I finished the last bite of a dish, someone would come and whisk it away. At one point in the evening, a woman even came up to me and offered me a shawl because I looked cold. Now THAT's service!
Bryan thinks it still doesn't quite reach the level of the 3-star Michelin restaurants we've visited, but then, it's not priced that way either. Most of those restaurants are over $200/person, while Menton comes in right under $150. Considering how there are many subpar tasting menus in Boston that still cost over $100, Menton is (in a twisted way) almost a bargain when you consider the level of food, service, and ambiance you are enjoying.
I think it's funny how we've visited Barbara Lynch restaurants two anniversaries in a row. People are like, "what are you going to do for your tenth, fly Thomas Keller to your home so he can cook for you?" [update! - this is where we went]
Ha ha, I wish - as if we need to top ourselves every year. In truth, it doesn't really matter where I go for my next anniversary. I'm just as happy sitting at home and eating a simple home-cooked meal. As long as we're together, I don't care where we spend our next anniversary.
Happy Anniversary Bryan!
354 Congress St.
Boston, MA 02210
* yes, we're being nit-picky at this point, but if you are aiming to be world class restaurant, than all of a sudden you're under a pretty crazy standard