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Friday, March 30, 2012

Henrietta's Table was Fresh and Fantastic

Henrietta's Table is one of my favorite restaurant's in the Boston area. It's simple yet the food is outstanding. Their schtick is that the food is as local as possible and as fresh as possible. Their restaurant week menu is perfect, essentially for lunch you get to pick two or three courses for $15.12 or $20.12. Dinner is set up the same way, but this restaurant week, I went to lunch with my family. The restaurant is bright and airy and for the warmer months, there is an outside patio.

We were all famished when we walked in exactly on time for our 1:30pm reservation on Friday. We had beat the indoor lunch rush, but the patio was hopping. Before we ordered, the waitress brought over the most delicious bread. It was whole wheat, cranberry nut and a take on white bread with fresh butter. The bread was made in house or at Pain D'Avignon (one of my other favorites).

My dad and I both ordered the tomato soup which was as my dad put it "the best tomato soup of his life." The soup was vegan, which meant that it was vegetable based and did not have any cream. I will admit that I detest cream based soups, they are too heavy for me, so I agree with my dad when he says the soup was fantastic. It was zestier than a tomato sauce and had celery and other vegetables. I was trying to save room for the main course so I did not finish my soup, but it did not go to waste at the table.

My sister ordered the portobello mushroom on a bed of spinach with cheese on top. She loved it. I was glad I ordered the tomato soup because it was more unique. I however appreciated that the mushroom appetizer used local cheese on top. My mom opted out of the appetizer to save room for some chocolate sorbet.

For entrees, I ordered a chopped salad. It was perfect, with lettuce, avocado, bacon, tomato and house smoked turkey. I chose to get the lemon vinaigrette on it because I am not a blue cheese dressing fan. I loved how simple yet delicious the salad was. As I have mentioned before, I think salads taste so much better when they are chopped and this was great with a little bit of everything in each bite. When I come back for lunch another time, I will get this salad.

My sister and mom ordered the scrod. It was very fresh and encrusted in ritz crackers. There were also potatoes and lemon. The dish was again simple and tasty. There is something very satisfying about a fresh piece of fish.

My dad ordered a salad. He loves anything with chicken wherever he goes and likes nothing more than a good healthy salad for lunch, especially since this justifies a decadent dessert. My dad ordered the rotisserie chicken salad. It was a simple green salad with the same lemon vinaigrette dressing I had on mine. The chicken was flavorful and the salad was light and left enough room for dessert.

In case you have not guessed from the previous blog posts, I love dessert. I wait for it, I sometimes just seek it out. If it was appropriate, I would probably just live off of chocolate, but then I would not keep my girlish figure. Henrietta's Table has fantastic homemade dessert that leaves me wishing I had more room in my stomach. My mom was geared up for her chocolate sorbet which was good. Part of the decision to have sorbet was around avoidance of dairy. It was tasty but I think she would have preferred a dairy free fruit pie because that's her favorite and Henrietta's fruit tart, which my dad, sister and I shared was delicious.

It was a  small pie with apples and cranberry and vanilla ice cream (we swapped the two ice creams after the picture). I am extremely critical of fruit pies because I have an apple crisp recipe I often whip up which is simple and perfect. Henrietta's Table's fruit pie was to die for. The crust was flaky, the inside was still a little bit crunchy and it was not too sweet. Maybe I will have to get their cook book to learn their secret. We also got a chocolate bread pudding to share with coffee ice cream instead of vanilla because we wanted to try another kind of their homemade ice cream. The bread pudding was incredible. I think it was brioche drenched in chocolate baked with perfection. It came with a banana and caramel topping. My favorite dessert combination is banana and chocolate or banana and coffee and here, we had both! My suggestion to you is if you only have enough for one course at Henrietta's table that you run as fast as you can to get their bread pudding. Just think, while you are running, you are burning some calories.

Overall, Henrietta's Table was fantastic. I can't wait to come back again. I had never been for lunch before and I like that it is the same great food at a slightly lower price point. I enjoy that they treat restaurant week as an opportunity to showcase all that they can do. Their outstanding job with restaurant week leaves me hungry with anticipation for the next meal I will have there. In the meantime, I may stop by just for the bread pudding.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Moved by Mooo....

In honor of spring feeling like it sprung and restaurant week, I surprised my beau for a lunch at Mooo.... He had raved about the delicious steak and I love going to steak houses but rarely indulge unless the price is right. A three course meal at Mooo.... was $20.12 each which felt like a steal for the amount of delicious and beautiful food we ate. It is rare (pun intended) to have a lunch date, so we decided to live on the wild side, or at least my dining partner did, and I tried everything on the table!

We were slightly early for our noon reservation and the hostess sat us right away at a very pretty table with horsehair pillows on the booth side of the table. I found the decor to be ornate. The restaurant's menu was so simple and classic, I felt like a queen on a throne with pillows.

To start off we had the most delicious rolls that were sweet and salty with simple butter (not pictured). I ordered a steakhouse salad. It was awesome with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta and that dressing which immediately makes you think of a steakhouse. It's oil vinegar and spices, simple yet perfect. If I was not indulging in three full courses, I would have been happy eating this salad with a piece of protein on top--it was so tasty.

My dining partner won the adventurous game. If you guessed that he ordered steak tartare, you are correct. Neither or us had ever eaten steak tartare before, but his logic was, where else would I try it? Since Mooo.... was such a good restaurant, he decided to live live on the raw side. The steak tartare was delicious, it came with flat breads and the raw meat was mixed with onions, capers and possibly tomato. The best way to describe it's consistency was a meaty fresh salsa. It was really flavorful and tossed with some oil, salt and pepper. 

We realized after the fact that we were ironic by ordering our sirloin steak medium after eating raw meat. The meat was cooked to perfection. The grill lines were perfect and the outside was caramelized while the inside was perfectly pink. The steak was thicker in the middle, so it was slightly rarer where the meat was thicker. In hindsight, I wish I had ordered the meat medium rare because the quality was so high that it would have been that much more delicious. The steak was served on top of a bed of watercress and fingerling potatoes. I am not a stinky cheese fan, so I held the blue cheese, but my dining partner had the meal as it was. The potatoes were simple with some salt and pepper on them and the watercress was simple. I'll be honest, I focused on making sure I ate my steak and potatoes, so by the time I got to the watercress, I was ready for the delicious chocolate dessert.

The dessert was outstanding! I love chocolate dessert anytime, especially after a steak. We had two of the same desserts. It was a brownie with vanilla ice cream and a homemade marshmallow on top. There was caramel sauce on the bottom and it was homemade and perfect. It tasted like toffee that had not hardened yet. The portion was the right size. I wanted more because it was so delicious but I would have had no where to put it because I was so full. The brownie was rich, like a piece of flowerless chocolate cake. It was smooth and not too sweet. The ice cream was homemade as was the marshmallow. I mentioned it before but I think a homemade marshmallow is a great alternative to whipped cream on a chocolate dessert. We both loved this dessert, it was a stack of happiness.

Overall, Mooo.... was outstanding. I walked out into the sunshine feeling satisfied and energized whatever else the day had in store for me. I hope to throw a party in their downstairs cellar room. I'm looking forward to coming back here sometime and trying their American Wagyu  Dumplings and a porterhouse (my favorite cut of steak). Until then, I will think about the perfect meal I had and how daring we were to try steak tartare.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mistral: You made my heart sing & stomach smile

It is my favorite time of the year and that's not just because the weather is getting nicer, but it's because Boston Restaurant Week is upon us. There are 12 beautifully delicious days of discounted feasting. I had heard rave reviews for Mistral in Back Bay and wanted to know if the rumors were true. In order to orchestrate the event, I booked a table months ago. This is the type of place that I would usually go to once or twice a year for a truly special special occasion. The regular menu is definitely in the fine dining price category, so being able to eat three courses for $33.12 was a steal. I'm not kidding here, the restaurant week menu was less than the cost of one entree usually. Sometimes I shy away from situations like this because part of the beauty of going to such a nice restaurant is the service. In the past I had bad experiences with service on restaurant week, but Mistral showcased excellence.

For the meal, we both ordered Caesar salads to start. I ordered the statler chicken with risotto, asparagus and mushrooms. My sister got a steak with red wine reduction, Gorgonzola butter and potatoes. For dessert I got a devils food cake with ice cream on top and caramel sauce decorating the plate, and she got profiteroles. Prior to our meals, we got to enjoy perfectly baked bread with butter and a garlicky homemade hummus. In order to keep a girlish figure, I am rationing my bread intake during restaurant week to one slice/roll per meal. This was hard to do because the spreads were so delicious. See below for the bread picture.

The Caesar salads were delicious. Last weekend I learned about how important it is to showcase really good cheese and Mistral clearly got the hint. The dressing was light with the perfect amount of seasoning and cheese. They put Parmesan cheese on top. The croutons were homemade and I did not want the salad to end. Luckily once it did, we were greeted with the most beautiful main courses.

For the main courses my sister was dead set on steak. She had been counting down to a good steak and boy was it delicious. The steak was perfectly cooked and the potatoes were a nice compliment to the hearty sirloin. I normally can't stand blue cheese, but I tasted her dish and loved it. One of my favorite things about dining with a close friend or family member is that we can order different dishes but experience them all together.

When it comes to ordering, I want to know the story and what the waiter or waitress thinks. I learned early that if they are enthusiastic, the dish is usually good. I was planning to order the salmon, but I asked Natalie, our waitress about the chicken or the salmon and her face lit up about the chicken, so I went with her recommendation and I am glad I did. Chicken was a staple in my house growing up, so I rarely would choose to have it out, but I have evolved. The chicken was outstanding. The skin was perfectly crisped and the inside was moist. The cut of the chicken was the Statler, so it was white meat. I always thought chicken was simple, but there have been countless times where I've had dry white meat. This chicken was moist and delicious on top of a risotto. The portions were perfectly sized. It was so tasty that I wish I could have eaten more, but I needed to save room for dessert.

I love dessert especially chocolate desserts with ice cream. We both had ice cream filled chocolate desserts. Between the profiteroles and the devils food cake, I think the profiteroles were slightly better than the devils food cake. I say slightly so that if you have to choose between the two you know which is best. I recommend that you order both and just share them. The devils food cake was a perfect chocolate cake with creamy vanilla ice cream and a lace cookie on top. I could not get enough. The profiterole was delicious. The pastry was flaky and the ice cream and chocolate sauce bountiful. We both concluded at the end or the dessert course that it was inappropriate to lick our plates because we were at a fancy restaurant. Had we been at home, the plates would have been licked.

Overall Mistral was outstanding. It deserves all of the praise it gets. The service and food were both outstanding. I feel lucky that we were able to eat like queens and not break the bank. I can't wait to go here again next year for restaurant week or for a celebration. Looking forward to trying brunch. If you are trying to figure out where to go for restaurant week, I would call daily to see if they get cancellations.

Photos all taken as the food was served.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Osaka is on fire

In a fun outing to Osaka, it was about the show! Hibachi holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it delicious but it's entertainment. For anyone who has not visited Osaka on Green St in Coolidge Corner, I recommend it. The place is modern and open with lots of light and beautiful stone walls. The menu is extensive with many options to have hibachi or just sushi. I say just because I think the big draw is watching people swirl utensils, make a rice heart beat and create an onion volcano.

They are extremely accommodating of food allergies and the food is tasty. The best part was the fried rice with half a container of soy sauce, a slab of butter and eggs. The chicken that I had was tasty with sake on top. My dining buddies enjoyed their scallops and shrimp. While the meal is not cheap, if you see it as dinner and entertainment, it is reasonably priced.

Next time I go, I will need to try a scorpion bowl. It looks like they have a great private space for a party below.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fantastic Pho at LES Allston

My heart and soul became a little warmer at LES Allston after having some delicious chicken pho. Pho is a fancy name for Vietnamese chicken soup. LES is one of my absolute favorite neighborhood spots because sometimes all I want is some warm and relaxing chicken soup. My other half, always wants some hot and spicy flavor, so this is the perfect destination to feed both of our soupy needs.

The restaurant itself is very simple. There are two rooms of booths and a very extensive menu. It is very reasonably priced and the portions are huge (see half eaten above). I ordered a "medium" soup for $6.95, which was big enough to share or have for three meals. The service was outstanding. Our water glasses were always full and they did not rush us out while we sat and chatted. 

I wasn't too hungry, so I just ordered the soup and didn't snazz it up with any of the bazil, sprouts, sauces or lime. However, my partner in crime ordered the fresh rolls (which are delicious) with pork and veggies. He also added to his soup. Can you tell the difference? This is not just to show that opposites attract, but to show that anyone can go to LES and be happy. It's an interactive eating experience where no bowl of soup has to be the same. Some like it hot and others like it spicy, yet all can be happy here!

Can't wait to revisit for a deliciously reasonable treat. I mean how often can two people be served dinner for under $25 including tax and tip? In the meantime, I'm going to go reheat my leftovers.