Tag Archives: Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: Amber India (Yerba Buena – SF)

restaurant review, san francisco, indianOn a recent business trip to California, I found myself with a spare evening before flying home so I decided to try an Indian restaurant between Mission and Market Streets called Amber India.  Large glass windows allowed me to look into a sleek dining room and comfortable lounge so I opted to check it out; preferring the bar over the larger dining room so I could people watch while eating.  The people watching proved to be a bust; nobody that interesting despite the bustling lounge but my seat was very comfortable and the service was excellent.

Amber India San Francisco, Yerba Buena

Amber India Yerba Buena Tandoori Chicken and Onion Chilli Kulcha

Apparently Amber India has five different locations but this is the only one in San Francisco and as near as I can tell it opened back in 2011.  It is conveniently located next to the Four Seasons Hotel in a small promenade that is home to several other restaurants as well.  There is a separate bar menu comprised of shared appetizers, but you can order from the main menu that ranges between $16-$19 for vegetarian dishes and $23 – $30 for most of their other plates.

San Francisco, SOMA restaurant

Amber India Yerba Buena Tandori Chicken for $21.95

I chose the Tandoori Chicken ($21.95) which comes out hissing and steaming on a black iron skillet.  The smell of the meat, seasoning and onions instantly set my mouth watering.  The party seated next to me actually paused when the plate was served – such was the noise and heady aroma.  I also chose to order their Onion Chilli Kulcha ($7.00); Naan bread stuffed with onions and chilli.  This was delicious and the perfect accompaniment to the sauces served with dinner.

I really liked everything about my dining experience at Amber India.  The staff was prompt and friendly – answering all my questions about their menu.  The food was really delicious – rich with flavor and beautiful in appearance.  My only disappointment was after my visit I read a few reviews that made me realize if I’m fortunate enough to return I should try their signature plate, Butter Chicken.

Amber India is located SOMA at 25 Yerba Buena Lane 415-777-0500

  Amber India on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review Cinquecento

CinquecentoIt has been quite awhile since I last wrote a restaurant review of The Aquitaine Group’s Cinquecento, but earlier this month Sergio and I grabbed dinner at the bar and we had such a good time I wanted to write about it.

Cinquecento has been successful since first opening in 2012. It probably helps that they have ample free parking, a nice patio (for the warmer months) and is easily accessible from the Mass Pike and I-93.  However, that only gets you so far if you don’t have good staff and a talented kitchen – fortunately they have it all.

Italian Restaurant bostonThe menu is exclusively Italian as you might imagine with antipasti, soups and salads ranging in price from $10-$17; homemade pastas $22-$29; fish & meat plates $26-$38. On our recent visit we started dinner with the Burrata con Pistachio ($13.75) as well as the Steak Tartar ($15.75). The Burrata was cool and creamy and paired nicely with the soft figs, creating a surprisingly nice combination of sweet and creamy textures and flavors.

Cinquecento BostonHowever, I was most surprised by the Steak Tartar that was recommended.  The cubed steak was savory and would make for a great option if you want to come in for a snack.  The plate would pair equally well with wine or beer.

Italian restaurant BostonFor dinner Sergio ordered one of his favorite plates, the house made Gnocchi ($24.50) which is shown above, and I splurged, ordering the Aragosta Arrosto ($38.50) shown below.  I had thought I was ordering the lobster and pasta in a fra diavolo sauce but the Aragosta Arrosto was more flavorful than spicy with only a hint of pepper.  Those looking for more heat to the sauce should probably make such a request when ordering.  Having said that, the dinner exceeded my expectations. There was plenty of lobster from the tail and it was cooked perfectly. The pairing of the rich sauce, lobster meat and homemade pasta was so good that Sergio repeatedly poached food from my plate when I wasn’t looking.

Italian restaurant BostonIf you would like to try Cinquecento, I highly recommend making reservations for dinner on weekends. On weekdays you can usually get seats easily enough as a walk in at the bar or in the dining room.  Cinquecento is located at 500 Harrison Avenue in the South End.
Cinquecento on Urbanspoon

¡Hola! Barcelona Wine (South End)

South End restaurantLast night one of the South End’s most eagerly anticipated restaurants had a soft opening.  Upon entering Barcelona South End, patrons will see a large (26-seat) horseshoe shaped white marble bar that opens to the kitchen behind it.  The sterile modern decor of its predecessor is gone – replaced by dark wood ceilings and floors that contrast with the white marble bar and subway tile along the back wall.

The tapas menu will offer plenty of temptations at an affordable price with most items ranging $6-$10.  If you want more than tapas their menu has Paella, Meat & Fish and Mixed Grilled options ranging from $19 – $25.  The cocktail menu and wine list are equally inviting, which makes me think this will become a favorite watering hole for locals looking for a place where they can catch up with friends and nibble on a few bites during the week.

The bar staff was knowledgeable and clearly excited to be open for business, reinforcing an already friendly atmosphere.  The food we tried was quite good but sadly our photos didn’t do the food justice enough so I promise to go back for a more thorough sampling.  Look for Barcelona to open in the coming days.

Barcelona – 525 Tremont Street – (617) 266 2600

Restaurant review: Bastille Kitchen

Bastille Kitchen BostonBastille Kitchen is a 270 seat French bistro that opened on Melcher Street in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood of Boston this past summer.   The restaurant feels very open – in part due to the large windows, exposed brick walls and light wood floors, tables and ceilings.  The bar / lounge area is also fairly spacious – capable of seating at the bar and in comfortable lounge furniture 40+ people.

We were celebrating a friend’s birthday on this occasion and while I didn’t try everything served, I was impressed with the service and enjoyed my food.  The menu starts with more than a dozen appetizers to choose from ranging in price from $10-$22; house made flatbreads $15-$18; fruits de mer which range in price according to market; entrees and local sustainable seafood $18-$42.

Fort Point Channel restaurantWhile my dining companions each tried the escargots ($15) and duck confit ($14), I opted for the frisee aux lardons ($14) and was very happy with my choice.  The savory salad was rich and flavorful. The poached egg’s yolk was delicious with the duck confit – which you can see was served with generous portions.   While my companions enjoyed the duck confit appetizer, the escargot (which I didn’t try) was described by both as bland and disappointing.Fort Point Channel Restaurant, BostonMy main course was the roast lamb shank ($29).  The dinner came served in a skillet with tomatoes, an eggplant pave and herb grits.  This was an incredibly hardy meal and very filling.  The lamb was cooked perfectly; falling from the bone with hardly any effort. The accompanying sauce and herb grits complemented the rich flavors of the lamb and despite the large serving I ate everything. Fort Point Channel restaurant, BostonFort Point Channel restaurant, Boston

Above are the dinners of my dining companions. The top image is the Beef Short Rib Wellington $38 and the image immediately above is the Hampshire Pork Au Poivre served on the bone for $28.  Both said they enjoyed their dinners and would order it again when they return.

Bastille Kitchen is open daily but reservations are strongly recommended. Bastille Kitchen is located at 49 Melcher Street, Boston, (617) 556-8000.
Bastille Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Bar Boulud Boston

eater Boston photo

Photo Source: EaterBoston

Bar Boulud Boston opened in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Back Bay in October 2014.  The decor is quite different from the previous restaurant and made me think of a wine cellar or wine barrel with the oak coloring and arched ceilings. The bar area has also expanded and is far more comfortable than Mbar.

After reading the Boston Globe’s disappointing review, 2 stars out of 4, I didn’t know quite what to expect but after dining there I think the review was unnecessarily harsh. However, I do agree that Boston’s iteration of Boulud doesn’t live up to the reputation or name. It wasn’t as if I didn’t like my food – quite the contrary, it was very good – it just wasn’t the amazing experience I was expecting.

However, for those eager to try a new high end French restaurant, Bar Boulud should certainly be on your radar.  The menu is comprised of House Pates ranging from $14-$23; Fruits De Mer, Soup and Salads which range significantly in price from $12 – $38; Main plates are divided into Pasta, Fish and Meat ranging in price from $17 – $37; and two burgers that seem somewhat out of place unless you might be in the bar are on the dinner menu $17 and $19 respectively.

Salade Provencal $15

Salade Provençal $15

My colleagues ordered Foie Gras, Escargots and Oysters.  I ordered the Salade Provencal ($15) and while it may seem quite basic, the presentation was beautiful and I really enjoyed the crisp greens, cheese, croutons and anchovy vinaigrette. The table seemed to approve of their choices and when the plates were removed to make space for our main dishes there were only crumbs remaining.

Mandarin Boston

Coq au Vin $29

It was a cold, blustery night when we visited Bar Boulud so I looked to one of the menu’s heartier options and settled on the Coq au Vin for $29.  The chicken was rich and flavorful with the red wine, and I used the handmade pasta to absorb and scoop much of that sauce. I love this meal in the winter and while it wasn’t the best I’d ever had, it was good enough that I would encourage others to try it.  The aroma of the plate with the chicken, herbs and wine was intoxicating.  I suppose it is a testament to my dinner that I was so distracted by the coq au vin that I failed to snap photos of what my colleagues’ ordered.

While I’d recommend Bar Boulud to anyone interested in trying it, the service was at times slow and sloppy (repeatedly spilling water).  Nothing that happened was a deal breaker but nothing captured my imagination or lived up to the hype either. Should you go, let me know your thoughts.

Bar Boulud Boston is at 776 Boylston Street  (617) 535-8800

Bar Boulud on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Mistral Bistro in Boston

Columbus Hospitality GroupMistral first opened in Boston’s South End in the late 1990s, and has been a personal favorite for as long as I can recall.  I regularly recommend this restaurant to friends and family looking for a special night out but I had never visited them for their Sunday brunch – until a week ago.

Mistral opens for brunch on Sunday at 10:30 and when we arrived at 10:45 the space was already a third full with more people filing in behind us.  Despite the obvious rush, the staff was kind, courteous and quick to greet everyone as they came in, collect their coats and identify reservations.

The Mistral brunch menu is exceedingly tempting so we nibbled on the warm muffins that came with an addicting apple butter spread, while we looked through our options and discussed what we wanted to try.  Their menu consists of starters like warm cinnamon buns that require 15 minutes to bake fresh as well as unique items like truffled devil eggs; thin crust pizzas; and of course main dishes – which include both sweet and savory options.

Mistral Boston

Mistral’s Grapefruit Sabayon

I opted to try a special that day, grapefruit sabayon.  Sabayon is the creamy looking custard in the photo above and it is made with egg yolk, sugar and a sweet wine. Mistral’s recipe includes Champagne and the combination of this saucy/custard drizzled over the fresh grapefruit was so addicting even Sergio was digging in (and he doesn’t like grapefruit) a fact he kept saying while he scooped chunks of the appetizer off the plate.

Mistral Boston French Toast

Graham Cracker Crusted Challah French Toast with Anjou Pears and Chantilly

While Sergio’s brunch option was visually more impressive, both items were beautifully presented and equally satisfying. Sergio’s order of Mistral’s Graham Cracker Crusted Challah French Toast with Anjou Pears and Chantilly must have been 4″ thick.  The French Toast came with a warmed bottle of real maple syrup that smelled and tasted delicious but in truth was hardly necessary with the powdered sugar and pears.

Mistral Boston Frittata and potatos

Mushroom Spinach and Gruyere Frittata and a side of Pommes Lyonnaise

My order of the Mushroom Spinach and Gruyere Frittata and Pommes Lyonnaise were presented in hot black skillets.  The frittata was light and flavorful — anyone who enjoys mushrooms would want to try this plate — and the Pommes Lyonnaise offered a nice contrast to the eggs; salty and crispy.  While the potatoes were meant to be shared, poor Sergio hardly got more than a bite.

As you can probably surmise from my write up, I would recommend trying Mistral’s brunch, but I’d strongly suggest making a reservation first.  Mistral is located at 223 Columbus Avenue in the South End.
Mistral on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Sam’s at Louis Boston

Sams at Louis BostonLocated above Louis Boston, Sam’s might have one of the nicest waterfront views, making it a great place for a date night. However, the casual vibe and friendly staff also make it a good place to try for an after work drink or bite if you are in the neighborhood.

Sam’s at Louis Boston decor can best be described as minimalist and modern.  Large glass windows overlooking their equally large deck and Boston’s waterfront is framed by the steel panes and furnishings giving the restaurant an open and modern vibe.  Indoors only can seat about 40 (plus approximately 10 at the bar), but in the warmer weather their second floor patio more than doubles their capacity and is available on a first come first serve basis.

Roasted Beets $9

Roasted Beets $9

Sam’s dinner menu includes snacks and starters that range from $7-$17 and main plates from $16-$35.  I would describe the menu as modern American.  I started dinner with Sam’s roasted beets that had goat cheese (they call goat butter) and nuts. It came out piping hot in an individual skillet that hissed and crackled like a fajita, and was delicious from start to finish.  I chose a great Spanish red wine that really enhanced flavor of the warm beets and made me even more hungry for dinner.

Herb Roasted Chicken $27

Herb Roasted Chicken $27

Our handsome server timed our meals beautifully and a few minutes after he cleared our plates my herb roasted chicken arrived on a bed of baby brussels sprouts with apple-chestnut stuffing and Madeira jus. The chicken was tender and flavorful and I’m happy to say I managed to eat every last bite.

I can’t believe it took me so long to try Sam’s  but I will be back.  I’d recommend trying it on a weeknight when it is easier to get a table or encourage you to make a reservation to avoid a long wait.  Sam’s is located above Louis Boston at 60 Northern Avenue (behind the Vertex Pharmaceuticals building).
Sam's on Urbanspoon