Here in Boston, Restaurant Week comes twice a year: March and August. If you’ve never heard of it, Restaurant Week is actually a two-week span when many restaurants offer a special, three course, prix fixe dinner. It tends to be mostly high-end restaurants, and in theory the prix fixe price ($38, this year) is supposed to encourage diners to try a restaurant they might not otherwise.
A former coworker and I regularly go, and as soon as the list of participating restaurants comes out, one of us emails the other–usually Janet is faster–about booking a table somewhere. It’s become a fun tradition (and a good reminder to get together). Ideally, we try to go somewhere neither of us has been before. Of course, what a particular place chooses to offer for their RW menu plays a big part, so perusal of the menus online is key; there are usually three choices for each of the three courses.
This year, we tried Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square. When Russell House first opened in 2010, Rob and I went there once or twice, and thought it was just OK. Nothing stood out, and I was slightly annoyed by the fact that they served wine in water glasses and water in (stemless) wine glasses (you can imagine the fun when you grab the wrong glass to take a big sip of water!).
But last year, I went there for brunch with different friend and the food was FANTASTIC. Really, really excellent. So, when Janet suggested this for our RW outing this March, I was definitely eager to try it again for dinner.
Russell House’s menu looked very good, with three choices for each course, and the option of an add-on wine or beer pairing for $18. We both did the full menu with wine.
(I apologize in advance for the poor photo quality; the dining room is really dark and I just couldn’t get anything to come out clearly.)
For a starter, Janet got the Toasted Farro, Wild Mushrooms, Sweet Peas, Parsnip & Honey. I had a small taste, and it was delicious; the farro was earthy, and you could discern warm spices including cinnamon. I opted for the Raw Bar Sampler, which included two Duxbury clams, two oysters, and two very large shrimp. It arrived with three dipping sauces: a traditional cocktail sauce, a delicious minty-pickled relish, and an aioli that I didn’t think quite fit. However, the seafood was very fresh, and the other two sauces were just right. My wine pairing was a Dry Creek Sauvignon Blank from Sonoma, which was great with the dish. (I forgot to note what Janet’s first wine was, but it was a white.)
The main course was a tough choice for me, as all three options sounded really good. I went with the Seared Arctic Char, Lemon & Olive Oil Cake, Sunchoke Puree, Sunflower Seed Frico. The entire dish was absolutely fantastic. The fish was perfectly cooked, and quite a large portion, sitting on top of the silky, sweet sunchoke puree. The wine pairing was a Chardonnay from California – a style I am usually not a fan of – but this one (Raymond “R”) was very light, not at all oaky, and complemented quite well the sweetness of the dish. Janet’s Herb Grilled Heritage Pork Chop, Smoked Cabbage, Pickled Red Onions, Cotechino Sausage looked delicious, and she said the pork chop was very, very good – spicy and flavorful – and the cabbage and onions were both nice. Not being a fan of sausage, she thought the dish would have been just as successful without it, as it was very similar in spice to the pork chop. But overall, another nice looking (and tasting) dish, and not skimpy. The wine pairing was a Meritage, not outstanding but paired fairly well with the food.
The dessert list had three choices, but one of them was a cheese plate (and was an additional $9). Not being a big fan of sweets, I went for that. Three small samples of very distinct cheeses (one an aged goat’s milk, a cow/goat milk blend with a layer of ash, and finally a very strong Epoisse-like cow’s milk cheese), and a few blackberries, as well as a compote spread across the board sprinkled with pistachios. It was a nice cheese board, but I don’t think it warranted an extra $9. I did appreciate the Lustau Amontillado Sherry pairing, however. Janet’s Olive Oil Cake, Lemon Gelato, Pine Nut Cookie, Mint Simple Syrup dessert, paired with a Moscato d’Asti, looked beautiful, and she called both “really delicious”.
Overall, the meal was delicious, and the wine pairings were a very good value at $18 for all three. Well worth trying if you can get there tonight or next week (Restaurant Week doesn’t include weekends, but continues next week, 3/24-29).
Oh, and the water & wine glasses? All the same now…