Boston Restaurant Week: Lunch At L'Espalier

Last Friday Meghan and I both had the afternoon free, and we decided to meet in Copley to check out the farmers' market and grab a bite to eat. While we had intended to just grab sandwiches or something at the market, on a whim, we changed our minds and wandered down Boylston Street trying to decide where to have lunch.

Sel de la Terre was nearing the top of the list when we spied L'Espalier. Normally, we wouldn't pop into L'Espalier on a casual Friday afternoon (I'm never in that area at that time... and believe me, I was in shorts and a t-shirt), but I remembered it was Boston Restaurant Week. L'Espalier only does a restaurant week lunch special, so we kind of figured this might be our only chance to stop in not only for lunch, but lunch at a bargain.

We went in and quickly learned from the hostess that there were available seats, and she ushered us into the elevator. When we got up to the restaurant level, we were greeted by another host, and he started to lead us to our table. All of a sudden I noticed a large table in the center of the restaurant and a couple of familiar faces -- Jeff's mother and some of her friends were dining at L'Espalier as well. We stopped to say hi, while the host patiently waited, and then we proceeded to our table. I texted Jeff and asked him to guess whom I saw at lunch. His answer: Chad Ochocinco? He was just a little off!

Meghan and I settled in at our table, glanced over the menu, and decided to do wine pairings with our lunch. A three-course lunch was being offered for $20.11, and the wine pairings were an additional $14. Our waitress suggested we start with a little bubbly for our first pairing, and we were both happy to oblige. She poured us each a glass of the Louis Bouillet, Brut, Cremant de Bourgogne.

After we had a few sips of bubbly, our first courses arrived. We both opted for the Apple Street Farm heirloom tomato salad with chevre panna cotta and balsamic.

I loved the presentation of this salad with teeny tiny tomatoes in little puddles of balsamic. I thought it was a little strange that the heirloom tomatoes were peeled, but it was definitely easier to cut and eat them without the skin and made for a nice presentation. The panna cotta was light and smooth and paired so well with the tomatoes. I typically find frisee too bitter, but it was dressed just right and not sharp at all.

For my entree, I chose the roast pork loin with sweet corn pudding and red pepper puree and moved onto a glass of the 2010 Rimbert, Syrah/Carignan, St-Chinian.

The pork was cooked perfectly! It was thinly sliced and very moist. The gravy on it was so flavorful, and the red pepper puree pulled all the flavors together. The sweet corn pudding was better than I expected. I was afraid it would be like bread pudding, but it was more like a very, very moist corn muffin topped with sweet, creamy corn. It was incredibly filling, and I had to leave a few bites behind.

Meghan got the seared salmon with ratatouille and creamy polenta, and you'll have to read her review to see what she thought.

We did what any smart lunch companions would do and each ordered one of the desserts so we could share them both.

The first dessert was a wild strawberry-vanilla mousse with lychee foam and raspberry-balsamic vinaigrette. I'm still not sure how I feel about foam, but it did add another dimension of flavor to the airy mousse.

The second was a sachertorte. As you can tell from the photo, this was not your typical sachertorte. It came with mango fluid gel, amaretto chantilly cream, and cookie crumbs. The chocolate cake was light and moist, and the gel and fruit puree were sweet pairings.

You'll notice the dessert pictures are a little darker because just when we got them, the sky clouded over and a huge thunderstorm, complete with hail, swept through the city. We were happy to be inside sampling desserts right then. (We also learned that you can go through L'Espalier into Sel de La Terre, and through Sel de la Terre into the mall. We loved not having to go outside into the storm after we finished our lunch.)

I had an absolutely lovely time lunching at L'Espalier with Meghan. This was my third visit to L'Espalier, and I once again left looking forward to going back. The service and food both make the experience worthwhile, and I'm happy that L'Espalier holds itself to the same standards during Boston Restaurant Week as the other times I've been there.

If you had a Friday afternoon off, where would you go to lunch?