5.02.2012

A Tasting At Beacon Hill Bistro

Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

After moving way out to the suburbs (even though I know it's only temporary), I have been feeling really deprived of city life. I was so used to going out after work, meeting up with friends, checking out new restaurants, etc., and I suddenly had to get accustomed to meeting Jeff at the car after work and making the hour-long trek home. While I knew I wouldn't miss some parts of city life, like taking the T every day, it quickly dawned on me that I missed the freedom of being able to make plans and go out after work and easily get home afterward.

So when Chef Joshua Lewin of Beacon Hill Bistro invited Jeff and me in for a tasting, we made a date night out of it. We had a reservation for 6 p.m. on a Friday evening. When I got out of work that day, I hopped on the T (definitely don't miss it) and took it to Hynes, the shortest distance I could think of that would still get me in range of our destination. It was a gorgeous day, and I strolled up and down Newbury and Boylston Streets, remembering what it was like being able to walk around there on weekends and weeknights. Jeff met me a little while later, and we ducked into Shreve, Crump & Low to peruse wedding bands for a few minutes before we had to head over to the bistro.

When we arrived, Josh was waiting for us at the door. I've known Josh for a while now. We first connected through our blogs. He even shared some pictures on my blog for a farmers' market roundup I was doing--back in July of 2010 when he first started at Beacon Hill Bistro as a sous chef. He's now the executive chef there and has put his own spin on the menu. What I know Josh best for is his focus on local, seasonal food and his connection to the food he prepares and serves.

After a quick greeting, we were seated in the dining room. I was delighted to see little menus beside our plates, welcoming each of us and detailing what we'd be having. We each had different dishes listed for each course.

 


Our waitress brought over some wine and bread, and we dug right in--though I limited myself to one piece of bread, as delicious as it was, knowing all that was to come.

Bread at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Jeff's first course was evergreen-cured gravlax with English peas and horseradish creme fraiche. This dish was full of fresh, bright flavors. I loved the light, springy taste of the peas in contrast to the silky salmon. (I know I said it was his first course, but of course I had to try it.)

Evergreen-cured gravlax at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

My first course was a fried Wellfleet oyster with wood sorrel aioli and a chickweed nest. I was initially worried because I tend to like only raw oysters and haven't had great luck with fried oysters in the past. But I needn't have worried. This one was light, almost buttery in texture, and the chickweed, like so many other elements Josh brings to his dishes, added fresh, bright, green flavors. The wood sorrel aioli was sort of lemony and slightly acidic and provided a counterbalance to the other flavors in the dish.

Fried Wellfleet oyster at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Jeff's second course was a stinging nettle risotto with green garbanzo beans and French breakfast radish. I thought the tiny radish on his plate was adorable. I'm not a big fan of risotto or garbanzo beans (it's a texture thing), but I did try a few bites anyways, and I found the risotto more firm than others I've tried, which was a good thing. And the green garbanzo beans were amazing. They have a texture more like edamame, waxy rather than pasty. (I may have eaten all of them.) The radish was just the right touch to bring a sharp note to the dish.

Stinging nettle risotto at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

My second course was a wild watercress soup with miner's lettuce, borage flowers, and verjus. While it looks overwhelmingly green, it was actually very balanced, and I didn't tire of eating bite after bite of the cool soup. It was thick and luxurious without being creamy or heavy.

Wild watercress soup at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

For his third course, Jeff got the brandade de morue with picholine olives, preserved lemon, and spring leaves. I ate his olives and spring leaves. I couldn't resist the vibrant pink in this dish and the briny olives and preserved lemon added sparks of flavor. I would describe the brandade de morue as a cod fritter, with a very creamy, light, almost whipped filling. This was Jeff's second favorite dish of the night.

Brandade de morue at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

My third course was "Sandra Jean" scallops, kaniwa, orchard morel, bergamot, and Mosefund Mangalitsa lardo, and I must admit I was quite intimidated by it. Scallops are one of the few foods I don't really care for, but I always try them because I desperately want to like them. (And after hearing the waitress tell the table next to us that Sandra Jean is the name of boat the scallops come in on, I wanted to like them even more.) These were perfectly cooked and super tender, and I loved the bright notes the lemon added and the luscious, melty quality of the lard (but I still don't love scallops). The morel was an interesting pairing, adding its hearty earthiness to the dish. This was my first time trying a morel and based on its appearance I expected it to be spongy; instead it was tender yet firm. (I sort of wonder who first looked at a morel and thought it would be a good thing to eat. Whoever it was, I'm glad he or she did.) And there was still something more on this plate: kaniwa. This was my first encounter with kaniwa, which is actually a smaller version of quinoa. I was overjoyed upon seeing the tiny seeds and now I want to find kaniwa and cook with it at home.

Scallops with kaniwa at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Jeff's fourth course very quickly became his favorite (and mine too). It was the duo of Rohan duck with a confit leg and dry-cured breast, purple brussels sprouts, sunchoke puree, and hazelnuts. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying crispy duck skin. It is incredible and just melts in your mouth. While I let Jeff keep most of the duck to himself, I did eat all of his brussels sprouts. I had never seen purple brussels sprouts and loved them just as much as the traditional green ones. The cured duck breast was interesting and definitely reminded me of other cured meats I've had in the past in both texture and flavor. The sunchoke puree brought a smokiness to the dish.

Jeff never gets as excited about food as I do, but he has already been asking me when we're going back and making sure I know he'll be ordering the duck again.

Duo of Rohan duck at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

My fourth course was the duo of Pete and Jen's rabbit, which consisted of roast saddle and braised leg, gnocchi Parisienne, and fava beans. Just a couple months ago, I had never had rabbit, and this dinner become my third time trying it. I've been hearing a lot about how sustainable, lean, and healthy rabbit is, so while some might shy away from trying it, I'm okay with it. While the meat was reminiscent of chicken in texture and appearance, it had a much cleaner flavor and was sort of sweet with a slight nuttiness. The light, pillowy gnocchi and fresh favas were welcome accompaniments.

Rabbit and gnocchi at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Jeff's dessert course was a duo of sorbets, which might sound boring after everything we had, but the flavors were sassafras and prickly pear, which are far from boring. The prickly pear was light, sweet, and fruity. The sassafras had a much more powerful punch of flavor, which made its traditional role in flavoring root beer evident.

Duo of sorbets at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

My dessert course was a chocolate-covered parsnip cake (note the adorable baby parsnip on the plate) with juniper ice cream and hazelnuts. The cake was amazing--moist and light with a very clean, sweet flavor and just the right amount of thin chocolate coating. I enjoyed it with the bold-flavored ice cream and toasty nuts.

Chocolate-covered parsnip cake at Beacon Hill Bistro, Boston, Mass.

This dinner was elegant, eye-opening, and refreshing. I tried so many new things--chickweed, wood sorrel, green garbanzo beans, purple brussels sprouts, morels, and kaniwa--and so did Jeff. This was an amazing display of what Josh is capable of and is a good representation of the dishes you're likely to find at Beacon Hill Bistro.

In addition to the food, I was really impressed with the service at the bistro. At one point I heard one of the waitresses explaining practically every item on the menu, from brandade to Mangalitsa to pappardelle, to guests at a nearby table who asked. Any time any guest had a question (within earshot of us), I could hear a knowledgeable staff member chime in with an answer. I loved that the wait staff was so invested in the menu.

A huge thank you goes out to Josh for preparing this incredible tasting menu for us and to everyone at the bistro for making us feel welcome and attended to.

This dinner was complimentary, but as always my opinions are my own. We've been to Beacon Hill Bistro in the past and will certainly be back.

After dinner, Jeff and I wandered over to the movies to see 21 Jump Street. We laughed throughout the entire movie. (It's hilarious but crass--you've been warned.)

This was an absolutely perfect date night, and I loved feeling like we were back in the city, even if we did have to make a much longer trek home after the movie.

Have you had any memorable nights out lately?

26 comments:

  1. What a beautiful meal! Pretty pictures on a plate. Looks like a wonderful restaurant. I haven't eaten there yet but now I really want to! :)

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  2. I had a great belated birthday dinner a couple of weeks ago at Russell House Tavern, but I definitely need a night out soon!

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  3. Emily @ A Cambridge StoryMay 02, 2012 8:13 AM

    That sounds like a fantastic date night! Lucky you :) Parsnip cake sounds really interesting!

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  4. I live right around the corner from the Bistro and LOVE it!! I always end up there for brunch, bit your review is making me want to head back for dinner immediately!

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  5. FunandFearlessinBeantownMay 02, 2012 9:13 AM

    Aw, BHB makes me miss my old neighborhood. Actually, almost two years ago, Bret and I went there for dinner after he proposed!

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  6. What a lovely date night! I've never been to Beacon Hill Bistro, but I've heard many, many great things. You guys had some delicious courses, and I would love that duck too!

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  7. I fancy myself the vegetable expert and I have NEVER seen purple brussels sprouts. Adorable!

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  8. This entire meals look fabulous! I'm looking forward to a night out tonight: We're going to Yard House, then to the Sox game!

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  9. glad you got to have a great night out :) that meal looks stunning, and i'm particularly smitten with the mini parsnip and purple brussels sprouts!!

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  10. This post makes me ache for Boston. I went to Emerson College, and I loved Newbury Street and Beacon Hill and all the surrounding little nooks and crannies. I wish I'd taken better advantage of Boston's food scene when I lived there!

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  11. oh my gosh, this is one seriously awesome meal. lucky you guys! I am certain that duck would have been a favorite of mine (and adam's) too!

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  12. What a delicious meal! Everything looks great, but everything on Jeff's menu had my mouth watering.

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  13. You would love them!

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  14. Hope you had a good dinner and lots of fun at the game!!

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  15. Aren't they adorable? I, too, am smitten!

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  16. I didn't know that! I went to Emerson for my master's.

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  17. Really? Awesome :) I loved it so much, and I love Boston dearly. I went for my undergrad, a WLP major. Was your masters in writing?

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  18. I am so happy you got to experience Josh in all his glory at BHB! It is so amazing all the interesting and different things he comes up with:)

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  19. Looks like an absolutely perfect date night...definitely putting Beacon Hill Bistro on my list of restaurants to try. My date nights almost always revolve around food - the longer and more elaborate the meal, the better :)

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  20. It was in publishing.

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  21. Truly. We were blown away by the creativity!

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  22. Every single dish -- even the duck and rabbit -- looked so fresh and bright. There was so much attention to detail, and I enjoyed reading about every single course. As soon as I saw "scallop," I said a little "uh-oh," but I think it was fitting in the end that you got the chocolate dessert :). I can relate to your feelings about the suburbs...hopefully that will be changing for both of us soon!

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  23. What an incredible meal! I'm so glad you had a good fried oyster experience! They're hard to find in New England, but if you ever go to New Orleans...Oh wow. It's also great to know that they have prickly pear sorbet! It's not a flavor you see much outside of the southwest and when it's done well, it's so good! My husband is a huge fan of duck (and who am I kidding, so am I), so we'll have to try it out!

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  24. Maybe moving a bit further away will make going out to dinner more of an event and therefore more fun/special? Sounds like a fun date night! And a tasty one as well!

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  25. Everything looks stunning, and you enjoyed lots of ingredients I've never ever heard of! Sounds like a great meal. We went to BHB for New Years last year, and the food was fantastic. Not a bad bite all night.

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  26. WOW. This meal looks amazing. I've never seen purple brussels sprouts either! I definitely have to agree, who would see a morel and think "I should eat this". Weird. The scalllop dish sounds intriguing, especially since I love scallops! But that duck does sound like a show stopper.

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