Nix's Mate, a restaurant that takes its name from an island in the Boston Harbor, is located just beyond the Boston Harbor Hotel in the Hilton in the Financial District. I recently went to check it out with seven lovely ladies. We filled a large round table in the corner, where we had a great view of the rest of the restaurant. I really loved the minimalist decor and think the William Fly Room would be a stunning spot for an event.
We spent a few minutes looking over the menu, which boasts seasonally inspired fare, and decided to share a bunch of appetizers. I collected everyone's votes for what they would most like to try. When our waitress came over, I gave her the rundown, and then we all settled back into chatting and catching up.
We started with the polpette vongole, tiny meatballs in a red clam sauce. It sounded odd but was intriguing. The dish was tasty but a little difficult to eat with the clams still in the shells. It makes for great presentation, though.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the bacon-wrapped scallop skewers with maple butter that were a special that night. I passed on these since I don't love scallops and there were plenty more dishes heading our way.
The fried "crab cake" nuggets with a shaved beet salad, mustardy aioli, arugula, watermelon, roasted corn, and walnuts was also a special that evening... and one of my favorite dishes. The dish was filled with crisp, crunchy, juicy summer produce, and the little crab nuggets added their own hot, crunchy presence. I kind of wished I didn't have to share this dish with everyone else.
The tuna carpaccio nicoise featured cracked olives, green beans, roasted potatoes, capers, hard-boiled egg, and lemon aioli. It was a flavorful rendition of the classic combination.
The braised veal cheek "pot au feu" was another of my favorite dishes. The soft, tender veal just about melted in my mouth, and the crisp tender vegetables, enriched with bone marrow, were light and tasty accompaniments.
The Harbor Island flatbread, topped with spicy fried rock shrimp, salami, pepperoni, tomato gravy, mozzarella, and leeks, sounded much better than it actually was. The crust was on the soggy side, and the combination of flavors just didn't work for me.
For something lighter, we wanted to try one of the salads and chose the Boston Bibb, which has pecans, blackberries, caramelized onion dressing, and cornbread croutons. It was a nice break from the heavier dishes.
The fried Maine lobster caramel, which I'd heard was the dish to order, was the most interesting lobster combination I can ever remember having. The battered fried chunks of lobster sit in a pool of warm Vermont cheddar and caramel. There's also some green onions and chiles imparting flavor to the dish, so there was some sweetness, some richness, and some spiciness. I can't say I've ever had lobster with cheese or caramel, and I wonder how the chef thought it up. It was another of my favorite dishes of all those we tried. (I only wished it was a little hotter, but it may have just been that it cooled down during the time it took eight women to photograph it.)
Dinner was good but there wasn't really anything that made me think I needed to rush back to Nix's Mate to have it again, not even the lobster. So I was a bit disappointed in our visit. Not ready to give up on the new restaurant, though, and always happy to satisfy my sweet tooth, I convinced everyone we should try some desserts. This was a good move because the desserts were amazing.
The chocolate-hazelnut torte was rich and fudgy with an even richer and fudgier chocolate sauce on top.
The ice cream sandwiches impressed me because the cookies were actually really good. I find that I'm always disappointed in cookies on restaurant dessert menus, but I loved how these were nice and chewy and flavorful. They were filled with various Christina's ice creams and topped with caramel.
It's pretty well-known that I am anti bread pudding (I can't stand how soggy most of them are), but I gave the bananas foster bread pudding a try and was pleasantly surprised. The homemade brioche was moist but not drenched and the toasted marshmallow and ice cream on top and bruleed banana on the side completed the sweet, sticky dish.
I love panna cotta and was delighted to see a strawberry shortcake on the menu that featured buttermilk panna cotta inside a buttermilk biscuit with buttermilk caramel and strawberries. This was a lighter dessert option with bright, summery strawberry flavor.
I enjoyed the night out with friends and was happy to have tried a new place. The meal ended on a high note with some interesting, well-executed desserts.
Do you have high expectations when you go out to eat?