Sunday, March 20, 2011

L'Espalier- Boston

As the first restaurant I visited for Restaurant Week- Winter 2011, I elected L'Espalier, located in Back Bay. Recently relocated to this building on Boylston Street, the new space is a bright, open room with plenty of light. The decor is simple, clean and effortlessly sophisticated. As with many, if not all, of the higher-end restaurants, service is expected to be superb. However, our waiter was a tad inexperienced and fumbled in explaining some of the components of our dishes.

The presentation of all of the plates was the most noteworthy aspect of the dining experience. They say, you feast first with your eyes. This expression certainly resonates with L'Espalier as each plate is beautifully composed and painted like works of art.

Isn't the butter so cute?

Goat Cheese Curd with Rhubarb
I'm not even going to pretend I know what's going on with this plate. These were the thoughts flying through my head: what are these little crumbly brown bits, do I eat the foam, what's this blob of sauce doing over here? Without a clue as to what I was doing and even less of a clue as to what I was eating, I delved into this starter, tasting a bit of everything and my, what an explosion of flavors lit up in my mouth. There were so many layers of complex flavors from creamy to sweet to sour. This first course definitely plays up both tastes and textures. I got the crunch from the rhubarb and the endive, while experiencing a velvety softness from the goat cheese, followed by a grainy bite from the gritty crumbs, finished off with the lightness from the foam.

Slow Braised Short Ribs
For my second course, the meat was extremely tender and easily pulled apart as I ate it. The sauce was extremely flavorful and not overly salty. The parsnip veloute (close to a puree) was delightfully thick and creamy.   

Trio of Cheeses- Gouda, Manchego, Hartwell (left to right)
The cheese guide that accompanied our third course describes Gouda cheese as "crunchy, with a sweet caramel flavor. Eat it like candy." I can hardly say I agree with that description. Sure, the cheese was "crunchy" or hard, if you will. But sweet?...that was hardly the case. I thought the Gouda was quite sharp.

My favorite cheese was the Hartwell, which was semi-soft and buttery. It was very similar to Brie.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Guava Cream Cheese Mousse Gateau
Finishing off the lunch on a fruity note, the guava shined in this dessert. Again, there was a variety of textures. As expected, the panna cotta was decadently smooth but too bad I didn't pick up much flavor from the lychee foam on top. Also, a big complaint of mine regards the execution of this plate. As you can see from the photo, there's a ring of dried foam on the plate. I understand it's restaurant week and the food that's served is usually not the best that the restaurant has to offer but there's just no excuse in serving up a pre-made plate with dried foam, not from a restaurant of L'Espalier's caliber anyways.

What my lunch date ordered:

Mussels in Curry Emulsion
After the egg was thankfully removed and consumed, I sampled the mussels. The tabbouleh was packed with curry flavor and much more impressive than the little mussels themselves.

Herb-Crusted Arctic Char
I'm usually not a fan of under-cooking anything but the preparation of this fish was perfect. It was just slightly underdone and retained a buttery-soft texture, allowing the fish to melt away in my mouth. The skin of this fish was equally divine with a great herb rub and a tremendous crunch. The bed of pea risotto with a dash of lemon zest also spruces up the complexity of this dish. I also enjoyed feasting on the colors of this plate- the orange arctic char pitted against the vibrancy of the greens makes for a lively combination.

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Mousse Gateaux
It's a pity that neither desserts were as fresh as they could have been. The flavors were present, but not the freshness since the cake was a tad dry. The Chantilly cream was quite mild and not overly sweet, thank goodness!


  1. their portion looks really small but very nice! whats the price range? i want to try the panna cotta! you seem to order that a lot when you dine out. is it one of your favorite deserts?

  2. hahaha now that i think about it, i do seem to order panna cotta quite a bit but not because it's my favorite, rather because it's such a common offering...that and chocolate cakes it seems.

    as for price range, outside of restaurant week, it's pretty steep..depending on what menu you order from or if you're doing a tasting, i'd say it's easily $60-90+ per person.