Thursday, April 2, 2009

In The Kingdom Of Gourmanida: Epicurian Epilogue

After a week of repeated indulgence, I have been battling strep throat for the last couple of days. I'm starting to kick it, I think. I'm just glad it happened this week, and not last.

The search for Excelsior's replacement produced what I admit was the anticipated result: slight weight gain and no true substitute. The ultimate restaurant experience is as difficult to describe as I imagine it is to create. There are still a couple of contenders I've yet to sample here in Boston, but I'm rather content to resign that each establishment's offering is unique, gently but undeniably crafted by the infinite variables of server, wine selection, and ordering... things over which a restaurant, as an entity, has only so much control.

For the establishment's part, there is much to tend to. It is in the little things, such as the lovely arrangement of spare toilet paper in the bathroom at Oishii, and the big things, such as appropriately listing a side as arancini and not simply wild mushroom risotto. It's putting lobster in the lobster bisque, and maintaining a staff engaging enough and sincere enough that they can be trusted for recommendations geared towards a given customer's tastes, not the inflation of the tab or the dispense of a dish for which the kitchen is overstocked.

All of it can be built, though, around good food and good drinks. And though the experience specific to Excelsior may have ended with its closing, I may yet have found a new favorite, long may it reign.

Without further adieu, the dust has now settled, and it's time to dole out the gold stars and dunce caps.

The biggest disappointment was easily The Palm. As I said in the more at-length recap, I know there's a good meal to be had there. Or at least, there was once upon a time. Having been on their mailing list for quite some time, I can't ever recall receiving so many "special offers" in such a small span of time. If my recent experience there was in any way representative of the typical visit these days, it leaves little to the imagination with regards to what's motivating all these discounts cluttering up my e-mail.

Oishii is easily my new standard for sushi. Though a bit more a hike than incredibly convenient local favorite Privus Lounge, Oishii will likely see more of me with the warmer weather. Very good sushi, nice cocktails -- provided they survive the stairs -- and all at about the value one would deem relatively accurate for what's offered.

Tremont647 and Le Petit Robert will also see me returning. Both have menus I'm anxious to thoroughly explore, and whether it's the tangy French at the Bistro or the personable (here: gay) staff at 647, the atmospheres are comfortable and inviting for a three course meal or perhaps just a lazy Saturday's luncheon.

The Top of the Hub... I'm not sure why I didn't go often before. I must return with someone who hasn't got any food hangups, though; I want to do their tasting menu at some point. Considering their prices -- outside of the egregiously inflated costs to be found in their wine list -- are hardly anything beyond what you'd find for the same type of fare about fifty-two floors down, it really is worth the popping of the ears every now and then.

The big winner, though, and hereafter "favorite restaurant," is Gaslight. I've yet to do anything but enjoy myself there, and though I confess a slight bias in strong favor of traditional French cuisine done right, even the intangibles are in place here.

In order to keep myself from the unpleasant fate of Violet Beauregard, I shan't be eating out nearly as often for a good while -- perhaps until summer's installment of Restaurant Week in Boston -- especially as I'm planning to visit Miami in just under a month now.

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