Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hamersley's Bistro

Abby and I are putting together a list of restaurants that we need to go to before we move to Chicago (if you know of any can't miss places in Boston, please let us know and leave a comment), and last night we got to check out Hamersely's Bistro, a place that I had been wanting to check out for quite some time. This restaurants has a reputation that spreads beyond Boston, and I guess it's supposed to be a shining example of French bistro cooking. It wasn't disappointing. The meal was thoroughly satisfying and the service was good. If you're in the mood for unfussy French food, I would highly recommend this place.

Since there were four of us - we went with our friends Kyle and Susan - we were able to try out several different appetizers, including a roasted beet salad (comes with the vegetarian prix fixe), country style pork pate and chicken liver pate with toast points (below)...
warm oysters with periwinkles...
and a grilled mushroom and garlic sandwich on country bread.
All of the appetizers were great. The pate was good, but it was pretty much like any other I've had...not that I was expecting anything new. The warm oysters were a bit different than any I've ever had before. Usually I have oyster raw or battered and fried. I don't think that these oysters were cooked through, because the texture was closer to that of a raw oyster. Warming them up really brought out the briny flavors in the oyster, though. That's a good thing. The fact that they were topped with tiny little snails was also sort of novel.

Of all the appetizers, the mushroom sandwich was the standout. I usually hate mushrooms, but I actually liked this, which is saying something. In this dish, they don't hold back on the garlic or butter, so I think that helped a lot. (Abby's note: Sam is understating how deliciously awesome the mushroom sandwich was, although I have no idea why bread was involved - the mushrooms were tasty little explosions of warm, earthy goodness, and anything else just seemed extraneous. The bright, tangy notes of the side salad did provide a good counterpoint between bites, however.)

For the main course, Abby ordered the roast chicken and I went with the cassoulet. Both of these are classic bisto dishes, so, when in Rome....or when in a classic bistro, these seemed like the appropriate things to order. I've always maintained that you can judge a restaurant by it's chicken dishes - these are often the most boring dishes, so it takes some skill to make it shine - and by that standard, Hamersley's comes through in a major way. The skin was perfectly crispy, and the lemon and garlic flavors in the chicken were bold, without getting in the way.
The cassoulet is a different type of dish. It's the type of soul satisfying one pot meal that is just perfect when the weather takes a turn for the worst. I lacked the piquant, lemony notes and the variety of texture in the chicken, but it had the depth of flavor that one looks for in a dish like this. I liked it, but if I had to choose between the two, I would go with the chicken.
We finished off with a cheese plate (forgettable), chocolate cake (a bit dry) with coconut sorbet, and bananas foster bread pudding (awesome, a must order).

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