Diva #2, her Cuz, The Firm and the Polish Pearl were spending a girls’ weekend in Boston. On our first night, we headed to Bistro du Midi, a quaint Provençal French bistro in Boston’s Back Bay area across from the Public Gardens.
We started with the eggplant dip and olive tapenade, served with mini crostini. The eggplant tapenade was mixed with Kalamata olives which because of their brine gave it the expected level of saltiness, but they nicely balanced the bitter and meaty eggplant. The green olive tapenade was much lighter but packed an intense olive flavour.
“Olive & Eggplant Dip, Green Olive Tapenade, Crostini” 9$
“Grilled Spanish Octopus, Eggplant Caviar, Sundried Tomato, Pine Nut, Grilled Pear, Basil Oil” 17$
Since seafood is the restaurant’s specialty, we ordered the grilled octopus which was very tender. And even the ends of the tentacles, which are usually tough and dry, were delicious. The pine nuts added a crunchy element and the eggplant and sundried tomatoes were nice touches too. There was also grilled pear, which was a different pairing with octopus but it added a subtle sweet element on the tongue, which further enhanced the dish.
The mains were next. Monkfish has a delicate white flesh and the texture is similar to that of a lobster tail. You could even argue that it may be a touch sweeter than a lobster tail, with a mild fish flavour. It also had a great roasted taste which was nice and was further complimented by the bed of roasted eggplant. The Firm chose the goat cheese gnocchi. A generous portion, they were light and fluffy and you could really taste the tanginess of the goat cheese, a nice alternative to the standard potato or ricotta gnocchi. The pistou was really what brought the dish together.
“Coral Infused Tagliatelle, Poached Maine Lobster, Black Trumpets, Grapefruit, Vanilla Lobster Emulsion” 31$
Tempted by the meaty lamb neck, Diva #2 opted for the coral infused tagliatelle with lobster. After all, with a melodic sounding description like that, it was hard to resist! The portion was large, they did not skimp on the buttery lobster, and the pink roe in the vanilla lobster emulsion was pure heaven in your mouth. The sweet peas and the meaty mushrooms added even more sustenance to this the filling dish, though the grapefruit was not prevalent at all.
There is a very good reason why Bistro du Midi was just voted as one of the top 50 restaurants in Boston in 2013. We enjoyed Chef Robert Sisca’s dinner so much that we returned for brunch on our last day to enjoy fluffy pancakes, smoked salmon eggs benedict and more. But the Divas aren’t the type who keep going to the same restaurants…
There is very a good reason why Barbara Lynch is a recognized name on the Boston restaurant circuit. We experienced one of them at Sportello, which is Lynch’s take on a classic diner.
But don’t let the lunch counter seating fool you. You are getting gourmet Italian food in an unpretentious setting at this Fort Point neighbourhood spot. Once seated, we were served a whipped ricotta and fig jam drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with flakes of Maldon salt. Of course this was served with bread. Definitely a step up from the usual and sometimes boring bread and butter, this was soon finished and replaced with another serving.
Both Cuz and the Polish Pearl ordered the mesclun salad. Diva #2 refused to taste this out of principle; they told it was very good and she’ll have to take their word for it.
“Equinox Farms Mesclun – Hazelnut, Pecorino, Apple” 12$
“Octopus – Olives, Lemon, Potato” 15$
The Firm chose the octopus, served simply with olives, lemon and potatoes; another great combination of flavours. The baby potatoes were not hot but slightly warm and the olives near them were warmed a touch, which gave them a deeper flavour. The octopus was cooked perfectly; lightly grilled but not overly charred to mask the taste.
Diva #2 ordered the burrata. A generous slice of speck was draped over the fig which rested on the cheese. The speck was perfectly salty and wonderful when coupled with the sweet fig, the taste of which still lingered from the ricotta and fig jam amuse bouche. The creamy burrata just melted in your mouth and the rosemary oil was surprisingly subtle. An absolutely perfect appetizer. The Polish Pearl opted for the gnocchi. A generous portion, the gnocchi were still firm and the cream sauce was not too heavy. The peas added a little sweetness and were complimented by the hearty mushroom ragu which added a depth of flavour.
“Tagliatelle – Sauce Bolognese, fried basil” 15$ / 24$
The mains were offered in both appetizer and entrée portions. Cuz had the classic tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce. Homemade pasta cooked al dente, cheese over top with a hint of spice in the sauce. It’s a basic and simple dish but it was done very well and worth ordering.
“Anson Mills Polenta – choice of porcini or lamb ragu” 14$ / 23$
The Firm had the polenta with lamb ragu, which could also be ordered with a mushroom ragu. The polenta was creamy and smooth and simply melted with the extremely tender lamb. It was fabulous, rich, decadent and comforting. A perfect dish!
Diva #2 had the strozzapreti with braised rabbit. The pasta was homemade and the rabbit was tender and falling apart at the slightest touch of the fork. The olives added a brininess that worked exceptionally well with the meat, and rosemary is the perfect herb to enjoy with rabbit. The sauce was simple and made with reduced rabbit juice that is then slightly thickened. A gem of a dish!
We kept chatting with our waiter throughout the night and he couldn’t help but add in his opinion on our conversations about what goes on at the Polish Pearl’s workplace. Our waiter shook his head, returned with the bottle of wine and poured her another glass for her trouble. HR must have a field day at her workplace! The Divas are well attuned to sexual harassment in the workplace…we are usually the aggressors, not victims!
Our waiter poured the hot espresso over the vanilla ice cream when he brought the affogato to the counter. It is an all in one dessert – sweet, bitter and a little crunchy from the cookie. The best way to have coffee and dessert is together! You could also choose dessert from the bakery counter which includes cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods.
“Olive oil cake – roasted pears, pistachio, red wine syrup” 8$
Usually olive oil cake is more dry and crumbly but Sportello’s version was moist. The red wine reduction was slightly sour and was balanced with the simple, sweet roasted pears. It was truly a harmony of flavours as The Firm kept reminding us the day after!
A trip to Boston is not complete without a meal in one of Lynch’s 8 restaurants and you can be sure that the next time the Divas are in Boston together, Sportello, which offers amazing Italian food that is simple, fresh and perfect, will be on our to-do list!
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
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