I can't tell you how excited I was when I found out that Chef Colin Lynch was opening his own restaurant. Chef Lynch has spent the last twelve years as part of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo, first serving as chef de cuisine at No. 9 Park before becoming executive chef of the Gruppo and helping to open Sportello, Menton, and Drink.
I first met Colin (no relation to Barbara Lynch) at a Guchi's Midnight Ramen pop-up event when he was executive chef at Menton. I later met his wife Heather at another "pop-up", this time at Menton where Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park cooked a special menu from his cookbook for just one day.
Chef Lynch left the Barbara Lynch Gruppo in early 2015 to open Bar Mezzana, a "coastal Italian" restaurant in the South End focusing on seafood crudo and pastas. He opened Bar Mezzana together with his wife Heather Kennaway Lynch (general manager) and business partner Jefferson Macklin in June 2015.
I can't believe I waited this long to try this restaurant for the first time. My first visit, which was just a couple weeks ago, was great. I loved the strong seafood crudo program, the phenomenal fresh pastas, and excellent cocktails. Here's a look at some of the dishes we tried!We arrived at the restaurant around 4:30PM, about half an hour before the dining room opened. We sat at the brightly-lit bar and chatted with Gabe, our knowledgeable bartender who not only made us excellent cocktails, but also gave us some great recommendations about what to order on the menu.
While at the bar, we ordered a couple "snacks", special small bar bites that are only available on Sundays in the hours between brunch (only offered on Sundays) and dinner. I loved the Faroe Island Salmon crudo ($12), which came topped with a green chili salsa verde.
We also snacked on Olives while enjoying our cocktails.
It was very pleasant to hang out at the bar, and I was almost tempted to stay there the entire time. However, our party of three knew we wanted to share many of the small plates, so we decided to move to our table.
They have an excellent crudo program, with over 15 different options that change daily depending on what's in season.
We started with Langoustine ($27), two head-on langoustines artfully placed over ice with tails exposed and topped with lime zest, pink peppercorn powder, and generous piles of caviar. The sashimi-like tail meat was luxuriously soft and tender - almost creamy. It came together beautifully with the salty caviar and the bright lime zest.
There is a very good reason why multiple people, including our server, general manager Heather, and bartender Gabe all recommended this dish. It's a winner.
The Maine Uni was a stunning dish to see and equally stunning to taste. A spiky uni shell "bowl" came filled with lump Maine crab, lemon, and generous amounts of uni.
I am so used to eating bluefin tuna with Japanese flavors that this crudo version of Bluefin Tuna ($16) surprised me with its Mediterranean toppings of fennel fronds, lemon zest, and salty chopped black olives. The bite was tasty, and the tuna was fresh.
It's rare to find Shima Aji ($15), or horse mackerel, at a restaurant in Boston (Cafe Sushi regularly carries it, but not many other places do). Here, thin slices of this richer fish come topped with grated horseradish, caviar, and lime. Perfect.
I have never had such a fresh tasting version of artichokes before. The Artichoke Salad ($12) uses shaved, raw artichokes as the base "salad green", which is then tossed in an olive oil citrus vinaigrette with parsley, shaved parmesan (visually almost indistinguishable from the artichokes), and olives. The salad was nice, though a bit aggressive in both tartness (from the lemon) and saltiness (from the olives).
They offer several types of Crostini ($10) on the menu. We tried the Fig, Salami, and Goats Milk Blu Crostini, which was very nice. The sweet figs balanced out the salty salami and the stinky goat's milk blue cheese very nicely.
The Corn Salad ($14) consisted of fresh sweet corn kernels tossed with chanterelle mushrooms and walnuts over a layer of creamy goat cheese.
Another favorite was the Grilled Octopus ($16), which was incredibly tender on the inside yet gorgeously charred and a bit crispy on the outside. Execution was flawless, and the accompaniments (red onions, fennel fronds, baby red potatoes, salsa verde, and pole beans) added a lovely, bright contrast to the savory and flavorful octopus.
The pastas shine at this restaurant.
Our favorite turned out to be the simple Spaghetti cacio e pepe ($18). Even though the dish only has a few ingredients, it's hard to execute well. Chef Lynch has nailed it, and this particular version is fantastic and I loved it. The spaghetti had a perfect "QQ" al dente bite to it. The intense cheese flavors (from both Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano) coupled with a healthy dose of black pepper and pasta water came together beautifully. If you can only order one pasta dish, get this one.
I also really, really enjoyed the Orecchiette ($17), small ear-shaped pasta tossed with sausage, fennel, and radicchio. The entire dish is topped with crunchy breadcrumbs, which adds a fun textural element to the dish. The pasta is handmade and nice and chewy. The flavors are classic, but they are excellent.
Corzetti means "coin" in Italian, and this disc shaped pasta is called such because of its shape. The version at Bar Mezzana is more yellow and seems to have more of an egg pasta texture (compared to the other two pastas). The flavors of the Corzetti con Vongole ($23), a simple pasta dish with clams in a butter white wine sauce. It was very tasty and elegantly executed.
I have not been this excited about a new restaurant for quite some time. They excel at the types of dishes I love the most: crudos (basically anything made with raw fish) and light, elegant pasta dishes that rely more on fresh ingredients to provide flavor than on butter or heavy sauces. The menu actually includes a solid Secondi (main dish) section which includes swordfish, steak, chicken, and salmon. I was so mesmerized by the huge crudo list and mouthwatering pasta dishes this time that I didn't order anything from the Secondi section. Maybe next time!
In any event, I don't think you can go wrong here. The food is fantastic and everything we tried was good. My favorite dishes were the Langoustine, Maine Uni, Faroe Island Salmon, the Octopus, and the Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (but really, everything was very good). Chef Colin Lynch is an extremely talented chef as well as an experienced restauranteur, and you can tell when you visit Bar Mezzana. The staff is great, the food is excellent, and the overall experience is very pleasant.
Highly, highly recommended!
There is metered street parking as well as valet parking starting at 5PM.
The dining room opens at 5PM and closes at 10M (Sun - Wed) or 11PM (Thurs - Sat).The bar opens at 4:30PM and closes at 1:00AM. Brunch is available on Sundays from 10:30am - 2PM. On Sundays only, there is a limited menu of small bites you can order at the bar in the afternoon between 2PM and 5PM.
You can make reservations via the Reserve app. Do read the fine print and check the cancellation policy!
360 Harrison Avenue
Ink Block South End
Boston, Massachusetts 02118