We'll take a short break from the Thailand! series to focus on a couple Boston restaurants. Newton is a town right outside of Boston adjacent to Watertown, where all those crazy things happened the week following the Boston Marathon Bombings. Newton was under lockdown as well during this time.
I don't go out to Newton much.
Sure, I'll make the occasional special trip to visit one of our favorite chefs who used to work in Cambridge. But it's a trek. Public transportation out there from Cambridge is cumbersome, and traffic can be pretty bad right around mealtimes.
But then last Christmas, Bryan received a really thoughtful gift from one of his co-workers. I guess their family knew Bryan likes eating out, and gave him a gift certificate to Lumiere.
I can't believe we waited this long, but we finally made a reservation to visit this popular restaurant on a Friday night just a few weeks ago.
Lumiere means "light" in French. Indeed, the lights at this restaurant are both whimsical and fun (see first photo on top).
The moment I walked in, I immediately liked the friendly vibe of the restaurant. Though it's an elegant and sophisticated space, the environment is also warm and cozy - not the least bit stuffy. In fact, the dress code listed on the restaurant website is "casual" and conversations are open and relaxed.
Chef-owner Michael Leviton, who is also the co-owner of one of my favorite restaurants in Cambridge, started Lumiere in 1999 and it has been going strong since, often showing up on "best of" lists for the greater Boston area. Lumiere applies both classic French and modern cooking techniques to local, sustainable, and seasonal ingredients. They source a lot of their produce form Verrill Farm in Concord, MA, Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA, and the Northeast Family Farms Cooperative.
The Lumiere menu is divided up into "first courses" ($12-$18), "main courses" ($29-$32), and "sides" ($8-$11). You can also choose the chef's tasting menu, which costs $70 (additional $30 for wine pairing) and includes five total courses (three savory courses, cheese, and dessert).
Not everyone has to get the tasting menu, a philosophy I really, really like. I always feel constrained by that requirement, though I understand why restaurants do it. We decided Bryan would get the tasting menu but I would order some other dishes off of the a la carte menu.
Instead of getting the wine pairing that goes with the tasting, we opted for a half bottle of white to start off the meal and then a bottle of red to finish. Though we were not particularly familiar with their wine list, they did a fantastic job of helping us select out wines.
It's nice when the servers try to recommend bottles that they personally think are great values and not necessarily always the most expensive ones.
We started with a tiny amuse of smoked sablefish pate and cucumber. I loved how the light and crunchy cucumber balanced out the smoky and creamy sablefish.
For my starter, I enjoyed the first bounty from spring! Roasted Asparagus and Spring Onions were topped with a perfectly poached Chip-In farm egg and served together with Romesco sauce, chopped almonds, and hazelnuts. The egg "popped" when I broke it open, and the runny yolk became a sauce covering the whole dish. Yum.
Bryan's first course in his tasting menu was a Fish Tartare topped with avocado cream and served alongside a spicy soy-sesame vinaigrette. The flavors were fine, reminiscent of tried-and-true Japanese-inspired combinations.
Bryan's second course was Barnegat Light Sea Scallops served over a carrot purée and topped with carrot-fennel salad. The entire dish was then dressed with a gorgeously fragrant citrus vinaigrette and fennel oil. Though I typically don't love orange flavored savory dishes, I was so surprised how well it worked in this application. This dish was fantastic and easily my favorite dish of the evening.
I had ordered the entree sized portion (not pictured), which comes with a generous five scallops. You can also get the appetizer portion, which comes with three scallops. The version pictured above is the tasting menu portion.
The main dish was a simple Grilled Steak, which came with Shitake mushrooms, cipollini onions, and beef jus. Bryan ordered it "as rare as you're willing to cook it." When the steak came, although it was *just* a bit over (maybe on the way to medium rare), Bryan thought it was fine and started cutting it and eating it.
A few moments later our server stopped by and remarked, "that does not look like a true rare steak. Let me get the kitchen to make you a new one."
"But I've already started eating a significant portion of it."
"That's quite alright. You should get a properly cooked steak."
She whisked that one away, and moments later, a new, absolutely perfectly cooked piece of rare steak came out.
Now that's really good service.
Although the steak typically comes with fries, the tasting menu portion did not include French Fries, so we ordered a side of it ($8). These fries were only OK, being just a bit soft and not super crispy. Nevertheless, they were tasty enough that we still demolished most of that basket!
The tasting came with a cheese course. We had the Von Trapp Farmstead“Oma” Cheese, which was served with apple mostarda, Aquidneck honeycomb, hazelnuts, and a cider reduction. The cheese was pretty mild but definitely enjoyable. Bryan typically prefers stronger cheeses but he was still perfectly happy to finish this one.
Finally for dessert, we shared Bryan's final course, a tiny homemade Apple Galette topped with Greek yogurt ice cream. It was very good - simple and satisfying.
I was not sure what to expect here, but I really enjoyed my dinner at Lumiere. I shouldn't be surprised, considering that it's like the "parent" of one of my Cambridge favorites. The food was excellent, and everything was prepared with care. The ambiance was warm, cozy, and relaxed, and the service was superb.
If it were not so far away, I could see myself quickly becoming a regular here. In fact, we met a couple sitting next to us who had been coming almost every other week for the past fourteen years. That's dedication.
We're so thankful to Bryan's co-worker for giving us this gift certificate. Otherwise, I'm not sure how long it would have taken before I went out to Newton to try this place on my own.
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