Bryan and I celebrated our eight-year wedding anniversary this past week. We enjoyed the Chef's Tasting at No. 9 Park, a well established Boston institution that is known for good food.
No. 9 Park derives its name from its address. It literally sits on Park Street, right near the State house with the golden top, at "no. 9, Park St." It is the original brainchild of Barbara Lynch, who also owns Drink, B&G Oysters, and Sportello.
No. 9 Park serves regionally inspired French and Italian dishes with "an emphasis on simplicity and flavor." It sits in a charming townhouse right on Beacon Hill overlooking Boston Common.
The menu is seasonal, and changes often. The chef's tasting actually changes every week. Prices are definitely on the higher end: the Chef's tasting 7-course menu is $96, or $160 with wine. You can also get a 3-course prix fixe for $65, or buy a la carte (appetizers $19, entrees $39, and desserts $12).
I think "simplicity and flavor" defines the food here pretty accurately. The dishes are mostly simple - no wild pairings of exotic flavors - just good, solid cooking. The food is expertly prepared, service is impeccable, and the space is really nice. The signature dish, the prune stuffed gnocchi with seared foie gras, is definitely a must-try "wow" dish and lives up to its reputation. Other dishes were solid, but not particularly exciting. I guess "simple" would be a better word.
Join me as I relive my 7 courses. 🙂
Raw swordfish, green olive tapenade, and sliced radish. I thought this dish was delicious - the raw swordfish was super fresh, sweet, and rich. It reminded me of really good yellowtail sashimi. The fish had a crisp lemony taste which contrasted the stronger, brinier green olive tapenade perfectly. The dish was paired with a clean dry white wine from the Basque region.
Grilled mackerel, lightly fork-mashed red potatoes with a slight dab of garlic aoili. This was probably my least favorite dish of the tasting. To one who typically eats mackerel raw (which is delicious, btw), this mackerel seemed borderline overcooked. The fork-mashed potatoes were less mushy than most mashed potatoes. Over all, I only thought this dish was OK, and thus I only ate half of it, trying to save room for the rest of the meal. This dish was paired with a rosato from Sicily (like a rose but much drier).
Heirloom tomatoes, house-made farfalle, tiny roasted eggplant, and deep fried burrata. With all those fresh,seasonal ingredients, how can this dish not be good? The burrata comes from a local cheesemaker (from Somerville!) called Fiore di Nonno. The Somerville cheese was delicious. In a later post, I'll talk about my adventures in the kitchen as I ventured out to buy more of this excellent cheese!
The tomatoes were sweet and fresh, and of course, the homemade farfalle was perfectly al dente. The dish was just lightly salted - perfect. A nice dish - nothing particularly creative, but it was very well done.
I must inject a note here to commend the waitstaff for working so hard to answer my question. I merely asked where the cheese came from, and before you know it, several waitstaff were asking around trying to find out the answer for me. Because of their hard work, I am able to share that information with you today. Ha ha, I never would have expected the answer to be Somerville!
In the tasting menu, you can opt into an 8th course, which usually consists of a choice between the signature prune filled gnocchi dish and a seared fois gras dish. We chose to order one of each, and then share. Bryan got the seared fois gras with truffles. I don't really like the liver-y taste of fois gras in general, so I can't objectly comment on this dish. I personally thought it tasted too "liver-y." Bryan said it was very well done, though not the best he's ever had. Those honors would have to belong to Alex at the Wynn in Las Vegas.
I ordered the signature dish: prune stuffed gnocchi, seared foie gras, toasted almonds, vin santo in a butter sauce. Wow. This is definitely a wow dish, and I think it deserves its signature reputation. I don't even like fois gras that much, but it works so well here. Fois gras typically pairs well with something sweet, and in this case, the prune-filled gnocchi offered the perfect complement. It didn't even taste liver-y! The gnocchi was also fresh, chewy, and had all-around perfect texture. Wow. I ended up eating most of this and making Bryan eat his seared fois gras alone. Heh heh heh . . . sharing? Did we say we would share? 😉 This dish was paired with a dessert wine.
The next course was pork belly salted and cured overnight with lavendar and honey over kohlrabi puree and topped with dashi foam. It also came with a strip of deep fried pork skin. This dish was pretty good, though not one of my favorites (I also took half of this home). The belly was moist and rich, and definitely had hints of honey. I'm not sure if I really tasted lavender or not. The fried skin offered a nice smoky crunch which was a nice contrast from the soft, buttery pork belly. This dish was paired with a Russian River Valley pinot noir.
Boeuf (beef) and lobster over dandelion greens and bechamel on top (white sauce made with flour butter roux and milk). The beef was perfectly cook - slightly seared on the outside but gorgeously soft and buttery on the inside. The dandelion greens were fine; I thought they tasted like baby spinach, actually. Over all, this dish was expertly prepared, though not particularly exciting. Again, I only ate half of this.
The next course was an optional cheese tasting. Each slice is $6, and you choose as little or as much as you want. Because they only have one cheese table (it rolls around on wheels), and another table had just ordered cheese, we had to wait about 15 minutes for this next course. The waiter poured us both free glasses of champagne while apologizing for the wait. What excellent service! I pointed at the champagne and told the waiter that it was actually quite appropriate since we were celebrating our anniversary that day.
We ended up picking three different cheeses. A stinky blue, a sharp Vermont cheese, and a creamy Belgian cheese. Unfortunately, that is all I can remember. They came with a nice tray of homemade crackers, grapes, hazelnuts, and strawberry jam. It was quite nice.
Palate cleanser - pineapple sorbet with huckleberries over graham powdered "crust". For some reason, this dish tasted so refreshing and so good. Maybe we were feeling a bit overwhelmed with those heavier dishes (pork and beef!) and thus it was so refreshing.
And finally, dessert. A creamy decadent coconut gelatin custard was flanked on either side by nutty pies and super rich chocolate torts. Oh - (how could I forget???) - and a few absolutely scrumptuous toasted candied cashews sprinkled about.
Man, I might try making those cashews at home. They were too good. The nutty pie was OK, but then again, I don't really like nut desserts, so I'm biased. The dark flourless chocolate torte was flawless - super dark and yet not too sweet. The coconut gelatin custard was rich and creamy, though it felt a bit thick for my tastes.
The waiter was kind enough to give me a glass of dessert wine on the house because it was our anniversary. Again, they really know how to make you feel special. Impeccable service.
Over all, this is a great place for a date. The waitstaff are all really nice and the service can't be beat. Though not super exciting, the food is expertly prepared. The prices are high, and honestly, you can get better food for a lot less in other cities like New York or Chicago. Nevertheless, it's still probably one of the best restaurants in Boston. Maybe not super inventive or exciting, but definitely historical, charming, delicious, and SUPER service oriented.