It's been about four months since my offices moved to Boston city proper, and I'm loving it. Sure, there are a few drawbacks. My commute is about 50% longer than it used to be. The seaport area is cold and windy. Walking around that area was especially challenging this past winter.
However, there are the many, many perks.
I love being so close to Chinatown. Now I regularly stop by C Mart (near South Station) to pick up Asian groceries on my way home. I love having ready access to baby bok choy, Chinese hot sauce, and fresh (packaged) hand pulled noodles.
I also love being close to so many great restaurants. I'm just a block away from Fort Point, where there are fantastic coffee shops and restaurants. Downtown Boston and Chinatown are only a 15-20 minute walk away. Similarly, the North End is only about 1.5 miles away. I often jog there and back in the middle of the day.
Finally, it's so much easier to check out new restaurants in Boston city proper. In the past, it felt cumbersome to head "into Boston" from Cambridge in the middle of the workweek to try new restaurants.
Now, everything is on the way home.
Just a couple nights ago, I took full advantage of this newfound advantage. Bryan and I visited Precinct Kitchen, a beautifully appointed and completely renovated new restaurant that just opened about a month ago in the Boston Loews Hotel in Back Bay.
Precinct Kitchen has a warm and inviting decor. I felt immediately at ease after descending down the stairs into this cozy space. There are rows and rows of logs as well as a warm fire right at the entrance. Though it was too cold the day I went, there is also a large outdoor patio area with fire pits that will be really fun in the summertime.
They have a spacious bar area which serves charcuterie, cheese, bar snacks, as well as a selection of cocktails and other drinks. Bryan tried the Nor’Easter (bourbon, maple and ginger) while I tried their Bloody Melinda (vodka, tomato, clam juice). It was a solid drink, with a definitive spicy kick as well as real clams inside.
Precinct Kitchen aims to serve charcuterie from various family farms. On the night we went, the server told us that the cured meats were from Pennsylvania. Our Charcuterie Board ($16) came with Berkshire prosciutto, Napoli salumi, chorizo, duck parfait, grain mustard, and mostardo. On the side we received four slices of toasted "rustic bread."
Bryan (who loves all things liver and duck) really enjoyed the duck parfait, which was decadently creamy and had a pronounced liver flavor. I really enjoyed the mostardo, which consisted of caramelized shallots cooked in white wine and mixed with mustard seeds. It was creamy, sweet, and had a nice blend of flavors. Overall the cured meats were solid, and I enjoyed the accompaniments.
We paired this with single glasses of the Justin Cabernet Sauvignon ($12).
The server highly recommended the Burrata Crostini, which was delicious. Three crostini came topped with roasted red peppers, basil, mint, marcona almonds, and tons of pine nuts ($12). I really liked the sweetness of the roasted red peppers as well as the textural contrast from the pine nuts. Overall there was a great balance of flavors and textures.
We always try to order some sort of greens to balance out the meal. This particular salad actually had a lot of my favorite ingredients. Baby kale and arugula were tossed with quinoa salad, orange segments, sunflower seeds, and shaved feta in a citrus vinaigrette ($10). Although the arugula was milder than I prefer (I like it quite bitter!), overall I thought it was an enjoyable salad.
Precinct specializes in New England cuisine with a focus on seafood. They have steamed mussels, east coast oysters, and even a whole clam bake complete with all sorts of steamed seafood (including lobster!).
I went ahead and ordered the Seared Georges Bank Scallops which came with parsnip purée and a marinated warm mushroom sauce ($28). The parsnip purée was pretty sweet and buttery but was balanced out by the umami of the mushroom sauce. Overall, the dish was solid but nothing special. Additionally, the scallops were cooked just *slightly* over what I typically prefer.
The Branzino, which came served with roasted fennel, citrus, and shallot vinaigrette, was excellent and probably one of the best items we had that night. The skin was nicely seasoned - salty, lemony, and slightly crisp - and added a ton of flavor to the tender white meat inside. We enjoyed this with a glass of 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon, which was more tannic and less sweet than the Justin Cabernet.
I can never stay away from Parmesan Truffle Fries ($6). These were solid and had decent flavor, but weren't quite up to par with the best fries I've ever had. They were also a tad cold. We still polished off the entire bowl, though.
Similarly, the Broccoli Rabe side dish (served with lemon zest - $6), was fine but nothing I couldn't make at home.
The sleepy side dishes were totally made up by the signature dessert, Strawberries & Cream Brioche Toast, which was divine. The brioche toast is covered in a layer of burnt sugar caramel, which not only adds a bit of sugary "crunch" to the toast, but also contributes a deep, caramel-y, almost bitter, burnt sugar flavor. I loved it; Bryan, who found the bitterness distracting, not so much. I thought it went perfectly with the fresh strawberries and cream on top.
All in all, we had a great meal there. If I were to go back, I would recommend getting the charcuterie plate (or maybe a cheese board?), burrata crostini, the branzino, and the strawberries & cream brioche toast. Those were definitely our favorite dishes.
The night we went the bar was packed but the dining room was only half full. Perhaps it's because it's still so new. It seems like this place hasn't quite gotten on everyone's radar screens yet, even though it's in a pretty convenient location.
All in all, I see this as a great place to take business clients or to meet friends after work. The dining area is really beautiful and pretty quiet. The bar area is louder and more happening. Both feel warm and cozy. The food is all around solid with a few standouts. Prices seem reasonable overall. The seafood and charcuterie focus along with the decor makes the place feel very farm-to-table New England.
May 1, 2014 (today!) is their grand opening.
I spoke with the sous chef, Andy, who told me that once things settle down from the initial few months, they hope to roll out more specials. They will be changing the menu seasonally, and expanding the menu once they get comfortable.
Disclaimer - I did not pay for this meal. All opinions are my own.
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