Monthly Archives: April 2014

Menton

We have wanted to visit Menton for a couple of years. There always seemed to be a barrier to going. Menton is expensive and with Boston being a city that the Michelin Guide refuses to go, there is an implicit question of value. Yes, it got a 4-star review in the Globe, but that was four years ago. We needed a special occasion to push us over the edge. Fortunately that occasion presented itself in Ruth’s birthday.

Let’s start with the atmosphere: Menton is quiet. There is a lounge, but no bar. The staff is well dressed, but not formal. Overall the room is dimly lit, but the tables have enough light to read by. We were seated immediately and offered a cocktail which we declined on anticipation of the tasting menu with wine pairing. Better to start slow.

It was restaurant week, but both the regular menu and the discounted menu were available. Not that they were honoring the restaurant week pricing. They did have a special menu starting at $58 for three courses, but we were there for the n-course tasting menu. We’ll do restaurant week next year.

Service is provided as a team. The captain did visit our table to start. She checked allergies and preferences. She should have asked if Ruth demands that her birthday dessert be made of sweet chocolate, but we’ll get to that later. When the food started coming, each course and wine were presented by the server. The service was relaxed and absolutely top notch.

It’s a little hard to define how many courses there were. The first four plates came out rapid-fire. They are small and served as finger food and no utensils are provided. We finish up our Keller-esqe snacks and sparkling wine then move on the knife and fork food.

From here on out we are served a different wine with each course. There were a couple misses and one we couldn’t agree on, but overall the pairings were excellent. We shouldn’t have been surprised; No. 9 Park blew us away with their wine pairings, so we know Barbra Lynch has our back.

The menu is heavy on fish. As the name implies, Menton is French, but near Italy and on the coast, so that’s what you get. It gives them license to throw in a little meat and a little pasta while staying within a theme. It’s a nice rationalization.

The fish preparations were all excellent: caviar on tuna tartar in a crunchy wrapper, mussels poached in their own shell, scallop with black truffles, cobia with poached celery, and pan seared fluke all perfectly cooked. Really outstanding, as was the pasta with fava beans and sweetbreads.

We said we liked foie gras, so Ruth got seared foie and Doug got a a slab of torchon. You can’t go wrong with foie gras, but you can improve on the toast points and they needed some refinement. That’s a quibble. We made them promise that they would never take foie gras off the menu.

The only oddity in the whole meal was the chicken. Light meat, dark meat, and liver pâté. Very simple, but maybe too simple. The chicken, as it turns out, was an heirloom breed. Sadly, the thing we noticed was that the chicken breast was a little dry. It would have been good as an early course, but by this point in the meal we had consumed way too much wine to appreciate the subtlety of the special bird.

The lamb served three ways was excellent. It had Moroccan spicing and was a great end to the savory courses… or so we thought. In response to our condemnation of the chicken the chef sent out braised veal tongue and cheek. Literally. It was outstanding, but now we were getting really full.

Did we mention there would be cheese? Ruth passes. They had some really nice choices (all pasteurized) and some nice accompaniments include candied rhubarb. At this point it was getting a little hard to remember what was going on. Yes, more wine with the cheese, too.

After a palate cleanser we are into dessert. Now the trouble starts. Something not chocolate arrives at the table with a candle in it. Actually, it was a pretty nice presentation, but Ruth is ready to flip the table over in protest. Ruth explains, calmly, that all birthday desserts should be made of sweet chocolate. Without question (and there is a lot to question here) two more desserts are delivered, both chocolate. They have a really great staff.

Several more sweet nibbles and we roll out of there after four hours of outstanding service. There was never a moment that we felt like we were waiting for food or felt rushed. They are really close to Michelin three star service. The only place they failed was in not offering a black napkin to Ruth who was wearing black (white napkins can leave lint); however, they provided one when asked. Food-wise, they are a solid two-star by our estimation. With their excellent sommelier and chef willing to cater to even the most demanding birthday girl, they should welcome a Michelin review. Now all Boston needs are enough restaurants to attract the Michelin Guide.

P.S.

It did seem like the music increased in volume and tempo over the course of the evening and peaked when the room was busiest then dropped off as the dining room emptied out. We thought this was really clever, but when asked the staff said this was unintentional and that (to their irritation) the music was the same every night. It’s an important lesson: You can perceive systems at work even if there are none.