I just downloaded a book by Gail Simmons called, “Speaking With My Mouth Full.” Simmons is a regular judge on Top Chef. I originally downloaded the sample onto my Kindle. Part of the sample had to do with the season when the final two chefs were Hung and Dale. The judges debated for something close to six hours on who the winner would be based on the final meal they were served. The meal Dale cooked apparently had higher highs than Hung’s, but also had lower lows. Hung was consistently very good. So the question came down to this: Would you rather eat a meal that was exciting and had big hits, but also had big misses, or would you rather eat a meal that was consistently good? For my money, I would rather eat the consistently good meal.
Unfortunately, it was the other type of meal Cathy and I had at Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square.
Cathy and I arrived about ½ hour early for our reservation. Part of the reason was we wanted to try a drink at their bar. They have an extensive bar menu. Cathy got a Cosmo; I went with a Haverna, which had pineapple averna and Pimm’s. Both drinks were delicious and strong. The bartenders were very knowledgeable and answered various questions we had.
After our drinks, we went and got our table. Our waitress came over and knew that I was gluten free. She seemed pretty knowledgeable about what I could have and not have.
We were given a different menu than what they had on line, which meant that they try to use fresh, local ingredients. Good start. We both decided to have a three-course meal.
I started my meal with some Oysters. These were all local, off of the coast of Massachusetts. For those who have never tried an oyster, it is hard to describe what an oyster should taste like, other than they should taste a little like the ocean. Kind of salty, the texture should be firm…not slimy but a little slippery. They can be an acquired taste, that’s for sure, and it took me a while, but I now love them. These oysters were among the best I have had on the east coast.
The second course was Moules Provencal. For those of you who are less pretentious, I had mussels in a tomato, fennel and white wine sauce. I received a generous helping of mussels and the sauce was perfectly seasoned, though I wished there was a little more of it.
So far, so very good.
Unfortunately, entrée’s came next.
I got the Herb Roasted Chicken, served with new potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, and a truffle jus. Let me tell you: Asparagus should not be the star of this meal.
I got a chicken breast, a leg and a thigh, with the skin on. The breast seemed to be cooked right. The skin looked like it was just crispy enough. Unfortunately, the skin was soggy, and there was no flavor to the meat at all. It had not been seasoned properly. When you season chicken with the skin on, it should be seasoned both on and under the skin. This had neither. Still, I ate my way through it, since the sauce added enough flavor to make it ok. However, then came the leg and thigh.
If you are a fan of Anne Burrell – or any chef on any cooking show for that matter – one of the things that they always try to make you understand is that brown food tastes good. Look at the picture.
The skin is not browned at all. Again, absolutely no flavor to the chicken. It was like they ran out of salt and pepper in the kitchen. Cathy had the same issues with her meal. After having an appetizer of ceviche that was delicious, and a very tasty salad, her pasta dish was bland. Needless to say, it was a very disappointing way to end our meal.
The service was very good. The bill wasn’t all that bad. $137 before tip for two cocktails, a glass of wine, and that essentially was four appetizers and two entrée’s. Still, if I am going to pay $70 a head before tip, I expect to have my entrée seasoned properly.
I would go back and give Eastern Standard another try sometime. I have to believe that, based on how good the appetizers were, the chef may have had an off night. As Alton Brown says, “Sometimes good chefs have bad days.” Still, I hope when we go next time, we find out that the meal we just had was the exception, rather than the standard for Eastern Standard.