Friday, August 23, 2013

Honest food blogging: La Voile on Newbury St.

Restaurant Week always draws me and my partner out of our culinary rut to new spots we haven't tried before - and this week we took advantage of the $38 three-course menus at La Voile on Newbury St., and Lineage in Coolidge Corner (neither is exactly new, of course - they're just new to us).

La Voile ("The Sail") was up first, and was chosen basically because my partner is an obsessive Francophile, particularly when it comes to food. And this "Boston brasserie," which  arrived on these shores some years ago from Cannes, certainly scratched that particular itch - although not perhaps with as much finesse as I at first hoped.

To be fair, the ambience of the place is everything you'd want - the room inside is warmly luxe, and appointed in that patented you're-actually-inside-a-pastry Parisian mode (although the décor doesn't quite go over the top; the nautical theme and a certain sense of structure keep the brass and frou-frou at bay). We chose to eat on the terrace, however, as it was one of those unexpectedly cool, lovely nights we've been blessed with this August; and honestly, except when one of those fat, middle-aged m*ssholes who rev their muffler-free choppers on Newbury Street roared by, you could almost pretend you were in some little bistro just off the Champ de Mars as the sun set in the west, and the clear sky steeped from evening into night. No flat-screen TV tuned to ESPN, no pumped-in soft rock - just light conversation and a breeze whispering in the branches of the trees; it was heaven.

The menu was likewise appealing - we both began with a fairly standard endive-and-poached-pear salad, which was rendered with a fresh touch, plated prettily, and proved scrumptious (we regretted not choosing the mussels appetizer, though, as one went by that looked like a dark moule mountain capped with a jaunty baguette). I paired the endive with a cosmopolitan, which was mixed smoothly, and had the right balance (o rare!), but was a bit on the small side.

We diverged in taste when it came to our entrées - I went for canard à l'orange, while the partner unit bet on the braised beef shoulder. Both again were generously proportioned, but the orange wasn't over-abundant on the canard, which was itself not quite as moite as it might have been.  I think the old ball-and-chain had better luck with the braised beef; it all but melted beneath his knife, and arrived drifting on a bed of delectably fluffy potato purée.

The waiter - who chatted amiably in French, which meant my partner fell in love with him immediately, as he does with every cute young thing in trousers who can manage more than "Zut alors!" - recommended a Malbec with the duck, which was close to a bull's-eye but not quite. The wine itself was fine - nicely balanced with a welcome shot of pepper; but it wasn't complex enough to draw out anything in particular from the duck itself.

Alas, then dessert came late - and proved a disappointment. La Voile's idea of profiteroles turned out to be stuffed with whipped (rather than ice) cream, but were a bit damp in general anyway; the chocolate sauce was as dark and rich as it should have been, but, like the orange sauce that came before it, was slightly sparse. The coffee, though, was superb (particularly for decaf) - pungent and fresh, with just the right depth.  Mmmm.  A refill?  Yes, please.

As a kind of apology for the wait on dessert, our waiter suddenly appeared (still speaking French - sigh!) with two small flutes of champagne (well, maybe Asti Spumante), so we left in a good mood, and feeling we'd just had a nice night out at one of the better (but not best) Parisian bistros. It's worth noting, though, that even with the Restaurant Week discount, drinks and coffee brought the bill to a little over $70 apiece. I'd guess that price point (add almost $20 outside of Restaurant Week, I'd say) is driven by Newbury Street rents. So - is the ambience worth it?  Well, on a nice summer night, it's hard to say no.

"Honest Food Blogging" means we paid for everything. Next week: New Age elegance at Lineage in Coolidge Corner.

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