Thursday, March 29, 2012

Restaurant Week in Boston

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Restaurant Week in Boston is like Christmas for foodies…  but better! I wasted no time making reservations this year and based on recommendations from other foodies and friends, I decided to check out two restaurants in Boston: Da Vinci’s in the South End and Pigalle in the Theater District. I was told that both would impress, and luckily, they did!*

Da Vinci’s

A group of friends and I kicked off the Restaurant Week tour at Da Vinci’s. Located where the Back Bay meets the South End, Da Vinci’s was easy to get to, and provided a delicious excuse to head into one of Boston’s best neighborhoods. We arrived a little early for our reservation but were seated right away. The interior was warm, welcoming and romantic, with its low lighting and candle-lit tables.

One great feature of Restaurant Week is that restaurants post their menus online in advance, so you can preview what you will have the opportunity to order. As soon as the reservation at Da Vinci’s was booked, I knew exactly what I was going to order.

Organic Green Salad

First up was an organic green salad tossed in a moscato vinaigrette (yum!) finished with red grapes, sliced almonds and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano (say that in your best Giada voice, ha!). This was a perfectly fresh and light starter salad. It was exactly what I hoped for, because I knew that the second course was going to be a heavy hitter.

Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli

The second course was a no-brainer. As soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew I was going to have to try the Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli. Let me just pause, and repeat that, so you can fully process what had me all sorts of excited – Indian Fusion Masala Ravioli. Doesn’t that just sound so flavorful and interesting? Chef Peppino, the head chef and co-owner of the restaurant, was born in India but received classical training in Italian cuisine, so this dish brought the inspirations from his diverse background into one impeccable plate. The ravioli was house made and stuffed with ricotta cheese, English peas and ginger, then coated in a subtly spicy tomato cream sauce. It was garnished with a curry leaf pistachio pesto. If that doesn’t scream flavor, I don’t know what does! Bravo, Chef Peppino!

Chocolate Mousse

For those who know me, I don’t have to tell you that no matter what, I am always the most excited about dessert. It doesn’t matter how full I am, I’m always up for dessert. It’s a passion. I definitely have some pretty high standards when it comes to sweets though, because in my opinion, all of those calories and extra gym sessions had better be worth it, if I’m going to indulge! So, when it came time for the “dolci” round, after the two glowing courses I had already experienced, I had high hopes for the chocolate mousse. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t all that I’d imagined. The reason I decided to order the chocolate mousse was because on the menu, it was described as being infused with Grand Marnier orange. I was disappointed to find that the orange flavor really didn’t come through. The mousse was fine, it just wasn’t as extraordinary as Chef Peppino’s other courses had been. Other’s at my table weren’t over-the-moon about their desserts either, so I’m thinking that the next time I had to Da Vinci’s for some delicious homemade pasta, I’ll make plans to head out to one of my favorite Boston desserteries afterwards.


My restaurant week adventure continued this week when my foodie/blogger friend, Sam, and I headed to Pigalle! Located in the Theater District, Pigalle provides a chic and cozy setting to enjoy unique Parisian fare with Mediterranean influences. We arrived on time for our reservation, but the restaurant was packed and the hostess wasn’t able to seat us until over a half hour after our scheduled reservation time. Usually in this situation, this would set the tone for a subpar dining experience, but pleasantly, at Pigalle, things were very different. Knowing we would be delayed, the owner led us to find seats at the bar and sent over complimentary sparkling wine to enjoy while we waited. Sam and I were relaxed as we enjoyed the atmosphere and ambiance. It hardly felt like waiting for our table – it was as though our Pigalle experience had already begun!

Asparagus Soup Shooter

When we were seated, we were pleasantly surprised yet again, when the owner sent over additional complimentary appetizers. The first was an asparagus soup shooter with roasted corn and bacon bits. I was a little nervous to try this soup presented in such an innovative fashion, but head chef Marc Orfaly certainly did not disappoint. The asparagus flavor was wholly recognizable but not overwhelming, and the corn and bacon bits complimented it perfectly.

House Made Horseradish Potato Puree Stuffed Gnocchi

We were then surprised yet again when the owner sent over an additional complimentary custom appetizer that we had briefly discussed as we waited at the bar to be seated. As we were waiting, I was perusing the menu (we didn’t know, but Pigalle changes their Restaurant Week menu regularly, so what I had planned to order after reviewing the menu online, was no longer available when we arrived – but don’t worry, our meal was superb, regardless) and noticed that one of the menu items was served with a house made horseradish potato puree stuffed gnocchi (omg!). I don’t know about you, but I thought that sounded pretty darn amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to order the main course that it was served with, so while we were talking with the owner, I asked if I could switch out one of the sides served with my main course for the gnocchi. She smiled, and politely responded that deconstructing any of their meals would be like altering a Picasso (her husband is the head chef… aww…). She continued on to say that she would be happy to send over a side of the gnocchi so that I could enjoy my meal as it was designed to the fullest. So, in came the house made horseradish potato puree stuffed gnocchi, and boy, was I glad that we got to taste it! The gnocchi were perfectly golden brown and stuffed with a delicious and subtly spiced potato puree. The gnocchi sat in a shallow pool of punchy horseradish sauce that added the perfect kick of flavor to the potato puree. At this point, it was hard to believe that we had yet to even order our first course!

French Onion Soup

The first course that I actually ordered was the French onion soup. Pigalle’s focus on innovative interpretations of food was clear in this dish. The soup was infused with braised short ribs. Although I’m a fan of classic French onion soup, I really enjoyed Pigalle’s take on it, as well. I’m always up for livening up the ordinary and adding the short ribs to this soup provided an element of pleasant surprise that perfectly complimented the familiar cheese and onion flavors.

Crispy Confit Half Duckling

Next up, was the Crispy Confit Half Duckling. Full disclosure: eating duck is a pretty new thing for me these days. Pigalle’s duck was the second I’ve ever tried, but I’d heard good things about it there, so I decided it would be a safe place to take a risk. Luckily, I was right. As it is described, the duck was perfectly crispy on the outside, but when you cut into it, the meat was just the right amount of tender. The duck was served in a parsnip Dijon mustard puree with bacony Brussels sprouts and a dried cherry glaze. Like I said, I haven’t tried too much duck in my day, but after savoring this meal, I really can’t imagine a better way to serve it. The flavorful combination of the spicy mustard, smokey brussels sprouts and sweet dried cherry glaze added the perfect amount of color to the immaculate canvas the duck presented. Bravo, Chef Orfaly!

Orange Profiteroles

After this epic Pigalle experience, I was psyched for the dessert round to see what Chef Orfaly would come up with next. I opted for the orange profiteroles that were served with an orange and nutella infused ice cream. These certainly did not disappoint! The pastry of the profiteroles was perfectly flakey, but still moist, and after breaking the shell to find the ice cream center, I enjoyed a wonderfully dynamic bite of pastry, hazelnut and citrus flavor. This was a wonderful way to conclude a lovely meal.

Overall, I would consider Restaurant Week in Boston a success! Great locations, service, people and food. I can’t wait until next Restaurant Week!

*Note: unfortunately, I neglected to bring out my digital SLR camera to Restaurant Week this year, and the dim lighting in both restaurants wasn’t very conducive to shooting with my iPhone 4, so that is why this post is lacking in photo love. My apologies!

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