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Restaurant Review: Excelsior, Boston, MA

by TK | February 10th, 2008 | Restaurant Reviews
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The mission was simple: we were away for the weekend in Boston and wanted to find a happening restaurant for fun, food, and drinks. We were staying at a great hotel, so I called down to the concierge and advised him of his mission and that we were looking for an 8:30 reservation. Within 5 minutes, he called back and told me that he had secured a reservation at the Excelsior and that we were going to love it. With a bold statement like that, I could only assume that a man with that much confidence knew exactly what he was talking about.

The hotel called a cab for us, and we took the 15 minute drive over to the restaurant. Wanting to check out the entire scene, we arrived around 7:20. It was a cold and wet New England February evening so we were happy for the doorman and his umbrella that escorted us to the front door. Once inside we were immediately greeted by the hostess who checked us in and escorted us to the bar that dominated most of the first floor. We found a spot at the corner of the bar and were  greeted almost instantly by a smart looking, all-in-black dressed bartender. He gave us drink menus and also a regular menu as we advised him that we might do an appetizer while we waited for a table.

I ordered a Devine Strawberries for my date, and I had an Exceeds Apple, an over-the-rocks concoction of Stoli Vanil Apple Vodka, Liquor 43, and Pineapple & Cream. The bartenders worked efficiently and even though it was fairly crowded, they never looked harried. Unfortunately, the drinks got mixed reviews from us. The Devine Strawberries, which was a martini with Stoli Strawberi, Fresh Strawberry Juice, and Sparkling Wine, got rave reviews from my tantalizing dinner partner. My drink on the other hand was neither apple tasting or exceeding in any way except for my disappointment.

The bar scene was a valid attempt at being hip. The decor was modern and filled with shades of red, tan, and burgundy. The lighting was spot on and had just enough darkness to set a mood and just enough light to allow you to see people in your party. The music was a little on the loud side so if you wanted to have a conversation with the people in your party you would have had to scream. The crowd was also a very eclectic group — young people wearing jeans and sweatshirts ordering shots, older couples, and even a Boston Celtic out with his wife.

At 8:45 (yes, that is 15 minutes late and after I had to go to the manager to find out the situation) the hostess came and took us to the elevator that would carry us to the second floor and the location of the dining room. The elevator ride turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening. The glass elevator gives you a wonderful view of the two story high wine closet.  A “well stocked wine cellar” was given a whole new definition!

Upon arrival at the dinning room, a host escorted us to our table. We had an excellent window table that was actually next to the aforementioned Boston Celtic. The dinning room held some of the same decor traits of the bar, but was much brighter. Though for a romantic evening, the lighting may have been too much.

The waiter promptly arrived and presented us with menus and took our water order (we went with straight Boston tap). When he returned in a few minutes I ordered our wine choice of a sparkling Italian — Adami, Vigneti Giardino. My soul mate and I continued our conversation as glasses were brought and our bubbly was presented. We also made our dinner choices. My dinner companion chose Roast Organic Amish Raised Chicken ‘Under Brick’ and I went with the Char-grilled Carved Lamb Loin. After ordering I took a final sip of my first glass of the wine and found an unpleasant surprise – a piece of broken glass. After picking the shard out of my mouth, we immediately called over the floor manager. To his benefit, he acted immediately. He comped the wine and went to get a new glass for me. We appreciated his efficiency and went with the”no harm, no foul” philosophy.

When our meals arrived they were exquisitely presented, as my fanned out lamb looked like it had come from a food magazine photo. This was unfortunately the highlight of my meal. The accompanying red pepper jam completely overwhelmed the lamb and the cauliflower gratin was a solid side dish but not special. My partner’s chicken was much better than my lamb selection. The chicken was moist and incredibly tasty, but the Celery Root ‘Pappardelle’ and Pancetta Alfredo that completed the plate was bland.

The service for the Excelsior can best be summed up in one thing that I saw as we were finishing our meal. A wait staff person was meticulously measuring the place setting he was positioning for a now open table. He paid attention to the smallest detail. And our waiter, the manager, and the wait staff were all superb at their jobs and well trained. Unfortunately, the food did not live up to this high level of service. Although nothing was “bad” that we had, nothing was exceptional either. When we look for our next night out in Boston it won’t be at the Excelsior.

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