Saturday, August 4, 2007

Mare - Organic in Boston's North End

With a name like Mare you already know the majority of the menu will be seafood oriented. What I didn't expect was a restaurant in the North End that is organic, right down to it's wine list, they also have wines that use sustainable farming methods which is pretty damn cool.

The space has the feeling of being really large, perhaps because it's on a corner and two walls are all windows. Clean modern lines let you forget you are in the North End. The only complaint is the noise level can get loud, and that does not make it a good place for an intimate meal.

We went in thinking 5 course tasting menu, at $75 it's not a bad price (you get a hot appetizer and a cold one, a primi, an entree and dessert) it is not a set menu, the chef picks it as he goes along, but if you want to try a certain dish be sure to let the waiter know and they will include it.

In the end none of us ended up with the tasting menu, because we decided we would just share all our plates.

Our amuse bouche was a crostini with fennel and onion. Good, but not supremely memorable.

Three appetizers started us off:

Kobe beef tartare was fantastic, topped with a quail egg I immediately mixed it all together and we went to town on the plate of raw meat like lions! Our waiter forgot the crostini and so the plate looked rather empty.

For our vegetarian appetizer we opted for the ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms with melon and prosciutto. Lest you think this will be the traditional proscuitto wrapped melon, it of course wasn't. The zucchini was beyond stuffed with melted ricotta. It actually squirted as we cut it, but that didn't mean any of the filling went to waste. The cantelope and proscuitto was light and full of flavor!

And our seafood appetizer was the fried clams, not terribly original on our behalf, but fried sure sounded good. And it was! Not overly greasy with horseradish. I liked the presentation in the cone, very pomme frites-like. I placed this strategically closest to me so I could eat more than anyone else.All our entrees were seafood, it was a warm evening and lamb or steak sounded too heavy. Plus these were the three we all couldn't decide between.

The first thing on the menu that caught my eye was the lobster stuffed paccheri. So that was destined to be my entree. I have a huge dislike for mushrooms, but luckily chanterelles are one of the few I do like, so it was a bonus that they were the ones in my dish. The red currents added a nice bit of tanginess to the dish, and a good splash of color. The lobster stuffing was amazingly melt in your mouth good. I only wish there had been more of the lobster stuffing in the pasta. Our heartiest entree, and the one that half of got packed up and taken home was the shellfish risotto. Full of calamari, mussels, shrimp the result was shellfish in every bite. Fantastic! Do not be deceived by the big plate, there is plenty of food in this dish.
Our most carb-conscious dish was the tuna mezzo crudo. Perfectly seared high quality tuna, polenta (or possibly mashed potato?) wrapped in proscuitto and wilted spinach in onion cream decorating the plate. We all wanted more of the proscuitto canneloni. They should seriously consider making this an appetizer.
As a side dish we got the Gorgonzola potato gratin. It was dee-lish-ous. The gorgonzola flavor was very very mild, but I will definately entertain this idea the next time I make a potato gratin at home. Serving it in an all-clad pan was a nice touch.
By the end of the meal, no one wanted to order dessert. But my personal philosophy (stolen from a good friend) is that you must always try all a restaurant has to offer the first time you go. So I ordered the bread pudding with amaretto gelato and caramel swirls (per the waiter's recommendation). I must say, the gelato was good, but the bread pudding was a bit dry and not very flavorful, even after dipped in the caramel sauce.
The table next to us had ordered the ricotta pie with coconut sorbet and left half of it as well. So I'd say skip the desserts and just head to one of the many cafe's lining Hanover Street and pick up dessert there.

The service overall was just ok. Initially our waiter was very rushed in explaining menu options and specials, which I found a bit irritating. Tack on to that the forgotten crostini with the tartare, and not being very good about refilling our empty wine glasses, it took away from me wanting to give the service fine dining status.
I'll be back though for the food was good and original for the neighborhood. And except the dessert there wasn't a single dish I wouldn't order again.

1 comment:

annehawk said...

With a name like "Mare", I'd expect the menu to be mostly horse-meat. I'm glad to hear that it wasn't.