We spent our New Year's Eve dinner at the highest rated "E" restaurant on open-table: L'Espalier. Having gone once before with T last year and having the Degustation Tasting menu, we were excited to celebrate our New Year's here. L'Espalier has been serving New England-French cuisine in Boston since 1978! In 1998, chef Frank McClelland purchased the restaurant and has earned countless awards and recognitions including his 2007 James Beard award for best of the Northeast. In it's new location on Boylston Street since 2008, the dining rooms and lounge overlook the street, perfect for people-watching. Most of the ingredients are locally sourced, mainly from chef McClelland's own organic farm in Essex, Apple Street Farm.
We headed up the elevator to the salon where we enjoyed a cocktail while people-watching and waiting for our friends.
After enjoying a cocktail and a complimentary glass of champagne, we headed back to our seats, through the festively decorated dining rooms with stars, sparkles, and balloons. My only issue with the decorations was that the balloons on our table had a mind of their own and kept blocking our light, making for some less-than-great food pictures!
After making our decisions and placing our orders we were immediately given an array of hors d'oeuvres and amuse bouches. Starting with a spinach pithivier (my favorite) with bechamel and a ham and cheese criossant before moving to the sweetbreads with BBQ spice & a freeze dried corn with cheddar cluster. The servers swiftly brought along the final round of amuse bouches: an Apple Street Farm egg espuma with caviar, the deliciously intense champagne macaroon with strawberry served with a bergamot orange, and Earl Grey tea spritzer.
On to the first course: I went with the winter salad with various citrus, lightly cooked Okeechobee shrimp, pomegranate, and "snow" (which reportedly had kaffir lime but tasted a bit of basil). Light in flavors, the shrimp did not add much to the dish, which was upsetting as shrimp is one of my favorite proteins of all time.
T went with the Warm Wellfleet oysters with smoked bone barrow vermouth, samphire, and sturgeon caviar. He enjoyed this dish and reports the greens complimented the smokiness of the oysters well.
The second course was the course that I was most excited for, as L'Espalier is known for their butter poached lobster and I had had it before during the tasting menu. For the second course I had the butter poached Maine lobster with a red wine emulsion, beets, and black walnut. The lobster bits were cooked perfectly, but the beet tasted almost citrusy which I was not prepared for.
Although you may not be able to see this one as well due to the lighting, T went with the slow cooked squab breast with maple roasted carrot, chicory mushroom puree, liver, and vinaigrette. My second-favorite dish, it tasted a bit like a very tasty hot dog (which is probably an insult...but it's a compliment in my mind, as I love hot dogs!).
For the third course, there was no choice, everyone was given lubina with west coast pine mushrooms, a mussel emulsion and juniper sprigs. I have always liked seabass as it has a delicate light fishy flavor, and I get overwhelmed by fishy tastes. I enjoyed the fish with mushrooms, but was not a fan of the mussel emulsion as it seemed to overpower the delicacy of the fish. On the other hand, this was T's second-favorite dish.
Next, I went with the slow poached and roasted guinea hen (a breast and a leg) with black truffle-turnip "risotto", pear puree, sauteed spinach, and a foie gras jus. The quotations on the risotto tricked me, as one of the main reasons I went with this dish was for some textural starch, but unfortunately it turned out to not be what I was imagining. I enjoyed the breast...until I tried T's tenderloin...which I had to steal literally half of because it was the best dish of the night and blew my guinea hen out of the water.
The best dish of the night hands-down was the roasted Maine beef tenderloin with braised tongue underneath, a "tartiflette" with Abbaye de Tamie bone marrow, and a quail egg. Soft, flavorful, savory and overall perfected, everyone agreed this was the best dish of the evening. I only wish I had ordered it!
Next for the table's favorite food: cheese! I wish I could say I remembered all of the cheeses...but I don't! I was too focused on enjoying the cheese to even take a picture of the menu (oops). I do remember though that the cheese was presented surrounding an orange marmalade and increased clock-wise in intensity. My favorite was the middle cheese from Spain, while T's favorites were the last blue and the second cow's milk. On the other hand, my friend's favorite was the fourth, so overall we clearly enjoyed all of the cheeses!
It was around this time that the clock struck midnight, and the celebrations for 2013 were in full-force. The chef led a line of all members of the kitchen walking through the dining rooms clanging pots and pans while diners hooted and hollered while using the provided clappers and blow-outs. For the next hour, little sounds could be heard from table to table celebrating the new year.
Last, but not least, were the desserts! Everyone else went with the chocolate cremeux with rum, ginger, and kaffir lime, with the little orange bubbles atop the cremeux tasted citrusy once again. The chocolate was high quality and a nice rich combination with the whimsical orange bubbles.
I was alone in choosing my dish: green apple with champagne sabayon and a lemon pound cake. The whole dessert was a nice and light ending to a long meal.
We enjoyed our cappuccinos & tea before heading out with our gift bags of the house-blend holiday tea, stollen, and autographed menus.
Overall, a memorable New Year's Eve meal at L'Espalier. Our only qualm was the fact that the meal focused a bit too much on acids, citrus, and savory game meats rather than combinations incorporating any type of sugar or sweets. A greater variety of tastes would have helped round out the night, as I cannot recall any sour or sweet components, but this may be our own faults based on our choices. I will definitely be back for a Wine Monday, Cheese Tuesdays and a Fantasy Tea on a Sunday though!