Other than awards season, my favorite time of year is the four weeks when the city's best restaurants open their doors for Restaurant Week. I've been traveling so much that I was afraid I might not be in town to enjoy a meal this cycle, but thankfully I was able to squeeze one in!
Tuesday night I went with two of my friends to Mistral for our 8th Restaurant Week meal together. We have a tradition that each Restaurant Week cycle we visit a place none of us have been to before and we wear pearl necklaces, an homage the classiest woman who ever lived, Coco Chanel. We call these dinners the Coco dinners. If you're friends with me on Facebook you can see a photo album that chronicles every single one of these meals.
Our choice for this round, Mistral, is located on Columbus Ave where Copley/Back Bay becomes the South End. Mistral is easy to miss because it's sign above the door isn't illuminated and it's building looks more like an office building than a restaurant.
Once you enter, the first thing you notice is the beautiful chandeliers, which cast a warm light over the dining room. I love that they're made of tiny lamp shades!
The ladies were waiting for me in the lounge area of the bar (admittedly, I was 20 minutes late). The hostess saw me join them, flew over and said, "Great, you're here, now we can seat you."
She walked us through the large dining room all the way to a table against the back wall. Our table was part booth, part chairs. I sat on the inside of the table on the cushioned booth side which even had pillows!
The cover art on the menu reminded me of Provence.
While we looked over the menu our waitress brought us an entire loaf of bread! It was a round loaf, crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside and it came served warm!
The bread was accompanied by a scoop of butter and a spicy hummus in olive oil. I tried the bread with both spreads and each one was delicious.
Our waitress, who was lovely, popped by to ask if we had any questions on the menu. We did, as two of us are vegetarians and there wasn't a vegetarian option listed on the Restaurant Week menu. She said, "Oh yes, the chef is happy to substitute in the bucatini with arugula and cherry tomatoes for your main course." Ding ding ding, jackpot!
For all the vegetarians out there, don't skip a place for Restaurant Week just because they don't have a vegetarian item listed on the menu. Call ahead and ask if they'll substitute something. I have done this successfully multiple times.
Our first courses arrived and two of us had selected the white mushroom bisque, served with parmesan crema and truffle oil. I have the hand it to Mistral, they sure know how to make a bowl of gray soup look pretty!
The bisque had a strong mushroom flavor and was deliciously creamy. I ripped a few pieces of bread and sent them for a swim in the bisque which was an excellent decision.
One of the ladies ordered the Caesar salad which came with big pieces of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
We gobbled up our first courses rather quickly and couldn't wait for what came next.
Two of us (the veggies) received the bucatini with arugula and cherry tomatoes. The pasta was yummy and the veggies added a fresh flavor. The tomatoes were perfectly ripe and juicy.
Our meat eating friend ordered the chicken which came with asparagus over a bed of white mushroom risotto. She said the chicken was cooked wonderfully and that risotto was incredible. A slam dunk!
For the final course, dessert, we ordered one devil's food chocolate cake and two profiteroles.
The girls' profiteroles arrived first. There were two on the plate, topped with dark chocolate sauce and sprinkled with pistachios. The chorus of "mmmmm's" coming from that side of the table was quite loud!
The girls said in addition to the flaky pastry and the creamy vanilla ice cream, the dark chocolate fudge was extra decadent and the green pistachios added the perfect color and crunch. They were kind enough to let me try one bite and good lord was that amazing!
I ordered the devil's food cake which came over caramelized milk chocolate sauce, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with a sugar medallion.
On it's own the cake wasn't very special, but in a bite with the ice cream and caramel sauce it was fantastic. As they say on Top Chef, "All of the components worked very nicely together." Wow, I sound like Tom Colicchio.
I have done many Restaurant Week meals in my life, probably well over 30, and I have to say, it's rare to love all three courses. At Mistral, all three of us did! We loved every single bite of each course and raved dish after dish about how happy we were with our selections.
In addition to the incredible food and the sophisticated ambiance, our waitress was superb. She was kind, an expert on the menu, happy to accommodate our vegetarian request and checked on us at exactly the right times. She seemed genuinely pleased to meet us and serve us.
I know that many servers hate Restaurant Week. The menu changes, the clientele changes and the size of the bills shrink, but the staff at Mistral treated us like we belonged in their restaurant and that they were thrilled to have us.
I'm going to go ahead and throw down the gauntlet, this might have been my best Restaurant Week meal ever.
Where did you dine these past two weeks for Restaurant Week?