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Posted by brian and aaron at 10:01AM, Monday, November 01st, 2004

Spire (restaurant review)

90 Tremont Street, Boston

Brian: Spire has a nice atmosphere -- it's relaxed, and has chill music, and a friendly staff. Table linens are nice, and there are interesting place settings. But there's a TV in the bar as you walk in, and I'd personally prefer not to have a TV within 100 ft of me when I eat at a nice restaurant.

Aaron: I really liked the atmosphere and the vibe here. Pretty mod for Boston. There's a scrim in the back of the restaurant, through which you can see silhouettes of what's going on in the kitchen. Giant recessed circles in the ceiling, from which light filters down, were very nice.

Brian: We're seated and start with a drink from the bar menu while waiting for our dining companions (bonus: none of this 'would you mind pissing up a rope while the rest of your party arrives'). The wine-list has some interesting entries: big guns in the Bordeaux section -- some names we like (Turley, Williams-seylem, Kistler, Flowers) in American whites and reds.

When our friends arrive, one is a holdout on the tasting menu -- it's all-or-none, understandably -- but we convince him to enumerate his dislikes to the waiter (who claims to have once accomodated the tasting menu around 17 constraints), and we're off.

Minutes later an amuse-bouche-esque salad of fennel, cilantro, mint, basil, and other herbs arrives. We don't all think this is delicious, but it was an effective palette cleanser (and wake-up call). The service is quick, and not in-your-face -- the waiter takes loads of time while we order and choose a wine (a bottle of the Rocket Science, which is a Cab/Merlot/Syrah blend, as i can't convince anyone else to do the pairing and don't want to go solo). But as the meal progresses we're left alone to enjoy our food and each course is explained in detail as it arrives.

The first course is scallops, served in a bowl over small grape pieces and assorted leaves and herbs. An almond gazpacho is poured over it at the table from a french press. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. The scallops are tiny and delicious.

Next up is tiny piece of bass, perfectly seared, served over a carrot puree, with an espresso vinaigrette.

Aaron: The scallops were cooked perfectly (I usually hate scallops, so this is high praise from me). I think they were pretty meaty, actually, not tiny at all. The bass was nice and flaky, not overdone. Gazpacho was neat: clearly gazpacho, without the tomatoes I expect. After the bass, tiny cuts of pork, which was, again, perfect, juicy and pink and flavorful.

Brian: Bacon and brussels sprouts was with the pork, i think.

Aaron: Mmm, and it was buttery. Next was beef, which was, for me, the least successful of the dishes, though I think it was Brian's favorite.

Brian: The beef was over a parsnip puree with dabs of black truffle sauce, and yummy shiitakes.

Aaron: I understand the marketing-driven need to include luxury ingredients like truffle or foie gras at least once in the meal, but I didn't taste it; it added nothing here. The beef had a sort of washed-out, watery taste that I associate with cooking sous vide.

We had a palette cleanser -- a dollop of mango sorbet with a piece of fresh spearmint (I think). The sorbet was good, but the spearmint was amazing -- bright, clear, refreshing. I've never tasted any mint like this.

My dessert was an heirloom peach soup with grapes and chopped heirloom cucumbers over a scoop of minty sorbet which rested, I think, in a little cookie.

Brian: Mine was some souffle...

Aaron: Our companions had a sampling of beignets with ice cream and spicy hot cocoa, and a chocolate cake. They seemed quite pleased. After that we had little candies -- coconut, chocolate, etc. -- and then drinks.

Espresso was okay -- not overly bitter

Brian: No port on the after-dinner-drinks menu.

Aaron: Overall, we were pretty pleased. The prix fixe was, I think, $75 per person for five courses without wine. So prices are pretty much on par with Number 9 Park, around the corner. The service was excellent; really some of the best I've had. The servers explained everything clearly, and our waiter was helpful with the wine and the discussion of dietary restrictions. I like the decor. The scene was, surprisingly given the decor, mostly couples and groups in their 50s or 60s. The noise level was fine; we had no problem conversing and hearing one another; the place wasn't packed full, but hardly empty.

We didn't have any foodgasms (again, this is like No. 9), but the food was of consistently very high quality. I didn't feel bloated when we left, which is always nice. Courses were perfectly sized and timed; there's an art to that.

I'd go back to experiment with the wine list. They had some big-name Bordeaux for reasonable (well, for big-name Bordeaux) prices; Chateau d'Yquem; enticing West Coast pinots and zins and syrahs... Not a lot that really got me excited in the Sangiovese/Piedmont/Tuscan red area, but that's okay.

There's valet service, and it's a three-minute walk from the Park Street T stop.

Recommended.
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