So, as many of you many know last week was the seconded week of Boston’s singularly named Restaurant Week. This is a time of year where Bostonians flood our most popular restaurant in droves and Chefs cry for mercy while they drain the city of booze in the after hours. Last year my man crow and I skipped out on the semiannual running of the hungries, but this fall restraint was too much to ask, especially after I saw that North End hot-spot, Mare, was on the list.
Now, let me start with a disclaimer. I know that you are never supposed to judge a restaurant based on a restaurant week meal. The kitchen is over burdened, the chefs are board with the dishes that have been created more from price points than true inspiration. The waitsaff is tired from two weeks of insanity. I understand this. However, this is a restaurants time to shine- to show that despite the conditions they can do good, even great, work and therefore expose themselves to an all new and interested clientele. During this time it is the duty of the restaurant to put out a meal delicious enough to temp us back to cough up the full price in future, more peaceful times. Mare simply did not achieve this.
My expectations were high of Mare. Since living in Boston I have often passed by their quaint North End location with its chique blue and glass exterior and gazed enviously at the dining patrons. To me, at least, Mare always seemed like the best of the North End’s modern Italian, and it has prices that indicate it deserves such accolades. I was thrilled to see it on the Restaurant week list, excited to finally try a place I had been curious about for so long.
The disappointment started almost immediately. Mare is small and crowded within an inch of its life, but I can excuse that as being typically authentic of the North End. What I couldn’t excuse were the televisions (Is this TJI Fridays?) posted in all four corners of the dining room that continuously played a tacky DVD showing aerialviews of Italy’s most famous locations. It was almost as cheesy as the green lighting that decorated the back wall. What had looked so clean and sophisticated from the outside looked downright tawdry within. The service in general was very good throughout the meal, but we were sat without a copy of the restaurant week menu and had to ask for it from our server.
If you’re interested, you can peep the menu here. Looks good, right? The man crow and I stated with a glass of Pinot and a glass of Prosecco (both yummy) and for our first courses chose the Maine Peekyote Crab Poloette, lemon caper ailoi, and bitter green salad and the thin crust pizzetta di mare with assorted seafood, fresh tomatine and parsley. The Poloette’s were certainly the best part of the meal- crunchy on the outside and sweet and warm on the inside, but the “bitter green salad” was more of a garnish. The Pizzetta was boring , with a bland sauce and unattractive presentation. The seafood was fresh and good, but would have benefited from more seasoning. Between the two of us, we had no desire to finish more than half of it.
For entrees, I chose the grilled rainbow trout, charred leeks, funghi trifolatwith whole grain mustard and ManCrow had the hand rolled ricotta gnudi, wagyu beef bolognese with shaved parmigiano. The presentation of my trout was terrible- just a whole grilled trout on a plate with a leek on top. No sauce, no garnish. I didn’t even realize it was supposed to have had a mustard vinaigrette on it until I looked back at the menu. All together it was nothing more impressive than I could have cooked at home with a trout and olive oil. The braised leek was probably the best part of the entire dish. ManCrow’s fancy-sounding fare was basically very dry cheese gnocchi with bolognese. It was a very small portion with the most basic of presentation: past+sauce in a bowl. (Remind me again why I’m paying for this?) He claimed the small portion was made up for by the fact they the ricotta gnudi’s were little gut bombs, and then he complained about a stomach ache for the rest of the night and into this morning.
For desert, we both choose from the very limited menu, the tiramisu panna cotta with chocolate truffle, brandy caramel sauce and savoiardi crumb. It was merely mediocore (although probably the best course of the meal), but in the future I would point out that the flavors of tiramisu doesn’t exactly pair well with brandy caramel. Also- the “savoiardi crumb?” Literally, a crumb. We left, my curiosity about Mare thoroughly quenched. Unlike it’s examplary neighbor, Terrimia, who we visited for restaurant week a couple of years ago and which was so fantastic we’ve visited several times since, I can’t imagine ever going back to Mare. The meal was still drastically overpriced for what we got, and had we had been paying full price, I would have been furious. This is one location this crow will be unlikely to fly to again.