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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

DCWD Travels: The Cafe at Taj, Boston

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Newbury Street, Boston

The Setup

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, Restaurant Week occurs during the same week in Boston as it does in DC. As such, and it being my last week in Boston for the summer, I decided to splurge on a nice meal. While walking around the Common one night, I came upon the cafe at the Taj Hotel. Their restaurant week menu looked quite appealing, so I decided to try it.

The Vibe

The Taj Hotel used to be the Ritz (an old-school classy hotel), and fortunately they didn't change much about the decor during the changeover. The café, therefore, is a classically decorated European-style dining room. What I really liked about it, however, was how intimate the setting was. There was room for at most 100 diners. The waitstaff was extremely polite, which always adds to the atmosphere.

The Food

For a starter, I went for the seared scallops over grilled vegetables. The scallops were perfectly cooked, soft but not chewy. The sear added just the right amount of crisp to the texture. The vegetables were also good. I shied away from the mushrooms, though, having had a bad experience with them in the past. (A note on the picture: the prosciutto pictured came with the appetizer of my vegetarian girlfriend, so I took one for the team) (editor's note: We wholeheartedly approve this action. Boo vegetarians).

For my entree, I decided on the seared duck with mushroom couscous and a grape reduction (I know, I know, if I'm not eating mushrooms, why would I choose two dishes with them? In my defense, I didn't know the scallop dish had them, and at least I [correctly] predicted that the couscous would not overly taste of mushrooms.) (editor's note: I guess those two even each other out).

Back to the dish itself, which was tricky for me. The duck itself seemed to be overcooked, as it was tough and a little on the dry side. However, not having much experience with duck in the past, I wouldn't stake my reputation (what little I have) on my opinion. The green beans and couscous were very good, although honestly I wouldn't have been able to identify the reduction as grape-flavored if I hadn't been told. Probably not a good thing. Overall, a bit of a disappointing dish.

Dessert for me was an easy choice: the cherry chocolate stout cake with raspberry sorbet and chocolate gelato. The cake was wonderfully dense, and was covered by a layer of milk chocolate mousse. The raspberry "sorbet", however, was more like another mousse. The gelato was very rich, and the combination of all the chocolate aspects with the cherries made for a tasty, if a little too heavy, end to the meal.

The Verdict

This meal to me was like a sandwich with really good bread and a mediocre filling. Both the appetizer and the dessert were delicious, if not unique. The entree, however, was difficult to love. Had the duck been cooked better, the meal would have been so much more enjoyable. As it stands, a decent meal served in a very nice atmosphere.

Food Rating: *** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Calm to chatty
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
: People watching and window shopping on Newbury St.

Taj Hotel (Bar, Cafe and Lounge) on Urbanspoon

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