As I mentioned earlier, Restaurant Week has once again returned to Boston offering lunches and dinners to the hungry crowds of Bostonians and tourists for $20.09 or $33.09 respectively. So while the debate continues as to the pluses and minuses of the whole affair, it does nicely encourage all of us to get out there and dine perhaps a bit more than we normally might. A couple of days ago, a few girlfriends and I seized the opportunity, and relished in the gorgeous weather, and went for a nice Restaurant Week lunch at Sensing, located in the hotel Fairmont Battery Wharf.
Sensing is one of those restaurants which is wisely catching on to the "trend" of utilizing local produce to provide meals to their guests that are as fresh as possible, while showcasing the bounty of the geographic region. Honestly, it pains me that this is a "trend" at all- should this be the standard? It boggles my mind that up until recent history, our local restaurants were paying hefty price tags to have mass produced goods brought in, when we, especially here in the Northeast, have access to such wonderful farms. But I digress. Sensing, which is French in execution, put together a wonderful menu for this week(s), showcasing their local produce, and appealing to carnivores and vegetarians a like. Interesting to note as well, Sensing decided to offer their menu in either two or three courses- for those interested in shortening their meal.
We arrived promptly at noon for our reservation, but found that even at that peak time, the restaurant was primarily empty, and we had our choice of tables. We chose to sit outside on their patio which over looks the Boston Harbor. We were presented with our menus, both their "regular" menu, as well as a copy of their Restaurant Week menu for us to share. Since we had viewed the menu on line ahead of time, we basically knew our selections, and were ready for the waiter when he appeared to take them. I selected the Golden Tomato and Mango Gazpacho with Ricotta Wasabi Raita as my appetizer and their Vegetarian Club Sandwich as my main. We had already decided to do the three course menu, and so I ordered the selection of sorbet's for dessert.
We were served rolls to munch on while waiting for our first courses to arrive, and we each elected their multi grain roll. A little dry for my taste, but it had good flavor for a snacking roll. The wait staff were definitely used to a more leisurely crowd, and therefor were absolutely at a more relaxed pace of serving. Our first courses arrived, and a rather large portion of Gazpacho was placed in front of me. Gazpacho is a cold soup, tomato based, but may have other raw vegetables with it. Its origins, though now attributed to the Spanish, are believed to have come from a primitive Arab bread soup. Apparently the Spanish added the tomato aspect much later. Sensing's was a blend of golden tomatoes and mango fruit which provided a beautiful acidic base, lightened by a sweetness from the mango. One of my chief complaints with many tomato soups is that they are just too acidic, but this had a really nice contrast to it. The color of the soup was absolutely fantastic- that mid way point between orange and yellow, and it was accented with a gorgeous drizzle of pureed arugula. The presentation was just beautiful. It was served over the ricotta Wasabi Raita, so when digging one's spoon through the soup, you found the delightful surprise of a creamy, and slightly spicy mass on the bottom of your bowl. When blended with the soup it offered a delicious combination of the richness of the ricotta, cut with the acidic sweetness, and then just a little heat. We also detected some diced cucumber within the Raita as well- which added little bursts of refreshing crunch to the soup. What I found interesting, is the Raita's are normally a yogurt based sauce found in Indian cuisine, used to cool spicy foods- in this presentation it was actually combining the two-bringing the spice and the cooling agent all at once. A really interesting take on it. The Gazpacho was a really nice flavor awakening- each complimenting the other.
Once we had finished sampling our first courses, we waited patiently for our main meals. We were served a second helping of rolls, though I was beginning to watch the time as it passed. It took quite some time for our entrees to be served, which for a leisurely lunch that isn't a bad thing, but I do wish that they had taken into account that it was a work day, and perhaps asked if we had time constraints. That aside though, when my vegetarian club sandwich arrived- all my attention turned to it- packed full of fresh grilled veggies, roasted red peppers, and the surprise of the day- grapefruit segments- all between two slices of toasted bread- one side pumpernickel one side rye. I tasted hints of pesto in between wonderful bursts of char grilled zucchini and eggplant. The red peppers had that wonderful luxury that oily peppers do, and a hint of sweetness, offset by the tart pink grapefruit. That was the real gem on the sandwich- while it made it slightly more difficult to eat, and my friend and I who ordered the same, found that the sections would slide out of the sandwich if not held properly, the flavor and texture contrast that they added was just out of this world- and an ingredient I had never before considered for a sandwich. The sandwiches were served with a helping of french fries that were spiced with what tasted like a bit of a Cajun seasoning- tasty- but on a hot day I was able to stay away from the hot fries.
As I finished up my entree, I realised that my time for lunch was briskly ending, as I had a meeting to get back to the office for. I had to skip dessert, and cut my meal short, which was disappointing as both my appetizer as well as my entree were so delicious. Aside from timing, I have not a complaint about Sensing. Their dishes were creative, and really well thought out, using imaginative ingredients and flavor combinations. Given their beautiful setting on the wharf, I will definitely be back to try the rest of their menu, just not on a day with any type of time constraints.