Sometimes there are just those places that exist that your friends rave about, people always talk about, but you just never make it to. You never make it to, until, of course, you have an excellent reason to go there. Pops Restaurant in the South End of Boston was one of those places. Years ago I remember one of my guy friends wanting to go there one night, but for some reason we just didn't make it over. Since then I have always heard great things about Pops, but have been neglectful of this little hot spot. Until, of course, they shut down for a few weeks to redesign the interior, as well as their menu. They reopened in January of this year, and last night celebrated their re newel with a cocktail party for industry folks, journalists, and bloggers such as myself.
What an event it was! Luckily I arrive promptly at 6:00 pm and was able to take a few quick photos before the place filled with party goers. Pops, in typical South End fashion is a cozy establishment. One of the biggest changes to the room after the renovations is a large bar that extends down the primary wall about halfway through the room. Reports that I have heard noted that the original bar sat just four people and was not at all the focal point of the room. Many seemed very glad to have such an expansive bar added to the area. Especially as they now have quite a few signature cocktails that are inventive and appeal to all different tastes.
To unveil the new menu to all who were there efficiently, the chef had prepared most of their regular menu in mini size cocktail bites. The kitchen steadily put out tray after tray of Tuna Ceviche, Lamb skewers, sliders, Chicken Lollipops, Lobster Cappuccino, Beef Cakes, Tempura Shrimp Stuffed Peppers, and popcorn. We were a hungry mass though so it was not the easiest task to steal a bite from the great waitstaff as they made their way through the room. My first taste of the night was a small cup of their Tuna Ceviche. This was a really unusual preparation of the dish. Normally I am accustomed to a very acidic Ceviche, where the Tuna is really the star of the dish. Pops had changed this and had mixed a creamier base, avocado, cashews and black rice into the mix. The combination of textures was very nice, the flavors were a bit disarming. I do wish that I had a second cup of the Ceviche to really appreciate the varying ingredients as I spent most of the first taste trying to figure it out. Next we were offered small cups of Lobster Cappuccino. This was a wonderful play on techniques. First sip was of a wonderful froth, very creamy, almost just scented with lobster essence, once you actually started tasting the body of serving however, you were greeted with a very strong Lobster bisque. Creamy which being full of beautiful Lobster flavor. The mind trick between the coffee drink and this soup was wonderful and really created a different type of presentation for what might be considered otherwise ordinary. My third taste of the evening was their Shrimp Tempura stuffed Peppers. The pepper was soft and easy to bite into, if just a bit on the greasy side, but the shrimp was wonderfully crisp and really created a lovely texture variance in the dish. Later, speaking to a fellow party go-er, he noted that his pepper was on the overly spicy side. I did not note this type of heat, so I wonder if there was some variance in ingredients pepper to pepper- either that or I have become far too accustomed to spicy food. In quick succession to the stuffed pepper, I was able to snag a lamb skewer. This was my favorite of the evening. The lamb was moist, perfectly cooked to a beautiful internal pink, and spiced wonderfully. I could have eaten twelve more of these small delights! I then snagged a beef cake that was somewhat unremarkable. Crisp on the outside, and nicely spiced beef on the outside it was pleasant, but by no means a show stopper after the lamb. My final bite of the evening was a mini slider- perfect cooked medium rare burger sandwiched with caramelized onions on a homemade butter brioche roll. Delicious! The roll was so soft and buttery, and it perfectly held and complimented the hearty burger. The onion just added a delightful burst of flavor.
Now one of the complaints of the evening from several of the persons I spoke to was that there just wasn't enough food circulating for the amount in attendance. Luckily, I had had the foresight to visit Pops a few weeks earlier, for an unassuming dinner to get a real feel for their new menu. My dinner that evening was comprised of several of their "small plates" menu. They have devised a menu that can serve a diner either several different tastes, or one larger plate meal. This is a concept that many restaurants seem to be adopting recently, and it is one that I am in full agreement with. The evening we dined there John and I shared their Spinach with Peanut and Sesame salad, Fried Oysters with Bacon Jam, Char-Sui Pork Ribs with Pickled Cucumber, and a Beef Tenderloin Pizza that appears to be the sister of the item listed on their menu now. Honestly, as I review the menu that is posted today, versus what we were served that evening, I believe that some of their items they have already removed. I recall a sushi ball being on the menu that evening that we were excited for, but had more resembled an Arancini. It was tasty, but surprising in the hope of having a fresh rice and chicken ball. The other items that we tried that evening had a solid presentation, but varied in quality. The Spinach salad was delicious-light notes of peanut and sesame from the dressing, but maintaining its light qualities. The Oysters had a bit too thick of a dough on them, but the bacon jam was delicious. The pork ribs were a bit sweet for my liking, and would have been complimented really well with a stronger pickled flavor. The stand out of that evening was the Beef Tenderloin pizza that was served with Arugula and Blue Cheese as I recall. This was a fantastic combination of flavors and textures-the savory meat with the pungent cheese and peppery arugula. Those three flavors combined is one of my favorites and I was glad to see a great execution on this.
I must give a huge hand to the staff last night as well. They were given the extreme task of serving a very large crowd with a smile, and they did it flawlessly. Each member I spoke with greeted every question, comment and joke with a smile and remembered each request. It was a tall order to fill, and they all did it.
All in all Pops has definitely re opened in a big way. The South End is inundated with "bistro's" and while they each have a lovely offering, a change from the typical was needed in this area. Pops redesigned menu offers a great variation to the rest of the neighborhood, while maintaining the charm and beauty of the South End. Also the Pear Ginger Sparkler is a delicious treat!