As you may recall, back in September I alerted you all to the great celebration of the publication Where To Eat 10th year anniversary. Where To Eat was established back in 1999 as a coffe table style magazine showcasing the higher end cuisine in Boston. Since that time they have expanded into the Web, with both a website as well as an e-magazine that is "printed" monthly, as well as telephone reservation systems and a great partnership with the TV Diner. Where To Eat is one of the best resources we have for up to date information about the Boston restuarant scene, and now even the Boston bar scene :-). To celebrate a fabulous first decade, they have been highlighting a particular restaurant each month since September 2009, showcasing several menu items in a special Pr ix Fixe menu, and kicking off the evening with a cocktail party. Unfortunately I have had to miss the majority of these events, but last night I was finally able to attend my first. I have to say-while it was my first- it will not be my last! These events last through July 2010-so check them out!
The event was held at Lucca, in their new Back Bay location. Lucca has been a longstanding forerunner in the North End as exceptional Italian cuisine, but I hadn't yet been to their new location. This was just another reason that I was so excited to head to the Where To Eat event last night- the offering was 9 tastes-almost their entire menu!
We started with a single oyster enhanced with bacon, truffle and lemon juice. My oyster was beautifully shucked, and contained the most wonderful flavors. Gloriously the truffle shown through as the foremost flavor which was an unexpected treat- so often bacon overshadows all other flavors, esp one like truffle. This, however, had a first impression truffle, with the bacon and citrus lemon following after.
The second taste was a contemporary Caesar salad as it was described. Hearts of Romaine lettuce, complimented with a slice of lemon, pickled shallot, marinated anchovies and a deviled egg. Now most can attest- I do not enjoy hard boiled eggs in any capacity. I am not sure why but their very presence on a dish can turn me off. However last night I was feeling brave, and dug right into the egg, while being careful to pare it with the crunchy lettuce, and some of the shallot. I may be close to conversion. Creamy and perfectly flavored, the deviled egg was wonderful, and with the crisp lettuce it was a really lovely texture contrast. I would have enjoyed a stronger flavor to the shallot though, which got a bit lost with everything else on the plate.
Our final Antipasti taste was a soup- sun choke and fennel puree with fennel confit, and a pomegranate syrup. I really loved this one. The soup itself was had a wonderful thick consistency giving a very hearty feel, it had a wonderful earthy flavor and was just slightly enhanced by the pomegranate syrup. It was utterly gorgeous as an appetizer, and honestly was one of my favorite tastes of the evening.
Our attention was then turned to the entree courses, starting off with a Rigatoni Bolognese. There is something so classically wonderful about a good Bolognese. Its simplicity can be so beautiful and the flavors can be layered so nicely that it can really shine in a dinner. Lucca's bolognese had a beautiful flavor to it-hearty notes from the beef,veal and pork combination, and the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce had been equalized into a creamy back note. I would have loved a touch more basil in my dish, but then I'm a basil freak.
Our second entree course was a single diver scallop, seared, and placed atop a small mound of sauteed spinach and shitake mushrooms. One of the best elements to this dish was a beautiful lemon vinaigrette that they had drizzled around the plate. The scallop was sweet and lovely, with a beautiful sear to it, the spinach was simple and clean, and the mushrooms added a lovely flavor and texture release. The lemon vinaigrette, while not necessary, was the note that brought this dish to a new height. It made the dish exemplary, when without it it may have just been satisfactory. A beautiful touch.
Our final entree course was hangar steak served with broccoli rabe and a semolina cake. I LOVED the presentation of this dish. The steak was such a beautiful pink with a gorgeous contrast of black crust around the outside. It was laud atop vibrant green rabi, and the crust on the semolina cake just gave it a perfect round out of colors. It was beautiful. It tasted just as good. The steak was very nicely cooked, and was complimented beautifully with the bitter broccoli rabe. The semolina cake added a really nice creaminess to the dish, which was otherwise very hearty.
Lucca did a wonderful job on their entrees. Each had real diversity of flavors as well as textures, thereby making them appealing to a wide variety of diners. From the delicate scallop dish, to the hearty rigatoni, to their take on meat and potatoes, I could see how any diner would be able to choose the exact meal for their taste that evening.
Their desserts did not disappoint either. We were first served a dish containing a piece of pound cake and a circle of passion fruit panna cotta, enhanced with toasted coconut, and a butterscotch sauce. The pound cake was much denser than I had anticipated which, though surprising, made it a perfect compliment to the delicate panna cotta. The coconut added a secondary, and again, needed texture contrast, as well as adding to a great Caribbean Island feel to the dish.
The second dessert we were served was an apple crisp, served with a Vanilla bean ice cream. This was fantastic. The crisp was actually crispy, and had delicious "down home" flavors to it. I will defend my mothers apple pie, and apple crisp to the death, but this was definitely a great second choice. Perfect flavors, delicious apples, and a really nice crumble.
The saved the best for last- a frozen chocolate parfait, hinted with orange, garnished with orange marmalade, pistachios and a coffee anglais. Honestly-there are no words to describe how amazing this was. Every flavor played perfectly off of the others and the orange marmalade just put this dish over the top! I loved that they not only played with different textures in this dish, with the frozen parfait, and the pistachios, but also with temperatures where the parfait was perfectly icy, and the marmalade was a nice room temperature relief. Id also like to note that this is one dish that could have been too sweet with the different elements, but Lucca was able to balance each with the others and the end product was perfectly complimentary. I will be dreaming about that one for some time!
Where To Eat Boston put together a terrific event last night, and I have no doubts that each of their anniversary dinners are just as incredible. Lucca created a wonderful meal, showcasing not only their wonderful cuisine, but also their fantastic versatility. Lucca-you are joining my rotation of Italian restaurants in Boston- I can't wait to go back.
Pictures to follow- my camera and I are in a disagreement.