When I was growing up, and I'm sure many of you can relate, Madonna, a musical icon even today, was making major headlines. Her ideologies, style of dress and often risque outfits made her the talk of the town, however what was (IS) wonderful about Madonna is that she had the quality of song to back up her "shocking" statements. Sure she was wearing something outlandish, but her albums changed the way the world looked at Pop music. So, although the name Madonna gained some strength by her shock tactics, her legacy remains because of her incredible library of songs, which, of course, continues to grow. There is a restaurant right here in Boston that I think deserves the analogy to Madonna- that restaurant is called 28 Degrees.
28 Degrees opened almost 5 years ago in Boston's South End with a crazy unique twist- they opened with the first unisex bathroom. It was a shocking idea, it created a lot of buzz for the young restaurant, and then the city of Boston asked them to cease and desist and create the traditional men's and women's rooms. Of course they complied, and the shocking buzz wore off, but 28 Degree remains a hot spot in the South End- why? 28 Degrees is offering fantastic food in an environment that is aimed at socializing and relaxing, a concept that very few restaurants in Boston have embraced.
The restaurant actually recently re did their interior, and has brought on consulting chef William Kovel, formerly of the late Aujourd'hui that shut it's doors a bit over a year ago. The new design of the restaurant encourages even more the concept of Social Dining- a spot for people to gather and really enjoy the company and the food. With it's couch like seats, a gorgeous outdoor patio, and long tables around which friends can gather- it is a spot that you want to spend hours in, and to that note- I did.
Last evening I had the opportunity to head on over to 28 Degrees and check out their dinner menu which changes as as the seasonal produce does. After talking up how excited I was to try Chef Kovel's food for, well, months, John was excited to join me. We were seated in a beautiful corner booth with a great view of the restaurant decided to start off with a plate of crispy calamari as we read through the rest of the menu. The calamari was absolutely lovely. The delicate rings were fried in a light batter along with slices of jalapenos, a twist that I always enjoy. They were then laid out over a platter, mixed with dressed fresh greens, over a citrus-y oil. The combination of flavors and textures was fantastic. The crispy shell fell away easily to perfectly cooked soft calamari rings. The greens, mixed with the citrus oil provided for a wonderful fresh feeling to the dish, and the fried jalapenos well- they added some lovely heat!
As 28 Degrees is designed for a social atmosphere, thy encourage sharing dishes. No problem there! We decided to check out the Scallops, their Sweet Pea Ravioli and one of their delicious pizzas. The Scallops were served over a summer ratatouille complimented with a lemon vinaigrette and a pistou. I had to look up pistou, I have to admit, as I wasn't entirely sure as to what delineates the basil based sauce from Pesto. I have learned that it is the absence of pine-nuts that is the difference otherwise a pistou is a combination of basil, garlic and olive oil-all of my favorite things! The end result of the Scallops dish was light and refreshing with the lightly cooked vegetables from the ratatouille and the lemon vinaigrette. The scallops were perfectly cooked, seared to a lovely brown on the top, and then just slightly opaque in the center. They were well seasoned and were really well paired with the other ingredients.
The Sweet Pea Ravioli were equally delicious. Beautiful raviolis (seemed handmade to me!) were filled with mashed sweet peas and seemingly nothing else aside from seasonings. It made for a truly unique, strong pea dish where the main ingredient really shined. These were laid in a bowl with roasted tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, a lemon based sauce and plenty of fresh mint. I loved that this was a perfect play on the British mashed pea dish, something that I really miss from my time abroad. The acid from the tomato and the lemon in the sauce nicely cut the creaminess of the pasta, especially when paired with a lovely mushroom topped with just a bit of Parmesan cheese. It was a great combination of flavors.
Finally, we just couldn't resist ordering one of their pizzas and we chose their combination of Pesto, Roasted Pepper, Herbed Ricotta and Parmesan cheese. Wow-as wonderful as everything was last night- this pizza was incredible. The combination of garlicky pesto with comforting roasted peppers, all paired with a very flavorful ricotta and salty Parmesan cheese- the flavors were just unspeakable. Sadly I was pretty full by this point and had to call it a day after just a single slice, but wow- in different circumstances the pizza would have been polished off easily.
28 Degrees has really succeeded in creating a restaurant like no other in Boston. As opposed to being rushed through your meal, here the staff encourages you to relax, enjoy your time, and satisfy your soul with delicious food and socialization. Here the owner, ever friendly, is present and chatting with the patrons like old friends. That does make sense however, as within moments of being in this spot you immediately feel as though are old friends. Just like the longevity of Madonna- 28 Degrees has all the makings to be a staple in Boston for the long haul.
28 Degrees, in the words of Madonna, "I'm Crazy for you"!