Gaslight Brasserie, located on Harrison Street in Boston's South End district, has long been one of my go to spots for a delicious French meal. Each time I settle into their space for some sustenance I am immediately transported back to the time I spent in France, brief as it was, and warm memories fill me. Their painstaking detail driven decor is gorgeous, which is right in line with their food. Last evening I was invited to the official opening of their Patio for the summer, and I jumped at the chance to celebrate, well, anything with this great spot.
I was given a "Plus One invitation" for the event and so I asked Katie from The_SBK if she'd like to accompany. We arrived shortly after the event began and it was already packed, but that gave plenty of opportunity to mix and mingle with the other guests.
While food was a bit hard to come by, drinks were plentiful, and through the mingling I got a great feel for how wonderful the patio is. It is sunken down from the surrounding parking lot, so the feel is more of an oasis than something sort of "stuck" in the middle of concrete. It feels hidden, and almost secret. I can see it being a delightful spot to enjoy the great weather that is coming along with an authentic French meal.
We actually opted to head inside for dinner as the party wrapped up, and heeded the advice of Chef de Cuisine Keenan Langlois in choosing what to order. I feel that when a Chef indicates his preferences on a menu- you really can't go wrong. He did not lead us astray.
We decided to split five of their appetizer selections. Obviously-this could have been too much food for the average person, but between two food obsessed bloggers...we handled it. Our selections were: their Fondu Piemontaise, Steak Tar tare, Fried Artichokes, Warm Roasted Pear Salade, and their cheese plate. The Fondu was placed down first, and therefore we dove into it first. The cheese sat in it's piping hot cast iron pan, in a big gooey layer accented with Saucisson (french sausage) and large freshly toasted croutons. I could not pick out the different varieties of cheese that had been combined into this delicious mass, but they flowed perfectly into creamy yet flavorful. Lovely. What I could pick out where the notes of the sausage that had been sliced so paper thin that we were convinced that it was, in fact, ham, and we made the joyous discovery of sweet roasted garlic throughout. Chef Keenan's first suggestion- a great success- if incredibly dangerous to the waist lines.
The salade was next in the smorgasbord, and I felt that it perfectly complimented the Fondu. It was comprised of a selection of leafy vegetables including watercress and radicchio, sweet roasted pears, and Roquefort cheese. The dressing was a light vinaigrette so the initial bites of dressed greens were light, acidic and bitter- a great contrast to the rich Fondu. When the fork picked up pieces of the pear and the Roquefort- the melding of the sweetness and the richness of the cheese with the greens created a perfect medley of flavors ranging the palate. I became addicted to this salad. I will definitely be ordering this treat again.
The Steak Tar tare was next in line. The color variation was beautiful on this. A perfect round of the Tar tare, topped with what we determined to be a mushroom duxelle, over which lay a perfectly cooked runny yolk egg and finally a smear of aioli. From the ground up- this was perfect. The steak was well flavored mixed with Dijon mustard, and large capers among other spices and seasonings. The mushrooms provided a great earthy balance, and finally the egg created a rich, creamy component. Concerns here? I felt as though there were not enough croutons present to truly compliment the Tar tare, and I personally felt that the aioli, while tasty, was not a necessary component with the egg present. However, this dish is all about indulgence so perhaps the aioli is needed.
Next up were the Fried Artichokes. These were also incredibly tasty- with a light and crunchy breading that held its crunch until the end. It was topped with a "Greque" containing what appeared to be roasted red peppers and possibly some olives. The flavors came together in that lovely salty sweet way that nicely topped the clear artichoke flavor that still shone through the fried coating. I did a quick search on the word "Greque" and found little other than that it is the French word for Greece. If anyone knows a more applicable definition I would love to hear it!
Finally, the cheese plate sat invitingly, three wedges of cheese separated by a duo of jams, with four bread triangles. The name of the first cheese I cannot recall, however it reminded me of RecipeGirl's description of creamy Gorgonzola. It had the pungent flavor of Gorgonzola, but nicely muted into a lovely creaminess. The second was a lovely piece of Roquefort, and the third was a goat's milk based cheese that reminded us of a brie, but with a stronger flavor. The jams were a deliciously sweet fig jam (it's terrible but all I could think of was Fig Newtons as I tasted this-yum!) and a candied cranberry that Chef Keenan described as being dried cranberries soaked in wine, sugar and spices. This had a really unique lovely flavor to it-and nicely complimented the cheeses.