I always have a little apprehension when a new restaurant in town opens. Of course I get excited that there is a new potentially fantastic restaurant that I can dine in and have delicious and creative meals, but I also worry. I worry that it won't live up to expectations. What if it isn't very tasty? What if it is just the same old thing just re packaged into a shiny new edition? When I heard that long time friends Lydia Shire and Jasper White were teaming up to open a new restaurant, Towne Stove and Spirits, I got very excited, the tinge of worry was slight. Shire owns and runs the kitchen at Locke Ober, one of Boston's most classic dining experiences. White owns a local chain of seafood restaurants- Jasper White's Summer Shack.
Towne is the first ever restaurant to be located in the Hynes Convention Center in the middle of Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, sharing a courtyard with The Prudential Center. The restaurant is beautiful inside, borrowing style from the classic lines of French cafes, utilizing their sterile white tiles, and contrasting dark wood. The restaurant is multi leveled, and therefore seats 380 patrons within three dining rooms, three bars and a patio. This makes Towne one of the largest restaurants in Boston, but would it be able to serve quality to that many hungry Bostonians?
John and I headed over last night, with his friend Tara, author of One Bite Better, to check it out. The first positive point of such a large space? We walked in around 7 pm, without a reservation, and were seated immediately. When we first entered, I was concerned about the noise level emitting from the first bar, however once inside the main dining room and seated, I didn't hear a peep other than the diners around me, and the quips of our servers. Yes-I said servers- as in several. We were greeted by several different servers throughout the evening, each as helpful as the last and not one missing a beat or repeating a question. Our main server, Michele, was simply amazing. Her easy going attitude, attention to detail, helpful recommendations, and incredible humor contributed only great things to our evening, and kept us laughing for the duration.
The menus are quite large, and include starters, mains and compliments from all over the world, each designated with a little flag from their country of origin. While it may seem daunting to choose from this menu, it was eased by some great suggestions from Michele. The table was first served a bread basket with a selection of three different breads, house made rolls, slices of white bread the name of which escapes me currently, and Lavash. These were served with three accompaniments, a pureed cod spread which was light and salty, without any offending flavor of cod, a salted butter, and an eggplant tapenade, which was slightly smoky and full of fresh flavors.
We elected to share the Garden Tomato salad for a starter, which contained large slices of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, piles of arugula placed on top, and accented with sliced peaches, slivers of onion, burrata sprinkled with almonds, and lovely petals of nasturtiums. The salad was gorgeous to look at, and even better to taste. The tomatoes were so fresh and full of rich "fresh from the garden" flavor. The complimenting arugula was slightly salted, and provided a wonderful contrast to natural spice of the leaves. The peaches applied to the sweet senses and a creamy, and crunchy element was added with the burrata and almonds. Each of the flavors melded perfectly into a lovely harmony and I found it difficult to not fight off Tara and John's forks as they went in for second helpings. I might have been a bit desperate to take the dish over for myself. I resisted-but just barely.
I selected, with the help of Michele, the Tuna #1 as my entree. I had an incredibly tough time deciding what to have to be honest and even had a little remorse after ordering that I didn't stick with my gut and go with the Salmon or the Skirt Steak which both sounded intriguing. However the moment the tuna arrived, all of my doubt left and I was left oddly grinning at my plate. Staring back up at me were two perfect medallions of seared rare tuna, topped with micro greens, a single summer cherry tomato stuffed with eggplant chunks I believe, white cannelloni beans both whole and pureed, and a lovely finishing sauce of a miso vinaigrette. The tuna was perfect. Seared lightly with fabulous spices, a perfect contrast to the hearty bean puree. Each flavor was enhanced by the miso vinaigrette which was subtle to not over power, but nicely enhanced all of the other flavors. The tomato, as adorable as it was presentation wise, was a nice addition to the plate, both for color and for a hint of acidity. Tuna #1 was pretty close to perfection, and I cleaned my plate of every bite.
John and Tara both enjoyed the short ribs- the bite that John so nicely offered over to me was moist and flavorful- just as a short rib should be. They were served with a beautiful sweet potato puree, that John thought might have been a bit on the flat side flavor wise, and fresh spinach which also looked fantastic.
We were far too full to have dessert, though after enjoying every morsel of dinner I'm sure it would have been fantastic. Towne