Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parker's Restaurant, Omni Parker House, Downtown, Boston

Walking into Parker's Restaurant in the Omni Parker House is similar to taking a step back in time.  Ornately designed from floor to ceiling, it stands like a page taken from the Victorian era, welcoming its patrons with almost regal elegance.  Each person from host to waiter to assistants are kind and courteous, not too friendly, but just enough to make you feel welcome and to know that dining there is special.  Of course it is special.  It is a piece of history in the heart of Boston's historic district. 

The Parker House, as it was originally named, was opened in 1855 and quickly became a hot spot for local politicians and other influential gentlemen of the time to meet.  It was a place where Longfellow and Emerson could mingle with Oliver Wendall Holmes.  John Wilkes Booth is said to have stayed within the hotel.  It was the location for John F. Kennedy's bachelor party.  It was the place to see and be seen.  

The Parker House, however, didn't just play the backdrop to their famous guests.  Rather, it took on a life of it's own and made a name for itself by creating long standing recipes as the beloved Boston Cream Pie and coined the term "scrod".  The Parker House, which was purchased by Omni Hotels a decade or so ago, long ago claimed their name as one of the best hotels in Boston, with a restaurant to be treasured.  

I had the pleasure of dining at Parker's Restaurant this past Friday evening, and was instantly transported back in time.  Entering the restaurant, which has been beautifully preserved to showcase the elegant style of its original form, I could sense the magic of what the room had seen.  I could here the clatter of conversation, the boisterous laughter from a deal gone well, and the heated debate over period issues.  The restaurant is a majestic place.

Caught in the wonder of the evening, I had extreme difficulty deciding what to order, finally deciding on the classic pan seared chicken.  It was described as being served with smoked salt mashed potatoes, swiss chard and a pan jus.  A classic and simple dish.  The presentation was exactly as I anticipated it to be- also classic and simple.  That is not to say it was dated, on the contrary the spiral piping of mashed potatoes upon which the skin crisped chicken rested was a timeless look, beautifully offset by ribbons of swiss chard all in a river of jus.  The chicken was well cooked, juicy and full of flavor, with that crispy skin giving a nice contrast to the meat.  The swiss chard was soft and easy to enjoy, especially when paired with the very slightly smoky potatoes.  My only concern, as I worked my way through the plate was the salt factor.  It seemed as though the chef was very heavy handed with his application and therefore salt unfortunately dominated some of the more subtle flavors.  It wasn't, by any means, inedible, but I feel it would have been a bit more enjoyable without such a liberal application of salt.

As it would have been a complete crime to end the meal without the Parker House's signature Boston Cream Pie, my friend and I chose to split the dessert.  Served in a small round cake, this original Boston Cream Pie includes exactly what you anticipate-vanilla sponge cake sandwiched with pastry cream, and then topped with luscious chocolate icing and almonds encasing the sides.  The contrasting textures is I think the real beauty here.  The thick chocolate frosting gives way to the light sponge cake and velvety pudding like cream, all are then relieved by the delicate crunch of toasted almonds.  Parker's Restaurant pairs this delicately flavored dessert with tangy strawberries and it all comes together in harmony.  It is no wonder that this dessert has made national menus for over a century.  

Ambiance alone, Parker's Restaurant is glorious.  The addition of their rich history, courteous staff, and well executed classic dishes makes Parker's a must try for true Bostonians, and our visitors.                   

Parker's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


In and Around Town said...

Never thought to go there but your review makes me want to give it a go!

Jen said...

I seriously love the way you write about restaurants. You give such a descriptive account, it's like I was there with you. And you constantly remind me that I need to try a ton of restaurants in Boston.

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