Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Cottage, Chestnut Hill

Sometimes you find yourself doing something that you know is wrong.  You can feel every fiber in your body saying "wait! stop! don't do this", but you don't listen, do you?  You march onward, valiantly going towards what can only be a disastrous end.  A month or two ago I was invited to check out The Cottage, a new restaurant invoking the food and feel of Southern California, which opened in their third location in Chestnut Hill, Newton at the end of May.  I set up my appointment for this past Saturday, and I knew, in my heart, that it was too early to check out the restaurant.  I knew that there would be missteps along the way, but I was comforted by the sincerity of the invitation as well the fact that the restaurant has two other locations, one in Wellesley, MA, and one in La Jolla, CA.  I figured that they must have some idea what they were doing.

We arrived on time for our reservation, and were promptly sat-good news there.  However, sit we did, for quite a while before our server greeted us.  We had decided on both drinks and our appetizer before he arrived at our table, and so were able to immediately place those orders, as well as a request for water.  We selected the Caramelized Onion Tart with Great Hill Blue cheese to begin with.  The tart was delivered quickly, though less of a tart, and more of a crispy flat bread.   The onions however were well caramelized, emitting natural sweetness that was perfect offset with tangy blue cheese.  They had paired these flavors with a smattering of figs and balsamic vinegar which added great contrast to the dish. This was the highlight of the evening.

As we nibbled on the tart, we found that we were drink less-both water and our bar drinks had gone un delivered.  We finally flagged down another waiter and inquired about our drinks, which were then brought immediately (I assume they were just sitting on the bar waiting for us), but water was still missing.  I requested the water a few more times, from several of the waitstaff, it was finally delivered after our appetizer had been cleared.  

We waited a long time for our entrees, which were finally ordered once our server made it back to our table, and when they were delivered, we found that we were utensil less, and then found it impossible to flag down any of the waitstaff to request more.  After debating for a bit, we snagged some off the unoccupied table next to ours.  Frustration.  I had selected their Grilled Dayboat Scallops as an entree.  These were served with spinach, papayas and avocados, and potatoes all in a sweet corn broth.  The list of ingredients screamed summer to me, perfect for a rainy and cold June evening.  Starting with the good- the corn broth was perfect.  Bursting with fresh corn flavor it was a wonderful tribute.  It absolutely brought the ideas of hot summer nights to the forefront.  The papaya and the avocado were both well ripened and added sweetness and decadence to the dish.  The scallops, however, were severely over cooked.  Each had taken on the texture and mouth feel of rubber, making them unappetizing.  The potatoes were missing, aside from one, from my plate.  Conceptually, this was a great dish, it just failed in execution.  

My dining companion had chosen the Grilled Shrimp entree, served with quinoa salad, including arugula, tomato, naval oranges and a citrus vinaigrette.  I stole a quick bite of the quinoa, excited to try a version not my own, and was sorely disappointed- it tasted bland, under seasoned and not at all interesting.  I also received reports that each of the shrimp served were over cooked as well, rubber counterparts to my scallops.  Finally, the tomato was served as two large slices placed over the quinoa salad, completely hiding it from the diner.  This might have been a beautiful presentation if the tomatoes were good, late summer, local tomatoes, however as it was they were rather pink, mealy, winter tomatoes- and the affect was more annoying than anything.

Being dessert lovers, we decided to stick around for dessert, though this meant waiting for our waiter to bring us the menus, coffee, a separate trip with cream, and then an entirely different trip to bring us their version of Boston Cream Pie.  Two thin rounds of cake were placed on top and beneath a thick serving of what I believe was ice cream- it was frozen so I'm going to assume ice cream, and then encased in chocolate and almonds.  It was served with a bit of hot fudge on the side.  Though this was an atypical interpretation of the  Boston favorite, I actually really enjoyed it.  The chocolate was a good quality, the ice cream was rich and creamy, and the cake, though not plentiful was moist and tasty.  It was hard to stop eating this one.

Overall, I think that The Cottage, Chestnut Hill location, has a lot of work to do.  Our waiter was very pleasant, but was missing for most of our meal, and incredibly slow to respond to requests.  I had the impression that this might have been his first server job- which is understandably not easy.  However, work can be done.  The kitchen staff was either overwhelmed, or just sloppy with their execution.  The menu is large, so I tend to assume they were overwhelmed.  Either way, between our over cooked entrees, and our neighboring tables finding "something questionable" on their plate, a closer eye must be paid.  If the both back of the house and front of the house can come together and put out a quality product, I feel that The Cottage will be a great spot in a sorely lacking area.  However, they must step up their attention to detail, or their run will end before it began.

1 comment:

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

It's such a shame when a great restaurant lacks in service/attention to detail. Hope they step it up, too!

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...