Thursday, December 27, 2012

GEM, Downtown Crossing, Boston

Years ago I remember sidling up to the bar at Kennedys in Downtown Crossing and feeling as though I was looking back in time.  The space was old, the clientele was likewise, and though it held a certain "old time" appeal, it was aged and appeared to be on its way out in the face of the rejeuvenation of the area.  Therefore, when I walked past earlier this year and saw a bright, shiney new sign exclaiming the space to now be known as GEM, I was excited to see what had been done with the space.  I was invited in last week to check out their menu and the space. 

GEM has been designed in the style of the European Supper Club, unique to Boston's dining scene, it is a spot spend an entire evening, a fantastic dinner and then linger for the remainder of the evening, enjoying libations and the company around.  Somehow this is a style of evening that hasnt taken hold in Boston previously, and I was excited to check it out.

The restaurant and lounge space of GEM resides on the second floor of their building, and upon reach the top of the stairs it became immediately apparent the overhaul that had been completed within the walls to redefine it.  Gone were the tattered stools and the aged wooden bar.  Gone were the creaky bar tables and dingy surroundings.  In their place was a beautiful marble bar installed bedecked with comfortable bar chairs, luxurious red booths, and intimate spots for reposing. 

We were shown to our table and began to peruse the menu, a dizzying array of dishes ranging from hearty comfort foods to more adventurous offerings.  We consulted with our waitress and she helpfully led our choices- starting our meal off with their Hamachi and Tuna Tartare.  Thick pieces of fresh fish were tossed in a light mayonnaise based dressing, mixed with fresh, refreshing cucumber, piled on to an onion soy sauce and topped with fried onions, and green onions.  To begin, the underlying sauce was delicious-  soy sauce, cut with what I assume was rice wine vinegar, and enhanced with sweet onion made for a perfectly savory, not overly salty back drop for the raw fish.  The fish itself was incredibly fresh and both held their flavor well in the face of other strong ingredients.  I was apprehensive of the mayo dressing, but ended up enjoying the creamy contrast to the umami flavor of the other sauce and the pungency of the onions.  The Hamachi and Tuna was served with crisp wontons which served as a wonderful utensil to enjoy the other flavors with.

We also decided to try out the homemade tatertots.  Crispy fried orbs of creamy mashed potatoes topped with fresh green onion and served with Russian Dressing and Siracha sauce for dipping.  These definitel strayed from the traditional tater tot in their texture- mashed over shredded, but they were punched up with additional flavor from nutty Gryuere cheese mixed in.  As a small bite- these definitely satisfied the craving for something decadent on a cold night.

Chef Brendan then sent out a dish that had been previously on the menu during the summer months, its refreshing qualities were more than welcome.  A beautifully seasoned watermelon and basil gazpacho pooled in a bowl with a small brick of fresh watermelon set in the middle, topped with blackened seared tuna, a section of an orange, a slice of pear and hint of sweet apple compote.  The spice from the tuna, mixed with the sweet fruit and refreshing soup was a lovely combination and made clear why this was one of the chefs favorite dishes to serve.  Each flavor layed delicately together, none overcoming the others but rather benefitting each.  

We turned out attention to entrees next, and while I had been pleased with all previous dishes, I was thrilled with the entrees.  My dining companion for the evening selected their special for the night- skirt steak layered over mushroom risotto and topped with an Italian herb style Chimmichuri sauce.  I chose their Brined Pork Chop, served with a ham hock and white bean ragout, topped with a cranberry agrodulce and rutabaga.   The pork was perfectly cooked, moist, and full of flavor.  It wasn't overly seasoned and its own natural flavors show through.  The contrast that I loved here was the smokey flavor of the hamhock and bean ragout showcased next to it- presenting the different sides of pig.  The cranberry agrodolce, which in its basest form is a sweet sauce, played the sweet tart card well, and paired very nicely with the earthy beans.  Every component of this dish was well thought out and well prepared.  I won't lie to you- if I hadnt been in public- I would have gnawed on the remaining bone of the pork chop- I was sad to see that dish end!

The skirt steak was equally delicious, yet playing on a completely different palatte.  The steak was perfectly cooked, making a normally tough cut tender and full of flavor.  The risotto was creamy and dotted with well prepared mushrooms adding their own earthy qualities.  The chimichurri sauce here stood out- twisting a normally Latin American tradition into an Italian pairing with the risotto- it was bright and well seasoned tieing the dish together. 

Somehow we managed to find room for dessert- and the lemongrass creme brulee appeared on the table with spoons ready to go.  It may just be me, but I often find creme brulee to be a bit played out, and can often run on boring.  I really enjoyed the full lemon flavor of the lemongrass, it was clean and fun, and after a big, heavy meal it felt light and finshed it nicely.  The sugar crust was a great ratio to the lick custard beneath, and all together it was a very satisfying dessert.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when we walked into GEM.  The sexy- chic environment screamed night club to me, and I haven't seen many of those with a good menu to boot.  Every dish we were served was creative and well paired with ingredients that played off of each other well.  As we surveyed the other diners there were a host of other dishes that we knew looked delicious as well and the remarks from all were positive.  Though we may not have many other Supper Clubs around this area, this is a spot that is definitely worth checking out. They are using fresh produce, good quality proteins and producing truly delicious meals. 


In and Around Town said...

I obviously need to head there for dinner. I have only done cocktails later in the evening and was turned off by the atmosphere and music etc...but dinner looks fantastic!

Emily@SimplyGourmetinSouthie said...

Love your review of GEM! We just had our holiday party there and the food is fantastic! I'm so glad I found your blog.

Emily at

This is not America...or is it? said...

Will have to check it out now. I was disapointed that Kennedys had gone out. We lived at the Devonshire for a while and enjoyed the casual feel of the place.

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