L’Espalier | Elegant modern French cuisine

LEspalier Dining Room

On my long weekend trip, I immediately fell in love with Boston, Massachusetts.  The majority of my sight-seeing and gourmet adventure was facilitated by the easy-to-navigate transit system.  Since a lot of money was saved by avoiding expensive cab rides, my budget for shopping and food increased correspondingly.

L’Espalier is within walking distance from Boston’s downtown, near iconic landmarks such as Copley Square and the Boston Public Library.  As we had a flight to catch that day, we arrived for an early lunch at 11:30am when the restaurant opened.  Notably, a staff member standing behind locked double glass doors on street level let us in when we approached and signalled her, but the actual restaurant is located on the upper floor.  In retrospect, I wonder this protocol is related to any safety concerns about the area; hard to tell in broad daylight.

The interior of the restaurant was modern and elegant, and elicited memories of a Relais et Chateaux restaurant.  I never understood why not a single Boston restaurant was ever awarded a Michelin star, but by my metric, L’Espalier is likely in the realms of a two-star restaurant.  I must say, I had been quite turned off by some of my encounters in certain NYC Michelin star restaurants.  By contrast, L’Espalier did a much better job in terms of food quality and service.

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Similar to other restaurants in US, I found the wine list to be more reasonable compared to Toronto, where I currently live.  L’Espalier’s wines range from a $30 Vinho Verde to a $5,000 DRC. In terms of my general expectation, any listed wine should be of reasonable quality, regardless of the price.  We picked a $40 Sonoma Pinot Noir and it did not disappoint.

Lespalier wines

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Featured below: bread with creamy butter, vegetable bite-size sponge cakes, and éclairs; I loved the butter!

Lespalier 1Lespalier 2

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Various prix fixe menus were offered during lunch.  Prices were reasonable as even the most expensive, “Chef’s Tasting Journey” was only $105 relative to the dinner tasting menu ($205).  However, as it is required that everyone at the same table to order the same tasting menu, we chose to go with à la carte.

The 3 dishes featured below are appetizers, each $18:

House cold smoked salmon with pickled vegetables, crème fraîche and American caviar; the caviar was especially interesting and melts in your mouth, on a completely different scale to those bought from the supermarket.

Lespalier 3

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English pea bisque with Apple Street Farm onions and smoked hazelnut oil; warm and creamy, just what I needed to balance too many raw oysters and clams during this trip.

Lespalier 4

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Georges Bank scallops with English peas and pea tendril purée: ham and confit egg yolk; definitely a better bargain than my pea soup.  It has pea purée, which I personally felt tasted similarly to my soup, in addition to 2 big scallops, but for the same price.

Lespalier 5

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East Coast halibut with Maine crab emulsion, West Coast morels and walnut oil ($28); the fish was nicely poached, soft and tender.

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Grilled Maine beef rib eye with slow cooked green tomato, Burratta cheese, burnt eggplant purée, and sunny side up quail egg ($28); the eggplant purée and the beef smelled strongly of charcoal, which was appetizing.  The centre of my medium rare steak was cooked perfectly; unfortunately, the edges were almost well-done.

Lespalier 7

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To be honest, I’ve never had coffee served this way.  Ground coffee was placed in the cone filter, then hot water was run through it.  The resulting coffee was flavorful and aromatic, and complemented the dessert.

Lespalier 8

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My favorite kind of dessert; soufflé!!!  Dark chocolate soufflé with orange caramel…mmmmmmmmmm…

Lespalier 9

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Most recommended: Pretty much everything.  But if I were forced to choose, it would be the soufflé and the coffee.

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Suggestions for improvements:

1.  Be mindful not to overcook meat.

2.  Service was impeccable, just a bit uptight, and the staff all seemed way too serious.

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