Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Food Field Trip Boston: B&G stands for Brilliant Gastronomy

Boston's B and G Oyster

My fascination with Barbara Lynch, a bonafide Boston food pioneer, began years before I had the pleasure of sampling her cuisine.  B and I spent two years living right by the state house on Beacon Hill, so each day on my walk to the subway, I passed her flagship No 9 Park.  And each day I peered beyond the curtains, into the candlelit dining room, casting longing glances at the beautiful plates and shimmering glasses of wine.  Sometimes I would even catch a glimpse of the chef herself, but at that stage in our lives, No 9 Park was far outside the bounds of our food budget and only accessible in my foodie dreams.

It was not until after we moved to DC that we were able to finally experience No 9 Park on a trip to Boston.  That evening -- over four years ago now -- was everything I imagined.  We indulged in the tasting menu with wine pairings, and noticed John Kerry and Theresa Heinz sitting down to a late dinner on our way out of the restaurant.  How Boston is that?  It was a dining experience that was worth the wait.
No. 9 Park on Urbanspoon

Since that time, Lynch has opened a bevy of new restaurants in the city, paying homage to meat, seafood, and the cocktail.  B and I found ourselves back in Boston this weekend and--as is usually the case while there--craving seafood. So on this trip we decided to forego our go-to bivalve mecca, and try for the first time Lynch's B and G Oysters in the South End.  When I called to cancel our too-early reservation (due to a late lunch), I learned that the fifteen seat bar is reserved for walk-ins.  So we decided to try our luck and stop by later in the evening. 

B and G Oysters is tiny; in addition to the bar which surrounds the open kitchen there are only about a half dozen tables (there is also a patio with about as many tables, but it cannot be relied upon but for maybe two months out of the year, as was the case on our cool, rainy June night). The cramped interior requires tip-top managerial organization and the staff are very adept at handling the flow of walk-ins.  If there is no room at the bar, you provide your cell phone number and head to a nearby watering hole.

On a rainy, cool summer Friday night, our wait time was forecasted at an hour but came in at a little over thirty minutes  This lag time gave us the opportunity to head across the street and try out the Beehive.  This uber hip space is a combination restaurant and club and the crowd and interior seems more West Village than South End.  When we arrived around 8pm, we headed downstairs and enjoyed drinks backed by a quiet jazz trio.  The dark lower level has a huge bar, exposed brick walls and over-the-top-art.  As we neared finishing our 20-oz local beers in Cheers-like dimpled mugs, my phone rang.
The Beehive on Urbanspoon

After walking across the street and being seated comfortably at the bar, I sized up my surroundings and was alternatively impressed by the talented and tireless oyster schucker, the meticulous cooks, and the knowledgeable servers.  Our waitress's knowledge and passion for both food and drink showed throughout our meal.  She explained that the dozen oysters available change twice daily, the olive oil is a single press from Greece, and of course it will be no problem to have the kitchen split the clam chowder. 

We started with what else, but the oysters -- all varieties we had never enjoyed before (Naked Cowboys anyone?) -- perfectly shucked with varying degrees of salty, ocean sweetness.  We liked the oysters so much that we scored a free sample of two of the fried versions, which were presented on a dollop of tartar sauce in their half shell.

B and I did not skimp on the food.  Our clam chowders were each topped with a paprika pastry puff and teamed with whole fresh clams.  The calamari rings were huge and fried perfectly--just like the oyster appetizer and later, the fries.  I needed my New Englander lobster fix and while there was a traditional roll on the menu, we decided to share the signature "Lobster BLT."  Any tender lobster would be proud to go out like this with garden fresh tomato, smokey bacon,  and just a touch of a tangy mayonnaise to bring everything together.  The accompanying fresh pickles, fries, and cole slaw were fresh  and generously sized--again, split beautifully by the kitchen without asking.

And though at this point, we were beyond full, we just had to try dessert.  Of the three offerings we went with a rhubarb flan-like custard dish, which came topped with pistachio ice cream, candied rhubarb and fennel.  This unique treat was tart and a refreshing end to a seafood feast. 

The limited wine selection by the glass numbered around a dozen, but provided some unique and well-priced options.  Just be careful you don't enjoy those wine selections too much--the tiny winding staircase to the bathroom is quite precarious to navigate, almost making it feel like you are enjoying the sea's offerings from inside of a ship.  Our meal with three glasses of wine, a Harpoon UFO, eight oysters, clam chowder, calamari, lobster BLT, dessert, tax and tip came to $165.
B & G Oysters on Urbanspoon

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