Saturday, August 16, 2008

Troquet: An Exquisite Dinner

Some restaurants get known for a particular thing yet that can cloud the other positive qualities of that restaurant. For example, Troquet is most known for its intriguing and reasonably priced wine list. Yet I think their food deserves equal billing, at least based on the exquisite dinner I had there recently.

Troquet is French slang for "small wine cafe." The restaurant is located across from the Boston Common, actually the part which is a historical graveyard. It is close to the theater district and not far from Beacon Hill either. Troquet has two floors and the restaurant is located on the second floor. The first floor has a small bar as well as La Patissier, a new desserterie (which I talk about about in more detail in another post).

The restaurant area is elegant without being pretentious. There is an open kitchen at one end of the restaurant, near the stairs, while the other end has large windows that look over the Boston Common. I was seated at the window and had a very nice view, despite the fact there was some scaffolding up.

Their cuisine is primarily French with some American influence. The menu, which changes seasonally, has about ten appetizers and nine entrees. You also have the option of a five or seven course tasting menu. On the evening I dined, there were also two entree specials. One of the first things you will notice about the menu is that it is a bit pricey. This is a high-end restaurant and the food is not inexpensive. Entrees average $16 and entrees $36. But do not let the prices deter you.

In between the listings for the appetizers and entrees are 57 wines available by the glass, quite an extensive and diverse list. The wines are available in 2 or 4 ounce pours and are matched to the different dishes. You certainly do not have to follow their wine recommendations, but you certainly won't regret it if you do. They also have a separate list of wines available by the bottle. The prices on the wines are very reasonable, probably some of the smallest mark-ups in the city.

As an example, they carry the 2005 Sine Qua Non, a difficult to obtain cult wine from California. At local wine stores, the retail price for this wine ranges from $150-$350, averaging about $250. At Troquet, they sell a bottle for only $169!!! That is a steal at that price. Some of their least expensive wines have a higher markup but overall you won't find too many other restaurants with comparable or lesser prices. The kudos they receive for their wine list are well deserved. Plus, with all the money you save on their wines, then the food prices don't seem as high.

I decided I would just order some appetizers, to create my own tasting menu of sorts. Before my meal began to arrive, a server brought me a fresh, warm roll with butter. The bread was excellent and I had a couple more rolls over the course of my meal. Warm bread may not seem like much of a big deal with it certainly puts me in a good mood when I am at a restaurant. And I know plenty of others who savor a hot roll with dinner. So why don't more restaurants serve warm bread? That is a mystery for another day.

My server had no problem with staggering my appetizers so that I received only one at a time. That ensured I could devote my full attention to each appetizer while it was still hot.

First up was the Maine Crab & Corn Bisque, with a crab souffle, red bliss potatoes and chive blossoms. The corn was from a local farm. This was a fantastic bisque, a light creamy broth with sweet crab meat and tiny pearl-sized bits of potatoes. The crab souffle sat in the middle of the bowl and was absolutely delicious, crisp on the exterior and light and fluffy inside. A very impressive dish and a very positive start to my dinner. I chose to have a glass of Burgundy with the bisque, the 2005 Jean-Claude Boisset from the Mercurey region. I enjoyed the wine very much, a fruitier, more modern style Burgundy.

My second appetizer was the Crispy Duck Confit with Puy lentils, marcona almonds and rhubarb aigre-doux. Again, another excellent dish with a perfectly cooked duck. The outer skin was crispy and the meat was tender and juicy. There was also plenty of delicious meat on the small bone. There were some greens to the side with shredded pieces of duck in what seemed a tasty vinaigrette. The Puy lentils are like tiny peas but had more of a nutty taste to them. For the duck, I moved on to a glass of 2006 St. Cosme Cotes du Rhone, another very good wine.

Next, I tried the Short Rib Canneloni, with aromatic vegetables, smoked bacon and parmesan broth. This might have been my favorite dish of the evening. The canneloni seemed to be homemade and it was rolled around plenty of tender and flavorful short rib meat, with a few pieces of veggies inside. The broth was delicious, with a buttery flavor to it and the tiny smoked bacon pieces added to the enjoyment of this dish. I almost wanted to ask for another dish of this because it was so exceptional. All of the ingredients worked so well together.

I finished my meal with their Duo of Hudson Valley Foie Gras with pistachio, honey crisp peaches and pickled cherries. It also came with four large pieces of grilled/toasted Brioche that was incredibly light and buttery. Just the perfect accompaniment to the Foie. Though I could have devoured the Broiche on its own as well. One Foie was the traditional piece atop some of the cherries pieces and was smooth, silky and everything good Foie should be. The other Foie was like a pate, made into a cylinder with the peach slices. That Foie was more spreadable and also quite excellent. A very decadent dish that I paired with 2005 Royal Takaji, Ats Cuvee, from Hungary. A nice sweet wine that fully complemented the rich Foie.

The presentation of all of the dishes was very nice. Overall, the food was exceptional and well worth the price. All of the dishes contained very complementary ingredients that worked together well. I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner and can't wait to return to try some of their other dishes. Service was equally as good as the food. My servers were attentive, personable and accomodating. Troquet gets my highest recommendation and I hope you check it out.

140 Boylston Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-695-9463

(Update 8/18/08): The Boston Globe Sunday magazine had an article on fresh corn at restaurants and Troquet's Maine Crab & Corn Bisque was mentioned.

Troquet on Urbanspoon

No comments: