For my birthday, I could choose any restaurant I wanted for dinner. Would it be an old favorite or some new hot spot? After much consideration, I chose Clio. Why Clio? I had never been there before yet had read much positive press about it. It was always one of those places on my To Do list but that I had not yet visited. I wanted something special, a place that had innovative cuisine. From a review of the menu on the Clio website, I was very intrigued.
The Chef at Clio is the famed Ken Oringer, who also runs several other local restaurants, including Uni, Toro, La Verdad and KO Prime. Uni is a sushi/sashimi bar located in the same building as Clio. Toro is a Spanish tapas restaurant which has received much acclaim. His two newest places, La Verdad and KO Prime, are respectively a taqueria and a steakhouse.
Clio is located beneath the Eliot Hotel and they do have valet parking ($15). We were nicely greeted when we entered. The restaurant is very modern looking and elegant with a small bar near the front door and the dining area to the left. To the right, you can go to Uni. The room is designed well so that you really do not hear the other diners near you. This helps provide a more intimate feel.
The food menu contains some very diverse choices with appetizers, about $15-20, and entrees, about $20-40. You can also choose the Tasting Menu ($135) which contains 12-13 courses. You can get wine pairings ($100), about ten different wines, with the Tasting Menu. We opted for the Tasting Menu but without the wine pairings. I wanted to experience many different dishes and flavors, to see the range of the restaurant.
The wine list is very diverse as well, with wines from all over the world. There are few wines below $60 but this seems more that they have chosen better wines than just being overpriced. Based on a few wines that I knew their retail price, it appears Clio may only double the price, or even a bit less. As an example, the wine list had the 2004 El Nido Clio (a very appropriate named wine) which retails for $50-55. It is also a superb wine which I happen to enjoy greatly. Clio sold it for $90, which is less than twice the retail.
I should also mention that they have a full bar and a menu of special drinks, including some Liquid Nitrogen made concoctions. I did not that a couple of the drinks had Sake as an ingredient, yet the wine list did not include any Sakes. I did ask if they had a Sake menu, which they did though it appears it is used mainly in Uni though all the Sakes are available in Clio. I do think the Sake list should be added to the Clio wine list. I feel it would give even more options and the Sakes would pair well with many of the dishes in Clio.
For the first wine of the evening, I selected the Poochi-Poochi Junmai Sparkling Sake ($20 for 330ml). This is a nice alternative to Champagne though it reminds me more of a Spanish Cava as it tends to me more sweet than yeasty. It has a mild carbonation and a nice, refreshing taste. It was a good choice. I should note that they served the Sake in small Sake cups and kept the bottle chilled in an ice bucket. Nice touches.
Then the procession of courses from the Tasting Menu began to arrive. In all, we ended up with about fifteen courses, depending on what was considered an actual course. They did not rush us at all, and we were at the restaurant for over three hours. It was nicely paced.
I should start by mentioning that our dinner presented many examples of what is known as "Molecular Gastronomy." This is basically the application of science in cooking and can lead to interesting ways to prepare food, from foams to powders, the use of liquid nitrogen and such. It can lead to the creation of many culinary wonders that look as great as they taste.
We started off with the "Soda Inspired By Nature." This dish consisted of a special soda, one being a ginger beer and the other a lemon verbena. Then you had a "cone" which contained popcorn, cheese and more. You ate the entire cone and it was very tasty, though a bit messy. finally, there was a tiny chocolate bon bon. A very intriguing way to start our dinner.
Next we had the Tomato Water Martini with Basil Oil, Caper Berry and Tomato Popsicle. This is what it says, a drink in a Martini glass, that is rather clear but has a definite tomato flavor. It too was very interesting and delicious.
We then had a sashimi dish, a plate of Isaki with Green Yuzu Kosho and Papaya Salsa. Isaki is Japanese Three Line Grunt. I had never had this type of fish before. It actually has three differently colored areas, from a whitish part to a reddish area. It was delicious, with a nice smooth texture, melting like butter in your mouth. I would certainly order Isaki elsewhere if I saw it on the menu.
The next course was completed tableside. This was the LN2 Gazpacho with Wild Strawberry, Anago and Pistachio. They made like a strawberry sherbet tableside using liquid nitrogen and this then topped a plate with the pistacho sauce/soup and fruits and veggies. The strawberry was not really sweet but gave more of a vegetable flavor, complementing the rest of the dish. Very inventive and a nice variation of traditional gazpacho.
Once we finished our Sparkling Sake, I then ordered a bottle of the Mizu No Shirabe Ginjo ($55 for 720 ml). This is a superb Sake, both light and smooth. It complemented the food well and certainly did not overpower anything. This is the type of Sake I could drink all night long.
Our salad course was a Composed Abstract of Yellow and Red Watermelon with Heirloom Tomatoes, Green Garlic Scapes and Bitter Almond. A very interesting dish with a nice mix of flavors. Everything tasted vey fresh and there was plenty of watermelon.
We then moved on to the Ribbons of Tairagai with Honeydew Melon, Trout Roe and Dehydrated Serrano Ham. Tairagai is a Pen Shell Clam, another type I have not had before. It is different from the traditional claim and actually consists of a long strip like a ribbon. It was tender and tasty, especially with its accompaniements. I am usually not as big Roe person but enjoyed them in this dish. I was glad to get to taste fish that I never had before.
Next was a Garden Sorrel Soup with Mussels, Chamomile and Potato Feuillantine. Another excellent dish, flavorful and different. The Mussels were tender and tasty.
Our next course was a Two-Hour Egg with Asparagus, Ham Foam and Foraged Mushrooms. Yes, they actually slow cooked the egg for two hours. The yolk was still soft. Great flavors and such an intriguing idea. We are both quite happy at this point, savoring each and every dish that has been brought, and anticipating what might come next.
Then came the Maine Butter Poached Lobster with Mousserons, Sea Beans, and Vin Jaune D'Arbois. This included meat from a lobster claw and a tail. It was so succulent and buttery. Pure bliss! They have this as an entree of their main menu and I would highly recommend it. Such amazing flavors.
We did order another bottle of wine, this time choosing a 2004 Mas De Can Blau ($75), a Spanish red from the Montsant region. This wine was a blend of Mazeulo, Garnacha and Syrah. I thought it was a superb wine, with rich berry flavors and smooth tannins. It had a long, satisfying finish and was not too heavy. It would go very well with our next dishes.
We moved on to one of Clio's signature dishes, the Lacquered Foie Gras with Rhubarb, Strawberry Jam and Lavender. I love Foie Gras and this was one of the best I have ever had. Silky, buttery smooth. Great mesh of flavors. I could have eaten an entire plate of this. Another highly recommended dish.
Next came the Elysian Farm Rack of Lamb with a Melange of Vegetables, Chocolate Mint and Haricots Coco. We were told that only five restaurants in the country have this type of lamb. Well, it was wonderful. Tender, delicious and meaty. It went very well with our wine. This is on their main menu and I would definitely recommend this as well. If you love lamb, then this dish will satisfy you.
We then moved onto a Cheese Selection before a couple of desserts. The desserts included a Blueberry Tart with Cream Cheese Sorbet & Passion Fruit and a Chocolate Sorbet with Cucumber and Chartreuse Soup. All three of these courses were very good. A very nice ending to our meal.
We did get one final treat. I had booked my reservation online at Open Table, mentioning it was my birthday. They did take notice and presented me with a banana "lollipop" with Happy Birthday written on the plate in chocolate. A great touch and good to know they pay attention to what is written in Open Table.
The food was all fresh, inventive, delicious, and flavorful. I especially enjoyed how the dishes combined several different flavors together, flavors you might not normally put together, but which worked well. There was plenty of food. We left very satisfied.
Service was impeccable. Our main waiter, Christopher, was attentive, personable and knowledgeable. He certainly enhanced our dining experience. The rest of the waitstaff was excellent as well. They were attentive as well without being overbearing.
Overall, this was a superb dining experience and I am extremely pleased I chose this restaurant for my birthday celebration. Yes, it is expensive but you definitely get your money's worth. Phenomenal food, great wines, excellent service. This is a place that will impress and is worthy of any special occasion. Clio receives my highest recommendation.
370 Commonwealth Ave.
Phone: (617) 536-7200