Thursday, January 24, 2008
It's pretty rare when I can't find one redeeming quality in a new restaurant I visit. If the food isn't top notch (always the first priority) there is always the view, the ambiance, location, excellent service or appealing design. Yet, when I met a friend this week for lunch at Ivy Restaurant we came out completely bereft of a single positive in the experience. What's doubly vexing about this is that I had been really looking forward to this visit, too. The name alone suggested to me a sort of clubby, New England feel. I envisioned solid, classic, leather upholstered seats with businessmen in conservatively tailored suits and silk ties feasting on traditional steak and seafood lunches. In truth, I was expecting far too much.
I also should note that this review was planned for next week's posting but I just had to rearrange the editorial agenda to write this review and get it posted as soon as possible.
I do have to say that we were seated promptly but it was all downhill from there. The high, wooden tables for two near the bar (a long slab of marble with two tiny flat screens at either end) gave us a great view of the stairs to the second floor dining room which, I must admit, were lined with an interesting row of wall sconces lit by candles. The bar was empty and the booths opposite it seemed to be occupied by the doyenne of a bygone era. So much for the clubby feel I anticipated. So much for any ambiance, really.
I ordered the chicken panini with frites which arrived in a reasonable time and was served by the waiter with all the charm of one placing food on an empty table. The focaccia roll, which seemed stale, had been thrown on a grill, blackening the edges to coal. Hardly a pressed panini sandwich. The dry chicken had been smothered in a pesto sauce with more salt than the Dead Sea. My tortured lips burned for an hour afterward. The "frites" were both overcooked and soggy, the achievement of which is no small feat. They were also over salted and served with a ketchup that was not ordered. Even the pickle was dull and lackluster. I would swear that the dish had been made an hour or so before and kept warm under a heat lamp with all the culinary expertise of some cut rate hospital cafeteria. An absolute disaster.
My companion chose the lighter fare of the soup du jour. What arrived was a shallow bowl filled with some orange substance resembling a melted creamsicle sans the wooden stick. We literally laughed. A few slight touches of the spoon to the tongue brought the pronouncement: "I've had canned soups better than this."
The ultimate shame in all of this was the hope that a few really nice dining spots might actually revive the cultural and economic wasteland of the Downtown Crossing area. We would have done better eating at one of the street vendors who still valiantly press on in this sadly dilapidated part of the city that was once the glamorous retail shopping hub of The Hub.
49 Temple Place
Boston, MA 02111