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Restaurant Review: The Wine Cellar

Hidden away in Back Bay is a little treasure that is slowly being discovered.

Less than eight weeks old, The Wine Cellar transforms you from the busy Boston life into a relaxing and warm European setting. Nestled below bustling Massachusetts Avenue, this very cozy dining room seats 36 people in dark brick and wrought iron surroundings. The setting becomes increasingly intimate when revealing the restaurant’s theme – fondue, Neuchƒtel’s traditional ‘communal’ meal.

The wine list – an extensive collection of over 650 wines – would make Robert Parker proud. For the less-schooled wine drinker, the list offers maps of the wine regions of the world and vintage charts as aids. The wine menu is also color-coded to reflect suggestions of the wine savvy staff, including excerpts from the Wine Spectator and other reputable connoisseurs. Very few establishments in Boston (excluding the Meritage Boston Harbor) claim to have a more detailed offering to clientele. With such an ostentatious selection, the only issue remains having enough time to peruse and make a self-assured choice.

However, choice in wine, and in food, is easily facilitated by the extensive offering of prix-fixe menu options, ranging in price from $105 to $350 per couple. These menus feature appetizer, cheese fondue, oil fondue and dessert fondue selections, with each course paired with a wine.
Our choice was the “Wine Cellar” selection ($125/couple). To start, a charcutiere plate, consisting of a large portion of three terrines, complemented with pumpernickel, cornichons, and salad. Or, try the Salad Le Gascongne: mixed greens topped with roasted capsicum, duck breast, and parmesan cheese, and accented with warm, lightly fried potato slivers. This was paired with a Spanish red, the 2002 Darien Rioja, a wine smooth enough to harmonize the sharp fois gras pate served in the charcutiere.

Next, the cheese fondue: a warm and silky fusion of GruyŠre and Emmental cheeses, enhanced with white wine, a touch of Kirsch and a hint of garlic. Crusty French croutons and lightly fried potatoes were served to dip, and the divine concoction was paired with a white wine from Burgundy, France (2001 Laboure Roi Macon) that nicely matched the sharp flavors emerging from this thick delicacy.

The cheese course was followed by the oil fondue, a serving of meats or vegetables alongside a bubbling pot of olive oil, with sauces on the side. We opted for the Chef’s choice, tender pieces of beef, chicken, and sweet sausages, served with homemade barbeque, champagne vinaigrette, and bordelaise sauces and accompanied by the 2000 Chateau Labory Bordeaux.

Last, but definitely not least, save room for the grand finale (if you can). The traditional chocolate fondue (accompanied by sliced bananas, strawberries, melon, and biscuits) is luscious, rich, and very sinful. There are many dessert fondues to choose from, including the “Grand Marnier”, the “Moccachino” or the “Nuts” fondue. We chose the “Milk Chocolate” Fondue, coupled with a bubbly Cristallino Brut (Spain), which proved to be delectably smooth and creamy; a velvety finish to a very filling meal.
Thierry Charles, General Manager (formerly of Maison Robert, Ambrosia, and Le Meridien) says that one of the Wine Cellar’s goals “is to be the most romantic dining experience”. Romantic? Quite. And if romance was gauged by the level of gastronomical sampling this evening, it would have been quixotic.

Details:
Dinner for two ranges from $100 – 350 (prix fixe); a la carte mains from $30 – $50.

THE WINE CELLAR
30 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Telephone (617) 236-0080

November 22, 2004
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