The Victorian brick row houses and swank art galleries lining Boston’s South End provide the perfect backdrop for Icarus, a neighborhood favorite for over 25 years. The dining room is tucked below street-level and welcomes diners with dim lighting and soft jazz music that breeds an air of exclusivity. A winged statue anchors the dining room, juxtaposed with oak tables and intimate booths.
Chefs Chris Douglass and Ron Abell have a loyal following. They offer their clientele a release from culinary boredom by changing their menu frequently – to the extent that new versions may emerge throughout the week. The menu offers many creative ‘nouveau’ American options, but caters to the simple Bostonian palate – in fine dining style – perfect for a corporate dinner or a reliable, classic meal.
We began with Blue point oysters – served warm, broiled with garlic butter and fresh breadcrumbs. The half-dozen set was moist and salty under the crisp top layer of crumbs – luscious when accompanied by a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region. Next, the game bird terrine, an esthetically pleasing combination of guinea hen (grown from imported French eggs) and duck, dotted with whole pistachios. The terrine was accompanied by cubes of strong and rich tasting port aspic, and a light potato and pistachio salad.
A healthy portion of seared duck breast followed our appetizers. It arrived accompanied by a thigh cooked with a perfectly crisp outer layer. The breast was tender and juicy with just enough fat left on the meat to enhance its flavor. The rich taste was offset by slightly tart quince, which lay on a bed of saut‚ed watercress. To the other side of the plate: a browned crepe, filled with buttery wild rice and resembling an overcooked spring-roll.
Following the duck, we received the most memorable dish of the evening: the venison, a roasted loin that was as perfect to the eye as it was to the taste. Sliced in rounds that were a delicately rare pink, with an immaculately browned exterior, the venison was served in three large portions on top of very smooth and buttery potato mash infused with subtle traces of parsnip. Black trumped mushrooms and saut‚ed root vegetables completed the presentation, both served within a succulent venison reduction – a thick and beckoning chocolaty brown concoction.
For our closing, we first sampled the individually baked Alaska, the “omelette la norv‚gienne”, something I have not seen on a menu in a very long time. Icarus’ version of this classic is done extremely well – a thick slice of banana cake under a rich serving of caramel and almond ice cream encased in impeccably browned peaks of meringue. The apple gallette, “the traditional French Grandmother’s dessert”, followed, served warm, with a flaky puff pastry that melted in the mouth. The vanilla bean ice cream had little time to melt over top this comfort dessert as there was no hesitation to clean the plate – a good ending to a consistent and enjoyable evening.
Icarus’ cuisine is a display of quintessential simplicity and praiseworthy classic fare, a cachet which gives reason for continued existence for another quarter century.
Dinner for two with moderately priced wine ~ $140
Valet Parking: Available
Friday night jazz: 7 – 11pm, bar area, featuring pianist Mark Kross and guests
3 Appleton Street (South End)
Boston, MA 02116