Details: Cocktails: $10; Food: $3 – $10
1 Bennett Street (in Charles Hotel)
The Charles Hotel has become a home away from home for many students. If you are one of those people who shudders at the thought of voluntarily setting foot in this company presentation mecca, I wouldn’t blame you. However, with its entrance tucked away in a corner of the hotel lobby and attractively announced with a chain mesh curtain, Noir is worth visiting on its own as a place for fun drinks and creative bar food.
Entering Noir, you are greeted with dramatic red lighting and banquettes in rich, dark earth tones. Grab a seat at the bar if you just want to enjoy cocktails or go earlier in the night to secure a cozy booth for more privacy.
The cocktail list is split into signature drinks and classic cocktails. My personal favorite on the signature drink side is the Strawberry Basil Martini (vodka, strawberry puree, basil and lemon juice), which is always fruity enough to convince me of its antioxidant potential. For something stronger, either the Limoncello Martini (limoncello and citron vodka served straight up with a twist) or Blue Cheese Martini (regular martini served with blue cheese stuffed olives) are good bets.
On the classic cocktail side, I am partial to the champagne-based drinks purely for aesthetic reasons. Long and elegant, champagne flutes make everything from the French 75 (champagne, cognac, fresh orange and lemon juice with a sugared rim) to the Bellini (champagne, peach schnapps, peach nectar) to the classic Champagne Cocktail (champagne, bitters, sugar and fresh lemon juice) taste better to me.
To me, he biggest surprise about Noir was the quality of its food. I had gone many times solely for late-night drinks before sampling its bar menu. Although it is undoubtedly not meant for a full dinner, the inventive dishes are a good alternative for nights when you just want some lighter food. The menu is divided into six sections: snacks, flatbreads, skewers, salads, sandwiches and sweets. Snacks include a twist on typical bar food such as hot spinach, bacon and gruyere dip served with toasted pita, and skewers offer a choice of soy-ginger marinated beef, lime-cilantro-ginger chicken or hot and spicy shrimp. The best bet for variety is to order the skewer combo which lets you try two of each kind. Among the grilled flatbreads, a classic tomato basil mozzarella is a simple but good option.
The menu at Noir changes seasonally but I hope they never replace the arugula salad or duck sandwich. The former is a tasty plate of arugula with cherry tomatoes, blue cheese and walnuts tossed in a balsamic dressing and the latter is a warm, pressed sandwich filled with moist shredded duck and gooey Gruyere cheese, contrasted with a semi-sweet cranberry chutney.
Chocolate features prominently on the small dessert menu with a warm chocolate-chocolate chip cookie, but equally compelling is a pair of chocolate martini offerings: the quirky Clockwork Orange (Stoli Orange, Grand Marnier and chocolate liqueur with a semi-sweet chocolate rim) or the mysterious Noir’s Boudoir (espresso, Tia Maria, Godiva Cappuccino, Kahlua, Stoli Vanil).
Not destination dining but certainly a welcome option located close to campus, Noir is a good place to head when you’re looking for an interesting drink and light food selection coupled with a stylishly relaxed vibe.
*This article was originally published on December 12, 2005.