Savory Morsels

The Culinary Adventures of a California Girl

Friday, May 12, 2006

***May 12, 2006: 28 Degrees***

28 Degrees
1 Appleton St.
Boston, MA
When I was told that 28 Degrees was trendy and had a lively bar scene, I didn’t fully realize what that would entail. My friend and I were in Boston celebrating my birthday and decided that since we’d already reserved No. 9 Park for Saturday night, we wanted to do something totally different and fun for Friday night. From the pictures on 28 Degrees website I expected the black leather booths, a sizeable crowd, the chandeliers, and the overall urban chic décor. What shocked, and delighted me, was upon entering we were told to wait to check in because we had arrived just in time to witness three girls who looked liked they’d just stepped out of Austin Powers doing a choreographed dance right in the middle of the bar! Needless to say that set the tone for the night.
28 Degrees is much more a bar with a restaurant than a restaurant with a bar scene. At first I was anxious that the result of this arrangement was going to equal poor quality food and ridiculously high prices, but it turned out that I had no reason to worry! The menu is an odd assortment of small plates and large plates (you can really only guess what size the dishes will be by the prices) and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of cuisine or theme that ties the dishes together. But as I said before, tonight was about fun, so I wasn’t too concerned that the chef didn’t seem to have much of a philosophy. After studying the unusual menu, I settled on grilled asparagus with prosciutto, a crab “martini”, and grilled bread for the table. My friend opted for the arugula and parmesan salad and the calamari.
The bread and the crab martini came out almost immediately. Seriously, like maybe five minutes after we ordered! As soon as the food started arriving we realized two issues we were going to have that night. First, the table was far too small to hold more than one plate. Every dish that came out meant the rearranging of glasses and the combining of the previous unfinished plates. Second, there was absolutely no timing to when the dishes came out. Basically there was no first or second course; food just appeared on the table as it was ready or when the server felt like bringing us more. Since my friend and I didn’t mind sharing, we didn’t care too much about the irregular flow to the meal – but fyi – 28 Degrees is not the sort of place where you remember your mother’s advice and wait for everyone to be served before you start eating!

Onto the food – I was happy that we started out with my crab martini because by this point (about 9pm) I was starving! The dish was pretty much exactly what I had expected and actually quite good. I tend to like anything served in an unusual dish, although I’m not too sure how unusual a martini glass is anymore . . . but that’s beside the point. The shredded crab was mixed up with chopped mango and tomatoes and had the right amount of spice added to it. The flavors were fresh, clean, and uncomplicated – just how I like my food. My only complaint is that the avocado wasn’t chunks of avocado but rather a flavorless cream at the very bottom of the cup. Maybe this is just one of my spoiled Californian things (I’ve heard east coast avocados just aren’t on par), but I thought the avocado part tasted bland and the texture was out of sync with the rest of the dish. Why they didn’t have bits of chopped avocado mixed in with everything else was beyond me, but it wasn’t too hard to simply leave the avocado cream untouched and happily eat the rest of the dish.
The grilled bread was good too, nothing spectacular, but I really enjoyed the charred, smoky flavor of bread toasted on a grill. The best part about the bread was that it came with three dips (hummus, tapanade, and vinaigrette) so there was the added fun of trying to choose our favorite of the dips and pretending like we had to keep consuming bread until we had reached a consensus. In the end, the hummus won!
The next dishes to appear were my friend’s arugula salad and the fried calamari. The arugula salad was just fine but it was rather unoriginal and really nothing to write home about. The calamari, on the other hand, was one of my favorite dishes of the night. It came with a cream sauce and a spicy tomato sauce (we now know how I feel about multiple sauces!) and the calamari was pretty much perfectly cooked. As a result of many unpleasant experiences, I’ve almost started to expect fried calamari to be overly greasy or chewy – and I was so happy to find that the 28 Degrees version didn’t have either of these qualities!
After those plates were cleared, there was a long pause before out last dish arrived, my grilled asparagus. Surprisingly enough, even though we had ordered all appetizer size dishes, by the time the asparagus arrived both myself and my friend were feeling pretty full and wanting to save room for dessert. Our fullness was disappointing especially since the HUGE pile of heavily charred (but definitely not burnt) asparagus covered in a zesty, peppery lemon vinaigrette sauce was actually really good. I definitely ended up making a bigger dent in the pile than I had first planned. My sole complaint was that the prosciutto on top was not very good quality. It was too chewy, too salty, and cut too thickly for my taste. But, once again, it was easy for me to just push it to the side and avoid – so not much of a problem!
Upon receiving the rather limited dessert menu, we decided to split the strawberries and cream. It was a pretty basic dessert, originality and inventiveness really wasn’t 28 Degrees’ strong point, but it’s hard to go wrong with a square of decent puff pastry covered in strawberries and whipped cream. Since we were sharing, the dessert was only about three bites for each of us and consequently disappeared rapidly. Actually, our plate was clean so quickly that we were quite embarrassed by our rate of consumption and nervously hoped that the waiter wouldn’t notice for a little bit. Luckily for us, a birthday party had recently arrived and provided enough of a distraction and our waiter remained oblivious to our unladylike eating.'
We ended up opting out of post-dinner drinks and asking for the bill. The food was actually very reasonably priced; without drinks it only amounted to $70 for the two of us! I thought this was especially surprising since usually bars (or any place with that much of a trendy scene) have ridiculously over priced food. Leaving the restaurant that night, we both decided that we were really happy with our dinner choice. While it wasn’t an amazing, gourmet meal, I don’t want to and pretty much can’t eat that way every night. We wanted fun and a scene and that is definitely what we got! With the added bonuses of perfectly respectable and at times delicious food, good prices, and above all – go-go dancers!


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