Sometimes you experience a restaurant, and while the entire meal is good and you eat delicious things like beets and brie and belly, one dish stands apart in such splendor, it’s really all you remember. Recently in Boston for training, I met up with my college suitemate Lisa for a catch-up sess and dinner on Newbury Street, a hipster enclave in the Back Bay neighborhood of the city. We decided to share a bunch of appetizers rather than go for entrees, and the one that ended up winning the meal was a hard sell for Lisa, a former vegetarian: bone marrow baked oysters. Sonsie is on the dim side, which renders it rather romantic, but doesn’t make for super photos. But here are the glorious bi-valves:
Whomever decided to take briny, fresh oysters and jam them together with rich, buttery veal bone marrow, garlic butter, and bread crumbs, is a wizard. Despite Lisa’s squeamishness at the veal marrow, the dish was balanced, earthy, sumptuous, a fitting intro to bone marrow if there ever was one. I could have eaten another order of these, easily. I loved them. The oysters brought the salt, the marrow brought the fat, and garlicky, buttery bread crumbs anchored the two stars of the show brilliantly. An A++ dish.
We also loved the pork belly and apple slaw tacos, which employed chipotle mayo to warm up the cooling crispness and sweetness of the apple. The slab of pork belly in these was generous and less fatty than other bellies I’ve had. Of course, pork and apples are a classic combo, and we both liked the fall flavors and clean finish of this dish, which could have easily gone overboard on fat between the belly, mayonnaise, and whatever they used to dress the slaw. The tortilla even seemed to be homemade, a rustic flour vehicle for the sweet, savory, and spicy flavors contained inside them.
The beet and kale salad was maybe a little less exciting than the first two dishes, but beets just seem so right this time of year, with their sweetness and cool, tender texture. The raw kale in this was very tender, and though I prefer goat cheese with beets, the shaved percorino provided a salty, nutty bite that answered to both the beets’ sweetness and the kale’s bitterness. Very nice.
I had read that the pizzas were really good at Sonsie, so we chose to share the mushroom and brie pie. The crust was charred, airy, and really chewy. It provided a pretty stinking gorgeous platform for sweet caramelized onions, woodsy wild mushrooms, and creamy, funky brie cheese. The overall finish of the toppings was creamy, which foiled the smoky, chewy crust perfectly. This was another brilliantly balanced dish, with sweet, earthy, pungent, and milky flavors all playing nice in the sandbox together. It’s a refreshing way to approach food that not all chefs can master, and we loved it.
We went for the warm apple tartin and the pumpkin panna cotta. You know, because fruit is healthy! Hahahahaha. I loved the toasted marshmallow atop the panna cotta, which brought the complexity of that charred sugar flavor to the very traditional pumpkin pie flavors present in the dish. The cinnamon ice cream was the clincher in the tartin, with a little pastry crust underneath, and a really forward tasted of stewed apples permeating the dish.
I would recommend Sonsie as a date night spot, a great place to impress colleagues or customers, and of course, a wonderful restaurant to catch up with an old friend. It’s cozy, our waiter was adorable and hilarious, and every dish was fine-tuned to its limit. I would not call it relaxed, however – there’s a definite upscale feel here that is permissive of laughter but not yoga pants. So get gussied up, and try Sonsie on your next visit to Back Bay. I’m awarding it a nine on the BHS scale, for the wonderful service, French bistro setting, and bone marrow baked oysters! Because who wants to eat anything else once you’ve had them? Not I!
We’re wrapping up the year here at BHS HQ. Literally, I mean, I haven’t wrapped a single present yet. I need to get on it. I will have maybe two more reviews from Binghamton-area restaurant this year, plus the Big Hungry Awards, which will recognize all the best eats in Upstate New York I’ve had this year. So keep up with us as we hurtle towards 2014, my Hungries. My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!