ArtBar Spring Menu Tasting
This is not your parents’ hotel restaurant. When I was younger and we traveled, we always avoided the hotel restaurant. It was pretty much a given that you didn’t eat in the hotel . Times have definitely changed, with hotel restaurants doing all sorts of creative, community-focused, delicious things for not just their guests, but for locals.
Last Thursday I had the great opportunity to join a few other bloggers and some of the team at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge for a tasting of the new ArtBar menu. I had been to ArtBar before for drinks with colleagues, a cocktail class, and late night bites, but since I had never eaten dinner there before, I was excited for the full experience.
We definitely received VIP treatment, starting with a private room just for our dinner with Director of Food and Beverage Troy Clarke already mixing up specialty cocktails when I arrived.
Although it was a rainy day, the views across the river from ArtBar were lovely, one of my favorites of Boston. Of course, you can’t quite tell that from this photo. I just thought it was an artsy shot, and well, I was at ArtBar. . .
Pimm’s Cups, either made with homemade bitter lemon or ginger beer, were our welcome drinks. Always a lover of ginger beer, I went with that option, and thoroughly enjoyed the spicy and refreshing drink as I mingled with other dinner guests.
Once we sat down, Troy shared information about ArtBar’s food and beverage with us. The restaurant sources as much as possible from local and sustainable sources including about 25 farms and other suppliers. They are continually striving to be more green and are working on 100% sustainability for their seafood. None of this is easy, especially for a restaurant in a hotel that serves several meals a day and has to appeal to a large and diverse audience, but you could see the obvious passion and excitement behind these initiatives as well as behind the creative and inventive cocktail and food menu.
We kicked dinner off with a spring pea soup with Marcona almonds which gave it both a smooth and crunchy texture and a nice richness to go with the sweet green peas.
Next up, we tried some of the new appetizers on ArtBar’s menu. We were first brought out full servings of each, plated how they would be for diners in those portions, and then we each received our own tasting plate which was really fun. The dining portions were quite substantial!
From left to right we have the pork cheek tacos, grilled calamari bruschetta, and the holy amazing deep fried macaroni and cheese with truffle fondue. Of the three, the mac and cheese definitely wowed me the most. It was fried and crunchy but not greasy in the slightest. Dare I say it was kind of light? It would be the perfect dish for sharing. Dipped in warm, gooey truffle fondue, this was a comfort food I would crave again and again. I enjoyed the other appetizers as well. The bruschetta was an interesting combination plated on top of a Marcona almond puree that I could have licked off my plate. I don’t usually go for bruschetta, not being a huge bread person, but the calamari added another element that changed up the classic dish. The pork cheek tacos were tender and flavorful; I could see these being a nice small entrée.
Our next cocktail was a vodka punch, a French Standard, created by ArtBar’s bartender. ArtBar is delving into old fashioned punch service in a beautiful and fun way using these glass absinthe containers with spouts on either side. The French Standard is a dangerously delicious ix of Ciroc Vodka, Lillet, St. Germain, Lemon, and Grapefruit Bitters. The light citrus flavors went so well with our appetizers, and having the containers served to us definitely made for fun sharing of drinks.
Our next course featured two entrees from the spring menu, game hen stuffed with spring vegetables with a potato cake and pan butter and artic char with beluga lentils and sautéed leeks.
The chicken was good, moist and served with a delicious potato cake. It was a choice that would appeal to many people, including those with less adventurous palates but still done in a way that stands out a bit.
The char was amazing. It was quickly cooked at high heat to crisp the skin to perfection. Soft lentils provided a nice contrast, and the leeks melted in my mouth.
Dinner was served with a Smoked Cherry Fizz: Lepanto Brandy, Amere Nouvelle, Smoked Cherry Phosphate. Troy burnt cherry bark in front of us with a little torch, showing again his creativity and use of all sorts of different ingredients in the restaurant’s cocktails. If you ever get the chance to take one of his classes, definitely do; he is fun to watch!
ArtBar’s Executive Chef Brian Dandro came in to meet with us, despite it being his day off, and he had Chef de Cuisine, Stephen Hamilton and the team in the kitchen serve us up a little extra, scallops they had gotten from the boat the day before. This was one of the most perfect scallops I have ever had. It was seared and caramelized on top and so buttery and tender all the way through, with that sweet fresh scallop flavor. Amazing.
The night ended with a dessert course accompanied by an alcohol-free cocktail, Pressure. ArtBar has a whole menu of non-alcoholic drinks for people who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol but would like a little something special. The Pressure contained Ginger, Grapefruit Shrub, Agave, Lime, Honeycomb, and CO2. Honeycomb reminds me of my nana, who often had a jar at home. I loved ending the meal with a refreshing drink and not having to worry about a headache the next day.
Two different desserts provided plenty to satisfy our sweet cravings; almond streusel cake with caramel poached pears and “Turtle” panna cotta. I ate every bite of the almond cake which was light and lovely. I found the panna cotta to be a little too sweet for me, but I think it would be a true chocolate-lover’s dream.
ArtBar did a really nice job on their new menu. It really reflects their desire to create an experience that is comforting and sophisticated, and it’s clear that a lot of thought and staff input goes into it. ArtBar’s location makes it perfect for warm weather and evenings with lots of light, and its cocktails, wine, and food make it a great place for all sorts of palates.
As we were guests of ArtBar our dinner was complimentary, but I was truly excited to write about the experience, and I am equally excited to return. Trying ALL of the cocktails on their menu is a challenge I could live up to.