June 8th, 2006

alone

400 Highland

A couple of months ago, a new restaurant opened at 400 Highland Ave. They decided to go with the original and inspired option of naming the restaurant after the address, which is why I know the address. (I find this a silly trend, but, hey, people seem to like it.) I never went to the previous establishment, Sauce, despite meaning to, so I can't compare how it looks now to how it used to look.

dbang and I went to 400 Highland for drinks a few weeks ago, and they made a very respectable mojito, which is what I ordered before looking at their drink menu and discovering that they make something called a ginger basil gimlet. I resolved to return at some point.

So, when dancingwolfgrrl proposed it for dinner tonight, I immediately thought of the gimlet. And then I reviewed the menu they have online and figured I could find a few things I'd like to try.

Now, when I'd been in previously, I noticed that in the bar section, they had three big TVs tuned to whatever sporting event was happening at the moment. (I don't know from sports. It was a bunch of guys wearing matching clothes running around after a moving blob of some kind.) The dining room, which is separated from the bar by a half-wall plus a curtain that takes it almost all the way to the ceiling, is all dark and romantic, with white tablecloths and candles. This struck me, at the time, as a mismatch of ambiances, and now that I've also been in the dining room, I can confirm that that's true. Though it was less egregious than I expected it to be, there was some spillover from the noisy bar section into the dining room, and I could see one of the TVs reflected in a mirror from where I was sitting. I never want to see a TV screen when I'm paying more than $7/plate, and certainly not when it's more than $20. That said, the TVs weren't super obtrusive, so someone who cares less about that sort of thing than I do probably wouldn't mind.

The food was quite good. I started with onion soup, which was thick and rich and very tasty. I wouldn't normally order onion soup in june, but since it's actually march today, it worked out. For dinner, I had scallops, pan fried over beet vin (mm, beet!) with arugula and shaved fennel. Oh, and bacon. Mm, bacon. The scallops were perfectly done, just slightly crispy with butter on the outside and tenderly delicious in the center.

Unlike many places these days, the portions were reasonable. They were neither enormous nor tiny, which I liked. On the other hand, they were priced as though they were quite large; I would say they were 15-20% more expensive than would strike me as reasonable. Insofar as the price sets my expectations for quality, it was a bit of a letdown, but setting that aside, it was a very tasty meal.

For dessert, we shared the tiramisu and the warm chocolate goodness (this had a name, but that's what they called it in the description, and that's what it was). These were both excellent, and as a particular fan of tiramisu, I was especially excited to have a tiramisu prepared a la minute and deconstructed prettily. Also, v. tasty.

[EDIT: Oh, yeah, the service. The service was friendly and attentive, but a bit rushy. They were quick to want to take plates away before we were quite done with them (and why is it that so few restaurants wait for all parties to be finished before removing anyone's plate? Am I the only one who wishes they would?) I didn't feel rushed, despite this, which was helped, in part, by the many empty tables around us, so we knew they didn't need the table. I think the server was just eager to be on top of things. All in all, dinner took 3 hours, so it's not like they zoomed us through by any stretch.]

Overall, I'd give them a B. I probably won't go back for dinner, mainly because of the combination of the price and TV issues. I will, however, go back for drinks, both because the ginger basil gimlet is perfect and because they have several other interesting-looking drinks listed that I'd like to try. If you'd like to join me for that adventure sometime, you know where to find me.