First Bite: Noche
Equal parts cocktail lounge and steakhouse, this new South End eatery seeks its soul.
WITH THE OPENING OF NOCHE, the restaurant in the Appleton Street spot that once housed Icarus, Boston can add a new species to its dining taxonomy: the South End steakhouse. It’s a semi-familiar breed, anchored by chops and sides of creamed spinach, but dressed up with Latin touches (chimichurri and ceviche), Asian accents (bonito and sweet miso), and a South Beach vibe (white leather and synthpop).
This fusion reflects the influence of chef Reginald Collier, who was recruited to Boston from a popular Miami sushi restaurant, Doraku. The crowd of professionals who stop in for dinner and late-night drinks (the bar is open with a modified food menu until 1 a.m.) seems to be embracing the place’s lounge-y style and the solid renditions of cocktail classics like Moscow Mules. (There’s also a peanut butter/Bailey’s/tequila concoction, if that’s your thing.)
But all the mixing and matching gives Noche a neither-fish-nor-fowl feel. You can’t help but imagine the restaurant’s owners warning Collier, “You’re in Boston now — play it safe,” and wish they’d let him experiment more. Case in point: The signature tuna tartare was a vibrant composition of bluefin, avocado, tobiko, and citrus, but other dishes seemed too familiar and even dated, like a chicken breast stuffed with Boursin, or a bland bow-tie pasta with peas, truffle oil, and garlic butter. The futuristic dining area, brightened with mirrors cut to resemble the phases of the moon, is inspired, but looks across to a bar lit with flat-screen TVs tuned to ESPN. Is Noche a trendy hangout? A neighborhood spot? It’s not clear. Happily, prices are reasonable, with plenty of entrée options under $25. Service is friendly, too.
One area where Collier shines is in the preparation of meats. A petite filet was expertly seasoned and cooked exactly to temperature, as was a double-cut pork chop. Less successful were desserts, such as the boring berry shortbread and a chocolate s’more cake that seemed like a hotel buffet standard. Still, even with some dull offerings and the multiple-personality issues, that perfect meat makes Noche worth a try.
3 Appleton St., Boston, 617-482-0117, noche-boston.com.