First Bite: Noche

Equal parts cocktail lounge and steakhouse, this new South End eatery seeks its soul.

By Amy Traverso | Boston Magazine |
PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA

PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA

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.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2010/09/first-bite-noche/