Restaurant Review: Beacon Hill Bistro
Then there’ll be something in which every part is done absolutely right, like the gravlax appetizer, with house-cured salmon and a salad of roasted beets, radish, and watercress ($14), or the plate of house-made pâtés ($14); both feature top-notch ingredients and technique. The line between dull and expert execution of a classic can be fine, and here Molloy is decidedly on the expert side. I could eat the gravlax every night. Made with Scottish salmon, my favorite source of Atlantic salmon, it’s cured in citrus, salt, and sugar. It’s as moist and satisfying as a main course of salmon (and more so than a lot of the ones offered around town). The accompanying salad was a refreshing counterpart, not just something perfunctory plunked on the plate. Similarly, the pâté plate’s duck rillettes with onions and garlic, and rustic rabbit pâté with plenty of pork fat, were both moist and fresh. (The pâté selection varies nightly.) Clearly, Molloy can revive warhorses.
Sometimes, though, a dish’s main ingredient is prepared just that carefully, but the details around it are a slight letdown. An appetizer of salt cod brandade croquettes ($13) was oily and heavy, the chorizo aioli not as pungent and peppery as you’d like to counteract the grease and salt. But the salt cod was as pure and delicious as any I’ve had. Indeed, it was homemade and, as with the gravlax and the pâté, a reminder of how much better classics are when made with real expertise. A better choice than the croquettes: steak frites ($29). The meat, Wolfe’s Neck strip steak, was exemplary and full of flavor, and I thought Molloy’s preference to cook it a bit past medium-rare was judicious, even if finicky guests wanted it pinker. The shoestring fries, though, strewn with chives and parsley, needed two more minutes in the fryer to make us want to eat more than just a couple.
Molloy is great with duck, including the dish I still want to go back for (though I can’t, because it was a special, part of a retrospective of food trends in honor of the restaurant’s 10th anniversary): duck sous-vide style. Why “style”? Because Molloy doesn’t have all the fancy equipment for true sous-vide. So he sealed duck breast in a plastic bag with duck fat and herbs, and simmered it slow and low for a few hours — and produced a much more persuasive argument for sous-vide than I’ve had, particularly for duck. A different preparation of duck breast with herbes de Provence ($28, pictured right), cooked on a stovetop and served with a turnip-almond purée, was a bit drier but also good.
I’ll go back for the duck, but not for any of the fish other than the gravlax, and not for the pasta — specifically a very weird lasagna ($25) of a few cardboard-crunchy sheets of pasta, vegetables, and mustard cream baked into an unpleasant custard in a ring mold and arranged, strangely, over lentils. And not for most of the desserts, which are forgettable even as you eat them, nor the house-made ice creams (three scoops for $6.50), which are largely unremarkable.
To be fair, Molloy inherited the lasagna. He’s brought with him skill and a respect for ingredients, and the results are occasionally memorable. How much more memorable he’ll be allowed to get is an open question, but this bistro will likely go on as the pleasant, middling place it is.
Beacon Hill Bistro, 25 Charles St., Boston, 617-723-7575, beaconhillhotel.com/bistro.