Dining Out at the Met Back Bay
Fish entrées arrived looking unremarkable, but had a way of vanishing. Roast Maine cod with quinoa and charred broccoli ($23) gained flavor from currant and pine-nut purées, as well as the chili-spiked broccolini by its side. It was more interesting than the grilled artichoke starter ($12), which, while bland, did have a nice crust of grana Padano. Center-cut tuna steak with brown rice and spicy green beans ($28) followed a similar formula: generously but not excessively portioned, healthful, and balanced if a bit bland — the kind of entrée a rushed kitchen can reliably put out in quantity.
And then there’s the dish I shouldn’t admit was my favorite, because nothing on it was made in the kitchen: the house ham and cheese board ($24), a gigantic spread of superior cold cuts and big wedges of artisanal New England cheese. In fact, Met Back Bay has created an entire ham and cheese bar downstairs, with a selection of six hams and sausages and five cheeses. This is a great idea for a quick lunch or substantial bar food, and comes with bread, made in-house but unfortunately not well suited to cheese. Two people can make a meal of that board. I was impressed by the soft, just-sliced freshness of the Niman Ranch ham and of the La Quercia prosciutto (still not as good as Italian, but hey, it’s domestic). A table of six devoured all the meat — and there was a lot — in about two minutes. That left most of the cheese for me. (That night, all were from sought-after Vermont cheesemakers like Cabot, Consider Bardwell Farm, and Thistle Hill — and all were in impeccable condition.)
Ham and cheese bar: excellent. The bar bar, though, needs breaking in. Friends described a comedy of errors in trying to order a caipirinha. (First they were out of cachaça and rum, then they were out of neither, and later the server brought white rum when my friends specified golden.) There was, though, a remarkable cosmopolitan, full of fresh-tasting blood-orange juice and reasonably priced at $10.
As with the bar, dinner service was intermittently informed, if friendly, and one server often interrupted with nervous conversation. (Others were both outgoing and professional.)
Desserts (all $8) ended the meal as it began, which is to say unmemorably but with generous portions. Apple cider doughnuts are the safest bet, especially if they’re right out of the fryer so the cinnamon sugar melts onto the warm, not-too-greasy surface. And the “Met Cake,” a version of the ubiquitous molten chocolate cake served with caramel-fudge swirl, is just what you want to cap off a meal of steakhouse excess. Turns out the best part of Met Back Bay is that you can have your steak and cake and afford them, too.
Met Back Bay, 279 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-267-0451, metbackbay.com.