First Bite at The Brahmin
IT’S A NEW DAWN for Stanhope Street, that awkwardly situated byway behind Back Bay station that’s been home to a string of failed culinary endeavors. At least, that’s what the block’s newest tenants are hoping for. In recent months, pan-Asian restaurant Red Lantern has replaced Bertucci’s; Mexican joint Zócalo departed Brighton to set up shop in the old Stix space. And then there’s the Brahmin, which has moved into 33 Restaurant’s former two-story locale. Like 33, the Brahmin seems determined to attract local scenesters, so the long bar remains, and there’s still plenty of lounge-style seating. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Gone is the garish neon lighting that defined 33, and in its place is a clubby, vintage-y theme. Supposedly inspired by “Boston’s classic Brahmin subculture” — tufted burgundy banquettes, glistening chandeliers, checks delivered in a hollowed-out leather-bound book — the eatery comes off more like a Disneyfied version of an old-money men’s club, but it’s fun nonetheless. The extensive cocktail list should be a big draw, though there also appears to be more focus on the food here than at the late 33 — a mix of small plates, flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, and entrées from executive chef Jason Santangelo.
Those small plates are the Brahmin’s biggest strength. A dish of falling-apart-tender beef short ribs ($11, pictured) with pickled shallots and silky cauliflower-parsnip purée was surprisingly sophisticated; the grilled white asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham and finished with a lemon vinaigrette ($5) — more like a lemon cream sauce, which made it even better — was a smart combination of flavors and textures.
The more-substantial dishes on the menu, however, were hit-and-miss. A grilled tuna sandwich with sesame-ginger aioli and smashed avocado ($12) was fresh and flavorful, but begged for more interesting bread. And while the prosciutto-and-arugula flatbread — a crisp, thin crust topped with lemon-pickled red onions — was a bit heavy on the salt, the steak frites ($20) desperately needed it. Those are relatively minor flaws, though, in an otherwise solid concept that’s a good fit for a newly revived street.
33 Stanhope St., Boston, 617-723-3131, thebrahmin.com
Photograph by Kate Kelly