First Bite: Gem
This Downtown Crossing debut aims for glitz, but ends up lackluster.
The owners want very much for you to know that this is a stylish place. â€śWelcome to the opulence of Gem,â€ť reads the website for the new Province Street restaurant and lounge. Thereâ€™s a forceful dress-code statement (one that apparently doesnâ€™t preclude the corsets worn by all of the female bartenders). Thereâ€™s a valet. The dĂ©cor is nouveau bordello, with plush red seating, fringed lampshades, dim lighting, and lots of glossy black paint.
But style doesnâ€™t always mean good taste, and Gem has all the subtlety of Paris Hilton. As with many a stumbling starlet, a pleasing appearance can hide flaws. On one recent visit, we watched a velvet banquette nearly collapse under a patron. The drink menu is supposedly anchored by classic cocktails, but more than half of them rely on cloying flavored spirits. Theyâ€™re party-girl drinks, and some, including the Star Ruby (pink-grapefruit-flavored Belvedere, Aperol, and citrus, $12), arrive with soft-drink-style straws, as though theyâ€™re meant to be guzzled. Ordering craftier drinks like the Sazerac (an actual classic, $12) yields better results.
Food is equally hit-and-miss. A griddled quesadilla filled with confit duck, GruyĂ¨re, corn salsa, and cilantro ($12, pictured above) was oily and tasted nothing of duck. The $10 â€śtwo-way wedgeâ€ť was an unremarkable iceberg and Bibb salad with onions, tomatoes, and Stilton dressing. And the $15 shrimp and grits was a failure: soupy, far too sweet, and comically oversize. Roasted sea bass ($29), a mushy, bland lump of miso-glazed fish atop a â€śpea leafâ€ť salad (more stems than greens), was such a dud that we ate just the potato purĂ©e underneath. Better options include juicy pressed chicken in a cast-iron pan ($25) â€” a simple dish borrowed from Gemâ€™s sister restaurant Tosca, in Hingham â€” and tender Wagyu hanger steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare and served with addictive fries (a $38 splurge).
But who comes to a lounge for roast chicken or steak and fries? Not us. We just might come back for the great take on tater tots ($8), however, a trendy side that rarely wows us. With crisp potato shreds, green onions, and creamy Russian dressing, these ones are a fine snack to nibble alongside a classic cocktail â€” a Gibson or a Vesper, perhaps? Fortunately for Gem, theyâ€™re not bad with vanilla vodka, either.
Gem, 42 Province St., Boston, 617-482-1213, gemboston.com.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/05/bite-gem/