First Bite at Nix's Mate
Photo by Ekaterina Smirnova
Youâ€™d think that the new restaurant at the Hilton in the Financial District would have enough obstacles without a name that tumbles clumsily off the tongue. Thereâ€™s its location on a dead leg of Broad Street, for one thing. The fact that itâ€™s in a comfortable yet unglamorous hotel, for another. Or the fact that its predecessor, Caliterra, existed for more than a decade without anyone (other than hotel guests) noticing.
But no, Nixâ€™s Mate (a reference to one of the Harbor Islands) is the eateryâ€™s moniker, and the experience of dining there is just as much of a head-scratcher. Thereâ€™s incredible potential: Executive chef David Nevins has serious Boston cred â€” he opened Neptune Oyster and worked at Olives before that. And the space is gorgeous, with tufted gray banquettes, raw wood, and a shell chandelier that jangles quietly above the private dining room. A few dishes showed serious polish, such as the â€ślobster caramelâ€ť appetizer ($17), a few flash-fried hunks of tail and claw meat over a Vermont cheddar cream with wilted spring onions and smoky chilies. The seared loup de mer ($22, pictured above) was a wonderfully prepared fillet with crisp skin. Despite too-tough meatballs and a meager two clams, the polpette vongole starter ($11) was saved by a voluptuous red sauce featuring healthy shards of garlic; it tasted of shellfish and the sea. (Too bad there was no bread with which to sop it up.)
Then there was the not so good. Knowing Nevinsâ€™s raw-bar background, we ordered the Wellfleet oysters. â€śWeâ€™re out of oysters,â€ť our server sheepishly reported. A Boston Bibb salad with blackberries and cornbread croutons ($10), meanwhile, was absurdly heavy, with gobs of berry mush and a far-too-thick caramelized-Âonion dressing. Otherwise-Âgreat spicy fried rock shrimp and slices of pepperoni and salami proved too greasy when combined atop the â€śHarbor Islandâ€ť flatbread ($14).
Courses and cocktails were slow to arrive, even when the dining room was empty, but there were apologies and smiles aplenty. Will friendly staffers and a few star dishes be enough to carry Nixâ€™s Mate? Probably. As Caliterra proved, you donâ€™t have to stand out to stay afloat.
89 Broad St., Boston, 617-348-1234, nixsmate.com.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/06/nixs-mate-hilton-restaurant/