Restaurant Review: Kitchen in the South End

Scott Herritt’s new South End restaurant is a welcome glimpse into the past.

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The mussel soup Billi Bi is one of Kitchen’s many homages to historical American cuisine.

The Child-inspired sole ($24), however, would fail to convert her to the wonders of cooking. Unlike the glorious dish that made Meryl Streep swoon in Julie & Julia, this one was mealy, soggy, cool, dull of flavor, and pallid beige of hue. “Hamburg steak” ($19) was another misfire—house-ground chuck cooked in an oval patty as hamburgers originally were, but terribly salty and a little gristly, with shoestring fries that were underbrowned.

Desserts are also eclectic, and two were very good: balls of cake doughnuts ($9), made from chef de cuisine Eric LeBlanc’s grandmother’s recipe, fried to order and served over a fruit purée with vanilla sauce; and a looser-than-usual crème brûlée ($8, no longer on the menu) with a darker-than-usual caramel cover, accompanied by caramelized figs.

Kitchen is a touching, lovely meeting of old and new. When I asked Herritt how he got the Billi Bi to have such a silky vichyssoise-like texture, he said the cooks pushed it through a sieve a couple of times. Same with the sauce for the lobster thermidor: “We try to do everything by hand.” At a time when most chefs want to buy the highest-tech new toys, I’d like to see some of them—and our city—take this parallel track. This isn’t fascinating, avant-garde food you’re glad just to have tried once. This is true sustenance—the food you want to keep coming back for.

 

Kitchen, 560 Tremont St., Boston, 617-695-1250, kitchenbostonmass.com.

 

Other Menu Highlights:

Cake doughnuts, $9
Buffalo frogs’ legs, $12
Bacon-wrapped scallops, $14

 

Critic Corby Kummer—an editor at The Atlantic and author of The Pleasures of Slow Food—has been reviewing Greater Boston’s top restaurants in our pages since 1997.