Win/Fail Fridays: Yay for Artisan Bistro, Nay for Forum

Welcome to Win/Fail Fridays, where executive editor Donna Garlough mouths off about her latest dining-out adventures.

This week’s WIN: Raising the Steaks at Artisan Bistro

I was never a big fan of Jer-Ne, the bar and restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common. I’d head there for the odd breakfast meeting, but thanks to its weird name and outdated décor, I never really thought of it as a dinner-and-drinks spot. After a recent makeover (white leather banquettes, glossy black wood, warm lighting) and name change, though, it’s all spiffed up — not a destination restaurant like L’Espalier, for sure, but certainly the kind of place I’d pop into if I was downtown and wanted to meet a friend for an impromptu meal. And when I did exactly that last week, it was downright lovely. Craving something hearty, I opted for the steak frites, and what showed up was not the typical cut of hanger or skirt steak that’s ubiquitous around town; it’s a 12-ounce strip topped with “A.B.” butter, which turned out to be a gorgeous foie gras-laced spread. Of course, this is the Ritz. Everything on the menu should come with foie gras, non?

This week’s FAIL: Going Bland at Forum

You could forgive the place for being empty — totally, awkwardly empty — at 1 p.m. on a Monday. After all, the Boylston Street restaurant has only been open since July, and its lunch service is even newer. But if you’re going to bother being open, I say, bring your A-game. And if there’s only two patrons in the place, make sure the plates coming to their table are properly seasoned. While my companion and I were quite happy with the fish tacos — crisp chunks of cornmeal-crusted cod with red cabbage, pico de gallo, and chipotle aioli — everything else was bland, bland, bland. The lobster chowder? All cream, no flavor; while the soup boasted nice chunks of lobster and a few surprise bivalves, a richer seafood stock would surely have fixed the problem. The house-made porchetta sandwich, from a portion of the menu oddly called “From the Pantry” (do you keep your pork in the pantry?), arrived full of cool, greasy, and flavorless meat. Maybe they’d do better if they were full of people and the kitchen were able to get in a rhythm. But meals like this aren’t likely to pull in the lunch crowd.

Stay tuned for next week’s Win/Fail!

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