First Bite: Bon Savor

In these tough economic times, it’s nice to live in a city that boasts a decent crop of midpriced restaurants serving above-average food. But of that handful there are perhaps just a few that on one of the coldest nights of the year can not only fill you up with an excellent meal but also leave you feeling truly warm inside. Jamaica Plain’s Bon Savor, a cozy neighborhood haunt just a hop, skip, and a few bites down the road from Ten Tables with just as few seats is one of them.

Helmed by Ibonne Zabala and Oleg Konovalov, the French-South American boîte—previously just a French resto—has in the past year seen both a revamped interior and menu, which now features an eclectic but well edited selection of seafood and red meat, vegetarian/vegan options (think chickpea soup and a portobello ‘hamburger’), and melt-in-your-mouth crepes for both dinner and dessert. The restaurant itself is homey and attractive, with rusty red walls, candlelit tables, and cheerful art lining the wall; it feels honest and simple and comfortable. The food is all of those things, too—with plenty of colorful departures from the ordinary.

Chowder’s favorite dish was the pillowy spinach-stuffed crepe topped with a supremely rich and buttery veal-and vegetable fricassee; though listed as an entrée, it made for a hearty starter. The Provencal Tart, a homemade pastry filled with (perhaps a bit too much) tapenade, caramelized onions, and tomato confit and garnished with a dollop of dried-fruit cream cheese, was light, but nonetheless packed a pungent flavor punch.

The mains we tried for the most part showcased chef Alba Aranda’s skillful hand with herbs and spices. A tender flat iron steak smeared with garlic and parsley chimichurri was plenty piquant—though the boring side dish (roasted potatoes and some greens) could have used a bit more creativity. The homemade Peruvian Seafood Pasta, made interesting with a cilantro and chili pepper-infused linguini and served in a tangy red sauce with plenty of fresh-tasting shrimp, calamari, sole, and mussels tossed throughout, benefited from a subtle fieriness.

Still hoping for one last shot of toastiness before journeying into nearly subzero temperatures, Chowder ordered up the extra-moist Banana & Chocolate Cake for dessert, which came out warm and swimming in a pool of chocolate sauce, perfectly crisped caramelized bananas flanking the sides.

But perhaps the most telling part of the evening was the trip to the restroom, which included a foray through the tiny kitchen (complete with plenty of “uh, excuse me‘s” to those preparing the food) and a jaunt down a winding staircase to the basement, where various kitchen supplies dotted the area in plain view. This makes sense. There really are no pretensions here: just solid food, a warm, welcoming staff, and—if you’re lucky—an extra hit of heat from the sizzling sauté pans on your way downstairs.

605 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-971-0000,