First Bite: Sugar Baking Co.

A Roslindale restaurant/bakery introduces dinner to mixed results.

sugar baking co

Photo by Angela Coppola

Can a casual breakfast-and-lunch spot transform each night into a polished bistro? It’s a challenge, to be sure. The bakery/sandwich shop South End Buttery did it with reasonable success in 2008, and now Sugar Baking Co., a brunch favorite that began dinner service this past June, is running with the concept, too.

Whereas the Buttery’s dining room has an elegant feel after the sun goes down, Sugar still looks like a daytime hangout, with a grab-and-go bakery in the back and, generally speaking, a quick-service vibe. The menu, by contrast, offers decidedly evening-friendly fare, such as baby-octopus ragout, arugula salad, and roast chicken with bok choy.

Some of the dishes are thoughtfully prepared, while others seem to be the product of a kitchen still finding its footing. An unusual, vibrant appetizer of magenta-hued ravioli ($7)—beet pasta filled with a creamy roasted-beet filling—was rich, slightly sweet, and accented by tangy goat cheese and buttery hazelnut bits. The crab cakes ($12, pictured above) had a golden crust and zingy lemon aioli, but would have benefited from more crab and less filler.

Larger plates were equally variable. The flaky swordfish fillet ($20) came doused with a piquant tomatillo coulis that imparted flavor to both the fish and the saffron-spiked farro on the side. The drizzle of bordelaise atop the steak frites ($19), however, did little to save the tough steak, which lacked the beefiness you’d expect from a restaurant-quality cut of meat. And the lobster mac ’n’ cheese ($18), an easy home run at most places, was a flat-out failure, with overcooked pasta, under-seasoned cream sauce, and a lack of both cheese and lobster meat (though a shell did make an appearance).

Not surprisingly, the baked goods here shine, like the warm rolls with tapenade served at the outset of the meal, and the gratis raspberry-jam-stuffed cookies at the end. But when it comes to dinner’s main event, it’s clear that this place still needs some work.

4172 Washington St., Roslindale, 617-327-4174,