Restaurant Review: Boston Chops in the South End
There were glimpses of the glitzy theater one expects from a steakhouse in some of the presentations: Puffy popovers, served in lieu of bread, arrived in shiny metal measuring cups; unlimited frites were delivered tableside from a large copper bowl; and à la carte cuts of beef were served in dramatic, unsliced form, so large their oval plates barely contained them. But all too often, the showmanship overshadowed the food. The frites—which are bought, rather than made in house—were served cool and too blond to have much flavor, as were the onion rings. After using a steak knife to do battle with a 14-ounce New York strip ($43), we thought, All that work for a slightly dry, slightly tough piece of meat? And some presentations were just plain odd, like in the case of the nicely lacquered, tender braised short ribs ($29), a huge 14-ounce piece of meat atop a huge, heavy raft of sour-cream mashed potatoes with carrots, mushrooms, and cipollini onions.
Some of the best items on the menu aren’t even steak. The deeply classical onion soup ($11), for example, showcases Coombs’s strong interest in technique. Hard-sautéed herb-roasted wild mushrooms ($9), meanwhile, made anything they were served beside better. Farmed cremini mushrooms prepared the same way were also the star of a plate of grilled herb-marinated beef heart ($10).
Yes, beef heart. Order it while your tablemates are in the bathroom, tell them it’s London broil, and they’ll be seduced by the rosy slices in a wonderfully piquant marinade. Also not to be missed is the brined, braised, and grilled tongue ($11), which resembles pastrami in both appearance and taste. And though it’s not classic steakhouse fare, the wild-mushroom cavatelli ($26) was, along with the flat-iron, one of the best dishes, and further proof of Coombs’s skill with fungi.
Do splurge calorically on desserts (all $12), typically not worth it at a steakhouse. Boston Chops, however, is offering the first non-clichéd molten chocolate cake since Jean-Georges Vongerichten invented the dish one 1980s night by mistake: a high dome with a marvelously sugar-crusted, light cake exterior, and just a slightly oozing chocolate core.
If only everything were this good, and as good as some of the mains, I’d be certain Coombs and Piccini have another winner on their hands. In spite of the bumpy menu, crowds are already pouring in. Given the team’s track record, I’m willing to bet on their future success.
1375 Washington St., Boston, 617-227-5011, bostonchops.com.
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.