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RESTAURANT REVIEW

Gargoyles on the Square ... at Courses

Visiting Chef Series has Many Surprises

By Veena L. Thomas

Staff writer

I must admit that I didn’t quite know what to expect from the recent Visiting Chef Series at Courses, which last week featured the chef from Gargoyles on the Square Bar and Grille. For a gourmet prix fixe ($20/person) dinner on campus, I welcomed the opportunity to enjoy their food without trekking to Davis Square.

Courses was unrecognizable beneath the yards of linen tablecloths and fine china. A well-dressed hostess greeted us at the door. She plucked a long-stemmed rose from a basket on a nearby table, handed it to me (“for the lady,” she said), offered to take our coats, and led us to our table . I was impressed.

The soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera effectively set the mood: classy yet not overly romantic. Yet there were faint traces that something wasn’t quite right; coffee cups were part of the elegant place settings, even prior to eating our meal, and my table wobbled, Á la Courses.

The fixed menu helped to facilitate the evening, as we never had to wait for our food to be prepared. A well-presented warm butternut squash and apple soup started the meal. This unlikely duo worked surprisingly well purÉed together and drizzled with a bit of cream. The nutty toasted pumpkin seeds on top helped to compensate for the sweet soup. Overall, it was the closest I have come to eating fall in a bowl.

A salad of mesclun greens tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette atop a goat cheese fondue followed the soup. If the salad was merely adequate, the warm “croutons” of portabella mushroom fried in a seasoned batter and scattered atop the salad were truly inventive.

Diners had a choice of entrÉes for dinner: a sage roasted chicken breast, grilled salmon with spicy black bean salsa, or a vegetarian pappardelle pasta. The grilled salmon was easily the best salmon I’ve ever had in a restaurant. While some restaurants tend to serve dry, flavorless salmon, this salmon was wonderfully moist and tender without tasting too fishy. The salmon was served with a mild salsa that was did not overpower the dish, and the fried strips of herbed tortillas adorning the salmon provided a tasty accompaniment. I was impressed with the care taken with the sage roasted chicken. Sage leaves had been inserted in slits cut around the meat, and the resulting chicken was flavored on the inside too, not merely on the surface. Warm apple crÊpes paired with an effective rum caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream with flakes of vanilla bean completed the meal.

The Visiting Chef Series is fairly new, and it’s obvious that the bugs have not been worked out yet. While the food from Gargoyles on the Square was excellent, the service left much to be desired. For example, my waitress asked me whether I wanted coffee while I was still in the midst of dinner, and proceeded to pour me a cup. The coffee was lukewarm by the time I finished eating. Still, the salmon alone made the meal worthwhile. Be sure to check out the next installment in this series.