525 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116
With Valentine’s Day looming around the corner, I thought I would try some restaurants that hopefully won’t break the bank while still maintaining a high level of quality. Sibling Rivalry, a self-proclaimed “modern American restaurant,” does just that. As you may surmise from its name, the restaurant is run by two siblings, Chefs David and Bob Kinkead, and each offers his own unique culinary creations on the menu. To add to the brotherly competition, they offer a special deal on Monday nights, two separate prix-fixe three-course menus for $35 each. The opportunity to be a judge, Iron-Chef-style, for a night? Sounds like my type of fun.
Though my main focus is always on the edible, the atmosphere certainly added to my experience. While Sibling Rivalry’s exterior is cold and oddly futuristic, with metal fixtures and purple lighting, the spacious interior welcomes you with wood panelings, an open view of the kitchen, abstract art, and a general warmth of burnt oranges and reds. Romance definitely feels at home here — but it’s an understated, cozy feel of romance, not a swanky, dress-to-impress feel. The service was attentive without being overbearing.
On this particular Monday night, Chef Bob was missing and a Chef Jason was in his place, so I can’t speak for Chef Bob’s culinary skill, unfortunately. But both Chefs Jason and David put up a good fight, to our great enjoyment. For starters, my fellow foodie and I had seared scallops with hand-cut jalapeno fettuccine, beautifully split onto two plates, from Chef David. Though both the scallops and pasta were perfect in texture, the flavor of lime was a bit overpowering. I was also expecting some kind of kick from the jalapeno and green peppers, but the spiciness was equal to that of very mild salsa. Chef Jason’s first course was crab beignets with garlic remoulade and a spicy tomato shooter. Again, the textures were perfect, but the flavor a tad off: the crab filling was exquisitely smooth and the pastry delicate, but taste-wise I found it too bland and unremarkable, even with the odd Bloody-Mary-like shooter. The score: Chef David 1, Jason 0.
For the second course, I was blown away by Chef David’s dish — gorgeously seared sesame tuna on a cushion of sushi rice, with Chinese black beans, PEI mussels, and asparagus in a heavenly pool of beurre blanc. If I wanted to be super-critical, I could say that the tuna had the tiniest hint of dryness at some parts and that the flavor of the black beans was almost too strong. But for me, this was near perfection. I felt bad for Chef Jason, who would have to follow. He presented a sizeable grilled pork chop marinated in miso, toasted peanuts, yellow curry potatoes, and cucumber relish. (He was also at a disadvantage because I admittedly have a seafood bias — unless it’s a really good steak.) The meat was too tough at the edges for my liking, and the East Asian and Indian flavors remained separate instead of a fusion. It was an easy victory for Chef David. The score: 2-0.
Because I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth, I tend to weigh presentation and originality almost as much as taste when it comes to dessert. With that in mind, dessert, Chef David’s chocolate layer cake and Chef Jason’s duo of profiterole, was somewhat of a letdown on both sides. The layer cake, adorned with pineapple marmalade and pineapple sorbet, was mediocre, and the tartness of the marmalade was not quite balanced by the light sorbet. I enjoyed the profiteroles more — the pastry shells filled with chocolate and the strawberry ice cream were delightfully crisp. Though not spectacular, I will say that we finished all of it. The score: 2-1.
Verdict: Chef David had a clear win. (You think you had the play-by-play, but I actually kept a numerical point system much more detailed than I would like to admit, mostly for my own entertainment.) In this day and age when I oftentimes pay more only to get less in high-end dining, I would definitely come back to Sibling Rivalry again for a fun, satisfying meal. And yes, I recommend it as a solid option for Valentine’s Day (or your special occasion of choice).
Know before you go: “Fight Night” is only on Monday. If you decide to partake in Fight Night — which I whole-heartedly recommend for the value — make sure to have plenty of time (and an empty stomach) to really enjoy your meal.
Good for: food enthusiasts, romantic dinner for two, Iron Chef wannabe-judges (oh… is that just me?)
Bad for: people in a rush, vegetarians who like lots of options.