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“Hiccups at L'Espalier?”
Review of L'Espalier

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Ranked #105 of 3,404 Restaurants in Boston
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: US$41 - US$100
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Business meetings, Groups, Special Occasion Dining, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Breakfast, After-hours, Lunch, Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Neighbourhood: Back Bay
Cross street: Fairfield St.
Transit: Copley Square T
Reviewed 14 October 2017

By many accounts, l"Espalier is still one of the best restaurants in Boston and is the pioneer of fine dining in Boston. That is why it is all the more surprising that there were some simple things that were not done right during our meal, and frankly one problem I have never ever experienced before.

Full disclosure, we enjoyed dining at the old L'Espalier when it was on Gloucester Street and have been reluctant to taint our memories by eating at the new "more corporate" location on Boylston. We finally decided it was time.

L'Espalier still does the most important things right - namely the food is inventive, exquisite and absolutely outstanding. The wine list and pairings are thoughtful and delightful. We selected the 8 course tasting menu for our evening meal, which amounted to about 12 dishes after factoring in the amuse bouche, intermezzos, etc. Not only were the dishes fantastic but the serving sizes were also generous without being overwhelming (I did not find them small, in contrast to other reviews). We enjoy great food, but don't proclaim to be food critics, so this review will not further critique dish by dish.

The location on Boylston street is, well. . . just different. Two of the three dining areas, along Boylston and along Ring Road, have floor to ceiling windows and are not particularly intimate - more "see and be seen" in an understated way. The one room that approaches the intimacy of the old brownstone on Gloucester is the Library room in the back. It is more dimly lit and has no windows; rather the walls are lined with bookshelves. We sat here and preferred it, although the major downside to this room is there is a sliding door going into the kitchen. While the staff is good about closing this door after they open it for passage (serving plates etc)., every time the door opens it is a little jarring to hear the noise coming from the kitchen.

What went wrong? Little things, but for a restaurant of this caliber, should not be problems:
1. Our water glasses were left empty for long stretches. Finally the sommelier of all people actually took note and filled our glasses after one particularly long stretch.
2. The gentleman charged with replacing our silverware after each course was woefully in need of practice. I don't think I've ever had somebody present our forks and knives backwards, and this happened several times. Strangely, he got it right a few times. Once, he presented mine backwards and my wife's correctly. Really? I thought our waiter had noticed after the first time and said something, but apparently not.
3. Sad but perhaps just the way things are - we remember distinctly the maitre d' on Gloucester greeting us by name when we came in the door and wishing us a Happy Anniversary. That did not happen here - probably a result of booking online (which wasn't available in the Gloucester Street days), which eliminates an opportunity for a personal connection with the diners. That said, the restaurant did call to confirm, and that was a missed opportunity to gather information about a special occasion and again make a personal connection. In fairness, I believe it was our waiter who asked if we were celebrating anything, and they produced a mini flourless cake with a candle at the end of the dinner to help us celebrate.
4. While we appreciated the description of each dish as presented, the servers spoke in such hushed tones and with accents that it was almost impossible to understand them.

Less important, but notable, L'Espalier really should figure out a way to revamp their entrance. Perhaps that is in process. I understand they lost an entrance when the adjacent restaurant closed. But entering a fine restaurant through a non-descript door with simply a small elevator lobby feels less than grand.

Finally, and this is perhaps a nit, but for suburbanites who are driving in to Boston for dinner, it was surprising to me that L'Espalier does not validate parking. This might fall into the category of "if you can afford to eat here you can afford parking". However, it can also feel a little chintzy to spend several hundred dollars per head and not get validated when the lesser restaurants nearby all validate (it's the difference between $40 and $14 for parking). We did not use the valet service because (a) we were told they were "between valet services" and (b) I don't love leaving my car keys with a valet in the first place, particularly when parking is nearby and easy. We ended up going to Star Market across the street and buying a few groceries to get validated.

In summary, the food and wine is the most important thing, and for this L'Espalier remains top of the charts. It should be noted that our waiter, Matthew, who also doubles as the Fromagier, was excellent. In fact, I'd like to come back to one of their Tuesday cheese pairing dinners. And while L'Espalier has changed since it moved to the Boylston location and that is simply a reality, the change should not include overlooking some of the finer things that made L'Espalier special in the first place.

    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
2  Thank R L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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22 - 26 of 660 reviews

Reviewed 10 October 2017 via mobile

Tasting menu
Warm and friendly staff
Very knowledgeable sommelier, she was studying for her advanced sommelier degree!
The food was innovative , tasty and very well presented!
One of the best wine lists in the country !
They even have multiple bottles of
Romanée Conti.
If the Michelin people would come to Boston this restaurant would definitely get 1 or 2 stars!

Thank philadelphiaboyzz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 August 2017 via mobile

My girlfriend and I were visiting Boston for a girl's weekend and she had enjoyed this restaurant on past visits. Since I knew her normally high food standards, my exceptions were high. I felt a little disappointed. The good things included attentive wait staff, nice view of the Back Bay streetscape, comfortable seating, flavorful butters and icy cold champagne. I got the lunch citrus salad which had one orange segment, 1/2 of a fresh fig, a Tablespoon of goat cheese and three lettuce leaves, making for an average salad. The Seabass was OK, but was slightly overcooked or left under a heat lamp too long. My girlfriend had the foie gras and she enjoyed it. Overall, we were underwhelmed, I'm sorry to say. I expected much more.

Thank Randi4712
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 August 2017

We went for our anniversary last weekend.(July 30). We decided on the 8 course tasting. In the past they used to have a large Al a Carte' menu. We started with the Lobster. Excellent. The best part of the meal. We then had a deconstructed salad, which was very nice. Again these are small bites. There is a small sorbet intermezzo between courses. For the "entrée"(very small!)I had the Prime Sirloin & Richard had the Lamb rack(one rib)My steak was nice, but a little tough. Richard's Lamb rack was a bit too rare. The Cheese platter was excellent. Really loved the Stilton. The dessert was a bit of a letdown. Richard is a pastry chef(he knew the past pastry chef there very well) Too many small portions, none with any special flavor. Ambience was excellent, but at over $300, it's a once in a 10+ year meal. As good as it was, I hate saying we've had far better at places like Mistral/Moo/Brasserie Jo. Overall, very good, but should have been stellar!

    • Value
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Thank keithmNashua_nh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 August 2017

If you're looking for the ultimate special restaurant experience, L'Espalier is it! We took our son here for his birthday. We ordered the 5-course tasting menu and our son also ordered the wine pairing. Every course was a work of art for the eyes and the taste buds. The whole experience left me feeling like I was in a fairy tale or movie.
Enter the unassuming front door and you are greeted by a hostess who summons the elevator for you. You are greeted by another hostess at the third floor. This starts the royal treatment. Each of us had our very own waiter and each course was delivered by the three and then our course was explained to us. Every course was also accompanied by the pleasant and friendly sommelier. We came to be wowed and we were. We had no dietary restraints and we love food. Our son is a chef and appreciates fine food and its preparation. Like others have said, the courses are small, but I was overly full when leaving. The bread and roll were served warm, as they should be. The bread was whole grain with pumpkin seeds. Two butters accompanied it. I'm a connoisseur of salads. This one with cherries in champagne and smoked ricotta to the side did not disappoint. We especially enjoyed the Point Judith Squid. (I wish I'd saved some of my bread to sop up the broth) The duck and farro course was another favorite with our group. This was my first time eating duck and I loved it. Although we usually pass on dessert at restaurants because we are too full, we continued to eat the delicious salted caramel souffle with tahini sauce. YUM!
Yes, this was the most we've ever spent on a meal or probably will again - - but it was worth it! Hint: the restaurant fills up as the sun goes down. If your schedule allows, reserve for 5:30 or 6pm for the best experience.

    • Value
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    • Food
Thank Diane P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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