Tuesday, January 5, 2016

No. 9 Park

            Barbara Lynch’s restaurant No. 9 Park in Boston is nestled under the shadow of the Massachusetts State House and overlooks Boston Common. The atmosphere inside the converted townhouse is comfortable and welcoming. There is a small bar with tabletop seating and a waiting area. The livelier of two dining areas sits immediately to the right of the bar. The
second lies in the back of the townhouse, more suitable to larger parties and those looking for a quieter dining experience. Named after its Beacon Hill street address, No. 9 Park conveys a certain casual elegance, both in the service and the food. This is a restaurant to go to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and other special events. It offers the diner the chance to revel in Lynch’s French and Italian cuisine and expansive European wine list—making No. 9 Park well worth its high end price point.  

The interior of No. 9 Park 

            No. 9 Park opened in 1998 as the first restaurant in what would become Lynch’s burgeoning culinary empire. Born in South Boston, Lynch worked in restaurants in Boston and travelled to Italy before serving as executive chef at Galleria Italiana where she was named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s “Ten Best New Chefs in America.” In 1998, Lynch opened No. 9 Park and in 2003 won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast. Also in 2003 she launched B&G Oysters and The Butcher Shop in the South End. Soon after Lynch founded a catering company, a produce company, and from 2007-2008 created Stir a demonstration kitchen, Drink, a cocktail bar, and Sportello, a modern diner. After opening its doors in 2010, Menton supplanted No. 9 Park as Lynch’s flagship restaurant, specializing in modern French-Italian cuisine. In 2014 when the James Beard Foundation named Lynch “Outstanding Restaurateur” of the year, she became only the second woman to win that coveted honor.

The Beacon Hill Exterior 

            No. 9 Park offers an ala carte menu as well as a chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. The tasting menu is 6 courses with options for three additional courses including Lynch’s famous prune stuffed gnocchi. Below is the menu from our recent visit minus a dish of Colorado Lamb.

Fluke Crudo
blood orange, celery root, trout roe
NV Simmonet-Fèbvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé

Atlantic Swordfish
salmoriglio sauce, red cabbage, romanesco cauliflower
2012 Le Vigne di Eli Etna Bianco

jamon royale, aged balsamic, burgundy truffle
2014 Trediberri Nebbiolo di Langhe

Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi
foie gras, almond, vin santo
NV Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec Champagne

Hudson Valley Foie Gras
semolina, pistachio, satsuma
2014 Domaine de Fenouillet Muscat de Beaumes de Venise

chestnut, brussels sprout, sunchoke
2012 Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Pignoli Financier
chantilly, almond, basil
2008 Dei Vin Santo di Montepulciano

            One of the most impressive things about eating at No. 9 Park was that there was not a clunker in all eight courses (we skipped a cheese course). The standouts of the meal were the handmade Bigoli, a long thick tube pasta, and prune stuffed gnocchi. The gnocchi were almost translucent while encasing the gorgeously sweet prunes. A small piece of perfectly seared yet buttery foie gras pushed the dish over the top. Other courses like the swordfish, Poussin, and lamb were all testaments to simple and well executed preparations. The wine pairings for the meal were stellar. Unlike most wine pairings where the food and alcohol don’t necessarily add much to one another, the wines selected from the restaurant’s award winning wine program added depth of flavor and complexity. In tasting the wines before the food arrived, it wasn’t always immediately clear why or how they matched up until that first bite and sip of everything together.

The menu also featured reasonably sized tasting portions. In other tasting menus, especially those of 6-9 courses, by the end the richness of the meal starts to overwhelm your stomach so that by dessert you’re ready to explode. This was not the case at No. 9 Park where the meal where everything was filling, but not overly so. This was especially impressive in a meal that featured foie gras twice. The meal was well paced, but not rushed. The servers were friendly and attentive, but not overwhelmingly so. The waiter took the time to explain each wine, where it came from, and why it was selected to pair with each dish. The education was enlightening but not pretentious—a difficult line to walk in fine dining. Overall the service was professional and comfortable, something that only comes after years of training and fine tuning.

The food, service, and atmosphere made eating at No. 9 Park a wonderful and memorable experience. 

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