L’Espalier is Boston’s Spring Tasting Experience
After the abysmal winter beating on the east coast, New Englanders are desperately awaiting for warmer, sunnier times. A crocus emerging from the earth. The placid coos of Mourning doves. The cherry blossom buds against a clear, blue sky. When the weather is mercilessly arctic, I proactively seek and find spring cheer to combat the stubborn winter doldrums. Lucky was I to be invited for a tasting at L’Espalier– a Boston dining experience that describes itself as, “Sophisticated and modern New England-French cuisine, with an emphasis on artisanal and New England ingredients.”
Located at the heart of bustling Boylston Street, L’Espalier is a delightful hub for refined dining, and an experience that is sure to breathe some necessary spring into your life.
A Sophisticated Experience
L’Espalier was full of canoodling lovebirds. I wasn’t surprised. The restaurant presents itself with romance conceptualized at the foreground- cultivating l’amoureuse through subdued neutrals, modern-minimalist décor, seasonal fresh floral arrangements, and a lovely variety of artwork. The Boston glow beams through the dining room’s many windows for an uplifting light during the day, as well as a flirtatious ambiance for evening guests. With only faint instrumentals in the background, the atmosphere is ideal for lovers to exchange languid, amorous whispers over a glass of crisp sparkling wine and L’Espalier’s extraordinary tasting journey.
Refined Menus for Every Palate
Chef Frank McClelland and Chef de Cuisine Logan Foos thoughtfully orchestrate a complex tasting experience for guests, and their dedication to exceptional fare is obvious. A prix fixe menu, guests may choose between two extensive menus and the ‘Chef’s Tasting Journey’. I modestly opted for Menu 2 with the Vinter’s Tasting added, which included:
- Amuse Bouche
- Chèvre with Yellow Beets, Toasted Walnut Milk, Fines Herbes, and Raw Spring Crudités paired with 2016 Lagler , Grüner Veltliner “Steinborz” Austria
- Grilled Prawns with Green Chick Peas, Feta, Fresh Pickled Cabbage, Yogurt, and Lavash paired with 2016 Alphonse Mellot “La Mousière”, Sancerre-France
- Littleneck Clams, English Peas, Cabbage, Pork Consomme, and Smoked Ham Hocks paired with 2014 Patz and Hall, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California
- Intermezzo shooter
- Wood Roasted Chicken with Tare, Escarole, Broccoli Rabe, and Pickled Quail Eggs paired with 2013 Dominique Guyon, Hautes Cotes de Nuits, Burgundy
- White Chocolate Cremeaux with Hibiscus Poached Apples, Toasted Sesame, Blackberry Sorbet, and Passion Fruit-Rhubarb paired with Château Tierecul la Graviere, “Les Pins” Monbazillac, France
L’Espalier is a luxury dining experience, where you can expect to indulge in and savor the exceptional quality fare, set to the highest standards. An evening at L’Espalier will entail a few hours and conclude with a full feeling. The portions for each course appear small, but by the time dessert is served, you’re likely to wonder how you’ll be able to fit even the tiniest bite. I was stuffed! As such, the prices are reflective of this unique experience. L’Espalier is on the high end of the price range. Menu Two alone was ninety-eight dollars and the wine pairing option was an additional seventy-six dollars. Chef McClelland’s Tasting Journey is two-hundred-and-eight dollars. Given the ingredients, menu selection, artistry, and service, this is neither shocking nor is it a personal deterrent. This is not an establishment that simply overcharges a mediocre meal for the sake of snobbery- L’Espalier offers several tiers of thoughtful, refined gastronomy. Food enthusiasts especially are sure to genuinely appreciate the expense.
Service as Refreshing as its Amuse Bouche
It’s worth mentioning that my tasting occurred during the Boston Marathon, and L’Espalier is situated right at the finish line. Roads were closed. Sidewalks were closed or filled with cheering crowds. Everything is slightly rerouted and running slower. I’m a native to the area, so this is no surprise to me, and I budgeted the extra time in my commuting plans. However, the weather added more commuting stress- the rain was torrential. While L’Espalier took extreme care in giving me advance notice of these conditions, I was still a few minutes late for my reservation. I do want to emphasize that they called me, and all of their other patrons for that matter, multiple times to confirm and warn me of the road closures, etc. For that, I was appreciative. However trudging through the torrent, I arrived at L’Espalier a bit bedraggled. The combination of wind and rain made my umbrella fairly useless. Despite my slightly disheveled appearance, I was warmly welcomed.
Generally, the wait staff is outstanding. Corey enthusiastically greeted me, sat me in a space that would most accommodate my cumbersome gear, and took time periodically chat about the menu throughout the tasting: the chefs, the strategy, and everything in-between. The dining room was full and bustling, so I am truly grateful that he personalized my tasting without being intrusive. His energy infectiously invigorated the occasion.
Celebrating the Season through Color, Texture, & Flavor
L’Espalier’s menu clearly celebrates an earthly rebirth of the new season. Stone and wood server ware are a nod to mother earth, nature, and growth while the brightly contrasted colors of the fresh ingredients sparkled against one another and the crisp, white tableware. All courses were as esthetically exciting and alluring as they were delicious.
Sometimes when I’m dining at an establishment as sophisticated as L’Espalier, I request something that in concept is seemingly basic. The objective here is my unofficial challenge to the chef, which is simply: dazzle me. In this case, I opted for the Wood Roasted Chicken, which was exquisite. The meat itself an archetype for tenderness, sealed with a flavorful, salty crisp skin that preserved all the necessary juices. That’s only part of this delicious narrative. The success and intrigue surrounding this dish is its accompaniments. The quail eggs are soft and sweet, which are a gorgeous contrast to the texture and flavor of the chicken. The Burgundy is a crafty pairing with this dish- tannic enough to couple with a lighter, tender meat, but not enough to disrupt the overall harmony. The wine’s floral notes beautifully whispered against the chicken’s savory-salted flavors. Did L’Espalier pass my challenge? Yes. A thousand times, yes.
Gastronomie Française By Nature
There’s eating food, and then there’s experiencing food. Experience is multidimensional: taste, smell, appearance, textures, and strategy- all of which work in tandem and are thereby thoroughly savored. For food lovers, a menu as strategic as it is delicious conjures illimitable pleasure. At L’Espalier you can expect a thoughtfully refined tasting journey that delivers unmitigated satisfaction to even the most rigid foodie. It’s gastronomie française by nature- orchestrating the best simple ingredients together for innovative cuisine that surpasses the conventionality of an average meal.
À la prochaine.
Address: 774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199
Disclaimer: Food at this restaurant was provided complimentary or at a discounted price. Regardless, the restaurant is not exempt from criticism, and this review is an honest reflection of my experience.