Showcasing Steak and Style
Of all the thoughts that run through my head when I hear my in-laws are visiting, ‘Where are we going to eat?’ is the one that becomes overwhelming. An older pair of well-to-do empty nesters, my husband’s parents pride themselves on eating out often, and decadently, in whatever city they may be traveling to – and it just so happened that Boston was their next target. With the delicate task of finding a restaurant that is both impressive and unique, I set my sights on Boston Chops.
Co-owners Chris Coombs and Brian Piccini refer to their creation as an “urban steak bistro” but as we walk up to the massive building, all I can think is “steakhouse mothership.” The large windows, red leather, dark wood tables and gallery lighting all scream, you’ve made it, and yes…yes we have.
Coombs’ success with both dbar (1236 Dorchester Avenue) and Deuxave (371 Commonwealth avenue) gives Boston Chops some serious street cred and it immediately becomes clear to me that the staff is also not to be ignored. Our well dressed waitress Leah jumps right into explaining the menu in such detail and passion that I suspect she’s either related to the owners, or being watched via hidden camera. I later find out that she just really, really loves her job. She sells everything so well (and I’m trying to impress the in-laws, remember?) that my husband and I order more food than four people could ever finish.
I know we’re in for a good meal when Leah brings out popovers, so light and airy, that I have to eat them quickly in fear that they’ll disintegrate. The Fresh Seafood Plateau comes out in grandeur with two towers of seafood on ice. The jumbo shrimp lives up to its name with pieces the size of my palm, and we all clamor over the fresh oysters and ceviche. My husband and I share the mussels that are topped with tomato vinaigrette while my father-in-law devours the large pieces of lobster. My mother-in-law slowly enjoys the Frisée Aux Lardons, a frisée salad topped with grilled lardon, mushrooms and a crispy egg. She makes it a point to look up and smile after each bite.
To showcase how worldly and adventurous I am, I purposely order from the “Rarely Celebrated” section of the menu, which includes bone marrow, tongue and marinated heart (yes, I ordered them all). If you’ve never tried such rarities, you’ll be happy to hear that they’re not on the menu to scare you, they actually taste fantastic. The bone marrow is topped with breadcrumbs and comes on a bed of mussels. It tastes rich with a delicate mouthfeel, but there’s so little to go around that I have to relay the taste to my husband since it’s gone in three bites. The tongue is brined, braised and grilled, coming out on a plate in slices and covered with pickles. I appreciate the brininess paired with the meatier flavor of the tongue; it makes for a great combination that I never expected. The heart is left mostly as is, just slightly seared then served, and it’s actually my favorite of the three.
While we wait for the main courses to arrive, Brian Piccini stops by the table to introduce himself, which is a pleasant surprise. What’s more surprising is how he explains, rather nonchalantly, that he used to be a concert pianist for the Top of the Hub before deciding to change direction. Though we only speak briefly, we can tell he’s an impressive man and he leaves us wondering what other treasures he’s hiding.
As our dishes come out, my mother-in-law asks our waitress for a wine recommendation. I half-expect Leah to rattle off a couple of reds and couple of whites, but we are met with the same enthusiasm and knowledge as before. Though she tells us about a few of her favorites on the menu, we end up ordering the Donelan pinot noir because Leah explains that not only does it taste incredible, but the company is owned by a man who grew up in Roxbury—we were sold.
Finally, the moment of truth arrives and we are in awe. The 18 oz. Food & Wine Prime Bone-In Rib Eye, which I learn is named after its appearance on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine, is simply dressed with rosemary sprigs and whole roasted cloves of garlic. The sliced steak is cooked perfectly and with just a hint of rosemary coming through. We paired this dish with the Poutine Style Twice Baked “Loaded” Potato and the Spicy Broccoli. The potato is something of a mutant vegetable, almost as large as my head and covered in everything you could ever imagine to top a baked potato: chives, sour cream, cheese, pork belly. It’s really a meal on its own, and the broccoli brings a nice change of pace, being green and nutritious and all.
We pray to the food gods to make room in our stomachs, because out next is the Naked 1 lb Lobster and Giannone Fried Chicken. The lobster is served on a small bed of creamy, bright yellow risotto and makes for a change in pace. Now, I ordered the fried chicken for some further contrast but as I take a bite I realize it’s going to be one of the stars of the dinner. The skin is crispy and the meat is tender and juicy, making me take a minute to appreciate the work that went into making such a dish.
With all the fantastic food we’ve had thus far, it’s hard for me to believe my eyes when my in-laws’ faces light up at the sight of our last main dish. The 20 oz. Prime Chateaubriand sits atop a mound of mushrooms and asparagus. It practically melts in my mouth with such perfect flavoring that I swear I would ask for it as my last meal. The onion rings are amusingly stationed like a tower on a paper towel holder, and come with a robust house-made spicy aioli. The Pork Belly Mac & Cheese is, like the fried chicken, a surprising knock out. Not only does the saltiness of the pork belly bring a nice balance to the creamy cheese in the macaroni, but it’s also topped with fresh, crunchy breadcrumbs to give it the authenticity of a home-cooked meal.
At this point, I’m ready to go into hibernation for about five months but I know my mother-in-law lives for dessert so we order the famed Sticky Toffee Pudding and the Boozy Milkshake, for good measure. The toffee pudding is a one-of-a-kind winning combination of butterscotch, spongey fig crumbs, rum raisin and vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, the mint ice cream and Bourbon milkshake comes with a full-size chocolate mint ice cream sandwich—a refreshing dessert that offers the perfect end to our meal.
We spend quite a bit of time just talking and already reliving the food we just had, while I try not to look too shell-shocked at the bill. Once we muster the strength to get out of our seats, I can see in the corner of my eye that my mother-in-law is on Instagram posting pictures of the meal. My father-in-law sees and says, “Make the caption: Best Meal Ever.” And with that, I solidify my title as Best Daughter-in-Law Ever.