The newest work of Nick Varano, celebrated restaurateur of the Varano Group, caters to celebrities and high end tastes alike, and the unique space feels more like a sleek lounge in Vegas rather than a steakhouse in Boston.
By Karina Alexander — Photographed by Jazz Martin
When I first walk into the double doors waiting for the others to arrive, I instantly feel welcomed into the posh interior. Photos of Varano with high profile celebrities and athletes are displayed on the walls of the portico, showing love for the restaurateur. Servers dressed in suits and women wearing low cut black dresses mingle in the dining and bar areas, prepping for dinner service ahead and crafting cocktails for the after work crowd.
Like its sister Strega Prime in Woburn, taking the reins of the kitchen is Executive Chef Farouk Bazoune, who is bringing a bit of exotic flavor to the traditional steakhouse cuisine. With additional experience at Mooo in Beacon Hill, Chef Bazoune created a menu featuring fresh seafood and a raw bar, decadent first courses, and prime cuts of meat. Dishes like Wagyu carpaccio, pork milanese, and soy glazed short ribs, are guaranteed to satisfy with full flavors.
We start the evening with a round of starters that would make Sinatra himself smile. East Coast oysters come out on the half shell and we promptly dig into the creamy, briny gems. Next is a beet salad almost too pretty to eat, and the soft, roasted gems burst with sweetness. Served with goat cheese, toasted pistachios, and aged balsamic, this is the perfect light dish to start with. Tuna tartare steals the show in this round with gomadare that gives a perfect hint of sesame, creamy avocado and miso aioli that compliments the fresh tuna, and crisp lotus root chips for a bit of texture.
After a few sips of wine, the next round of appetizers are presented to the table. Soft gnocchi with Maine lobster comes out next, and the entire dish is rounded with a rich butter sauce that compliments the meaty lobster and delicate dumplings. Steak tartare comes out next, and the meat has the perfect texture and flavor. A truffle emulsion and a quail egg add body and a few pieces of grilled pugliese are the perfect vehicle for the tartare. A rich porchetta finishes off the starters, and the meat is so tender, there is no need to use my knife. It is served with stilton that rounds out the pork flavor, and the homemade barbecue sauce accompanying the porchetta provides the perfect amount of spice and acidity to the rich dish.
While we wait for the main course, I’m able to fully take in the sleek décor and look at all of the stylish black and white photos of actors and celebrities that plaster the walls. The curved plush booths comfortably seat diners, and the bubble lamps hanging overhead give a soft glow to the lounge. By the time our entrees come out, both bars and ample dining area are full. With music from the in-house DJ and the tinkle of laughter coming from around the dining room in the background of our conversation, we tuck into the gorgeous main courses.
A 14oz bone-in filet comes out first, piping hot, and juice running onto the plate. Accompanied by steamed jumbo asparagus and baby carrots, the dish is devoured within a matter of minutes. The mammoth prime porterhouse is served next, topped with the house truffle butter. The meat is seasoned simply and has a delicious char, accentuating the quality of the cut. Pork chop milanese comes out last, pounded thin and perfectly coated. It’s served with roasted tomato, truffle pecorino that adds a bit of nuttiness and delicious funkiness, and capers and lemon that add brightness to the dish.
Just as swiftly as they came out, the empty entree plates are quickly cleared, making space for dessert. First comes out a Sicilian rum cake (cassata) that is big enough for the entire table. The sponge cake is light and fluffy and is layered with cream that enhances the subdued sweetness. The entire cassata is covered in coconut, adding great texture and flavor, and topped with caramelized hazelnuts that look like a work of art.
For our final round, homemade Oreos drenched in chocolate and flecked with gold leaf come out on a beautiful wood tray. The Oreos sit on a bed of Pop Rocks, serving up a bit of childhood nostalgia, and a fluffy, whiskey infused cotton candy peeks over the cookies. My inner child was very happy as we quickly polished off the grown up version of my favorite treats.
STRIP by Strega has been introduced as a luxe alternative to the classic steakhouse, and the new venue has lived up to its reputation. With a versatile menu that has something for every palette, a deep wine and cocktail list, and a comfortable environment, STRIP is yet another success from the Varano group.