After receiving more than a few recommendations to try Menton (some from the same friends repeatedly), my wife and I decided to use our annual birthday dinner to splurge on a meal at this French-inspired fine dining restaurant. Even though we’re a little late joining the bandwagon, we had an excellent meal that lived up to the hype. Unfortunately, this is the kind of restaurant where I did not feel comfortable taking photos (though I’m sure many would argue that I should never feel comfortable doing that in any restaurant!), so this will be one of the first reviews I share that contains no photos of the food.
354 Congress St.
Boston, MA 02210
Service and Atmosphere
The interior of Menton is a stark contrast to the simple brick exterior. The combination of clean line modern decor with some more traditional accents like white fabric tablecloths worked very nicely to give a sense of formality, but in a comfortable way. We were surprised at how large the main tables in the dining room were for just two people. My wife and I felt very far away from one another, but that’s most likely due to far too many restaurants cramming diners in shoulder to shoulder. The extra space was actually quite nice! The dining room staff were all very attentive, knowledgable, friendly, and I was impressed that they all worked together as a unit from the bartender to the hosts to the servers.
The main event for any reputable restaurant that doesn’t feature some kind of show is the food. Menton understands this and served us some of the most inventive dishes I’ve ever had. While I admit I was a little disappointed that the main ingredients of each dish from the Chef’s Whim tasting weren’t more exotic or uncommon, I can appreciate the sensational skill that went into turning somewhat ordinary ingredients into masterpieces.
OYSTER with a champagne gelee
Normally, I wouldn’t include an amuse bouche as part of a tasting menu, but this oyster was perhaps the best oyster I’ve ever eaten. It was extremely fresh and not overly salty or strong in flavor. The champagne gelee gave some texture and worked beautifully as a flavor enhancer for the oyster itself. I was completely wowed by this simple starter to the meal and will go on record saying that this was the best thing I ate all night!
SPOT PRAWN avocado, horseradish, caviar, mâche
Our main meal began in a somewhat lackluster way with a single, tiny spot prawn split in half with some avocado and caviar. The prawn itself was cooked perfectly (perhaps sous vide) and the soft, velvety caviar added to the fresh oceanic taste of the dish. The avocado lent a richness to the small portion. Nice overall, but not especially memorable.
SCOTTISH SEA TROUT caramelized endive, grapefruit, mint
I have a bit of a bias when it comes to trout because so many places make this fish terribly. It usually has a strong, fishy flavor or smell when prepared improperly. Menton, on the other hand, took a fish I usually don’t enjoy and prepared it delicately (again, I suspect sous vide) and then paired the fish with some bitter endive and refreshing mint accented with the citrus of grapefruit. It wasn’t one of my favorite dishes of the evening, but I respected the skill involved in making trout well.
ROMANESCO CAULIFLOWER vadouvan, lentil, confit carrot
I never thought I’d say this, but Menton succeeded in making cauliflower (or broccoli depending on who you ask about the Romanesco version) the second best thing I ate that evening. It was the best cauliflower preparation I’ve ever had actually. The main portion of the dish was like a creamy, velvety, cauliflower custard accented with a curry-like spice. The cooked yet still crunchy cauliflower, romanesco, and soft carrot pieces broke up the texture of the dish by reminding the diner of the original vegetal flavors worked into the custard.
RICOTTA RAVIOLO broccoli rabe pesto, artichoke, walnut crème
Ravioli is another one of those dishes that I don’t often order or find all that impressive. Nonetheless, the chefs at Menton did a very nice job executing this single ravioli so that the pasta was al dente and the ricotta filling was some of the best I’ve had. The charred artichoke hearts were a nice touch and my wife’s favorite part of the dish.
BERKSHIRE PORK SAUSAGE braised oxtail, root vegetable jam, foie gras jus
I thought this dish was very creative because the deliciously tender oxtail was stuffed inside a pork sausage. All we received from that sausage was a single slice so that we had a ring of sausage around an interior of oxtail. I though the sausage had nice flavor, but was perhaps a bit harder than what I’d expect. The oxtail definitely shined as the best part of this dish for me. I was very excited for the fois gras jus, but oddly, I found that its strong liver flavor didn’t go very well with the sausage. The jus was impressive on its own, but I’m not sure it was the right complement for this dish.
BUDDHIST DUCK navel orange, confit leg, anise jus
Again, I was very excited for the duck and I thought the navel orange was a genius pairing that I never would have thought of on my own. The duck meat was perfectly tender and delicious, but I was very disappointed that the skin wasn’t crispy. It felt like a missed opportunity to make a good dish something incredible.
BISON SHORT RIB coffee, chestnut, celery root, perigord truffle
My wife and I both agreed that the braised bison short rib was the least successful dish of the evening. It’s not that it wasn’t good, but it just wasn’t the same caliber as the other dishes. I appreciated the combination of ingredients and the truffle accent, but the bison itself was extremely fatty and some of the connective tissue in the meat was a bit too gelatinous. Sometimes fatty can just mean rich, but in this case, it didn’t really work as well as it could have had the short rib been seared to vary the texture.
MASCARPONE CHEESECAKE almond financier, blood orange sorbet
I don’t like cheesecake. I know that’s insane to many people, but it’s just one of things we’ll all have to agree to disagree on. With that said, I do enjoy mascarpone in moderation, so despite ending the meal on a dish I’d normally never order, I enjoyed this somewhat deconstructed dessert. The smooth cheesecake filling shaped like a rectangular cube with some crust crumbled around it worked well and wasn’t too heavy at the end of the meal.
Menton is an excellent French-inspired restaurant with an impressive mastery of creatively combining ingredients in their unique dishes. There is a significant price tag attached to that creativity, however, so while I would recommend Menton to those seeking fine dining options, I suggest the a la carte menu over the Chef’s Whim to get exactly what you want. Truth be told, there are surely restaurants of the same culinary caliber serving excellent food at half the price, but perhaps without the same level of service. Cost aside, Menton does deliver on an enjoyably memorable dining experience that simultaneously couples formal attentive service with a modern, comfortable atmosphere. A sampling of Boston’s finest wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Menton.
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