Dish Gal LOVES trying new restaurants. However, I have to be honest-- as much as I'd like to pretend I'm one of those people who bravely goes where no one has gone before, I often do some pretty extensive homework on a restaurant before I try it for the first time. I check out old faithful chowhound.com, read the citysearch and yelp reviews, check Boston magazine and the Boston Globe...etc. until I have convinced myself that yes, this restaurant is worth my hard-earned money.
But last night, this was not really an option. Cafeteria Boston, only open for a mere 5 weeks, was turning up zilch on my google searches. I knew it was by the Armani Cafe people (not encouraging). There was only one measly citysearch entry, which was about the cork decor. The Globe article was inconclusive. I also knew that that building (279 Newbury St.) seems cursed -- there have been something like 4 restaurants there in the past 10 years or something crazy like that for a place with such an amazing location and built-in audience. So I agreed to try it out, but with some trepidation.
I was freezing as I bolted across Newbury St., teetering on the ice in my heels. But as soon as I opened the door to Cafeteria I was met with an unexpected warmness-- both in temperature and ambiance. Almost instantaneously I felt stress melt away, like from a warm hug from a loved one. I had to wait a little bit awkwardly, waiting for a hostess, but it gave me a second to survey the scene. I was in the downstairs area (I don't think the upstairs was open on this particular night). Everything was beige (and, like the reviewer said, cork). Couples snuggled up at high top tables, groups huddled with large glasses of red wine... and a film crew stood in the middle? Clearly were filming a segment for some TV show ( Boston.tv perhaps?) aided by Cafeteria publicist Max Buccini of Regan Communications. The film crew aside, this seemed a haven from the blustering, cold outside world.
Finally, a well-dressed man rushed to the door, and with a genuine eagerness, offered to seat me right away (this was refreshing-- so often hosts/hostesses seem like they are on the tail end of a 15 hour shift). As I settled into my corner table, I surveyed the menu-- nothing supremely interesting, pretty standard fare-- carpaccio and calamari as appetizers, chicken piccatta and salmon offered as entrees. When my favorite dining companion joined me, we selected a 1/2 bottle of Syrah ($28) which was quite delicious.
We decided to opt to share a bunch of things. We ordered the Butternut Squash Bisque ($7), the Tuna Tartare ($13), and the Warm Spinach Salad ($9). The bisque (which our waitress forgot, and we had to prompt her to bring us) was superb -- the pecan molasses stirred in was delicious. The Tuna Tartare was pretty standard -- although a bit different with a chipotle aioli that lended an almost southwestern flavor to it! And finally the Warm Spinach Salad was very nice, but nothing to write home about. Although I did like the addition of shaved aged cheddar as opposed to the cliche goat cheese.
We finished with Zambaglione. It was filled with fresh berries & cream. Would have been perfect if we had been in the mood for berries, but I think we were both hankering for something a bit more decadent.
Our waitress forgot to bring an extra spoon for my friend (we awkwardly shared one for awhile; hope she's not sick!) and forgot to bring her decafe coffee at the end. But she was cute and friendly otherwise, and told us a story about how Tom Brady had come in on Monday night to pick up take out (for Gisele perhaps???).
All in all, I would return to Cafeteria for drinks with a beau at a cozy high top table, or a glass of wine after work, but probably won't be craving the food any time soon.
Trying Sel de la Terre on Friday!! Can't wait =)