I was needing an escape from New Hampshire during my visit up there to visit family for the holidays, so I booked a hotel and some restaurant reservations in Boston.
The first stop for me was Drink. I had hit this fantastic, top-rated cocktail bar back in 2011 after a previous overseas tour (see here and here), and wanted to experience them again.
I started by asking for something with Green Chartreuse (a favorite of mine). I was started off with a classic – The Last Word – with gin, lime juice, Maraschino liqueur, and Green Chartreuse. Along with that, I had the very tasty (albeit tricky-to-eat) Sirloin Carpaccio.
I followed The Last Word up with a Bijou (gin, Green Chartreuse, a sweet vermouth, and orange bitters) which provided more of the complex flavors of the Chartreuse.
To change things up, I asked for something with kümmel (previously mentioned here), an old, but hard-to-find liqueur which tastes of carraway, cumin, and fennel. What I got was The Maiden’s Choice, which consisted of Plymouth Gin, dry vermouth, and kümmel. This cocktail is great for showcasing the interesting flavors of the kümmel, although it’s a flavor that is probably an acquired taste. Fortunately, I like it.
The mixologists over at Drink have a thing for showmanship as well. As I was enjoying my beverages, I watched them playing with fire.
I met up with some D.C. expatriates at the bar who endorsed Mockingbird Hill [Twitter/Facebook], the new Derek Brown sherry bar in Washington that I’m going to have to hit when I’m back in town. A mixologist at Drink also recommended it.
After taking a short break after Drink (their drinks don’t want for alcohol content), I headed over to Empire Restaurant and Lounge for dinner. Sporting a nightclub atmosphere (see – “Lounge”), I wasn’t sure what to expect the food to be like, although I’d seen high reviews for the joint. I was happy to discover that their food program (namely the sushi, which was what I stuck to) was excellent. Besides running Empire, Big Night Entertainment Group runs GEM, which has also received plaudits for their food.
I started off with the Hot Night in Bangkok (Avion Silver Tequila, plum infused sake, passion fruit, and Sriracha sauce), which provided a combination of sweet and spicy flavors. It went well with the Sushi Cupcakes (broiled Maine lobster, spicy garlic butter, crispy pressed sushi rice, and marinated uni) of which I considered getting a second order.
Next up – the Hamachi Tartare Roll (with avocado, gobo [burdock root], cucumber, topped with spicy yellowtail tartare, and served in a ginger sauce) the fresh taste of the tartare went great with the ginger.
Also in this round – and one reason why I picked this location for dinner – was the ‘Fish & Chips’ Roll (with tempura cod, malt vinegar tartar sauce, and yukon potato chips). I’m a big fan of the Fish and Chips Roll over at SEI in D.C., hence my interest in this menu item. The Empire version adds in more of a vinegar flavor, which reminded me even more of the flavors you’d experience in a traditional fish and chips basket.
The final four dishes I went with were Nigiri-style – the Tuna ‘Hot Night’ gunkanmaki (spicy tuna, sliced chilies, sesame chili oil), Wagyu Beef Nigiri (with crispy shallots and a dark rum glaze – the beef replaced the nori as the wrap around the roll), Eel Nigiri Kabayaki (barbequed eel, sesame purée [reminiscent of peaut butter], and Granny Smith apple), and the Nigiri ‘Surf & Turf’ (more Wagyu beef, along with Sockeye salmon, scallion, ginger, and sweet miso vinegar). Great rolls.
Closing out the evening, I made a stop over at Eastern Standard near Kenmore Square, and started off with a great Old Cuban (rum, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, sparkling wine float, mint).
Eastern Standard also likes their sherries, as evidenced by the five sherry cocktails on their drink menu. Asking for my bartender’s favorite, I got The Veil of Sanlúcar (La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, chamomile mezcal, agave nectar, and bitters) – a great smokey cocktail.
I’ll be back in the Boston-area every year around the holidays, and I’ll be making it a point to hit some new places every time. If you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know!