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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Stick a Fork In It

I have to be honest. Last Wednesday following the election I spent the day wallowing in the depths of despair. It seemed to me that my personal American experience was a disappointment – that my piece of the proverbial pie was a bitter one to swallow. I needed something to reinforce my belief in the greatness of our country, no matter how small, just a taste of true Americana, not the prepackaged horse crap that I’ve been choking down. That night I was invited to dine at a restaurant called Smith & Wollensky. Located on the corner of Arlington Street and Columbus Avenue by the Park Plaza Hotel in Back Bay, Smith & Wollensky is an icon of American heritage, a symbol for the glory that once was and the legacy we’ve inherited. Smith & Wollensky occupies an imposing medieval-style castle that was originally built as the Armory of the First Corps Cadets in 1891. A drawbridge, iron doors, and turrets flank the exterior. Walking in I felt like I had stepped back in time. All facets of the building had been restored with beautiful attention to detail, even the most insignificant cracked tile had been refinished, making it seem more like an nineteenth century banquet hall than a modern day steak house. There are four floors to the restaurant. The first was a social hall that is now converted to their less formal dining room. Spacious and well lit with original light fixtures, this room has an approximately 10-foot wide fireplace that displays intricate wood carving and goes up as a prominent show piece in all dining areas throughout the four floors. The wood carving extends outward, encompassing the first floor dining room, flanking the ornamental wrought iron balcony of the mezzanine above. The mezzanine showcases museum quality vintage flags from different eras of American history.

The second floor is the more formal dining room. Decorated with rich reds and browns, this room is the more elegant of the two. The third dining area is the smallest and most intimate, with the fireplace as the main area of focus. The fourth floor is an expansive area that caters more for à la carte dining. This floor is kept free of tables, which makes it seem like the grand ballroom of the structure. High ceilings, elegant panel detailing, and again the beautiful fireplace give one the feeling of being at a distinguished nineteenth century society party. On all the floors is an extensive collection of First Corps Cadets memorabilia and folk art. Not only does Smith & Wollensky keep the integrity of the building but it also proudly displays art pieces of American history. If I may say, the accuracy of detail make the atmosphere second to none in the city of Boston and perhaps one of the most interesting places to dine.

After viewing Smith & Wollensky I was so taken aback by the sheer beauty of the structure and decor that I was almost surprised at the fact that I could actually eat there. I felt like I was in another time and anxiously looked forward to tasting their cuisine, which if it was anything like the atmosphere would prove to be beyond my expectation. I was not wrong. Seated at my nineteenth century dining booth amid the wonders of this lovely restaurant, I was first presented with an excellent assortment of warm breads served with a whipped butter and a mustard seed butter. For my first course, I opted for Smith & Wollensky’s famous split pea soup. The soup is a creamy puree of peas with a smoky bacon undertone. Served in a big bowl, smooth and piping hot this is exactly what one needs to gear up their appetite and prepare their taste buds for good things to come. I, also, sampled their crab cakes. A generous plate, with large pieces of breaded crab meat served on a bed of home made cole slaw, this appetizer can easily boast as being one of the best crab cakes in the area, no joke. The cakes are very fresh and tender and sauced with a delicate basil oil vinagrette. Both appetizers were absolutely delicious. I was so pleased with them that if I had stopped there it would’ve been more than I could ask for.

For my main course I had the filet au poivre. The 10-ounce steak (you can also get a 14 oz.) is crusted with cracked peppercorns and served in a spicy peppercorn steak jus. Smith & Wollensky serves USDA prime beef butchered and dry-aged in house so the patron is assured to have a superior piece of meat. This is abundantly, deliciously obvious. The fillet was so tender that at the sight of my fork it melted into mouth-watering pieces. I, also, tried their 28 oz. Colorado Ribsteak. The steak was cooked to perfection and very juicy with an almost buttery texture. I would suggest to anyone who dines there to indulge in Smith & Wollensky’s own steak sauce which has the spicy yet subtle flavor combination of tomato, molasses, onion, and a touch of horseradish. As a side I had the truffled macaroni and cheese. The macaroni and cheese has the delicate taste of white cheddar highlighted by the robust flavor of truffle mushrooms. Baked with an herb crust, this is the ultimate in comfort food.

My meal was so wonderful that I had to have dessert. Although, I was afraid that it would be so good that I would immediately collapse into ecstasy and would need medical attention or perhaps a spiritual guide to escort me back into the real world. But that was a risk I was willing to take. I decided on the trio of crème brûlée. All pastries at Smith & Wollensky are prepared on-site by renowned pastry chefs, so like the rest of the menu I was prepared for the creme brulee to be damn good. The trio consists of pumpkin, vanilla, and chocolate crème brûlées individually served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream that the waiter procures out of an old fashioned dairy karaf. The desert was airy and creamy and I had difficulty deciding which flavor was best. From the decadent chocolate with a hint of hazelnut, to the simple yet delicious vanilla, to the spicy autumnal pumpkin, all three are an excellent combination and perfect to share.

Smith & Wollensky is more than just a restaurant it’s an experience. With its quintessential American cuisine, its Great American Wine List (there are over 550 wines produced in the United States on it), and impressive atmosphere this restaurant proves itself to be a necessary stop for anyone who appreciates fine dining. Personally, while I was prepared to cry over my steak over the loss of Kerry in the election, Smith & Wollensky reminded me of the glory days of our American past when as a country we were still proud of what we had accomplished, but I digress. Regardless, of where one stands amid the muck and mire of American politics, the excellence of Smith & Wollensky is a landslide.

Menu items range from $6-$38

Smith & Wollensky is located at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Arlington Street and is open from 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., weekends until midnight. To make a reservation or book a party please call (617)423-1112.

If you would like Vanessa to come to your restaurant please contact the Mass Media at (617) 287-7992 or email us at [email protected] or [email protected].