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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Stick a Fork In It: Blasé Bistro

C´est comme ci, comme ca...
C´est comme ci, comme ca…


It’s always a shame when I see a restaurant that has so much potential and just doesn’t live up to it. You walk into a place, the environment looks good, the menu seems appetizing, and then you eat and somehow feel cheated. Maybe the waitress sucked and left a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe the head chef wasn’t in and instead you had some overworked sous chef who would rather be watching the Red Sox game than making your dinner. Regardless, you’re on the receiving end. You leave and think about all the other restaurants you should’ve eaten at instead of wasting your hard-earned change on a mediocre meal. Maybe it was that particular night. Maybe the place really was that crappy. But you know what the secret of a good restaurant is? Consistency. It may be hard to achieve, but that’s what’s going to make people come back. In the competitive scene that is Boston restaurants, we shouldn’t take anything less, because there’s always something else around the corner.

Once upon a time in Back Bay on Commonwealth Avenue was a really great restaurant known as Geoffrey’s. But at some point, Geoffey’s shut down and the Dartmouth Cafe and Bar now stands in its place. On the façade is a charming patio with wrought-iron tables and chairs upon which to dine. Although it’s below street level, it gives an aura of intimacy like one was eating in an enclosed garden. This sense of comfort is extended into the restaurant as walls painted with warm yellow and orange tones nestle the small dining room. Posters of vintage advertisements adorn the walls along with ornate iron doors and gates. I went at about nine o’clock on a Thursday night and was surprised to see that there was hardly anyone eating there. I chalked it up to its somewhat off-the-beaten-path location and sat down in a cozy candlelit table adjacent to a large window. The music was the usual ambient stuff that so many restaurants play, but then all of a sudden I heard a DJ say something like, “continuous music all night long” and I realized they had satellite radio on. Throughout dinner there were these DJ’s interjections and I couldn’t help feeling sometimes like I was eating in my car.

Putting the odd music choice aside, I looked over the menu. Dartmouth Cafe and Bar’s menu incorporates fairly traditional American cuisine with a European twist. With about six appetizer selections, five salad selections, and seven or eight entrée selections, the options weren’t very extensive, but well chosen. The salads in particular caught my eye, offering a Tuna Niciose and a Warm Goat Cheese salad with carmelized walnuts. As is customary with most restaurants, the waitress brought over a roll of bread with olive oil. The olive oil was prepared with crushed red pepper, like the kind you shake onto your pizza. Although it seemed kind of cheap, I like crushed red pepper so I didn’t care, but then I had the bread and realized it was extremely stale. “It’s just bread, right?” I said, as I submerged it in the oil to moisten it. For starters, I had the mussels. Advertised to come in a saffron sauce, I was surprised when they arrived at the table in a red sauce. Hmmm, I thought, isn’t saffron yellow? But what do I know? So, I tried it and it was a tomato basil broth. Okay, that’s fine, but at least tell me what I’m getting-maybe I have a fatal allergy to basil or something. But I don’t, so I ate it. It was thin and bland, there was a subtle spiciness to it, like they had tossed in some cayenne to dress up the otherwise boring broth. On the plus side, the mussels were fresh and pretty big. I also tried a cup of their Clam Chowder (being in New England, I can’t resist but try any restaurant’s Clam Chowder). Dartmouth Cafe’s was shreds of clam with itty bitty potatoes in what seemed to be milk . It was also lukewarm. I wasn’t off to a good start.

For my main course I opted for the Chicken Marsala. When it got to my table the first thing that I noticed is that it was swimming in grease. The chicken fillets weren’t very well cut and there was this cartilaginous nobule hanging off the end of one of the pieces. Okay, I don’t mind grease and I can cut around the scary parts, I told myself reassuringly. It tasted like wine, butter, and garlic. Not bad, decent. The spinach had been reduced to strings and the mushrooms were translucent with oil but it tasted okay. I washed it down with a fruity white wine that the waitress had told me was dry. However, the portion size was good, and like Goldilocks I was satisfied that my serving was just right. Any more of it and I might’ve gone into cardiac arrest.

In light of the dinner I just had, I forewent dessert. The last thing I wanted was an old piece of chocolate cake with a fancy sounding name and tepid coffee.

Now, don’t get me wrong my experience at Dartmouth Cafe wasn’t all bad. The waitress was nice. If anybody wants to know how I feel about the food though, I can only say one thing: meh. Meh, it was okay. Nothing to write home about, dime a dozen bistro, meh. Not ew, but meh. If it had been less expensive, maybe it would’ve been worth it but with meals from $12-$18, I don’t think so. Draw your own conclusions, but I don’t think I’ll be going back. There’s better restaurants out there.

Dartmouth Café and Bar, 160 Commonwealth Ave. (617)226-1122 Open Mon-Thurs: 5 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri-Sat until 2 a.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.