Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mount Blue Fails to Reach Culinary Heights

Mount Blue, a 12-year-old restaurant situated in the quaint, affluent community of Norwell, MA, once brought out Paul’s Palate inner rock star. It’s no wonder why: local rock legend Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was once its part-owner, and the high level of craziness and excitement that accompanied both his music and personal life was successfully channeled into his establishment’s eclectic décor and menu selection. Would current owner Jayne Bowe’s cuisine persuade Paul’s Palate to scale any mountain or would it demonstrate that Mount Blue’s culinary reputation has already ‘peaked?’

Given his most recent visit to Mount Blue, it was immediately evident that Paul’s Palate needed to be rescued immediately from its avalanche of mediocrity. While cocktails were adequate - particularly the hearty espresso martini - a $10-12 pricetag per beverage was exorbitantly high given the casual, suburban setting. Moreover, the embarrassed bartender conceded that several ingredients in some of the other cocktails we preferred were out of stock.

Appetizers fared the strongest over the course of the evening. Meaty buffalo chicken wings possessed a nice amount of heat, while calamari were accompanied by a subtly sweet soy dipping sauce. The grilled flatbread pizza was the standout amongst these dishes, with just the right amount of crisp and sprinkled with basil. The lone disappointment was the mini shrimp quesadillas, which were extremely doughy and whose shrimp must have been so miniscule that Paul’s Palate barely tasted them.

Entrees verged on disastrous. Whereas the spicy! Mount blue pad thai succeeded meshing together sweet and sour ingredients with a kick (including peanuts, cilantro, and mint), the 12 ounce cut of Angus steak was fatty and not prepared to order (more medium well than medium rare). In addition, its accompanying béarnaise sauce was surprisingly bland. An excessive amount of salt, particularly evident on the side order of asparagus, made much of the dish inedible (an eating companion tried an asparagus tip, only to immediately spit it out). An acclaimed chef such as Melinda Lynch (previously of Tosca and Rustic Kitchen) should know that less is more. A seemingly unique menu item, the haddock saltimbocca, is also devoid of any distinct taste, in light of its promising prosciutto and sage exterior.

Although desserts are typically Paul’s Palate’s favorite course of the meal and often are impervious to his harsh criticism, Mount Blue’s version manages just that. A Black Forest cake is bafflingly the sole offering that evening, and it is nothing more than a fancy name for a warmed-up, slightly raw (sugar gristles in Paul’s Palate’s teeth) brownie douzed with chocolate syrup. In fact, My question to Chef Lynch is this: how does one make a chocolate concoction so unappealing?

Paul’s Palate’s recommendation: the owners of Mount Blue should immediately consult with Steven Tyler in order to regain its swagger. During this most recent excursion, our party was the only one seated all evening. This might be the sign of a struggling economy, a restaurant still struggling to find its own identity, or perhaps both. One thing is for certain: in the words of our beloved frontman, Mr. Tyler, Mount Blue is perilously ‘living on the edge.’ Like Aerosmith in the 1980’s, Paul’s Palate hopes there is a comeback left in what he once considered one of the South Shore’s most exciting dining destinations.

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