Monday, May 16, 2011

Radius Worth Breaking the Bank Over

Celebrity chef Michael Schlow apparently can do no wrong nowadays (other than his premature exit on Top Chef Masters). His culinary empire grows ever stronger by the day. Via Matta remains one of Boston’s landmark dining destinations for fine dining and people watching, Alta Strada has expanded, and Latin tapa-inspired Tico recently opened its doors in the Back Bay. But ask any local foodie in the know, and they’ll all point to Radius and Schlow’s crowning achievement. Opened over a decade ago, it still warrants consideration as one of the city’s top three or four dining establishments. It’s no small irony that Radius is located in a converted bank vault in Boston’s Financial District. Expense accounts be damned, this is a restaurant customers loosen their wallets for and splurge on those special occasions.

Set in a rotund, white room cloaked with crimson colors and thick columns, Radius’s ambience can best be classified as royal with chic. Shortly after being seated, you know you’re about to be treated like royalty. Behold, the Rotating Servers of the Dining Table, decked out in blue navy blazers. Listen to techno music pulsating over the quite room. Sure, eating at a rave-like event at Caesar’s Palace sounds quirky, but it somehow works.

The seven-course menu is a smorgasbord of Mediterranean, French, and Asian-inspired dishes that work for the most part, and when Schlow is truly on his game as he is this evening, they are innovative and transporting. This is intended to be seductive fare, after all. Take, for instance, ginger poached muschovy duck served atop a crostini with spicy coconut caramel and grilled scallion compote. Sounds highly appealing, but Schlow turns the flavors up a notch by pairing with a pineapple-mango shooter. The combination of flavors is positively delectable, and I allowed it to linger on my palate long after I’d taken my last bite-sip. Tempura set atop seaweed salad-inspired soba noodles is also unusual and memorable in both presentation and taste. Not as successful, however, was an appetizer of ahi tuna tartare with avocado puree, ikura, and citrus, which proved disappointingly bland given the lack of citrusy sweetness.

Onto the main courses, which included a wonderful slow-roasted Scottish salmon set atop a potato cake. Schlow’s legendary slow-roasted ribeye served alongside robuchon potatoes, pearl onions, and drizzled with red wine sauce was perfectly cooked (medium rare) and seasoned. For pre-dessert, an odd-sounding celery sorbet – its description sure to evoke several dry heaves from less adventurous diners – atop a peanut butter base was a tasty triumph. It’s a pity there wasn’t more of it, although I had to remind myself that it was merely a precursor to the decadent pilon de chocolat, a dense, rotund mound of heavenly bittersweet chocolate, although the accompanying fenugreek ice cream was superfluous and slightly off-putting in flavor.

Overall, Radius earns high marks for its doting service and awe-inspiring dishes. Some critics may nitpick about Schlow’s smaller-in-stature portion sizes, but it’s his emphasis on larger-than-life ingredients that elevate his dishes from most of his counterparts around town. When you’re breaking the bank when dining out, rest assured that the high quality of Schlow’s cuisine ensures that there is no highway ‘dining’ robbery transpiring at Radius.

No comments: