Restaurant Review: Stephanie’s on Newbury by Jeni Stewart

Hello all! ¬†We are hoping to bring you more food related posts over the coming weeks as we look to rather literally spice up our variety show ūüôā ¬†Here’s the first one from one of Boston’s Back Bay beauties…

Stephanie’s on Newbury boasts that it serves “Sophisticated Comfort Food” in a “relaxed and inviting atmosphere.” ¬†This is basically restaurant code for we want to do good food but don’t expect you to wear a tie and we won’t kick you out if your heels aren’t at least four inches high. ¬†This is typically the kind of place I like to frequent when I’m looking for something interesting, but its a normal Tuesday. ¬†And it was, indeed, a normal Tuesday and my first night in Boston last week for the monster of a writing conference that is AWP. ¬†Since the conference is busy and overwhelming it was probably our first and only night to really take our time an enjoy the restaurant. ¬†So after a bit of sightseeing we stopped for a drink and I asked the bartender for a recommendation for a nearby restaurant that was great with seafood. ¬†She recommended Stephanie’s, and the reviews seemed to back it up. ¬†I made a quick reservation with Open Table, and an hour later we were seated. ¬†The restaurant was quite busy for a Tuesday, and it is tastefully decorated and romantically lit. ¬†I immediately found a nice bottle of white Rioja around $30, and ordered it, and settled in to examine their menu.

IMG_1346For our first course we ordered the Steamed New England Mussels as an appetizer, which came out promptly and was served with a piece of garlic crostini for dipping in the excellent sauce. ¬†And the mussels were delightful. ¬†A perfect portion for two people, and the sauce was brilliant with garlic and delicate buttery wine. ¬†The crostini was delightful, a perfect crunchy bread for dipping in hat sauce. ¬†But when we said this tot he waiter he got a look of confusion, and nodded, then said, “Yeah, but the bread’s good right?” ¬†It was clear he didn’t know what “crostini” was. ¬†And since it is actually listed on the menu that seems a bit odd. ¬†Maybe I’m spoiled by living in the culinary capital of New Orleans, but I can’t imagine a chef in New Orleans allowing a waiter to serve a dish they couldn’t describe. ¬† And the rest of the meal, I have to say, was basically downhill from there.

My boyfriend ordered pan seared salmon:

fresh atlantic salmon served with a warm salad of roasted winter squash, beets, lentils, arugula and vermont goat cheese, drizzled with dijon vinaigrette $28 

This was really the worst dish – there was little to no goat cheese, and the vegtables also seemed rather scarce ¬†I don’t think there was any squash present. ¬†But all of that wouldn’t have mattered if the salmon had been properly cooked, but since it was overdone the whole dish came across as messy and bland. ¬†I would not order that dish again, and had I only had that, I would not go to that restaurant again. ¬†And, indeed, when we mentioned it to the manager, he seemed surprised, but made no attempts or offers to correct the situation, which is again, in my opinion, a restaurant fail. ¬†Especially since salmon is a relatively basic dish.

My dish, however, was better.  I had the jumbo sea scallops:

pepper dusted seared scallops served with butternut squash and swiss chard risotto, pancetta mushroom vinaigrette and parmesan beet chips $29 

IMG_1348My scallops were excellent and perfectly prepared. ¬†They were velvety and delicious and so was the risotto, even if the risotto was a bit on the runny side. ¬†The beet chips were delightful. ¬†I would order this again, and this dish, along with the mussels, saved the meal, I think. ¬†For dessert we had the Sticky Bun Sundae. ¬†I don’t know if their desserts were prepared in house, but it was pretty much everything you’d expect from such a dish – sticky bun, ice cream, caramel sauce… ¬†Delightfully caloric, yet somehow a little dry tasting. ¬†It somehow lacked pizazz – I wouldn’t order that again either. ¬†If I were to return I’d opt for the Apple Tart Tatin or something a little more basic I think.

As far as the service goes, while our waiter clearly appeared to be new, both to the menu and possibly to waiting at a fine dining establishment, he was gracious. ¬†If anything I’d say were were a bit rushed, actually, as the entrees came out before we’d even finished the mussels. ¬†If there had been a long wait I could understand, but since there wasn’t this seemed yet another point at which the restaurant was slightly off. ¬†And thats my basic summation – some strong points, definitely, but very uneven, and the poorly prepared salmon makes me wonder if my scallops were the aberration or his salmon. ¬†I’d go again – but I’d be very careful about what I ordered. ¬†And I hope they do a little more education for their staff on the menu. However, we also ended up eating at Legal Sea Foods, a chain restaurant that began in the Boston area and grew out of a fish market. ¬†They focus on doing very fresh fish and relatively simple preparation. ¬†But – its clearly a chain. ¬†While operating around the same price point as Stephanie’s it was nowhere near as interesting, and the Legal Sea Foods mussels didn’t compare to Stephanie’s. ¬†So in that case I think their price point is a little high…. ¬†And the moral of the story, then, is that if you’re in Boston and hungry for sea food, give Stephanie’s a shot!