Friday, July 15, 2011

REVIEW: Parker House Restaurant ***1/2 / $$$$

The Parker House Hotel Restaurant is one of the more storied restaurants in New England. Not only is it the namesake of Parker House rolls, but it is also the origin of Boston Cream Pie. The hotel has been in continuous operation for over 150 years and is an absolute landmark in Boston history.

The restaurant is fabulously appointed, with giant chandeliers dropping down from twenty-foot ceilings, well-dressed tables, intricate carpets, and lighting that is a bit too dim for my tastes. It is not ultra-refined in details and service like, say, the restaurants of Alain Ducasse such as Le Louis XV, but I like that. I find, and always will find, details for the sake of details nothing more than an excuse to charge more money. And classic French service and cuisine is filled with details for their own sake.

I have now been to The Parker House on four occasions and enjoyed it very much each time. The service is always good, and the decor is a treat. There is also a relaxed sense that one gets, probably because it is, after all, a hotel restaurant. They have a buffet for brunch and breakfast, and bar patrons wander in and out. It's not a restaurant where you feel that there is any particular behavior or dress that is expected. Even if those things are expected, I like being in a restaurants where it feels like they aren't. And the Parker House has the benefit of both feeling that way, and also being that way.

The food is all flawlessly prepared. But, again, likely because of its status as a hotel restaurant, all of it is just very good, default expensive food. Good cuts of steak? Check. Lobster in some form? Check. I can't say much bad about, since it's all, again, perfectly prepared. And it's also not for those with a bland palate. But it's also not anything that you couldn't get elsewhere.

One bright spot for me was the onion soup. It is the absolute best onion soup I've ever had at a restaurant. The onions are actually cooked, which is a concept that many places seem to not quite get, and it has a powerful wine flavor to it. It bathes your tongue in a rich, beefy broth, and the whole experience is invigorated with the strong sweetness of the onions, and the bright twinge of the sherry. The kitchen was also not stingy with the cheese, which, again, is a memo that many other restaurants have not yet gotten.

Other than that, if you want some standard continental fare with a New England twist, prepared perfectly, in what is arguably one of the nicest dining areas around, you would be well-served to check out the Omni Parker House Restaurant. And if you are from far away lands and want to visit Boston, the hotel's decor is like a luxurious time machine to an era before modern design ruined everything. I like everything about The Parker House.

Omni Parker House Restaurant: ***1/2

60 School Street
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 227-8600

View Larger Map

No comments: