Aquitaine's clever. They've got photographic food diaries on all their front pages. Even Twitter is crowded with savvy bartenders, one of whom reminds me of Ben Affleck in Argo; smart servers, one of whom has cool pink hair; the bar lit in warm golden tones, snazzy cocktails, shrimp with heads, gooey onion soup, bunches of greens and my shrimp sandwich. You can preview nearly everything but where are the waffles?
Today we've come over from the antiques show on Tremont Street at Cyclorama's Boston Center for the Arts. It's brunch and everyone in the South End's got the same idea. Since 1998 Aquitaine's been on a roll in a semi-converted industrial space that once housed a video store. Tables are close so watch what you say; even though it's busy know that everyone can hear. Cozy banquettes are backed with mirrors and your server will pull out your table so you can get in. All small children are well behaved, as in very.
Belgian waffler Julie chooses a JF Merieau sparkler and now we're feeling a touch of France. Along comes her fluffy Belgian battercake topped with enough crème fraîche to roll around in. (I read somewhere that what we call a Belgian waffle is not actually found in Belgium.) Syrup's maple-forward and the strawberries, well, you'd never know they didn't come right from the garden though maybe they did.
Here's the brunch menu and I see what I want: shrimp salad tartine with bacon, avocado, aioli and Bibb on brioche. Is the shrimp on the side? Open-faced it has to be. It's fancy: avocado, tomato and shrimp that's mayo-ed and seasoned. Really good bacon, too.
What happens, sadly, is how hard it is to eat. The bread's crisp and maybe it's brioche but I think not. You can't pick it up and it's too hard to cut. In the end forking works; I'm relieved. So is it shrimp salad with avocado or a BLT with shrimp?
Shrimp You could get used to tablecloths for lunch, yes? Today, Kim and I are in the Chestnut Hill store. The room's sun-filled and enlightened with posters of all things French. There's lots to be said for eating early during the week. Both of us want amendments. Pei-Lee agrees requests for chicken salad without bread are common and onion soup sans bread is fine too; do we love soup and sandwich or what? The chicken's dressed in fennel and basil with an edge of sweet from what they term sultanas and what you know as golden raisins.
Aquitaine I'm reading the blackboard specials and today, Thursday, is swordfish roti with shallots and mashed potatoes. They cue baby frites for me on the bottom, with crunchy haricots verts in the middle and fish on top. I wish I knew how to get swordfish like this. It's grilled maybe but whatever, it's perfect and lunch sized. Bordelaise on the side à la Meg Ryan, thank you. Who wants squishy frites? Other plats du jour are duck Fridays, scallop Saturdays, fettuccine Sundays, monkfish Tuesdays and lamb Wednesdays. Store menus vary so check with your server.
We like it. For bar dining, come by yourself and feel at home in a bistro that needs no passport. A strolling accordian player would go with Edith Piaf or more likely, Marion Cotillard who's singing as we get up to leave. Bon appétit.
11 Boylston St (near Star Market)
Newton, MA 02467
617. 734. 8400
569 Tremont St (South End)
Boston, MA 02118
617. 424. 8577
Photos by Julie Moffatt, Kim DeVito. Kitty Kaufman is a Boston writer. See more food adventures at Corporate Edge.
by Nancy Ellison