Named for the strong northwest wind accompanied by clear dry weather that heavily influences the climate in Provence and the Southern Coast of France, Mistral meaning "masterly" serves highly acclaimed French Mediterranean Cuisine in Boston's South EndOpened in 1997 by chef/owner Jamie Mammano this sophisticated restaurant is neatly tucked away on Columbus Avenue, just steps from the Back Bay train station. I entered from the ironically cold and windy city streets to a large elegant bar and dining room with high walls flanked by archways and columns and softly lit with candles. The large hanging photographs and other rustic decor is reminiscent of the valleys and rolling hillsides of Southern France, evoking fond memories of traveling by train through the French countryside when I was there just over a year ago.
Mistral's atmosphere is not only sophisticated, but warm, comforting and nostalgic. In the lounge I was captivated by this large roman numeral wall art. Here I found Megan and Meghan relaxing in plush green chairs sipping on Harvest Martinis which were garnished with cinnamon sticks.I decided to try the Smokey Apple ($12) Chivas Regal, House-made cider Reduction, Bitters.Chivas Regal is a blended and aged Scotch Whiskey. A solid choice, this cocktail was only slightly smokey and the house made cider hit the spot. I am just loving fall cocktails lately! We were soon joined by Elina and Bianca and were seated in a semicircular booth across from a large floor to ceiling arched window.
We were served a beautiful loaf of fresh bread accompanied by whipped butter and hummus in olive oil.
The crust was hearty and crispy and the bread wonderfully soft and chewy. We were greeted table-side by Mark D'Allessandro the general manager of Mistral (and director of operations for the Columbus Hospitality Group - who own Mooo... among other fine dining restaurants in Boston.) Mark embodied true hospitality, taking the time to introduce himself to each one of us and shaking our hand before divulging popular favorites from the menu. He noted that certain dishes have been so popular, they have remained on the menu since Mistral opened. Getting a feel for what we wanted to order, he then offered to send out two of his favorites on the house. At this point Mark also mentioned they'd be comping dessert. Delighted in this generous gesture, to me it speaks volumes on the level of appreciation for what we do as food bloggers. At this point we were all finishing our first round of drinks, so Meghan ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir for the table.2008 Adelsheim - Willamette Valley, Oregon ($70). This juicy red was easy to drink and its versatility allowed for a great pairing with all the dishes consumed.
The dishes Mark ordered for us were sent out first. I was thoroughly impressed with the Sushi Grade Tuna Tartare ($19) which came neatly packaged and bathing in a flavorful base of soy and ginger topped with crispy wontons.
The tuna was silky smooth, the soy and ginger base packed a punch and the crispy wontons provided a unique textural contrast as well added a playful element to the presentation.We were intrigued by Mistral Thin Crust Pizzas from the Grill and were thrilled when Mark sent out the Beef Tenderloin, Mashed Potato & White Truffle Oil ($24).
This pizza was a favorite of the night for me, with its delicate strips of rare beef, comforting mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and melted cheese enveloped by truffle oil luxury and dusted in chives. As for the rest of the menu, we stuck to sharing a bunch of appetizers and another pizza, stemming from our need to taste as much as possible because it all sounds so good, and what can I say, we like to share.
So long hearty comforting bowls of macaroni loaded with gooey cheese and baked with breadcrumbs, and welcome Mistral's elegant and sophisticated (and expensive) version. The White Alba & Black Burgundy Truffle Macaroni ($48) beholds small macaroni shells bathing in melted Parmesan atop a sweet madeira sauce. The sweetness was complex but played nicely with the savory cheese. The plethora of shaved truffles with mineraly overtones and earthy notes knocked this dish out of the park. I'm more partial to the beef tenderloin pizza, but the White Cheese, Whipped Ricotta, Hot Pepper, Sea Salt & Arugula ($22) was no slouch. The cool creamy ricotta, a favorite pizza topping of mine, was in perfect contrast to the blaring amount of heat given off by the spicy peppers. I certainly welcomed the heat and enjoyed perfectly crispy grilled thin crust pizza nombre deux.
The Seared Foie Gras ($21) came delicately balancing over a confit of duck in brioche, that was situated atop a Wisconson dried cherry gastrique. The foie gras was rich, luxurious and beautifully seared while the duck confit hidden inside the brioche roll was tender yet crispy. This dish gets major points for creativity and skill, even more for that delectable pool of sweet cherry wine glaze.The Maine Crab Ravioli ($18) was small helping of ravioli with rock crab in a thyme and tomato broth. A flavors were nice but the dish itself was not a standout performer. There was no way we could pass up a side of Brussel Sprouts ($10). Why are brussel sprouts so darn good? This crave worthy dish was cooked up in a cast iron skillet with crispy pancetta and a compelling sour broth with flavors that permeated the sprouts and pleasantly surprised the palate. Oh sweet sweet dessert course. I truly felt spoiled this evening!I could wax poetic about their Vanilla Creme Brulee ($10) all day long. This version with plump juicy raspberries and a cute little linzer cookie is a solid choice. But a bold choice would be the newest addition to their dessert menu, the Belgian Chocolate Mousse ($10) with a homemade gram cracker and bruleed marshmallow.A deconstructed S'mores of luscious creamy mousse, flaky buttery gram cracker and sticky sweet marshmallow had us utterly captivated. You just have to see this one from all angles. The brown tones on the bruleed marshmallow is a true work of art. A fabulous dessert of a less indulgent nature is the Warm Huckleberry Tart ($11)
The tart flavors of huckleberry and the bold citrus from the Meyer lemon sauce flaked with lemon zest were reigned in with cool vanilla bean ice cream. In contrast, the Warm Chocolate Torte ($11) provided luscious chocolatey goodness.Bittersweet chocolate sauce Anglaise oozes out of the warm cakey torte mingling with the smooth English cream. The simple pairing of vanilla ice cream on the side was cradled in a chocolate shell topped with a chocolate cigar. Ladies and Gentleman, a round of applause. Mistral's gracious and knowledgeable staff provided us with top notch service and attention on a busy Friday evening. Mark even made it a point to see us off with a handshake as we bundled up in our cold weather coats and gathered our umbrellas. We made our way out of the cozy-chic dining room into the dark damp city streets and headed home to our respective neighborhoods to dream of roasted brussels sprouts and chocolate marshmallow mousse.