Saturday date night began by popping a bottle of Bitch bubbly, a sparkling red wine from Australia. Boasting a rich pink color endowed with (ironically?) sweet flavors of strawberry and raspberry, a few glasses started the evening off on a happy note. Adam and I trekked through the slushy streets and around large snowbanks to the outskirts of The North End to dine at Sensing Restaurant. Living so close by all this time I knew Sensing existed, but for some reason it felt like light years away. Just outside the quaint and always bustling Italian streets we know and love, the restaurant serving contemporary world cuisine sits on the quiet Boston waterfront tucked inside the luxurious Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel. We didn't have a reservation and while the restaurant was busier than expected with a few large parties and some single and double dates, we did notice a few open tables. We were asked to wait at the bar while they got our table ready. I was secretly happy with the outcome, not at all minding the wait in favor of taking a seat at the round beige leather bar stools with a uniquely low back and the capacity to swivel elegantly in a semi circle. The bar itself might be one of the most beautiful I've ever sipped a drink at; made entirely of Tigers Eye, a brilliant (and expensive) semi precious stone of the quartz family. Shades from dark and golden brown to pearly white emit a silky lustrous glow. I ordered a Cilantro Sting ($14) an imaginative blend of hand-pressed cilantro, Serrano Chiles, Ultimat Vodka, Patron Silver and freshly squeezed lime juice. The bartender questioned before he went on to muddle the cilantro, if I liked spice. My enthusiastic answer (obviously a yes, come on, I ordered a drink with the name Sting in the title) and the fact that he even had to ask in the first place had me eagerly anticipating a drink with a serious heat factor. The cocktail dissapointed on that note almost immediately. Wait for it, sometimes that kick seeps in after the initial sweetness. Unfortunately, any trace of a sting was seriously amiss. Why did the bartender feel the need to question my love of heat to begin with, and on top of that, not deliver? It was not spicy, not in the least, unless you count eating the Serrano Chile garnish, which I did because I was so desperate for some spice. It was beautifully infused with cilantro which tempered the sweet lime juice. The only sting it was backing was the buzz I quickly encountered from the Vodka and Patron. Overall it had a drinkability factor that I enjoyed, but for what it was meant to be, a disappointment. The disappointment, at least on my part, ended there. Adam was hit with a dose of the same medicine after we were seated and ready to place our order. He decided on The traditional Bouillabaisse de Marseille ($29). We traveled to Marseille, France in September 2009 and Bouillabaisse was all we ate. Exhibit 1, 2 , 3 & 4:Immediatley nostalgic for those blissful nights on vacation at fancy cafes in Southern France, especially when learning the executive chef himself hails from Marseille; the fact that they were out of this dish, came as a painful let down. How do you run out of what would seemingly be the chefs signature dish at 8:30pm?I digress from the points of negativity because all I want to do is shout from the rooftops how much I enjoyed everything else about our evening at Sensing. Our waitress Rianne introduced herself with a genuine smile and welcoming energy, complimenting my houndstooth nails and happily accepting our 50% off coupon at the start of the meal. (They were handing them out at the Buon Natalie Holiday Stroll, stamped with an expiration date of 1/31/11.) Don't you wonder about deals like that? 50% off seemed almost too good to be true! Is the waitress going to stare awkwardly and question its legitimacy? Are they going to judge you because it is seemingly obvious the coupon is the only reason you are dining with them? The process went as smooth as could be. Rianne graciously accepted the coupon, nodding and referencing the Holiday Stroll deal as she placed it in her apron. The rolls came out next, toasty warm and with a slab of soft butter in a most unique dish! The Tasty Teasers ($14) is a cutting edge plate of six different amuse bouches. (You could also order six of the same.) I was positively giddy when the animated platter was placed in front of me. I was introduced to each bite and Rianne also explained the suggested order in which to enjoy. First, the Wellfleet Oyster was a supreme slurp of a local delicacy bathed in a shallot and vinegar granite. This cold palate pleaser started the journey off just right. Next up in complete contrast to the former was a warm Beef Empanada, flaky and served in a spicy cranberry dip. Following was the simple Fried Crabcake, a compact crispy bite that holds its own with no dipping sauce necessary. Working my way through, the Lychee Stuffed with Tuna offered yet another bracingly different note. The succulent and sweet subtle flavored Thai fruit enveloped a fish of similar soft silky texture. The bite delivered with it a healthy dusting of mild pepper resembling the consistency of fine grained sand. Wow, that really was something else. I didn't want this plate to end. The Corn and chorizo filled eggshell boasted dehydrated corn kernels atop a super luxurious sweet creamy mixture. I didn't understand the chorizo aspect (where was it?) but a smokey contrast would have served its purpose well. The Cauliflower with White Chocolate Soup was a balanced sip of liquid that was neither hot nor cold, neither savory nor overly sweet. The smooth sip begins with a mild cauliflower taste and finishes with creamy white chocolate. As a whole, this brilliantly orchestrated dish that artfully blends taste, textures and colors allows the restaurant to live up to its namesake and officially my appetite was teased. I ordered a glass of the Douglas Hill Chardonnay ($9) to accompany my entree of Thai inspired Lobster Linguine Bolognese ($30) Thin strands of bright green and pastel yellow pasta were draped in a buttery cilantro lime sauce accompanied by a succulent lobster claw dusted with cheese. Upon mixing the linguine, the bolognese sauce laced with even more chunks of tender lobster was revealed. It sat hidden in a compact shape in the middle of the pasta which I thought was a playful element to the dish. The flavors of cilantro and lime in the light buttery sauce mingling with the tomato and lobster in the bolognese made for a truly unique tasting entree. It was excellent, I cleaned my plate.
I enjoyed my full bodied $9 glass of chardonnay that retails for $5.99 a bottle. (Could have fooled me, this 2buckchuck stuff was tasty.)
Then I dissapeared.I came back to eat dessert. We ordered the Almond Cake ($10).I'm not really sure what Adam did. I think he drank some coffee out of this swanky mug. The Almond cake was light and airy, simple and plain. It took somewhat of a back seat role but in doing so it allowed the other elements of the dessert to shine. The sea salt gelato was exquisite as it melted into a bed of crunchy almonds while the cake acted as a sponge for the creamy olive oil pool. The red pepper emulsion surrounding the outskirts of the plate was a radical touch. Overall this dessert leaves me feeling perplexed, in a good way. Sensing's hotel chic interior is understated but still felt welcoming and cozy. With soft carpeting underfoot, classic dining room chairs with sea foam green upholstery pull up to ultra modern laquered wood tabletops supported by a single column and aluminum base. Similar wooden columns and sheek gray curtains separate the dining room space giving certain tables like ours a very intimate feel. Sensing most certainly lived up to their motto as a culinary journey for the mind, body and spirt. The dishes showed pure creativity and precise technique. Our waitress Rianne delievered flawless service, her presence timed at just the right intervals. We felt perfectly content to linger over dishes and amuse ourselves with loud laughter and silly photographs, which is exactly how date nights should be.