Boston Restaurant Blog -- November, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The old Cafe Marliave in downtown Boston was a spot that had tons of character, with a mellow old-school atmosphere and an out-of-the-way location that made me feel as if I were the only one who knew about this place. But I thought that the food was just ok there, and toward the end the restaurant seemed like it had seen its better days. That's why I was excited to hear about the place being revamped into Restaurant Marliave by the Grotto folks last year. But with all the restaurants I have been going to, I was somehow unable to get to the new Marliave until a couple of Wednesdays ago, when we finally got to check out the place. The verdict? Much better food and some tasteful renovations, though I definitely prefer the feel of the more charming and casual bar area on the middle floor to the slightly stuffier vibe of the upper floor.
Restaurant Marliave is located between Tremont Street and Washington Street in a relatively low-traffic section of downtown. The neighborhood has a cozy, almost intimate feel with its high buildings and narrow streets. Some of the buildings in and around this part of Boston have a lot of history, including the one in which Marliave resides. (For you history buffs, Marliave has actually been located in this spot since the late 1800s.) And while the more formal upper floor and the tiny cafe-style lower floor (which doubles as an oyster bar) are pleasant enough, it is the middle floor that really displays the character of this wonderful old building. The middle floor includes a long bar as well as a number of tables and has a pressed tin ceiling, tin walls with wood paneling on the bottom, a cracked black and white mosaic floor, and old-fashioned beehive-shaped pendant lamps.
We opted for this less formal middle floor for dinner, grabbing a table along the wall to the right of the bar. After starting out with a couple of drinks and sampling the breads that came with olive oil and green olives, we decided to order the rarebits, which turned out to be a decidedly unhealthy yet absolutely delicious plate of comfort food that was perfect for the rather chilly night. The bacon almost seemed to be floating on the mix of beer and melted cheese, and the bread that came with it was toasted just crisply enough to serve as a kind of utensil with which to scoop the gooey ingredients. Unfortunately, there wasn't quite enough toast for the dish, as we ran out of it before we ran out of the cheese and bacon mixture, but that's just a minor gripe. A few minutes after we finished the rarebits, our meals arrived, and they were very good overall. The wild mushroom risotto didn't quite match up to the better versions of this dish that I have had at some other restaurants in the Boston area (Vecchia Roma in Newton comes to mind), but the rice was firm without being too sticky and the mushrooms had a nice amount of flavor but not so much as to overwhelm the rice. The steak frites, like the risotto, was not the best I've had, but it was a good, solid dish with the tender flat-iron steak sliced into several pieces and the handcut fries being seasoned nicely. Service was impeccable throughout, with everyone being friendly, prompt, and professional.
As much as I liked the old Cafe Marliave (mostly for its atmosphere and "hidden" feeling), I believe that the new Restaurant Marliave is much better in a number of ways, and I'm glad that they didn't go overboard with renovations. It might not be the best place for dining in downtown Boston, but the food is plenty good enough, and it's certainly tough to think of another place with more character than this wonderful old spot.
If you would like the address for Marliave, here it is: Restaurant Marliave, 10 Bosworth Street, Boston, MA, 02113. Phone: (617) 422-0004.
We returned to Marliave last week, trying the rarebits once again (and it was outstanding again) as well as an almost sublime plate of Brussels sprouts roasted in bacon fat, a not-too-greasy pastrami sandwich, and wild mushroom risotto (the risotto was better this time around). Service was excellent throughout and prices were ok, but one thing we noticed was that the place was empty for almost our entire meal, and this was on a weekend night (granted, it was a cold and windy evening).
Posted on 12/6/12
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