I was a little tired last Tuesday but really wanted to see my friend Jen before she headed back to Houston and 80 degrees of sunshine!  No jealousy here – honest.  I mean it is only snowing in October!

I racked my brains of where we could go for a quiet dinner.  A place where we could hear ourselves speak or not – we were both tired.  As I was going through the rolodex in my brain of Boston restaurants, I stopped at “A” and decided on Artisan Bistro in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.  A relative newcomer to the Boston scene, I had tried Artisan a week after it had opened but decided I wasn’t going to write about it immediately.  I like restaurants to be open for a few months before making any mention of them. 

Artisan Bistro, formerly Jer-Ne, has been remodeled into an inviting space with clean, contemporary furniture of black and cream with dark wood tables giving it a very modern, spacious bistro feel.  One side of the restaurant is floor to ceiling windows that look out onto Avery Street (not much of a view but good for people watching as they walk by) and a long bar on the opposite side separated by a low wall. 

We were seated against the low wall in a booth-like setting in giant, plush cream leather chairs.  For me, being a little bit vertically challenged, I couldn’t sit back because my feet would dangle off the chair, so they were a little uncomfortable as I had to sit straight up with no back support.  I was able to move my chair to a position of my liking as it was the last chair in the row.  Jen’s chair, however, was attached the person’s sat behind her (back-to-back chairs – like a diner).  This turned out to be quite funny as every time the gentleman behind her adjusted his chair he pulled her away from the table!  He obviously had no idea the chairs were attached to each other.

Our extremely friendly and chatty waiter came over with menus and a basket fresh bread and creamy butter & salt and asked for our drink order.  Two glasses of Sancerre ($15) please.  I do love Sancerre because it reminds me of a summer’s evening.  I am obviously in complete denial of the summer being over.  The cocktail many actually looked very intriguing with libations such as Uncommon Black & Tan and the Fig. 

The menu looked very appealing with lots of fresh seafood dishes, great looking flatbreads, classic dishes such as chicken pot pie and a selection of burgers.  They also have a daily special, which on Tuesday was Pork Milanese. 

We decided to share the Lobster & Artichoke Flatbread to start with.   On appearance you could tell that the lobster and artichoke were in big clusters rather than spread across the whole flatbread.  This made it a little difficult to share and get the most out of the toppings.  The flatbread was thin and soft in the middle with a crusty outer layer – perfect for picking up rather than using a knife and fork.  The Gruyere cheese had a lovely mild salty flavor to it and the lobster and artichoke were a delicious accompaniment to the flatbread.  They did not scrimp on either topping so we definitely got some nice, tasty big chunks of sweet lobster and bitter artichokes.  A very nice flatbread overall.

Maine Lobster, Artichoke, Gruyere, Lemon Flatbread – ~$11

 

There were a number of things I wanted for my main but knew I was going to be little full after eating bread and butter and then the flatbread so opted for the Mussels.  Brought over to me in a large stainless steel pot, the waiter took the lid off and the aroma was intoxicating – wonderful, fragrant fennel in a tomato broth and mussels right to the top of the pan.  Unfortunately, as I started to move the mussels around I realized all of them were closed – I did find only one that was open.  I do not like to complain in restaurants as it really does go against my very nature but I honestly had no choice in this matter.  The waiter apologized, took them away immediately and said they would make more. 

Mussels with Garlic Bread – $24

 

Jen had ordered the Clam Chowder and an Organic Salad.  The chowder came out in a huge bowl and smelled delicious.  She said it was lovely, creamy and perfect for a cold evening.  The salad was fresh with a sweet raspberry vinaigrette.  She didn’t want to eat her dinner until mine arrived but I insisted.  

New England Clam Chowder – ~$12
Organic Garden Salad with goat cheese, pistachios raspberry vinaigrette – ~$13

 

About 10 minutes later walking through the restaurant came one of the chefs with his white shirt and apron and huge chef’s hat holding a new pot of mussels.  I was a little embarrassed actually.  He brought it right to my table and apologized for my previous serving and said he checked every mussel.  He was right – they were all open. The mussels were plump and tasty, however the sauce was outstanding – truly delicious and an amazing aroma.  I spent the next 15 minutes mopping most of it up with crusty garlic bread it was so good. 

We didn’t partake in dessert but I would definitely consider trying all three items of Cookies, Rice Pudding & Chocolate Lava cake another time.

It’s hard to describe the ambience as the restaurant remained relatively quiet, exactly what I was looking for on a Tuesday night with my friend.

We asked for the bill and although I never expected them to deduct the mussels, I thought they may have done something to recognize the mishap; not just because of the dish itself but because my friend was eating alone while I had to wait.  That said, I will likely give Artisan another go at some point. 

I think Artisan would be great for theater goers or perhaps after you have been to the movies at the Boston Common and are looking for a glass of wine and a slice of flatbread to share with a friend.  I am sure the feel of the restaurant will be very different on a Friday or Saturday and will perhaps be a little more happening. 

Artisan Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato