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Gaslight Brasserie

July 16, 2010

(taken from

As much as I love to cook for myself and for those around me, I love to eat at restaurants. I love walking through the doors the first time and assessing the scene: taking in the décor, letting my eyes adjust to the lighting, listening to the bustle of customers and staff alike, the tinkling of glasses and plates, and of course the smells of various dishes wrapping themselves around the room. I love any restaurant; I am not a food snob by any means ( I have been known to enjoy “street meat“), take me anywhere and as long as the food is good and the service decent, I’m thrilled.

Wednesday evening, I went into the South End of Boston and ate at the Gaslight Brasserie. The restaurant is tucked away on a quiet part of Harrison street, slightly off the beaten path. Before walking in, the first thing I noticed were the, low and behold, gas-lit lamps lighting the path to the door. Upon entering, I immediately began taking it all in. The host was friendly and was able to squeeze us in even without a reservation. The bar had a nice crowd, a mix of after work professional types, ladies meeting for drinks and couples leaning over wine glasses to whisper to one another. The bartender was actively making drinks and carrying conversations with the patrons; martini shaker held high. We were led into the dining room and seated at a small deuce with a good view of the entire restaurant. The ceilings were high- there was an almost warehouse feel to it. There were large green-bronze lamp fixtures folded over the room. A shelf tracing the ceiling was lined with green bottle bearing French script. The lighting was low, but not too dark, with a small tea light on every marble-topped table. Servers and bussers were quickly moving about and about 5 minutes after we were seated, the restaurant was completely full.

We were greeted promptly by our French accented server who helped us choose a nice, fairly priced, Pinot Noir. With his help, we selected an Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Pinot Noir. It was pretty good (I have purchased an Arrogant Frog Cab before at Best Cellars on Boylston for supper club before). The menu was easy on the eyes and sprinkled with French words, which I was actually able to decipher. I was somewhat smug when replying “No” when asked if we needed any help translating.

As always, it’s a struggle for me to chose anything on any menu; I really just want a bite of everything so I can try it. For an appetizer (hors de’oevuvres), we split the fried baby artichokes topped with a spicy aioli, niciose olives, sweet peppers and onions. The artichokes were tender, and the breading crispy and light; the flavor of the artichokes were still able to shine through. The aioli had a nice zing and a touch of smokiness that I am guessing was cumin. We devoured the entire plate including the leftover sauce.

For an entrée (plats principaux) I was town between the Mussels and Frites and the Steak Frites (I guess I was craving fries). I made sure A wasn’t interested in either…and also made sure he was getting something I would require a taste of. When the server came to collect our order, I dared to ask which was better. He described the mussels as being “strongly tasting of pernod” and that he wasn’t all together fond of the flavor. I knew pernod has an anise-y flavor, often paired with or compared to fennel. He explained that this was a dish popular in Marseilles and that the bottles surrounding the ceiling were pernod bottles from the region. To be sure I didn’t choose something I also wouldn’t be “too fond of” he dashed to the bar and returned with a small port glass with a shot of pernod. He set it in front of me and explained that you mix the liquor with water until it turns a milky white/yellow color. I smelled. I tasted. I passed it to A. It was refreshing; almost cooling. While I don’t like liquorish, this was nice. While the tasting and smelling was going on though, I remembered the béarnaise paired with the steak frites. I had made this myself at supper club actually. Despite the delectably light pernod, I decided on the steak frites. I really just wanted to dip my fries in the béarnaise.

Our meal arrived in the perfect amount of time; long enough to let the appetizer settle, for more wine to be consumed and more conversation, yet not so long as that I would begin peering anxiously at the kitchen door. The steak was a perfect medium with a nice crust around the outside. The béarnaise everything I was hoping for a more- it was surprisingly light and fluffy with a lovely tarragon flavor. The fries were crispy on the outside, but tender in the middle, coated with the perfect amount of crunchy sea salt. The duck confit was moist and richly flavored with a bright citrus flavor to cut the richness of the duck.

We finished the meal (patisserie) with a molten chocolate cake, cliché yes, but sooo delicious. When we ordered it, it was the waiters turn to be snug, looking down his French nose, informing us it was his least favorite, yet the most popular. I could see “typical American” written across his face. He recommended the chilled lemon soufflé- which sounds nice….but who can resist hot melty chocolate with good dollop of whip cream, lightly scented with vanilla? I sure cant.

We finished the last dregs of our wine, scraped the last chocolate off of our plate, and exited as we entered, through the gas lights. I would love to go back.

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