Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Very Regal Beagle in Coolidge Corner

As luck would have it, I ended up getting the night off from work last night.  Thanks to the inevitable slow-down of business in January, we were a tad overstaffed, so I decided to take the cut.  Dan was coming home from his Christmas vacation with his family, so it worked out to be a really nice evening for us to go out for a bite to eat at a new neighborhood place that just opened a couple of months ago, The Regal Beagle in Coolidge Corner.

I hadn't really heard much about the restaurant since it opened in October, so to walk in around 8:00 pm and find it packed to the gills with a 30 minute wait for a table was a surprise.  I was pleased to see a local place doing so well in the slow month of January and especially taking into consideration the slump in the economy.  Their menu is clearly sensitive to folks' lack of discretionary income these days.  That combined with the lack of affordable bistro/non-sports bar dining in Coolidge Corner is obviously a recipe for success.  In fact, I'm not sure I remember seeing a television at all in the bar area, which for me is a very good thing.  I'll be optimistic that it will stay that way.

I loved the red velvet wall paper and the dark moody feel of the restaurant. It felt warm on a cold night. One long banquette and a row of two-top tables across from the banquette made me think of brasseries in Europe combined with the NYC hipster decor.  The bar at the back looked cozy enough and has a first-come-first-serve seating area of high-top deuces. I'll likely stop by for a drink after work one of these nights since they are open til 1 am in hopes of a late night dinner menu.  Their wine list is small but well chosen and there is a nice selection of beers to be had along with a good assortment of signature cocktails.  I chose the Meantime Coffee Porter for dinner which was delicious with my meal.

We ordered a glass of Cava each, and after waiting about 20 minutes for a table, we got a cute little high-top with a view of Harvard Ave tucked into the front window.  I was worried about being so close to the door, but I didn't really get too much of a draft since people seemed to be staying in.  The hostess at one point apologized as we waited saying that people seemed to be glued to their seats that night and nothing was turning due to the cold - certainly understandable.  Happily, with our bubbles in hand, the wait went quickly, and was still under the initial 30 minute quote. It gave us time to catch up after not seeing one another for two weeks and to think about what we wanted to order as we pored over the menus.

The food was well-prepared, reasonably priced, and delicious in all cases.  We ordered lobster sliders, braised pork belly with apples, and a short rib special with a side of polenta.  The sliders were very good. I would order them again, and could see making a meal out of them because they came with sweet potato fries which we substituted regular French fries for.  The pork belly was also very good; Dan was particularly happy since it's one of his favorite things to eat.  The short ribs were solid; a classic rendition of a bistro standard.  I liked the roasted cherry tomato addition in the ragu of vegetables, which gave the otherwise very rich dish a little zip.  My favorite of the evening was the side of polenta.  It was soft and fluffy, not soupy, and tasted light and had the tangy, nutty flavor of Parmesan.  I greedily ate it up with the short rib and enjoyed every last bite even though I was beginning to feel too full.

We always tend to overindulge on desserts when we're out because I seldom make them at home, and this was certainly no exception.  We had a hard time deciding on one because they all sounded so wonderful. We ordered the white chocolate bread pudding and ate it there because it was topped with vanilla ice cream and we couldn't see taking ice cream to go even on such a cold night.  It was good.  We took the cookie plate and the tres leches cake home with us and ate them while we watched Up on blu-ray - a Christmas gift.  I had to have the cookie plate because it had Mexican Wedding Cookies, which are my favorite. Special mention must be made for the tres leches. It tasted like it had been made with bacon fat. There was a delicious smokey quality to the caramel - unusual and fantastically delicious.  I don't know if they actually use pork, but is there anything that doesn't taste better with bacon?

With beverages, tip, and tax, the meal was around $100.  I know that seems like a lot, but we ordered a lot of food - maybe too much. On top of that we opted for some of the more expensive items on the menu.  If we were to go back, I think we'd scale back considerably knowing the large portion size and how filling the food is.  I'm also interested to try their burger, and as I mentioned, the lobster sliders would make a nice lighter meal coupled with a beer or two and a tres leches cake for dessert.  I could easily see getting out for around $25 to $30 a person after beverage, tip, and tax, which puts it in the very affordable category in my book considering the quality of food and that it is full-service.  It could easily become a nice once a month place for us since it is so conveniently located and the food is very good and affordable.  I'm definitely looking forward to my next visit.

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