My favorite entrée was a special on American Chop Suey ($15). (I never in my life imagined writing such a sentence.) This is comfort food taken to some kind of extreme, yet still comforting and delicious. The original was a tomato-based stew of vegetables, meatballs, and pasta. It came in jars in the supermarket, or people made it as a quick, one-pot supper. This one has been cheffed up with a real tomato sauce, grilled peppers and onions, grated cheese, and penne pasta with some al dente left in. Just remarkable.
The meatloaf stack ($16) is quite similar to the old Anthem version, a nice blend of ground beef, chorizo, and sausage meat, over bread, under whipped potatoes, with gravy. For a bistro entrée, "line-caught Chatham cod" ($22) is a sweet, lovely chunk over a near-chowder of mussels in the shell, chunks of potatoes, and a tomato-inflected broth.
Seamless eclecticism continues on the drink menu, which has a few craft cocktails, a lot of dating-bar drinks, and reasonable, unremarkable lists of beer and wine. I found a glass of Gascon malbec ($10/glass; $40/bottle) a little over-acidic, but the 2007 Helfrich Riesling ($10; $40) was an outstanding white counterpart, whistle clean, not so aromatic as some Alsatian Rieslings but just slightly sweeter — a wine more like Pouilly-Fuissé than Riesling, and good with all kinds of food.
The Twinkie truly takes out the other desserts. Boston-cream-pie parfait ($8) is a chefly attempt to remake the classic as trifle — more cream (instead of custard cream), ladyfingers (instead of cake), and just a swirl of chocolate (instead of frosting). On the whole, nope. Rustic bread pudding ($9) was solid, with some caramel sauce to pour over, but just not up to the Twinkie.
Service, after the initial "I'm so-and-so, I'll be your server tonight," was just fine. For a Quincy Market restaurant, the price points are good enough for professionals working late, and the superior food may eventually claim a share of the tourist-bar business. The atmosphere our night was quite mellow — low lighting hides all the glass and flagstone, and even takes the edges off the plasma TV, where the Patriots were just starting their demolition of the Dolphins on a slow Monday night. The soundtrack — it still is Quincy Market — runs to oldies and classic rock, setting the edges wide with "Johnny B. Goode" and "Rebel, Rebel." When you get one of these end spaces in the market, the keys are to heat them well and remember that architect Ben Thompson always softened the greenhouse effect with antique artifacts — here a vast pear-shaped art-nouveau lamp — and dark wood floors, tables, and chairs. ^
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.