The current wine list is still extensive and has many half-bottles. We had a 2009 Matua Valley pinot noir ($8/glass; $35/bottle). The rush to New Zealand sauvignon blanc has overshadowed the excellent red wines made there. This is a lighter-looking one than some, but this grape is deceptive, and the wine delivers aroma, structure, and even some tannin, as well as a kiss of oak at the end. Ariadne was an important holdout for French-press coffee and decaf ($2.25). Based on my decaf, which came poured without a visible pot, I am unsure that's the case here. It was a good, clean decaf but without the burst of fresh aroma guaranteed by one's own press. French-press, loose-leaf tea ($2.75) actually brings out the pot.
For our desserts, a chocolate torte ($8) was exactly what the chocolate fiends want. Pumpkin bread pudding ($8) was excellent, and also featured a scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream. A walnut-apple crisp ($8) was good, but not up to seasonal par, except for the ice cream. Butterscotch crème brûlée ($8) was a tease, delivering no more of my favorite caramel flavor than the burnt sugar topping. Perfectly fine, simple crème brûlée, but don't play with my heart.
Service remains first rate, no down-scaling there. The nice thing about down-scaling under the same ownership is they keep the nice lamps (turned up a little brighter) and carpeting and banquettes. Certainly price points are down, but not out. The crowd packs it in on a Saturday night (reservations are recommended), so the repositioning must have been about weeknight business. When filled, it is loud, and gets louder as friends and distant relations are surprised to find each other. Congressman Barney Frank stopped in, shook hands with a few people, and ate unmolested among his constituents. I didn't check his order — this is not that kind of column.
Robert Nadeau can be reached email@example.com.
C. Tsar’s | 344 Walnut Street, Newtonville | 617.332.4653 | open monday–saturday, 5–10 pm | AE, MC, Vi | Full Bar | Private parking lot in rear | Street level access