More familiar appetizers: fried calamari ($8) and beet salad, made with a local-ish goat cheese and a light dressing ($7) were done very well. Perhaps I've had crisper calamari with a bit less salt, but the fried slices of hot pepper made for an excellent addition.
My favorite entrée was confit-duck-and-smoked-sausage cassoulet ($19), served in an individual frying pan. Now, of course, a cassoulet actually refers to a clay bulge pot designed for this winter dish of baked beans and preserved meats; but the white beans here were fully cooked, the garlic sausage excellent, and the confit duck lightly cured and plentiful.
Heritage pork ($18) was somewhat wasted on this otherwise fine dish of stuffed, rolled pork loin. The idea of the pre-science pig was the flavorful fat in the fattier cuts. A half-chicken ($17) serves as comfort food, roasted with some crisped skin, not dried out, served with whipped potatoes and Brussels sprouts. A line-caught codfish special ($19) made the most of sweet, light scrod.
The unusual wine list (though not cheap) and a decent but not overwhelming list of draft beers sent us into the cocktail menu. The "Ideal Manhattan" ($10) is a play on the better-known "perfect Manhattan," which has sweet and dry vermouth. The Citizen version has neither, but uses elderflower-flavored St. Germain liquor and bourbon, ensuring that sweet initial and final impressions bracket a bit of alcohol and bitters. Served in a cocktail glass without ice, it is a true and classic cocktail. So, in a lighter way, is the Citizen's idea of an Americano ($9), restoring the oldest formulation of Carpano vermouth (which was the inventor of vermouth) with the similarly sweet-bitter-herbal liqueur Campari and soda for a subtle and satisfying long drink.
For something that might seem lighter, there is the Dutch 75 ($9), a refreshingly sour glass of sparkling Prosecco and fresh lemon juice, spiked with Dutch gin.
Desserts are simple, with the blue ribbon going to the toffee bread pudding ($8), improbably tall and as sweet as any Scot would demand. And there is the caramel sauce. Crème caramel ($8) was a Shaq among flans, one secret being that it was very dense as well. The prettiest dessert was a special on New York cheesecake ($8), which was actually two sushi cylinders of cheesecake, each wrapped in a graham crust, the plate strewn with strawberries. The chef's tactic for dealing with anemic December strawberries is to sauce them with a red raspberry coulis. It rather works.
Service at the Citizen is good, and early in the evening, the noise level is not bad at all. One can even hear the eclectic soundtrack, which includes a bit of old-school metal.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.
The Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar | 1310 Boylston St., Boston | 617.450.9000 | Open daily, 5 pm-1 am | AE, MC, VI | Full bar | No valet parking | Sidewalk-level access