Mooo . . . .

Yet another steak house with cash-cow dreams
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  September 5, 2007
2.0 2.0 Stars
GOT AN EXPENSE ACCOUNT? If so, you might enjoy Mooo.

Mooo | 15 Beacon Street (Xv Beacon Hotel), Boston | Open Mon–Thurs, 7–10:30 am, 11:30 am–2 pm, and 5:30–10:30 pm; Fri, 7–10:30 am, 11:30 am–2 pm, and 5:30–11 pm; Sat, 8–11 am and 5:30–11 pm; and Sun, 8 am–2 pm and 5:30–10:30 pm | AE, DC, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | Valet parking, $18 | Street-level access via hotel lobby | 617.670.7799

Another week, another fancy dining room converted to a steak house by a big-name chef. This week’s victim: the Federalist, recently recast as Mooo. The chef: Jamie Mammano of Mistral. Legacy asset: high-end wine list. So why do they keep doing these conversions? Maybe chefs think it looks easy and bankers think it looks safe. But is it? I’m not even sure it’s easy, this business of having a chef’s chef remake the all-American steak house. Mooo has some very exciting appetizers, but it’s hard to pick the super steak, and the side dishes and desserts are mostly too plain for their astronomical prices.

Things at Mooo start out fun, with a cast-iron pan of freshly baked rolls, impossibly heavy and glutinous and white, with a sprinkling of rough salt outside and sweet butter to put inside. “Sushi grade tuna” ($18) is a small dish of tuna tartare set in a large dish of ice, with sesame cracker breads arranged on the side and a sequence of herbal impressions complementing the richness of the raw fish. I settled on shiso, a citric-sage-y Japanese leaf as powerful and controversial as cilantro, but perfectly blended into this dish.

Lobster salad ($24) was presented the same way, with different herbs (borage, perhaps? Dill?) but a similarly terrific effect, and with toasted brioche in case you want to make the world’s subtlest lobster sandwich. Potato-and-leek clam chowder ($12), served in an individual cast-iron kettle with real pilot crackers, however, showed what happens when chefs upgrade a dish unevenly. Replace traditional salt pork with a much stronger smoked meat and the dish becomes all smoke and salt. Replace traditional onions with subtler leeks and the leek flavor almost disappears. A “classic Caesar” ($14) was pre-dressed with a nice sharp dressing, but was otherwise notable mostly for croutons made from real white bread.

The menu has seven steaks, topping out with a Japanese Wagyu sirloin at $130. At that price, it’s not a signature steak, because I only order things like that once for the experience, and that already happened recently with Wagyu sirloin. Next down is a “Four Story Hill 21-day dry aged sirloin” ($78), which we paired with a “Prime New York Sirloin” ($39). Both were excellent beef, but came cooked a notch more than ordered. Four Story Hill is a boutique farm in Pennsylvania boasting grass-fed and dry-aged beef, yet the choice from there was not that different from the feedlot prime. A little more intense, a hint more complex, but the extra $40 could be better invested in wine.

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