Gaslight Brasserie du Coin

At the head of  its class
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  November 19, 2007
4.0 4.0 Stars
MUST-EAT MEAT: The steak frites at Gaslight shouldn’t be missed.

Gaslight Brasserie Du Coin | 560 Harrison Avenue, Boston | Open Mon–Wed, 5–11 pm; Thurs & Fri, 5 pm–midnight; Sat, 10 am–3 pm and 5 pm–midnight; and Sun, 10 am–3 pm and 5–10 pm | AE, DC, MC, VI | Full bar | Free parking in lot next door | Street-level access | 617.422.0224

Have you noticed how weird this column’s star rating system is? This week I give four stars to Gaslight, where nothing costs more than $20. But what Gaslight does, it does almost without flaw. Another week I might give only one star to a high-end palace because there are so many better places to waste your top dollar. Or I might give a clam stand one star because it isn’t a four-star clam stand — there’s no bell curve here. That said, Gaslight isn’t the sort of four-star restaurant to which you’d want to take your rich uncle on his big night out, but it will superbly reward the moderate diner who doesn’t mind a little more salt and noise than you get elsewhere for twice the price.

The theme at this self-described “corner” restaurant is that of a brasserie, which, in France, once meant brewpub. But some brasseries from the Art Nouveau era are now major tourist attractions. They run to tiled walls and floors, and can be noisy. Gaslight is on the high end of that sonic scale.

We begin our meal with a baguette in a bag and balls of salted butter. Escargots de Bourgogne ($8.50) are out of the shell, served in the dimpled plate that once held the individual shells but now holds a mix of chopped greens and cheese that evokes oysters Rockefeller. Asparagus vinaigrette ($7.50) is impeccably roasted, dressed with lemony vinaigrette, and decorated with frisé, shredded parsley stems, and two white anchovies. Onion soup gratinée ($6.50) is just that, in a crock. I have given up the war for chewier croutons after tasting onion soup this past spring in Paris restaurants famous for it, only to find that they, too, had given up the fight. The strength of this soup is its hearty onion flavor and good gooey cheese. Don’t look too hard for the beef short ribs and truffles mentioned on the menu — they’re in the soup someplace. Garlic soup ($7.75) was the real treat of the course: a mussel soup with a rich, garlicky base, and added spiciness from Basque Espelette chilies. It was good enough to sop up with the rest of our bread.

Among the entrées, you must have the steak frites ($19.75). Remember, this restaurant is owned by the Aquitaine Group, which really started the steak-frites fad in Boston and still knows how to get the most flavorful hanger steaks in the market. The steak here is small, whole, and exquisite, served aside a heap of shoestring-fried potatoes of considerable flavor and a little cress. You have a choice of butters, and I say go for the béarnaise. Everyone will be grateful that you did.

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