STIX Restaurant + Lounge

Gimmicky but still good
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  January 23, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars
insidestix
SURF AND TURF: Lamb sticks (left) are nicely flavored and come on citrus-rosemary skewers, while
shrimp stix are served on coconut-lime skewers with mango dip.

Stix Restaurant & Lounge | 35 Stanhope Street, Boston | Open Mon–Sat, 5:30 pm–1 am | AE, DC, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | Valet parking, $16 | Access up one step from sidewalk level | 617.456.7849
Once again, the latest thing is the oldest thing. Last year it was cooking on rocks. Now it’s cooking on sticks. Almost everything at STIX is shaped like a stick, impaled on a skewer, or served with a stick of something as a decoration. The only thing they missed was setting the table with chopsticks, or playing that maddening “Chopsticks” tune or the band Styx in the background. (Alternative rock will have to do.) The décor, on the other hand, is all zigzags, as you might expect from the owners of the funhouse-design 33 Restaurant & Lounge next door. It would be distracting if the restaurant weren’t kept fairly dark. When they got to determining the staff dress code, they wisely stuck with basic black.

Food starts with a basket of thin cheese breadsticks, of course, with which one attacks a near-liquid dip of flavored mascarpone cheese. The menu is divided into “signature plates,” which are all small plates of three skewered items ($9), plus “small plates” ($9), “large plates” ($19), and “sides” ($8). Desserts are also mostly a single price ($9).

The skewers (stix) are infused with flavor oils, and then there’s an accompanying dip, but the only one that really worked for me was a special on chicken with pepper sauce ($9), in which the pepper and a light note of curry were in the sticks, and the dip was soothing mango purée. Stix are served on rectangular plates with an arugula salad, so they work as bar bites. Vegetable stix are on garlic-herb skewers, but all I tasted was the garlic-wine-sherry-reduction dip on nice little kebabs of mushroom, yellow squash, roasted pepper, and cooked carrot. Shrimp stix are supposedly served on Thai coconut-lime skewers, but the flavor of each was the sum of a fried shrimp and the mango dip. (In fact, I couldn’t taste any of the other stick treatments in the food.) My second favorite was lamb stix, allegedly on citrus-rosemary skewers. The lamb itself was nicely flavored and the accompanying cucumber raita dip was first-rate. In general, though, most of these skewers would be better if the protein itself was marinated and then grilled on a wood fire.

Moving up to the large plates, the Andean hangar steak was excellent, with a chimichurri-type green-sauce marinade and garnishes of waxy fingerling potatoes and exquisite caramelized shallots. I also thought a lot of the seared diver scallops served with similar fingerling potatoes and corn slightly pickled in a chili-vinegar sauce. The special vegetarian entrée was penne pasta with a lot of chew — chef Thomas Eco grew up in New York’s Little Italy — and a sauce of creamed mushrooms. With some more corn, Brussels sprouts, and a shooter of sweet “carrot fondue” topped with a prune, this provided lots of fun things to eat. Slow-roasted salmon was good but uninspired; the orange-braised endive with it simply tasted like greens. A side of braised mushrooms was wine-flavored and generous.

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