The Savant Project

Mostly mediocre, but with flourishes of excellence
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  January 7, 2009
1.0 1.0 Stars

The Savant Project has some ingenious cocktails made without hard liquor, but on our cold night they were unable to make the one with port wine and hot cider. Out of cider. (There is a supermarket across the street.) Six taps isn't many, but one was Harpoon Winter Warmer ($4.50), a clean draught of amber delight. Two glasses of red wine were clearly poured from leftover bottles — always a risk in dining early. One had a spoiled taste on the end; the other had built up some volatile acidity. Modern winemaking technology has just about eliminated these two problems from any bottle you can afford, but the bottle left open overnight is subject to corruption. No point even naming these wines — it wasn't the fault of the makers.

The better of the desserts we tried was the "sake drunken berry cup" ($7), a nice assortment of berries soaked in sweetened sake, more like syrup than an alcoholic drink. Deep-fried churros with powdered sugar and dark-chocolate dipping sauce ($6) might have evoked Spain, had the crullers been larger and cooked through. Uncooked dough at the center isn't cool. In Spain, they use thickened hot chocolate with milk. This was dark chocolate, thicker than most mousse. No problem with dipping, though, because after the first bite we discarded the churros and ate the chocolate with a spoon. A crème brèlèe duo ($7) was supposed to be ginger and mango. I got the ginger, not the mango.

Service also was in the autistic-savant manner. We were the only customers on an early evening. There was a hostess and a waitress. They served us all three entrèes, then all three appetizers. Someone in our party asked if there were any specials and one of these trusted servants said "No." On the way out, though, we saw paella listed as a whiteboard special. Yes, that was the special for the night. Perhaps it's served after dessert?

The space is odd but fun. It's a duplex storefront with tables and the bar at sidewalk level, and then a sort of mezzanine level with sofa seating. Pine floors, maroon walls, white wainscoting, and painted tin ceiling: the place is probably pretty loud when full.

Despite it all, I rather like the Savant Project. I'd prefer to review a dozen flawed places that are a little different than a dozen perfect bistros that have the same menu, design, and TV showing on plasma screens. As RuPaul says, "The one thing we all can share is difference, because we're all different."

(Bonus: Here's some autistic-savant trivia for you: the original "Rain Man" does not have autism. Google "Kim Peek.")

Robert Nadeau can be reached

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