A gifted new chef prompts a rare critical reassessment
With so many worthy unreviewed restaurants out there, it’s difficult to re-review a place the Phoenix has already covered. When my esteemed colleague Robert Nadeau reviewed Bon Savor in June 2006, it offered an odd, eclectic range of French, Carribean, Russian, and vegan dishes. But recently hired chef Marco Suarez (ex-Eastern Standard) has put such a distinctive new stamp on Bon Savor’s menu, alternating the influences of his classical French training and South American ancestry, we’re giving it another look, “On the Cheap” style.
Dinner at this cozily spaced 26-seat room starts promisingly with raw Island Creek oysters ($2.65/each; $1 on Tuesdays). Complimentary French bread is fine, even better with garlic/parsley compound butter. An appetizer of summer coq au vin ($8) shows French finesse: chicken thighs braised in a superior, deeply flavored red-wine sauce with favas, English peas, and chunks of wonderful bacon-based lardons, plus a halo of pea tendrils. (This belongs on the winter menu, too.) Two baked Argentine empanadas ($7) are less successful. Both their long-braised, brisket-y beef filling and golden crusts are a bit dry, needing more of the accompanying chimichurri. Salads are fabulous, like fresh favas and radishes ($8) with frisee in a lemony dressing, plus fantastic, salt-grainy Parmesan butter to spread on bread. Ensalada de chayote ($6) is reminiscent of a jicama slaw with corn, creamy avocado, and spicy/crispy tortilla strips, both a savory and textural delight.
Big, comfortably priced entrées ($12–$21) include moqueca de peixe ($18), a Brazilian stew of shrimp, mussels, and littlenecks in a coconut/cilantro broth, subtle and deliciously fresh. Sides are inventive and rich, like coconut quinoa ($4), buttery yet bubbly as caviar, while garlicky sautéed Brussels sprouts ($4) are studded with more of those excellent oversize lardons. The chef doesn’t slouch on desserts with options like a tres-leches cake ($7): moist sponge cake atop sweetly spiced rum cream sauce. The bargain pricing looks even better with Monday-to-Thursday prix fixes of three courses ($21/vegetarian; $25/non) or five ($36). A short, weeknight budget-friendly wine list (most bottles under $35, glasses $3.50–$9) is exemplified by the 2008 Callia Alta Torrontés ($28), a crisp, ultra-peachy Argentine white. Throw in very sweet, friendly service and a pretty but relaxed atmosphere, and Bon Savor becomes one of the best fine-dining options in the neighborhood, a worthy alternative to local standouts like neighbor Ten Tables. You’ll want to give it a second look, too.
Bon Savor, located at 605 Centre Street, in Jamaica Plain, is open daily from 5:30 pm–10 pm. Call 617.971.0000.
: On The Cheap
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