The Regal Beagle

A quirky neighborhood that puts all the pieces together
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  January 13, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

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WAITING FOR YOU: Pan-seared scallops with a light crust and a cherry glaze, served atop tasty seafood risotto, were a hit.

The Regal Beagle | 308 Harvard Street, Brookline | 617.739.5151 | Open Monday–Friday, 11:30 am–1 am; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am–1 am | AE, MC, Vi | Full bar | No valet parking | Sidewalk-level access up threshold bump
The Regal Beagle is making a quick success doing what almost all the new restaurants want to do: small plates; comfort food with a gourmet twist; a mixture of high and low; a bit of locovore, green, and slow fare; some salty fast food; interesting drinks; and scrambled nostalgia. The (newly coined) word for this is "gastro-pub," and the Regal Beagle — a Three's Company–inspired "neighborhood joint" — does it well. It's a bar that feels like someone knows your name, and tastes like someone in the kitchen knows how to cook, too.

The typical item here is represented by the excellent Regal Burger ($14) with tempura sweet-potato fries and house-made bread-and-butter pickles and onions. That's nostalgic high and low-end (bibb lettuce, starch, grease, and red meat) comfort food with a twist. The scrambled nostalgia starts with the funny name (taken from the neighborhood pub in the late-'70s sitcom), and mixes in a Frank Sinatra/Louis Armstrong soundtrack, fancy mac 'n' cheese, and cocktails from the '50s.

Food starts with good bread and great wafers with black sesame seeds, and slightly herbal butter to put on either or both. To keep down sticker shock, there are "bar bites," appetizers, entrées that could often use a side dish, a short list of wines all available by the glass, and inexpensive and unfussy desserts. It will add up, so take the edge off with some of the generous bar bites before you order the big stuff. In particular, the olives ($4) and Moroccan olives ($4) are filling treats. With the former, I found myself picking out the bright green, fresh-tasting ones. The latter are slightly sweet with Maghrebian spice, and plentiful.

Up to the appetizers, pork belly ($7) is more like something you'd get at Craigie on Main (arguably the finest g-pub in the Hub, and my restaurant of the year for 2009). If you scrape off the layer of fat, it tastes like slow-cooked brisket of beef, but what kind of person orders pork belly and scrapes off the fat? Besides, you need the fat to mellow the pickled cubes of apple that make a kind of salad on this small plate. (Or you need the apple salad to cut the fat, whatever.) For a real salad, the mixed greens ($8) is an artful combination of trimmings: a roasted pear with blue cheese, candied pecans (entirely different from Moroccan almonds), and a "pear vinaigrette" I found gritty but delicious.

Of the entrées, I loved the pan-seared scallops ($19) with a light crust, a bit of cherry glaze, and a seafood risotto with chunks of butternut squash. Lamb chops ($22) were two double chops with a remarkable amount of meat and flavor, medium rare as ordered, and similarly set off with a little pomegranate syrup and waxy roasted fingerling potatoes. The only weak idea was using chopped mint instead of mint jelly.

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