Post 390

Walking a narrow path to success
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  January 20, 2010
1.0 1.0 Stars

1001_post_main
DOUBLY GOOD The "sliver" of dark chocolate cake" was rich enough for two. And at just $3, it's a dessert idea sure to be imitated.

Post 390 | 406 stuart Street, Boston | 617.399.0015 | open Sunday–Wednesday, 11:30 am–2:30 pm and 5–11 pm; Thursday and Friday, 11:30 am–2:30 pm and 5–midnight; and Saturday, 5 pm–midnight | AE, DC, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | Valet parking, $16 | Sidewalk-level access
Another week, another gastro-pub. Okay, Post 390 technically bills itself as a Back Bay "urban tavern," and is bigger and glitzier than most, but it has the same combination of comfort food with a twist, a few bits of high cheffery, serious drinks, and playful desserts found throughout the city so frequently these days. It also has fake fireplaces with real flames that actually keep you warm. Trouble is, Post 390 aims higher, and misses more often than its gastro-pub counterparts.

At its best — the deviled egg that comes with the asparagus vinaigrette appetizer, the skirt steak with house-made fries, the carrot cake, and the chocolate desserts — Post 390 is right up there. And if those happen to be your dishes, you'll be shocked by the rest of this review. But to find one narrow path through this long minefield of a menu, we had to work through burnt flatbread, pedestrian pot stickers, greasy ribs more poached than smoked, and over-broiled salmon — a lot of problems on a menu the restaurant has been serving for three months. Post 390 (the name has something to do with the Back Bay post office that was torn down on this site) has the fashionable look and the early crowds, but you can't eat fashion, and "trendy-retro" isn't just an oxymoron like modern-traditional.

Post 390 gets cute right away with the bread: a warm baguette in a bag for every two people, along with sweet butter. Soon after, though, we're in deep yogurt, because the most exciting thing in our appetizer course is that deviled egg, made with lots of mustard, that comes with asparagus ($9). (You can order deviled eggs as a side dish for $2.50, and probably should do that.) The asparagus spears are thick, green, peeled, and not bad for how out of season they are. The vinaigrette is thick and I don't like it. New England clam chowder ($8) fails the Nadeau eyes-shut taste. You take a spoonful of pure broth and close your eyes — do you taste clam, or meat base, chicken base, or just cream? At Post 390, I taste celery, until I get actual clam and potato chunks, at which point it is an unexciting small bowl of chowder.

Grilled flatbread ($12–$13) comes in three flavors, ours being goat cheese and kalamata olive ($12.50). It's served on a large bamboo board, but it isn't a large flatbread, and the base is like half a pita — only most of it is burnt. The topping, which also has fried onions and fresh arugula, is promising — more so if the argula were in season — but the reason people like pizza is the fresh-baked bread. A freshly burnt flatbread doesn't give the same thrill. Peking duck pot stickers ($10) are an enticing idea, but the homemade fried dumplings smother any duck skin or meat inside, and the hoisin laced with blueberry doesn't have the right bite.

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