BELIEVE THE HYPE: The Gallows’ farmer’s platter features an assortment of splendid fare from across the region, delivering on the promise of locovore goodness.
|The Gallows | 1395 Washington Street, South End | 617.425.0200 | Open daily, 5–11 pm | AE, MC, VI | Full bar | No valet parking | Sidewalk level access|
I think this gastropub thing is keeper, if we can just find it a more appetizing name. And the Gallows, while its kitchen can execute, also needs a better name. The Boston hanging hill was across Washington Street and up toward downtown, but that was more than 300 years ago. There's nothing morbid or goth inside this spiffed-up bar of re-planed wormy-white cedar barn boards. Chef Seth Morrison (ex-Vee Vee) does the comfort-food thing but then goes gourmand on a locovore theme. The true test of locovores is February, not August, but with a steadier hand on the salt shaker, Morrison could be, well, killer.
Something as simple as an appetizer of "Allendale Farm Tomatoes" ($12) not only includes white, green, Cherokee purple, and regular red beefsteak tomatoes at their August best, but also three kinds of cherry tomatoes, one of which, with a kind of striped, swirled skin, may be the greatest tomato I've ever tasted. The chef cuts these perhaps not so precisely as a sushi chef, but with some attention.
Heirloom tomatoes also appeared on the farmer's platter ($14), along with a truly splendid Berkshire Blue cheese from Lenox, a salad of tomatoes and Narragansett Creamery fresh mozzarella, curried peaches (unripe but a lively hot curry flavor), cured olives ($3 a la carte), lightly pickled grilled eggplant slices, lightly pickled carrot sticks ($4 a la carte), and a cup with some Allendale honey. A lot of sources and names, but the flavors justify the hype. The crusty bread, soft inside, is from B&R in Framingham. Grilled sausage ($6) was good and possibly house-made, but not special. Chowder ($10) had lobster, clam meat, mussel meat, and sliced potatoes in a bisque-like broth with cream, sherry, and pepper.
On an earlier visit, "local wild chicken mushrooms" ($12) used the toughness of these large, fronded fungi to broil up with barbecue sauce. A longshoreman platter ($18) has rillettes of striped bass without enough salt to cover a bit of fishiness, and a firm bluefish pâté ($5 a la carte) that was likewise a little bland, plus an excellent caponata, bean salad from local shell beans, olives, and a mild aioli dip for some pickled vegetables.
At the other extreme of salt, an "altajena" ($22, and the correct Portuguese is "Alentejana") had lovely littleneck clams and crisped new potatoes in the sauce of slow-braised pork with cumin and pepper, but so much salt we didn't even soak up more than half of it with the bread. Mussels ($12) was a big bowl of plump ones in what — when you got down to it — was a salty tomato broth, but that's expected in this dish.
Poutine ($9/traditional), the second-leading cause of cardiac death in Quebec, comes traditional or in three gussied-up platters. Since it starts with a lot of French fries (good, not amazing), this is comfort food, not diet food. The original topping of gloopy gravy and farmer's white cheese is as far as we were willing to go.