Persephone

Fit for the gods
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  May 28, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars
CRW_9599INSIDE2
AMBROSIA: The spare ribs were yummy, with a sauce that hints at sesame and anise.

Persephone | 617.695.2257 | 283 Summer Street, Boston | Open Mon–Sat, 5:30–10 pm | AE, DI, MC, VI |  Full bar | No valet parking | Access up several steps to main level | Sidewalk entrance at 281 Summer Street
I don’t know what it is with restaurants in high-end clothing stores, but Persephone is the best restaurant I’ve reviewed since . . . well, the opening of the lamented Pava, located in another haute fashion place. You get to Persephone by walking through the Achilles part of the Achilles Project, which is the kind of boutique where there’s only one of each garment on the racks, and that garment is a size zero (for women) or an extra-small (for men). I suppose that reduces inventory shrinkage, since most people — including anyone who likes food enough to be on their way to eat at Persephone — will have to request that a much larger size be brought out from storage.

Once past the Scylla of designer clothing and the Charybdis of plasma TVs, situated high up in the middle of the room and set up to display sports and video games, you have a choice of lounge seating and dining tables, both in an airy room designed for industrial chic (and din). (Okay, I know: Achilles is in the Iliad and Scylla and Charybdis are in the Odyssey. But Achilles and Persephone don’t go together, either.) The menu, unlike the store, has various sizes: small, which are tapas or bar bites; medium, which are appetizers in the familiar sense; large, which are entrées, though they sometimes need a steak-house-like side vegetable; and extra-large, which are protein slabs for two (or perhaps one XXL athlete).

We kept to the middle, and were perhaps knocked out most by the soup of the day ($8), asparagus purée. Every time I try to make asparagus soup, it’s overpowered by concentrated asparagus flavor, but this soup had a mellower, almost nut-like quality. Fresh bread with a thick crumb worked as well as a spoon. A seared scallop ($9) was impeccable, and the underlying fresh peas and finely diced carrots were beyond that. Arugula salad ($9) was, in every sense, just slightly better than the usual, from the delicious greens to the shaved cheese and the surprise of a few green fava beans. Spareribs ($9) — usually not a food associated with fine clothing — were very nicely baked with a barbecue sauce that hinted at sesame and anise. It was too yummy to spill a drop on our clothes.

The winning large plate was roast chicken ($19). If a simple roast chicken is the test of a chef, Michael Leviton, who’s also chef/owner of Newton’s Lumière, goes to the top of the heap. This was super, juicy chicken, served on top of arugula, pine nuts, raisins, and a toast or two. About as good was “Niman Ranch bavette steak” ($25). I associate Niman with pork, but their beef must be even more amazing, because this potentially stringy cut (bavette is French for flap steak) was here fork-tender and exquisite. The accompanying lightly seasoned French fries are the frites of the year.

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