The Stork Club

Jazz and soul team up to make sweet music
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  September 23, 2009
2.0 2.0 Stars

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THE BURGER IS KING: A house-made Angus burger, topped with onion rings, quality cheese, and optional meaty, smoky bacon, is the stunner of the entrées.

The Stork Club | 604 Columbus Avenue, Boston | 617.391.0256 | Open Daily, 5:30 pm –1 am | AE, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | No valet parking | Access up two steps from sidewalk level
Remember Circle: Plates and Lounge? The Stork Club has succeeded that short-lived restaurant and bar, which succeeded Bob's Southern Bistro, itself the recast version of Bob the Chef's. Some token soul food remains on the menu here, but we have clearly jumped from Boston's leading African-American-owned restaurant to a jazz-inspired nightclub/restaurant named after a famous New York hotspot that, while not technically segregated, was notoriously inhospitable to black celebrities.

The food, while a bit busy and on my visit sometimes over-salted or overly reliant on hot pepper, is generally fine. It's a pleasant place for an early dinner, though the live music (mostly jazz) doesn't start until 8 or 9. The bar-type menu is a fine match for music, too.

If your clothes aren't too jazzy, you could risk the yellow-tomato gazpacho ($8), an excellent version of the acidulated raw soup with pretty swirls of basil oil and bit of cream at the center. A salad of arugula, roasted figs, caramelized walnuts, and shaved parmesan ($10) worked despite all those disparate ingredients ? the cut-up figs seemingly fresh, the walnuts perhaps not so caramelized, the dressing excellent.

Rock shrimp and ginger spring rolls ($13) were unfortunately too stodgy and the flavor of Maine rock shrimp was lost. With two dips (soy and citric), this dish could be fixed, perhaps by a consultant from Southeast Asia. Spice-cured country ribs ($12) were just eight baked ribs in the Boston style, meatier and neater than at either version of Bob's, but in reasonable solidarity. The sauce, "Prickly Pear BBQ," doesn't taste like cactus, but does taste peppery, so okay.

The stunner of the entrées was the handmade Angus burger ($12; add $1 for bacon). It comes with excellent French fries ? tops, in fact, in every category except crispness ? that are truffle seasoned and taste like real potatoes. The chef is smart enough not to make the ketchup from scratch. Do have the bacon, which is thick, meaty, smoky, and crisp.

Fried chicken, which Bob the Chef's did really well, is not at all bad here. The boned breast isn't badly dried out, and the buttermilk batter and white sauce give it Southern credibility. I found the biscuit on the side to be of too high quality, especially if you are used to more white sauce and baking-powder flavor. The collard greens are lemony rather than smoky, and have a bit of chew. So this is modernized soul food ? but in a good way.

Pan-seared wild salmon ($17) is the real thing, and not overcooked despite the leaner flesh of the free-run fish. Still, our piece was quite salty. A rice salad underneath was also lemon-acidic, though this platter had the best greens of the night. (A side dish of spinach, $6, was as sour as the collards.)

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