PUMPKIN “TORTOLONI”: Made with fresh pasta and provocative bits of apple and cheese.
In many ways, Kingston Station is an inferior version of Gaslight, which I reviewed in this space this past week. Both feature steak frites and onion soup gratinée, white tile, and a barrage of reflected noise. This apparently was not intentional: Gaslight is intended to evoke a French brasserie. Kingston Station uses the tile to evoke a subway station. And even though Kingston Station is billed as a bistro, it also serves some “fake” Chinese food, perhaps a nod to Peking Tom’s, the last restaurant in this space. I’m all for fake Chinese food, but not a block from Chinatown.
|Kingston Station | 25 Kingston Street, Boston | Open Mon–Fri, 11:30 am–2 am; and Sat, 5 pm–2 am | AE, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | No valet parking | Access up six steps from sidewalk level | 617.482.6282|
In any case, Kingston Station had such a successful bar scene on my Friday-night visit, it’s a wonder they have restaurant tables at all. That, plus smooth walls, large windows on the bar side, white wall tiles, and hardwood floors, makes it extremely loud. How loud, you ask? It’s so loud you can barely see or taste. It’s so loud it cleans your jewelry while you dine. It’s so loud they don’t need plasma TVs. It’s so loud . . . [it drowned out the rest of this sentence, even in print].
There we were amidst the noise, though, enjoying some familiar food done well. That’s important, since you’ll want to line your stomach before sampling the newly legal Kübler absinthe featured at the bar. I didn’t see Van Gogh or Edgar Allan Poe hanging out, but maybe they were home watching the basketball game.
My favorite appetizer of the evening, seared-tuna Niçoise salad ($16), was actually meant to be a dinner, and it fed several of us. You get about twice the usual seared sushi-grade tuna, plus lots of field greens, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, garlicky marinated potatoes, slices of egg, seeded olives, and green beans. Of the Chinese holdovers, go with the pork ribs ah so ($10). It’s six ribs stacked like Lincoln logs, not overdone, with a solid drippy sweet chili sauce and a side salad of red cabbage that was sweet but refreshing. Chicken wings ($8) are coated with the same sauce; it’s sweet and hot like Thai “squid sauce,” with a dip of Chinese-style mustard. Though the sauce is fine, this fake Chinese food is better if you order it the way it came in the ’60s, when it had two dipping options: sweet-and-sour and mustard.
Speaking of squid, the calamari ($11) is a little bready but crisp and tasty, though not everyone will like the dip of hotted-up salad dressing. Onion soup gratinée ($7) comes in a small crock and is too salty, but it has real onion flavor and lots of gooey cheese. Steak salad ($16), marinated steak pieces on a lot of field greens, is another light dinner.
Seared scallops ($11/appetizer; $23/entrée) are of the sea variety, though ours were strongly flavored, as if they were nearly past their peak. They were served with lemon risotto, which was creamy and well made, with a nice flavor of lemon peel and not too much crunch. Steak frites ($26) — well, I was spoiled at Gaslight. The version here is a small sirloin, which might have been better had it come to the table medium-rare, as ordered. The fries, made with rosemary and a lot of sea salt, were good; to be great, more potato flavor is required.
Organic chicken ($21) is cooked under a brick, and, for a boneless breast, this was an excellent treatment. It was perhaps the best of our entrées. The skin was burned but the meat was tender and juicy, with as much flavor as chicken breast can have. The sides of fingerling potatoes, cress, and tomatoes were all fine. Pumpkin “tortoloni” ($17) — basically, large tortellini — was right up there. Vegans take note: they will make this without the pancetta, which is Italian bacon. Either way, these are big and made with fresh pasta, a pumpkin filling not too sweet, and provocative bits of apple and cheese.
The wine list follows the new trend of (very confusing) four-size pricing. A glass of 2006 Chinon Rosé, from Hardouin ($7/glass; $12/half carafe; $24/carafe; $30/bottle), was crisp and dry, flavored more like red than white wine, but it went well with all kinds of food. It would probably have more aroma in a real wine glass rather than the bistro-style tumbler in which it’s served. Coke ($2) was unusually thin; I don’t think the bar had properly set up the soda machine. And decaf ($3) with dessert was good but not great.