Generally, when my friend Darlington and I get together, we hang out in the same areas: Havard Square, Back Bay and the South End. This past Thursday we thought it was time to mix things up a bit, so we headed down to the waterfront; we knew the ICA was open not only late but also for free after five.
Once we decided on the museum, I wanted to make sure there was someplace in the vicinity where we could drop in afterwards for a bite. For almost a year now, I’d been hearing whispers about a new place opening in nearby Fort Port Channel that would ultimately be part boutique, part eatery; recently articles started popping up detailing The Achilles Project, so I knew that the time had come to see if anything could live up to twelve months worth of hype.
The restaurant at Achilles is called Persephone, but before we even approached the hostess to be seated, we had to slide our hands up and down each and every garment hanging up inside the glass-and-steel clothing cases. I’m neither going to lie about nor defend my practically fatal weakness for clothes, but I will say that I was absolutely drawn to a gorgeous tuxedo-style blazer from Alexander McQueen‘s McQ line. I could barely keep my grabby little fingers away from it. And to think, for just under six hundred dollars, it could be mine…
Even though it was difficult, we made ourselves move past the apparel and into Persephone, where we settled into the pair of Emeco chairs at our slatted wood table. The menu is meant to have a Mediterranean twist, but I felt it leaned more toward the Spanish and the French — unsurprising, considering chef Michael Leviton‘s resume includes Le Bernardin, Le Cirque and his own Lumière in Newton.
In a sort of cute spin on the fashion-meets-food concept, the dishes at Persephone are divided not into the normal categories of appetizer and entrée, but rather into small, medium, large and extra-large — just like the sizes of, say, a T-shirt. Our waitress — I didn’t see any waiters — explained that the smalls were literally bite-sized, and that the extra-larges were meant as generous portions for two.
“We can give you a doggie bag though!” she said.
Darlington and I both chose to order from the mediums, then split a side dish. I went with the Roasted Northeast Family Farms Beef Marrow Bone ($12.00), which was served with a parsley and caper salad and grilled bread; in the covered container was a coarse-grained mustard.
Now, before I start in on describing the marrow, is it just me, or is it almost precious, attributing an ingredient to a specific farm? The entire listing at Persephone — and at Lumière as well — is full of such references, and I always feel as though these sorts of descriptives bog a menu down.
Onto the marrow… Darlington is a vegetarian, so I asked her if she would be terribly disgusted if I were to order it; though she said she would be fine, we were both surprised to see the huge bone that was placed in front of me. I felt like a kid in a butcher’s shop; I love marrow. My mother makes an amazing osso bucco, and when I was growing up we used to fight over who would get to suck the marrow out of the veal shanks’ bones. I had, however, never had a quantity of marrow such as this, nor had I ever spread it over a piece of toast like so much butter. As I ate, I kicked myself for have never eaten it like this before, because it was fantastic: salty, meaty and soft.
The parsley and caper combination was equally tasty. Why does parsley so frequently get looked over as nothing more than garnish? This salad was simple, green and crisp, and the perfect companion to the rich and fatty marrow. I’m sorry I can’t say the same of the mustard, which I found to be shot through with such an amount of horseradish that I couldn’t really get any pleasure out of eating it.
“So many kinds,” she said, “and it has a Parmesan-breadcrumb crust.”
That crust was the most delicious aspect of the plate (or should I say skillet?). It was savory and crunchy, and I ate my half of the crust before finishing what it blanketed. The rest of the mac and cheese was kind of generic; Darlington and I even started discussing our favorite Annie’s boxed pastas while eating it. (For the record, I like the Peace Pasta & Parmesan, and Darlington is partial to the Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar.) While Persephone’s mac and cheese was lacking in flavor, I will say that the consistency and texture was lovely — smooth, silky and not at all overly oozey.
We were so pleasantly full that neither Darlington nor I could even imagine ordering a dessert. Good thing, that; with the check arrived a pair of chocolate-pomegranate truffles. Though I wasn’t quite able to taste the pomegranate, the truffle had a hint of bitterness that was really nice. It was the perfect amount of sweetness after such a meal.
Do Persephone and Achilles live up to the hype? I like to think so. I wasn’t wowed beyond belief by the comestibles or the clothing, but I did enjoy both very much. The space itself — with its bare brick walls, industrial-chic garment cases and ultra-cool sliding metal tables — is absolutely stunning. The music (Thom Yorke) set a cool, moody ambiance, and the fact that there was a Wii set up in the lounge added an incredible element of fun. So will I be back? Most definitely. And maybe, if I’m lucky, that tuxedo jacket will be on sale.
The Achilles Project
283 Summer Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02210