Dinner at Clio.

Kelly and Nancy invited us out to dinner to celebrate Nancy’s birthday; though there was much discussion regarding the restaurant, ultimately Clio won out in the end.

Once we were seated, we placed our cocktail orders — I settled on the Ginkgo-bai, which is as fun to say as it is to drink. Described as a mixture of “plum-infused sake and Asian pear sake with mountain peach and a sugared rim,” it is absolutely delicious… and incredibly strong. Kelly was the only one of our group who chose one of Clio’s liquid nitrogen cocktails; at eighteen dollars, it raises the question: is a chemically-infused cocktail worth its price tag? If the nitrogen makes a difference to the quality of the drink, my vote is yes. However, if it is novelty for novelty’s sake… to quote The Wizard of Oz, that’s a horse of a different color. Was Kelly’s cocktail better mine, or Nancy’s, or Keith’s? Clearly it’s a matter of taste, but I don’t think any amount of nitrogen could have made another drink as tasty as mine.

As I’ve said before, I admittedly have the tendency waffle when in front of an appetizing menu. In this instance, it was the choices for first course that had me flip-flopping. Did I want the special, a cassolette of sea urchin and lobster? Or the foie roulade? Considering my love of foie, one would think the foie would easily blow past the urchin; actually, I weighed the pros and cons for quite a bit before finally deciding on the liver, which was served with smoked beef tongue, red apple and “grains of paradise,” and came with a mini “shooter” of apple essence ($23.00). The liver-tongue combination was fantastic — earthy, rich and densely flavorful — but the thick, candy-colored syrup was far too medicinal for my taste. The shooter, though, was a great palate-cleanser.

While I yoyo-ed over the appetizer, I experienced no indecision when it came time to select my entrée, for nothing on the menu called out to me. For want of anything else, I chose the kabayaki-glazed short ribs ($38.00), and was terribly disappointed. Though the presentation was pretty — I particularly liked the looks of the tiny, purple-veined leaf floating alone at the bottom of the plate — the short ribs were truly lacking. Where was the flavor? If anything, I should have tasted the saltiness of the soy, but even that was missing. Granted, the meat was so tender that a knife was superfluous, but I would have rather sawed into a savory brick than eaten something so bland that fell apart at the merest touch. To be fair, the razor clams, the greens and the purple Okinawa sweet potato purée were practically sublime; why wasn’t the dish composed solely of this? I couldn’t even bring myself to finish what was on my plate, and foisted my picked-over meat on Keith and Nancy.

Disenchanted, I tried to cheer myself up with the thought of dessert… only to be let down again. Like the entrée before it, the milk chocolate palet d’or ($11.00) was dazzlingly pretty on the plate; the entire dish literally glittered, from the artful golden swirl to the encased chocolate custard. Even the tangerine and white beer sorbets seemed to glisten. My taste buds, on the other hand, were not blinded by the glow — except when it came to the wonderful citrus sorbet. I would have be thrilled to receive a dish comprised exclusively of that, and to have not had to bother with anything else. The beer sorbet tasted flat and metallic (unintentional, I’m sure), and the chocolate was duller than ditch water.

To top it all off, the service was uneven. Nothing bothers me more than waitstaff who ignore their tables for most of the meal, only to reappear, attentive as a mother hen, just prior to delivering the bill. If that’s not a poorly disguised ploy for a princely tip, I don’t know what is. I have yet to fall for it.

370 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02215

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