Mistral: A Refreshing Gust of Southern France
Once again, while home in Boston for the holidays, I had an exceptional meal, this time at local favorite Mistral. Considering my recent string of remarkable meals in Beantown, I should probably just accept that Boston has moved from hokey steakhouse dining to hot new hub of the culinary arts.
A few short steps from the Mass Pike, Mistral is not-so-ideally situated in the outskirts of the South End. If it weren’t for its great reputation, this top-notch dining hub would most certainly fade away into the neighboring dingy brick buildings hugging the turnpike. However, despite the unfortunate location, the space itself is airy and refreshing with soaring ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, luminescent lighting, and Provencal touches such as authentic French pottery items. It is almost atrium-like with well-spaced tables and floral flourishes.
The food is as elegant as the restrained and sophisticated atmosphere. Thoroughly Provencal-influenced, expect funky and fun flatbread pizzas, twists on classic French dishes like foie gras, escargots, dover sole meuniere, and a steak au poivre, and Italian-flecked sirloin and mushroom carpaccios, linguine, and black truffle macaroni. The menu clearly looks to blend various Mediterranean flavors together while emphasizing local proteins and ingredients, where possible.
My family, inspired and excited by the menu, tucked into the foie gras, sirloin carpaccio, and butternut squash bisque in a pastry bowl for starters. The sirloin carpaccio was heaven-sent – thinly sliced, so soft that it tasted like butter, and topped with sharp Parmesan cheese; the foie gras was rich, accompanied by cherry gastrique and duck confit in a brioche; and the squash soup was delightfully interactive with a classic pastry ‘bread bowl.’ With the entree courses, I assuaged my own personal love for pizza by ordering the beef tenderloin and mashed potato flatbread (how could you go wrong?). It was revelatory – seriously. Fresh and tender cuts of meat with heaps of chive-spiced mashed potatoes, all of which was slathered in White Truffle oil (!!), teased and tantalized me through 4 whole pieces. My mother went for the eternally classic whole Dover Sole ‘meuniere’ which she loved, despite the massive portion. My brother, even with his voracious teenage boy appetite, left some of his decadent beef short ribs stranded in the pot. Full-flavored and piping hot, the short ribs just melted off the bone in their braised glory. My father stepped out of his ‘comfort zone’ with the pan-roasted cod “aux crevettes” with shrimp & artichoke risotto. An unusual yet marvelous dish, it too came large enough to feed a small army.
Mistral charms and seduces with its mellow elegance and haute cuisine. It blends successfully the feel of an expensive restaurant with that of a comfortable and welcoming bistro to create a place fit for everything from celebratory special occasions to business dining to a fun night out (if not pricey night out) with friends. After such a marvelous meal with my family, I can understand why Mistral is a hometown favorite.