Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 21:09
The Parish Cafe and Bar has consistently proven itself to be a restaurant not content with production of the standard. Founded in 1992, owner Gordon Wilcox approached renowned chefs throughout Boston, encouraging them to design sandwiches to be featured at the restaurant. Given the homey, comfortable environment of the restaurant, one would not expect the dishes to be particularly adventurous. Upon a first taste, however, patrons will instantly find that they are eating at an establishment of true culinary excellence. The Parish Cafe has locations at both 361 Boylston St. and 493 Massachusetts Ave. This reporter dined at the location on Boylston Street in the Back Bay.
For example, Sean’s Meatball Club ($13.25) was created by the Parish Cafe’s own executive chef Sean Simmons. An exciting take on a familiar comfort food, the tender chipotle meatloaf serves only as the sandwich’s base—the chipotle aioli and smoked bacon lead the dish to a very spicy flavor. While this may be for diners with a more adventurous palette, the sandwich menu is expansive and undoubtedly can supply the right taste regardless of one’s mood and comfort level.
For those interested in entrees that are not sandwiches, the menu is not quite as extensive, but this menu is going for an attention to detail for which one would be hard to find a rival. With meticulous descriptions of each dish on the menu, diners are given an easy grasp on what ingredients are involved in their dish, but simply cannot be prepared for the level on which those ingredients will work together. Sean’s Simple Chicken ($15) must have been titled by a fairly modest chef—the dish is anything but simple. This time, the Parish Cafe provides a succulent version of the standard chicken cutlet, which, according to the menu, is “sauteed in chicken stock, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, parsley and garlic with diced tomatoes and capers.” The cutlets are satisfyingly juicy and are served over garlic mashed potatoes and baby spinach. Again, this dish brings a classic dish to new culinary levels. Save for an allergy problem, it would be unwise to ask a waiter for a dish to come without certain ingredients. The chefs at the Parish Cafe are true masters of their craft, and every ingredient is operating to make this dish work beautifully.
A dish that aligns itself with the more traditional, but is equally well-made, is the Peppered Tuna ($15). The perfectly seasoned tuna dish is cooked rare, with a side of sticky rice and grilled asparagus. While some diners may shy away from dishes typically cooked rare, it would be a shame to miss out on this dish.
For those with smaller appetites, all entrees can also come in half-orders that are usually about $8.
When it comes to appetizers and starters, there are plenty of options. While one of the Parish Cafe’s salads could serve as a meal, it’s not a bad idea to split one of the full-size salads with a fellow diner as a starter. The Harrington salad ($10.25), a Greek-style salad of romaine lettuce, features olives, feta cheese, and a lemon-olive oil dressing that does not overpower the salad’s natural ingredients. For those looking for stronger flavors in an appetizer, the Vegetable Potstickers ($10) are served with one sweet Asian dipping sauce and a spicy Chinese mustard. Both sauces are worth trying, and mix well.
If dessert is in order, diners should not miss the White Chocolate Bread Pudding ($7.75). Served warm, the dish is topped by a light and sweet whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
Adding to the comfortable environment, the Back Bay location of the Parish Cafe on Boylston Street offers outdoor seating in the fall, spring, and summer months. A friendly, engaging staff makes one feel as if every waiter and waitress is waiting on them. This is certainly an establishment at which diners should not be shy to ask any employee if they need something.
Rest assured, patrons will be more than satisfied—even exhilarated—by a dining experience at the Parish Cafe.