Eastern Standard Prepares Wide Variety
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01
In the effort to develop a unique personality of a restaurant, many venues throw themselves off a cliff of caricature. They become chained to either high-end cuisine—complete with obscene prices, unpronounceable dishes, and waiters who disdain to explain the meal—or low-end grub that is hugely (and incomprehensibly) over-portioned, highly unhealthy, and characterized by rushed service emphasizing table turnover. However, Eastern Standard brushes its menu, decor, and waitstaff with moderation, fashioning itself as a flexible experience to satisfy any craving.
One of two restaurants for the Commonwealth Hotel, Eastern Standard’s plush decor has rich scarlet hues and wood paneling all around the spacious dining room, with artistic flares finishing off theMad Men atmosphere. Much like the show’s alternation between business, class, and revelry, the menu shows a tremendous range of character from unreal sea-salt French fries to an endlessly succulent foie gras atop brioche supplemented by figs and hazelnuts that twist the delicate meat with a sucrose finish. Eastern Standard’s most acclaimed dish, though, is their extremely unique roasted bone marrow. Juxtaposed with the grilled cheese that is also on the menu, patrons might be hesitant to try such an adventurous dish from a restaurant that does not put itself on a pedestal of high-end cuisine, but a singular piece of the bone marrow (which is best described as a savory butter) spread on toast with the hazelnut gremolata would win over even the strongest apprehensions.
Main plates again appeal to any palate, price range, and culinary whim. An inexpensive burger or roast beef sandwich are the simplest offerings, but collaborating executive chef Jeremy Sewall does not let those sit unadorned, instead adding an especially tangy (in the best way possible) horseradish mayo to compliment the roast beef. For those who want to continue the more adventurous track that lay before them, the apple wood smoked pork porterhouse is a sensational plate with bitterness seasoning it because of the adorning greens and apple. However, the baked rigatoni is perhaps the epitome of Eastern Standard’s combined touch of home-cooked and high-class. The idea is simple and familiar: soft pasta topped with meat and cheese. It is the parts with which Sewall creates this whole dish that really amaze, however. The ricotta is whipped lighter and fluffier than a typical ricotta, mixing perfectly into the undefined "pink sauce" (not the mystery sauce of a cafeteria, but rather the guarded recipe that completes this dish). Alternating with this texture, the lamb sausage is perfectly seasoned and ground rather finely to incorporate throughout the rigatoni, rather than simply being dropped onto the pasta in larger chunks.
And while it is impossible to show restraint in the face of such a fantastic dinner, the desserts hold their own and break away from the familiar into the realm of tarts and puddings. Either the sticky toffee pudding or butterscotch bread pudding are enough to tempt, topped with milk chocolate and praline ice creams, respectively. But the Anjou pear tart is the true star of the final course as a unique assimilation of flavors that center around the tangy, buttermilk panna cotta. A quite recent addition to the menu, the dark chocolate tart is a midnight burst of flavor cut by strong espresso ice cream that is simply irresistible, even if it is often too rich to finish.
Its unique personality (and exceptional cocktail menu) is enough to gain a significant following of repeat offenders at Eastern Standard, but they don’t rest on their laurels in that regard. They make sure that patrons have a new option on almost every visit with daily specials, a late night menu, and outstanding brunch. The only problem is deciding which meal you want to spend with them—or just stay all day.