Artisan Bistro Spurs a Ritz Renaissance
by mat schaffer
photographs by andy ryan
Has it really been a decade since The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common opened its doors?
Back then the hotel was constantly compared to its legendary older sister on the corner of Arlington and Newbury Streets—for 80 years, the place where Bostonians would go to celebrate family occasions, eat Thanksgiving dinner, or finalize a business deal, and maybe catch a glimpse of guests like Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, or Orson Welles.
With the move across town, the hostelry, long known for its traditional opulence, confused many Bostonians with its contemporary décor. The autograph seekers who gathered outside, hoping to waylay visiting sports teams like the Yankees or film stars like Kate Hudson, Mel Gibson, and Robert De Niro, were a further deterrent.
Nor did the younger Ritz have the same culinary cachet as its distinguished sibling. Jer-Ne, its oddly named dining room, never recovered from the critical drubbing it received for its East-meets-West menu, which featured what seemed to be nuked papadums and bottled sauces.
This 10-year anniversary marks a new beginning for the “new” Ritz, which, with the sale of the Back Bay property in 2007 to Taj Hotels, became the only Ritz in town. Indeed, the hotel is staking a claim to its heritage by legally dropping “Common” from its name.
This summer the hotel completed extensive lobby renovations and debuted Avery Bar, a horseshoe-shaped marble bar where guests can enjoy craft cocktails or a light bite in a cozy lounge setting. In September, the former Jer-Ne was replaced with Artisan Bistro—a 76-seat restaurant with fabulous eats served with the graciousness and personalized attention for which Ritz hotels are famous.
|Seared diver scallops with Maine lobster risotto|
At Artisan Bistro, the Ritz opulence of yesteryear has been replaced with 21st-century understated elegance. Decorated with a bleached wooden floor, white leather banquettes, and zinc-patina bar, the restaurant evokes an upscale Parisian bistro. The deliberately small menu, under the supervision of chef de cuisine Adam Kube, roams from France and the Mediterranean to New England. The creamy clam chowder from the old Ritz Café is here, along with a lighter but no less delicious chicken potpie, studded with potatoes and peas, under puff pastry. I was smitten with succulently moist, roasted monkfish on a “cassoulet” of stewed beans and roasted tomatoes, infused with saffron butter.
Daily specials include pork Milanese and duck confit papardelle. There’s roasted leg of lamb with eggplant-tomato stew and spiced basmati rice—as opposed to the rack of lamb carved tableside at the old Ritz. The eightounce Vermont cheddar cheeseburger is already a much-requested dish. So, too, are Old Bay-seasoned potato chips and rice pudding.
Artisan Bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; its first two meals of the day are popular with the business community, while dinner attracts an all-ages crowd of foodies, theatergoers, and a youthful club set. You’ll be equally at home in jeans or formalwear. After all, this isn’t your father’s Ritz-Carlton—it’s yours. Artisan Bistro, 10 Avery St., 617-574-7176; ritzcarlton.com/boston