I usually refrain from using the word hip, what with being a New Yorker born in the mid-80s and all. But I’m going to say it now, Dorchester Center’s Ashmont Grill restaurant is one hip and happening spot. I mean damn, the place simply oozes charisma. It’s just hip, there I said it.
Red line: Ashmont
Arriving an hour before our table will be ready, my dear friend Gina (yes, we rhyme) and I head to the bar area to the only two remaining seats. You’ve got to be hip if your Dorchester restaurant is kicking at 6:30 p.m. on a random and freezing Thursday in early January.
The bartender even had pizzazz, a fiery woman serving up drinks, laughs and snide jokes to her regulars seated next to us. The best part was being made to feel like a regular during our first visit. Gina started out with an Antioxitini, a fun and colorful tongue-twister made with pomegranate and berry liquors and juices. Light, refreshing and good for you what more do you really need in a cocktail? I myself started out with a Pineapple Cosmpolitan which was also too good to be true. The bartender, and mistress of ceremony it seemed, served up everything with flare and even pointed out her beloved award hanging up on the side of the bar that named her as Best Bartender for two recent years in Boston Magazine. As we chatted with the friendly locals and each other we were at ease, truly enjoying a slowed-down night out, something I rarely get and something that is hard to find in Boston.
We ordered a second round, a Peartini for me and Christmas Punch for my buddy topped with a mint leaf and pomegranate seeds to resemble mistletoe. The bartender overheard me saying how much I love pomegranate seeds in salads and whipped out her Tupperware and placed a spoonful in my hand, talk about feeling like a regular. My delicious pear cocktail was perfect and tasted like real pear, legitimately one of my all time favorite fruits and was adorned with a giant wedge of Bartlett. Yum-my.
We were shown to our table by the hostess and met our delightfully upbeat and hilarious waiter (I guess I just think he’s hilarious because he laughed at all my ridiculous comments and chimed in with his own jokes). We had been studying the menu for awhile, a few days before our visit actually to get technical (what else are you going to do at work) and decided we were going to have to get the Train Wreck Fries ($8), a hefty portion of hand-cut fries smothered in melted jack cheese, with bacon, jalapenos, sour cream and scallions. I think the "smothered" part of that sentence is a bit of an exaggeration as it was more "lightly coated" with melted jack cheese. And I ordered a side of sour cream to make up for the amount given which between two sour cream lovers is most definitely not enough. I also was intrigued by the sound of the Beer Battered Shrimp with creole tartar sauce appetizer offering ($10). These are not your ordinary battered and fried shrimp, these are ample crustaceans fresh, delicious and battered to perfection and served with a tangy and slightly smoky dipping sauce I couldn’t get enough of. Yes there were only four shrimp with the order, but the quality of the seafood makes the price understandable and is worth coming back for.
I don’t usually eat red meat since I honestly don’t have the time or patience to make it on any kind of regular basis so I decided to indulge, as I often do when someone else is cooking for me, and ordered the 12 oz Flank Steak ($20). I wanted medium rare but since I knew my dear friend Gina would be needing a bite or two I went ahead and ordered it medium. Much to my delight it was cooked perfectly and while I would’ve personally enjoyed it rare it pleased both of us and had enough pieces with beautifully near-pink centers that I was happy. It was seasoned-well and cooked perfectly to our desire, the two most attractive characteristics I look for in a desirable steak (and mate but that’s a whole other story). My entree was served with a huge portion of creamy garlic mashed potatoes, red wine butter and sauteed baby spinach. There wasn’t one aspect of my meal I didn’t like except I do wish there was a bigger portion of the spinach it was cooked so well and I loved it. And while I couldn’t finish the entire serving, I had the perfect amount of leftovers for lunch the next day.
Gina got the New England Pasture Raised Burger ($12), made with local pasture raised beef and served with cheese, mushrooms or grilled onions. Having not realized the "or" in the description meant she would have had to ask for mushrooms and grilled onions in addition to the cheese her burger arrived sans accouterments, but when she asked the waiter if she could have some he promptly was able to fulfill my needy friends wishes. She also got a side of the garlic mashed potatoes ($4) because she couldn’t resist, and who honestly could if it doesn’t come with your meal. We also decided to indulge in the Classic Macaroni and Cheese side ($5) which was served piping hot, so hot in fact we had to let the air circulate and let the dish settle for more than five minutes before we could jump in. It’s a classic, no-fills macaroni cheese that was good, but not stellar as was nearly everything else thus far.
For dessert I was all prepared to order the Chocolate Pear Upside Down Cake which I had seen on the online menu but alas they were not serving it. I settled for a new Lemon Tart served with Blueberry Compote which was delicious. I’m not a huge fan of crust and there was a substantial amount, but the tart lemon filling was balanced perfectly with the sweet and not-to-rich blueberry topping. We also ordered the Chocolate Brownie Sundae, nothing short of a delight. Rich, thick brownie topped with two kinds of ice cream including coffee was decadent and reminiscent of childhood desserts and frivolity. Oh, to be young again. Sigh.
Replicating the successful model used bi-annually by American Express, eight participating restaurants will each offer "show off" three-course dinners for $30.10 in addition to their usual menu offerings. This reasonably-priced restaurant experience is one that I know well, and something that could really help boost the visibility of not only Ashmont Grill but some of the other great under-known spots in both Dorchester and Milton. The Dorchester-Milton Restaurant Week will run January 17-31 excluding Friday and Saturday nights. Other restaurants participating include 224, 88 Wharf, Abby Park, Blarney Stone, Dbar, Ledge, and Tavolo. I highly recommend booking early for the upcoming Restaurant Week.
So indulge in a new hot spot at a great price for a three-course meal. Who knew these couture-quality gems were hiding in Dorchester Center and Milton, the unlikeliest of places. Now you do, so live long, prosper, and eat well.