Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Rolls are Just the Start: Lineage, Brookline

They churn their own butter. This alone may not be reason to go to a restaurant, however, this level of detail defined two different visits to Lineage. Both meals offered wonderful food and for prices that are relatively reasonable considering the care that goes into each dish.

The meal starts with a roll. Sure, sounds common enough. Except that these rolls are made each day with Lisa Sewall’s own brioche recipe. Topped with sea salt they are served warm with the incredible butter. Those rolls and a salad could make for a perfect meal. And, in fact, it was clear that some people were doing just that at the bar.

However, this was my birthday meal, so my lovely guest (my mom) and I indulged. I started with a unique drink, the Cornucopia. It was created by Bartender and Bar Manager Ryan Lotz for the Pie in the Sky Cocktail Challenge. He starts by grinding roasted pecans to a powder. He then simmered them in a simple syrup with vanilla, cloves, allspice and ginger. This syrup is blended with Maker’s Mark to create a beverage that was reminiscent of spiked warm cider. It was perfect on a chilly fall night.

I had to start with the Island Creek Oysters. Owner Jeremy Sewall just opened the Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square. Farmed in Duxbury, a recent Boston Magazine article pointed out that chefs prize the oysters for their…However, I was taken with their plumpness and pure taste.

My mom and I both raved about our salads. We typically order dressing on the side, but here we let Lineage make the call. And both were perfectly topped. I had a salad with Scott’s Farm Honeycrisp apples, thinly sliced endive and radicchio, Marcona almonds and candied ginger. My mother chose the Equinox Farm’s Filed greens, local radishes and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. However, she asked them to substitute roasted beets for the candied walnuts that were listed on the menu. Not only were they happy to oblige, but, my mother’s instinct was right-it was a lovely combination.

For her main dish, mom ordered the Rosemary and Garlic Marinated Flat Iron Steak. It was served with crimini mushrooms, baby spinach, parsnips, caramelized onions and red wine sauce. We both loved our first tastes. The steak was cooked medium rare and was seasoned perfectly. The vegetables were wonderful. However, the meat was plated on a creamy sauce (parsnips perhaps), that made the dish, ultimately, too rich. And, in fact, the dish didn’t need such a heavy sauce to enhance the simplicity of the produce.

My dish, however, was spot-on. I had the panko crusted Gulf of Maine Cod. It was served with Baby Beluga Lentils, chunks of lobster, celery root puree and lobster roe oil. The Cod was as moist and tender as possible. The oil played up the sweetness of the lobster, without dominating the dish. And the tiny lentils, reminiscent of caviar, added a nutty and earthy texture to the dish.

For desserts, we ordered their classic: Butterscotch pudding, made from scratch, of course, and served with candied pecans and whipped cream. Remarkably, it wasn’t too sweet and despite being full, we couldn’t stop digging in our spoons and licking them clean. We also tried the cranberry sorbet. It was luscious, smooth and refreshing. Bizarrely it tasted of grapefruit, even though our waiter informed us that it was pure cranberry. In any case it was a tart respite from the weight of the other dishes.

Both times my visits were characterized by wonderful wait service. The waiters were informative and friendly, but never hovering or obsequious. Somehow that seems to be a hard balance to find in most restaurants.

Perhaps it is my circle of friends, but when I mentioned Lineage as my dinner locale of choice, most replied, “Really? Never been? How is it?” That being said, they were also honored as one of Boston Magazine’s top 50 restaurants. All I know is this: I will be back, even if it is just for those rolls!

Lineage, 242 Harvard Street, Brookline


  1. Happy Birthday! I love oysters and you made my day with the first picture in your blog post. I cannot believe I am craving oysters on a half shell so early in the morning.

  2. What a wonderful review! I've never been to Lineage either but you make me want to check it out!