Cultivar [Boston, MA]

I met an out-of-town friend for dinner at Cultivar last night. I had suggested it after reading the glowing review in Boston Magazine but after making the reservation I read further reviews that were decidedly mixed so I was I bit concerned. I needn’t have been. The service (which had been dinged in several reviews) was both flawless and delightful. Every single thing we ate was delicious. The place was hopping both inside and out on the patio on a steamy hot August Tuesday evening. The room was colorful and the seats comfortable. But man oh man was it LOUD. Like can’t-hear-the-waitress loud.

Bread and butter came first, delicious little yeasted rolls with a flavored butter, served beautifully on a slab of wood. Then smoked local bluefish gorgeously plated with a tangle of thinly sliced fennel, delicious chunks of a tiny cucumber, huckleberries (ruby red and quite tart, serving as the acidic element), soft green herbs and large shards of insanely thin and crispy toast. I would happily eat that over and over, the elements all came together perfectly (and boy do I love smoked bluefish). Next beef tartare on a bed of creamy yogurt, with beets and I can’t remember what else (and their online menu really does not resemble the menu last night) and nice crispy things to pile it on. Extremely tasty but my DC loved it so much that I relinquished much of it to her and polished off the bluefish which was no hardship. Finally we got the chicken ballotine (pictured) that has been raved about. It was indeed all that. The chicken had been boned out, stuffed with chicken sausage, rolled and roasted to perfection: moist and tender inside and picture-perfect crispy dark skin on the outside. (We entertained ourselves thinking of the person who bones out 15 or 20 whole chickens every day and how fast they must have gotten at it.) It was served on wheat berries with grilled green and white asparagus, braised cippolini onions, soft green herbs and delicious jus. It would normally also have had strawberries (and boy would that be pretty!) but for my stupid allergy. I am beyond thrilled that there was plenty left over for my dinner tonight. We enjoyed a very crisp, dry, pale salmon pink rosé that my friend selected but I don’t remember what it was, sorry.

I am very glad we went, enjoyed everything we consumed, and will probably never go back. It was too loud and too pricy. For a splurgy meal I would rather go to SRV and get the tasting menu. Having said that, if I found myself downtown of an early evening I could see sitting at the bar and getting that smoked bluefish and a glass of wine and getting out before the sound really ratcheted up. That bluefish, with all its salad-y accompaniments, was simply amazing, one of the best things I have eaten in a very, very long time.


I had a similar impression recently, great food, not a good value. But, the dessert I had was unbelievably awesome (it was a kind of deconstructed panna cotta with currant sauce) and would go to be bar just for that!

1 Like

Very nice review. Thanks.

1 Like

You had me at smoked bluefish. Thanks for the review!