SRV [South End, Boston, MA]

Last night was SRV’s “Opening Night” for their charming back patio and a lovely evening it was to sit outside. My friend and I had not been to SRV previously and our excellent waiter suggested that we get the tasting menu: the Arsenale ($45 each). We did and were very glad that we had taken his suggestion. The menu is divided into 3 sections: cicchetti (tiny bites), piatti (small plates) and grani (grains). For us, the Arsenale turned out to be 4 cicchetti, 3 piatti, 2 grani and a small dessert. Everything was sized perfectly for two and although it was a little too much (a box came home with me) it was just about the right amount of food. In our case, the kitchen was working around my shellfish/cephalopod allergy.

Our cicchetti were: Quail Eggs – soft-boiled quail eggs, white anchovy, caper, garlic pangrattato; Olive Fritte – castelvetrano olives, fennel sausage, montasio; Polpette – pork and beef meatballs, tomato, parmigiano-reggiano; and Muffuletta Tramezzini – tiny fried sandwiches with sopressa veneta, olives, provolone. Each of these small offerings managed to pack a huge amount of flavor into a bite or two; we loved them all but the first 3 in particular we could have eaten all night long. I am a brutal meatball critic and the polpette definitely made the grade.

Next up the baby kale salad with pear, pecorino and a generous sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts, served with a couple of slices of nice sourdough. Very tasty and a nice palate refresher. Then the monkfish with tardivo radicchio, cardoon, walnut, a gorgeous plate with melt-in-your-mouth fish accompanied by a punchy sauce and nice textural elements. Finally in the piatti category the duck with rye, cabbage rambasici, montasio. The rye appeared as grains robed in a bright pink beet puree, the cabbage rambasici were tiny stuffed cabbage rolls with char marks and some amazingly luscious filling, the duck was incredibly tender, there were some other elements I can’t remember and the whole dish was both gorgeous and ravishingly good to eat.

At this point the table was fully cleared and reset with new plates, flatware and serving pieces for our pasta course. First we got strozzapreti with pork sausage, cauliflower, salsa verde. The pasta had wonderful texture, the pork sausage was sparing so as not to overwhelm the generous multi-colored pieces of cauliflower, there were a couple of crunchy elements and really nice seasoning – this was a winning plate of pasta. We could happily have stopped there but that did not prevent us from thoroughly enjoying the garganelli with n’duja-carrot sugo, pea green pesto that arrived next. The n’duja packed quite a punch, the pasta was wonderful, the pea green pesto was beautiful and a nice foil for the heat and richness of the n’duja. I am not one bit sorry to have a box of this for lunch today.

Last we were served a hibiscus granita on a bed of slightly sweetened ricotta with several different kinds of thinly-sliced fruits and candied beets. A gorgeous confection. I had a bite or two but desserts are not my thing. My friend was very happy to polish it off – she loved it.

Service throughout was lovely and the pacing of the different plates of food was perfect. The only slight glitch was that our bottle of wine did not arrive until we had eaten our first 3 cicchetti which could not wait as they were hot. That was the only quibble with a memorable evening of wonderful food and delightful service. I can hardly wait to go back.

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thanks for the detailed review. Appreciated.

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That is a beautiful review @GretchenS. May I ask how much this cost [approximately] per person?

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The tasting menu is $45 per person which to me was excellent value. We added on a bottle of wine that was $68 if memory serves. Our nice waiter recommended it as being a perfect red for the food and it was but I don’t remember what it was other than Italian. Then we went kind of overboard with a couple of amari ($9 or $10 each) but that is a different story…

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That is a great value!!! Always a bit embarrassed to ask about cost, but it does have to factor into our restaurant forays. Thank you!

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Never be embarrassed about that, we all have some line we don’t want to cross when going out.

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Great report. This looks like a place to remember for our next visit.

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Went again last night and had the Arsenale tasting menu again. Really, at $45 this has to be one of the best values in town at the high end. Too cold to sit outside but the inside is very attractive too. Great service and the food was just as strong. Again, 4 cicchetti, 3 piatti, 2 grani, but only a couple of duplicates of the previous visit, everything else was new. Standouts were the polpette; white asparagus with ramps and soft-boiled egg; lamb belly with carrots and some sort of heavenly yogurt sauce; and a strozzapreti with cauliflower and salsa verde which sounds like, but didn’t taste like, a pasta dish we had last time. Really, just go, you will be happy. ETA: there was also a gorgeous dessert of parmigiano granita with jalapenos and other things. Not a dessert-eater but my DC liked it a lot.

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Collective wisdom of HO– My 35th anniversary is coming up. I was thinking that the Arsenale tasting menu would be a great way to celebrate. What appeals to me is the variety of dishes, the way I love to eat. Thoughts?

Do it. You won’t regret it. Let them know it’s a special occasion. I’m sure the already great service will be even better. They also have a beautiful patio if the weather is nice.

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Done. Thanks for the encouragement.

I hope you have a fantastic meal. Happy anniversary!

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Echo uni’s thoughts. They are incredibly accomodating of any dietary requests/ restrictions with the Arsenale. Happy anniversary!!!

Lucky me, a very fun co-worker from out of town called about 5:00 yesterday and said, I know it’s last minute but I just landed at Logan, any chance you’d be up for dinner? And I know she cares about food so I suggested we meet at SRV. Good call. It was a very pleasant evening, we got seated on the patio, and once again the Arsenale tasting menu was spectacular. Lots of new things on offer, notably a bluefish on seasonal veggies including corn and chanterelles with a wonderful tomato brodo – really wonderful, as was everything else, and we ate barely half of either pasta so guess what’s for dinner tonight. My DC commented on how fabulous the service was and she was right, it always is here.

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@GretchenS, we finally made it to SRV and were we ever wowed. Thank you for the stellar recommendation! We also opted for the Arsenale tasting menu, still $45 per person, which everyone at the table must order.

We particularly fell in love with the cicchetti that came our way. In our case: the soft-boiled quail eggs topped with a fleck of anchovy, polpette (beef and pork meatballs), breaded and fried Castlevetrano olives stuffed with pork sausage, and bite-sized toasts topped with Baccala Mantecato (a kind of whipped mousse of salted cod, which the Google tells me is a Venetian specialty).

And can we talk about those polpette? Light, flavorful meatballs that soared to a new height for us. Our one regret is that we didn’t ask for bread to sop up every last drop of the tomato sauce.

Other courses were a salad of Little Gem lettuce and charred cucumber, rectangles of ethereal fried polenta topped with a sauce of Jonah crab and fresh and fried chickpeas, and chicken breast over rye grains. Also two pasta plates: one strozzapreti, one gnocchi.

A very small dessert of citrusy cubes of semifreddo topped with paper thin slices of beet was the only item we would have been happy to skip. Savory is clearly where SRV shines and we’d have been content to leave things at that.

Oh, and an impeccably made Negroni and Aperol spritz did not hurt either. These drinks may be Italian classics but too often they are poorly done.

We’d planned this as a leisurely dinner before the day took a stressful turn and we had to move back our reservation. The staff went above and beyond by speeding things up a bit so we could still enjoy the full menu experience and make it to a concert on time.
Big bonus points!

Even so, we did manage a few photos to share so others can get a picture of what awaits at SRV.

Top to bottom: strozzapreti, Little Gem salad, quail egg chicchetto.

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We ate there last year during our annual visit, and while we liked everything, I was mildly disappointed, because it didn’t remind me of anything I had ever eaten in Venice.

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Denise, that all sounds fabulous, so glad you enjoyed it so much! I am overdue for another visit.

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@bcc, I think yours is a thoughtful observation. I was lucky enough to attend a wedding celebration at the fabulous Del Posto in NYC and felt a kinship with the sensibility at SRV. The deft hand with the pastas, particularly. So I should not have been surprised as SRV’s marquee chefs both did turns at Del Posto. When I think of Del Posto, I do think more of modern dishes informed by classic preparations and flavors rather than a special something that’s hard to capture outside of a region of Italy where a given dish originates.

Of our Italian travels we have only been to Venice once, ages ago, and stuck mostly to seafood. All this is a long way of saying that I totally get your point and it’s worth noting. :grinning:

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I have been back to SRV several times without posting because in each case, with various different friends, we had the Arsenale which remains great value at the high end at $45 and which every person I ever share it with really loves. However last night I went on my own, sat at the bar and had a delightful time choosing off the menu. I started with several cichetti – the quail eggs, the baccala on dark bread, the polpetti, the duck liver mousse on toasted dark bread and the Spanish mackeral which was served as a crudo on shatteringly thin crispy wafers of polenta. All were delicious although the mackeral crudo had a bit too much ground black pepper and citrus acidity for my taste. The quail eggs and baccala were my favorites. I then moved on to the Artichoke in Pinzimonio salad which mixed cooked and shaved raw artichokes with a perfectly balanced dressing and some rough croutons make from their wonderful house bread. I finished with the Lamb Neck al latte, which featured 3 cubes of boneless lamb neck with the fat gorgeously crisped, a small and delicious green garlic-potato kugel, and various vegetal elements – it was amazing! My experience was greatly enhanced by the skilled, knowledgeable and altogether delightful bartender, Marsha (sp?). Her wine pairings were spot on and it was a pleasure and an education watching her make cocktails and listening to her discuss the menu with my fellow bar-sitters. Another great night at SRV and one which confirmed that their food is right in my sweet spot.

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Thrilled to hear that SRV continues to knock it out of the park.

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