For the perfect dining experience, a restaurant must have it all: innovative menu items, fantastic views or interior décor, and ambiance. But more and more diners are also interested in what happens behind the scenes — in the kitchen. Those diners can opt for the chef’s tables — often considered the best seat in the house, and the one table that never disappoints. We rounded up a few of our favorite in Boston, including the smallest chef’s table and a few that are sure to make you think you’ll qualify for culinary school.
Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Blantyre in Lenox is a haven of luxury in the Berkshires, just a two-hour drive from Boston. Here you’ll find the smallest chef’s table we’ve come across, and one of the most romantic. Blantyre’s cozy corner in the kitchen is great for those guests who want a more relaxed, albeit intimate, dinner experience. Blantyre’s Dining Room requires a dress code for dinner, but the chef’s table for two is less formal: You won’t need a jacket or tie; jeans are perfectly acceptable (even though you’ll be among the waitstaff, who wears tuxedos for dinner service). You’ll enjoy prime views of everything happening in the kitchen, including watching world-renowned chef Arnaud Cotar lead his culinary crew through each night’s menu of such starters as chilled English pea soup and line-cured bluefish or an entrée of crusted Maine halibut or a boneless lamb rack. Watch as pastry chef Elizabeth Lennon drizzles her decadent desserts with housemade chocolate. This chef’s table is not just a nice spot for couples, but also for a solo traveler to “dine out” without feeling alone.
Menton opened in Boston only a couple of years ago, but has since been the talk of town, most recently for its Five-Star award. While the adornments and ambiance of the dining room are sure to please anyone who dines here, it’s the chef’s table that has us salivating. Located in the back of the kitchen and behind a glass wall, it seats 12 and provides an unrivaled vantage point from which to see all the kitchen happenings. Along the glass wall is the plate preparation station, so you’ll get to witness just how those amazing details are placed alongside the palate-pleasing food (think American red snapper with Brussels sprouts and prawns or Anson Mills polenta with mushrooms, pumpkin seeds and Parmesan) from Barbara Lynch’s newest restaurant.
We love the atmosphere of Mandarin Oriental, Boston‘s Asana restaurant, but if you want something a little more secluded for you and nine of your closest friends, the chef’s table won’t disappoint. The private room sits in the back of the restaurant behind the wood-paneled wall separating the kitchen from the rest of the dining room. And while you won’t have views of Boylston Street or the social scene at the Five-Star hotel’s MBar, you will have good spot to see what’s going on inside chef Rachel Klein’s kitchen, such as the preparation of artic char sashimi with pickled ramps and Meyer lemon or a roasted quail being made especially for you. Located just outside the private dining space is a wine wall, where you can look at the many rare vintages that are offered at this Four-Star restaurant.
One of Boston’s staple fine-dining restaurants, L’Espalier has it all: great vistas, top-notch menus and a wine list that rivals just about anything you’ll find in the city. And then there’s the chef’s table. Located in the kitchen, chef-owner Frank McClelland and his team prepare the menu and food (such as the roasted Hudson Valley foie gras, grilled Maine lobster with Cape Cod clams or Vermont rabbit) for guests right before their eyes, detailing the process along the way. The chef’s table has only one seating per night and accommodates only up to four people.
The chefs at Craigie on Main in Cambridge always look for ways to push culinary creativity to its limits, and this new twist on a chef’s table is no exception. When the restaurant was remodeled in 2008, it left an open kitchen with one side sectioned as guest seating, and a few tables directly off the kitchen, so you can dine along the line. The menu changes here daily, but you can order à la carte or choose the chef’s tasting menu with tasty selections such as tempura of soft-shell crab, grilled lamb crepinette or white asparagus ice cream.
Photos Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Susie Cushner and L’Espalier