Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The last days of Icarus

Guest writer The Boy has a few things to say about our last meal at Icarus.

Running a successful restaurant is difficult under the best of circumstances. Running one during the worst economic downturn in recent memory is even more challenging. Given the situation, we consider ourselves lucky not to have seen any of our favorite restaurants close since the economy crashed. Until now.

Icarus, a South End institution for 31 years, is closing on July 3. I should say it's closing in its current incarnation, as the new owner apparently bought the name along with everything else.

LimeyG and I have been to Icarus many times over the years. It was one of the first “nice” restaurants we went to, back when we could only afford a few such meals a year.

While the food has always been fantastic, part of what made it special was the experience: walking down an anonymous, cobbled residential street, going down to the basement-level room, encountering the dramatic statue of Icarus, poised as if ready for takeoff, in the middle of the dining room.

Like the original Craigie Street Bistrot, getting there was part of the evening’s entertainment.

When we heard it was closing for good, we decided to go one last time. There were not many customers—certainly not as many as on previous visits—and I don't think that was only because it was early on a Tuesday evening.

Perhaps the location has finally become a liability, or maybe the trendier South End competition (like Toro) is to blame. I can say that neither the quality nor the price of the food could account for the lack of diners.

The current farewell menu is built around a three-course $31 prix fixe selection. LimeyG opted for the antipasto plate and the cod; I chose the braised mushrooms on polenta and the swordfish; for dessert we shared the baked Alaska for two. It was all fantastic.

The key to the antipasto plate was the fresh-from-the-garden taste of the red-pepper spread and the lightness of the grilled flatbread. For the polenta, it was the crisp, caramelized exterior contrasted with the soft, creamy interior. For the swordfish it was the contrast between the lemony sauce and the caponata. For the cod it was the loads of butter (nothing wrong with that.) The baked Alaska was not the usual '70s nostalgia effort, but rather a showcase for flavorful vanilla ice cream contrasted with passionfruit sorbet.

You have until July 3 to take advantage of this reasonably priced, high-quality menu and to say goodbye one of the great local restaurants. The trendier spots can wait another week.

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Blogger Whalehead King said...

I stumbled on this place, knowing its reputation, and I was surprised to find it where it was, at the back of any main track. I don't think I'll make it there before July 3 but I've been to Tavolo (though not the Ashmont Grill). The Icarus assessment is the same for Tavolo: More than you expect in a place you don't expect it. Same chef/entrepreneur...why not? Thanks.

6:56 PM  

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