Walking into Excelsior is like entering a James Bond film, all glass and shiny metal. After checking in with the host, we were escorted into a glass elevator and sent to the second floor, travelling through the wine room on the way. Impressive.
We were quickly shown to our table overlooking the Public Garden. The dining room is a classy and modern room. There are a lot of tables, but it doesn't feel crowded. The service was very good considering how busy the restaurant was.
I started with the Native Corn Bisque, with Hot and Sweet Roasted Peppers and Smoked Shrimp. This was spicier than I expected, more of a slow burn in the back of the throat. The corn flavor was deep and rich, but not overly heavy. The best part of the dish, though, was the shrimp, with a smoky flavor that made it taste like bacon. I wished there had been more shrimp (there was only one, sliced in half), but it made me savor the flavor a little more.
Continuing with the seafood theme, I had the Peppered Linguini with Seared Sea Scallops and Crabmeat, Zucchini, Smoked Tomato, and Scallop Cream. This was a fantastic dish, with each component standing strong on its own but mixing with the rest to form a wonderful entree. The scallops were cooked perfectly, with a dark seared crust and a buttery soft center. The smoked tomato stood out, adding the same meaty quality that the shrimp had added to the bisque. There was a good deal of cream coating the pasta, but it wasn't overly heavy. There was an excellent ratio of pasta to meat and vegetables.
For dessert, I had the Dark Chocolate Cake with Coffee Chicory Ice Cream and Candied Orange Zest. This was a perfectly balanced dessert. Too often, a dense chocolate cake is cloying after a meal... a bite or two will suffice. This, on the other hand, was fantastic, and I loved every bite. The cake and the ice cream were well paired. The chicory really evened out the coffee flavor, making it a better accompaniment to the sweetened, creamy dark chocolate. The candied orange zest was more of a flavored simple syrup pooled on the plate, just hinting at its fruity origins. For textural contrast, the plate was scattered with cacao nibs, a very tasty garnish.
This meal at Excelsior was a prime example of what Restaurant Week should be (but often isn't at many restaurants). The portions weren't huge, but the food was carefully crafted. Maybe these weren't the most expensive ingredients, but they were handled with flair, and I was left wondering what else the kitchen could do. Excelsior has now be added to my list of "special occasion" restaurants, but if I had the money, I would eat there more regularly.