Baccala, Anyone?

by Marisa Olsen


Now I may not currently live in Manhattan, but I still get to participate in Boston’s whirlwind version of Restaurant Week (Thank you Open Table!). Per usual, much deliberation and debating went into narrowing down our numbero uno choice, but lo and behold, my seven counterparts and I managed to opt for Avila, a Mediterranean restaurant in Back Bay.
Now I’m mixed about restaurant week. It seems like a great opportunity to gain bragger’s rights about top tier, high-end restaurants, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel like a pauper or a fake when the waiter asks me what menu I want to order from…”Um, restaurant week, please, and please don’t judge me,” I mumble. But enough, food is food. The only downsize is that some of these high end restaurants anticipate a flux of bourgeois so they “soften” their menu a bit to represent their new clientele. However, despite the aforementioned hesitations, Avila was quite good. I started with a baccala cake; a Mediterranean cod that is salted, rather than packed with ice during its trip over seas to retain freshness. That being said, the dish is salty. Quite salty. The fish was slightly breaded and presented similarly to a crab cake, with a mustard mayo dollop and dressed greens to cut the saltiness of the fish. It was still too salty. But at least I tried a new dish.
For my entrée, I chose the grilled swordfish with a chorizo aioli and served over paella. Swordfish can be tricky; often too dry and even a bit stringy. But these open kitchen chefs did a stellar job serving a troublesome fish that was moist, flavorful and also hot. That being said, the fish was good and I liked the paella, not loved it. For dessert, I ordered the gingerbread plated with a fruit and caramel glaze and topped with fresh Chantilly cream. This was delicious, but almost a bit too sweet, although the whipped topping did help cut the richness. So, Avila was good. Not stellar, but at the same time, they’re dishing out the same six dishes two weeks straight, so I will cut them some slack. I did like the setting; creamy walls, light polished food floors, floor-to-ceiling windows with textured cream drapes, extraordinary high ceilings, light wood accents to match the flooring and straight back wooden chairs that were surprisingly comfortable; modern and contemporary, but still managed a warmness. Next time, I’m sitting at the bar and ordering tapas.