It’s possible that all of the great reviews got me a little more excited to eat at this hip new(-ish) spot at the northeast end of Mass Ave than was perhaps warranted; it’s also possible that I wanted to believe that whatever took the place of Scholar’s Inn would be worthy of occupying the space; but whatever the reason, this place and Greg Hardesty’s Recess—located in the even hipper SoBro—have been at the top of my list of restaurants to try the next time an “occasion” afforded us the opportunity to go out to dinner as grown-ups. Since our wedding anniversary was coming up, such an occasion was at hand. Part two was to see if Grandma was free to babysit, which she was—and Amy even thought to mention Mesh on Mass a day or two beforehand, so it was on my mind.
(Despite the fact that I love to try new restaurants, I often find, or try to find, excuses not to go to the fancy places when we have the chance to go out to dinner. I never learned how to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant like a fancy person, and I also know damn good and well that people employed in the restaurant/hospitality industry expect their customers to know their shit. I’m totally okay with that. I expect to be walking into semi-hostile territory when we pick a fancy place for dinner. I have no shame in admitting that I’m a little intimidated when I go into places like that, because I don’t do it often enough to know my shit all that well. I also don’t like to dress up. Nor do I need my meal to be plated so elaborately. Probably some people like that, but really—very little of the food that occurs in nature is vertical. I don’t really see why it needs to be vertical on the plate. But anyway, the point is—let the food speak for itself.)
By now, of course, you’re locked in and ready for me to write that Mesh on Mass was disappointing and that I did not like it nearly as much as I had hoped I would. Both of those things are true, so if you don’t want to read any further, you’re off the hook. I had the Grilled Tofu ($14), Amy had the Applewood Chicken salad ($13), and we split a small Cheese Board ($12), with Traders Point Herb Fromage, Griddled Taleggio, and Goat Cheese Fritter. Amy also had a glass of wine, and we got out of there for $60. So long!
Mesh on Mass was one of those places where we kept getting the look from our server every time we declined something that she wanted to try to sell us—even though we did go for an appetizer and Amy had a glass of wine. We both ordered relatively inexpensive entrées, declined soup (and in my case, salad) to go with them, and declined dessert. Amy declined a second glass of wine, and I declined to have a beer when the best they could do for Sun King was Sunlight on tap and Osiris in the can. There’s a liquor store not far from my house where I can get a four-pack of Osiris in cans. I know these folks are trying to make a living, but when I’m dropping that much money on dinner, you need to offer me something that I can’t get at home. I can’t get Sunlight on tap at home, but that same liquor store also carries Sunlight in cans. I’m sure it would have been better in draft form, but I was hoping that Mesh would have at least one of the other kinds of Sun King, something that they only put into kegs and that you can only get when you go out.
Having said all of that, however, the food was actually pretty good. The Cheese Board was advertised as being served with cornichon, pear chutney, local honey, and grilled baguette. I must have missed the honey part, but the pear chutney was kind of amazing, very sweet, but heavily spiced with a mild curry that delivered a great combination of sweet and savory flavors. The cornichon (which I had to Google), were tiny little sour pickles, and were also quite good. Of the three cheeses we tried, the Goat Cheese Fritter was clearly the best. The Traders Point Herb Fromage was a spread that might have been a little heavy on the herb part. The Griddled Taleggio was a brie-like soft cheese with a mild, earthy flavor. (To see the Cheese Board choices on the website, you have to click the link for the menu at the top of the page. For reasons passing understanding, they have two versions of their dinner menu posted on their website. The one about halfway down on the left side is not current.)
Amy enjoyed her Applewood Chicken salad, though she also remarked that it was probably something she could make for herself at home with little trouble. It featured spring greens, bacon, bleu cheese, spiced pecans, and cranberry poppyseed dressing. If she felt like she could make it at home without much trouble, I don’t imagine that many of the things in the salad tasted all that special in and of themselves. I do not imagine that I could re-create my Grilled Tofu at home. There were three slabs of soft (but not silken) tofu, adorned with a wild mushroom strudel (served vertically), asparagus and (heavily) buttered greens, grilled portabella, onion straws, tomato buerre blanc, and balsamic reduction—all of which were so good that just writing out the list of them makes me want to tuck into the plate a second time. The strudel and the grilled portabella were especially good, and will probably steer me toward other dishes with mushrooms if we should ever make a return visit.
That’s usually one of Amy’s first questions after we have tried a new place—would you go back? For me, Mesh on Mass is a definite maybe. The food was good enough to make up for the pretension, but only just. The menu is long on dishes with mushrooms, which were quite good in my dish this time; and for a fancy place, the prices are not at all unreasonable (we dropped about $100 when we ate the location’s previous incarnation, the Scholar’s Inn); but the air of pretension about the place, much more suited to Meridian Street than Mass Ave, might be the dealbreaker. Mesh on Mass is neither good enough to recommend wholeheartedly, nor bad enough to dismiss entirely.
725 Massachusetts Avenue
725 Massachusetts Avenue