When The Bostonian opened six years ago it started something of a trend with its creative cocktails, hearty Cajun-style cooking, corny menu, and crayons for diners to doodle on the disposable plastic tablecloths.
Now, of course, there are many American restaurants but The Bostonian continues to occupy a special niche. Little has changed in the two-level saloon style restaurant - it still has an upstairs bar and a downstairs dining area with warm, wood-panelled walls covered in crayon paintings. Why change if the formula is already right? The Bostonian is a smart but informal restaurant, and full even on a weekday. It serves a wide choice of cocktails, including Bloody Marys and margaritas served in huge goblets. There is even beer by the yard (apparently a New Orleans pastime). Prices forcocktails start at $52 but the drinks are much larger than in most places. The wine list, heavily slanted as it is towards Californian, is comprehensive. But the house wine, presented in small carafes, is very palatable especially the red, a fruity Californian cabernet sauvignon. It is a little pricey at $65 a serve.
Known for its fresh seafood, the Bostonian gives diners a wide choice, including Blue Point, Belon or fin de claire oysters, cherry stone clams, lobsters and crabs. If you want to try a bit of everything, a seafood mountain on ice ($240) is a good idea.
My choice was three fin de claire oysters: the first two were very good with a fresh, salty sea tang but the third was a disaster. Not only was it much thinner and smaller but it was also watery and tasteless, which was a bit much considering each costs $36 a mouthful.
Salads are also a favourite here, especially Caesar salad, which many diners seemed to be ordering that evening.
While not extensive, the menu is comprehensive featuring favourites ranging from roast rack of lamb and New England clam chowder to hearty seafood platters and smoked salmon with corn blinis and caviar. Charcoal-grilled steaks are available in girly (250 gram), manly (500 gm) and animal (1,300 gm) portions. Vegetarians and slimmers are also catered for.
My partner had baked pork tenderloin with apple chutney ($195), roast new potatoes and a serving of broccoli and sugar peas. The meat was on the dry side but a tasty cider sauce made up for it.
The food presentation is one of the attractions of this restaurant and the crayfish pie with vegetable jambalaya ($195) presented in a long oval tray looked almost too good to eat.
You can't go wrong with the tasty crayfish stew but the puff pastry could have been more crisp. The creamy lobster sauce, in a separate container, was delicious; the vegetable jambalaya - sauteed aubergines, broccoli and sweet peas served with an unimaginative scoop of tomato rice - could have been improved.
Dessert was wheeled in on a trolley with the usual offerings of fresh fruit, chocolate cake, cheesecake and other temptations. The problem was deciding between the pecan and the apple pies - both are reputed to be the best in town. Apple pie won, but onlybecause it had fractionally less calories.
This is still a man-sized portion, with a rich crust filled with chunks of cinnamon-flavoured apple and topped with a crisp sweet crumble.
Dinner for two and a couple of glasses of house wine came to $780 but that was only because one party did not have starters and dessert.