Last Saturday I made another sojourn to Boston Proper, this time to join Blog & Tweet Boston for brunch at Church of Boston, a bar/restaurant/nightclub that must have a genius doing their SEO, because they are the first result when you Google “Church Boston,” which seems weird for a city that actually celebrates various Saints feasts.
After struggling to find parking (only to discover that Church has a free lot in back!) I was kind of annoyed. Luckily, Church has a short but strong list of bottled IPA’s and Bengali Tiger on tap, which I ordered. After an introduction from Chef John Rush, it was decided he would whip up a menu sampling and send the plates our way.
I’ll admit that I have a prejudice against “combination” places. For example, I’ll never order sushi from a Chinese/Sushi restaurant, and I had a severe (and unfounded) distrust of the late Diva Lounge in Davis Square because it was an Indian Tapas Restaurant/Lounge. I remember being horrified by this place I once walked by in Brooklyn:
I just think that establishments should pick what they’re good at and focus on making it great rather than try to achieve mediocrity doing a whole bunch of stuff. So when I saw that Church bills itself as a bar/restaurant/nightclub, I got a little nervous that this was another place trying to be all things to all people. But I was ready to give the eclectic menu a try.
And with that, I should mention that the food was all complimentary.
First out of the kitchen was the shrimp vermicelli special, a take on a spicy Thai noodle salad I’d become quite familiar with in San Francisco. The shrimp were poached nicely and I enjoyed the “salad’s” spice, but I wish there had been more cucumbers, bean sprouts, or red peppers in the salad. It was also lacking the brightness that this dish traditionally gets from fresh herbs and a lime-based dressing, because as-served it kind of just tasted like leftover shrimp scampi with some jalapenos on top.
There were also a couple platters of “Huevos Rancheros Del Diablo.” I am not sure what’s supposed to be quite so devilish about these breakfast tacos, but they were one of the two dishes I liked. A flour tortilla filled with black beans, Mexican Chorizo, tomatoes, and poached eggs. Unfortunately, I had been so excited to cut into the eggs, and so disappointed when no yolk oozed out of either that I let out an audible “aw, sad.” But overdone eggs aside, this dish was the lightest and brightest bite of the meal.
A plate came out that had an absurdly large slice of brioche on it, the “Toad in the Hole.” The name of the dish confused the hell out of me because I grew up familiar with the British version (sausage baked into Yorkshire pudding). I did a little research and it seems that we Americans have indeed claimed the Toad in the Hole for ourselves and, in true patriotic fashion, completely changed it. The American version is just “eggs in a hole,” and the Church iteration pairs this concept with that of French toast, which begets a giant piece of syrup-soaked brioche topped with a poached egg and bacon. This egg was slightly runnier than the huevos rancheros eggs, and thank goodness because the bite would have been way, way, way too sweet without the savory yolk on there. (It was still too sweet – maybe if they had used sourdough or something instead of sweet syrup and sweet brioche?)
During the introduction to the meal, Church’s PR guru explained to us that Chef Rush had Eastern European roots that sometimes influenced his food. Sure enough, we were delivered two platters of pan-fried cheddar and chive pierogi. This was my other favorite bite. I’m not Polish myself, but growing up in Michigan meant having lots of Polish friends, and the filling mixed with the caramelized sweet onion relish was a perfect bite of Detroit (and I mean that in highly complimentary fashion). If this is Chef’s inspiration, he would do very well to follow the Polish path a little further. These were delicious. I would happily eat an entire meal of updated Polish food made by Chef Rush.
We were also brought a sizzling cast iron skillet of lamb moussaka, ground lamb and eggplant and spices topped with a béchamel sauce. This dish lacked focus – the lamb on its own was fine and worked well with the cinnamon, but the béchamel on top was far too heavy and overpowered everything else. I noticed on the menu this was supposed to be served with mixed greens that never made it to our table. The greens would have done well to cut some of the richness and balance things out.
We were also given servings of the flapjacks and skillet cornbread. I had a small bite of the skillet cornbread but found it too sweet, and I abstained from the flapjacks all together since I had long since surpassed my tolerance for syrup-soaked carbs. They were described as tasting “like butter,” though, which, sure.
After our food had been cleared, we were brought a cocktail made from Spicebox Canadian Whisky, white chocolate liqueur, and a cinnamon liqueur. I know I’ve railed on the sweetness of everything in this meal and I don’t usually like sweet drinks, but this worked for me. The whisky kept it balanced and it was truly warming. It’s a drink I’d have after a day of snowboarding.
This would have been a neat capper to the meal, but we were generously given a round of desserts that included a ginger toffee cake, a flowerless chocolate cake, an apple empanada, and a trio of sorbet. The cakes were INTENSE – I didn’t have even a full bite of either and was still overwhelmed. Two in the trio of sorbet, pear and apple cider, were also too sweet, but the concord grape flavor was tart and refreshing. The apple empanada was fine, but I would have rather had more pierogi.
While the food we sampled was just far too sweet for my taste – I had walked in trying to decide between a spicy caesar salad and an avocado BLT before it was decided we go smorgasbord style – the meal was made enjoyable by the staff’s generous hospitality and a couple culinary high points. I might go back to Church if someone asked me to (and likely order a salad and pierogi), although if I’m going to be in Fenway I would rather choose the nearby Citizen, where I’ve had many a savory meal and Green Flash from the tap.