Sweet Finale

Finale restaurant review


One Columbus Avenue, Boston.
(617) 423-3184
Lunch, weekdays,
11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tea, weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Dinner: Monday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Tuesday to Saturday,
6 p.m. to midnight;
Sunday, 4 p.m.to 11 p.m.
Bakery open weekdays,
11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
Saturday, 6 p.m. to midnight.

Once I knew an architect-in-training who dreamed of moving to Seattle and opening a restaurant devoted entirely to desserts. If only he had attended the Harvard Business School, like M.B.A. ’97 classmates Paul Conforti and Kim Moore. They run what their research indicates is the country’s only upscale dessert restaurant. Finale offers deluxe treats for those without the wish—or the wherewithal—for a full-dress dinner first. Its specially prepared and “plated” sweets (available after 6 p.m.) cost from $7.95 to $25.

Tall plate-glass windows give Finale an expansive air, even on a wintry evening; inside, the simple lines, red banquettes, and ochre walls have an Art Deco feel, subtly intensified by soft background music from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s that creates ambiance without impeding conversation. Table placement respects personal space: indulging seems more natural in gracious surroundings. (Finale seats 70; if a private party closes the restaurant, the bakery and café section remain open.)

If one’s superego demands “real food” first, the appetizer-sized dinner offerings suit admirably. The salmon and roast chicken were flavorful, the delicious portobello salad vertical enough to amuse, but accessible enough to eat. Only a tough crust beneath the white pizza’s tangy potato and goat cheese topping proved a challenge.

But real food can be found elsewhere. One goes to Finale for desserts, whether that means a sweet, sparkling, or fortified wine; coffee with liqueur; seasonal favorites, like a custom take on apple pie à la mode (Granny Smithfilling with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit salad); or the chef’s “tasting plate” for two chocoholics, an assortment of flavors, textures, and shapes (tart orange chocolate mousse in a tower of dark chocolate, sweet and bittersweet chocolate cakes, velvety chocolate hazelnut Bavarian pyramids, an “orb” of white chocolate gelato). If the molten chocolate cake—always on hand, along with crème brulée and cheesecake—didn’t rate four stars (the enveloping cake a tad dry, with a bitter hint of raw cocoa; the warm, gooey center lacking kick), the accompanying scoop of coffee ice cream was a chill, creamy translation of excellent café au lait. A raspberry sorbet drew raves.

One on one, no single dessert at Finale may match the memory of grandmother’s Linzer torte. But the restaurant’s array of choices and panache in presentation stylishly reinforce the pleasures of cheerful self- (or otherwise directed) indulgence. If co-owners Moore and Conforti can persuade enough people in residually Puritanical Boston of that, they’ll be able to have their cake and eat it, too.

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