Down-Home Elegance

The incongruous pleasure of No. 9 Park lies in its homey elegance.

Photograph by John Lawler

NO. 9 PARK

9 Park Street, Boston
617-742-9991
Lunch and dinner served Monday-Saturday. Reservations encouraged.
Café menu available.

The incongruous pleasure of No. 9 Park lies in its homey elegance. Rich Italian and French country-style gourmet cuisine is dished out in the relaxed but decorous environs of a Beacon Hill bistro. The chic 1940s Milan-inspired décor sets a posh tone (note the walls dressed in green wool flannel, and the brown velvet banquettes) that is muted by the refreshingly unpretentious staff. One feels as welcome wearing a bumpkinly calico dress as a strapless Versace gown. Our English waiter, for example, was so at ease that he openly cheered my choice of the lamb special with an "Oh, you're the lucky girl!"

All of this is, perhaps, a testament to the background of the restaurant's chef and owner, Barbara Lynch. One of seven children, Lynch, 35, was raised in a South Boston housing project. She discovered cooking in a high-school home-economics class, worked at the St. Botolph Club as a teenager, and later in kitchens throughout Boston and Europe, gleaning technique at hotspots like The Harvest, Michela's, and Olives before coming into her own as executive chef at Galleria Italiana. Upon opening No. 9 Park in 1998 to rave reviews, Lynch honed her Italian cooking (with a French twist), and unleashed her passion for butter, meat, and potatoes on a growing crowd of regulars.

The restaurant, located across the street from the State House, seats 62. Designers Cheryl Katz and Jeffrey Katz, M.Arch. '78 created three distinct spaces inside: the café, where marble-topped tables, the original black-and-white checkered floor, and banquettes are nestled beside a gleaming mahogany bar; the front dining room, with billiard-cloth walls and windows that face the Boston Common; and a more private rear room with mirrored walls, a montage of architectural photographs, and a touch of glitter in the chandeliers.

restaurant2
Chef-owner Barbara Lynch
Portrait by Eric Antoniou.

We sat by the windows across from park trees glistening in the light of street lamps. Rolls arrived, crusty outside, plush whiteness inside, along with two gigantic glasses of 1995 Château du Grand Mouëys Bordeaux ($10). There's an extensive wine list. A delicate squab lasagna appetizer ($15) proffered flower-shaped pasta layers (light noodles with a woodsy flavor), sweet potato béchamel, white truffle butter, and a crispy squab leg on top. The crab and truffle fondue ($15) came with brioche croutons and poached apples for dipping into a thick, crab-filled gravy hinting of the grand and salty seashore. Foie gras, Iranian caviar, and oysters are also available. The butter-poached lobster ($40) was unthinkably melt-in-your-mouth delicious, surrounded by cushions of pumpkin gnocchi. The special, "Duet of Lamb" ($35), boasted a medallion of meat the size of a doorknob (but thankfully much more tender) in pastry atop braised lamb shanks--very rich, not for the fainthearted. It was excellent, though a side of vegetables or salad would have provided a welcome balance. For dessert, the clove ice cream ($5), with its nippy sweetness, proved to be the best thing we'd tasted in weeks. We savored each bite of the authentic crème brûlée ($10), and the pear clafouti ($9), more pancake than fruit, was very good. Intoxicated by the hearty meal, we stumbled out into the icy dark of the Common, sorry to be leaving the smoldering warmth of No. 9 Park.

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