New England Regional | The Tastes of Boston
Novel American cuisine with a touch of mythology
There are those who have eaten at Icarus more than a hundred times during the last 20 years and say they have never had a reason not to go back. Strong praise in an industry so rife with competition, transient workers, and fickle food trends that many restaurants go under within a few years. But Icarus, which opened in 1979 as a quirky storefront bistro in the then not-so-chic South End, has found staying power in its insistence on very fresh produce and a menu of ever-evolving flavor combinations dubbed "new American-styled" cuisine. Such reinvention is all the more remarkable since the same chef, Chris Douglass, has held sway from the start. A move in 1987 to a more sophisticated, subterranean spot kept the restaurant's relaxed feel--yet bolstered its reputation as a romantic place to dine.
The entrées arrived. The poached salmon with cucumber, potato cakes, and dill ($34) was a subtle array of cool flavors broken by the salty crispness of the cakes. Dill blossomed in the mouth amid the buttery-soft salmon. Delicious too was purslane--heretofore known to us as a pesky garden weed. The succulent plant was served as a tender, slightly peppery, ample garnish. A richer entrée was the seared duck breast and crisp leg with rhubarb chutney and potato galette ($29.50). Served drenched in an earthy, wine-like rhubarb sauce, the delicious, meaty duck was enough for two. The thin galette seemed too oily and crispy, however: not enough 'tater to sink your teeth into. A lighter, vegetarian dish might have better suited the heavy duck. The almond rhubarb crisp ($8.50) was served piping hot with vanilla mascarpone ice cream melting into the crannies of pastry and not overly sweet fruit. The peach sorbet ($8.50), packed with sunny flavor, was refreshing. With tip and two glasses of wine, the meal for two came to $169. The food was so good, we almost hesitate to mention one gripe: the booth we sat in seemed configured in a way that forced the diner to eat while hunched uncomfortably forward.
Overall, it's reassuring to see Icarus--named for the mythical son of Daedulus who flew too close to the sun and perished--continue to soar for so many years, reminding us to try new things in life (like spicy hot sorbet and eating weeds) despite the inevitable risks.