My second Restaurant Week adventure took me to the South End's Sibling Rivalry for an impressive (and waistline-expanding) dinner. Ben and I found ourselves in the neighborhood about two hours before our painfully late reservation, so we decided to see if they could seat us early. Fortunately, they could. We had a choice of the outdoor patio or the chef's bar, which looks into the kitchen, and an impending rain storm made our choice for us. I'm glad we ended up at the bar, because I had a great time watching the bustling (but remarkably quiet) activity in the kitchen.
The first "wow" moment was when we received the Restaurant Week menu, which had more choices than you might find on a regular menu at some restaurants. It seems that many restaurants are a bit on the stingy side for Restaurant Week, giving you just two or three choices for each course, many with supplemental costs, but Sibling Rivalry is offering an astonishing ten appetizers, eight entrees, and four desserts, plus daily specials that can be substituted for any of the courses. And, even better, nearly all of these choices are being offered at the official Restaurant Week price - very few "supplements" here.
Pretty much everything on the cocktail menu was tempting, but I decided to go for the $18 wine tasting, which included a white wine to accompany my appetizer, a red for the main course, and a dessert wine to finish off the meal. Ben ordered a Pamplemousse, a summery grapefruit and pomegranate cocktail that tasted almost like a mojito...but even better. (And that's a big compliment from me - I take my mojitos very seriously.) This cocktail has been featured in various other blog posts, magazine articles, and such, so it must be good. "Just the right amount of tartness," says Ben. Here it is, in all its glory:
For the appetizer, I picked one of the daily specials, Lump Crab Ravioli. It was served in a rich cheese sauce with ripe tomatoes on top. It was a little bit daring of a choice for me, as I haven't had crab too many times, and I usually avoid cheesy sauces (except for Kraft mac & cheese, which I grew up eating.) I was pleasantly surprised by it. It was comfort food with a gourmet flair, and the crabmeat was very tender. The portion was generous as well, especially for an appetizer.
Although I enjoyed my appetizer, I was jealous of Ben's choice, which turned out to be absolutely delicious. Ben ordered the Moroccan-style Lamb Brik, a crispy pastry crust stuffed with ground lamb and a poached egg. The lamb was seasoned with cumin, giving it an exotic, cinnamony flavor, and the whole thing was topped by a delicate but flavorful brown jus. A cool, refreshing cucumber salad was served on the side. This appetizer could have been a meal in itself.
For the main course, I decided to continue my trend of ordering things I usually avoid. I'm not much of a pork-as-a-main-course eater. I don't mind it in small quantities, quietly mixed into mysterious Chinese dishes, for example, but I would never go out of my way to order a whole pork chop for a meal. Chef Bob's dish won me over, though: Soy Ginger-Anise Glazed Pork Mignon with Spicy Tamarind-Curry Barbequed Pork Shoulder, Cool Peanut Chili Noodles, and Cucumber Salad. Both cuts of pork were extraordinarily tender, one in the stringy, pull-apart-with-your-fork way and one in the way of a nice rare steak. The Asian-themed sauces were spicy and bursting with many different flavors, and the cool noodles provided a nice contrast to the heat of the sauces. The cool cucumber salad from Ben's lamb appetizer made a re-appearance as a side to the pork, and like the noodles, it helped provide some relief from the spice. My second wine was a full-bodied, velvety red that complemented the dish nicely.
Ben ordered Chef David's Wild Nantucket Striped Bass, a solid but mild choice. It was served with heirloom tomato salad, arugula pesto, and white bean puree. Ben described it as "very fresh, with a nice balance of flavors," but he expected a little bit more excitement based on the description. It was definitely good and made use of nice, seasonal ingredients, but Ben's personal taste is that he "demands more of a rush." (Let's just say we once went on a three-hour road trip so that he could eat wings that require you to sign away the restaurant's liability should any injury occur.) The fish was cooked perfectly, and I enjoyed tasting it.
Dessert was really not necessary after all of the above, but it's part of the Restaurant Week deal, so why not? My dessert wine arrived first, a beautiful amber-colored wine that tasted very similar to Tej, Ethiopian honey wine. It had a sweet, berry-like flavor, and it was a nice way to transition from the entree to the dessert. I ordered the caramel chocolate mousse cake, a huge portion of rich, decadent chocolate. I'm not sure how I finished it, but it would have been such a shame to leave it uneaten.
Ben ordered a slightly lighter dessert, a nice summer berry crisp made with oatmeal streusel and topped with vanilla ice cream. The berries were perfectly in season, and the vanilla ice cream was a nice, simple way to end dinner on a light note.
Overall, I was very impressed by our meal and also by the excellent service, and I hope to return soon to experience either "Monday Night Fight Night" or "Show and Taste Tuesday." This is the kind of exceptional restaurant that would be high on my list when trying to figure out where to go for special occasions. Also, Sibling Rivalry gets bonus points in my book for truly embracing the spirit of Restaurant Week by offering many delicious choices, full portion sizes, and barely any additional charges. Well done.
*This rating is based solely on a Restaurant Week visit, which may not be entirely indicative of the restaurant during a normal time. You can check out the full menu and other information on the restaurant's website.
Address: 525 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116 (South End)
Email: SiblingRivalry525 [at] hotmail [dot] com
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5:30pm-10pm; Friday, 5:30pm-11pm; Saturday, 5pm-11pm; Sunday, 11am-3pm brunch, 4pm-9pm dinner
Bar and Lounge Hours: Monday-Saturday, 5pm-close; Sunday, 11am-close
Valet parking available nightly for $16.
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