Chow, Baby: Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Another Cup of Joe

So Chow, Baby has this old college buddy, Joe. You met him in this space a few years back when he stopped off in the Fort on his way to spending New Year’s in Barcelona (Spain), on assignment as a travel writer for the Boston Globe. Yeah, well, it gets better, envy-wise: In small part because of his global eating experience, Joe now has a new job, as food editor of a really major daily newspaper up in Yankeeland. And not a food editor, but the food editor, with a whole staff including a personal copy editor (Chow, Baby has to share), so Joe no longer has to agonize over whether to put a hyphen in rib-eye/ribeye. Lucky dog.
Speaking of which, Chow, Baby didn’t much care for its rib(-)eye ($28) at Lambert’s (2731 White Settlement Rd.). The brown-sugar crust, though a nice counterpoint (there’s a major-daily food word for you) to the oak-grilled beef, concealed the steak’s many pools of rubbery fat — thus, cutting blindly, Chow, Baby spent the first few minutes of its meal transporting globby bites from mouth to napkin. (Sorry, napkin-washers.) But after preaching to the choir on the desirability of ultra-fattiness in ribeyes, wonderful server Ashfield quickly brought Chow, Baby what Joe was eating: a gorgeous New York strip ($26), seared on the outside, pink on the inside, and with what little fat there was (which is why fat-loving Chow, Baby doesn’t usually order strips) melting and crisp-edged. Went great with a side of ricotta-creamed spinach ($6), the kitchen’s fresh take on the steakhouse classic. Chow, Baby was savvy enough to start and finish with two of Lambert’s standouts: an appetizer of achiote-seared whole chickpeas ($8) with caramelized onion, roasted tomato, goat cheese, and toasted pita triangles for scooping, and a grand finale of the signature coconut cream pie ($6). Joe was most impressed. Thanks, Lambert’s, for allowing Chow, Baby to nyah-nyah its dear friend.
Unfortunately, Chow, Baby lost all its points at My Martini (859 N.E. Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington), where dish after dish elicited Joe’s plaintive “I don’t get it.” Like, why wrap nice scallops with skinny chow mein-type noodles ($8), much less overcook the noodles so they fly everywhere when you try to cut into the dish? Why revise steak Oscar, traditionally and deliciously topped with lump crabmeat, by plopping a whole soft-shelled crab atop the filet mignon ($29)? Reinvention is cool, and the Oscar’s individual elements were fine (nice béarnaise sauce), but the plate was a clumsy mess.
Other failures were not of imagination but of execution. A new dish on the menu, miso-marinated cod ($15), came to the table hard and dry; pork chops ($20) were also shamefully overcooked. In both cases, however, sides were outstanding: a mushroom leek fritter with asparagus coulis for the cod, and wilted spinach with tempura sweet potato for the chops. And though jaded Chow, Baby had ordered the lobster mac & cheese ($13) assuming the dish would go straight into the “pointless use of lobster just for the marquee value” file, the combo worked fine: The “mac” was orzo, the cheese was Frenchy-gooey, and the lobster chunks on top were a great counterpoint (see above). Repeated Wedding Cake and Donkey Show martinis ($9) ensured we had a fun time despite the glitches, but Chow, Baby will still insist that Joe host our next reunion. He probably won’t argue.
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