(Apologies for the no-pictures thing, Kait and I love pictures and know that’s an important part of the whole blog thing, but sometimes opt-out if it means messing with the experience. I’m making an effort though!)

It was a rainy, cold winter day in Boston- the kind of day I crave a new experience. Truthfully I’m always craving a new experience, but as I walk down Boston’s cold winter streets with a steady bone chilling drizzle falling on my head and cold Atlantic wind whipping up my sleeves it can be hard to remember I ever experienced pleasure. In these instances I do one of two things: hunker down on my couch with some kind of tried and true dutch oven recipe or venture (as quickly as possible) to a new, preferably exotic restaurant that will envelop me in a different world of flavors and make me forget where exactly I am.
Enter Estragon Tapas in Boston’s South End. For those unacquainted with our fine city (Austinites- my weather description probably has not done much to romance you right?) the South End is a mecca for the trendy with sizable disposable incomes (read: not me). Should you mistake it as yuppie-central, it’s also long been on the cutting edge culture and cuisine-wise. Make all the jokes you want about the plethora of designer strollers, Mini Coopers, and upscale-bohemian brownstone (I have): the South End has much to offer the foodie/drinkies among us. There’s my regular haunts like the original Flour bakery, Orinoco (arepas!), The Gallows bar/restaurant (poutine baby!), and Myers + Chang Asian fusion restaurant/dinner everything wonderfulness. Then there’s a plethora of new places to try out- if its in the South End its at least worth a try in my opinion.
Estragon was a break from my normal bar fly routine- we went the whole Open Table reservation route. It was a Friday night and prime dinner time, around 7:30, but we were seated right away. The decor was not what I was expecting- from their website I’d pictured a modern/ art deco, light, and airy environment. While it was certainly art deco I don’t know about the “modern” and certainly it was not light or airy- black was a major accent (black and white floor tiles, black painted ceiling, black curtains, even black toilets) and while I dig darkness and funk it just was not what I was expecting.
We immediately ordered sangria, because if there is anything I expect to be bang-out at a Spanish joint its sangria. It wasn’t great (too much ice and too little flavor) but we compared it to Orinoco, which has the best sangria on this planet and anything else would pale in comparison. A saving grace in the drinks department was the Estrella Damm Inedit my friend ordered- a beer served champagne-style and developed specifically to pair with food by the famed Ferran Adera of El Bulli. Our server graciously returned each time our friend’s glass tipped below the half way mark, and at $16 a bottle that made it a delicious and delightful bargain.
In the food department Estragon similarly had a few misses but also some very redeeming qualities. This being my first tapas experience I expected small, over- priced dishes with delicious flavor combinations. The sizes of the dishes were a pleasant surprise- we found the portions perfect for sharing. While we haven’t been to Toro (yet!) our friends report Estragon’s portions are larger (in a good way). As is my usual dining-out strategy I opted for dishes I either wouldn’t or couldn’t make at home- that way if I’m disappointed by the flavor at least I’ve tried something I wouldn’t have otherwise. For this reason we skipped the crispy paprika chick peas other blogs have mentioned and instead went for roasted brussels sprouts with chorizo and golden raisins, because I’d rather get my chorizo with roasted veg than toast; steamed mussels with chorizo, tomato, tarragon and Spanish white wine (the chorizo was missing but the steaming and wine broth were perfection); and seafood paella, which was “just okay” with what seemed to be frozen or at least over-steamed peas but a generous portion of mussels, octopus, scallops, and chicken. Our friend’s got the arugula salad, sautéed garlic shrimp (simple but amazingly deliciousness with crusty bread), braised beef cheeks with rioja reduction (not my thing but melt in your mouth tender and very flavorful), and a torta-like potato and cheese dish that was not very memorable.
So, overall a mixed bag food-wise with some standouts (the seafood and meat). The vegetable selections were hit or miss with flavors that could stand to be a little more refined but pair well with meatier dishes. Dishes came out as they were ready, which we appreciated but others may not. And of course, like all my good experiences it was the people who really made the night- friends and a great server/staff overall. The husband and I are planning another sojurn soon- maybe for appetizers so I can sit on one in the corner on one of their vintage couches and drink beer like a boss.

Estragon on Urbanspoon