Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Legal Crossing, Boston

I visit the Boston area several times a year, since my family lives in New Hampshire, and Boston is the closest airport.  I'm always looking for places near the airport for an easy meal when I arrive, or, before I fly out.  On a recent visit, I had two great places picked out, both within 10 minutes of the airport.  My friends came pick us up from the airport, and we immediately started talking about the trials and tribulations we had endured over our past 7 hours.  And ... navigator Julie completely failed to pay any attention, missing our turn off.  We wound up on a limited access highway, in a tunnel sans GPS, going the wrong way.

Uh, oops.  I figured we could take the next exit and just turn around.  And then, Google Maps recalculated the travel time to the place I had picked out.  35 minutes!  But it was only 4 minutes away originally!  I looked up my second choice.  It was no better.  In fact, it was faster to just go all the way to our hotel, and eat somewhere around there instead.  Doh.

I had to make a quick decision for a fallback.  I wasn't planning to eat near the hotel, which was near Boston Common.  We obviously didn't have a reservation anywhere, we weren't dressed up, and didn't actually want a long, drawn out fancy meal.  Plus, it was only 3pm in our West-Coast minds.  I looked through my notes on restaurants near Boston Common, but none seemed fitting, all high-end, or focused on cocktails (my dining companions don't drink).  I had one note, near the end of my list, to check out Legal Crossing.  It was a 5 minute walk from hotel.  They had availability on OpenTable.  I quickly booked it from my phone, and we headed that way after dropping our bags at the hotel.

Legal Crossing is part of the Legal Seafood chain.  I've visited several different Legal Seafood establishments over the years, ranging from full scale restaurants to takeout at airport locations, and I've never been impressed.  It isn't ever bad exactly, but it really isn't great, and it is pricey.  I have no real intension of returning to a Legal Seafood at this point.

But they also have a few spin-off establishments, like Legal Test Kitchen (more innovative cuisine), Legal C Bar (with a great cocktail program ), and Legal Harborside (the big flagship), plus this one, Legal Crossing.  The concept is a mix of the crowd favorites from Legal Seafood and some of their more exploratory restaurants.  It is located in Downtown Crossing.  Thus, the name, Legal Crossing, is a reflection of both the neighborhood location, and the mixed concepts.  Reviews are positive, so, I figured I'd give the Legal brand one more chance.

This, this was the last.  Again, it wasn't *bad* but it wasn't good, and again, pricey.  Service was quite slow and inattentive, particularly annoying as we were a bit pressed for time, and the restaurant was not full at all.

The Space

The inside of the restaurant was definitely more stylish than the standard Legal locations.  It was also not nearly as massive as other Legal Seafood restaurants I have visited.
Corner Table.
It was very dark (er, swanky?), making taking photos quite hard.  The curtains were actually metal mesh, and all decor had dark tones.

But it wasn't overly fancy, the placemats were actually made of paper, just, patterned and nice paper.  Food was served on ceramics and other beautiful stoneware.
Bar Area.
There was also a bar area, which didn't really fit in with the slightly swanky atmosphere.

Well, that isn't entirely true.  The area that housed the bottles of alcohol was backlit in a really cool way, and the bar itself was wooden, so those aspects fit in, but the huge flatscreens with sports on really looked insanely tacky and out of place to me.  Was this a sports bar?  Is this just a Boston thing?


The menu is broken into several confusing sections.  First are "small plates", which I took to be standard appetizers.  But then there are "Plates to share", further broken down into different sections (seafood, meats, veggies & grains), some of which also sound like appetizers (crab cakes, calamari, ribs, charcuterie, salads), while others don't at all (herb crusted lamb, risotto, sides of kale).  But then there is a section for mains too, and an additional section of "Simply LX" mains.

The others I was dining with were clearly confused.  I understand what the restaurant was trying to do, with two different sized appetizer sections, and a clearly defined "simple" offering section for mains, but, it doesn't really come across in an easily digestible way.


Rising Sun. $10.
Even though no one else was drinking, I really wanted a drink, and the cocktail menu looked excellent.  I asked the server about this one, and she said it was her favorite, so, I went for it.

I don't recall the exact description, but it was a yuzu and gin based drink.

It really was quite good, and in fact, the highlight of my meal.  It was very refreshing, not something I usually say about cocktails, but it really was.  Of course, this made it far too easy to drink quickly.   Being the only drinker in the group, I certainly didn't want to be a lush!

It was tangy and well balanced.  You could taste the gin, but it wasn't harsh or strong.  Really, a lovely drink and I'd gladly get it again.  The $10 price was very reasonable.


As I mentioned, the menu had several section of what I'd consider appetizers.  The first was "Small Plates" and the second "Plates to Share".

The "Small Plates" section has some Legal classics, like their clam chowder, plus seafood stables of shrimp cocktail and freshly shucked oysters or clams.  Most of the other items are slightly asian inspired, including a lobster rangoon, brussels sprouts with miso butter and soy pearls, and tempura salt and pepper shrimp.  And then there are others like crispy polenta and scotch eggs, which seem slightly odd on the menu, more like pub food.  All dishes in this section are generally less than $10.  We tried two dishes from here.

The "Plates to Share" seemed to be larger appetizers.  It is broken down into three sections - one with seafood (ranging from raw tuna sashimi to clam pizza and everything in between), the next for meat (all over the place again, from short ribs to charcuterie to asian inspired duck buns with hoisin), and the final was vegetables and grains (salads or things like risotto).  These are all in the $8-20 range, and we opted to try one.
Small Plate: New England Clam Chowder. $7.
"Our award-winning recipe is full of tender Cape Cod clams, cream and herbs. It has been served at every Presidential inauguration since 1981."

Our first Small Plate.

Legal Seafood is known for their clam chowder.  It is on the menu at every one of the restaurants, and you can even buy it online, or at Sam's Club.  Of course Legal Crossing had it on the menu.

My dining companion always gets the clam chowder whenever we go to Legal, or, really, to any seafood restaurant on the east coast (like Belle Isle, our frequent pre or post airport destination).  Creamy, New England style, chowder doesn't show up nearly as often on the west coast.

I'm not much of a soup eater, unless it is freezing cold, and I'm looking to warm up, but even then, I only go for creamy, decadent soups.  Which, chowder is.

I tried a bite.  It was ... not particularly interesting.  There were little cubes of potato, carrots, onion, and celery, all small and soft.  Not many clams actually (a comment I have made in the past as well).  It wasn't fishy.  It wasn't particularly seasoned.  Honestly, it tasted a lot like milk and flour, with a little salt and pepper thrown in for good measure.  I really wanted more depth, and more clams.  And ... some smoky bacon or something.

A small plastic bag of oyster crackers was served on the side.

The person who ordered it seemed happy enough with it though.
Small Plate: Crispy Salmon / Sake Marinate. $6.
Another Small Plate.

A fellow diner wanted a small salmon dish, but the main salmon dishes were all quite large.  She asked about what salmon options were available in smaller sizes, and the server told us there was smoked salmon or crispy salmon belly.

She immediately wasn't interested in the salmon belly, but it got the interest of my friend and I.  On many animals, belly is delicious, as, like with humans, it is where the fat is stored, and is usually more decadent and buttery (aka, pork belly.  Mmm, pork belly).

We still weren't quite sure what crispy salmon belly would be, but at $6 for a share plate, it didn't seem like a huge investment, and my friend really wanted the salmon-orderer to try it, so he ordered it anyways.

The serving was 2 skewers, each with 3 chunks of panko (?) crusted salmon belly, deep fried.  The salmon belly, as expected, was very soft, moist, and buttery inside, but the coating was not "crispy" as advertised.  It was really quite soggy, and incredibly oily.  The salmon tasted a bit fishy.  I didn't like it at all.

The sauce however, was quite tasty, like a sweet chili sauce.  The menu just said "sake marinade", which didn't indicate that it would be sweet, and my fellow diners don't like sweet, so they didn't like the dish because of the sauce.  I adored the sauce, and, if this had been properly fried, I see how it could be a great pairing.  Alas, poor execution ruined it.

The plate went unfinished, even though we were a group of 4, and had no other appetizers (beside's the chowder that was exclusively for one diner).  He was content with the chowder, I thought the fish was soggy and oily, and the others didn't want the sweet sticky sauce that covered it.  However, at $6, it was a decent value.  
Plates to Share: Crab Cake / Asparagus / Pancetta / Mustard Hollandaise. $17.
A "Plate to Share".

Since it was still only 3-4pm west coast time, and I'd been munching away during my entire flight, I wasn't ready for a full dinner.  When no one wanted to split things with me, I decided to just get another appetizer as my main dish, even though the menu had a number of entrees I was interested in.  I opted for crab cakes, another signature Legal dish, although this one was prepared differently from their standard offering.  I know they use Maryland crab, not west coast Dungeness, which is my favorite crab, but, still, I like all crab, and when in a cake the exact type of crab matters less anyway.

This came from the "Plates to Share" section, so I assumed it would be a bit bigger than the "Small Plates".  The serving was two crab cakes, stacked on top of each other, served over a mustard hollandaise, with thin slices of tiny bits of asparagus and crispy pancetta, plus one lone spring of frisee.

I appreciated the sauce on the bottom, as it wouldn't make the rest of the dish soggy, and allowed me to use as little or much of it as I liked.  In the end, I didn't use much of it, because I didn't like it.  I love hollandaise, and creamy sauces with seafood, but, this was too strong on the mustard for my taste, and too tangy.  Not balanced.

The asparagus was amusing to me, tiny, tiny pieces, and, it was the end of December, so it was totally not seasonal.  It seems like they could have adapted this dish to something more suitable to winter produce?   Perhaps I'm just used to San Francisco, where our menus change with the seasons?  Anyway, I can't comment much about that asparagus, as honestly I couldn't taste it in the dish.

The pancetta however was good, super crispy, super salty, flavorful little bursts, basically like bacon bits.  Exactly what I wanted in the chowder.

As for the crab cakes.  Wow.  So, the sauce wasn't there making them unnecessarily soggy, but, that doesn't mean they weren't insanely soggy.  These crab cakes were basically just piles of mush.  Not remotely crispy on the outside, although very black on top.  The cakes had tons of filler.  Seriously, just a pile of mush.

I offered my friend a taste.  His immediate response, "Do you want to send that back?  That really isn't good".  Well, at least I wasn't alone in feeling this way.  But given how poorly the other food had been executed, I didn't think sending it back would really have much effect, the kitchen clearly just didn't have the skill to execute basic techniques.

I soldiered on and ate my mush, not tasting any crab, not getting any enjoyment out of it.  Tragic.

$17 is on the low end for an entree at Legal, but, this wasn't an entree, it was an appetizer, so it wasn't really a good value.


Like the appetizers, the Mains section is also confusing.  There was a single non-seafood option of sirloin, served with fries and creamed kale.  No vegetarian mains.  The rest of the options were composed seafood dishes, all with different sides and sauces.  I eyed the cod from this section ($27), served with butternut squash gnocchi, butternut cream, and swiss chard, all things I really enjoy, but I just wasn't hungry enough for a full entree.  I also eyed the seared sea scallops with wild mushroom risotto, chanerelles, and sunchoke chips ($33), since I love wild mushrooms, scallops, and sunchokes, but again, it was just too much.

One diner went for the trout almondine, with haricot vert and crispy potatoes (also $27).  The other, who wanted salmon, could have picked the hoisin glazed salmon, asian inspired and served with pad thai noodles, veggies, and crushed peanuts, but she didn't want the glaze, thinking it would be sweet.  Other options included linguini with clams, butter poached lobster, and several other fish dishes.

The second section of mains is titled "Simply LX".  These are more basic, simple treatments of protein, served with "Chef selected seasonal sides".  The salmon-eater selected the grilled salmon from here, while my friend opted for the baked cod.  Non-seafood eaters had only a single option here too, pan seared chicken.

Mains ranged from $20-50, and our group ordered 3 (2 from the simple section, 1 from regular).
Simply LX: Baked Cod / Buttered Crumbs. $18. 
"Paired with chef selected seasonal sides"

Since we don't have Atlantic cod on the west coast, my freind took advantage of being in New England, and ordered cod, always a favorite of both of ours.  Of course, I planned to try it.

There were actually two cod dishes on the menu, but he opted for the one from the "Simply LX" section of the menu, topped with classic buttered crumbs and served with the chef's selection of sides.  I obviously would have chosen the one with butternut squash gnocchi and cream, but alas, this was his order.  On the plus side, the simple baked cod was only $18, as opposed to $27 for the roasted version I wanted.

His was served with two unknown sides.

The first was farro with pomegranate seeds and pistachios.  This was quite seasonal, and clearly pushes boundaries for some people, as neither of our dining companions were familiar with farro.  I tried a bite, and wasn't really impressed.  It was just farro, steamed, tossed with the nuts and fruit, and not really seasoned.  My friend gave his entire portion to another diner, since his dish had only crispy potatoes with it, no grains.

The other side was a selection of veggies: brussels, fennel, and carrots.  Again, at least this was seasonal, but they weren't particularly well cooked, rather mushy.

As for the cod itself, it was decent.  A large portion, flaky, tender, delicate, moist.  The crumbs on top were a classic touch.  Served with just lemon on the side to drizzle over it, per the "Simply LX" section of the menu.  Definitely not my thing, as I want at least some tartar sauce, but, the fish was decent.

$18 for a large piece of fish was actually a good value, particularly as all other seafood dishes were $27+.  If you want something simple, this was a nice option.

The grilled salmon was served with the exact same sides.  Hers was also just very simple, a grilled piece of fish, no sauce, nothing.  It seemed to be what she wanted though.


You know me and dessert.  Who am I to say no, even when no one else wants dessert (I was with non-dessert eaters).  Who am I to say no, even when I'm pretty full (still on West Coast time, I'd only landed about 1.5 hours before, and wasn't even hungry for my meal).  Still, dessert!  I asked to see the menu.

The dessert menu was largely uninspiring, at least to me.  Pistachio cake with citrus (meh to pistachio, meh to citrus).  I wanted to share with my friend, and he can't have caffeine or alcohol, so out went the boozy "adult" profiteroles, the "sin free" chocolate mousse, and the very, very tempting sounding chocolate peanut butter pie (with peanut brittle!)

There was only one other option, but it did happen to be something I love: bread pudding!
Croissant Bread Pudding / Salted Caramel Ice Cream. $8.
So, I love bread pudding, it is no secret.  I love it sweet, I love it savory.

When sweet, I want it with whipped cream or ice cream.  The menu said it came with ice cream, so that was a big plus.

I want it warm.  I asked if it was served warm, my server said yes.  Another big plus.

I like the consistency of my bread pudding to be a certain way.  I want the top crispy, the inside moist.  I want distinct chunks of bread.  I asked about that too, and she told me that it was very moist, the top crispy.  All good signs.

Oh, and I want a fun choice of bread, like croissant or brioche.  Bonus points for some kind of caramel sauce, nuts, or other spicing.  I was told this was a mix of croissant and brioche.

Well, ok then.  The right type of bread, the right consistency, warm, and served with ice cream.  So, even though none of my fellow diners were willing to eat any, I decided to get it, knowing I was on my own.

It didn't take too long to arrive, no more than 10 minutes.  It did come hot, fresh out of the oven, in a large ramekin.  This was not a serving meant for just one person, which, I rather expected.

I stuck my spoon in.  Hmm, the top was not crispy.  Strike one.

It was moist, but, very dense, rather gummy.  All one consistency, exactly as I don't like.  I couldn't find distinct chunks of croissant, nor the promised brioche.  I would have never known there was croissant in here.  Strikes two and three.

It was however served hot.  And the salted caramel ice cream on top was tasty, and was indeed salted.  But it melted quickly, and left me with at least half the dessert with no ice cream to pair with it.  The ratio was just off, the bread pudding too big, the ice cream scoop too small.  It would have been much better with a smaller serve of the bread pudding, and a bigger scoop of ice cream.

There was some subtle flavor in the bread pudding, I still am not quite sure what it was, it tasted almost almond-like.

My friend tried one bite just to try it, said it was awful, and looked like he wanted to spit it out.  I didn't think it was THAT bad, but it was clearly not a winner.  That said, I did half-heartedly eat at least half the bread pudding, and all the ice cream.  The salted caramel was nice at least.

The $8 price was fine for a large dessert.
Legal Crossing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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