Every time you think you have seen everything in restaurants, an enterprising chef finds a way to break the mold. Daniel Bruce, executive chef at Meritage in the Boston Harbor Hotel, is one of those innovative chefs who not only understands food, but wine as well.
An admitted oenophile, Chef Bruce has turned the restaurant’s menu upside down, segmenting his menu into six distinct categories based upon the best wine to pair with the selections. After all, the word “meritage” is used in wine circles to denote a blend of different varietals.
There are six menu segments, three categories based on white wine and three on red. Within each category, there are four selections designed to complement that specific style of wine. There is no such thing as an appetizer or main, as each of the items is available in small or large size. This allows the customer to order, for example, three smaller dishes rather than a traditional appetizer and main combination. Prices are reasonable for the premium segment; small-dish pricing is half large size. As a result, price no longer becomes a factor in making a selection.
The restaurant itself serves as a backdrop to this unique dining experience. Food offered was expertly presented. The medleys of proteins and vegetables or carbohydrates were exquisite. I’ll also add that service was flawless — a big plus.
Desserts, too, were presented in the five primary flavors found in sweet wines from around the world: citrus, white fruit, red fruit, nuts or chocolate. Each dessert plate offers two options based on the same theme.
The wine list is extensive, but not overly expensive. For consistency with the menu, the wines offered by the glass are also arranged in the same six categories for the primary menu, and five different categories with dessert.
According to Chef Bruce, “My wine- and food-pairing philosophy is carried over from the Boston Wine Festival. It is critical that the ingredients, techniques and the dishes enhance — but never overwhelm — the wines. I consider specific characteristics such as weight, body, acidity, flavors and balance of each wine to create the synergistic wine and food experience. I make it a point not to focus solely on the varietal, but on the characteristics of the individual wine. Just as flavor profiles for each category are distinctive, so must the ingredients follow suit. It is an unusual way of producing a menu, but it is what has defined Meritage, and customers remember us for it.”