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Sauce

The vibe and menu - like the clothes - are not off the rack

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / March 15, 2008

From the outside, the quietly chic clothing store on Summer Street seems remarkable only because it's actually open at 6:30 on a Saturday night, unlike the dark Fort Point office buildings surrounding it. But just behind the neat rows of $66 T-shirts and $485 sweaters hanging in frosted glass cases, a surprisingly lively scene awaits.

People sit on backless orange leather couches playing Wii tennis and Guitar Hero; fashionable 40-somethings in tight jeans and pointy boots sip martinis. And is that Bruins legend Cam Neely cozying up with his bronzed bombshell wife?

Behind the bar crowd, carefully stylish couples dine on arugula salad and wild black sea bass as waiters hoist plate-size bone-in ribeyes behind them. Ambient electronic sounds fill the air: shopping music with a beat.

This is the Achilles Project, part clothing store (Achilles), part restaurant and lounge (Persephone). It's a little bit Upper East Side and a little bit Ikea, with rubber-soled high heels and $2.25 oysters instead of housewares and meatballs. Either way it's a welcome sign of nightlife in the neighborhood.

The food isn't particularly Greek, nor are the clothes, but the mythological characters play into the concept. As the general manager tells it, shopping is an Achilles heel for many people (very true), and Persephone is the goddess of harvest. Well, almost. Persephone is the daughter of the goddess of harvest; Persephone herself is better known for being carried to the underworld by Hades.

But no matter. The restaurant is cool enough for the likes of the strapping Neely, who is a big fan of chef Michael Leviton's Lumiere in Newton, at least according to a man tending the ribeye blackboard, which details how many steaks the restaurant has left and how hefty they are.

The menu is divided by clothing size, small to extra large, and the price goes up accordingly. The Small selections include a scallop chowder in a delicious buttery broth and a creamy duck egg atop a pile of salty mushrooms. A seared Maine sea scallop resting on a meaty chestnut-celery root puree is nice, but it is indeed just one $9 scallop. "It's a little bit small," the waiter says apologetically.

On the Medium rack, there's grilled squid with olives, parsley, and preserved lemon, which has more than medium flavor, as well as a boat of crispy whole romaine hearts coated in an anchovy-y, eggy dressing and hearty croutons.

The shellfish bouillabaisse, in the Large category, is superb, with a strong fennel-flavored broth, melt-in-your mouth mussels, scallops, and clams, and a tasty aioli on top. Our party didn't have room for the Extra Large offerings, which include the massive bone-in ribeyes, but they looked impressive. (Neely ordered a 32-ouncer, by the way.)

If you're sitting in the right spot, and totally bored by your dining companions, you can watch black-and-white films playing on three screens above the bar while you eat. Look for odd subtitles like "Don't forget to air your master's pants" from Hitchcock's 1928 "The Farmer's Wife."

This all may sound like a perfectly lovely experience, with plentiful metered parking to boot, but a word of warning: Two days after visiting the Achilles Project, this writer tore her Achilles tendon. This probably won't happen to anyone else, but still, it makes me think twice about going back - at least until I'm in the market for some new clothes.

Persephone, 283 Summer St., 617-695-2257. achilles-project.com Plates $8-$44 Wine by the glass $8-$12.

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.

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