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Cheap Eats

The Met raises the bar food

Email|Print| Text size + By Sheryl Julian, Globe Staff
July 7, 2005

Eating at a restaurant's bar is what everyone wants to do right now. It might be because it's summer, when this kind of informality feels right. But it also has something to do with wandering in without a reservation, ordering an appetizer or two instead of a full dinner, and -- on game nights -- watching something exciting (albeit without sound). Smart restaurateurs have begun offering bar menus with reasonable prices, so you can stop for a bite before a movie or after a long drive home from the beach.

What the Metropolitan Club has done at the Met Bar is give you food that shows off both the chef's and pastry chef's styles. Just because you decided to eat perched on a bar stool doesn't mean you don't want beautiful food.

The Metropolitan Club is Chestnut Hill's new darling, crowded since its opening seven months ago. In the space where a Figs once reigned, this steakhouse is owned by Kathy Sidell Trustman, the newest restaurant member of a family that includes sister Stephanie Sidell of Stephanie's on Newbury, and dad Jack Sidell, whose work at US Trust allowed him to be the banker to many of Boston's celebrity chefs at the beginning of their careers.

Trustman says she was primed to do this. "I was repressing my instincts for a long, long time," she says. Her background is producing films. To that end, the Met Club has become a scene, and while some wait politely for a table, others barge in. There is no system here. It reminded me a little of the meat counter at Whole Foods Market before a three-day weekend. A dozen people are standing in line and the butcher asks who's next. Invariably someone who arrived a minute ago steps up and puts in an order. At the Met Bar, we waited for a table and a mother-daughter team swooped in and sat themselves down.

Alas, seated at the bar a little while later (game tied, by the way, so this turned out to be a good spot) we shared Louisiana BBQ shrimp ($14), and everything bad in the world vanished. Plump pink curls were stacked on thick buttery, golden cornbread toasts (Trustman told me later that they're deep-fried!), with a luscious slightly sweetened sauce.

Not all bar items are under the $15 Cheap limit, but that still leaves many choices. It meant skipping "cowboy tenderloin" dinner salad, tenderloin tips, spinach cobb salad, and skirt steak with frites.

Margarita grilled pizza ($10), showed off pastry chef Paige Retus's ultra thin, flaky dough with a light layer of tomatoes. We split the ample Met burger ($14), tall and inviting on an eggy housemade roll. This meat, ground from the ends of dry-aged prime steaks, needs no condiments. It tastes like meat used to taste.

A dessert we asked for early in the meal was never ordered. A manager who overheard the bartender apologizing offered to have our tart made immediately. But we wanted to skip dessert at that point. We'd had enough to eat and the Sox were winning. We agreed to try the cookie plate ($10), and a toppling platter of buttery little sweets -- one more appealing than the next -- was presented.

All of which explains the madhouse.

THE METROPOLITAN CLUB

Cuisine: Steak

Address: 1210 Boylston Street, Newton

Phone: 617-617-0600

Hours: Dinner: nightly 5-11, bar menu until midnight.
Brunch: Sat-Sun 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Reservations accepted.

Prices: Appetizers, soups, salads $7-$20. Pastas $9-$24. Entrees $17-$49 (rib eye for two). Desserts $7-$10.

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