BOSTON – From an architectural, design, and culinary standpoint, this is one of the most audacious restaurants to open in Boston in a long time. It’s called Explorateur, and without a doubt, this place is worthy of some exploring, according visionary restaurateur Ed Kane.
“Explorateur is my interpretation of a grand European cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner. So the dining room, as you come in is a wide open space, and you really get that sense of grandness. There’s a cafe section in the front which has pastry on the left… a raised dining room which has great comfort, and then an open bar.”
This is the Grand Masonic Lodge on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Street that dates back to 1899, and it’s been meticulously restored and augmented. The atmosphere is certainly awe-inspiring. The challenge was to create a menu that could stand up to Explorateur’s grand surroundings, and that is where Chef de Cuisine Jacob Mendros comes in.
Chef Jacob oversees a culinary operation that runs practically 24 hours a day, from breakfast starting at 7 a.m., to sit down dinners, to late night at the bar.
“Ed’s influence, when he and I first talked over everything, was California-French. The traditional and technique of French cuisine, and the California side was casualizing it, making it approachable to everybody. You can get all these nice things you’d want out of a French bistro but in our way. It’s a little more New England.”
“The menu is kind of all over the board of classic dishes that you really like,” Ed expanded. “We have steak; we have chicken; we have fish. All done very simply and all very affordable.”
In the morning, there’s a beautiful avocado toast topped with fresh lime, thin-sliced radish, and sriracha aioli; decadent Chocolate Hazelnut French Toast topped with caramelized bananas and fresh berries; and a unique dish known as the Baked Egg.
“We take tomatoes fresh every morning. We char them on the grill and make a puree with them with farm cream that we get locally. Crack some fresh eggs on top of it and then just throw it in the oven until the eggs are a little bit over medium,” Chef Jacob explained. “It’s more of a dip than an actual egg dish, but it functions both ways.”
There is the ultimate French crossover cuisine: the Croque Madame griddled with cured ham and gruyere cheese, topped with Mornay sauce and a sunnyside egg.
“It’s very, very rich. It’s definitely like that hangover food, that sinful brunch food you really look forward. Definitely one of our more flavorful staples that people definitely come back for,” Chef Jacob said.
Sandwiches are popular at lunchtime as well, especially the BALT, a gourmet BLT featuring Applewood smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh avocado. There is the so-called Counter Burger, which was inspired by the legendary Double Double at In-N-Out Burger. Or, you may want to consider a crock of French onion soup, an Explorateur signature.
“We make a roasted beef stock, roasted chicken stock, we reduce them down so they’re really, really strong. Red onions, Spanish onions, shallots, garlic, everything low and slow all day. We melt gruyere over the top of it with herb crostini,” Jacob described. “You break through that caramelized crust on top of the cheese and there’s that soaked, super garlicky bread in there. It’s crunchy, it’s rich, it’s beefy from that broth. It’s super potent.”
At dinnertime, the service is a bit more formal and the food is a bit more upscale. There is traditional Steak Frites boasting a sliced New York strip and handcut fries; Pappardelle Bolognese featuring housemade pasta and ricotta cheese; and an exceptional Roast Chicken for two.
“We roast our chicken in our pizza oven actually. We brush it with reduced bird stock and honey. It allows the outside to get super crispy at that high heat, but it retains all the moisture inside,” Chef said. “You carve into and there’s just so much moisture still in that meat.”
From morning until night, this is a multi-faceted restaurant that can satisfy those looking for comfort, as well those looking to explore.
“I think it provides many things for the guests,” Ed said. “The sense that you can go there any time of day, and the sense that when you’re hungry, or you want a cup of coffee, or you want to have a meeting, or you want to see friends… you always think here.”
You can find Explorateur at 186 Tremont Street in Boston, and online at explorateur.com.
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