This past weekend, 14-year-old neighborhood stalwart Beacon Hill Bistro quietly abandoned its classic appetizer-main-dessert bistro model. The tiles and mirrors are still there, but small plates now dominate the menu at the Beacon Hill Inn's restaurant. After a few days with the new program, executive chef Josh Lewin took some time to speak with Eater about what he calls "the complete reconception of the dinner service." Think traditional flavors from around the world and lots of charcuterie. As is expected on all new Boston menus, of course there is a burger.
Tell us about the changes that have happened at Beacon Hill Bistro.
The menu has always been fluid. but the format was guided. There was an expectation you'd have at least two plates of food, we're going to tell you which one comes first, and then maybe you'll have some dessert. Over the course of this year, we noticed a lot more people have been sharing things and asking for split plates or half portions. We decided to listen to what people were telling us and made it easier to taste the food we're doing by doing a lot of smaller, lower priced plates. We're hitting on a lot of topics, because I'm really interested in how people around the world cook for their families.
People don't really think about the old bistro menus and have moved beyond those types of dishes, but we really are still a bistro. Now we can serve some of the same classic bistro stuff and it's kind of hiding on the menu. Our steak tartare is a classic preparation. A little nod to Paris, but then we'll take you on a trip outside of there too.
How do you expect customers to build a meal from the new menu?
Starting on the left side, we have a ton of charcuterie and salumi. The crudo changes daily as we butcher all our own fish here. It's meant to be shared — like a design-your-own amuse bouche. Next, maybe three small plates for two people; each plate is about 3/4 the size of a traditional appetizer. From there, people can keep ordering small plates, or we do have a couple of larger format items as well if they want a classic entree. We also have a tasting menu where we guide you through the experience.
How has the reaction been so far?
It's amazing, actually. We did it quietly. I put some of the stuff out on social media as it was happening on Friday. Social media is what it is; there're a few people that are looking, but the majority of the public isn't looking. But we wanted it that way; we thought we'd need the weekend to get it fixed, but from out of the gate it's actually been quite wonderful.
I was nervous. The bistro is 14 years old, and it's been a very similar experience for all those years. I've been here for four years — two as a sous chef for different chefs, and almost two on my own. Already, instead of people walking out the door saying they had a great time, they're being much more specific with things like, "the Bolognese was fantastic," or "man, that sausage was awesome." People already seem more in tune with the food.
Do you have any items you're particularly proud of?
It's given us a lot of room in the charcuterie area, which is something my sous chef and I really love. I'm a butcher, and I'm trying to transfer those skills to the rest of the staff. Now we have a full section of the menu where we can dive in and celebrate the individual components. We're doing multiple presentations of certain meats, like a brisket plate served two ways. It might become a lamb next week. We're also making sausages. The one on the menu now is my version of an Elgin Texas hot link.
We've developed a format where the freshest ingredients can be incorporated into the menu without having to throw it all out. The pasta right now that's a Bolognese might be meatballs in a few days. We have a burger we're grinding from brisket and sirloin. The bacon changes on that daily. Pork, lamb — all kinds of different bacon. I'm excited about the fluidity and celebration of from scratch cooking.
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