The South End is getting a double hit of big news this week, and it’s reportedly connected: Tim Maslow is opening a Japanese brasserie in June, and longtime neighborhood mainstays Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel — Andy Husbands’ adjacent spots (645-647 Tremont St., South End, Boston) — are closing to be replaced by a Japanese restaurant, based on several reports. Though neither side will confirm it yet, all signs point to Maslow’s restaurant opening in the Tremont Street spaces.
First, Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel’s upcoming closure: South End blogger BosGuy shared the news yesterday, stating that the restaurants would close on April 1 to be replaced by a “Japanese bistro.” As Boston Restaurant Talk noted, the Pilot Block Neighborhood Association announced the news on Twitter yesterday as well, after Husbands reportedly announced the news at a Pilot Block Neighborhood Association party.
Husbands — who also owns Smoke Shop, a barbecue restaurant with locations in Cambridge and Boston — declined to confirm the news of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel’s reported upcoming closures to Eater on Friday morning. (See update below.)
Tremont 647 opened over 20 years ago, later followed by its adjacent little sister, serving up a neighborhood-friendly menu of American classics with a twist. The lively restaurant is also known for its long-running events, including taco Tuesdays and pajama brunches.
Despite the lack of confirmation from Husbands — and The Boston Globe spoke to Maslow, who also wouldn’t confirm his forthcoming address — it seems likely that Maslow’s restaurant will indeed be located at 645-647 Tremont. There’s the timing: yesterday’s neighborhood association announcement that Tremont 647/Sister Sorel would be replaced by a Japanese restaurant; today’s Globe article that Tim Maslow would open a Japanese restaurant in the South End. And there’s the ever-present Brian Lesser connection: As the Globe mentioned today and Boston Magazine teased back in September, Maslow is partnering with the omnipresent Boston restaurateur to open his new place, and Lesser is also a partner in Husbands’ Smoke Shop. It was also the Lesser connection that got Husbands into the former Tavern Road space to open Smoke Shop number two.
As for Maslow, here’s the quick rundown for Boston newcomers: He’s a young up-and-comer who spent time in New York City honing his skills within David Chang’s Momofuku empire before coming back home and transforming his father’s classic Watertown spot, Strip-T’s, into a critical darling. Next, he opened the highly anticipated Ribelle in Brookline, which earned a rare four-star review in the Boston Globe and piles of other accolades. Just shy of its third birthday, Ribelle closed after a turbulent few months that included Maslow’s highly publicized arrest on drug charges at the Canadian border — charges that were later dropped — and a brief name and concept change for Ribelle. As Maslow later told Eater, he had actually been quietly trying to sell the place six months before any of that happened.
The closure was in mid-2016; he kept a low profile for the next year, working at Tiger Mama in Fenway and then consulting at Mida in the South End. In mid-2017, he sat down with Eater to talk about next steps — and reflect on the past. “I kind of owe Boston an apology,” he said at the time. “Through all of the heartache and struggles, there were points when I thought Boston owed me an apology, but I more or less owe Boston an apology. It’s sincere, and I want to make it right. The city supported me like crazy, and I just blew it off.” He had recently become a father, and that gave him a new perspective. “[Restaurant life] doesn’t need to be live or die. You can do great things and not sacrifice everything else,” he said.
At the time, he mentioned that he was actively seeking a location for a new restaurant: “I am 100% coming back to the city of Boston asking them to understand what I went through,” he said. “I tried hard for them, and they bit me in the ass, and I still want to be here. I love this city. And I want to make it right. I want to open something that the city can love.”
He said that whatever he opened next would have a fun and hospitable vibe; he wanted to get beyond “the quenelles and techniques and minimalist plates and negative space” that too many restaurants seem to do just for the sake of being trendy. “Yeah, I did all the same stuff, and I made all the same mistakes. But I’ll tell you: Cooking from the heart is way more satisfying,” he said.
Soon after that conversation, Maslow headed up to Maine to help open a couple of restaurants, still intending to come back to Boston to open his own place. Now, here he comes.
Maslow was unavailable for immediate comment — this story will be updated if more information becomes available — but the Globe sketches out the preliminary details of his upcoming restaurant.
It’s tentatively called Whaling in Oklahoma, and it’ll be a Japanese brasserie that might serve everything from grilled whole fish and “fun bar food” to Japanese items found less frequently in America. It won’t be traditional, Maslow told the Globe, but it won’t be flashy, and the various staples (pickles, miso, furikake, etc.) will of course be made in-house.
The tentative name comes from a law Maslow stumbled upon that prohibits catching whales...in landlocked Oklahoma. As he told the Globe, “It’s funny and irreverent and makes no sense. It seemed a playful way to say what we might do.”
Stay tuned for more updates as the planned June opening draws closer.
Update, 2/20/18: In an email newsletter sent to fans of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel today, Husbands confirmed the upcoming closures, writing in part:
Later this spring Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel will be closing our doors. I couldn’t be prouder of all we have accomplished. It was not an easy decision but it is the right decision as I enter the next stage of my life both personally and professionally...
Since 1996 we’ve seen the neighborhood and world change all from the corner of Tremont and West Brookline Streets. We’ve seen the economy up and we’ve seen it down. We’ve opened during the biggest snow storms, and of course we will never forget the time we flooded along with the whole South End many years ago. We’ve been a spot for birthdays, first dates, anniversaries, engagements, rehearsal dinners and weddings; our Pajama Brunch and Taco Tuesday have played hosts to thousands of groups of friends creating memories. And our staff and regular patrons have formed truly special bonds over the years. It is truly an honor to have been part of the ever changing and growing Boston dining scene, and most important, a part of the South End community...
Looking forward I’m turning all of my attention to my new concept, The Smoke Shop BBQ; and of course you will find me supporting numerous charitable events, especially Share Our Strength. Plus, I’m working on a few other exciting projects. As for the Tremont 647 & Sister Sorel Space, I believe you will love what is to come. The South End is a very special place with a killer dining scene and this new bistro will be an awesome addition for the neighborhood and foodies alike.
The restaurants will close on April 1 with a pajama brunch, and from now until then, Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel will be open regular business hours. Follow along on social media for news of special events over the course of the final weeks.
• South End Rumor: Tremont 647 to Close and Become Japanese Bistro [BosGuy]
• Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel in Boston’s South End Are Closing [BRT]
• Chef Tim Maslow to Open a New Restaurant in the South End [BG]
• Tim Maslow Wants to Open a Restaurant That Boston Can Love [EBOS]