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Franklin Southie

A popular chef's hangout branches out
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  July 1, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

09073_franklin_main
CREATIVITY POINTS: The grilled organic half chicken comes atop potato cubes and a curry-cumin-yogurt-coconut sauce that would be proudly served in any Indian restaurant.

Franklin Southie | 152 Dorchester Avenue, South Boston | 617.269.1003 | franklincafe.com | Open Monday–Friday, 5:30 pm–1:30 am; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am–4 pm and 5:30 pm–1:30 am | AE, DC, DI, MC, VI | full bar | no valet parking | street-level access
The original Franklin Café in the South End won friends quickly with a unique combination of minimalist but inventive cuisine, comfort food like turkey meatloaf, an innovative wine-pricing scheme ($15 over wholesale), a terrific selection of draft beers, and the latest hours of any fine-dining possibility in town. One key set of customers are the other South End chefs, who gather after closing time. Next came the Franklin Cape Ann, in Gloucester. And now we have one more: the new, larger Franklin Southie, which opened in December and has kept most of the Franklin formula, adding a full bar and a more bistro-like menu, but holding to the $20-per-plate price line.

We began with a dense-crumb white loaf in slices with a fiery white-bean dip. The current soup on offer is chilled asparagus with a porcini flan ($8). It's a magical potion, rich and cold enough to transmute the sweetness of asparagus into something that evokes chocolate milk. The flan has the granular texture of gefilte fish, though the flavor is more the musky aroma of truffle oil than the woodsy richness of porcini mushrooms. And then there is a fried-onion flag.

Small plates (or appetizers) are still a strongpoint, with the creativity bonus going to warm zucchini matchsticks with toasted almonds and pecorino ($8). Beneath impossibly large sheets of cheese with balsamic dribbles is all this healthful stuff, which, thanks to the toasted- almond flavor and the crunch of the julienned zucchini, tastes like potato sticks!

Hand-made potato gnocchi ($9) has just one twist: spicy lamb sausage that somehow still tastes Italian with the very light gnocchi, crunchy English peas, and a bit of tomato sauce. (If they'd cook the peas a little more, I'd order two of these as an entrée.) "Short Rib & Five Lilly Wontons" ($9) are served in a Chinese bamboo steamer, even though the four wontons are deep-fried. Beef is an unusual stuffing — if it's too weird, just go for the homemade apricot "duck sauce," a genuine if spicier improvement on the standard item. House-cured salmon-and-cucumber tartare ($10) makes visual fun with five beet crêpes. The salmon has a bit of smoke in the cure, I think, but I'm not mad for this dish.

Of three salads, the baby arugula and crimini combo ($8) was superb, with just enough dressing and a scallop of crumb-coated warm goat cheese. The mushrooms were extra superb; you won't mind that the accompanying "shallot jam" is not so different from cranberry sauce.

For entrées, the comfort-food choice is probably prime sirloin steak ($20), an amazing piece of marketing and a bargain— or a loss-leader. It's not huge, but the flavor is all there, with an unexpectedly ripe slice of beefsteak tomato in June. The popover with it on our night was overdone and dried out, and the Worcestershire gravy wasn't right with it. But this is as superior a steak entrée as some at double the price.

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Related: The Melting Pot, Bina Osteria, Korean Garden Restaurant, More more >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Beverages, Food and Cooking,  More more >
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ARTICLES BY ROBERT NADEAU
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  •   JADE GARDEN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT  |  November 04, 2009
    Ready for some reasonably priced lobster after years of paying too much? You’re in luck, since a price war seems to be unfolding on the streets of Chinatown, with various window signs advertising twin lobsters in ginger and scallion for as low as $14.95.
  •   SOFIA ITALIAN STEAKHOUSE  |  October 28, 2009
    I have to admit I giggled when I got a press release describing this restaurant as being located in the “white-hot West Roxbury-Dedham dining scene.” After all, the space had already killed a reasonably good steak house, Vintage, after a long closure in which it tried to upscale, then ended up downscaling by adding red-sauce Italian dishes.
  •   BUBOR CHA CHA  |  October 21, 2009
    I’m not an enthusiast of fusion food, but I do like the cuisine of Malaysia, where history has developed a four-way fusion cuisine.
  •   PUNJAB PALACE  |  October 15, 2009
    Punjab Palace — by the same owners of Kenmore Square’s India Quality — “proves to be the kind of kid brother that would make any older sibling proud,” my colleague MC Slim JB wrote last year. That’s true, but this is also another second-tier Indian restaurant. So why do Slim and I like it so much?
  •   CON SOL  |  October 14, 2009
    Three-year-old ethnic bargain spot Con Sol snuck under reviewers' radar with an Iberian menu that draws mostly on Portuguese-American food — a cuisine that feels native to long-time Cantabrigians, but otherwise is little known north of New Bedford and Fall River or west of Provincetown.

 See all articles by: ROBERT NADEAU

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