Last week I visited Boston's latest hot spot, The Achilles Project, and its adjoining restaurant, Persephone. Sadly, they did not quite live up to the hype.
Billed as the first of its kind for Boston and "destined to become a shopping and dining destination" in the Fort Point area, it's a combination retail (Achilles Project) and dining (Persephone) experience in one cavernous room.
Upon entering the establishment from Summer Street, one's faced with an upscale boutique reminiscent of New York City. Moveable display cases (which are slid back against the walls late night to open up the lounge area) contain "limited run" clothing and accessories from high-end brands like Jovovich-Hawk and Acne (unfortunate name, I know). Overly-eager shop keeps are quick to offer their services, plus commentary on the inventory (which includes options for both women and men, but only one of each item on the racks; more sizes are available from out back). Above the racks hang a couple of flat panel monitors where guests can play Guitar Hero or Wii (the shop keeps themselves were playing while I was there).
Just beyond the retail area is the bar/lounge, with its unbelievably bright, fluorescent lights. I like my restaurants & bars dimly lit, so this was a big turnoff for me. One might even say the ultra-bright lights were the Achilles' heel of the whole place. But it has a full bar, serving beer, liquor and wine, plus the obligatory specialty cocktail menu. We opted for wine while waiting for our table, and wondered why they chose to run black & white old movies on the flat panels above the bar (vs. something more modern, given the nature of the space).
The bar opened onto Persephone, the restaurant presumably named after the Greek Goddess of the harvest, and helmed by head chef Michael Leviton of Newton's Lumiere. It's described as local, organic, and American, but the meal preparations, menu items (shellfish bouillabaisse, veal shoulder, beef marrow) and minimalist dining room are reminiscent of a French bistro. Similar to the mobile display cases out front, the dining tables are on tracks and can slide together or apart to accommodate groups of various sizes.
The meal was good, but not over-the-top memorable. We started with warm, fresh bread (yum) and the Jamon Iberico - a platter of serrano ham, manchego cheese, marcona almonds and olives, a plate I would normally drool over. Sadly, the ham didn't have much flavor, and the entire dish was a bit too oily. Our entrees (skirt steak, grilled chicken with pine nuts and capers) were very good, as was the creme brulee we shared for dessert, but not much different from those available at a number of other spots around town (with the exception that Persephone reportedly uses all local ingredients, which is nice).
Overall, I really like the concept - I just think they need to make some tweaks to become the feverishly stylish hot spot it
wants to be.