The downstairs bar at Forum, recently opened on Boylston Street in Boston, rolls back from its glass façade like a sensuous cave. The look is ultra modern, ultra chic: a broad expanse of white brick, dramatically up lit, stretches opposite a chocolate-brown wooden palisade, the two bracketing two long rows of creamy leather chairs floating above taupe-colored floors. The open stair ascends to the dining room above, but the sleek, under lit bar—aptly described on the Forum website as “massive,” a long open rectangle bent in the middle, allowing for maximum eye contact in all directions—beckons to the sleek crowd, and the crowd answers.
My dining companion Heather Cathcart, Co-Founder of WhatsTheSoup, orders what turn out to be some truly envy-inducing fish tacos. I start with a rather whimsical Caesar salad: pale crisp inner leaves of romaine with a strong anchovy dressing, supplemented by a pair of fried anchovies, crisp but tender brioche croutons, and parmesan crisps (which will always get you points in my book).
I sip a beer from their extensive list (extensive also is their wine and cocktail program), chat with Heather, cast a glance at one of the several monitors scattered about the room, and prepare for the main event.
That soup is called “Lobster Chowder,” but that description doesn’t really do it justice. A rich fennel cream hides cubes of potato, as one would expect, but also tender cubes of carrot and fresh corn. There’s a lot of lobster meat, sweet and perfectly cooked. There are also clams and mussels invited to the party. Perched on top, amid a little nest of micro greens, is a single cornmeal-fried oyster, which the executive chef, Jared Chianciola, has playfully christened an “oyster cracker.” It’s delicious, even to someone like me who does not often go for oysters. (There is also, on the upstairs dinner menu, a cauliflower soup with chocolate, cocoa nibs, and chive, which will have to wait for a return trip.)
Mr. Chianciola, a friendly and informative man, bemusedly notes that his title has recently changed to “Director of Food Operations.” No matter: his ambition is to create a hopping scene with good food that nods to, but does not slavishly follow, modern techniques and trends. The downstairs bistro and upstairs dinner menus offer distinct experiences: reconfigured comfort classics downstairs, modern luxe above. So put on your best-understated elegance and go to Forum to see and be seen—and to enjoy some excellent soup.