Food Coma: Rabbit at Restaurant Marliave

 

The newly reborn Restaurant Marliave (10 Bosworth Street, Boston, 617.422.0004) is doing many things right. The extensive remodeling by chef/owner Scott Herritt (of Grotto restaurant fame) stripped away 135 years of misguided “upgrades,” restoring the three levels to their original spare 19thcentury classicism. Talented bartenders are shaking up old-school cocktails in the Golden Age mode and pouring long drinks beautified by crystal-clear Kold-Draft ice. But the opening rules for where you could order what — seafood from the tiny raw bar; under-$19 comfort-food dishes from the café; or pricey, refined Continental cuisine in the dining room — seemed needlessly restrictive. Thankfully, that has changed: you can now order from any menu, regardless of where you sit. Even better, the costliest entrees are now mostly under $30.

For folks who prefer Marliave’s casual, comfy middle-floor bar/café (a posher second bar abuts the swank upstairs dining room), this is great news. Further, Herritt knows a winning way to serve up rabbit: by disguising its origins as one of the cuter food animals. He takes rabbit loin, rolls it tightly into a mini-football shape around a bit of black truffle, wraps it in prosciutto, roasts it alongside a plump and crisp-skinned drumstick that you could mistake for capon, and serves them with a rich pan sauce. There’s nothing to make your dining companion think of Peter Cottontail and have to chew through pangs of guilt. Beside the tender, moist white meat (yes, a bit like chicken), there’s a heap of sliced exotic mushrooms, notably luscious black trumpets, and a beautiful golden puck of pommes Anna (think heavenly scalloped potatoes) enriched with Cantal cheese. That’s one gorgeous, hearty plate of bunny for $26. There’s no good reason one should have to sit in the dining room to enjoy this elegant dish, a fact that Marliave has wisely figured out, to the approval of growing crowds. You might want to hop to it yourself.