If you're looking to escape to a realm of dark wood, plush curtain-lined booths and strong drinks, Richard Fiske's Martini Bar and Restaurant is the elegantly crafted step back in time you're seeking. Diners enter a world where it would seem unsurprising to see Bing Crosby at a nearby table or Etta James crooning to the sounds of the bar's tinkling piano.
The restaurant is named for Richard Fiske, the longtime owner of The Bombay Club, who died in 2013. This restaurant relocated from the Prince Conti Hotel, which retains the Bombay Club name. As one might expect of the former martini bastion's new incarnation, the drink menu at Richard Fiske's might as well be a leather-bound volume, with an encyclopedic list of antiquated and oft-forgotten drinks. There is a wide swath of perfunctorily dolled-up martinis (including wedding cake, cinnamon toast and banana cream pie versions) and a detailed homage to the cosmopolitan a la Sex and the City, but it's the historic cocktails that steal the show. The rose-colored Monkey Gland cocktail (a favorite in the 1920s) delivers a one-two punch of gin and absinthe, tempered by a familiar fruity blend of grenadine and orange juice. The simple and elegant kir royale is a French favorite, blending creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and Champagne. It's not difficult to imagine this cocktail or its cousins, the kir peche (peach) and kir pamplemousse (grapefruit) rivaling the popularity of mimosas as brunch stalwarts.
What about the martini, though? The restaurant's namesake drink is crafted according to guests' preferences, whether one is a gin person or a vodka devotee. My preferred "extra dirty" concoction was gin-based, garnished with a pair of large skewered olives and served with a sidecar of briny olive juice.
The menu's surest bets take dishes that might have pleased diners in Frank Sinatra's day but still find retro relevance today. Chicken saltimbocca — listed on the menu as "Richard's favorite" — is a treasure trove of decadence. The paneed thin chicken is seared golden brown and is warm and juicy. A mix of sage-tinged mushrooms and salty prosciutto mingle well with crispy fingerling potatoes, adding woodsy depth to the dish.
Plump, golf ball-sized fried oysters arrive atop a bed of warm succotash, the two texturally conflicting elements tied together with the zippy bite of peppery Creole-spiced hollandaise. The restaurant's upgraded take on fondue elevates the throwback concept to impressive levels, with gooey, nutty manchego blended with sweet crabmeat and served with blistered tomatoes and freshly baked, charmingly abstract-shaped crostini.
A trio of steak options are robust enough to soothe even the most dedicated carnivore and is served with an array of sauce and topping choices — from Stilton cheese and grilled shrimp, to bearnaise and chimichurri. Stilton — the pungent, English blue cheese — makes a number of appearances on the menu, but it shines as a dressing for the impressive Boston Bibb wedge salad. The dressing's tanginess marries well with the salad's brittle balsamic-candied bacon and thinly sliced pickled onions. If you're going for the full steak-and-martini combination, make it a trifecta with this salad.
The minor stumbles of some dishes lie in the execution. The duck confit is perfectly buttery, but it arrived across a brie en croute that was soggy and lukewarm with a rubbery texture. The shepherd's pie was Guinness-heavy and an ideal hearty meal to stave off any December chill, but several vegetables were distractingly undercooked.
If you're in search of jazzy, luxurious environs to ring in 2015 or celebrate a milestone, Richard Fiske's is an ideal setting to do so with martini in hand.