Restaurants , French Back Bay
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Photograph: Courtesy L'Espalier

Boston’s dining scene would simply look a whole lot different without L’Espalier. Opening nearly four decades ago, it won instant fame for dislodging the town from the stuffy surf-and-turf rut it was stuck in—paving the way for an embarrassment of contemporary French riches today embodied by Craigie on MainDeuxaveLumière and Café ArtScience, to name but a few notables. And now that it’s an icon, this special-occasion bastion of the Back Bay continues to push the envelope it stamps with New England flourishes (a mission not even a move from the townhouse it occupied for years into less historic, if even more posh, digs could derail). While chef-owner Frank McClelland’s prix-fixe menus change near-daily, his audacious yet painterly imprint remains unmistakable: think warm Wellfleet oysters in a seaweed- and hazelnut-oil accented bath of emulsified bone marrow or seared scallops atop parsnip-white chocolate potage scented with lemon pith and mushroom powder. Or don’t think: the butter-poached lobster’s an all-time no-brainer paired with with grower champagne by the glass.

Venue name: L'Espalier
Address: Mandarin Oriental
774 Boylston St

Cross street: between Fairfield St and Ring Rd
Opening hours: Daily 11:30am-9:30pm
Transport: Green line to Hynes Convention Center
Price: Set meal $75 (3 courses); $94 (7 courses).
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