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Boston Globe Reviews The Tavern

Nov 18, 2007

Dining Out
The Tavern at Quarry Hills

Tavern boasts inventive dishes, with a view
We were skeptical, to say the least, upon learning that the restaurant we were about to visit was not only built on a former dump in Quincy, but also aside an old quarry. Hmmm.

Any concerns quickly evaporated as we took in the fresh surroundings of the Tavern at Quarry Hills at the Granite Links Golf Club complex on the Quincy/Milton line. The million-dollar view of the Boston skyline from a hillside perch just seven miles from downtown didn't hurt, either.

The owners of the 27-hole golf course are paragons of recycling, having terraced over a trio of former landfills with eight million cubic yards of fill from the Big Dig to create the site for their new restaurant.

Executive chef David Todisco is offering an appropriately transformative menu, recreated monthly, that mixes new items with old favorites. Meatloaf in such an upscale environment? This is a place that advertises celebrity sightings on its website, including the likes of Boston's own Mark Wahlberg, comedian and "Rescue Me" star Lenny Clarke, tennis ace and commentator John McEnroe, and a handful of area sports heroes.

But Todisco's philosophy for the most part works, with a variety of starters and entrees that show creativity and risk, at a reasonable price. And despite the upscale twist, the feeling is definitely comfortable and welcoming.

The night we visited, the kitchen was bustling to feed a capacity crowd revved for the start of Game 3 of the World Series.

We were quickly offered a place at a nice high-top counter in the bar (and in front of a handful of TVs trained on sports) after arriving at just minutes after 6 p.m. to a 40-minute-plus wait for a regular table. Our perch was next to the servers' station, where wait staff banged and clattered, as you'd expect, but it was easily worth the tradeoff of avoiding a wait for a table.

Alas, the tavern takes no reservations.

As an appetizer, the panko chicken tenders ($9) offered a mouthwatering plateful, that - if you go with the Buffalo sauce, over barbecue, as we did - can send you scrambling for water.

The tenders, with carrot sticks and blue cheese ale sauce, alone could have been a meal, along with a cup of the New England clam chowder ($6). This creamy dream of potatoes, chunky clams, and bacony underpinnings was, as Goldilocks said, just right.

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Not so, sadly, for the chef's soup ($5) which that night was a chicken and vegetable medley. It arrived so startlingly hot it rendered us unable to differentiate among the broth's range of tender green legumes and tomatoes.

A Caesar salad ($7) was huge and fabulous, built on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce, sprinkled with garlic croutons and tossed in a house Caesar dressing that was flavorful, but not overwhelming. The lack of anchovies was mourned.

A side salad ($4) displayed a colorful variety of mesclun mix accented by crisp, sliced cucumber, Spanish onion, and crunchy grape tomatoes. A house vinaigrette was slightly overwhelming.

Next came a perfect rectangle of grilled, classic cheese pizza, accompanied by a dipping bowl of extra virgin olive oil and a sprig of rosemary. The combination of bubbling mozzarella and smooth Italian sauce was a big hit with the 15-year-old in our party.

The Mediterranean oricchiette ($16) tosses together tiny pasta, roasted eggplant, portobello mushroom, zucchini, kalamata olives, baby spinach, artichoke hearts, and red peppers in a garlic wine sauce. The dish was good, even if the mix of veggies, each with a distinct taste, seemed to fight one another in the sauce, which was quite strong.

Our first disappointment came when we learned that the roast pork loin my husband had ordered with much delight was long sold out. Luckily, he likes steak, too, and one was tossed on the grill for him. The New York sirloin au poivre ($27) was a nice 12-ounce steak crusted in a tri-color pepper blend. The cognac sauce that came with it was overpowered a bit by the blue cheese and bacon twice-baked potato and broccolini with marinated tomatoes.

Any room left was devoted to a delicious dessert concoction of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake drizzled with chocolate syrup.

Our server, Joan, was terrific - friendly and attentive - and she anticipated our needs, yet didn't hover, fuss, or annoy us.

As we ate, we checked out what was on the plates of our neighbors in the bar. An obvious crowd pleaser was the shrimp cocktail ($11) in which a gorgeous dozen shrimp came with a grapefruit-infused cocktail sauce. Another that caught our eye: sea scallops wrapped in bacon ($11) served with a cracked peppercorn maple glaze.

The Tavern also offers a variety of specialty sandwiches, such as the perennial club, burgers, tuna, and even beef panini. The sandwiches and burgers range from $8 to $12.

On the list for our next visit: The Kobe meatloaf ($21), which is topped with caramelized pearl onions, roasted wild mushrooms, and porcini gravy, and served with mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans. And the twin filet mignon ($28), two 4-ounce filets topped with a tomato honey demi-glaze.

And there will be a next time. The Tavern at Granite Links is a fun place to eat. The food is good, in many cases quite inventive. And the view can't be beat.

MICHELE MORGAN BOLTON

Granite Links Golf Club

100 Quarry Hills Drive
Quincy, MA 02169
Phone: 617-689-1900
Email: gtayetto@granitelinksgolfclub.com