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Chefs + Restaurants

First Taste: Estragon


Located on the fringe of Boston’s South End, Estragon brings tapas and a convivial bustle to a newly developed corner of the trendy neighborhood. The space, tucked into the bottom floor of a freshly erected condo project, is roomy and laid-back, but has a bit of an identity problem: A two-tone floor, Art Deco accents, a mammoth mirrored bar, and black-and-white photos of the Spanish owner’s family, all intended to create a vintage Madrid tapas bar feel, get washed out by the modern elements of new construction.

Like the space, the menu also has the new/old thing going on. Retooled, fancied-up dishes (barbecued octopus, Sweet 100 tomatoes, and micro-cress) mingle with traditional, straightforward classics (tortilla española, jamón croquettes, gambas al ajillo). The snout-to-tail ethos is all over the menu as well; showcased ingredients vary from sweetbreads to tripe to oxtail. One of the larger plates available is a whole suckling pig’s head shellacked with an orange-paprika glaze. While execution is generally not a problem at Estragon, there is one real miss, the sea urchin and foie gras slider, two glorious ingredients that don’t mix nicely on a misnamed sammy.

But no matter, there are plenty of other dishes that make up for this. You could start an economy based on Estragon’s fried chickpeas, for example. They’re crispy, creamy, salty, nutty, smoky, and flat-out addictive…pure gold. And the pork belly with pearl onions and fresh peas is otherworldly. One bite will make you curl your toes, arch your back, and fall off your chair (in that order).

Estragon 700 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA (617-266-0443)