For most diners, museums are rarely equated with a culinary experience, and it’s not hard to see why. Museums, by their very function, are relatively sterile environments. Oily foods, after all, do not mix well with priceless oil paintings.
Unlike the art often seen in museums, food is both a visceral and ephemeral experience. Sure, you can marvel at the composition of a tower of canapés on a platter all you want; but eventually, they’ll grow moldy and crumble before your very eyes. And art museums, who are in the very business of preserving art for the ages, come at art - if food can be considered art - from a completely different angle. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that most museums offer fairly limited and unadventurous dining options: prepackaged salads, light sandwiches, a pomegranate-flavored iced tea, if you're feeling bold.
Which is why Bravo, which closed in October after a 15 year stint as the MFA’s in-house restaurant, was such a rarity. Sure, it was formal - overtly so - and maybe it had to be, located in such an august institution. And yes, it oozed haughtiness out of every white linen bedecked crevice. But really… if you’re going to blow the requisite $75 on a date for two (not counting parking) you may as well spring for something a little more substantial than an individual plastic fruit cup.
But if you’re looking for fine dining near the MFA and Chicken Lou’s has simply grown too commercial for you, 465 Bar and Restaurant opened this past Wednesday to help fill the void left by Bravo’s absence.
“Food, like art, is universal, and our intention is to craft dishes that complement the Museum experience on every visit. The galleries present an incredible creative resource, and we will never lack for inspiration at the MFA,” said Executive Chef Brian Flagg (who also helms all four of the MFA’s culinary options) in a press release. “Our menu will have a global influence, just like the Museum, and will always be a work in progress—driven by the distinct seasons of New England, as well local farms, fisheries and artisans.”
Just how global an influence can you expect from 465? A sneak peek at the menu reveals smaller dishes including roasted Japanese eggplant in a black miso marinade and hand-cut tagliatelle with kale and pine-nut pesto in addition to the tuna Nicoise and dry-aged sirloin you might expect to be de rigeur from 4 star dining on site at the MFA.
“This is a very inspirational environment to work in,” Flagg told Boston magazine about the concept of 465 (whose interior is based on an initial design by the recently departed and much missed I.M. Pei.) “The works in there are international, so we didn’t want to put any borders or parameters on the food, but we didn’t want it to be a confusing mishmash, either. Food, like art, is a very personal thing. Everything in the museum is beautiful to somebody. We want that experience to fold over into the restaurant space as well.”
So, no. You won’t get the chance to rub wipe your fingers clean of barbecue sauce on a Monet. That’s what Chicken Lou’s is for.
465 Bar & Restaurant is located in the Linde Family Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts at 465 Huntington Ave in Boston. Hours are Wednesday - Friday from 11:30 am - 10:00 pm and Saturday - Sunday from 11:30 am - 5:00 pm. For more information, visit mfa.org/visit/dining