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A first visit to Rochambeau, Back Bay’s sprawling new French cafe/restaurant/bar

Where to go for lobster frites and a thumping beat.

Rochambeau in the Back Bay.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Where To: Rochambeau, a two-story French brasserie from the Lyons Group, also behind Back Bay Social, Casa Caña, Scampo, Sonsie, and more.

Why: For a menu of French classics (onion soup) and not-so-classics (za’atar cauliflower), handsome decor (tile floors, tin ceilings, Gare du Nord-esque clock), and a punishingly loud soundtrack.

The Back Story: This piece of prime real estate used to be Towne, but the only thing recognizable is the open kitchen in the upstairs dining room. The Lyons Group is betting big on French cuisine with the Boston version of a round-the-clock operation: cafe from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., dinner nightly, and bar until 2 a.m. (There’s weekend brunch, and lunch is coming soon.) They’ve hired well when it comes to chefs. Nick Calias comes from Brasserie Jo, and Matthew Gaudet ran West Bridge (his well-loved “egg in a jar” appetizer returns here on the bar menu). Rochambeau opened for dinner two weeks ago, and it’s still getting on its feet when it comes to service. The name is both a reference to the French general and the game of rock-paper-scissors. There are French sayings written everywhere; if you can put a “le” before it, Rochambeau does.

Lobster Frites at Rochambeau.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

What to Eat: The restaurant menu kicks off with seafood plateaux; segues into hors d’oeuvres such as steak tartare, salade lyonnaise, and wood-grilled carrots with sorrel and quinoa; then expands into steak frites, rotisserie chicken, duck a l’orange with olives, and chermoula fluke with cauliflower pilaf and currants. Bouillabaisse and chateaubriand are portioned to feed the whole table, and daily specials include cassoulet, lemon chicken tagine, and rack of lamb. Onion soup comes in a towering white vessel, topped with baguette and oozing browned Gruyere. There’s a frisky take on crab remoulade that brings avocado and pea tendrils into the mix. Lobster frites is a clever way to put New England on the menu, but the fries arrive cold, strewn over a split grilled lobster drizzled in bordelaise. For dessert, scratch that pumpkin spice craving with a pumpkin mille-feuille with pumpkin cream, salted caramel, and pepita praline. You’ll also find profiteroles and creme brulee. The cafe menu frolics from breakfast crepes to jambon sandwiches to French pastries.


What to Drink: French wine (house carafes are reasonably priced) and unusual cocktails such as the Salons de Tea, a potion of chai-infused tequila, green Chartreuse, and spiced coconut milk that arrives in a china tea cup with a flower floating on top.


The Takeaway: Rochambeau fuses Lyons Group style and classic French fare. If you like your restaurants dim and loud, come on in; if you’re looking for something quieter, the adjacent cafe might be more your speed.

900 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-247-0400, www.rochambeauboston.com

Devra First can be reached at devra.first@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.