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At the Envoy Hotel, Outlook restaurant is uncertain but the view is grand

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Georges Bank scallops at Outlook Kitchen + Bar.Dina Rudick

The view of the Boston skyline from Lookout Rooftop Bar, the seventh-floor watering hole at the Seaport's Envoy Hotel, is spectacular. Lines stretch down the block Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights to get in. The towers of the Financial District become a backdrop for selfies. Some evenings, the party spills over into Outlook Kitchen + Bar, the self-described "resto" on the ground floor.

Outlook is a big room decorated in monochromatic midcentury modern — concrete floor, molded plastic chairs, and chocolate brown leather banquettes. There's a long, rectangular bar in the center, where veteran Boston bartender Michael Ray (Abe & Louie's, Fairmont Copley Plaza) mixes sweet drinks with silly names and pours wines from a champagne-heavy list more suitable to a nightclub than a serious restaurant. Folding windows open onto an outdoor patio on Sleeper Street, which is anything but sleepy these days.


Miami-born chef Tatiana Rosana, a 2010 Le Cordon Bleu graduate, worked at Harvest in Harvard Square and Asana at the Mandarin Oriental before relocating to The Envoy, where she took charge of Outlook and in-room dining several months ago. In her enthusiasm to spread her culinary wings, Rosana sometimes forgets that ingredients — not invention — should drive a dish, that less is more, and that classics are classics because they remain true to their roots.

That's why I order Margherita pizzas. Invented in 1889 in Naples to honor the queen of Italy and designed in the colors of the Italian flag (tomato red, mozzarella white, and fresh basil green), a Margherita offers a 127-year-old baseline of consistency. At Outlook, the basil-free Margherita flatbread is topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella and finished with balsamic-drizzled arugula and cherry tomatoes. It is not a Margherita.

Similarly, there's a reason chopped smoked Gouda and astringent pickled shiitake mushrooms aren't normally found in steak tartare. That's because the cheese and mushrooms (not to mention too much grainy mustard) trample the raw beefiness that tartare lovers covet. The battered coating of shrimp tempura isn't thick enough or crisp enough to qualify as tempura. I believe Rosana will someday look back at the vinegary sweet, pickled corn vinaigrette spooned over a Caprese salad of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves as well-intentioned overkill.


On the other hand, the Cuban-American chef knows her ceviche. The clean flavors of citrus-soaked shrimp and hamachi speckled with avocado and tomato are excellent mounded onto crisp blue tortilla chips. A salad of Sweet Gem lettuce, avocado, bacon, and heirloom tomatoes in buttermilk basil dressing is delicious.

Moulard duck breast.Dina Rudick

Plump PEI mussels steamed in lemongrass-y Thai curry broth with cherry tomatoes and cilantro may have you lifting the bowl to your lips. Slices of spice-rubbed Moulard duck breast, served with peppery farro, shredded fennel, orange and grapefruit sections, and a sprinkle of yellow marigold petals taste as good as they look.

Presentation is a priority at Outlook Kitchen + Bar. Many dishes are arranged to one side of an oversize plate — the protein touching the edge, and dramatic swaths of purees and/or sauces, miniature mounds of starches, and sprinkles of vegetables and decorative greens fanning outward from there. It's pretty, if formulaic when used to excess, and occasionally messy — like when chimichurri begins dripping onto the table.

Chimichurri, grilled zucchini, cauliflower, and marble potatoes accompany Pineland Farms flat iron steak. The steak is well seasoned but inexpertly cooked — half medium-rare as we ordered, and half well-done. The kitchen does a better job with Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon, smartly matched with Israeli couscous, English peas, pureed fennel, and a smattering of leathery lardons. The smallish Maine Family Farms chicken breast is too dry. Does the chicken really need that hodgepodge of white cauliflower puree, purple cauliflower florets, desiccated sautéed morels, pickled rum raisins, capers, and hazelnuts?


The natural sugars of seared Georges Bank scallops are accentuated by a creamy bisque-infused succotash of Maine lobster, corn, lima beans, green beans, and red bell pepper — with melty soft potato gnocchi to soak up the juices. Flaky Georges Bank cod loin rests in a pool of kaffir lime-scented broth, dappled with baby bok choy, edamame, and intrusively sweet, pickled (enough with the pickling already) hon shimeji mushrooms.

The surprise highlight (and, at $19, the least-expensive entree) on the menu is the redundantly named tagliatelle pasta. The noodles are tossed with English peas, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and a buttery, soubise-like onion puree, and garnished with a generous grating of Grana Padano. It may be the best pasta primavera ever.

While some dishes come with grilled rustic bread, if you request bread for the table you'll receive a round of store-bought naan, cursorily heated on the grill and cut into quarters — no butter, no olive oil.

Desserts are a traffic jam. There's odd grittiness in the Willy Wonka-themed "Violet, You're Turning Violet" — a lidded glass jar of blueberry compote, biscuit crumbs, buttermilk ice cream, and caramel popcorn. Bland coconut panna cotta is surrounded by bitter grapefruit curd, rum "pearls," and pulverized pretzel "sand." The lidded jar returns again with the "Campfire Torte" — smoked marshmallows that actually smoke, dense chocolate ganache, graham cracker crust, hazelnuts, and toasted fluff meringue. Think s'mores on steroids.


The “Campfire Torte.”Dina Rudick

Service at Outlook is hands-on — as in, the woman at the host podium is seemingly a textaholic, using fingers to clean up spilled food from guests' tables is commonplace, and a server insisted I give her a high five when I ordered her favorite dessert. More seriously, entrees arrived before appetizers were cleared, the dirty steak tartare plate was never bussed, no one crumbs the table between courses, and one evening the waiters got into a noisy tiff over whose table was whose.

That's behavior you might expect to see at a nightclub but not at a "resto" of this price point.


The Envoy Hotel, 70 Sleeper St., Seaport District, Boston, 617-530-1559, www.outlookkitchenandbar.com. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Appetizers $10-$18. Entrees $19-$41. Desserts $8.

Hours Daily 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

Noise level Loud

What to order Moulard duck breast, Blue Bay mussels, tagliatelle pasta, Georges Bank scallops, campfire torte

Mat Schaffer can be reached at matschaffer@yahoo.com.