There’s a decided dearth of flashy eateries in Forest Hills, as it seems Jamaica Plain’s destination dining is largely reserved for the Centre Street restaurant all-stars. But spanking new Tonic on Washington Street may likely lure diners to the relatively drab stretch of restaurants and bars across from the Forest Hills T stop. The pretty, 85-seat Tonic—replacing the purportedly perilous Griffin’s dive bar—opened its doors in mid-April. And, well, the place has some serious charisma.
Banquette-lined walls, attractive lighting fixtures and a soothing color scheme are all on point and certainly de rigueur, but the menu is what shines the brightest here. Executive Chef Ryan Kelly, in collaboration with owner Croan McCormick, has fashioned a solid offering of approachable fare, with pronounced French and Asian influences, undoubtedly a residual from the chef’s kitchen stints at Back Bay’s Haru Sushi and foodie-haunt Clio.
“Haru introduced me to new and exciting ingredients that I had never approached before,” says Kelly. “And at Clio, I learned the importance of caring about every single dish that was coming out of the kitchen. I knew that everything on the plate had to be just perfect.”
Chef Kelly is an upstate New York native who started his culinary career as a restaurant dishwasher in his hometown of Skaneateles, NY. The affable chef seems to have hit a good rhythm with Tonic. His menu is small, but thoughtfully crafted.
Ruby-hued tuna tartare, served in a crisp wonton cup with an avocado mousse, stars as an appetizer. A simple mixed green salad proves less pedestrian topped with a tamari (soy sauce)-chocolate vinaigrette. Fried pork belly is tempura-fried and served with an herby, pickled bean sprout salad. The parsnip chowder, Chef Kelly’s seemingly obligatory nod to New England, is served with candied bacon, caramelized shallots, potatoes and chervil.
Main dish highlights include mammoth molasses-brined pork chops with crisp sweet potato fries, a grilled rib-eye steak with salt potatoes, stilton cheese, and carrot puree, and a pan-seared scallops entrée, served over pureed parsnips, with Daikon radishes and candied grapefruit. Duck breast comes brushed with a pomegranate molasses glaze, served alongside a rhubarb, Asian pear and ramp salad.
Tonic’s general manager Justin Eames—fresh from the acclaimed Guinness & Porcelli's in Bar Harbor, Maine— designs the restaurant’s liquor menu. Find an adventurous wine list, a rotating selection of local craft brews (including a pour from Somerville-based darling du jour brewery, Pretty Things) and a whimsical cocktail menu. Of note: the “cucumber Hendricks”—gin muddled with English cucumbers and fresh lime—is at once both seasonal and sublime.
A brief dessert list includes créme brulee with sugar cookies, a lemon tart with candied lemon zest and a blueberry compoté, and vegan chocolate twinkies with a coconut anglaise. Vegan chocolate Twinkies. Sigh. Only in JP.
It's a lofty though not improbable notion to think Washington Street may be Jamaica Plain's future restaurant row. The talent and promise behind Tonic certainly gives one a reason to believe.
3698 Washington Street
Open 7-nights a week from 5PM to 2AM
Prices: Appetizers: $8-$12, Entrées: $14-$25, Cocktails: $10 and under