28 Degrees: Cool Lounging

Having grown up in Canada, I am accustomed to the sensible metric system. So when I heard that a new place named 28 Degrees was opening in Boston, I was intrigued. Originally, I thought it was one of those raw foods restaurants where food is not heated above a certain temperature in order to preserve its health properties. I figured I could use a night of healthy dining after a recent streak of catered Spangler BBQ. Turns out, the meaning behind the name of the restaurant is decidedly less soul-enriching but much more fun.

28 Degrees is apparently a reference to the perfect temperature at which to serve a martini. Given this focus on cocktails, it is no surprise that the space is ultra-stylish and perfect for lounging around. The design of the restaurant matches the social intentions of the majority of its patrons: seeing, being seen and drinking. To that end, the dining room features not only conventionally cushy banquette seating but also a long communal table to facilitate mingling with complete strangers. Billowy sheer white curtains act as a striking divider between the bar/restaurant area and the loungey section. Candle-lit and filled with square ottomans and low-slung tables, this lounge makes it easy for everyone to look good.

Clearly this buildup led to high expectations for the cocktail menu. In this regard, the restaurant does not disappoint. Fourteen creative cocktails lead off the menu along with non-alcoholic choices such as flavored sparklers. From the mainly fresh-fruit focused alcoholic options, I sampled four different drinks to varying degrees of success. My favorite was the Kiwi Crush (Ketel One vodka, fresh kiwi and lime crushed with ice), which was an interesting twist on the traditional mojito. Following closely behind were the Raspberry Gin Fizz (Tanqueray gin, lemon, lime, grapefruit and club soda) and the French 28 (Bombay gin, Cointreau, Chambord, lemon juice and champagne). Bringing up the rear was the Pomegranate Cosmo (Pearl vodka, triple sec, pomegranate and fresh lime) which sounded interesting in concept but tasted weirdly syrupy. The one cocktail that I wasn’t adventurous enough to try was the Prosciutto & Melon (blend of melon vodka and fresh cantaloupe with a melon ball wrapped in prosciutto). However, now that I’ve been exposed to the idea of cured meat in my cocktail, perhaps I will try it next time.

The menu is a good match for the restaurant’s social setting. Organized into raw, cool and hot sections instead of the traditional appetizer and entr‚e selections, the food is served tapas style and meant to be shared. We started with a “taste” of tuna tartare presented in cute ceramic spoons and yummy to eat by the spicy spoonful. Crunchy mini-taco shells filled with ceviche and avocado were also three-bite affairs ordered from the cool side of the menu. From the hot side, we first sampled spicy shrimp potstickers, which could have been fried a little crispier but were served with such an addictive soy dipping sauce that they disappeared quickly. Next up, a huge platter of tiny sandwich triangles proved to be the perfect salty accompaniment to our drinks. These were prosciutto and cheese sandwiches served on rosemary focaccia and toasted to the point of being warm and gooey on the inside. Finally, the crowning achievement of vertical food arrived. Stacked precariously high, the tower of beer-battered, jumbo onion rings was artfully arranged on a white ceramic dish with two steel rods jutting out from the center to act as an anchor. As fun to eat (especially after dipping them into the spicy homemade ketchup) as they were to look at, these were the hit of the night.

For anyone who likes to seek out new hotspots, 28 Degrees is your swanky lounge answer.

Highly stylized from the food presentation down to the etched concrete floor, no detail at this restaurant fails the trendy factor. Even the bathrooms are fashionably unisex. Located below water-swirling, transparent ceiling panels, undifferentiated private stalls share an attractively designed communal sink area. Yet another opportunity to check everyone else out and look good while doing it.

Cocktails: $8.50 – $11; Food: $4 – $29
1 Appleton Street (at Tremont Street; take the T Green Line to Arlington)