I recently helped a friend set up a blog. It’s a bit like turning somebody on to a drug – you know it’s bad for them and it’s going to eat up their life, but it’s already eaten yours, so why not share?  Over time, I’ve been “blogfather” to more than a couple of RSS feeds, some of which are in the duckroll blogroll at right.  Tonight I was rewarded with a wonderful dinner of thanks, and it’s only right that I should blog about it.

L took me to Great Bay in the Hotel Commonwealth, an excellent choice for many reasons, not least that she’s pesco-vegetarian. Great Bay – another awesome Michael Schlow joint – is in a beautiful space with a vaulted ceiling and a central sashimi station with a great lampshade-like canopy floating above it.  I recommend sitting at it if you can.  As is often the case, it was a bit dark for good photos, but I did the best I could with the meager candle.  Also note (excuses, excuses) that Great Bay’s online menu is a season or three behind what was served, so I don’t have all the precise details of ingredients.  I guess you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

Service was attentive almost to the point of making us nervous, but they split both our soup and salad without complaint, and I’m sure we got more than the usual portion in total.  We started with a nice half bottle of Albariño from Lagar de Cevera, a salad with golden beets and candied pecans and a marvelous butternut squash bisque with perfect little scallops lurking just beneath the oil-dotted surface.

From the raw bar, we had Tasmanian salmon sashimi wrapped around crisp daikon with a topping that looked like tapenade but was actually black bean, rocoto pepper and lotus root for a nice zing.

Next up, two small plates as a main: lobster and shrimp dumplings with ginger soy and crab cake over corn salsa with a squirt of lime.  Despite the engaging and limey presentation, the crab cake was merely good, while the dumplings were more rustic in appearance but exceptionally tasty with a good dose of lobster meat.

Satisfied but not quite full, we walked through the hotel to the other end where we had coffee and superb dark chocolate cake with coffee buttercream at the bar of Eastern Standard.  As if having two great restaurants weren’t reason enough, I also love the Hotel Commonwealth because it hosts the Panopticon Gallery of Photography. Thanks to its hallway location, Panopticon never really closes and so might just be the art venue with the best hours in town.  We were lucky enough to see the new show – it doesn’t officially open until tomorrow with the reception on Friday – called Prohibition: Celebrating the Repeal, Photographs from the Collection of the Boston Public Library.  The show features modern prints of vintage photos from the BPL collection depicting life under prohibition and ties in with the 75th anniversary of repeal coming up on December 5.  In addition, images by Panopticon regulars Bradford Washburn, Karin Rosenthal, John Ponwall and Keith Johnson (among others) were on view.  Don’t miss it.

It seems goofy, but I’m thinking I should take a holiday in my own hometown and stay at the Commonweath.  When the weather gets cold, being able to see great photos and eat great food without going outside sounds pretty good.  Kenmore square has come a long way since I first moved here, that’s for sure.