“Damn. That’s a sexy restaurant.’’
That’s the first thing I thought upon seeing Hudson-toned photos of Yvonne’s, a “modern supper club’’ that’s opened to good reviews in Downtown Crossing.
In looking at Instagram pictures of Yvonne’s (at this point, Instagram is a better gauge of a place’s aesthetic sensibility than Yelp), it seemed as sure a bet as any for a good night out.
Highly sexual. Also:
The evidence was mounting. Yvonne’s might be sexy.
According to co-owner Chris Jamison, though, the goal isn’t just aesthetic appeal: it’s to own your whole night.
“[Yvonne’s] is not just [about] sitting down to dinner,’’ Jamison said. “It’s a social environment, it’s energy, it’s dinner on your own terms.’’
It certainly looked energetic on my phone. But would the actual, real-life Yvonne’s live up to the sum of its Instagrammed parts? Does the vibe measure up to the projections of fun being tagged at 2 Winter Place?
Yvonne’s is located off of a side street in Downtown Crossing. This bodes well for establishing you as a person who knows where there are hidden gems.
Upon entering a smallish lobby, you’re greeted by a very nice man who calls downstairs to see if your table is ready. (Yvonne’s offers online reservations.) After walking through a “hidden door’’ — a speakeasy conceit that will sound good in a blue text message bubble to a prospective date, but in practice is just a door – you find yourself in the thick of it.
Yvonne’s is ambitiously ornate. It owes this in large part to the space it’s taking over. In 2012, Locke-Ober (an old lion of the Boston dining scene) was shuttered, and Yvonne’s has taken its place. There are pieces of the old enmeshed with the new: The main bar is a carryover from Locke-Ober and is made from Dominican mahogany.
There’s also a painting of Venus taking a selfie, and the menu sports a crest that’s spray-painted with graffiti.
Combined, these elements create an impressive show of force, if not one that feels 100-percent authentic (yet). But this place is hot, it knows it, and it wants to own your night from start to finish.
That’s why there are three rooms, and you’re encouraged to drift from one to the other. The lounge area sports red Chesterfields, a brass light fixture, and groups of young professionals meeting for after-work drinks. The dining room has chandeliers, the aforementioned mahogany bar, and is the room with the highest energy.
Then there’s the library, the most interesting spot of them all.
With artfully lit bookshelves, a fireplace, and an alcove that includes a painting of Bill Murray in military regalia, Yvonne’s library will become a bull in Instagram’s “like’’ economy. The Murray painting – and paintings of Christopher Walken and JFK – may in fact lead the league in induced FOMO for 2015; people will see photos of them and want to come here.
In addition to making your friends jealous, Yvonne’s seeks to fill a gap in Boston nightlife by owning your whole night.
This city has a lot of great restaurants. It has bars. It has (some) nightclubs. But what Boston is missing, according to Jamison, is a place that can capture the energy of all three.
It has a good shot at doing this. A big reason is that, for as opulent as Yvonne’s is, you never feel judged.
Yvonne’s attitude toward food and drink is pragmatic and anti-snob.
The drink menu is impressive but not intimidating, and this is by design, said beverage director Will Thompson, whose resume includes Drink and Brick & Mortar.
“We want to make sure that people are comfortable and are having a great time,’’ Thompson said.
There are silhouettes next to each drink on the menu, meaning that you’ll know what kind of glass it’s coming in. If you want to send a certain signal by having your drink come in a tumbler, for example, you can do just that.
The food follows a similar tract: thoughtful without pretension. The plates are meant to be social, said culinary director Tom Berry, and the eclectic menu is made up of items that won’t weigh you down. Seared Brussels sprouts and tuna crudo were favorites, and my date and I went sharesies without feeling like we were being judged. (Sharing in the dining room is encouraged.)
The crowd is very Back Bay.
Which is to say: well heeled, attractive in a safe way, and a bit staid. Through no fault of its own, this can make Yvonne’s feel, at times, like the fun is being pumped in through the vents.
“If you had taken me here on our first date, I would have thought you were trying too hard,’’ my date said. (For the record, she liked Yvonne’s, but I would recommend it for a third or fourth date – anything before that, and yeah, you might be coming on too intensely.)
The bottom line on Yvonne’s is that it feels like something cool is going on here.
There is an attention to craft here. You can see it in how Thompson talks about the drinks, how Berry talks about the food, and how Jamison talks about the matched species of mahogany used to repair Locke-Ober’s bar in the main dining room so it could be used in Yvonne’s.
Once this place finds its own party – once these nights begin to pile on one another, and the ebbs and flows begin to take on their own tenor, their own soul – then Yvonne’s will be a force on the nightlife scene, and not just on Instagram.
But until then, it’s still a place to be seen. Near the end of our meal, my date took out her phone.
“Hold on,’’ she said. “I want to take a picture of this.’’