Towne Stove and Spirits in Back Bay

With two levels, three bars, an open kitchen and private dining space — plus a menu that flits between lobster pizza and Colorado lamb chops made in a tandoori oven, you might just call Towne Stove & Spirit a mash-up. And that fits its provenance, too. It’s owned by two chefs, Lydia Shire and Jasper White, longtime Boston icons who have worked together — and apart — for decades. Is it entirely successful? Depends on what you’re looking for. A cocktail and a few snacks? Sure, you can do that. A fancy-three-course meal with a big steak or porchetta with date and fig stuffing? Yes, you can do that, too. We were off to a good start with their riff on a Manhattan.

I got the armada, above, made with buffalo trace bourbon, lacuesta vermouth and red zen tea served up with cloved orange. It was delicious.

Greg went for a sidecar:

Let me back up a second. We were sitting on the bar on the second floor. When you walk into the restaurant —

— you walk into a humungous tavern-style cocktail lounge with a big bar scene, lots of TVs and tons of (loud) commuters. You wouldn’t want to eat there.

You walk through there and into the hostess station, which opens up into a second bar:

In a room with a big mural:

If you head up the stairs, you end up in this room:

And we sat at the bar here.

You can see the open kitchen from our seats:

Breads and spreads:

In order to sample from a few different areas of the menu, we decided to share several dishes rather than order app-entree-dessert.

For our first course, we tried the razor clams:

The sauce was good, but the clams were not super-fresh.

Then we tried the tuna tartar two ways:

These were fresh and well-balanced, but didn’t knock us down crying.

Here is the lobster pizza:

This is a mashup of a dish, indeed: lobster, cream sauce, greens and meyer lemon — all on top of a pizza. It was rich and creamy and, well, didn’t quite work for me. Too over the top.

I know. It seems like this meal isn’t going too well. All was saved by the duck breast.

Cooked just perfectly. Rich without being cloying.

We had just enough room for a few bites, and throughouly enjoyed each one.

We also found room for dessert, and were very happy we did.

Brown sugar angel food cake with caramel ice cream and maple cotton candy.

Boo Yah! Sugary, sweet, caramel-y and delicious.

On the way out, we walked in front of the open kitchen:

And into the private dining room.

A little robot behind one of the bars:

So our mashup meal was just that: a bunch of dishes from all over the menu. And I must admit — unusual though this is — I think I would have preferred to have just an entree. Or is it just that I wish that all the dishes were as good as the entree? Hard to know.

Despite some uneven food, we had a wonderful time, and we agreed that the place is worth a return trip, especially with a group, where you can try even more of the menu.

The 411 on Towne Stove & Spirits: 900 Boylston St., Boston. 617-247-0400.

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