A sec­ond in­car­na­tion of Chris Coombs’ South End steak­house, Bos­ton Chops, comes to Down­town and aims to up the city’s lux­ury din­ing ante.

Boston Common - - FOOD & DRINK - By Alexan­dra Hall Pho­tog­ra­phy by Andy Ryan

Ev­ery­one around my age has a mem­ory of Mantra,” as­serts thir­tysome­thing chef Chris Coombs. “It’s an enor­mous un­der­tak­ing.” No, he’s not get­ting sud­denly philo­soph­i­cal. The much-lauded Bos­ton kitchen wiz­ard—ev­ery­one from Food & Wine to Forbes has heaped awards on him and the restau­rants he’s run—is ac­tu­ally talk­ing about the lux­u­ri­ous steak­house he’s open­ing this fall in the space for­merly be­long­ing to the erst­while Down­town Cross­ing restau­rant, Mantra. The sto­ried eatery-cum-night­club was housed in a con­verted bank—com­plete with soar­ing ceil­ings above a sprawl­ing din­ing room and gleam­ing white mar­ble walls. Now Coombs and his part­ner Brian Pic­cini have con­verted that into a sec­ond it­er­a­tion of their suc­cess­ful South End eatery to be Bos­ton Chops Down­town. And they’re well aware of the tall­ness of such an or­der—not just in terms of culi­nary ex­pec­ta­tions, but also in ren­o­va­tion and de­sign costs that ring in around $4 mil­lion. “It’s grand, it’s amaz­ing, it’s a huge chal­lenge, and it’s also been a big­ger study in restau­rant con­struc­tion than I ever imag­ined,” says Coombs, who says they’ve had to over­haul vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing in the place—from HVAC and plumb­ing sys­tems to the en­tire floor and restora­tion of the bank’s orig­i­nal crown mold­ing from the 1800s. The re­sult is a Bos­ton Chops as Bos­to­ni­ans cur­rently know it in the South End (which is re­main­ing open), but on steroids: Coombs and Pic­cini have dou­bled the seat­ing of the orig­i­nal location, of­fered three huge pri­vate din­ing rooms, and are “evolv­ing” rather than chang­ing the menu. Fa­vorites at the orig­i­nal lo­cale are mi­grat­ing over along with new cre­ations to com­prise a lunch menu de­signed to sa­ti­ate the fi­nance district’s mid­day de­mands. They’ve also scored a 2am liquor li­cense, so will be slid­ing in a late-night pro­gram, com­plete with un­par­al­leled li­ba­tions. As for the lin­ger­ing specter of Mantra’s shut­ter­ing, Coombs chuck­les and in­sists he isn’t the least bit wor­ried. “Brian and I have re­habbed three restau­rants in a row now, and shown we can re­vive cursed spa­ces,” he says. “What we’re about to un­veil will be on a whole other, brand new level.”

Clock­wise from left: Scal­lops and ba­con sit in a bed of clam chow­der; chef/owner Chris Coombs; the South End’s swanky din­ing room in­te­rior.

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