the atmosphere was really great. the dining area is discreetly separated from the counter, and is not crowded. also, they have a curtain around the door which keeps most of the cold air out. i don't know why most boston area restaurants don't do this in the winter-time.
despite the fact that they'd told me when i made the reservation (for which they required a credit card! this, i do not understand.) that they wouldn't seat me until all of my party (9) was there, they went ahead and seated us while we were waiting for the last one to show up. our server was spectacular, friendly but not space-invading, very accommodating (allowed us to put a couple of orders on a separate check, let us buy from the menu that ends at 8 when we showed up slightly after 8), never rushed us, told us which her favorite port was, etc. i wish i'd gotten her name because i would recommend her with all my heart.
the food and drink were also very good. a couple of my friends got the warm spinach salad, which was very good. the presentation of everything was absolutely. i had ordered the "fantasia" to split with my boyfriend, which was essentially a sort of combo plate with a strawberry tart, a praline-ish shell with raspberry stuff inside, some orangey-caramel custard, and a few other things that i'm sure have names. i had only taken a few bites (a few delicious bites!) when our server showed up with a whole other dessert, complimentary, for my birthday! raspberry and mango (?) sorbet in a praline shell with some sauces. none of the portions were huge (except for the creme brulee), but they were certainly enough to satisfy. i had a 3 port flight, which, i know, would have gone better with chocolate (the wine recommendation next to the "fantasia" suggested a gewurstraminer) but was also very good.
the only negative surprise was when we got the bill. my boyfriend refused to let me look at it, because it was my birthday, but apparently gratuity was included (not surprising, given the size of our party), and it was 20%. not that our server didn't absolutely deserve it, and as it turns out, we left her even more than that because the rest of the people at the table thought the service was so good, but it's something to be aware of.
overall, i think it was a win. it's not something i can afford to do very often, but i'll definitely do it again.