(No stars) Poor
SENSING Fairmont Battery Wharf, 3 Battery Wharf, Boston. 617-994-9001. It was a big deal. Chef Guy Martin, he of the multiple Michelin stars, was coming from France to open a restaurant here. But when Sensing finally opened, Martin came to town briefly, then returned home, leaving chef Gerard Barbin in charge. It's not his absence that makes the restaurant feel forlorn, however. That comes from the lack of foot traffic outside a luxury hotel/residence on the waterfront in the middle of a freezing winter and economy. The nouvelle cuisine shows flashes of brilliance, which makes it all the more disappointing when it doesn't.
OLIVADI RESTAURANT & BAR 32 Guild St., Norwood. 781-762-9090. It's confusing when half the dishes on a menu work, and the other half just don't. How can a restaurant that gets some things right get others so wrong? That's the case at Olivadi, a pleasant enough local spot with a thriving bar scene. It would be nice if every dish were the equal of pancetta and Parmesan risotto, tagliatelle Bolognese, or veal "lasagna" (the meat stands in for noodles here). But they're not. Steer clear of the crab cakes and heftier meat entrees and you should be OK.
FRANKLIN SOUTHIE 152 Dorchester Ave., South Boston. 617-269-1003. A new branch of the longtime South End favorite, Franklin Southie is just what this neighborhood needed. At the intersection of Dot Ave. and West Broadway, right by both the Allele and Macallen condo buildings, it quickly filled with patrons starved for a grown-up hangout. Dishes such as Old Bay shrimp, braised beef short rib with salsify puree and cherries, and smoky mussels are too interesting to call comfort food. Franklin Southie's dishes might be better termed "fun food," and affordable fun is something we could all use more of these days.
CRAIGIE ON MAIN 853 Main St., Cambridge. 617-497-5511. Craigie is out of the basement. In November, chef Tony Maws and crew moved from their subterranean digs on Craigie Street to a comparatively vast space on Main Street formerly inhabited by La Groceria. The kitchen is now bigger, open and in the center of everything, and there's a bar area. But the food picks up right where Craigie Street Bistrot's left off - inspired by the best ingredients each day, the menu ever shifting and highly local. It's what rustic French cooking would be after Henry Higgins got through with it. Why change?
BINA OSTERIA 581 Washington St., Boston. 617-956-0888. Chef Brian Konefal's nuovo Italian food just keeps getting better as the meal progresses. Pasta dishes are stunning, from the dreamiest carbonara to the fluffiest baby gnocchi. Crispy suckling pig confit is a minimalist preparation with maximum flavor: a little square of pork heaven, a few turnip segments, a comet of apple puree. It's rustic, it's refined. A dish of lobster wrapped in lardo, or cured lard, is uncannily good. Eating here can be expensive. You get what you pay for.