A ROUNDUP OF RECENT RESTAURANT REVIEWS
(No stars) Poor
IL CASALE 50 Leonard St., Belmont. 617-209-4942. Chef Dante de Magistris has turned a former firehouse into a lovely restaurant, a large yet warm (and loud) space of brick walls, exposed beams, and high ceilings, lit by wrought-iron chandeliers and glass lanterns. The food is lovely, too, much of it made from family recipes. It is a snapshot of how tastes have changed. Rustic and simple are the new elegant. Luxury may be best achieved by paring back, showcasing a few flavors and ingredients. Dishes such as pork meatballs in a sauce made from pig’s head and wood-grilled trout stuffed with lemon and orange slices show how modern Nonna’s cooking can taste.
TORY ROW 3 Brattle St., Cambridge. 617-876-8769. The duo behind Miracle of Science, Audubon Circle, Cambridge 1, and Middlesex Lounge, Matthew Curtis and Chris Lutes have mastered the art of the upscale-casual restaurant-hangout. Though their new Tory Row shares the pleasingly pared-back aesthetic of the others, it lacks their sense of purpose. The menu is neither here nor there - flatbreads, raclette, Spanish black bean soup, pot pie, veggie burgers - when a cheeky name like Tory Row practically begs for a menu of riffs on British cuisine. The flatbreads and duck salad are tasty, and the view out the glass front is fine, but you won’t find anything revolutionary here.
THE HYDE 5 Fairmount Ave., Hyde Park. 617-364-9814. By day, it’s a mild-mannered diner, serving eggs and coffee and BLTs. But The Hyde has a secret double life. At night, this space of humble little tables and chrome-and-vinyl stools fills with the smells of crab cakes, pan-roasted salmon with sushi rice, and thick-cut organic pork chops. In the lexicon of diner slang, there are no terms for these dishes. Chef Brian Roskow’s food is honest and reasonably priced.
HOUSE OF BLUES 15 Lansdowne St., Boston. 888-693-2583. When the main draw is music, how good can the food be? At the House of Blues restaurant on Lansdowne Street, the answer is: better than required for a place many will visit for convenience’s sake. The menu merges comfort food with New England and Louisiana fare. Creole and Cajun dishes don’t offer the to-die-for deliciousness of the versions you’ll find in situ, and that probably goes without saying. But the knockoffs evoke the originals pleasantly enough. There is something of the theme park to House of Blues, which turns music, food, and art into a corporate formula. If there’s a slight aftertaste of the ersatz, well, the restaurant sits alongside Fenway, a bit of a theme park itself.
BEACON HILL BISTRO 25 Charles St., Boston. 617-723-7575. This isn’t a restaurant that throws around the word “bistro.’’ It really is one. The market-driven fare is moderately priced, with entrees in the $20s and a nice chunk of the wine list under $50 per bottle. Chef Jason Bond is comfortable embracing tradition, and also poking holes in it. Some of the dishes are French classics - pate, duck confit, steak frites. Others Bond has made his own: tea-cured duck with salsify, striped bass with bergamot and fresh bay, a deep vegetable broth with nettle-filled raviolini. When searching for the soul of French cuisine in Boston, don’t pass Beacon Hill Bistro by.