(No stars) Poor
ROWES WHARF SEA GRILLE Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston. 617-856-7744. Boston lacks great seafood restaurants on the water. Rowes Wharf Sea Grille gets the location right, and sometimes the food. Stick with lighter fare such as oysters, hamachi crudo, and cod empanadas and you will be pleased. The patio’s a beauty with a view, and the service is very good. But fish is often overcooked, sides are bland, and on one occasion the chowder is curdled.
RUSSELL HOUSE TAVERN 14 JFK St., Cambridge. 617-500-3055. Here, chef Michael Scelfo serves up the old proverbial something for everyone. There is pizza and beer. There are inventive small plates and cocktails. There are oysters and steaks and bottles of wine. Nothing is overly expensive. The bilevel space is large, the game is on if you want it, the sparkling new bistro decor is stylish enough without being pretentious. There is a patio. It’s just the place Harvard Square needed.
PARSONS TABLE 34 Church St., Winchester. 781-729-1040. Catch chef Chris Parsons closed his seafood restaurant earlier this year, then reopened the space as Parsons Table. Good call. This is the restaurant Winchester has been waiting for. Seafood is still a strong presence, but Parsons Table offers a more general menu of well-made, ingredient-driven comfort food. This isn’t a novel concept these days, but Parsons shows us how it should be done. His cooking is top-notch.
LEGAL C BAR Legacy Place, 950 Providence Highway, Dedham. 781-234-6500. This Legal Sea Foods spinoff is an amalgam of things that are officially trendy: small plates, casual dining, craft cocktails. Located in Dedham’s Legacy Place, it opened at the end of December (there’s another branch in Logan Airport), clearly aiming at 20- and 30-somethings. The surprise is that this bid for hipness actually works. The place is modern and well designed, with good cocktails and decent food. For Dedham, it’s a great addition, as you can see from the crowds.
EAST COAST GRILL 1271 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-491-6568. This year, East Coast Grill celebrates its 25th anniversary. There is nothing subtle about its success, predicated on internal-organ-scorching hot sauces, smoke and flames, hunks of meat, and creatures pulled from the sea. It’s a restaurant a caveman or a polar bear could love. But Boston loves it best. It exists to make people happy, and it clearly does its job.
BARLOW’S 241 A St., South Boston. 617-338-2142. It’s great to have another place in this part of town, where restaurants are few and far between. Appetizers are better than entrees; they do the trick when you want a snack to accompany your after-work drink. For dinner, there are still better options nearby.
EAST BY NORTHEAST 1128 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-876-0286. Noodles, dumplings, pork belly buns, and an obsession with pigs: Chef Phillip Tang and the new East by Northeast have much in common with New York’s famed David Chang and his meat-centric Momofuku restaurants. But Tang’s Chinese small plates have more soul than swagger. The food feels hand-hewn. More than meat, his cooking is a showcase for local vegetables, and for dough. Breads, dumplings, and fabulous, chewy noodles are hand-rolled in the kitchen. Specials are actually special.