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Best of the new: food

The Pulse Cafe (Globe photo / Aram Boghosian) The Pulse Cafe
By Best of the New contributors: Jenn Abelson, Ellen Albanese, Ami Albernaz, Kathleen Burge, Karen Campbell, Maria Cramer, Geoff Edgers, Jeremy Eichler, Devra First, Jan Gardner, Alyssa Giacobbe, Meredith Goldstein, Jolyon Helterman, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Susa
December 19, 2010

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5 Corners Kitchen

This is his first restaurant, but Marblehead local Barry Edelman knows what he’s doing. He’s worked at both Lumiere and Aquitaine, and that French training comes through in his smoked garlic sausage with lentils and his steak frites, some of the best around. But this is a New World bistro, which means more inventive dishes, such as chili-rubbed pork chop with preserved lemon and romesco sauce, too. It’s worth a drive north, and if you live nearby, lucky you. 2 School Street, Marblehead, 781-631-5550

The Abbey

Fans of Brookline’s Washington Square Tavern will love this comfortable and comfortably priced nearby hangout, opened by two alums. Chef Josh Sherman serves his craveable bison Bolognese and other New American dishes; those and a generous selection of single malts will keep you cozy through the winter. 1657 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-730-8040, http://abbeyrestaurant.com

Aka Bistro

Half sashimi bar, half French bistro means double the pleasure for western suburban diners. Lincoln got lucky when manager Christian Touche and chef Christopher Chung joined forces. Their combined talents, plus easy parking, create an easy-on-the-palate, easy-to-return-to restaurant. The menu ranges from classic mussels with frites and perfect lamb loin chops with a potato galette to sustainably raised kindai tuna belly slices with miso mignonette. 145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, 781-259-9920, http://akabistrolincoln.com

Alma Nove

Hollywood comes to Hingham as Paul Wahlberg (the chef brother of actors Mark and Donnie) opens this scene-y eatery on the water. You’ll find crowds, cocktails, and satisfying fare influenced by Italy – flaky cod cakes and rich meatballs, tagliatelle with short ribs, and halibut kissed by North African flavors. 22 Shipyard Drive, Hingham, 781-749-3353, http://almanovehingham.com

Ariana Restaurant

From your first taste of warm nan to the last crumb of sweet, nutty bucklawa, you’ll be thrilled with this beautiful Afghan cooking. A former Helmand chef is in the kitchen making this saucy, rice-based cuisine, with similarities to both Indian and Middle Eastern foods. 129 Brighton Avenue, Allston, 617-208-8072, http://arianarestaurantboston.com

Azama

Perch on a stool in the window of this tiny spot and sip delicious lemony red-lentil soup, then split a juicy lamb kebab dish with a friend. The owner is Egyptian, the food is halal, and the cooking is exceptional. 54 Harvard Avenue, Allston, 617-779-0003, http://azamagrill.com

Bergamot

This restaurant has been firing on all cylinders since the week it opened. Chef Keith Pooler brings both solid technique and exciting flavor combinations to his food: plantain gnocchi, pork tenderloin with sweet and sour eggplant and shishito peppers. It’s lovely and delicious. Combine that with great wine and warm hospitality, and you have a winner. 118 Beacon Street, Somerville, 617-576-7700, http://bergamotrestaurant.com

Black Duck Market & Deli

Following a heated, only-in-the-suburbs protest of a CVS moving to a space that had been occupied by Newburyport’s local White Hen franchise, owner Scott Munroe gave the bird a second coming with a market and deli in the Tannery. Made-to-order sandwiches (the duck-ball grinder is a favorite), homemade organic soups, and fresh-baked cookies complement all the basics a beach town general store needs: coffee, peanut butter, bug spray. Tannery Historic Marketplace, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, 978-462-0323

Boston Local Food Festival

On a glorious Saturday in October, Boston’s first Local Food Festival drew 30,000 attendees to the waterfront at Fort Point for $5 tastings, demos on subjects from butchering to baking, and face time with farmers, chefs, and food entrepreneurs. The Seafood Throwdown was a net win for everybody. http://bostonlocalfoodfestival.com

ChopChop

This cooking magazine for families is an inspiration. The beautiful layout, great recipes, games, puzzles, and tips are intended to get children ages 5 to 12 (and their parents) excited about cooking and eating real food. The magazine has the endorsement of the American Academy of Pediatrics. http://chopchopmag.com

Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar

The team behind the South End’s Franklin Cafe has set up shop in the Fenway, with chef Brian Reyelt serving nouveau takes on tavern standbys. The Citizen is dark, cozy, and capable of serving you and nine friends a whole roast suckling pig. In addition to craft cocktails and 80 kinds of whiskey, it offers cult digestif Fernet-Branca on tap. What more could you want? 1310 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-450-9000, http://citizenpub.com

Cutty’s

When a Culinary Institute of America grad and former Cook’s Illustrated editor opens a sandwich shop, you don’t expect run-of-the-mill subs. And you don’t get them at Cutty’s, where Charles Kelsey is creating such lunches-of-the-gods as roast beef with crispy shallots. Don’t miss the Saturday-only slow-roasted pork sandwiches, either. 284 Washington Street, Brookline, 617-505-1844, http://cuttyfoods.com

Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen

The old Bob the Chef’s space is back in the right hands, those of restaurateur (and recent tenant) Darryl Settles. The menu was developed by another Boston fixture, Tim Partridge, who has cooked everywhere from East Coast Grill to Perdix to Bouchee over the years, and it features country-fried wings and burgers beside Cajun crab cakes and jambalaya. Live music, brunch, and a late-night menu make Darryl’s the kind of go-to, good-time place Bob’s always was. 604 Columbus Avenue, Boston, 617-536-1100, http://darrylscornerbarboston.com

Deuxave

From Dot. Ave. to Comm. Ave. was a straight shot for chef Chris Coombs, who at 26 already had a rep for impeccable ingredients and innovative cuisine at dbar. This spot is stylish without the white linens, has a hopping bar scene, and its dining room is as tastily designed as the dishes, such as the “Night Moves” appetizer of Scituate lobster, gnocchi, mushrooms, green grapes, and pearl onions, already a signature dish. 371 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617-517-5915, http://deuxave.com

Dumpling Cafe

Expat New York food snobs can barely muster a sentence that doesn’t begin “Back in [insert gritty Brooklyn micro-neighborhood] . . .” Local gourmets dismiss these insufferable elegies but for three topics: bagels, Korean barbecue, and the soup-filled dumplings called xao long bao (“steamed little juicy buns”). Now that Chinatown’s got XLB so thin-skinned and delicate they’re almost translucent, that number’s down to two. 695 Washington Street, Boston, 617-338-8858, http://dumplingcafe.com

El Paisa Butchery

A spinoff of the popular El Paisa Colombian restaurant just across the street, this butcher shop fuses the Italian and Latino flavors of diverse East Boston. There are sausages and marinades made from scratch, specialty burgers like the jalapeno cheddar, sirloin pinwheels, and naturally aged Angus beef. Fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and gelato are also sold. 1010 Bennington Street, East Boston, 617-567-0493

East by Northeast

Chef Phillip Tang creates refined versions of northern Chinese specialties using local, natural ingredients. Savory dumplings and light, refreshing salads satisfy, but Tang’s noodles are the real showstoppers. For the ultimate winter comfort food, try the thick-cut version with beef shank in spicy beef broth. 1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, 617-876-0286, http://exnecambridge.com

Flatbread Company

The Davis Square outpost of this small New England chain is in a bowling alley (one lane was recycled as the bar). Pies are wood-fired with puffy edges, and even the plainest cheese pizza is perfect and smoky. Add a local brew. 45 Day Street, Somerville, 617-776-0552, http://flatbreadcompany.com

The Fresh Market

Striped awnings, chalk-on-blackboard signs, and intoxicating aromas coming from the rotisserie create the feeling of a European market at the first Massachusetts outpost of this North Carolina-based grocery. If you’re not seduced by the picture-postcard produce and dazzling assortment of nuts, grains, and fresh herbs, consider the luscious tasting opportunities – fresh-squeezed orange juice, artichoke-olive canapes, rosemary lamb, fudgy brownies. Last-minute guests for dinner? Pick up ready-to-cook escargots, beef Wellington, or chicken Kiev, an extravagant pastry from the bakery, and a bottle of wine matched to your entree. Voila. 11 Essington Drive, Hingham, 781-740-2066, http://thefreshmarket.com

The Gallows

At this friendly neighborhood gastropub, former VeeVee chef Seth Morrison serves up poutine, cheese platters, pork and beans, and more. Owner Rebecca Roth, whom you may recognize from the Biltmore, makes everyone feel at home. If you’re not having fun already, the roster of well-mixed cocktails might help. 1395 Washington Street, Boston, 617-425-0200, http://thegallowsboston.com

Gustare Oils & Vinegars

In Italian, “gustare” means to taste, and that’s just what you do at this shop that’s also a tasting room featuring 20 extra-virgin olive oils from Italy, Spain, and Australia and 20 balsamic vinegars from Italy. Taste them individually or mix up your own vinaigrette. Buy them straight up or infused with Persian lime, tarragon, grapefruit, honey-ginger, or fig. If you thought oil and vinegar were just for salads, the dark-chocolate balsamic (anybody have some vanilla ice cream?) will open a whole new world. 4 North Street, Mashpee, 508-477-2010, and 425 Main Street, Chatham, 508-945-4505, http://gustareoliveoil.com

The Haven

Boston loves an Irish pub, but the city is notably short on Scottish flavor. This bar and restaurant remedies that, bringing haggis and neeps, bubble and squeak, and Cullen skink to Jamaica Plain (as well as deep-fried Mars bars, because, why not?). Fittingly, theirs is also the best Scotch egg in town. Friendly faces, great music, and an array of Scottish ales make the Haven a must. 2 Perkins Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-524-2836, http://thehavenjp.com

Hearth Wood Fired Bread

Not every invention is an improvement, especially when it comes to making bread. Hearth Wood Fired Bread hews to 18th-century techniques: Dough made with organic heritage grains and natural starter rises in wooden troughs and is then shaped by hand and baked in a wood-fired masonry oven. The result is a dense, chewy, crusty loaf that stays fresh for three or four days and – here’s a nod to the modern kitchen – freezes well. Find it in some of Boston’s top restaurants and South Shore specialty markets, or pick it up just out of the oven at the bakery. 123-2 Camelot Drive, Plymouth, 774-773-9388, http://hearthwfb.com

Island Creek Oyster Bar

Boston can always use more great seafood restaurants, and now it has one in Kenmore Square. Island Creek Oysters farm founder Skip Bennett, Lineage’s Jeremy Sewall, and Eastern Standard’s Garrett Harker join forces to increase oyster awareness. It’s a worthy cause. Try West Coast Kusshi oysters, Belons (from Maine, not France), and other varieties you may not have sampled before. You’ll also find a wealth of other seafood dishes – standards like clam chowder and lobster rolls, as well as more innovative fare, such as mussels with yellow curry and lobster roe noodles with grilled lobster and braised short ribs. 500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617-532-5300, http://islandcreekoysterbar.com

Istanbul’lu

Owner Huseyin Akgun has run several successful places around Boston and is now settled into Teele Square in Somerville, where he turns out eggplant dishes that make you swoon. He’s also making his own version of Turkish panini using homemade flatbread. 237 Holland Street, Somerville, 617-440-7387, http://istanbul-lu.com

Jacky’s Table

The more laid-back, less expensive little brother of the Petit Robert Bistros is every bit as French. It offers a lineup of old-school favorites, from onion soup topped with melted cheese to chicken cordon bleu. The motto here is “service like at the French home,” and the staff, oozing Gallic charm, makes everyone feel welcome. 1414 Commonwealth Avenue, Brighton, 617-274-8687, http://jackystable.com

Journeyman

In the midst of dark economic times, husband-and-wife team Tse Wei Lim and Diana Kudayarova decided to open an out-of-the-way restaurant serving only set menus of three, five, or seven courses. Turns out it was a genius idea – Journeyman is often booked weeks in advance. Somerville swoons for the carefully composed dishes, made from local, seasonal ingredients and served in a setting that feels both organic and industrial. 9 Sanborn Court, Somerville, 617-718-2333, http://journeymanrestaurant.com

Life Alive

This Lowell cafe’s new branch feels like it’s been in Cambridge forever. Whole grains, organic veggies, and inventive sauces elevate the bowls and wraps to tasty, good-for-you dishes, proving that an important part of comfort food just might be feeling comfortable as you leave the table. 765 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-354-5433, http://lifealive.com

Little Q Hot Pot and Szechuan House

At the city’s shabu-shabu joints, it’s advisable to stick with fattier meats, guaranteed to enrich even the most watery soup as they cook and surrender their marbling. By contrast, the black bone chicken broth at this East Arlington hot pot hot spot starts out so rich and supple and gloriously unctuous that you could pair it with tofu and still leave feeling adequately naughty. 196 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, 781-583-1367, http://littleqhotpotma.com

Menton

Chef-owner Barbara Lynch takes a gamble bringing fine dining to Fort Point and wins big. Menton is both broadly extravagant and dedicated to the smallest gestures. With menus priced at $95 or $145 a person, it’s a special-occasion restaurant, and it’s worth it. Dishes such as kataifi-wrapped langoustines and lobster crudo with caviar sparkle, and service shines. Special indeed. 354 Congress Street, Boston, 617-737-0099, http://mentonboston.com

Paani Pure Indian Cuisine

This beautifully lit little saffron- and turmeric-colored restaurant is barely bigger than a spice box, but serves both northern and southern Indian cuisines with graciousness and originality. Freshly ground spices and peak ingredients are obvious on the fork, and the masala sauce is so full-bodied you could happily eat it with one. 621 Boston Post Road, Sudbury, 978-443-8100, http://paani-restaurant.com

Parsons Table

When chef Chris Parsons remade Catch into Parsons Table, he created the restaurant Winchester needed. It serves comfort food that is delicious, not dull – rainbow trout in a panko crust with squash, green beans, and tasso ham, and chicken ballotine with brown butter risotto. Ingredients are local, prices are affordable, and area residents are grateful. 34 Church Street, Winchester, 781-729-1040, http://parsons-table.com

Pho Hoa

Each location in this national chain is distinctive. The Dorchester spot is light, upbeat, and very popular with local Vietnamese families. Golden crepe filled with pork and shrimp, grilled pork bun, and the house pho are menu standouts. 1370 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, 617-287-9746, http://phohoarestaurant.com

Posto

Wood-fired pizza places now form bookends in Davis Square (Flatbread Company is the other). Some thought this location was cursed, but sleek Posto has proved them wrong. Pies are very thin, almost crunchy, with flavorful toppings such as delectable taleggio, ham, and fig in early fall, and rosemary-roasted honey crisp apples a little later in the season. 187 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-625-0600, pizzeriaposto.com

The Pulse Cafe

Herbivores who long for, well, pastrami, will find succor at the Pulse Cafe. This Davis Square vegan restaurant doesn’t shy away from re-creating classic meat dishes with plant-based substitutes. The Reuben stars marinated tempeh, which is made from soybeans, and the “roast” in pot roast is homemade seitan – a wheat-gluten product. And don’t skip dessert: You’d never know the chocolate mousse was made with tofu instead of eggs and cream. 195 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-625-1730, http://thepulsecafe.com

Russell House Tavern

Chef Michael Scelfo serves something for everyone in Harvard Square – pizzas and burgers, raw bar and charcuterie, sandwiches and salads, grilled fish and steak frites. And so Russell House is an instant hit for the neighborhood. 14 JFK Street, Cambridge, 617-500-3055, http://russellhousecambridge.com

Sichuan Gourmet

Finally, Sichuan Gourmet brings the heat closer to the city (other branches are in Billerica and Framingham). Devotees of mala – the numbing spice found in Sichuan food – flock here for won tons in chili sauce, cumin lamb, and ma po tofu. 1004-1006 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-277-4226 and 617-277-4227, http://laosichuan.com

Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale

Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale in Downtown Crossing has quickly become one of the hottest drinking spots in Boston, with 25 beers on tap, five cask-conditioned ales, and a tribute to the art of crafting cocktails with fresh shaved ice. There’s a mix of comfort food and fine dining, too, including fondue, rabbit, and charcuterie plates. Every nook and cranny in this dark, cozy pub features a piece of history, like the original trolley tracks from the Park Street Station that serve as a footrest along the bar. 48 Temple Place, Boston, 617-426-0048, http://stoddardspub.com

Taste This Tours

East Boston has a rep among foodies for under-the-radar finds, but Laura Strohmeier is spreading the word with her summers-only walking tours of the vibrant district. She meets groups of up to 15 at Long Wharf, and they motor over by water taxi to sample such treats as honey-mint iced tea at Scup’s in the Harbour, spicy chicken at 303 Cafe, seafood pasta at Off the Boat, ice cream at Ecco, and more. Tours, which will start up again after Memorial Day, cost $45, run from 1 to 4 p.m., and cover about 4 miles. 785-328-9255, http://tastethistours.com

Wicked Fire Kissed Pizza

Bright, open, and artfully decorated (if you don’t count the TVs), this offshoot of the hugely popular Cape restaurant uses organic and locally grown ingredients, and you can taste them in the delicious thin-crust pizza. Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-326-9100, http://wickedrestaurant.com

  • December 19, 2010 cover
  • Best of the New