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Summer Food

The best of the rest

Still hungry after sampling Devra First's Best New Restaurants? Try the highest-rated of the other new eateries she's recently reviewed.

By Devra First
June 12, 2011

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★★★★ EXTRAORDINARY

★★★ EXCELLENT

★★ GOOD

★ FAIR

(NO STARS) Poor

DAIKANYAMA ★★½

The Japanese restaurant, named for a fashionable neighborhood in Tokyo, is located in a Bloomingdale’s in Chestnut Hill. You’ll find it by the cosmetics department. It’s as restorative as any wrinkle cream, soothing as a spa, and serving delicious, if high-priced, fare. The sushi gives that at nearby Oishii a run for its money.

The Mall at Chestnut Hill, 617-332-1998, http://www.dkyama.com

FOUNDRY ON ELM★★

It’s hard to believe a place like Foundry on Elm didn’t already exist in Davis Square. Opened in September 2010, the brasserie/tavern has a long marble bar, plenty of mirrors, red-leather booths, and a black-and-white checkered floor. It’s big and loud and convivial and comfortably priced. Chef Christopher Bussell offers classic bistro dishes such as house-made charcuterie and steak frites, as well as spaetzle and Middle Eastern meze, often made from local ingredients. And, for beer geeks, there’s a rotating cask selection, a generous roster of bottles and cans, and 32 taps.

255 Elm Street, Somerville, 617-628-9999, http://www.foundryonelm.com

TRES GATOS ★★½

A tapas bar meets a music and bookstore in Jamaica Plain, and the result is the perfect quirky neighborhood spot. The Spanish-inspired food is prepared with real chops by executive chef Marcos Sanchez (formerly of Dante) and sous chef Lydia Reichert (Craigie on Main). Because Tres Gatos is tiny, the prices reasonable, and the food delicious, it is often crowded. Waiting for a seat gives you time to get reacquainted with the joys of browsing through records and books. Here, doing so is even better than you remember, because the cheerful servers will bring a bottle and wineglasses to the store area. Cheers to offline shopping: tactile, serendipitous, and – now – thirst-quenching, too.

470 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617-477-4851, http://www.tresgatosjp.com

ORO ★★

This Scituate hot spot has a pleasant seaside feeling without being “too yo-ho-ho,” as chef and co-owner Robin King puts it. Decorated in neutrals, with light-wood beams and big windows, the room is bright and airy. King has cooked at Tosca in Hingham, as well as Mistral and Stella in Boston. He buys his seafood from local boats and much of his produce from area farms. Oro’s menu presents an elegant version of New England. Dishes feature clean, classic flavors with a few twists: corn chowder with clams and bacon, crispy Scituate lobster cakes. Not every dish is equally strong, but dinner at Oro still is a lovely end to a day spent strolling by the sea.

162 Front Street, Scituate, 781-378-2465, http://www.restaurantoro.com

THE ABBEY★★

This tiny place in Brookline is crowded with a mix of regulars – people on blind dates, young couples, old friends. It offers comfort for all, with food and prices as relaxed as the atmosphere. Nothing costs more than $20. The fare is not too heavy, salted, or trendy. It’s simply good, the kind of thing you are happy to eat several times a month – from small plates, Caesar salad, and roast cod to the bison Bolognese that chef Josh Sherman became known for when he worked at the nearby Washington Square Tavern.

1657 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-730-8040, http://www.abbeyrestaurant.com

CANARY SQUARE★★

Here there are homemade doughnuts. And deviled eggs, cheese fries, burgers, and wood-roasted chicken. And more than 30 kinds of beer on tap. But I had you at the doughnuts, didn’t I? That’s about how quickly Jamaica Plain fell for Canary Square, purveyor of the kind of food that can fuel a community for years to come. Partners Michael Moxley and Jim Cochener, who also operate Coda and Common Ground, know how to create a neighborhood hangout. Canary Square can be inconsistent, but its extended hours, reasonably priced bar snacks, and weekend brunch make up for it.

435 South Huntington Avenue, Jamaica Plain, 617-524-2500, http://www.canarysquare.com

LOLITA COCINA & TEQUILA BAR★★

It’s as dark as a movie theater in this Back Bay restaurant, with red-velvet wallpaper and the musky scent of incense low in the background. The atmosphere seems designed to awaken libidinous appetites. If the young and the pretty get peckish, however, they’ll find stylish takes on Tex-Mex classics. Guacamole, seviche, tacos, and more are served up alongside 200-plus tequilas. Finish the meal with free cotton candy sprinkled with Pop Rocks. It’s dessert for kiddies, decidedly Lolita-esque. This place is a little bit naughty, a little bit classy, and just grown-up enough.

271 Dartmouth Street, Boston, 617-369-5609, http://www.lolitaboston.com

Q RESTAURANT★★

The citified, snazzified version of Little Q, a hot pot restaurant that got its start in Quincy. Now you’ll find china, cloth napkins, a full bar, plenty of Chinese dishes, and sushi. The hot pot, however, remains much the same. Broths are complex and ingredients fresh. Some come to Chinatown to find that hole in the wall serving great food; others prefer a sparkling environment. When the two types try to meet over a table, it’s not always pretty. Q is a place both can eat together, in a temporary truce.

660 Washington Street, Boston, 857-350-3968, http://www.thequsa.com

THINK TANK ★★

Think Tank, a groovy little rec room in Cambridge devoted to Asian flavors, mixed drinks, and good music, serves exuberantly flavored bites and bistro twists. Don’t miss the Seoul burger with a runny egg or the bento boxes, which offer small portions of addictive appetizers such as fried pickles, spring rolls, and sriracha wings. Entrees like duck confit and green curry are equally tasty.

One Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-500-3031, http://www.thinktankcambridge.com

TICO ★★

Lobster tacos and tequila are 2011’s version of the upscale pub fare and whiskey we saw everywhere in 2010. As food trends go, I’ll take it. Lighter, spicier, it reflects optimism. Of all the new restaurants embracing this cuisine, Michael Schlow’s Tico may be the most anticipated. The food is influenced by Mexico, but also Spain and South America. On some nights, the flavors sing and the food is excellent. On others, there are flaws: not enough heat, not enough acid, not enough oomph. More than a serious Boston restaurant, Tico feels like a nightspot serving good food. But Schlow and company aren’t trying for serious. They feel it in the air. We’re ready for a party.

222 Berkeley Street, Boston, 617-351-0400, http://www.ticorestaurant.com

TOWNE★★

Famed chefs Lydia Shire and Jasper White join forces for the first time in years on Towne Stove and Spirits. The restaurant is 13,000 square feet of overstimulation, with two levels, three bars, and more than 50 dishes that flit from continent to continent like a hippie trekker following his bliss. For those looking for a scene, Towne is just the ticket. But for those in search of predictably excellent Boston dining, this is not it, not yet.

900 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-247-0400, http://www.towneboston.com

UMAMI★★

Umami is a Brookline restaurant with a Japanese name and chef, but it doesn’t serve sushi. It’s a bistro, but it deviates from the strict bistro diet of chicken-pork-steak smattered with frites and mashed. Chef Yoshi Hakamoto, who previously owned Allston yakitori bar Sumi, serves Asian fusion that actually fuses, at friendly neighborhood prices. You’ll find shiitake mushrooms with yuzu marmalade, steak au poivre with Sichuan peppercorns, and innovative cocktails.

1704 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-879-9100, http://www.umamiboston.com

STREGA WATERFRONT★★

An improbable nexus of Vegas, the Bronx, and the Jersey Shore in stoic Boston. Cougars in business suits work the room. Power players drink at the bar. There is more leopard print per capita than is generally seen in these parts. The likes of lobster fra diavolo and seafood risotto satisfy, but expensive chops can be dry and truffle pappardelle devoid of mushroom flavor. Still, when owner Nick Varano arrives at your table to shake your hand and ask how your evening has been, the hospitality feels sincere.

1 Marina Park Drive, Boston, 617-345-3992, http://www.stregawaterfront.com

These reviews previously appeared in The Boston Globe. For more, go to boston.com/food.