Fashion is fickle. Tastes change. This is as true for food as it is for couture. In restaurants, tuna tartare gives way to house-made charcuterie, Italian flavors to Southern, then Asian, ones. Yesterday’s risotto is replaced by today’s grits — at least until grains like freekeh (roasted wheat) and quinoa begin to encroach. What’s in, out, and upcoming on Boston menus right now? Let’s take a look.
5 minutes ago: Poutine Hailing from Quebec, this dish of fries with gravy and cheese curds took gastropub menus by storm. It’s traditionally consumed late at night after too much drink. Can’t imagine why it’s been such a hit locally. Where to eat: The Gallows, 1395 Washington St., Boston. 617-425-0200. www.thegallowsboston.com. Simple poutine, $10.
Flavor of the month: Banh mi These Vietnamese sandwiches feature French bread filled with meat, fish, or tofu, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cilantro, chilies, and mayonnaise. Bought from a counter in Dorchester or Chinatown, they are one of the best cheap meals in town. The banh mi has now made the transition to non-Vietnamese restaurants, where the price tag is inevitably higher. Where to eat: Strip-T’s, 93 School St., Watertown. 617-923-4330. www.stripts.com. Eggplant banh mi, $9.
On the rise: Ramen A far cry from the college staple, this handmade dish of noodles and soup is cult-y comfort food in Japan. Here it appears largely on late-night menus and in pop-up restaurants, but it’s starting to have a presence on regular menus. Where to eat: Uni, 370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-536-7200. www.unisashimibar.com. Ramen served Friday and Saturday after 11 p.m., $10.
5 minutes ago: Meatballs Made with pork, beef, veal, or shrimp. In red sauce, sweet-and-sour, with Asian herbs. Meatballs turned up everywhere, the perfect little snack. Where to eat: Il Casale, 50 Leonard St., Belmont. 617-209-4942. www.ilcasalebelmont.com. Maiale (pork) meatballs, $7.
Flavor of the month: Flatbread It’s not pizza. It’s a pizza-like crust topped with things one might put on a pizza. Flatbread just sounds so much classier. If you’re eating at a restaurant in 2012, chances are flatbread is on the menu. Where to eat: Trade, 540 Atlantic Ave., Boston. 617-451-1234. www.trade-boston.com. Lamb sausage flatbread, $15.
On the rise: Pork buns Chinese cha siu bao, steamed buns filled with pork, are a dim sum staple. In New York, the restaurant Momofuku spread them to a wider audience. They haven’t made a huge splash in this city yet, but as chefs increasingly incorporate Asian flavors, we will see more. Where to eat: East by Northeast, 1128 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-876-0286. www.exnecambridge.com. Crispy pork belly on mantou bread, $9.
5 minutes ago: Pickles House-made pickles were ubiquitous to the point of mockery — they inspired a sketch on IFC comedy “Portlandia.” “We can pickle that!,” announced the show’s stars, about everything from CD jewel cases to parking tickets. Fortunately, area chefs tended to stick to things like locally grown turnips and radishes. Where to eat: Grillo’s Pickles, 1075 Cambridge St., Cambridge. (More locations on website.) www.grillospickles.com. Pickles, assorted prices.
Flavor of the month: Cauliflower The new Brussels sprout, once considered unappetizing. It can be found raw, roasted, grilled, and, yes, pickled — served with everything from bone marrow to chorizo to pine nuts and golden raisins. Where to eat: Tico, 222 Berkeley St., Boston. 617-351-0400. www.ticoboston.com. Roasted cauliflower with creamy chipotle and crunchy fava beans, $8.
On the rise: Shishito peppers These little Japanese peppers are served grilled or roasted until the skins blister, with plenty of coarse salt. They can be sprinkled with citrus or showered with bonito flakes, served at Asian, Mexican, or Spanish restaurants. About 1 in 10 is spicy, so eating is an adventure. Where to eat: Estragon Tapas Bar, 700 Harrison Ave., Boston. 617-266-0443. www.estragontapas.com. Pimientos shishito, $7.
Bird is the word
5 minutes ago: Duck confit Curing duck legs in salt and cooking them in their own fat yields rich, tender meat and crisp skin. Duck confit appeared both as the star of the dish and an accessory, shredded into everything from salads to spring rolls to quesadillas. Where to eat: Deuxave, 371 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-517-5915. www.deuxave.com. Duck confit, $14.
Flavor of the month: Fried chicken A Southern specialty that’s taken hold in non-Southern restaurants. Most often spotted with its partner, waffles. Where to eat: Trina’s Starlite Lounge, 3 Beacon St., Somerville. 617-576-0006. www.trinastarlitelounge.com. Fried chicken and waffles, $14. Continued...