Mini lobster roll
10 City Square, Charlestown. 617-242-1999. www.toddenglish.com
Todd English’s revived Charlestown restaurant still emphasizes big flavors, but a new focus is small plates. This was a particularly clever and tasty presentation — a perfect little lobster roll served with a jar of rich lobster-corn chowder and potato chips dusted with Old Bay.
Shrimp and grits
382 Highland Ave., Somerville. 617-718-6666. www.imwithmeat.com
This trendy dish has cropped up on menus all over town. Many of the versions disappoint, but not the one at Southern restaurant M3. The luxurious, creamy grits are topped with perfectly cooked shrimp, laced with cheese, and studded with okra. The dish is surprisingly, excellently spicy.
59 JFK St., Cambridge. 617-491-9851. www.parkcambridge.com
Mussels get the clam shack treatment. Freed from their shells, they are battered and fried into crisp, juicy bites, intermingled with sweet-tart pieces
of preserved lemon, also battered and fried. The mixture is served in an authentic cardboard carton, white with red stripes, with pungent horseradish dipping sauce on the side.
Uni Sashimi Bar
370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-536-7200. www.unisashimibar.com
Good ramen has been hard to come by in Boston, but that is beginning to change, thanks in part to Uni’s late-night ramen. Served Thursday through Saturday after 11 p.m., the steaming bowls of Japanese noodle soup come in two flavors. One is more traditional, with roast pork. The other, called umami ramen, features barbecue eel and a rich, intense broth. Both are wonderful.
Crema de platano
57 West Dedham St., Boston. 617-247-9249. www.vejigantesrestaurant.com
At this warm little Puerto Rican restaurant in the South End, the most warming thing on the menu is also one of the best: soup. The cream of plantain is comforting yet nuanced; there is a backbone of garlic, plus a pleasant sourness and complexity. It’s just the thing to get you through the Boston winter.
Grilled veal chop
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge. 617-945-0221. www.westbridgerestaurant.com
At one of my favorite new restaurants of the year, flavors don’t just coexist, they complement. A veal chop is perfectly grilled, but it is the combination of the meat with bits of dried olive and almond touched with brown sugar, with chard laced with candied orange peel, that makes it mind-blowingly delicious.
315 Shawmut Ave., Boston. 857-350-4450. www.yakitorizai.com
Many dishes make me thankful at this Japanese restaurant one might actually find in Japan. It specializes in skewers of chicken parts and more cooked over charcoal. But it seems fitting to conclude with dessert. At Yakitori Zai, that’s annin dofu. This isn’t tofu but a panna cotta-like custard, made with agar agar rather than gelatin. Wobbly, rich with cream, lightly almond flavored, it is a perfect, cooling end to a meal.