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Restaurant critic Devra First took your questions

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July 30, 2008

Are you curious about dining out in the Boston area? What's affordable? What's new that's not to be missed? Devra First, the Globe's restaurant critic, took your dining-related questions and comments on July 30 at noon. Miss the chat? Catch up here.

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Devra_First: Hi all. How have you been? And what have you eaten since we last chatted? Tell me about your favorite, or least favorite, meal in the last two weeks.
vegchick__Guest_: hi devra- i was looking for a restaurant that has souffle. I had a great souffle in Paris but have yet to find another like it. Also- could you reccomend an authentic mexican (non-americanized) restaurant with lots of vegetarian options? Both in the Boston/Cambridge area.
Devra_First: The first place that springs to mind for souffle is Il Capriccio, which is known for its savory mushroom souffle. Also, Icarus does a chocolate souffle for two. Any other souffle suggestions?
Ted__Guest_: Not including the super expensive O Ya or Oishii, which are excellent, what would you say is the best sushi in the Boston area.
Devra_First: I don't know about best, but the sushi at Bluefin in Porter Square is a very good value. For the money, the fish is pretty good. Also Hana Sushi in Cambridge. What reasonably priced sushi places are your favorites?
thecapsfan79: My wife made a delicious shepherd's pie last week. I would say that would have to be my meal in the last week or so.
Devra_First: That's very sweet. Your wife sounds like a great cook.
wishbone__Guest_: I second Hana Sushi - I live in Porter but will go the extra distance for Hana because their sushi is super fresh but also a great value - I think Blue Fin is great too, just a little more expensive.
food_dude__Guest_: I love O Sushi in the Westin - great vibe, cute little sushi bar, and the fish is always really fresh.
Devra_First: I sometimes go there too when in the area. Now that Douzo is right across the street, I'm torn. I usually just go to whichever I'm closest to. I don't love either of them, but they're good when nearby.
thecapsfan79: She's great. I'm only good at eating and cleaning up.
Boston__Guest_: Do you know of any place that has puffy tacos?
Devra_First: I don't really even know what a puffy taco is! Do tell. It sounds like something in the Taco Bellian oeuvre.
Cindy__Guest_: Thank you so much for your recommendation for the Hungry Mother - it was delicious!
Devra_First: So glad you liked it! I don't think I've met anyone yet who didn't, though some people have told me they had spacey service.
Ms_Fit__Guest_: Hi Devra, who, if anyone, does a good authentic fish taco in Boston area? Rudy's in Teele Sq - Blech; Borders in Harvard Square - double blech.
Devra_First: Tacos are thus far the theme of the day. I approve! I don't know about authentic per se; I tend to make them myself when I crave one. If you're near the South End, Morse Fish will fry you up a nice piece of fish that you can then transport home and turn into tacos if you don't feel like frying. In the same 'hood, Picco makes a pretty tasty fish taco. As does Cafe D in JP. Any other suggestions?
Boston__Guest_: It is a taco shell that is thick and puffed up. It's still crispy and delicious. They are very popular in Texas. It is filled with the regular stuff; it's the taco shell that makes it so good.
Devra_First: Man, I have to get myself to Texas. My Texan friend Joe Yonan, who used to write about food for the Globe, is always telling me about these evilicious things like puffy tacos. I don't know where to find them locally, and that might be for the best. Sounds addictive!
thecapsfan79: Have you ever been to Babbo in NYC? Now that's some amazing Italian food!
Devra_First: Why yes I have. With my favorite brother-in-law! His name is thecapsfan79 too. What a coincidence. Babbo was a fantastic, fantastic meal, particularly the 2-minute calamari, Sicilian lifeguard style (currants, pine nuts, Israeli couscous, tomatoes) and the pasta called mint love letters.
Devra_First: But we have great Italian food in Boston, too. Right now I'm loving Benatti in Cambridge. What are people's favorite Boston-area Italian restaurants?
Lucy__Guest_: Ken Oringer's place by Fenway has fantastic tacos - fish and other!
Devra_First: Those tacos really are good. It's called La Verdad. Great pre-ball, post-ball noshing.
Ms_Fit__Guest_: Where can I get sorrel? I've called Bread & Circus and Whole Foods and Harvest Coop last time I was looking for it but none of them had it.
Devra_First: It's a bit hard to find. You might try the farmers' markets; the Siena Farms people might have it. Also Russo's in Watertown is a good source for hard-to-find items. It's worth the hunt, though. I love the flavor. Someone was just telling me the other day that their friend had made cocktails with it -- I believe they were sorrel margaritas, or mojitos, can't recall, but either would be good.
beaconHillGal__Guest_: El Pelon by Fenway has the best tacos, hands down! Their fish tacos..mmm mmm!
Devra_First: Yeah, what is it with the Fenway's corralling of taco spots? Spread the love to other parts of the city.
Derek__Guest_: Debra: Two questions: 1) have you heard anything about the planned opening of Roadhouse Craft & BBQ in Brookline? Also, is there any seafood market in or around Boston that you know sells fresh Florida stone crabs in season? Thanks
Devra_First: The most recent thing I've heard about Roadhouse is early August. They had a posting recently looking to hire on Craig's List. It's clear that people are really excited about this place, myself included. As for the crabs, I don't know for sure, but I would check with New Deal in Cambridge.
beaconHillGal__Guest_: You can also try Olecito (Ole Mexican Grill's takeout spot across the street) in Inman Square. Really good stuff!
Devra_First: Is that for fish tacos? We have so many taco threads going! I think they have a shrimp taco but can't remember what the fish situation is.
Boston__Guest_: Massimino's near the North End has excellent Italian food, also Carlo's Cucina in Brighton is great.
Devra_First: Carlo's is great for value, too.
Boston__Guest_: Hi Devra! What are your 3 favorite sushi spots in the city? Thanks!
Devra_First: O Ya is my favorite. I also like Oishii. I'm not sure what the third would be. Can I go to Natick and say Oga's?
wishbone__Guest_: Devra - I was at Sage last week and had a duck dish, I think it was tea smoked, what does that mean?
Devra_First: Mmm, tea smoked duck. I'm intrigued, as this is a Chinese (Sichuan, I think) preparation. It's just what it sounds like: duck smoked over tea leaves. I think the technique was originally intended for preservation purposes. What's the preparation like at Sage?
Cindy__Guest_: How about a good recommendation for a birthday dinner about six people in the Cambridge area? Any cuisine is great.
Devra_First: You could try Rendezvous in Central Square, Hungry Mother near the Kendall Square Cinema, Green Street near Central, all quite festive and fun places to have a birthday dinner.
Ms_Fit__Guest_: I've got a James McNair soup cookbook and every time I pass the potato soup recipe, I want to make it but have never been able to. So I'll try roaming further afield from Boston.
Devra_First: What's the recipe like?
MmmmmWendy_s__Guest_: My girlfriend is from the South, where they have much more authentic Mexican and Tex/Mex foods. Is there anywhere around here that will remind her of places at home?
Devra_First: I don't know if it will be like home, but Angela's Cafe in East Boston is definitely worth a visit. Tacos at the aforementioned La Verdad might help assuage the itch till her next visit home.
beaconHillGal__Guest_: Has anyone tried Snappy Sushi in Davis Square? I've heard mixed reviews.
Devra_First: I haven't tried it yet and am curious. Anyone?
fff__Guest_: What's your take on Restaurant Week? Seems like people either love it or hate it.
Devra_First: My personal, and totally skewed, take is love-hate. I hate it because it's really hard to get my work done! I can't reliably visit a restaurant during that time period and evaluate it for a review, because the menus and the atmosphere are different. But I love it, because it's a good time to schedule vacations. My more rational, less selfish take is that it's a great way for people to get to sample restaurants they might not otherwise be able to. It's not always going to be the same, and at some restaurants it can be a bit of a diner mill, but it's a great thing for people who love to eat and don't want to break the bank. Especially these days, we can use more of that. And Restaurant Week keeps getting longer and more frequent. Some restaurants extend it, too. What's your take?
Allstonian_2__Guest_: Haven't been there in the past 2 weeks, I admit, but I've been LOVING Jo Jo Taipei, just down the block from Carlo's on Brighton Ave. in Allston. I think I ate there something like 5 times in their first 3 weeks of operation! Everything I've had there has been really good, especially the eggplant with basil and the shaved ice dessert. The room is really pretty and the staff are very friendly and welcoming and eager to share their cuisine, especially the hostess/manager.
Devra_First: I'm really itching to go there; haven't tried it yet. What's the shaved ice like? Bean-y? Syrup-y?
MmmmmWendy_s__Guest_: Thanks for the suggestion!
MmmmmWendy_s__Guest_: Where do places like Fugakyu and Ginza rank on your list of best sushi?
Devra_First: I haven't loved Fugakyu in the past, but I haven't been there in a long while. I'd like to try the omakase at the sushi bar and see how that is. Ginza used to be better, I think, and again I haven't frequented it in a long time. The last time I ate at the Brookline one, the rice was very dried out, which did not inspire me to return. Do you like them? Any recommendations for if I do return?
Boston__Guest_: Any suggestions for good food in South Boston?
Devra_First: Cafe Polonia for great Polish food; the former Potbelly's, now called St. Alphonzo's Kitchen; Flour; a couple of good diner-y places such as Mul's and My Diner; the hot dogs at Sullivan's on Castle Island for a summer treat. Haven't tried D Street Cafe yet, but sounds fun.
Allstonian_2__Guest_: Umm...both. The times I've had it I've been part of a large party, so they've gone all out - a Pyrex pie dish full of fluffy shaved ice, topped with at least half a dozen things such as big red beans, azuki beans, taro cubes, sweet potato - all cooked in sugar syrup so that they're sweet, and the whole thing drizzled in more sugar syrup. Seems odd, but delicious and so refreshing on a hot night!
Devra_First: I want that right now. I love that kind of dessert; I lived in Japan for a while as a kid, and that must be where I developed a love for this kind of dessert. Sounds great!
MmmmmWendy_s__Guest_: I like Ginza more than Fugakyu, but I haven't found the rice to be dried out. My favorite sushi place in Brookline (of which there will soon be 16) is Super Fusion in Washington Sq.
Devra_First: Yes, when will the Brookline sushi market be saturated? I loved Super Fusion but again haven't been in a while. I'll have to give Ginza another shot, the rice thing must have been a fluke.
Kim_M__Guest_: In South Boston, try Arpeggio's for great takeout sandwiches and homemade ice cream! Just don't get the iced coffee there... It tastes burnt.
Devra_First: Good tip. Why is iced coffee so often bad? This is one of life's mysteries...
Kim_M__Guest_: What do you think of small plates restaurants? I heard there's a new one opening in the North End. I walk by the place every morning, but I'm not sure when it's scheduled to open.
Devra_First: I love them. I often find appetizers the most intriguing things on the menu, and this is like a sanction to eat all appetizers all the time. I know people who get cranky and say they're still hungry afterward, but I don't find that at all. It's one of my favorite ways to eat, sampling lots of different tastes and avoiding palate fatigue. Do you like small plates? What's the name of the North End place?
Kim_M__Guest_: Devra, have you been to Sauciety? What's your take on it?
Devra_First: I went. Once. When it first opened. I kind of like the idea, choosing your own sauce for each dish. But the food did not encourage me to return. Have you been?
little_sis__Guest_: Did you always have a passion for food?
Devra_First: Yes. It came in large part from my parents, who love to cook and eat. Their joy in food is hereditary.
Kim_M__Guest_: Tapas restaurants are among my favorites, so I've been happy to see small plates being offered in different restaurants. I'm a huge fan of Ivy in Downtown Crossing. I'm not sure of the name of the place opening in the North End; Damiano's maybe? It starts with a D.
Kim_M__Guest_: I have been to Sauciety, but I found the food mediocre. Great concept, but I just think they didn't pull through with it. I also had a dessert there that was absolutely awful. It was some kind of dried out chocolate cake in a white froth. I do like the decor, though.
Devra_First: Ooh, dried cake in white froth. I am shuddering. Shuddering! Bad dessert seems like a bad place to end this chat, but it's 1. Thanks for the good conversation. I look forward to doing it again soon. (With or without my sister and brother-in-law, who have been peppering the message board with queries about how to make raccoon stew and the like. Ha ha, very funny guys.)

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