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Taste of South Boston coming Sunday, March 24

Posted by Doug Most March 12, 2013 10:12 AM

The 11th annual Taste of South Boston will be held Sunday, March 24, from 6-9 p.m. at the Seaport Hotel. Always one of the biggest neighborhood food fests of the year, this year's event will have 30 local restaurants and live music, and for $50 it's usually a bargain and a fun night, to boot.

Here is the full announcement from the South Boston Neighborhood Development Corp.

The South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation (South Boston NDC) will hold its 11th Annual Taste of South Boston on Sunday, March 24, 2013, from 6 - 9 p.m. at the Seaport Hotel. This event has become one of the city's premier food events enjoyed by over 500 attendees. For an entrance fee of $50, attendees can sample food and beverage offerings from 30 local restaurants while enjoying live music.

This year's event boasts the largest number of participating restaurants, from the traditional South Boston neighborhood, the South Boston Waterfront and the Fort Point areas. As of press date, 28 local restaurants have committed to providing tastings including: 75 on Liberty Wharf, American Provisions, Aura Restaurant, Café Porto Bello, Cranberry Café, Empire, Franklin Southie, Jerry Remy's Seaport, Larry J's BBQ Cafe, Lincoln, Local 149, LTK, Lucky's Lounge, Papagayo, The Paramount, Rosa Mexicano, Salsa's, Salvatore's, Sportello, Strega Waterfront, Sweet Tooth Boston, Tamo Lounge, Temazcal Cantina, Trade, Water Cafe at the ICA, and The Whiskey Priest. Al's Liquors will be sampling select wines, and Harpoon Brewery will be pouring samples of their latest brews.

South Boston NDC is a recognized 501c(3) that has successfully developed over 180 units of affordable housing in the community. The Taste of South Boston is South Boston NDC's annual fundraiser. Proceeds from this event support the South Boston NDC's mission to provide affordable housing for working people, families, elderly and Veterans in our community. This spring, South Boston NDC and its partner Caritas Communities, will begin construction of Patriot Homes, 24 affordable apartments for Veterans.

Tickets can be purchased online at: www.tasteofsouthboston.com or at the office of South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation located at 365 West Broadway, South Boston. For general inquiries, email us at: info@tasteofsouthboston.com or call 617-268-9610.

Popular Mike & Patty's in Bay Village re-opening this weekend

Posted by Sheryl Julian January 4, 2013 12:13 PM

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Former employee Jennifer Galatis and a group are re-opening Mike & Patty's in Bay Village, a popular breakfast and sandwich spot. Original owner Michael Fitzhenry sold it to Galatis and the others.

Locke-Ober sale in the works

Posted by Devra First October 23, 2012 10:28 AM

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Globe Staff Photo/Essdras M Suarez

Locke-Ober, as it once was.

On Wednesday, in a print review of Oak Long Bar + Kitchen, you will see me wonder what will become of Locke-Ober's historic space. Since the review went to press, the likely answer has been revealed, thanks to Patrick Maguire of JM Curley.

Maguire reports that a group has signed an agreement to purchase the space and its liquor license: Jay Hajj of Mike's City Diner in the South End, Michael Fallman of British Beer Company, and James P. Robertson Jr. of Origen Property Management. The team, Maguire says, plans to open a new bar and restaurant but preserve Locke-Ober's architecture, woodwork, and other historic features. (Please keep the dumbwaiter!) The sale is expected to be finalized in November. Despite the Mike's City Diner/British Beer connections, neither concept will open in the space, Maguire says. A new, independent restaurant is at least a year away.

Boston isn't the kind of city to turn its back on the past, and it is heartening to see a team of restaurateurs step in to preserve the irreplaceable Locke-Ober. Now perhaps that gorgeous bar will get the high-quality period cocktails it demands.

New, free, and full of good stuff

Posted by Sheryl Julian September 27, 2012 03:08 PM

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The Globe's latest e-book offers 40 Cheap Eats reviews from the popular column. You'll find Indian biryani, Thai rolls, Middle Eastern kebabs, coal-fired pizza, good burgers and more. Download it onto your tablet, smartphone, or desktop and go have an adventure

Olives: the other side of the story

Posted by Devra First July 18, 2012 04:12 PM

Eater Boston offers a post today summing up my review of Olives.

The post portrays my review as entirely negative, pulling out seven particularly scathing comments. As a critic, I take great care to be fair. This was certainly far from a rave. But it was a 2 star review that did contain praise. In the interest of righting the scales, here are seven positive things I had to say about Olives.

"Right now, it is just what it’s meant to be: a bustling, lively neighborhood restaurant that serves as a social hub for those who live nearby."

"Before renovations, Olives was darker, filled with empty booths, dated. Modernized, it feels like a place you’d want to be: more windows than walls, sunflowers at the hostess station, glass bell-jar pendants dim over the wraparound bar, weathered wood panels framing the kitchen."

"On slightly quieter nights, when the staff can actually hear you, they are affable, attentive, and chatty."

"The reasonably priced marinated skirt steak satisfies -- flavorful meat cooked just right, served with short rib ravioli and corn pudding."

"The menu features some clever presentations. A perfect, tiny lobster roll is served with a jar of intensely rich lobster-corn chowder and potato chips dusted with Old Bay; an eye-catching 'stuffed clam' turns out to be a shell brimming with fried whole-belly clams over cornbread."

"Olives remains almost as devoted to big flavors as ever, and while the restaurant’s classics no longer feel particularly fresh, they often still taste pretty darn good."

"The combination of butternut squash-stuffed tortelli with brown butter and sage seems a trope today, but when the flavors are in balance, the dish is still a pleasure. (Although if I had to choose between that and the bracing delight of fettuccine tossed with fresh, briny cockles and clams and a mother lode of garlic -- a special one night -- I’d ditch the tortelli without looking back.)"

As with restaurant dishes, so with blog posts: Presentation matters. Whatever Olives' reopening does or doesn't say about chef Todd English, there's the rest of the restaurant's staff to consider.

Students review the Painted Burro

Posted by Devra First May 17, 2012 03:06 PM

Last month, I spoke to several sophomore English classes at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury. The students there are working on a food-writing project, for which they are composing culinary memoirs and reviews. (See some of their reviews here. They have pretty good taste in restaurants.) During the classes, teacher Ian Doreian and I had them taste different kinds of cheese and write descriptions of each. The two best descriptions would win a prize: attending a review dinner with me and their teacher.

All of the students were amazing, but two descriptions clearly stood out, written by Brysen A. Greene and Gabriela Maldonado. The four of us shared a dinner at the Painted Burro, which I reviewed this week. I asked them to offer their takes, as well. Here they are:

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Photos/Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

"The food, which was not much my taste, was okay. The spicy corn appetizer, however, stands out the most. Corn is not one of my favorite vegetables, but this was a dish I had to remember," writes Brysen A. Greene.

By Brysen A. Greene

Over my Spring Break, I had the pleasure of dining with Devra First, my English teacher, Mr. Doreian, and one of my peers, Gabriela. We went to The Painted Burro, a unique Mexican restaurant. The paintings, lightly placed on each wall, caught my attention the most. Through the dim lighting, and loud conversation, I managed to focus on the artwork throughout my entire experience. The food, which was not much my taste, was okay. The spicy corn appetizer, however, stands out the most. Corn is not one of my favorite vegetables, but this was a dish I had to remember. Dessert, as always, was my absolute favorite. The avocado coconut ice cream and tres leches were probably the best part of my whole night.

I may not go to the Painted Burro for a meal, but I will definitely be dragging my Dad there for dessert in the next month!

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"Let me say I congratulate their guacamole for being so creamy and soft. It went well with the chips that were set on the table in small buckets. I found the buckets to be rather creative," writes Gabriela Maldonado.

By Gabriela Maldonado

The Painted Burro was indisputably surprising; I didn't expect there
to be a bar directly across from me, loud chatter, and waitresses who
insisted on taking away my salad. It was a dimly lit rectangle with
hardly anywhere to move. The waitresses had about them a flirty feel,
with a pound of makeup on their faces and serious expressions. What
were very acceptable to me about this restaurant were the waiters
constantly walking up and down the aisles to refill my glass of water.
It was unnecessary to ask or take the pitcher up myself; they did it
all. As I took a look at the menu, I became appalled by the strange
dishes and the even stranger names given to them. I read "Chupacabra
tacos" (which by the way were delicious), and I panicked a bit. The
only thing recognizable to me was the word "Salad" and I picked it. I
received a huge mountain of green salad with old cheese sprinkled on
top. I would've liked it more without the old cheese, but it was
pretty good. Above from the unusual names, the feel of a Friday night,
and the shouting, there was the taste of the food in general. Let me
say I congratulate their guacamole for being so creamy and soft. It
went well with the chips that were set on the table in small buckets.
I found the buckets to be rather creative. The tacos, as I mentioned,
had the most tender, juicy meat my teeth had every ripped apart. My
entree followed the chips, and I chose the Street Cart Chicken. They
gave me half of a chicken with fried plantains. Accompanying the dish
was a very large knife to cut it with. I thought this was very cute,
and liked it very much. The meat of the chicken was sweet and easy to
bite into. The plantains were more than I could ask for. They were
delectable. The dessert was next, and I admit, I became excited. I
applaud their tres leches because it did not fall apart like others
I've had; it remained intact the whole time I was attacking it. The
chocolate mousse was rich. However, the only addition to the dessert
that ruined it was the overflowing, bitter taste of the cranberry
sauce on top. It was hard to get past it to the mousse. Overall, the
desserts were incredible. I believe that the restaurant has a talent
for making the food erupt with taste and flavor. Perhaps, if it wasn't
a Friday night, it would be a lot quieter. Nevertheless, the
restaurant was an enjoyable place to talk and eat.

A week of good food and wine in Montreal and QC

Posted by Sheryl Julian May 16, 2012 02:07 PM

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Not sure why we never went to Montreal and Quebec City in one long trip (though several visits to Montreal only). We ate extraordinarily well, beginning at Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins, (above) which was very crowded when we arrived without a reservation. In Montreal, establishments cannot serve wine at the bar unless you're also eating and all those spaces were spoken for.

We had walked three miles in the rain (though not uphill and backwards, only uphill) -- we kept thinking it would be on the next block, then the next block -- past other favorite spots like Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, where the smoked meats are stacked in the window (it's now owned by Celine Dion, her husband Rene Angelil and others; a hotelier told us there are rumors of expansion to the U.S.) and Moishe's steakhouse, a remarkable spot we visited years ago.

We told the young man doing the seating at Le Comptoir that we had no idea we would need a reservation to have a drink and a nibble, were visiting from Boston, had trekked for miles, etc. He settled us into two high stools by the glassed-in vestibule from which we ordered a platter of housemade charcuterie, pork sandwiches, several glasses of hipster wine and other delights. Three more miles back to the hotel, which we needed after all that pig.

cinquiemepeche.jpgThe next night we reserved at Au Cinquieme Peche (I don't know how to put on accents, but Peche has an aigu on both e's; translation is "At Fifth Sin," which is gluttony). A platter of seal cooked several ways (sausage, cured, sauteed until rare) did seem like an exercise in gourmandise. The  French-born co-owners are brothers Benoit (above, left) and Benjamin Lenglet. Benoit is in the kitchen, while Benjamin works the dining room enthusiastically explaining the blackboard menu and touting one of their many natural wines. The closest restaurant we have in Boston to Cinquieme may be Jason Bond's cozy Bondir.

Later that week in Quebec City, we sipped Quebecois wine at the bar in the luxurious Relais & Chateaux Auberge Saint-Antoine (the only thing we could afford there), before walking to the edge of the water to the rambling, boisterous Cafe du Monde, which was filled with locals and a handful of tourists (it's slightly off the beaten track). This amiable brasserie with its friendly staff offers a menu of Quebecoise classics, all adequately done, none spectacular.

In our travels, we met a law professor from Virginia who is a serious foodie and told us about Panache restaurant in the Auberge Saint-Antoine, which he loved, but he warned us about how expensive it would be. That's all we needed to know. Instead, we sought out Panache's trendy new offshoot, Bistro B on Avenue Cartier (the street where I would live if I lived in QC).

Bistro B has the chummy feel of a neighborhood haunt and sports a large open kitchen. Not just a place you can peek into, but four chefs working and plating food in the center of the bar, so you can watch the choreography. These are skilled chefs. But somehow the food wasn't as good as the show. Sweetbreads were delicious and a little crusty outside, salmon tartare was remarkable, but a plate of spaghetti with a pork sauce (not that we have anything against repurposing pork from last night's dinner) was warmed-over chop suey.

calebanddeirdre.jpgOn the way home, we stopped at Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vt., to say hello to a pair of our favorite restaurateurs, Caleb Barber (above, left), an extraordinary cook, and the charming, effervescent Deirdre Heekin, and made a detour to their home the next day to look at the gardens, greenhouses, orchard, and vines that supply vegetables, herbs, and flowers to their tables.

Now (boo, hiss) it's back to real life. 

Help a friend

Posted by Devra First May 16, 2012 12:50 PM

The Boston restaurant community is an uncommonly generous one. And when a friend is in need, everyone bands together to help out.

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This time, the guy in need is Vinny Sapochetti of Neptune Oyster (above). At the end of April, a car accident left him with a brain injury. His recovery is going to take some time. Colleagues, friends, and family are banding together to raise money to help pay his bills while he is out of work.

To that end, a fund-raiser and auction take place Monday, May 28, at the Hotel Commonwealth from 5-10 p.m. (Find all the details here.)

To understand the generosity of the restaurant community, just look at the long list of businesses stepping in to help: Neptune Oyster, Toro, Vee Vee, Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Les Zygomates, Sorriso, Strip T's, Sweet Cheeks, Uni, Oleana, Citizen Public House, The Gallows, Russell House Tavern, bridgestreet, Silvertone, Trina's Starlite Lounge, Sofra, Flour, Sam's, Ruby Wines, MS Walker, Martignetti, Horizon Beverage Company, Harpoon, Inspired Beverage Inc., Night Shift Brewing, Craft Beer Guild, Jack's Abby Brewing, Rapscallion Brewing, Berkshire Brewing Company, and Peak Organic Brewing Company.

With that group, the food and drink are guaranteed to be excellent. Tickets to the event are $105 and include food and two drinks. Or make a donation here.

Todd English's Olives opens Thursday

Posted by Devra First May 9, 2012 02:56 PM

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Globe Staff File Photo/Mark Wilson

Olives has been unofficially feeding people for a few days now, getting back in gear and using guests as guinea pigs to try out dishes new and old. (The food was free, but they paid for their own drinks.) Thursday, the reopening is official.

"So many people have come up and said, 'We're so happy to have you back,'" says chef Todd English.

But don't expect English and crew to be serving the kind of Big Food pictured above, the way Olives served customers circa 1996.

"I find more people want to eat a little less. My generation, we're all watching our figures," English says. "They want to go to the bar and eat a few snacks, have a couple of cocktails or glasses of wine, and go home. People don't sit down at the table and have a whole three or four courses."

The bar at Olives previously sat 15 people. Now, English says, it seats about 45. The restaurant has been renovated, and the bar is right at the center of things. "You can't get a seat at the bar all night long right now, and we're not even open," he says. "I bought more bar stools than I bought regular chairs." There will be plenty of wines by the glass, including some special-blend keg wines from California.

The menu reflects the shift in the way we eat. It features small plates, three or four kinds of bread one can order a la carte, pasta dishes, plenty of sides and salads, and some larger plates for those who want them. The dessert menu follows suit. There will be classics like souffles and chocolate cake, but also bite-size options.

"We are going to have a section on the menu that just says 'feed me,'" English says. "We'll charge $20 and send out small plates. There will be some classic stuff, like the carpaccio that's been on the menu for 20 years, the tortelli that's been on since Day 1, the tartare." But there will also be plenty of new dishes. A few he's especially excited about:

- Duck with Berber spices that's cooked buried in ginger, with duck leg confit and foie gras. "It's so very aromatic."

- Sweet pea panna cotta with morel Parmesan sauce.

- Ceviche with tamarind and soy.

- Tarts topped with classic roasted tomato, mortadella and Fontina, asparagus and duck egg, and more. "The tarts I'm really excited about," English says. "I've been playing around with the dough. I don't want to do pizzas there because we do them down the street [at Figs]. It's kind of like a mille-feuille meets pizza dough for the tarts. We roll butter into it and bake it in the brick oven. It's coming out pretty delicious."

English brought over many Olives staffers from Mohegan Sun, including executive chef James Klewin, who more recently worked at David Burke Prime at Foxwoods. As for English, "I'll be there a lot," he says. "My schedule in the summer dies down a little, so it's not as crazy, and I'll definitely be there to get the place open and make sure it's on the right path." Also staffing the place this summer, his kids: Isabelle, 19, will be at the door, splitting her time between Olives and cupcake spot Curly Cakes. Simon, 16, has been cooking a lot with his father, and perhaps he'll turn up in the kitchen -- "depending on his acting career," English says. He got called back for a part in an Adam Sandler movie that's filming in Marblehead. (Oldest son Oliver is following in his father's footsteps, too. He graduates from Cornell's hospitality program this year and spent last summer in Paris, working for Alain Ducasse. "Hopefully I'll hand him the keys and he can take over," English says.)

And the rest of English's family? The brick-and-mortar kind?

Well, Kingfish Hall appears to be done. "There's a new landlord, and I'm trying to renegotiate, but it's probably not going to happen," English says. "I'll probably just move on from there and look for something else down the road. Right now I want to focus on Olives anyway. Things have to change. Twelve years in Faneuil Hall, that's a good run for a restaurant." The New York Olives, temporarily closed, has been renovated and is open again. In the future, he says, he would think about opening something on Boston's bustling waterfront. (He had first crack at the Del Frisco's space but didn't have the resources to do it at the time.) And, naturally, the casinos would be an option. "I've already been talking to those guys."

"I'm still ambitious," he says. "I'm not retiring by any stretch of the imagination."

Liquid Art House planned for Boston Renaissance School space

Posted by Devra First April 11, 2012 03:29 PM

According to Boston Business Journal, a new restaurant is slated for the former school on Arlington Street. Back Bay resident Ruta Laukien, previously an investment banker at Bear Stearns, is behind the project, along with chef Jeffrey Fournier of 51 Lincoln.

Boston Business Journal says Laukien "expects to spend as much as $5 million to outfit the space including about $275,000 for a liquor license" and that the menu will feature international fare, including dishes from her native Lithuania. Main dishes will be priced from $20-$30.

In an online video, Laukien shares her vision for the restaurant. "My concept is a place that will combine a restaurant, a lounge, art gallery, all in one, all of equal importance, blended together. It's a place that will be alive, fluid, constantly in motion," she says.

Hungry Mother wins Munch Madness 2012

Posted by Devra First April 4, 2012 09:10 AM

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Globe Staff File Photo/David L. Ryan

Chef Barry Maiden led 2011 Munch Madness champion Hungry Mother to a victory again in 2012.


It was another all-Cambridge battle, this time pitting Hungry Mother against Craigie on Main, and it was a tough choice to be sure: sophisticated yet homey Southern fare, or devoutly nose-to-tail creativity? Voters ordered the shrimp and grits, giving the 2011 champions another Munch Madness victory.

Hungry Mother sent a lovely sympathy bouquet to Craigie on Main. The card read: “You deserve happiness instead of heartbreak, peace instead of pain. ... May time help to ease your grief and bring you the happiness and peace that you deserve.” The Hungry Mother staff even hand-wrote a message: “Dear Tony [Maws] and staff -- With our deepest sympathy on coming in second place in 2012 Munch Madness. You’re still #1 in our hearts. Love, Hungry Mother.” (In turn, the Craigie staff sent Hungry Mother pizza from Cinderella’s. The flowers came from Central Square Florist. Even in competition, Cambridge businesses support one another.)

All of this sympathy would have been really sweet if Hungry Mother hadn’t sent the flowers in the middle of Craigie’s Saturday-night service. Voting didn’t end until Sunday night. “Don’t let Craigie on Main make a mockery of our arrogance!” they exhorted voters in a mass e-mail.

And voters didn’t.

Hungry Mother garnered 1,614 votes to Craigie’s 1,382 in the final round. (A total of 204,000 votes were cast over the course of the tournament.) The restaurant is the bona fide, Southern-fried champion of Munch Madness 2012. Congratulations to the staff, and to all of the fine restaurants and food trucks in this year’s brackets, which again reminded us what a delicious place the Boston area is to live.

Pret a Manger coming to Boston

Posted by Devra First April 3, 2012 01:23 PM

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Photo/Terence Ong

If you've spent time in London, it's likely you've eaten a sandwich at Pret a Manger. The chain, which opened in 1986, is omnipresent. Once its convenience sucks you in, you wonder: Why don't we have this in Boston? The stores are clean and pleasant. Food is made with natural and "ethically sourced" ingredients. What's not sold by the end of the day is donated to charitable organizations. And the terribly British sandwiches -- mature cheddar with pickle, king prawn cocktail, coronation chicken and fruit chutney -- are tastier than most fast food options. (Whether they're particularly healthy is up for debate.) Pret a Manger also sells salads, soups, breakfast items, and more.

Pret has established a presence in New York, D.C., and Chicago. (Sadly, the US menu is different from the British one.) The company is growing quickly. This year, it just announced, it has 14 more shops planned for the US. At least one of them will be in Boston. The location has not yet been released. Now if only they'd offer mature cheddar and pickle sandwiches...

Sweet Cheeks salutes Munch Madness

Posted by Devra First March 22, 2012 04:21 PM

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Photo/Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

The pork belly tray at Sweet Cheeks.

Sweet Cheeks is a barbecue restaurant in the Fenway. Staff Meal is a food truck that serves extra-exciting tacos around town. The two meet in the first round of Munch Madness. Who will win? That's up to you. Voting for this match ends tonight at 11.

In the meantime, Sweet Cheeks chef Tiffani Faison is offering a special inspired by Staff Meal. Tonight she is serving a Thai-style crispy chicken taco with cucumber, peanuts, cilantro, Thai basil, and Thai chili and fish sauce vinaigrette. Fancy tacos get fancy drink pairings; Sweet Cheeks is pouring Narragansetts with chili salt and lime. The taco special and the beer special are each a Restaurant Week-friendly $3.33, which means if you get both, well, you do the Satanic math.

Should Sweet Cheeks advance to further rounds, each time Faison will devise a new special dish and beverage inspired by her new competitor.

Update: for Round 2 vs. Strip-T's, Sweet Cheeks offers a fried tomato banh mi on a Hawaiian roll and a "Gringo Honeymoon"(Lone Star and lemonade).

For Round 3 vs. Eastern Standard, the special is short rib tartare with Texas toast points and a drink special called the Whiskey Smash ES.

Anonymous, schnonymous

Posted by Sheryl Julian March 13, 2012 10:44 AM

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The woman in the center of this photo is Marilyn Hagerty, 85. To her left is NBC's Kevin Tibbles. They're at the new Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks, N.D.

Hagerty has been writing restaurant reviews and other newspaper stories in the Dakotas for 65 years. A review she wrote about Olive Garden for the Grand Forks Herald (which shows her photo beside her column!) went viral. Many thought it was a spoof.

As her son, James, tells the story in the Wall Street Journal, she asked him, "Could you tell me what viral means?" He also said that she doesn't like to say anything bad about a restaurant. Here is his story and here is her review in her Eatbeat column.

When James told her she had thousands of Twitter and Facebook comments, she seemed unphased. "I'm working on my Sunday column and I'm going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don't have time to read all this crap."

Go Mom.

How not to win friends in Boston

Posted by Devra First March 7, 2012 04:48 PM

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That's just juvenile.

End of an era at East Coast Grill

Posted by Devra First February 21, 2012 01:37 PM

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File Photo/Patricia McDonnell for The Boston Globe

Schlesinger (right) imparts words of grilling wisdom at the restaurant circa 2005.

It is official. East Coast Grill owner Chris Schlesinger is selling the restaurant, as has been rumored for some time. The buyers will continue to operate East Coast Grill. They know what they're doing. They are executive chef Jason Herd, general manager Robin Greenspan, and James Lozano. The transfer will be finalized this spring.

Schlesinger will take some time to travel, continuing to learn about food from around the world. The new team will keep on grilling, barbecuing, shucking, and setting people's faces on fire at Hell Night events.

Change comes to Clio

Posted by Devra First February 6, 2012 02:29 PM

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Globe Staff Photo/Barry Chin

The renovated bar at Clio.

After 15 years in business, Clio has just reopened after renovations. There are more changes afoot:

Cocktail evil genius Todd Maul will offer Saturday classes starting March 24. The curriculum covers topics such as how to set up your home bar; the creation of sugar syrups, infusions, and extracts; flaming cocktails and crazy things you can do with ice; and some more advanced topics to cap off your knowledge. The five-class series is $300 per person. E-mail mbrafman@eliothotel.com to reserve a spot.

The bar also has a new menu, which includes dishes such as mapo tofu banh mi with jalapenos, cucumbers, and nuoc cham and bone marrow with pickled ramps, kumquats, and capers.

Second, in-house sashimi bar Uni is looking to have some fun. An expanded menu features more street food -- think fried chicken with kimchi and ginger mustard or pork belly buns with chili aioli, tamarind, and pickles.

A new feature is Uni Underground, a monthly happening to be announced via Twitter a few days beforehand. Ken Oringer will be preparing special chef's whim menus for those seated at the bar. Reservations required. The first one will be announced in late February. Follow @KenOringer, @ClioBoston, or @UniSashimi to hear about it.

Aaaand finally, the trend of late-night ramen continues. It was only a matter of time before Oringer got in on the noodle game. Thursday-Saturday starting this week, a special ramen menu will be offered from 11 p.m.-2 a.m. Offerings will change nightly but will always feature hand-made noodles. The first menu includes a more-traditional ramen as well as a creation called Umami Ramen, with barbecued eel, daikon radish, scallion, enoki mushrooms, and seaweed, topped with a two-hour egg.

Changes at East Coast Grill?

Posted by Devra First January 17, 2012 04:13 PM

chrisschlesingereastcoastgrill.jpgIs Chris Schlesinger (left) selling East Coast Grill? So posits Grubstreet, which reports: "Rumors swirl that Chris Schlesinger is leaving his post at East Coast Grill after 25 long and spicy years, selling the restaurant to chef Jason Heard and general manager Robin Greenspan."

This would be a milestone for the Inman Square institution, but don't fret. It's all in the order of things, part of a grand European tradition of turning restaurants over to proteges. After 25 years, it's natural to want to pass the mantle on to people who love and understand the business, and who have been doing much of the hard work of running it. This fall, for instance, New York restaurateur Danny Meyer said he would sell his four-star Eleven Madison Park to chef Daniel Humm and general manager Will Guidara. There is a strong tradition of mentorship in the restaurant business. Selling a restaurant to proteges is sweet recognition that a patron has done things right.

Back to big plates in the North End

Posted by Devra First January 12, 2012 02:41 PM

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Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda

Garlic shrimp with lemon, butter, capers, and spinach at Ristorante Damiano.

When it comes to the North End, small plates may not always work. Ristorante Damiano today becomes Carmelina's North End. The onetime piattini restaurant was very good, but people often associate this neighborhood with larger portions.

"It was alot of fun doing 'Piattini' for three years at Damiano, and we did it with gusto and we did it the right way. Times change and trends come and go," writes chef Damien DiPaola on his Facebook page.

DiPaola used to run the Italian restaurant Carmelina's in Western Massachusetts, while he was still a student at UMass-Amherst. He's renamed Damiano after his original establishment.

The new menu includes appetizers such as ahi tuna arrabbiata, baby octopus stew, lamb lollipops, and meatballs. Among the pasta and risotto offerings: Damiano's outrageous penne gorgonzola, spaghetti with cuttlefish and squid ink, a real carbonara, Sunday macaroni (served every day), and mushroom risotto. For main courses, you'll find the likes of ossobuco, pan-roasted swordfish, and stuffed pork chops. Those who appreciated Damiano's format will be able to order smaller plates of pasta and risotto. Carmelina's will also have a Sunday lunch served buffet style.

DiPaola writes, "It was time to re-invent Damiano and nothing could be better than bringing back tradition, love, and passion with Carmelina’s North End. The menu combines my mothers best dishes, my fathers best dishes, and my best dishes, with strong mediterranean and Sicilian influence."

Guchi's Midnight Ramen readies

Posted by Devra First January 11, 2012 05:38 PM

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Photos/Guchi's Midnight Ramen

Guchi's salt broth ramen. Yes, please.

For months, Boston has been talking about Guchi's Midnight Ramen, a rumored ramen pop-up in the works from several O Ya chefs. Now, the venture is getting ready to launch. On Sunday and Monday, Guchi's will host its first test runs, for friends such as Barbara Lynch (Menton, No. 9 Park), Jamie Bissonnette (Coppa/Toro), and John Gertsen (Drink).

Yes, the ramen feasts really will be held at midnight. For its test events, the Guchi's crew will take over Bondir in Cambridge. When Guchi's launches for public consumption, it will take place in different restaurants and more offbeat locations around town. The people behind the project hope to host events every other week. (Eventually, the pop-ups may lead to a more permanent situation.)

The crew consists of four people. There are three chefs who currently or have worked at O Ya: Yukihiro Kawaguchi (a.k.a. Guchi) runs the line there; he conceptualizes and creates the broth for Guchi's. Mark O'Leary is also on the line, doing prep, at O Ya; he is Guchi's noodle mastermind. And Tracy Chang, who spent a year at O Ya and recently returned from a stint at Michelin 3 star restaurant Martin Berasategui in Spain, works on other aspects of ramen creation, as well as dessert. The fourth person is Vilas Dhar, a lawyer who works on community entrepreneurship and development. "I'm trying to build a culture of entrepreneurial food around Boston," says Dhar, who was behind local pop-up Dore Creperie. (He is also contemplating an underground supper club.)

As for the ramen, everything is made from scratch, from soup to noodles. The menu will shift frequently, always centered on some form of ramen; broth and toppings will change. Sunday's practice event, for instance, will feature three courses: a bun filled with pork belly, a big bowl of ramen, and a dessert such as granita or green tea cookies, as well as a treat to take home. "Guchi is this very focused sushi and sashimi chef who comes up with dishes at O Ya," Dhar says. "His family has a noodle shop in Japan. We are going back to the simplicity of ramen, with the level of execution all these chefs have."

The food will be accompanied by tea and Japanese beer, depending on the license of the host venue. To attend, people will purchase tickets. Unlike some other ticket-based restaurants, the ramen nights will be reasonably priced. (At least until the scalpers arrive.) "This will be a very low-cost, accessible thing for anyone who loves ramen and is out and looking for adventure," Dhar says.

So when will the first public Guchi's Midnight Ramen pop-up take place? Start practicing your slurping skills. It won't be long.

In the meantime, here are some new photos to tide you over:

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More oysters in the North End

Posted by Devra First January 9, 2012 02:04 PM

mare.jpgNeptune Oyster has long been a North End favorite. Now the neighborhood will have even more bivalves, as Mare revamps itself as Mare Oyster Bar. Plans are for the new restaurant to open in the first half of February.

Executive chef Greg Jordan remains, as does a menu of pasta, meat entrees, and other cooked dishes. Because 2012 is shaping up to be the year of the burger, there will be one here, too. Oysters, however, are meant to be the main event. There will be six to eight Northeastern kinds on offer, from Massachusetts, Maine, and beyond. The bar area has been remodeled (the old look is shown above left), with a shucking station and more seating.

There will also be shrimp, Alaskan crab, octopus salad, and raw fish dishes. Oh, and a "signature hot or cold lobster roll." Hmm. Wonder how Neptune feels about that.

Good Belly Project

Posted by Devra First October 20, 2011 06:16 PM

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Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe

The Bon Me Truck, offering banh mi sandwiches, noodle salads, and rice bowls, is among the businesses participating in the Good Belly Project.

Currently underway, this collaboration between Unicef, Mullen, and Made by Many is raising money to help fight famine in East Africa. Here's how it works: The Good Belly Project teams with local restaurants. Eat at one of them, take photos of your food with Instagram, tag them #goodbellyproject, set the restaurant as your location, and share them. The restaurants will donate $1 for every photo posted.

Participants include Abigail's, Bambara, Bergamot, Bon Me Truck, Eastern Standard, Figs in Beacon Hill and Charlestown, Fill Belly's, Hillstone, Isabelle's Curlycakes, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Kingfish Hall, KO Prime, Market by Jean-Georges, Naked Pizza in Brighton and Brookline, Rialto, Sibling Rivalry, Stephi's on Tremont, and the Vault.

A preview of Jody Adams restaurant Trade

Posted by Devra First October 5, 2011 04:07 PM

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Photo/Ike DeLorenzo


Trade partners (left to right) Eric Papachristos, Jody Adams, and Sean Griffing in the restaurant's Atlantic Wharf space.

By Ike DeLorenzo
Globe Correspondent

Among the best-known chefs in Boston, Jody Adams is one of the few to operate (for the past 17 years) only one restaurant: the celebrated Rialto at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. The week of Oct. 17, after two decades of winning awards and mentoring many of the city's chefs, Adams is opening a second restaurant called Trade, at Atlantic Wharf next to the InterContinental Hotel.

At a press preview on Thursday, Adams offered a peek -- and a taste -- of Trade's eclectic menu, which will draw its influences "from around the world": marinated fluke with kaffir lime salt, nuts, and spices; pomegranate-glazed eggplant with capers, olives, and pine nuts; whole grilled lobster with pickled-artichoke aioli; and, a favorite of the evening, an inspired buckwheat waffle with fried oyster.

That last appetizer comes to us from South Carolina, by way of Andrew Hebert, who will be head chef at Trade. Hebert served as sous chef at Rialto, and spent the last year in mysterious exile in Charleston, S.C. As the restaurant and the kitchen are in the final stages of construction, members of the press were greeted in one of the unrented, sterile "luxury" apartments above the otherwise spectacularly renovated Atlantic Avenue building, which, until recently, was a construction site. Hebert presided over the provisional kitchen at the event, producing these and other small wonders. Adams and her partners in Trade, Eric Papachristos and Sean Griffing, greeted a crowd of insiders, well-wishers, and members of Boston's food press with wine, food, speeches, and, at last, a tour of the restaurant space now in the final stages of preparation.

The three co-owners make an interesting and good-looking team. Papachristos is perhaps best known for trying to charm DeAnna Pappas in the 2008 season of "The Bachelorette." He and Griffing, who has worked in various management capacities at Rialto, are partners in the Mass. Ave. chicken-and-waffles joint the Hen House.

The corner space occupied by Trade, designed by architect Maryann Thompson, is breathtaking. More Montreal than Boston, it has a sweeping bar, and whimsical constellations of low-intensity lights that are suspended from white sculptured "clouds." The very high ceilings rise above the clouds in brick arches that date to the building's original heyday. The lounge, which will include a communal table, seats 70. The adjacent main dining room will seat about 120. A color scheme of bright yellow, white, and natural brick opens the space even further.

It's obvious a lot of planning has gone into every detail. The press members in attendance were treated to the reasonings behind everything from the chairs (soundproofing is hidden under the seats) to wine storage (slide-out drawers, wines on tap) to analyses of sidewalk foot traffic (Adams and co. stood outside for hours observing).

In the end, such planning may or may not matter. A few hundred yards away, the disorganized Italian restaurant Pasta Beach has managed to succeed quite well on good food alone. In the case of Trade: Adams is famous and adored, the food appears to be great, the space is fun and interesting, and the bar menu is served until 1 a.m. -- 2 a.m. on weekends. These alone should be enough.

Ike DeLorenzo can be reached at ike@theideassection.com.

Restaurant rumors: East Somerville edition

Posted by Devra First September 30, 2011 04:52 PM

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Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

McClelland: not coming to Somerville any time soon.

I don't know if Terry Francona is sticking around or whether Chris Christie is getting into the race. What I am sure of is that Radiohead will not be playing the opening of a new Frank McClelland restaurant in East Somerville.

The out-of-left-field rumor surfaced today, prompted by a flier for a neighborhood meeting to be held Oct. 12 about the space formerly known as Khoury's State Spa.

There is some truth behind it. Daniel Bojorquez, longtime chef de cuisine at Sel de la Terre in Natick, plans to leave in 2012 to open his first restaurant in that space. He has worked for McClelland for 12 years, and the Sel de la Terre/L'Espalier chef-owner is helping Bojorquez navigate the process of opening a restaurant. It will not, however, be affiliated with McClelland or his restaurants.

The planned restaurant will be called La Brasa. It will feature wood-grilled meats and is likely to reflect Bojorquez's Mexican background.

Here's looking at you, kid

Posted by Devra First September 30, 2011 10:33 AM

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Globe Staff Photo/Suzanne Kreiter

After more than 40 years in business, Harvard Square institution Casablanca is for sale, reports Boston Business Journal.

Legions of students, professors, artists, and other hungry Cantabrigians have patronized the Brattle Street restaurant over the years, socializing over Turkish meze, grilled shrimp, smoked lamb shoulder, and their fair share of alcoholic beverages. Casablanca has also been a training ground for young chefs, with people such as Ana Sortun, Marc Orfaly, Andy Husbands, and Laura Brennan passing through the kitchen.

Casablanca is part of old Harvard Square, an area of independent businesses and individuality. It's becoming increasingly harder to see that neighborhood for the glossy chain stores that have moved in. Still, it's there.

So who will take over Casablanca? The right person could continue its legacy, while spiffing it up and modernizing things just the right amount. Imagine Sortun back in that kitchen again...

Do you have fond memories of Casablanca?

Parsons Table closing

Posted by Devra First September 19, 2011 01:31 PM

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Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda

I loved Winchester restaurant Parsons Table, where Chris Parsons prepared dishes such as salt-roasted Wellfleet clams with chorizo and oregano mojo and trout with Maine potatoes (above). The restaurant also served one of the area's best versions of carrot cake. The space is tiny, and Parsons is a top-notch chef. He cooked for you most nights; you could peek into the kitchen and see him at the stove.

Soon, Parsons Table is closing, likely around November. It's not all sad news. Parsons needs a bigger space. He previously ran the restaurant as Catch, focusing on seafood, and he has long planned to bring that concept to Boston. It's that he's focused on now, with a location in the works, albeit not definite. He also plans to open a second Parsons Table in the Boston area.

In the meantime, chef Vittorio Ettore of Bistro 5 in Medford plans to take over the Winchester space, a deal that is still in progress. (He and Parsons are both Winchester residents.) This would be happy news. His first Italian restaurant has a serious following in Medford. His second would be another Italian concept, tentatively named A Tavolo. It would mean a different face in the kitchen, but still a talented chef who creates delicious food with a personal touch.

Fall restaurant openings

Posted by Devra First September 15, 2011 03:00 PM

This season, there are many restaurant openings around town: new places from celebrity chefs; establishments serving tapas, burgers, and Asian small plates; and a fair share of watering holes emphasizing craft cocktails. Here is a look at some of the most anticipated.

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Adam Hostetler

A rendering of Catalyst.


Catalyst (just opened). Chef-owner William Kovel, formerly of Aujourd'hui, makes his contribution to the growing deliciousness that is Kendall Square. Chef de cuisine is the estimable Anthony Mazzotta (Lucca Back Bay). The menu is highly seasonal, and its chicken logo practically squawks "Farm to table!" Right now, dishes include seared, spice-crusted hiramasa with orange-yuzu syrup and cucumber radish salad; corn ravioli with scallions, Thai basil, and chanterelles; tournedos of beef with rainbow chard, taleggio ravioli, and bordelaise sauce; and a root beer float with mint, sassafras-ginger syrup, and crushed blueberries. There's also a bar menu, and Catalyst will soon be open for lunch and brunch. At the bar, you'll find classic cocktails and updates, as well as a drink called The Undecided: "Bartender's Choice -- Trust Us." 300 Technology Square, Cambridge. www.catalystrestaurant.com.


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Photo/Michael Diskin

DiBiccari and Codman of Storyville.


Storyville (Sept. 16). The space formerly known as Saint was formerly known as Storyville, the '50s jazz club where Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald performed. The name returns, and so do the food and drink of the era. Chef Louis DiBiccari (Sel de la Terre) crafts small plates that riff on retro dishes such as beef Wellington and duck a l'orange. (Most likely to gain a cult following: baked beans "on steroids": molasses baked beans with guanciale, foie gras, bacon bits, and homemade bread crumbs.) William "English Bill" Codman, recently of Woodward, is taking charge of the libations. He'll feature tiki drinks and classics, with a slant toward New Orleans cocktails. 90 Exeter St., Boston. www.storyvilleboston.com.


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File Photo/Maisie Crow for The Boston Globe

Chef Gary Strack of Central Kitchen teams with MIT for Firebrand Saints.


Firebrand Saints (September). Chef Gary Strack of Central Kitchen and the Enormous Room has partnered with MIT on this restaurant. Yes, it's in the Kendall Square area. (At this point, it might be quicker to note when restaurants aren't opening in that neighborhood.) The menu will feature sandwiches, rotisserie-cooked items, and more. 1 Broadway, Cambridge. www.firebrandsaints.com.


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Globe Photo/Bill Brett

Paul and Mark Wahlberg


Wahlburgers (soft opening late September). Alma Nove chef Paul Wahlberg, celeb brothers Mark and Donnie, and family friend Ed St. Croix open a burger restaurant, irresistibly called Wahlburgers. In Hingham, Wahlburgers will offer a variety of burgers with toppings, hot dogs, fries and onion rings, and shakes. Expect a sort of diner-meets-childhood nostalgia-meets Hollywood vibe. A super-duper sound system will play everything from Motown to Katy Perry, there will be vintage diner-style booths, the walls will be decorated with Wahlbergernalia, and nine bicycles will hang from the ceiling, "representing a shared childhood memory of Wahlberg children," according to a press release. The patio is designed to resemble a schoolyard, but it has an 8-foot fireplace, which my schoolyard certainly never had. 19 Shipyard Drive, the Launch at Hingham Shipyard, Hingham.


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File Photo/Wiqan Ang for The Boston Globe

Jackson Cannon doing what he does so well, at Eastern Standard.


The Hawthorne (October). Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar has long had a following for his cocktail program, through which he introduced many in Boston to craft bartending and classic drinks like the Jack Rose. Now he is opening his own craft cocktail bar, the Hawthorne, right nearby. (Some possible insight into the name choice.) It will be located in the space formerly occupied by the Foundation Lounge at the Hotel Commonwealth. 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston.


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Globe Staff Photo/Matthew J. Lee

Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar. Like this, only in Salem.


Red Lulu (October). At the end of 2010, Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar opened, bringing sexy Gothic vibes, vertical nachos, and cotton candy to Back Bay. Each meal begins with an amuse-bouche of grapefruit granita with tequila over dry ice, smoking like a cauldron. All of this ought to go over well in Salem, where sister restaurant Red Lulu opens next month. 94 Lafayette St., Salem. www.redlulusalem.com.


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Globe Staff File Photo/Michele McDonald


Trade (October). Rialto chef Jody Adams (above) branches out with this new restaurant on the ground floor of Atlantic Wharf, right on the harbor and near the Greenway. Offering lunch and dinner, Trade aims to be fun and lively, the kind of place you can pop into for a bite or sit down at for a more-formal meal. Small plates, flatbreads from the wood oven, and other dishes are inspired by Adams's travels and will be prepared with local, seasonal ingredients. Cantabrigians, never fear. Adams will still be at Rialto, in addition to working with Trade executive chef Andrew Hebert, who was formerly executive sous chef at Rialto. 540 Atlantic Ave., Boston. www.trade-boston.com.


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Bentel & Bentel

A schematic of Descent, coming to the W Hotel.


Descent (mid-October). Descent re-creates a Prohibition-era speakeasy in a subterranean space at the W Hotel. Speakeasies may be so 2010, but there's real talent behind the project. Sasha Petraske, who has shaped the New York cocktail scene with bars such as Milk & Honey and Little Branch, was involved with the initial design and concept. London uber-bartender Charlotte Voisey, winner of just about every cocktail award there is, is heading the drinks program. (It would be great if she were behind the bar more often than Jean-Georges Vongerichten is in the kitchen at Market.) 100 Stuart St., Boston.


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Photo/Michael Diskin


Sweet Cheeks (mid-October). Chef Tiffani Faison (Rocca, "Top Chef," pictured above) opens a barbecue place in the Fenway. In preparation, she traveled through Texas, researching the 'cue there. On Twitter, she promises "smoked meats, sweet tea, whiskey, suds & southern kindness north of the mason dixon." Sounds like a perfect fit for the Fenway. 1381 Boylston St., Boston.


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Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda

Chefs Diana Kudajarova and Tse Wei Lim of Journeyman.


backbar (late October). Journeyman the restaurant begets a bar/lounge called backbar. Located just behind the restaurant but operating separately, it will offer cocktails classic and new; wine, beer, aperitifs, and digestifs; and an a la carte menu featuring favorite dishes from Journeyman's tasting menus. The bar manager is former Drink bartender Sam Treadway, back from a stint in Hawaii. This bodes well for the cocktails. 9 Sanborn Court, Somerville. www.backbarunion.com.


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Globe Staff Photo/Jonathan Wiggs

Paella at Solea in Waltham. Expect similar things at Kika Tapas.


Kika Tapas (late October/early November). The burgeoning Kendall restaurant scene gets another addition with Kika Tapas, located in the Watermark building on the corner of Third Street. The restaurant comes from the owners of Tapeo in Boston and Solea in Waltham. Expect Spanish small plates and sangria. 9 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge. www.kikatapas.com.


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Globe Staff Photo/John Bohn

All Star Pizza Bar will open across the street from its sister sandwich shop.


All Star Pizza Bar (November). The folks behind All Star Sandwich Bar take on brick-oven pies in this space across the street. (ASPBar doesn't have quite the same ring as the sister establishment's acronym.) You'll find pizzas adorned with fig jam, gorgonzola, and Granny Smiths; chile relleno ingredients with a mojito drizzle; potato skin toppings such as bacon, caramelized onions, and cheddar; and Buffalo duck confit with blue cheese. There will also be salads, sangria, and beer. 1238 Cambridge St., Cambridge. www.allstarpizzabar.com.


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Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda


Moksa (November). Patricia Yeo (above) made the South End more delicious with her Asian small plates at the now-defunct Ginger Park. Then she partnered with the owners of Om, to run that restaurant and open this new one, Moksa, in Central Square. Unlike Om, Moksa will be Yeo's own baby, and it will be exciting to see what she does with the "Pan-Asian izakaya." 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. www.moksarestaurant.com.


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Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda

Baked goods from the original South End Buttery.


South End Buttery (November). Take 2. The South End cafe gets another outpost, right on the path to Back Bay station. Rejoice, caffeine-addicted commuters. Along with the beverages, there will be baked goods and sandwiches. 37 Clarendon St., Boston.


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Globe Staff Photo/Dina Rudick


L.A. Burdick (late fall). Watch out, Max Brenner. An army of little chocolate mice is about to march into Back Bay. You likely know L.A. Burdick from its Cambridge branch, where the hot chocolate is so thick and chocolate-y, it puts many others to shame. Now the chocolate shop gets a Boston branch. Located between Newbury and Boylston streets, it is sure to become a popular pit stop for shoppers. 220 Clarendon St., Boston. www.burdickchocolate.com.


Others to look forward to:

The former Redline, in Harvard Square, will reopen with a new name, concept, menu, and look in late fall. It's a great location. Let's hope for something equally great.

It's sad to see Gargoyles in the Square close after a long run in Somerville. But the owner of Pizzeria Posto, also in the neighborhood, is taking over the space. It will be a Mexican restaurant called the Painted Burro. Opening date to come.

Also arriving soon in Somerville, this time in Union Square, is Casa B. The restaurant will serve tapas and pinchos. It's operated by two Somerville residents from Puerto Rico and Colombia. They previously ran a personal chef and catering business called Tentempie, which specialized in Latin American fusion. Opening date to come.

Todd English says Olives will reopen before the holidays. It's time, Todd. Make it happen. Make it great. Surprise the naysayers. Make us happy.

Later in the year, Poe's Chester Square Pub comes to the South End, at the corner of Tremont and Mass. Ave. It will feature international pub fare -- "spanning the globe from Russia to Africa to New Zealand." There will be beer and wine from around the world, too, and an interactive menu that accepts requests via Twitter. The chef is Brian Poe of Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake. (Hey, when you've got a really cool last name, you have to make the most of it.) Also in the works from Poe, in the former Shangri-La space in Beacon Hill: Tip Tap Room, a casual restaurant featuring tweaked bar food. (Think game tips instead of steak tips, with a rotating selection of elk, yak, alligator, etc.) If the project proceeds as planned, look for it to open in early 2012.

Also coming in 2012: The Aquitaine Group has taken over the Rocca space in the South End. They're turning the former Italian restaurant into ... an Italian restaurant. More details when we've got 'em.

Friendly Toasts are for sale

Posted by Devra First September 14, 2011 04:54 PM

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Globe Staff Photo/Dina Rudick

Seacoast Online reports that both branches of the Friendly Toast are on the market. The original restaurant is located in Portsmouth, N.H., while closer to home a Friendly Toast opened in Cambridge in the spring of 2009. It's a package deal, with a price tag of $1.875 million for both establishments.

Known for kitschy decor, Guy Scrambles, banana-chocolate chip-peanut butter pancakes, and sandwiches on homemade bread, the Friendly Toast has a history of financial woes. A few months after the Cambridge restaurant opened, owners Melissa and Robert Jasper announced they were in debt and it was likely they would have to sell. Seacoast Online reports that in 2010, the Portsmouth Toast was operating with a tax lien against it and all property owned by the Jaspers for their failure to pay state meals taxes. Now, the Jaspers say they are selling because they are ready for new opportunities and hope to open a restaurant in Detroit.

Although the funky Friendly Toast was beloved by many, some complained about the food and service and said the restaurant wasn't as clean as it might be. With Kendall-area dining developing apace, this could be a great opportunity for the right buyer.

Smoke signals

Posted by Devra First September 9, 2011 10:03 AM
Globe Staff Photo/Essdras M Suarez
49 Social's duo of beef.

Smoke has been a trend in cooking since there was fire, but until the advent of molecular gastronomy, it was more for flavor than for show. Chefs from Joan Roca to Grant Achatz have used smoke to heighten the experience of a dish. At Alinea, for instance, Achatz has served pheasant with apple gel impaled on an oak branch, the leaves lit on fire to conjure the nostalgia of childhood autumns. Now, kitchens around Boston are embracing smoke as spectacle.

In Downtown Crossing, 49 Social serves a duo of beef, with tea-smoked beef, Korean beef tartare, quail egg, and watercress salad. Beef arrives under a rocks glass filled with tea smoke; a server lifts it and the smoke wafts out.

At o ya, Arctic char is cured with yuzu juice, sake, and dill. It then goes into a cedar steamer lined with bamboo, along with cumin aioli, coriander seed, and sesame brittle. Chefs inject hickory smoke under the cover of the steamer, bring out the dish, and lift the lid at the table.

Red Lantern pulls a similar trick with its Smoking Lantern maki. This salmon sushi roll gets the treatment with juniper smoke.

There are also restaurants around town using dry ice to create a similar effect without the aroma or flavor. Legal Harborside's second floor restaurant serves a lobster cocktail that smokes like a volcano, while Lolita offers an amuse-bouche of grapefruit granita with tequila over dry ice. [I'm now informed that Red Sky has a cocktail called the Smoking Sky, which involves vodka, triple sec, Chambord, sour mix, and Sprite, in a huge glass over ice and "smoke." It serves 2-4.]

Unless used very carefully, the technique can seem gimmicky rather than revelatory. The food often winds up tasting more like smoke than anything else. Sure, the puff of vapor released when the lid is lifted is fun, but no chef wants that to be the best part of the dish.

Want to try playing with smoke at home? Cushman recommends using the Smoking Gun, which can be yours for $99.95.

Google acquired Zagat guides

Posted by Sheryl Julian September 8, 2011 12:29 PM

Tim and Nina Zagat, owners of the popular, slim maroon restaurant and entertainment guides, announced this morning that they are being acquired by Google. The couple began the business 32 years ago with public comments distilled into small write-ups that give you a feeling of the restaurants and spots. The guides are generally dependable and offer an overview at a glance, which accounts for their popularity.

In the announcement, the Zagats wrote: "These achievements result from the passion and hard work of our talented team. We believe this union is the right next step for our employees, our users and for our business, all of which will benefit from the additional resources and reach that Google provides. Going forward, we will remain active in the business as co-Chairs, helping to ensure that the combination of Zagat’s and Google’s assets and capabilities will maximize our product quality and growth."

"Growth." You can say that again.

Red Lantern vs. P.F. Chang's

Posted by Devra First September 7, 2011 05:23 PM

In today's review of Red Lantern, I call it an R-rated version of P.F. Chang's. I think this is apt, and I don't mean it as an insult. P.F. Chang's is hugely successful. There are many similarities between the menus, but there are no cocktail waitresses wearing black corsets at the G-rated place.

If you need further proof, here you go:

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Globe Staff Photo/Matthew J. Lee

The above is Red Lantern. Unfortunately I couldn't find a photo with a terracotta warrior, but imagine there's one there. There are plenty in the restaurant.

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Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun photographer

And that's a Maryland P.F. Chang's, as featured by the Baltimore Sun in 2009.

Separated at birth?

Chef Louis DiBiccari on Storyville's menu

Posted by Devra First September 2, 2011 05:20 PM

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Photo/Michael Diskin

DiBiccari and Codman.

Yesterday, Globe style writer Chris Muther introduced us to Storyville, named for the legendary '50s jazz club that once occupied the space. Located at 90 Exeter St., it was most recently Saint. The new Storyville is a speakeasy/nightclub soft-opening Sept. 9.

Drinks and food will hew to the era of the original club. William “English Bill” Codman, recently of Woodward, is taking charge of the libations. He'll feature tiki drinks and classics, with a slant toward New Orleans cocktails.

Louis DiBiccari (Sel de la Terre) helms the kitchen, after spending his summer weekends cooking at the Herb Lyceum in Groton. (He'll continue there on Fridays and Saturdays through the month.) He's created a menu of 15 plates, all designed for sharing. "What I'm paying the most attention to is the food history of Boston that brought us to where we are right now," he says. He looked at old menus from places such as Union Oyster House and Locke-Ober for inspiration, as well as figures like Julia Child. "I was trying to wrap my head around what would duck a l'orange be like now if I were to put a more modern twist on it?"

One answer: curing the duck leg with a subtle hit of cocoa powder, wrapping the breast around the confit, poaching and searing it, and adding a little orange glaze. "That might change," DiBiccari says. "There's a lot of recipe testing going on over here right now."

Other dishes you might find:

  • Green bean casserole topped with gooey local cheese.

  • Crab Louis (of course), with updated salad ingredients such as baby tomatoes, avocado, radishes, and pickled jalapeno dressing.

  • Beef Wellington, made with a flavorful cut like hanger steak, enclosed in scallion pancake batter instead of puff pastry, and topped with pickled mushroom salad.

  • Salade nicoise, with house-made tuna belly conserva and farm eggs.

  • Baked beans "on steroids": molasses baked beans with guanciale, foie gras, bacon bits, and homemade bread crumbs.

"I don't cook in a gimmicky or molecular gastronomy kind of way. I don't cook with foams or do cylinders," DiBiccari says. "I don't want to change what was being done, just revisit it a little."

Getting reviewed: one chef's perspective

Posted by Devra First July 27, 2011 04:06 PM

rnr.pngToday I review Redd's in Rozzie, a fun, quirky neighborhood restaurant that emphasizes local ingredients.

Chef Charlie Redd, who refers to himself as "Chef Delicious," has an impish sense of humor. He also has a point of view. He penned an open letter to me on his blog, "about the stress leading up to the review," as he put it in an e-mail.

Redd depicts the view of the chef anticipating the reviewer in fanciful prose. The upshot: After worrying about my visits to R 'n' R, and considering trying to e-mail everyone he knows in the hopes of getting a picture of me, he simply decides to do his thing and let me draw my own conclusions, free of special treatment.

He writes: "R'n'R was supposed to be a place for all. It is a place where the working person was respected and welcomed, and a place where the experience of a reviewer was as important as the experience of a couple around the corner. ... From then on, I stopped obsessing over nailing your experience here, Devra, and reminded myself what R'n'R was supposed to be about. Nailing EVERY experience."

Well, yes. Every restaurateur should have the confidence to think this way. It's a sound approach to take. Restaurants can only be the best they can be. Focus on excellence with every customer who walks in the door, and a good restaurant will do good business. Often, when an under-prepared restaurant attempts to offer special treatment, it comes off as awkward -- a place trying to be better than it is. If the food is a little tastier on the reviewer's plate than other customers', that is offset by the weird behavior of servers and hosts trying to up their game. I was reminded of this at a restaurant where I believe I was recognized last week. The food was great. The rest of the experience was off.

I'll never forget the peeved chef who called to complain that I hadn't reviewed his restaurant yet (it had been featured in the Globe's Cheap Eats column). "I've been keeping my staff on its toes for months now waiting for you to come in," he whined. Ooh, that is annoying! Keep it up and you just might have yourself a well-run restaurant customers actually want to patronize.

Are you in it for the glory, or are you in it to feed people good food and make them happy? Recognition is wonderful, reviews matter, and I am sure it's very difficult not to get caught up in the game of spot-and-spoil when expecting reviewers. But focusing on treating every customer well is the best way to ensure a reviewer is treated well, and to win yourself a base of regulars who will keep you in business for a long time to come. Restaurateurs, listen to Chef Delicious.

The Lyceum restaurant to close in August

Posted by Sheryl Julian July 21, 2011 02:40 PM

thelyceum.jpgAccording to The Lyceum's website, the restaurant will close in August and reopen as another establishment.

The posting explains that George Harrington Sr., and his wife, Deborah, have been running the place for 22 years and will continue as partners in the new restaurant. The Harrington's haven't called me back to say what that new place will be, but this was on bostonrestaurants.blogspot.com, which states that the eatery will feature steak and a wine bar.

Winning combination. I wish the Harringtons and the new owners good luck in historic Salem.

Stories from Locke-Ober

Posted by Devra First June 22, 2011 04:48 PM

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Globe Staff Photo/Essdras M Suarez

This week I review Locke-Ober, the historic restaurant that recently saw renovations and other changes.

I've received some e-mails with great tales of people's personal experiences at the restaurant over the years. I thought I'd share a few. They illustrate nicely the importance and meaning of such institutions. Do you have any Locke-Ober stories to share?

One reader writes: "I went there once in May of 1945. I was on leave in NH after surviving Iwo Jima on a minesweeping destroyer. I was in Boston to report for new duty and my father called from Fall River to meet him for lunch. He seemed to know his way around the city -- he ran a brewery -- and, of course, we went to Locke-Ober. I recall two things -- one was that women were not admitted and the other was the large painting of a well apportioned lady behind the bar. I think we had lunch at that magnificent bar (is it still there with the nudy?). After an impressive meal my father was bidding me farewell because I had been ordered to be executive officer of a destroyer. I knew very little about destroyers (as a lieut j.g.) but my dad urged me to do my best. So we parted and I went to check in at First Naval district near North Station. In a corridor I met a friend from my college (Middlebury) and he offered me a stay home job recruiting V12 candidates in high schools. So the Navy and the [Japanese] were spared my ineptness at Okinawa. I called Dad that night and told him about the change. 'Well,' he said, 'you owe me one goood lunch at Locke's.'"

This comes from the comments section: "My grandfather was a bartender at 'Locke's,' as he used to call it, for many, many years. He worked there long before women were allowed. Even well into his 70s and early 80s he was still lugging cases of booze up from the wine cellar, while his younger counterparts dried and stacked glasses. At 83, upon the diagnosis of needing eye surgery, he retired. When a couple of cousins and I were in our early 20s, he gave us a gift certificate to go and have dinner before a stage show. Needless to say, we walked in young and unknowingly. I'm sure the staff thought we were some rich brats dining on daddy's credit card. Our waiter was a much older gentleman. Very proper and rather stone-faced, though kind. Every movement was done just as he was taught and/or instructed. Finally, my younger cousin told him that we were Lenny's granddaughters. Well, if that didn't crack him and make him break out into a great big smile! He couldn't have been friendlier or more accommodating ... and now with ease. No stiffness, no formalities, but a genuine niceness. (The food was excellent as well.) Around this time last year, about 6 months before my grandfather's death at the age of 97, my family took him back to 'Locke's' for lunch. He saw a few familiar faces and apparently Lydia [Shire, then chef] even made a brief appearance. However it was the wait staff that made him feel like he was back home again. It was a day I know he enjoyed very much and never forgot. The funny thing about Gramps though, while he may have said the food was always good, he always said it was overpriced. You had to understand Gramps in this capacity, however. Over the years, I remember him telling bits of stories from his days behind the bar. This politician came in, or that actor, that businessman. And oh, some of the stories, these days I believe they'd be on TMZ. He learned a lot behind the bar. He learned finance, investing and history. And he could pour a drink. An old-fashioned drink by my standards, but as this article says, fashionable by Mad Men's Don Draper's style. And I can assure you, you got your money's worth if he poured your drink. I've now acquired copies of old menus from 'Locke's,' some that date back to the 1930s. They are so interesting. But to me, Gramps was as much the makeup of Locke-Ober's as JFK's chowder or the nude painting that hangs on the wall is. RIP ... We love you & miss you!"

And a third story: "Years ago our daughter took my husband and me to dinner at Locke-Ober's. Late '70s perhaps? Details are blurry, it was so long ago. We were all three curious of course and also celebrating some recent honor or award [she] had been given. As I remember it was a good meal although obviously not memorable. When she was
presented with the bill we saw this bemused expression on her face. As you can imagine it was a sizable one for three people even then. She had been charged an extra 50 cents for bread and butter! She paid up promptly of course and said the extra charge was worth it since she could dine out on that for years."

Tiffani Faison on her Fenway BBQ joint

Posted by Devra First June 9, 2011 02:53 PM

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Photo/Michael Diskin

Chef Tiffani Faison (Rocca, "Top Chef") will open a barbecue restaurant in late summer. Called Sweet Cheeks, it will occupy the Boylston Street space that was Cambridge 1.

"It's the food I grew up with in a lot of ways," says Faison (above), who was raised in a military family that moved frequently. "I don't pretend to have a story that I was at my mother's knee making this food in the kitchen, but it's inspired by food my family ate." Her family spent time in Oklahoma, Texas, and South Carolina, but Faison makes no promises about what region(s) her menu will take inspiration from. In a few weeks, however, she is heading out on a research trip to Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas.

Since South End Italian restaurant Rocca closed in January, Faison has been working toward opening a new project, Workshop. She wasn't particularly planning to start a barbecue place, although the idea was somewhere in the back of her head. "It felt like [barbecue was] missing around here in the way I know it and love it. I wanted that here. I kept wanting to eat at that place and couldn't find it," she says. When the Fenway space appeared on her radar, it spoke to her. And what it said was: 'cue. "What if we do this thing and have fun with it? It seemed like kismet."

The other concept isn't dead, however. "Workshop is still in the pipeline," she says. "Right now, it's all about Sweet Cheeks."

There, she'll be working with Dan Raia, her sous chef from Rocca. She won't reveal specifics about the food or menu at this point, beyond the obvious fact that Sweet Cheeks will be heavily meat-centric, a departure for her. Here's what a press release has to say: "Expect barbecue that is ingredient-driven, highly thoughtful, and intensely flavorful. Faison will be cooking with Southern and modern influences: ingredients will be responsibly sourced and recipes will be steeped in Southern tradition, Faison's family history, and modern culinary techniques."

Barbecue certainly seems a perfect fit for the Fenway, which continues to develop into a great restaurant neighborhood.

"There's going to be a sensibility about the food, and a thoughtfulness," Faison says. "My hope is to delight and surprise people."

Restaurants raising funds for tornado relief

Posted by Devra First June 8, 2011 03:53 PM

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Globe Staff Photo/Suzanne Kreiter

The day after the tornado, Shelly Ann Sankar and husband James Channing sit at what used to be their front door in Springfield.

From June 12-19, a roster of local restaurants will donate a portion of proceeds to the American Red Cross, to benefit those affected by the tornado in Western Mass.

In Salem, 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar will donate 15 percent of dinner sales on June 19.

Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro will donate 100 percent of dessert sales from June 13-14.

In the South End, the Beehive will donate 100 percent of dessert sales on June 14.

In Jamaica Plain, Bella Luna will donate 75 percent of sales from its smoked trout pate from June 12-19.

In Needham, Blue on Highland will donate 50 percent of dessert sales from June 13-14.

In Cambridge, Bondir will donate 100 percent of dessert sales from June 12-19.

In Boston, Hingham, North Andover, Peabody, and South Windsor, Conn., Burtons Grill will donate 10 percent of dinner sales on June 13.

In Walpole, Butter Cafe & Bakery will donate 50 percent of take-home dinner sales from June 13-17.

In North Andover, China Blossom will donate 10 percent of dinner sales on June 13.

In Cambridge, Dante will donate 100 percent of sales from its zucchini blossom frittata with buffalo ricotta and basil honey from June 12-19.

In the South End, Myers + Chang will donate 100 percent of proceeds from its pork and chive dumplings from June 12-19.

In the North End, Nebo will donate 100 percent of sales from its zeppole dessert from June 12-19.

In North Andover, Orzo Trattoria will donate 15 percent of lunch sales from June 15-16.

In the North End, Taranta will donate 100 percent of proceeds from its guavannoli dessert (= guava + cannoli) from June 13-14.

In Arlington, Tryst will donate 100 percent of proceeds from dessert sales from June 13-15.

80 Thoreau opens in Concord

Posted by Devra First April 20, 2011 08:40 PM

Tomorrow, a new restaurant opens at the Concord Train Depot, from restaurateur and Concord native Ian Calhoun. At 80 Thoreau, you'll find chef Carolyn Johnson (Rialto) in the kitchen and Vincent Vela (Per Se, Craft) directing service. (Calhoun and Vela met as students at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration and vowed to one day open a restaurant.) As you might expect from a restaurant in Concord, the food will draw from surrounding farms.

The seasonal New American menu features dishes such as striped bass crudo; crispy veal sweetbreads with parsnip puree; gnocchi with morels; scallops with bacon, mushrooms, and nettles; grilled lamb with favas and mint; and rhubarb and frangipane tartlets.

By the open kitchen, there's a "chef's counter," ringside seating for four guests. There is also a bar area, where you'll find small and large plates. The cocktail list focuses on "properly made classics," per a press release. Even the tonic water is house-made. All of the beer is brewed in Massachusetts.

80 Thoreau aims to be a neighborhood restaurant, the perfect place to stop for a bite after a train ride home. It sounds like it's going to be a great addition to Concord.

To the person who took my reservation for dinner

Posted by Sheryl Julian April 11, 2011 08:24 PM

 

 

oldphone.jpgI called a very popular restaurant yesterday afternoon for a reservation. The woman at the other end of the phone was curt, but seemed efficient. She read back the date of my reservation and the number in my party.

And then hung up.

What about good-bye? Or, see you this week? Or, anything! Not a click. I'm trying to decide whether to keep the reservation.

Munch Madness: the final showdown

Posted by Devra First March 31, 2011 01:53 PM
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File Photos/Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe (left), Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Hungry Mother's shrimp and grits vs. East Coast Grill's wet bones? A tough choice.

Can you believe it? It's a rematch! Hungry Mother and East Coast Grill face off again in this year's Munch Madness championship. Remember what happened last year? The next few days could be interesting. You have until April 1 at 11 p.m. to cast your vote. We'll announce the winner April 4.

It was an incredibly close race. Any one of the Final Four might have made it. East Coast Grill garnered 2,170 votes. Challenger Ten Tables missed the win by just 95 votes, coming in at 2,075. Hungry Mother received 2,487 votes, while Craigie on Main was 204 behind, with 2,283 votes. Maybe we should check for hanging chads.

Restaurant for sale

Posted by Sheryl Julian March 25, 2011 11:35 AM

scups.jpgWendy Saver and David Rockwood have never done anything according to some long-range plan. They were living on a tugboat in Boston Harbor when they heard that a space in an 18th century building in the shipyard (left) was available for lease. They filled half a dozen dumpsters with things left from a caterer who had been working there -- the guy had 13 freezers because he supplied food to jails (let's not get into the issue of expiration dates here).  

So the couple, who had owned two popular Emma's pizza locations in Cambridge, became restaurateurs again and opened Scup's in the Harbor. The name Scup's came from a small dog that Rockwood rescued from the harbor who had such sharp teeth his new owner thought he was a fox.

Now because of medical issues, Saver and Rockwood are selling the restaurant. They closed this winter and will not reopen this spring. They're in a working industrial shipyard. Workers who have been outside since dawn appear at 9 a.m., when Scup's opens. They call this their "lunch," says Rockwood. They come again at 11 a.m. for a second lunch. Saver does night duty, when Rockwood's son, Dave, is in the kitchen.

scupstuna.jpgSpecialties include this tuna melt, hot dogs, baked ham and beans, egg sandwiches, and other home-style fare.

Here is Rockwood's pitch about the 2-year-old spot: "The sale comes with everything in the shop, our mailing list, our recipes, our goodwill. Dave would love to help the new owners and stay on.

"We spent all winter buffing, cleaning, improving. It has a wine and beer license. It's a turn-key. It's the only place in Boston Harbor that has dock space assigned to us. People can come by boat. A friend says he leaves Scituate Harbor, comes up to Scup's, loops around, and goes home."

Cheap Eats gave Scup's in the Harbor a glowing review, and Yelpers praised it. "People came in right from the airport," says Rockwood. "This would be their first stop." They might tell him that they flew in from LA or they're tourists just off a plane from Ireland.

The best way to visit Scup's was via City Water Taxi, which costs $10 and leaves from New England Aquarium or Long Wharf. As the boat pulls away from land, you see Boston in all its glory. Then you dine well, and return to the city by water.

bostonnight.jpg

Whoever gets this gig has a built-in fan club.

Me among them.

For more information call Dave Rockwood at 617-230-2462. 

More on South Boston's Local 149

Posted by Devra First February 15, 2011 03:31 PM

local149owens.jpgComing to the former Farragut House, this bar and restaurant is now set to open around March 1, dependent on permits and inspections. It's co-owned by Jason Owens (left) of Newton's Biltmore Bar & Grill, who lives near Local 149. The chef is Leah DuBois, formerly of raw food restaurant Grezzo; Biltmore bar manager Mike Stankovich is behind the drinks program, which features craft cocktails and 22 beers on tap, many of them local or Belgian.

It looks as though DuBois will be spending a lot more time at the stove at Local 149, which harks back to "classic '50s watering holes with friendly, neighborly service and reinvented bar traditions," according to a press release. The menu will offer reinvented pub classics, perhaps with a bit of a Southern twist; there will be plenty of bar snacks and a late-night menu. Seafood, cheese, and charcuterie will feature prominently, and the restaurant will be buying many ingredients from local producers. Local 149 will be open daily for dinner, as well as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The renovated space features a wood-burning fireplace, reclaimed hardwood flooring and table tops, a decorative wall of vintage seltzer bottles, and new windows offering plenty of light.

It all sounds relentlessly on trend, in a lovely way. This part of South Boston could use a little urban tavern action. I expect colleagues from the nearby Globe office to congregate there about five minutes after the place opens. As much as diners may collectively be tiring of upscale pubs, that ennui tends to fade when a new hangout opens right nearby.

A family spot in Winthrop

Posted by Sheryl Julian February 4, 2011 04:44 PM

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In our ongoing series of Cheap Eats finds around the city, boston.com producer Glenn Yoder sent this in.

 

It's a goal for many restaurants that only a select few achieve: make the place feel like home. Alia Ristorante in Winthrop, offering Mediterranean-Italian cuisine on Boston Harbor, pulls it off.

 

This is a long way from the Olive Garden and its half-hearted "When you're here, you're family" motto. Alia is truly a community restaurant, with local owner Said Lahyani walking to work, welcoming familiar faces, and often seating customers himself before hopping into the kitchen. He enjoys special requests. "What are you hungry for tonight, sweetheart?" he asks a woman dining with friends. If you're not certain what you want, he's got a few off-kilter suggestions, usually relying on the restaurant's supply of fresh seafood.

 

On a recent visit, I eased away from my standard Italian order -- chicken broccoli ziti with a light cream sauce -- after Lahyani highlighted a newer item: gnocchi di casa. After nearly filling up on warm bread dipped in spicy olive oil and a salad in light vinaigrette, we get the gnocchi, which comes with chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and caramelized onions, all in a creamy pesto. The gnocchi are moist and tender, the juicy chicken a nice complement. But it’s the caramelized onions that make the dish; they’re some of the sweetest I've ever tasted, and tie all the flavors together.

 

Across the table, my date enjoys chicken Parmesan: a not-too-sweet, not-too-spicy red sauce over an enormous, tender piece of breaded chicken and slightly al dente ziti.

 

We split a bottle of red wine (it's BYOB, but there is a liquor store within a minute's walk) and listen to Middle Eastern from a stereo behind the counter. The decor is simple, the lighting dim and romantic.

 

Towards the end of the meal, Lahyani tops off our wine glasses and pulls up a chair. We spend 20 minutes chatting about the recent snow, his plan to expand his presence on the block by opening another restaurant two doors down, and of course, his family. We feel like part of it.

 

Alia Ristorante, 495 Shirley St., Winthrop, 617-539-1600.

National Pie Day is Jan 23. Do you need another excuse to eat pie?

Posted by Sheryl Julian January 20, 2011 03:58 PM

bostoncreampie.jpgThis is the Boston Cream Pie served at Parker's Restaurant, in the Omni Parker House. Tomorrow through Sunday, a portion of the proceeds from the pie will go to the Charlestown Club, part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.

If you go to the hotel tomorrow, you can get a slice of the pie, on the house, in the lobby.

Boston Cream Pie made the old-fashioned way, isn't as pretty as this picture. It's a two-layer cake sandwiched with custard and topped with chocolate. The pie was invented at the Parker House in the mid-19th century, when it was sponge cake filled with custard, and drizzled with chocolate.

I'm going to retest a recipe I like to make and post it soon. If you don't get to the Parker House, here's a recipe from Flo Braker, one of my favorite cooks, to tide you over.  

A vegan spot in Somerville

Posted by Sheryl Julian January 18, 2011 12:32 PM

As part of our ongoing series on cheap places around town, boston.com producer Nicole Cammorata sent this in.

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For those who fear vegan cuisine -- or who think it's for hippies and crunchy types -- True Bistro in Somerville's Teele Square is a place where vegans and non-vegans alike can enjoy a fine meal and leave satisfied. Husband and wife team Michael and Linda Harrison opened the bistro in November in a space formerly occupied by Teele Square Cafe. "What we wanted to show people was that vegan food doesn't have to be a sacrifice," says Linda.

On a recent weeknight, all 14 tables are full and a radio plays soft jazz. The interior is calm and cool, decorated in soft grays and greens with paintings by Somerville's Carolyn Muskat as part of a rotating showcase of local artists.

truebistro2.jpgI'm not vegan or vegetarian and was curious about what, exactly, I'd be eating. For others like me, there is a glossary of terms on the menu and the wait staff is knowledgeable and kind.  The menu is organized into salads, small plates, large plates, sides, and desserts. For an appetizer, my companion and I split a small plate of roast butternut-squash ravioli. The main course is a purse-shaped phyllo pastry filled with seitan, quince, and more butternut. Green curry with spicy tofu is tasty, but the black rice cake it comes with is gritty. For dessert, we order our waitress's recommendation: coconut cream pie with blood orange sauce. It has the consistency of flan, and there's nothing particularly creamy about it.

No chance that I'll give up meat anytime soon, but as a break from my regular regime, and for others, the all-veggie option is a welcome addition to my neighborhood.

True Bistro, 1154 Broadway St., Somerville, 617-627-9000. truebistroboston.com

How to warm up quickly

Posted by Sheryl Julian January 14, 2011 03:55 PM

dorsettea.jpgThis came in from Food section contributor Ann Trieger Kurland. You can almost warm up reading it.

At the cozy Dorset Tea & Coffee in Wellesley Hills, early afternoon light streams in and the ambience is so serene you feel as though you've been transported to another place. Two women, each with a pot of tea, chat softly. A man in a business suit, absorbed in a book, nibbles on a scone. Later in the afternoon, most of the eight wood tables fill up when moms stroll in with young children, and shoppers carrying bags come in for a break. It's tea time and everyone is enjoying the English ritual.

Wellesley sisters Sally and Sue Khudairi, who grew up in London and whose paternal grandparents were master tea blenders, opened the storefront and cafe five years ago. Daily (except Sunday) from 2 to 4 p.m., they offer afternoon tea service. Don't expect doilies and three-tier platters. "People stateside have a Hollywood snapshot in their head that afternoon tea is grandmotherly or Victorian rather than just part of a day to day experience. Our approach is more modern," says Sally Khudairi. There are five different tea services ranging from $7.95 (for children) and up to $24.50, with finger sandwiches. These might be cucumbers, Italian ham with apricot chutney, or egg salad. There is also shortbread and scones with clotted cream, preserves, or lemon curd. Loose-leaf teas including classic Earl Grey and English breakfast, a Chinese oolong, with a roasted chestnut flavor, and a jasmine green tea, whose leaves are pearl shaped and unfurl in hot water.

The Dorset serves breakfast and lunch all day: waffles with fresh berries ($8.95); smoked salmon platter ($8.95); generous salads ($6.95 to $8.95); pizzettes ($6.95 to $8.95); bowls of organic soup, like one loaded with fresh mushrooms ($5.95), which is just the thing after shoveling or digging out your car.

Dorset Tea and Coffee
352 Washington St., Wellesley Hills, 781-239-8988, www.dorsetcafe.com

Hot, warming, and cheap

Posted by Sheryl Julian January 14, 2011 03:19 PM

 

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We asked Globe staff and Food section contributors to tell us about Cheap Eats restaurants they stumble on. Staff member and sports writer Fluto Shinzawa sent in this report about Darbar Restaurant, which offers Pakistani and Indian specialties in Brighton.

 

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I trust cooks. After looking over the lunch specials at Darbar Restaurant -- paya (goat feet soup), haleem (meat with lentils), margaz masala (brain with onions and tomatoes) among the highlights -- I ask for whatever the cooks want to make me on a recent Friday. Instead, I am politely waved away from that decision and instructed by owner Iirfan Khalid to reconsider the buffet. I'm usually wary of buffets ($10.69). Who knows how long those meals have been stewing in their warmers? I like my food hot and fresh.

Darbar's Pakistani dishes, however, lend themselves to buffet-style presentation. Karahi chicken (tomato- and ginger-based), chicken jalfrezi (onion, ginger, bell peppers), and keema tawa (ground meat with onions and tomatoes) have mellowed in their spices and become even better. Aloo gobi (spicy potatoes and cauliflower) is the same. The photo above shows all these dishes on my plate. The best part is going back to the buffet for seconds. You can pick out thighs only and leave the breasts for those foolish enough to prefer white meat.

 

Fresh naan and brown rice are served with the buffet dishes and both do their job at soaking up the saucy parts of the chicken and keema. All the dishes are aggressively seasoned and somewhat spicy, though not hot enough to reach for water too often.

 

I eat like a champ for just over $10, do a five-minute walk home, and prepare for a nap. Not much more you can ask of a neighborhood spot.

 

Darbar Restaurant

130 North Beacon St., Brighton, 617-779-8800, www.darbarrestaurant.net

Remick's comes to Quincy

Posted by Devra First January 11, 2011 01:56 PM

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Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Marc Orfaly's new restaurant, Remick's, is slated to open within the next month. It will be located at 1657 Hancock St., Quincy, in the space formerly occupied by Finian’s. Orfaly (above) is the chef-owner of Pigalle and Marco in Boston; he'll open Remick's with partners Timothy Collins (a Quincy native) and Bob Palmer.

The restaurant, named after an old department store in Quincy, will feature "neighborhood American cocktails and cuisine with international notes." That means everything from steak au poivre to pad Thai, osso buco to Korean short ribs. There will also be good ol' American fare such as fried chicken and burgers. And Remick's will offer whole pig roasts, joining the likes of Citizen Public House and Estragon. It's now officially a trend -- look for other restaurants to start offering whole roasted animals soon.

Appetizers and entrees will be $8-$20, and guests can eat in the dining room or the bar/lounge area, where there is a stage for live music. On Sundays, the restaurant will serve family-style dinner. And the kitchen is open late, until 12:15 a.m. daily.

Remick's, 1657 Hancock St., Quincy. www.remicksquincy.com.

Rocca has closed

Posted by Devra First January 2, 2011 04:25 PM

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Globe Staff Photo/Essdras M Suarez

Chef Tiffani Faison in the kitchen at Rocca.

The South End Italian restaurant, opened in 2007 by Michela Larson, Gary Sullivan, and Karen Haskell, is no more. It's unfortunate, as new chef Tiffani Faison revitalized the menu, leading to a three-star Globe review of Rocca in July. "She has created at Rocca one of those incredibly beguiling menus that make you want to eat everything on it," I wrote at the time.

According to Faison, the closure was a shock to those who worked there, as the restaurant had been busier than ever, with strong operating numbers. The last few times I was there, it certainly looked that way.

Faison is currently focused on finding new jobs for her staff. After that, she writes in an e-mail, "I've made no secret of eventually wanting my own place, so here we go with the bake sale!" (Her "Top Chef" fame ought to serve her in good stead when it comes to fund-raising.)

Faison also plans to stay local. "I love Boston and believe in what is just around the corner for the culinary and dining culture," she says. "I am determined to be a part of the next generation that shapes it."  

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Rocca space, which has a first-floor bar area, an upstairs dining room, and a parking lot. Change is coming to the South End, with this development and Ginger Park's recent closure -- both large spaces. (Ginger Park chef Patricia Yeo will also stay in Boston -- among other reasons, she told me, she finds the restaurant industry here very friendly to women.) Rumors are afoot about several other neighborhood restaurants that may soon shut down. It's worrying. It's also an opportunity. What kind of neighborhood will the South End continue to evolve into? Four or five new restaurants could have a significant hand in shaping its flavor.

Ginger Park is closed

Posted by Devra First December 9, 2010 12:06 PM
Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda
The South End restaurant's last official day of service was yesterday. This is sad news for fans of Patricia Yeo's duck meatballs and dan dan mien. But not that sad -- the chef plans to stay in town and open a new restaurant serving a very similar menu. "We're going to go smaller, funky and casual," Yeo says. "Hopefully we'll be up and running by the first of May."

The new restaurant will pick up on the popularity of Japanese-style izakaya in New York, but with Ginger Park's more general Asian slant. "We'll still have the true and tried things regulars are upset about not being able to eat," Yeo says. Details on exact name and location forthcoming, after the i's are dotted and the t's crossed.

Much of the staff is likely to return, as well. Yeo was able to find temporary homes for many of them, and she's taking a few with her to Hong Kong, where she'll be consulting for a bit in the meantime.

As for the impressive Ginger Park space, it's for sale. What would you like to see open there, and who do you think will buy it? My money's on the Lyons Group -- the stylish, large room would be well suited to one of their ventures (and Yeo's concept will work much better in a smaller, funky space).

Playing for corn

Posted by Devra First December 5, 2010 02:44 PM

toromaiz.jpg

Globe Staff Photo/John Tlumacki

How many orders of corn did Toro serve in 2010? The South End tapas bar is famous for its grilled ears slathered in alioli and cotija cheese, so you know it's a lot. The restaurant is having a contest on its Facebook page, and the person with the closest guess wins a prize. Yes, it's an order of Toro's awesome grilled corn. But not just that -- it'll be delivered to the victor's door by chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette.

"There is a catch," the Facebook page warns. "You have to live in the Boston area for this very special delivery. It would be really awkward for the guys to take a long road trip together on Jamie's scooter, and the corn would get cold."

You've got until midnight on Dec. 31 to make your guess.

Hanukkah belt

Posted by Devra First December 1, 2010 05:29 PM
dreidl.jpg

Photo/Scott Rothstein

Is that dreidel spinning, or are you just tipsy? Maybe both, if you've been hanging out at the Regal Beagle. The Brookline restaurant is celebrating the eight nights of Hanukkah with a special cocktail for each evening.

The eight drinks of Hanukkah are named after Yiddish numbers. Tonight, the first night, the folks at Regal Beagle are mixing up the Eins ("one"). It's made with potato vodka for the latkes and Goldschlager for the gelt.

If you can't get to the Beagle and you'd like to mix one up yourself at home, here's the recipe:

2 ounces Reyka Vodka
.75 ounce Goldschlager cinnamon liqueur
.75 ounce white cranberry juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker, shake for 10 seconds, and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Met Back Bay opens today

Posted by Devra First October 27, 2010 02:46 PM

MET Back Bay 4.jpg

The newest installment in the Metropolitan Club/Met Bar & Grill franchise officially starts serving today. Met Back Bay is located on the corner of Dartmouth and Newbury streets in a renovated brick townhouse.

Starters include raw bar items, an array of hot and cold salads (Roman cauliflower with citrus oil and capers; the "Chinatown," with crispy duck, 16 vegetables, Marcona almonds, and Asian goddess dressing), appetizers such as lobster cheddar dip and roasted bone marrow, and beef, tuna, or salmon tartare prepared tableside. For entrees, you'll find the likes of soft scrambled eggs with cheddar and mini bone-in tenderloins, curried spot prawns, dry-aged meatballs with grilled artichokes and polenta, lobster pot pie, and steaks. Dessert brings sticky toffee pudding, apple cider doughnuts, and more.

There's also a 13-seat ham and cheese bar featuring local cheese and house-made prosciutto bacon and sausage, as well as hams from small farms in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. The cocktail list highlights classics like the Aviation as well as riffs like the ginger Negroni. There is also a private membership room called Townhouse, where members pay $2,500 for a debit card to be used toward food and drinks.

There are several seating areas, in addition to the ham and cheese bar -- the living room, with huge windows overlooking Newbury Street; the library, where bartenders will chip ice off the old block and squeeze fresh juices for mixing to order; the Met Bar game room, where you can watch the game and have a snack (I know -- I was hoping for board games and such); and the terrace, a gas-heated outdoor space. It sounds ginormous!

The press release says: "MET Back Bay is [restaurateur Kathy] Trustman's homage to the city she loves -- the quintessential Boston eatery where you can enjoy luscious homemade pastries at breakfast, classic chopped salads at noon, signature fish and meat entrees in the evening and simple scrambled eggs at midnight." It sure would be nice to have a vibrant, convivial spot serving round-the-clock in this location.

The final vote: Your favorite burger

Posted by Glenn Yoder, Boston.com Staff October 19, 2010 12:07 PM

Last week, we showcased some burgers around town and asked you to tell us where you find your favorite. After rounding up all the responses, we took your 20 top suggestions and are now determining, once and for all, which burger is king -- and no, Burger King isn't a choice. Make your voice heard in this poll, and if you still aren't satisfied with these top 20 suggestions, feel free to write in your favorite burger in the "other" category. But either way, do it quickly: this poll closes Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. We'll present the results on Thursday.

Below, tell us why you voted for a particular burger joint. What makes it great?

Update: Legal in the Seaport District

Posted by Devra First September 29, 2010 03:50 PM

libertywharf.jpg

Globe Staff Photo/David L. Ryan

A three-floor Legal Sea Foods will be part of the new Liberty Wharf complex.

This morning, Legal Sea Foods honcho Roger Berkowitz filled me in on what's happening with the flagship restaurant, slated to open in the Liberty Wharf complex at the old Jimmy's Harborside location.

The restaurant is about 65 percent ready, he says. It currently looks as though it will open in March. Even with further delays, this means we're likely to have another waterfront spot to enjoy next summer.

Berkowitz says this Legal will be "radically different" than others. There will still be plenty of seafood, of course, but "in terms of presentation, it will be unlike anything we are currently doing," he says. There will be three floors. The first one will be more of a marketplace, featuring a fresh fish counter, prepared foods, takeout, and an oyster bar. The setting will be casual and the offerings affordable, Berkowitz says. "It's a throwback or a nod to our roots in Inman Square, without the sawdust."

The second floor will be more upscale, "a hair more formal than a traditional Legal," Berkowitz says. There will be a bit more meat than on Legal's current menus, and unusual seafood not typically seen on Boston menus. "The second floor is our way of showcasing what we do as a seafood company, pulling out some of the stops in terms of the uniqueness of some of the products offered." It will be slightly more expensive than the usual Legals. And, Berkowitz adds tantalizingly, "the wine list is going to be unique. I can't tell you about it, but it will be unlike anything offered in the country."

The third floor will be a rooftop deck. Like a beer garden with fish? No, says Berkowitz, laughing. "I won't go beer garden. Hopefully it has a different feel."

It will be very interesting to see the end results, because they will say a lot about what Legal Sea Foods currently is and wants to be. "We want this in some ways to define what we do," Berkowitz says.

Breaking news: Boston "fit for foodies"

Posted by Devra First September 28, 2010 01:08 PM

OpenTable has released its 2010 diners' choice awards for the top 50 restaurants for "foodies." Boston represents, with four of the choices being local establishments.

mentonlangs.jpg

Globe Staff Photos/Wendy Maeda

Menton,

oyapork.jpgo ya,

Bergamot, and Craigie on Main make the list. What restaurants would you nominate?

Do you love it or hate it?

Posted by Sheryl Julian August 4, 2010 02:27 PM

Restaurant week - or weeks, because it's actually two.

Sunday, Aug. 15 to Friday, Aug. 20
Sunday, Aug. 22 to Friday, Aug. 27

Devra wrote a story earlier this year. "The pro camp loves Restaurant Week for its value," she said. "It gets them to go out and try new places, places they’ve always wanted to go, places they can’t always afford. The con camp boycotts the event. It’s a mill, they argue: The restaurants bring you in and push you out as quickly as they can to maximize turnover and profits. The food is inferior, the menus limited."

She went around town trying different restaurants and her results, in fact, were mixed.

For a list of participating restaurants and menus, look here. If you use an American Express card, a fraction of your bill will go to the Women's Lunch Place.

Foundry on Elm to open in Davis Square

Posted by Devra First July 23, 2010 09:34 AM

Opening at 255 Elm St., Somerville, the restaurant will serve "fine food & proper ale." (Sounds familiar.)

The restaurant is in the former Bowl & Board space. It's owned by Ken Kelly (the Independent, Precinct) and David Flanagan (Brasserie Jo, Great Bay, Temple Bar). The chef is Sam Putnam, formerly of Ashmont Grill. There aren't a lot of details about the menu yet, but it will highlight local ingredients and fall somewhere on the brasserie-tavern spectrum. There will also be a raw bar.

ashmontgrill.jpg

Globe Staff Photo/Jonathan Wiggs

A little bit of this ...

As for drink, you'll find 32 beers on tap and 20 by the bottle, plus the increasingly mandatory rotating cask ale. Flanagan is apparently a bit of a wine geek, so Foundry's 60-bottle list may deliver some interesting selections. Andy Kilgore (No. 9 Park, Stoddard's) is managing the cocktail program.

stoddards.jpg

Globe Staff Photo/Pat Greenhouse

... and a little bit of this ...

The place is done up brasserie style, with black-and-white tiled floors, a long marble bar, and red leather banquettes.

brasseriejo.jpg

... and a little bit of this.

Foundry on Elm is slated to open in September. (There's not much going on on the website yet, but you'll find it here. EDIT: Facebook has more info.) It will be open daily, serving dinner, lunch (Monday-Saturday), and brunch (Sunday). Kelly and Flanagan plan to follow it up with a separate but adjacent cocktail bar in late fall. It will connect to the former Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway Theater, which they're renovating. They plan to host live music, theater, and more starting early next year.

Towne to open July 27

Posted by Devra First July 15, 2010 01:25 PM

towne1.jpg

Photo/Allan Dines

Towne, the new Hynes Convention Center restaurant from the Lyons Group and chefs Lydia Shire, Jasper White, and Mario Capone, is almost ready for business.

Given the lineup, you can bet on culinary whimsy, New England seafood, and Italian fare. The menu is designed for both casual snacking and more formal dining. Customers will find pizza, handmade pasta, steaks, a lobster roll, and baked, stuffed lobster. The menu also features dishes from around the world, the origins of which are denoted by a flag. ("It's a Small World After All" is suddenly stuck in my head.) Sample dishes include razor clams a la plancha with Basque piment oil, paratha with green onions, Peking chicken with pot pie, and the crunchy Persian rice dish called tadiq.

Most dishes will be priced under $20, with some in the $30 range, and a few meant for sharing in the $40s.

Maws reviews Craigie on Main

Posted by Devra First July 14, 2010 10:47 AM

A while back, I sent the following out into the Tweetosphere: "Re-reviewing restaurants: what do you think? http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/dishing/2009/11/the_rereview.html"

The following reply came, from Craigie on Main chef-owner Tony Maws. He said: "with everything involved in opening(ever been there?)and 1st few months, what about review for 2nd year? More accurate-oui?"

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Globe Staff Photo/Pat Greenhouse

Get me re-review!

Heck no I've never been there. I do not have the stomach for it, and I admire anyone who does, whatever the end results may be. (At Craigie on Main, I thought the end results were right nice. I gave the restaurant three stars in my review.)

Were I a chef, I'd certainly want a re-review in Year 2. But as a critic, it's not possible to revisit restaurants so soon, except in unusual cases.

So I invited Maws to re-review Craigie himself. Guess what? He likes it!

Here are his reflections on where the restaurant is now:

It’s been quite some time since Devra First originally reviewed Craigie on Main, giving us three stars. As we hit the 18-months mark, I thought it would be a good time to share an update on what we are cooking up – from philosophy to menus.

Craigie on Main opened in November 2008 as the next chapter in the story of Craigie Street Bistrot, which was born back in the fall of 2001 and closed in 2007. I often tell people there were things about Craigie Street that I will always miss and some things that I’ll never miss -- if you had a chance to visit us there, you know what I’m talking about. As we worked on creating the space for the new location, it was paramount that our mission, focus, and philosophy all remain exactly the same. To underscore this to ourselves and our guests, we kept the Craigie identity as part of our new name. What is different is obviously the physical location and surroundings -- we definitely are not outside Harvard Square in the basement of a hard-to-find apartment. Instead, it’s:

Main Street.
Central Square.
Valet parking.
State of the art kitchen.
Full bar.

Many have asked if this was a new restaurant or simply an updated version of a six-year-old fan favorite. Well, the answer is both -- we wanted to operate on a different level, assuming we could figure out how.

The original Craigie Street was inspired by my time working in France. A mini restaurant movement, coined “bistrot moderne” or modern bistrots, was under way in Paris. Young chefs who had been trained in Michelin-starred restaurants went out on their own, bought old-school, off-the-beaten-path bistrots, and transformed them destinations. They could afford to work with the same ingredients as the Michelin-rated restaurants because they dried flowers instead of displaying $1,000 flower arrangements, used mismatched plates and flat-wear instead of Bernardaud, and covered the tables in butcher paper instead of white linen (someone tell me when a certain brand of porcelain will make my food taste better, then I’ll consider buying it!). These chefs produced dishes with the same ingredients and quality, but with less pomp and circumstance as the Michelin restaurants, and they drew huge crowds. Guests could dine in jeans, have appropriate but relaxed service, and eat a phenomenal meal. All of this fit into my dining and cooking philosophy. I am that chef -- I’ve worked for four James Beard Award winners, two French master chefs, and one Michelin-starred restaurant. I was ready to open my own place with a different philosophy and limited resources.

Fast forward to Craigie on Main. While we have invested in some amenities to provide a greater experience for our guests, our overall approach and attitude have not changed. Additionally, our commitment to both "talking the talk AND walking the walk" in terms of sustainability and locally sourced ingredients has taken a quantum leap upward. Devra First pointed out in her February 9, 2009, review that it seems as though our staff has drunk some "Craigie’s biodynamic Kool-Aid." Perhaps some of our crew was a bit too excited and enthusiastic early on, but imagine how you might feel after being liberated from the shoe-horned quarters of the tiny basement and allowed to operate on a stage with room to perform! Also, we tend to attract employees who have passions and values of their own -- that’s why they want to work here. (It’s certainly not because it's easier; our daily-changing menu and frequently changing wine and drinks lists assure that it’s one of the tougher gigs in town.) Regardless, our service rankings have skyrocketed, and we think we’ve learned how, when, and when not to educate our guests.

The old cliche is true: Change does not come in one day. Craigie Street Bistrot was a remarkably different restaurant in year six than in years one through five, just as Craigie on Main is a different restaurant now than it was a year and a half ago when it was first reviewed by Devra First and received three (out of four) stars. Was I happy with this review? That is an interesting question.

The short answer is, of course, "no." This doesn’t mean I disagree with Ms. First's assessment, just that I did not like it because I had greater expectations and we had not yet met them. Did we have a few new cooks who needed to learn our seasonings, equipment, and techniques? Absolutely. Now we are a tighter, more cohesive kitchen brigade operating on the same page. We moved to the new, larger location to be able to say "yes" to so many of the conversations that had ended with "no." Parking, a bar, a full liquor license, room for larger parties, late-night dining, and of course to be able to raise the bar on what we, the kitchen brigade, could achieve with a menu. I can say, in hindsight, that I was proud of our efforts every night in the first few months, but I knew that more time was needed to grow into the space. Just because we had some new toys didn't mean we knew how to use them to reach our fullest potential, and how to use them in harmony to create what we envisioned as the "Craigie Experience."

So what is Craigie on Main now? Quite frankly (and at the risk of sounding self-serving), we are everything I could have asked for and then some.

Diners are literally lining up before the doors open to experience Craigie, and the best part is they can do this in a myriad of ways. Some are waiting to join us at the bar, which fills quickly every night for our "cult-following" burgers, pig tails, craft cocktails, and more. A growing number of others are ready to try our full-on 10-course tasting menu or perhaps share a pig’s head or roasted chicken. Maybe it’s in a cozy corner banquette one night, and the next a seat at kitchen "ringside" for some dinner theater. While we can’t be all things to all people (nor do we aspire to), we can and do offer a wider variety of guest experiences than most fine dining establishments.

Bottom line, however, is that we are making a lot of people happy in an environment where you don’t need to abide by a dress code, or worry about whether it’s OK to use your fingers to pick at the confit milk-fed pig’s head (in the true spirit of bistrots modernes). At Craigie on Main, I cook the food I’ve dreamed of and we're fortunate to have guests enthusiastically lining up, cleaning their plates, and coming back for more. How many stars does this get you? This is also an interesting question.

Be our guest

Posted by Devra First July 14, 2010 09:56 AM

Menton: It's a little like this.

(Tip of the hat to Nicole Russo for pointing out the similarity.)

Bondir to open in Cambridge

Posted by Devra First July 8, 2010 02:26 PM
Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda
Chef Jason Bond plates lardo ravioli at Beacon Hill Bistro.
Chef Jason Bond is leaving Beacon Hill Bistro at the end of September to open his own restaurant in Cambridge. It will be called Bondir. (It's either a French verb meaning "to bound, spring, jump," or a made-up verb meaning "to Bond ... Jason Bond.")

Bondir will be located in the former Con Sol space at 279A Broadway. Looks like it will be open 11:30-12:30 a.m. daily for dinner every evening but Tuesday. Bond aims to open Bondir in early October, according to a press release.

Taking his place at Beacon Hill Bistro is Matthew Molloy, previously chef de cuisine at Lumiere.

I've been a huge fan of Bond's cooking at Beacon Hill Bistro, so I'm excited to see what he'll do in his own place. Molloy, too, is a talent worth following.

More information to come on Bondir soon.

Addendum: According to Bond, the food at Bondir will be similar to that he cooks at Beacon Hill Bistro. It will be "based on food gathered from around here," he says. "I wouldn't call it French exactly. In language it will be less French [than at the bistro], but techniques are still techniques, and I'll use the best ones I can. I want to make it approachable, friendly, and honest." His focus will be on finding the best possible products, most of which will be local, including pigs and chickens.

The space is cozy. It seats 24, with a four-seat bar, and there's a little fireplace. "The kitchen is so small I'll be cooking everything myself," he says. "I can touch one wall and the other without moving my feet." Bond plans to start out offering dinner only, with breakfast and lunch for private parties. He also envisions using the space for occasional cooking classes.

Entrees will be mostly in the mid-$20s. The menu may be a la carte with several prix fixe options: two-, three-, and four-course for example. A tasting menu will be an option as well. "I want to make it easy for people not to spend too much money, and to find ways to showcase some of these really nice ingredients we're getting."

So why the name? "Some jerk already took Bond." Beyond that, it's a French verb ("to leap or jump") that includes his name. "It could be the leaping flames of the fireplace, different leaping or jumping things from the field that are delicious to eat, the leap we're taking with this first restaurant venture." In short, interpret as you wish.

Bastille Day dining in Boston

Posted by Devra First June 30, 2010 06:13 PM

July 14 is another perfect holiday to coopt in the name of eating well -- file it with Cinco de Mayo and the lunar new year.

This year brings some good opportunities for the Francophile eater.

First, Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself will be in town for Bastille Day. He'll be cooking a menu of greatest hits at his restaurant Market. This is a chance to see what happens when the celebrity chef is actually in the kitchen.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten in Boston

Globe Staff File Photo/John Tlumacki

I smell a celebrity chef in the house.

At Gaslight, there will be a late-night patio party starting at 10 p.m. This means music, beer, oysters, and grilled sausages. The price is right! Everything is $1.

At Petit Robert in Kenmore Square, the South End, and Needham and the new Chez Jacky in Brighton (from the same people), parties will take place from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Think costumes, balloons, waving flags, and French food, wine, and beer. Costumes? Bring on the fromage.

Back Bay's Oleana or Craigie on Main?

Posted by Devra First June 24, 2010 08:17 PM

Deuxave, the upcoming project from dbar owner Brian Piccini and chef Chris Coombs (below), is now on track to open in late summer.

coombs.jpgThe restaurant's name is pronounced "Dooh-aaahve," according to Coombs. (I'll try to stop calling it "Duz-aaahve" if you'll promise to quit rhyming Menton with Trenton.) It's in the old Panificio space, at the corner of Comm. and Mass. Ave.

"We aim to be the Oleana or Craigie on Main of Back Bay," Coombs says.

Deuxave will give him the chance to do higher-end cooking, he says, drawing on his experience at places such as Troquet, the Inn at Little Washington, and Topper's at the Wauwinet. (And "Chopped," of course.)

"I totally love dbar," he says, "but there's a limit to what you can do in Dorchester. Everything has to be approachable to the masses and affordably priced. Back Bay gives a little more flexibility."

The neighborhood has plenty of great, expensive dining (L'Espalier, Clio), Coombs says, but it's lacking the kind of moderately priced independent restaurant that residents can go to several times a week. That's a void he hopes Deuxave will fill.

"We're going to keep it nouvelle French in technique, but inspired by the splendor of local, seasonal ingredients. It will be super-approachable, fun, and neighborhoody." When Coombs talks about local and seasonal, he's not just jumping on the bandwagon. He's been growing herbs, tomatoes, and other produce on the roof of dbar for years.

The general manager will be Jason Irving, previously the wine director at the Four Seasons. "He has so much passion for service and great wine," Coombs says. The pastry chef will be Olivier Maillard, who has worked with Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, and Barbara Lynch. "It's all about the team."

Alma Nove opens

Posted by Devra First June 1, 2010 01:44 PM

Chef Paul Wahlberg and actor/singer/producer brothers Mark and Donnie, along with pal Ed St. Croix, are slated to debut their long-in-the-works Hingham restaurant June 2.

wahlbergs.jpgAlma Nove is named for their mother, Alma, and her nine kids. The Italian-inspired restaurant is located on the water at the new Launch at Hingham Shipyard. It will be open for lunch and dinner.

Paul Wahlberg was formerly the chef at Bridgeman's in Hull. The menu includes antipasti such as banh mi with duck confit and house-made pate, braised meatballs with polenta, and grilled prawns with tomato-almond gazpacho; primi including tagliatelle with short ribs and baby artichokes, spaghettini with mizuna pesto and grilled chicken, and shrimp and pea risotto; and secondi of pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin, halibut with cauliflower puree and carrot-cumin vinaigrette, and more.

New Louis, new restaurant

Posted by Devra First May 17, 2010 11:18 AM

Forget about the whimper with which Louis Boston restaurants Boston Public (nee Boston Public Meat) and the subsequent Restaurant L came to their respective ends. It's a new Louis, at Fan Pier, and with it comes a new place to eat.

louis.jpg

The new Louis.

Sam's is overseen by Esti and Drew Parsons, the former best known for her hospitality at Radius (and her fittingly stylish ways), the latter as a member of the band American Hi-Fi. This could mean good service and a good soundtrack, two things that rarely seem to go together.

The chef is Ken Rogers, who has cooked at Via Matta, Bina Osteria, the Parish Cafe, and Milton's 88 Wharf. He'll be serving bistro fare, creating casual French dishes using local ingredients.

This is a family affair: Drew Parsons's brother Jon has been imported from Brooklyn to run the beverage program. Rogers's brother Andy will be sous chef, and another brother -- another Jon -- will tend bar. The restaurant is named for Louis owner Debi Greenberg's daughter Samantha.

Right on the water, Sam's is located on the second floor of the building, with a large wrap-around deck. There are 40 tables outside, with 15 tables and an eight-seat bar inside. (This could make staffing interesting.) It will be open daily, serving continuously. Sam's will also rent blankets and offer picnic baskets for those who want to sit on the lawn. Note to boaters: They'll bring picnics out to the dock. Sounds like good summer fun. It's scheduled to open at the end of the month.

The world's 50 best restaurants?

Posted by Devra First April 26, 2010 06:36 PM
S.Pellegrino's annual list was released today.

Noma chef Rene Redzepi.
Noma, in Denmark, takes the top spot from El Bulli. The Spanish restaurant moves to second place. The UK's Fat Duck is also down one, now occupying Noma's former No. 3 spot. I'd wager a lot of people who are interested in food have heard of El Bulli. Not necessarily so Noma. That, to me, is the major (only?) significance of this rejiggering: the boosting of a presumably worthy restaurant's profile. If we're talking the 50 best restaurants in the world, top 3 is top 3.

Representing the US, we've got Alinea (#7), Daniel (#8), Per Se (#10), Le Bernardin (#15), Momofuku Ssam Bar (#26), French Laundry (#32, down a significant 20 places -- why the slide, I wonder), wd-50 (#45), and Eleven Madison Park (#50).

I bet Barbara Lynch would love to see Menton join the ranks next year. I'd like to see some Boston restaurant represented, and I honestly don't care which one. I think we've got a bunch that are as or more worthy than, say, Ssam Bar.

But these lists -- they're fun and all, and they're significant on a business level. Beyond that, how meaningful are they? "Best" is so subjective, and the world is kind of a large pool to work within. What do you think of such lists? Do they influence the way you eat?

If the fans dine well, will the Sox win more?

Posted by Sheryl Julian April 15, 2010 05:00 PM
metclub.jpg
This is Met Burger Bar's classic juicy patty topped with Vermont cheddar. It's going to be offered at Fenway Park at the EMC Club, State Street Pavilion, and Absolut Clubhouse, along with a burger topped with a fried egg. They're also making a turkey version, all served on Iggy's buns. The 10-ounce turkey burgers are the first of their kind at Fenway. 

Feed those fans well.

All is well at Radius

Posted by Devra First April 7, 2010 02:24 PM
Forget any rumors you might have heard, says chef-owner Michael Schlow. Radius is just fine.

Photo/Jaimie Trueblood for Bravo
What got tongues wagging was a post on Universal Hub about the upcoming Towne, in the Hynes Convention Center. It read: "The proposed Towne Stove and Spirits, which actually has the support of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, could open mid-spring. The Boston Licensing Board decides tomorrow on a request from the Lyons Group to transfer a liquor license from Radius on High Street to the new eatery."

What what? Radius transferring its liquor license? What could this mean?

Nothing, according to Schlow. "I was there having [former Radius partner] Christopher Myers's name taken off the license. I was in there for three minutes. The next case being heard was about [Towne partner] Jasper White moving his liquor license at Logan to the Lyons Group convention center deal. Whoever this was got two stories confused and said, 'Oh, Patrick Lyons just bought Schlow's liquor license.'"

Business is on the rise, Schlow says. "Lunch sales are up 16 percent from last year. Dinner is up 7 percent. Parties are flat. The way to really know the recession is over is when party business bounces back. But lunch being up 16 percent from October to March of the same period is a really good sign that things are getting better. At lunchtime, Radius for a lot of people is a treat. They don't do it on a regular basis."

For those less inclined to splurge, a reminder that Radius's glorious burger is half-price at the bar on Saturday evenings during the month of April. (I felt that was worth putting in bold.)

To also file under "untrue Schlow-related rumors," he says he is not opening a restaurant in New York. Maybe someday, if the perfect opportunity comes his way, he says. But not now.

Oh, and feeling particularly relevant on this beautifully sunny day, they're redoing the patio at Via Matta, which was already pretty darn nice. 

The Alchemist is closing

Posted by Devra First April 6, 2010 06:58 PM
Globe Staff File Photo/Matthew J. Lee
Beer and ribs at the Alchemist.
May 31 looks to be the last day for the Jamaica Plain restaurant and lounge. The Alchemist reportedly ran into financial issues with an investor.

The new owners will be Jim Cochener and Michael Moxley, the pair behind Coda (South End) and the Common Ground (Allston). (They're still dotting their i's and meeting with the neighborhood.) The new restaurant will be similar to Coda, says Cochener. "Every neighborhood is different," he says. "We'll take what we've done at Coda and play with it a little more, have a little more fun with it." The place will be casual and approachable, and the menu will focus on local ingredients, American craft beers, and value, he says.

The two haven't settled on a chef or a new name, but the restaurant will no longer be called the Alchemist. Moxley, a longtime Jamaica Plain resident, says they're considering historical family names from the neighborhood, as well as pondering something that begins with an alliterative "C," matching their other restaurants.

Cochener calls the opening date a "moving target" but is hoping to start renovations in June and open a month thereafter. If they can stick to that time table, there will still be plenty of patio time there this summer.

Munch Madness: the winner

Posted by Devra First April 6, 2010 12:32 PM
Over the last month, we've seen agony and ecstasy, victory and defeat. I'm talking about Munch Madness, of course, our tournament of restaurants. Mirroring the NCAA's March Madness, but tastier than basketball, it pitted 64 establishments against one another to determine the fan favorite. The championship round closed yesterday.

And the winner is ... East Coast Grill.

The Cambridge restaurant celebrates its 25th year anniversary this year, and this victory shows why it's been so long lived. People love the place.

ecgwins.jpg

Globe File Photo/Amy Newman

The victor, home of oysters, grilled fish, barbecue, and Hell Night.


It beat competitor Hungry Mother by 182 votes out of 1,432. The final contest wasn't pretty. We assume the two Cambridge restaurants will be able to move forward in peace.

More than 167,000 votes were cast throughout the tournament. Each of the Final Four received the following number of votes over the course of Munch Madness:

East Coast Grill: 8,435
Hungry Mother: 7,905
Toro: 7,761
Orinoco: 6,482

During the tournament, top seeds Toro and Craigie on Main fell earlier than expected. Barbecue joint Redbones almost took down Barbara Lynch's No. 9 Park. And again and again, restaurants offering fun and value triumphed over the hallowed halls of fine dining.

Thanks to everyone for playing, and congratulations to East Coast Grill. You'll be receiving a lovely trophy in the coming weeks.

Munch Madness championship: down to the wire

Posted by Devra First April 5, 2010 04:16 PM
Less than one hour remains in our Munch Madness restaurant tournament. It's down to Hungry Mother and East Coast Grill. Things are getting ugly. Over the weekend, the following arrived at East Coast Grill:

threat.jpg
Dead fish, a six-pack of Miller High Life, and a threatening note. "To ECG: Drop out of the contest now or you will really know what Hell Night is!"


Thumbnail image for head.bmpI received a message from Hungry Mother on Saturday. "Around 5:30 today Someone ...? sent [the note] to the East Coast Grill, with a box of beer and a fish skeleton ... then - by 6:15 as retaliation (they must have thought it was us - how dare they!?!) the East Coast Grill delivered us the prize pictured in the attached photo with a bottle of Fernet..." wrote co-owner Rachel Miller Munzer.

Yeah, that'd be a pig's head.

If this is just the run-up, what will happen when the victor is announced? The time to vote for your favorite rabble rouser is now.


Island Creek Oyster Bar comes to Kenmore

Posted by Devra First April 5, 2010 11:36 AM
creek.jpg

Globe Staff File Photo/Yoon S. Byun

Island Creek glory shot! Expect plenty of these at the Kenmore Square oyster bar.


Just as word comes that the Foundation Lounge is closing April 17, there's some good news for Hotel Commonwealth. Island Creek Oyster Bar will open in the space that was formerly seafood restaurant Great Bay.

The theme remains the same, or at least similar. Described as a "high-energy oyster bar and seafood restaurant," Island Creek Oyster Bar is slated for a late summer opening. There aren't too many details on the menu yet, but it will showcase the products of Island Creek's farmers and the purveyors with whom the oyster company has developed relationships over the years.

The project is a collaboration between Island Creek Oysters founder Skip Bennett, Lineage/Eastern Standard chef Jeremy Sewall, and Eastern Standard proprietor Garrett Harker. That's a promising team. This looks as though it will be a huge addition to Boston's oddly lacking seafood scene.

Munch Madness: Final Four recap

Posted by Devra First April 2, 2010 11:55 AM
The Final Four are no more. It's down to two. Who? Here are the restaurants that will face off in the Munch Madness championship ...

Drum roll ...

Hungry Mother vs. East Coast Grill.

Hungry Mother battled Toro in the Final Four. It was close. But Kendall Square's tribute to Southern food beat the South End's lively tapas bar by 14 votes out of 2,210.

More predictable was the outcome of the other match, Orinoco vs. East Coast Grill. It's impressive Orinoco made it so far, but it was no match for the widespread East Coast Grill love. East Coast Grill won by 455 out of 2,495 votes. Still, a very impressive showing by Orinoco.

When I filled out my bracket before the championship began, I had Toro and Craigie on Main facing off for the championship. Neither made it. How much did the food department not see East Coast Grill's domination coming? We reviewed them this week. It never even occurred to us they'd still be in the tournament. D'oh!

Today, voting begins in the championship round. Will Hungry Mother or East Coast Grill take it all? It's up to you. Vote here. You have until April 5 at 5 p.m. We'll announce the champion April 6.

Munch Madness: Round 4 recap

Posted by Devra First March 30, 2010 12:11 PM
orinoco1.jpg

Globe Staff File Photo/Justine Hunt

Orinoco: tiny but powerful.


And the final four are ...

Toro vs. Hungry Mother

and

Orinoco vs. East Coast Grill

In Round 4, Toro took down Hamersley's Bistro by 236 votes, or 57 percent. Hungry Mother pulled it out from under the Franklin Cafe with 21 votes. Orinoco beat Blue Ginger by 193 votes, or 55 percent. And East Coast Grill trumped Eastern Standard by 349 votes, or 60 percent.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Orinoco is still in it -- the little engine that could. East Coast Grill was powerful enough to defeat second seed Craigie on Main in Round 3, however. Who do you think will prevail?

To me it's looking like an ultimate faceoff between Toro and East Coast Grill, but as we've repeatedly seen, in Munch Madness anything can happen.

Voting for this penultimate round goes through April 1. Then it's on to the championship. Cast your vote for the Final Four here.

Munch Madness: Round 3 recap

Posted by Devra First March 27, 2010 11:18 AM
ecg1.jpg

Globe Staff File Photo/Pat Greenhouse


I'm out. I thought Craigie on Main would win this one. But East Coast Grill proved too hot to handle. Craigie's tasting menus, incredible cocktail program, disciplined devotion to all things local, and darn fine burger were no match for spice rubs, Inner Beauty hot sauce, seafood, barbecue, and flaming volcano drinks. Call it a match of intellect vs. emotion. Emotion won.

I also thought Toro would win this one. It did. By 2 votes over Ten Tables. Valiantly fought. Maybe it's the long winter grinding to a halt, but we are in the mood for fun. Voting is veering decidedly in that direction. Not that Ten Tables and Craigie aren't fun -- they are. But East Coast Grill and Toro are more explicitly geared toward a good time. Less tablecloth-y. More raucous.

Witness Hungry Mother beating out high seed Oleana. Orinoco trouncing Grill 23. And the Franklin -- the Franklin! -- thumping L'Espalier -- L'Espalier! -- by more than 300 votes (out of 2,402).

Ready for another shocker? Hamersley's beat No. 9 Park, by 18 out of 2,474 votes.

Eastern Standard took down Sel de la Terre in this round. And Blue Ginger continued to prevail, triumphing over Sportello. (Tough round for one B. Lynch, who's probably focusing on other things right now anyway.)

Here's where we stand going into Round 4:

Toro vs. Hamersley's Bistro
Hungry Mother vs. the Franklin Cafe
Orinoco vs. Blue Ginger
East Coast Grill vs. Eastern Standard
 

Munch Madness: Round 2 recap

Posted by Devra First March 24, 2010 12:20 PM
Round 2 of our restaurant tournament is over. Here are the restaurants that will advance to battle it out in Round 3 of Munch Madness:

Toro vs. Ten Tables
Hamersley's Bistro vs. No. 9 Park
Oleana vs. Hungry Mother
Franklin Cafe vs. L'Espalier
Orinoco vs. Grill 23
Blue Ginger vs. Sportello
Craigie on Main vs. East Coast Grill
Eastern Standard vs. Sel de la Terre

So -- wow. I thought it might happen, and it did. Cute, vibrant little Orinoco beat out the acclaimed O Ya -- by 35 votes. This is a clear message: Boston restaurateurs, your dining public (or at least the part of it that votes in online restaurant tournaments) wants value.

The closest match was Sorellina vs. Sportello, both Italian. Sportello took it by 5 votes.

Sel de la Terre's Louis DiBiccari and Coppa's Jamie Bissonnette have been trash talkin' (and giving each other some love) over on Twitter. DiBiccari can now get Bissonnette to eat his hat, or perhaps make some sort of pate out of it. Sel de la Terre beat Coppa by more than 400 votes (out of 2,596). And I was surprised to see East Coast Grill trounce Myers + Chang, with 67 percent of the votes.

Blue Ribbon gave Craigie on Main a run for its money -- Craigie won with 53 percent of the vote. After the near upset of No. 9 Park by Redbones in the first round, it's plain to see Boston loves its barbecue, even though those with BBQ in their blood deride our local offerings.

Voting in Round 3 is on! Things are really heating up.

Rocca's new chef: Tiffani Faison

Posted by Devra First March 24, 2010 06:00 AM
faison1.jpg

Globe Staff File Photo/Bill Greene

Tiffani Faison cooking at Straight Wharf in Nantucket in 2006.


"Top Chef" watchers will recognize Rocca's new executive chef as the runner-up from Season 1. Deserved or not, she got a reputation for being, er, feisty on the cooking competition show. But there's much more to her career. Over the years, Faison has cooked locally at O Ya, Straight Wharf, Craigie Street Bistrot, Perdix, Pigalle, Olives, and others.

She starts at the South End Italian restaurant today. Former chef Tom Fosnot is going to the Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton.

Faison will gradually incorporate her own dishes into the menu. These include the likes of scallop crudo with grapefruit, olive oil bubbles, and chives; gnocchi di mare with charred lobster, uni, and guanciale; and free-form lasagna with house-made ricotta.

Faison's scallop dish takes obvious inspiration from O Ya's diver scallop with Meyer lemon, olive oil bubbles, and sage tempura, but O Ya chef Tim Cushman should understand.

Restaurant Week gets a little more worth it

Posted by Devra First March 23, 2010 07:36 PM
osso.jpg

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Osso buco with fried carrots at Mamma Maria.


This past week, I attempted to answer the question: Is Restaurant Week worth it? I went to several restaurants and sampled their offerings.

At one place, Mamma Maria, I was excited to find great dishes on the menu. Then I realized that the things I could order as part of the Restaurant Week deal were marked with asterisks. The dishes I really wanted, ones for which the restaurant is known -- osso buco, rabbit pappardelle -- were not available unless I ordered a la carte.

Shortly after the story went online, Mamma Maria owner John McGee e-mailed to say: "We are grateful for the exposure and eager to incorporate all your suggestions for improvement.  As of today, the osso buco and rabbit are on!"

That's classy. You have till March 26 to go eat them as part of your Restaurant Week meal.

Munch Madness: Round 1 recap

Posted by Devra First March 20, 2010 03:45 PM
Round 1 of our restaurant tournament is over. Here are the restaurants that will advance to battle it out in Round 2 of Munch Madness:

Knife bracket:
Toro vs. Upstairs on the Square
Neptune Oyster vs. Ten Tables
Hamersley's Bistro vs. Union
Rendezvous vs. No. 9 Park

Fork bracket:
Oleana vs. Regina Pizzeria
Stella vs. Hungry Mother
Il Casale vs. the Franklin Cafe
Lineage vs. L'Espalier

Spoon bracket:
o ya vs. Orinoco
Petit Robert vs. Grill 23
Blue Ginger vs. the Friendly Toast
Sportello vs. Sorellina

Spork bracket:
Craigie on Main vs. Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q
East Coast Grill vs. Myers + Chang
Eastern Standard vs. the Butcher Shop
Sel de la Terre vs. Coppa

The big story of Round 1 was the No. 9 Park vs. Redbones matchup. It was thiscloseItellyou. 3,262 people voted. No. 9 Park won by 2 votes. I had secretly hoped for an upset, just for fun. Good show, Redbones!

Also major: People chose Ming Tsai over Ken Oringer in the Blue Ginger vs. Clio faceoff. Blue Ginger won it by almost 300 votes. People seem to have mixed feelings about both restaurants, but they showed Ming the love in this round. Sorry, Clio.

Barbecue did trump French food when Blue Ribbon won out over Gaslight, by a fairly narrow margin of 52 percent, or 88 votes. In another example of fun triumphing over fancy, Friendly Toast beat Prezza by the same percentage, with 114 more votes.

Franklin Cafe and Rialto also ran a close race, with Franklin eking it out at 1,405 votes to Rialto's 1,378. The acclaimed o ya only beat Ole by 3 percent -- Orinoco could give the haute-Japanese restaurant a real run for its money in the next round.

It was no surprise that No. 1 seed Toro whupped Tamarind Bay, taking 82 percent of the vote. But I thought Tupelo stood a chance against UpStairs on the Square, Lumiere against Union, and Erbaluce against Petit Robert. And I was genuinely surprised to see Stella beat out Highland Kitchen. Had it gone the other way, Highland Kitchen and Hungry Mother would have faced off in Round 2, an apt pairing.

As for the Neptune Oyster vs. Garden at the Cellar matchup, I just hated it. Both, please!  

Munch Madness reminder

Posted by Devra First March 19, 2010 04:15 PM
We're in the midst of our Munch Madness restaurant tournament, and voting for Round 1 ends tonight. Get in there and cast your votes if you haven't already.

Some matches are fairly well decided at this point. But others are very much up in the air. As I write this, for example, No. 9 Park and Redbones are only four votes apart, with 3,206 votes cast. Rialto and Franklin Cafe are 15 apart. You could be the one who determines which restaurant goes on to Round 2.

parkgnocchi.jpg or? redbones1.jpg


Today is the day: El Pelon opens

Posted by Devra First March 19, 2010 10:55 AM
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Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

El Pelon's famous pescado taco: cornmeal-crusted cod with chili mayo, limed onions, pickled cabbage, and cucumbers.


Destroyed by a fire in January 2009, the beloved Fenway taqueria returns tonight. El Pelon is at 2197 Comm. Ave. in Brighton. (They're still working on reopening the Fenway branch.) According to its Twitter feed, it was set to open at 5 p.m. This means that you could be eating there right now. What are you still doing at your computer?

guapo.jpg

Bill Greene/Globe Staff

The El Guapo burrito, under construction.


On the menu, you'll find all your old favorites. There are snacks like chips and salsa and tostadas. There are quesadillas and enchiladas. There are chicken, carnitas, and carne asada tortas, Mexican sandwiches that include such toppings as refried beans, limed onions, salsa, and spicy mayo. There are burritos, including the El Guapo -- steak, rice, black beans, plantains, cheese, salsa, lettuce, and crema. And, yes, there are tacos: roasted poblano with beans and cheese, carnitas, carne asada, chicken, grilled steak with cheese and guac ... and oh yeah, did I mention fish? El Pelon's pescado taco has a cult-like following, and those cultists are back in business.

And yes, I did list all the menu items to make you hungry. It worked, didn't it?

Are you going to El Pelon tonight? If you do, take photos and send them in to dfirst [at] globe [dot] com. We'll post a few here. 

Menton open for reservations

Posted by Devra First March 16, 2010 02:06 PM
mcclune.jpg Barbara Lynch's new restaurant is slated to open April 3, but you can book your table starting today on the restaurant's website or by calling 617-737-0099.

The third Fort Point establishment (along with Drink and Sportello) for Lynch, it will focus on seasonal fine dining. The food at Menton -- named for a village in the South of France -- will be part France, part Italy.

Colin Lynch (no relation) is executive chef, and Wyatt Maguire executive sous chef. Kevin Gravito, formerly of No. 9 Park, is the pastry chef. General manager Alec Riveros comes from Clio and Uni Sashimi Bar. Cat Silirie, as ever, is behind the wine.

Menton will offer a four-course prix fixe menu with several choices for $95, and a set seven-course tasting menu for $145. The lounge and dining room will be open daily.

Lynch & Lynch are still finalizing the menu, which is likely to change weekly. "It's very seasonal," says Barbara Lynch. "White asparagus gelee, black bass, lots of fava beans, lobster, cauliflower ..." They will be working closely with an array of farmers. Dessert might be yuzu gelee with peanut praline, dried pistachio crunch, and yogurt sauce.

Lynch says the wine list will feature many Italian and French bottles, with about 20 different Champagnes and lots of half bottles. There won't be a strong emphasis on cocktails, though there is likely to be a citrusy signature drink.

Menton "has a whole different feel" from No. 9 Park, Lynch says. "It's not across from the statehouse; it's a more urban space. The neighborhood sets the stage. Menton feels very modern, sunny, and spacious." In terms of food and atmosphere, "we are going for light light light."

Artwork (above) is by Matt McClune, a painter and former bartender at No. 9 Park and B&G Oysters. Expect a formal dining room, with tablecloths, crystal, and candles and soap from Le Labo that will conjure the scent of pine trees as you drive into the South of France.

Lynch says she is taking cues from past dining experiences at the likes of L'Arpege and Alain Ducasse, as well as more modern fine dining in cities such as Madrid. "It's not going to be so over the top," she says, "just sort of nice and elegant. It will be a very formal room where you will want to dress up."

You put your chopsticks in my basmati ...

Posted by Devra First March 12, 2010 01:33 PM
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A new restaurant called Mumbai Chopstix is bringing Indian Chinese food to Newbury Street. Located in the Jewel of Newbury space, the restaurant is slated to open by the end of the month. Mumbai Chopstix is operated by One World Cuisine, the people behind Diva, Mela, Dosa Factory, Mantra, and more. Appetizers will be $5-8, and entrees average $16.

Indian Chinese cuisine combines flavors and cooking techniques from both cultures, a product of Chinese immigration to India. It's hugely popular in India, but until now the only place we've really been able to eat it locally is Grain and Salt in Allston.

Mongolian hot pots will be a specialty at Mumbai Chopstix, where food will be served in woks and eaten with chopsticks. Other dishes include Hakka-style chili chicken, five-spice salt and pepper squid, crispy whole duck, shrimp in Calcutta-Sichuan sauce, steamed vegetable momos with chili sauce, cauliflower dumplings with sweet and sour sauce, and Singapore-style lo mein with barbecue pork and eggs. For dessert, you'll find date pancakes, fried ice cream, and banana toffee. The restaurant will offer sake-based cocktails, wine, beer, and Chinese teas.

Sweet 13

Posted by Devra First March 10, 2010 03:50 PM
boburr.jpgBoloco celebrates its lucky birthday with free food. Mini and small burritos, bowls, wraps, and salads are gratis. The original burrito (Boloco's largest) is $1.

Today until 8 p.m., you can get 'em at Boloco Tufts (340 Boston Ave., Medford), Boloco Newbury (247 Newbury St.), and Boloco Northeastern (359-369 Huntington Ave.).
 
On Friday, the Natick branch will hand them out from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

On Wednesday, March 17, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., head to the Cleveland Circle, Children’s Hospital/Longwood, and Boston Common locations.

You can also give as good as you get. There's a charitable component to the event. Local organizations will be collecting donations today: Bethany Union for Young Women is at the Newbury Street branch, Northeastern University Habitat for Humanity is at Boloco Northeastern, and Tufts Hillel Haiti Emergency Relief Fund is at Tufts. The charity that raises the most money will receive an additional $300 donation from Boloco.

A farewell to Wu Chon House

Posted by Devra First March 1, 2010 07:08 PM
owens.jpgOr: the importance of restaurants.

Today word came that Wu Chon House, an unassuming but long-lived Korean restaurant in Somerville's Union Square, closed over the weekend.

This makes me sad. On a basic level, I liked the food there. It wasn't the best Korean food ever, but it was one of the better local establishments, and I enjoyed a fair number of spicy stews from its kitchen over the years.

But also, it was a place I went often with one of my oldest and dearest friends. Fearless in everything, she was an avid paraglider -- "flying," she called it. In November, she died in an accident while paragliding in California's Owens Valley -- arid, beautiful, known for the thermal columns that take pilots high and far.

I can picture my friend clearly at a table at Wu Chon, completely happy as she chewed a giant mouthful of raw oysters wrapped in cabbage with pork belly and spicy radishes. She had a legendary appetite -- for life, and for Korean food. She didn't get much of the latter in Vermont, where she lived. And she was gluten-intolerant, so it was one of the few cuisines that, with a little care, she could eat with abandon. It wasn't unusual for us to have Korean food twice in a weekend. 

A restaurant is the food it serves, and it's a joy when it's delicious. But a restaurant is also the place, the time spent there, the people you spent it with. Meals make restaurants great. Memories make them important.

Chez Jacky to open in Brighton

Posted by Devra First February 17, 2010 03:26 PM
Coming soon, to the 1414 Comm. Ave. spot that's been Zocalo, is a new bistro from Petit Robert folks Jacky Robert (left) and Loic LeGarrec. Chez Jacky's main courses will be $14.75. It will be very casual, with food served family-style. There will be an array of craft beers and wines by the glass, and outdoor seating during the warmer months.

bistro.jpgThe Petit Robert Bistros Kenmore and Columbus both opened April 1, so that's what they're shooting for as opening day.

The menu is still being finalized, but for dinner one might see appetizers ($6.75) such as onion soup, charcuterie, and mussels; entrees like tripe Provencal, roasted chicken, and pork roast with lentil stew (currently there's no steak frites, but we'll see how long that lasts); and desserts ($4.50) including profiteroles, iles flottantes, and chocolate pain perdu.

Chez Jacky will also offer lunch -- salade nicoise ($7.95), a croque monsieur ($5.75), spaghetti with two French meatballs (I'm not sure what these are, but the menu states "they are BIG" -- $9.75), and more. Yes, they will offer the burger dog from Petit Robert ($6.50).

In short, it sounds like Petit Robert for the student set. I envision lots of meeting cute, and future stories for the kids about falling in love over a plate of coq au vin.

I also think Loic LeGarrec deserves to have something named after him here -- if not a restaurant, maybe a dish? Quiche Loic?

News: Bergamot, American Craft, Ashmont Grill

Posted by Devra First February 16, 2010 11:26 AM
If all goes according to plan, Mid-March will see the opening of Bergamot, a new restaurant from chef Keith Pooler (Scampo, Harvest) and GM Servio Garcia (Craigie on Main, Casablanca). It will be located in the former EVOO space, 118 Beacon St., Somerville.

toque1.jpgThey promise "progressive American cuisine and a warm neighborhood setting." That means dishes such as sunchoke bisque with lobster, green beans, and olives; herb-marinated poached cod with favas, radishes, greens, and lemon confit vinaigrette; pea green salad with peas, ham, pecorino, pea shoots, and truffle vinaigrette; and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with caramelized spring onions, black trumpet mushrooms, barley, and stinging nettle sauce. Entrees will be $19-$27, appetizers $9-$14.

Bergamot has a full liquor license and will be offering old-school cocktails as well as new creations.

EVOO, of course, is moving to Kendall Square. It will be located in the Watermark Building at 350 Third St., along with a branch of sister pizzeria Za.

Meanwhile, in Brookline, barbecue joint Roadhouse is no more. It's been repurposed as American Craft, from the same owners, the folks behind the Publick House.  It's at 1700 Beacon St. and ought to open Monday.

There will still be plenty of great beer, as well as a menu that features appetizers such as pulled duck hash and hand-cut chive fries, salads and soups, sandwiches such as a steak dip and a Reuben, and entrees including stout-braised short ribs, oven-roasted trout, and grilled tofu steak. You can also build your own burger (beef, turkey, or veggie).

The chef is Corey French, who has cooked at Vintage Lounge, Mill's Tavern in Providence, and more.

Also, over at Ashmont Grill, chef-owner Chris Douglass is cooking again. He'll be making dinner every night. When his South End restaurant Icarus closed, it was the end of an era. Presumably, he is now looking to have some fun. This should be good. On the menu: the likes of Navajo Stew (hominy, beans, chilies, and fry bread), braised lamb over pappardelle with dried cherries and gremolata, macaroni and smoked blue cheese, apricot-chipotle-glazed spare ribs and hush puppies, and cider-glazed pork belly with baked beans, brown bread, and apple slaw. Prices seem to be in the $15-$17 range.

Flour 3

Posted by Devra First February 10, 2010 08:31 PM
flour2.jpg

Globe Staff File Photos/Suzanne Kreiter (above), Pat Greenhouse (left)

flour1.jpg The rumor has been afoot for some time. It's true: A third branch of Joanne Chang's Flour Bakery is opening. No, it's not in Needham. (Where did that rumor come from, anyway?) It's in Cambridge, just outside Central Square. The bakery will share the same building as the new Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, on Mass. Ave. heading toward MIT.

Chang says this Flour will be much like the other two, which are located in the South End and Fort Point. Everything will be baked and cooked in house. The pastry and sandwich menus will be the same, although the daily specials will differ. Chang expects to sign the lease next week, and hopes to open in June.

"The area reminds me so much of pre-2000 South End, plus the energy of businesses at Fort Point," Chang writes in a Twitter message. "Best of both worlds, we hope."

Snow deals

Posted by Devra First February 10, 2010 04:41 PM
snowmen.jpg

Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

It may be snowing (or not), but restaurants still want your business. Some local establishments are trying to lure you off your cozy couch with dining deals. Here are a few:

Craigie on Main will give you a free amuse bouche and Taza chili cardamom hot chocolate with dinner if you mention you saw the offer on Twitter. (Um, you did, right?)

Dorado Tacos & Cemitas is offering $1.99 fish tacos. (OK, this seems to be in effect every Wednesday, but it is snowing.)

Fleming's will send a car to get you and will drive you home after dinner.

If it snows 6 or more inches, Ginger Park will give you a free order of ramen with your purchase.

Maxwells 148 in Natick has an all-you-can-eat pasta deal for $14.95, until 6 p.m.

With 5 or more inches of snow, Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake will serve up free orders of cornbread.

Prezza will give you a free half-order of gnocchi Bolognese with the purchase of a glass of Barolo.

The new Six Burner is offering free entrees when you buy a beverage and an appetizer. This might be your chance to try it.Stanhope Grille has a few special entree and beverage pairings for lower prices. Example: penne with lamb ragu and a glass of cabernet sauvignon for $17.

T.W. Food is pouring free glasses of Gluhwein. Union e-mailed a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert with your entree. Maybe if you told them you forgot to bring it ... ?

Stay warm, dry, and well fed.

Catching up with Catch

Posted by Devra First February 1, 2010 01:54 PM
parsons.jpgCo-owners Chris Parsons and wife Megan at Catch. (Erik Jacobs for The Boston Globe)

Catch chef Chris Parsons heads off to New York on Thursday for orientation for the Bocuse d'Or USA competition. Friday is a prep day, and the contest takes place on Saturday. We'll have a story about his participation in Wednesday's paper, so stay tuned.

It's exciting. But that's not all he's got going on.
 
He's changing the name and concept of Catch. The Winchester seafood restaurant will now be called Parsons Table. It will be a neighborhood restaurant featuring ingredient-driven, amped-up comfort food. Yes, that sounds like a lot of other restaurants. But they're not located in Winchester.

Parsons Table will feature Winchester-baked Mamadou's bread, Island Creek oysters, Shelburne Farms cheddar, Ioka Valley Farm steak, Alyson's Orchard apples, local microbrews, and other regional ingredients. The menu includes the likes of salads, fondue, hand-cut fettuccine with smoked chicken and tomato confit, steak frites, and rainbow trout with haricots verts, potatoes, and pancetta.

Catch won't be going away. Parsons intends to relocate in Boston or Cambridge. Those plans are pending. The Winchester location will continue to operate through Valentine's Day weekend. During that time, Parsons will be bringing back favorite dishes from Catch's six-year run: salt-roasted Wellfleet clams with chorizo breadcrumbs, oregano mojo, and roasted lemon; Gloucester scallops with roasted pineapple, soy beans, celery root, and braised short-rib ravioli; and more.
 
He hopes to have Parsons Table open by the end of the month. Renovations begin Feb. 15. The new space will feature tabletops of reclaimed wood and barn-wood siding.

Upcoming restaurants for the Fenway, Back Bay

Posted by Devra First January 27, 2010 05:12 PM
In February, the Fenway Cantina is opening at 1260 Boylston St., behind the ballpark. The tagline is: "Ice cold beer and food." Simple. To the point. Bring it.

It's run by the folks behind Blue on Highland in Needham and 88 Wharf in Milton; the chef is Blue's Peter Tartsinis. The food is inspired by Mexico -- the likes of corn and poblano tamales with salsa verde, enchiladas, and chicken mole, with a few cheeseburgers and mac 'n' cheeses thrown in for good measure. There will be about 20 beers on tap and 50 in bottles.

It fills the niche La Verdad already occupies comfortably, but with a little more Tex in its Mex. The place will served dinner till 1 a.m. daily, which is always nice. And I do love the word "cantina." It makes me hungry. And it makes me think of "Star Wars."

cantina.jpg Across from Back Bay station, Firefly has morphed into Six Burner, serving "Inspired Comfort Food (just like your mom's cooking, just a little more amped up)." We haven't seen that before. Oh, wait, we have. But that doesn't mean it's not a good idea for the former Firefly, which never seemed to draw the crowd it should in that location.

On the menu: chicken pot pie spring rolls (this was bound to happen sooner or later), meatloaf with stout gravy, Kobe beef hot dogs, tuna melts, and so on. There's brunch, too, on weekends. Also: Wednesday Wii tournaments, Thursday trivia nights, and monthly beer dinners. Fun for the after-work crowd. Possibly even fun enough to miss the commuter rail for.

Stella helps Haiti

Posted by Devra First January 26, 2010 05:19 PM
Head on over to Stella after work. There, chef Evan Deluty and guest chefs Dante de Magistris, Anthony Caturano, and Michael Schlow are joining forces to raise money for Yele Haiti. All of the proceeds will go to the organization. There will be an open bar, passed hors d'oeuvres, and live jazz. 6:30-10:30 p.m. $100 per person. Call 617-497-4200.

Remember Stoddard's?

Posted by Devra First January 25, 2010 06:05 PM
This Stoddard's? It's pushed back its opening oh, about 3,698,732 times now.

Here's the latest scoop: There's an invitee-only opening party on Jan. 27.

And the public will at long last be able to get its shoes shined and to drink of ye olde historic cocktails before said cocktails go back out of fashion. But not until mid-February. Theoretically, Feb. 16, with a soft opening and limited menu the week of Feb. 8.

See you there?

Restaurant rumor mongering

Posted by Devra First January 25, 2010 05:34 PM
Time to play "guess what restaurant might come to this space."

85centre1.JPGDoesn't it look lovely?

OK, I'll make it a little easier. That photo is from 2002. It actually looks more like this now:
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Globe Staff File Photo/Pat Greenhouse

I do stress "might," because the idea of a place serving alcohol daily till 2 a.m. won't necessarily be embraced in this fairly residential Roxbury location.

It's somewhat off the beaten restaurant path, something the potential manager has a bit of a history with.

And it apparently has rather fabulous patio space: There's an attached greenhouse seating area for 50 people, plus an outdoor patio for 25.

That could be a game changer for this neighborhood.

Perhaps we'll know more after a licensing board hearing this week. In the meantime, mull it over. Who/what do you imagine in this space?

P.S. Yup, it's Darryl Settles. Here's more from the Herald.

The switcheroo

Posted by Devra First January 20, 2010 05:39 PM
Last night, I took the night off from eating in restaurants for work. Usually when I do this, I'm pretty excited to go home and cook something simple and light. My other default option is to eat a humble bowl of noodles (preferably spicy) quietly, by myself. I love people and all, but sometimes it's nice to just sit and eat and not make chitchat. That's what I was after yesterday. Most of the other people in the restaurant were in parties of two or four, but one other person seemed to share my belief that sometimes there's nothing better than a solo bowl of soup and noodles. I think we might have saluted each other, but for the fact that we were both obviously completely uninterested in interacting with anyone else.

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Globe Staff File Photo / Barry Chin

We ordered around the same time, and received our orders simultaneously, spoons resting in the bowls. What was in my bowl looked great, but it was definitely not what I'd ordered. I was betting her bowl was my bowl and my bowl was her bowl, and I wanted my bowl, and I bet she wanted her bowl, and -- waiter!

"Um, yeah, this isn't mine. Did you maybe switch the orders?" I looked over at my not-friend, and the look on her face said yes, yes he did switch the orders.

The waiter was perfectly pleasant about it. He took my untouched bowl and delivered it to the other woman. Then he took her bowl and gave it to me. Her spoon was facing the opposite direction of the spoon that had been placed in my bowl: eating side up rather than down, facing the side of the bowl.

The horror! "Did she eat it?" I asked him. "No, no, she didn't eat it," he said.

I wasn't sure I believed him. But I didn't want to waste food, and I didn't want to wait for another bowl. So I ate it.

On the way out I asked her if she'd tasted the noodles. She said no. I was glad.

What do you think? Should they have made us fresh dishes, or is it acceptable to pull the old switcheroo when food gets misdelivered to another customer? Would you have eaten it?

A critic has a meal to rave about

Posted by Sheryl Julian January 19, 2010 06:55 PM
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Alan Richman of GQ went to Brooklyn Kitchen, in Brooklyn, of course, and blogged about it here. The restaurant is owned by Mexican-born Cesar Ramirez. He worked at David Bouley's Bar Blanc.

Richman writes about course after course of appetizers, then many more middle courses, plus desserts. He describes the spot as BYO (cost is $95). He says that you call, leave your name, and then get a call weeks later to say you have a seat. Those seats, by the way, are stools at a large stainless steel kitchen table.

The dinner is actually a cooking class, according to the web site. The space is adjacent to a market called Brooklyn Fare.

The GQ restaurant critic thinks that Ramirez may rival NY restaurateur David Chang for inventiveness -- and coveted seats.

More info on Lincoln's AKA Bistro

Posted by Devra First January 7, 2010 03:34 PM
Back in September, we told you about AKA Bistro, coming to Lincoln in the spring. It's from Uni Sashimi Bar chef Chris Chung and Clio GM Christian Touche.

Now there's a slightly more definite opening date: mid-March. AKA will ride the Provencal wave Bistro du Midi and the forthcoming Menton set in motion. The restaurant will offer Chung's innovative sashimi as well as traditional Provencal fare. This won't be fusion food -- the Japanese stuff and the French stuff will coexist happily side by side.
 
Chung will be executive chef, focusing on the sashimi preparations he's known for at Uni. No word on who the French chef will be yet, but he or she will use recipes handed down from Touche’s great-grandmother.
 
With all of its farms, the Lincoln area is a great place for local-minded chefs to open a restaurant. AKA Bistro will work closely with farmers and use their herbs and vegetables when possible.

The space, designed by Lincoln architect Martin Dermady, is described as "rustic and casual, comfortable for a family dinner, date night, or business gathering."

What I want to know is: Who is the pastry chef? I've never had better French pastry than in Japan. I'd love to see the dessert menu echo the Japanese/French split. Kakigori and Viennoiserie, onegaishimasu/s'il vous plait.

A memorable meal

Posted by Sheryl Julian December 14, 2009 03:37 PM
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I spent the weekend in Brooklyn. Yes, two days in Brooklyn, not going into the city, just walking miles of Park Slope and Fort Greene. (At the Fort Greene farmers' market, I saw an organic chicken for $25!) One night, I dined at Rose Water (above), one of the nicest restaurants I've ever been to.

I'm trying to put my finger on what makes a place like this -- an unadorned dining room where the greeting is genuine and the service terrific -- so memorable. When you walk in, and hang your coat on a hook near the door, you can see the kitchen beside the foyer. It's tiny. So tiny, you think there must be another kitchen in the basement, but there isn't.

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And out of that little place come plump sardines stuffed with brandade, melting braised leeks and fennel with a Kalamata vinaigrette, scallops on a parsnip gratin, beautiful roast pheasant with kale, double pork chops on shell beans, braised short ribs on spaetzle, and a chocolate creme brulee with a crackly caramelized top. 

What makes Rose Water so different than many restaurants is pretty perfect food (no one is trying to reinvent cooking here, nor attempting to show you everything they know on one plate) and a staff that really takes care of you. If I lived there, I'd become a regular.

Barbara Lynch's new restaurant: Menton

Posted by Devra First December 10, 2009 05:55 PM
Doesn't rhyme with "Trenton," people. Say it like you're French: "Mehn-TOHN." It's named after a village in the French Riviera, on the border of France and Italy -- kind of like Lynch's cooking.

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The restaurant is currently scheduled for a February opening, with Lynch and executive chef Colin Lynch (no relation) in the kitchen. Though it shares a Fort Point location with Lynch's Drink, it will have its own cocktail bar. The food will be highly seasonal, with a Provencal/Mediterranean cast. On the menu: plenty of seafood and vegetables, with dishes such as sole with tomato gelee, hazelnut beignets, and confit piballes (baby eels). And there will be a lot of citrus. Menton is known for its lemons, Lynch says.

The restaurant will only offer set menus, with four-course and seven-course tastings ranging in price from around $85-$145. It will be refined, glamorous, a place to dress up for, Lynch says. "Just think of it as grown up. I'm grown up now. After having kids, you just need to feel great every once in a while. It's not going to be precious, it's just going to be brilliant."

And if people rhyme the name with Trenton, oh well. "I think people have a hard time saying Au Bon Pain," Lynch says.

The re-review

Posted by Devra First November 17, 2009 03:06 PM

I recently re-reviewed No. 9 Park, which the Globe hadn't reviewed since it opened.

I just stumbled on this Chowhound thread, in which No. 9 does not get a lot of love.

A few points in the discussion struck me. But I'll stick to one: the assertion that there was no real reason for me to re-review the restaurant.

I'm curious what you think about this. Personally, I'm a firm believer in re-reviews. When a restaurant opens, the folks operating it know critics will be visiting for the first few months. But after more than a decade without a review, what's to keep a restaurant on its toes? This is precisely when reviewers should be dropping in to assess whether a restaurant that charges a lot of money has any right to still be doing so.

Should reviews exist solely to critique new restaurants or ones that have recently undergone tangible change? To re-review or not to re-review: What do you think?

The waiting game

Posted by Devra First November 17, 2009 02:13 PM

Coppa was supposed to open last night. I did a drive-by. People were in there, but they were messing around with boxes, not serving up charcuterie and pasta (despite this Food & Wine story that puts its opening in the past tense).

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Meanwhile, the long-awaited bar/restaurant Lord Hobo promises to open tomorrow. Will it? You can click here to find out.

Woodward, in the Ames hotel, once had Nov. 18 as its opening date, too. (This just in: The launch party is Nov. 19, and it opens to the public Friday.)

Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale is slated for a Dec. 3 opening.

And Bistro du Midi was aiming to open this month. [Addendum: It's now set to open Nov. 23.]

Anyone want to place a bet as to which will open first?

Beer summit at Stoddard's?

Posted by Devra First November 2, 2009 04:27 PM

When a press release went out announcing the impending opening of Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale, it created a bit of an outcry. It read, in part: "Finally, the gentlemen-only Friday Club at STODDARD’S, on the lower level with a private entry reminiscent of a speakeasy, may quite likely become the city’s most sought-after membership (by invitation only)." Some folks didn't like that gentlemen-only idea much. You know, people like the ACLU and NOW.

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File Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out Stoddard's may never have intended the Friday Club to be men-only. The owners say the press release misrepresented their intentions. To clarify things, they've invited the ACLU and NOW over for a beer summit. Stay tuned to find out whether the offer is accepted.

The Regal Beagle opens Nov. 3

Posted by Devra First October 29, 2009 04:07 PM

And the food sounds more serious than I expected. In a good way. The chef at the new Coolidge Corner spot is Laura Henry-Zoubir, who went to the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at Biba, Hamersley's Bistro, Prezza, Taranta, and the Lanam Club in Andover.

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The Beagle will offer "creative but approachable food that 'makes you feel all warm inside.'" Aww! That description makes me feel all warm inside.

Sample dishes are seared scallops with pistachio brittle crust, butternut squash risotto, and dried cherry glaze; pan-roasted halibut with sherry beurre blanc, braised lentils, and roasted carrots; mac 'n' cheese with buttery Ritz cracker and sea salt crust; and slow-roasted chicken with soft polenta, Swiss chard, and braised mushrooms. (That last sounds fall-night perfect.)

At the bar, all wines will be available by the glass, alongside "inventive" cocktails.

And, yes, there will be brunch.

Change of policy at Stoddard's

Posted by Devra First October 28, 2009 02:24 PM

The original press release read: "Finally, the gentlemen-only Friday Club at STODDARD’S, on the lower level with a private entry reminiscent of a speakeasy, may quite likely become the city’s most sought-after membership (by invitation only)."

Seemed fairly clear. Today this "Important Correction from STODDARDS in Boston" arrives. "MEMBERS ONLY – NOT MALES ONLY.

"In response to inquiries about the membership policy of a subterranean private club below this new downtown gastropub, managing partner William Ashmore today issued a statement that lays to rest any hints of chauvinism or non-inclusiveness:

“Our goal at STODDARD’S FINE FOOD & ALE is to provide an authentic dining and drinking atmosphere that recalls a by-gone era. In the 1800's, the term 'gentlemans club' was used to identify many types of private clubs, smoking lounges and eating establishments. Our research unearthed one in particular -- The University Boston Club (circa 1855) -- that met on Fridays at a Tremont Street location around the corner from STODDARD’S. Its self-stated mission was '… to delight in the art of dining, and to take freely in after-dinner discussion without malice or irritation.'

"In homage to our convivial neighbors of 1855, there will be a members-only component to The Friday Club at STODDARD'S. The club’s founding members are free to choose additional members as they see fit. Naturally, women are free to join, and to visit as guests. All members sign a code of conduct promising to 'maintain an environment of respect and consideration for others'."

So there you have it. The original press release could have flubbed it, or else the original intent could have been to have a men-only club and questions (see here, here, here, and here, for instance) about the desirability/legality of such an enterprise prompted the Stoddard's folks to change their minds.

At any rate, girls are now allowed in the treehouse.

Bon Savor: the back story

Posted by Devra First October 27, 2009 04:27 PM

This week I reviewed Bon Savor, a charming little Jamaica Plain restaurant with a new chef: Marco Suarez, formerly of Eastern Standard.

His presence made Bon Savor worthy of re-review. But there was another reason I wanted to revisit this restaurant (which is also known for its brunch, by the way, something I didn't write about).

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Bon Savor co-owner Ibonne Zabala. (Globe Staff File Photo/Janet Knott)

Shortly after they brought Suarez on this past summer, owners Ibonne Zabala and Oleg Konovalov and their 10-month-old went to Zabala's native Colombia for a visit. They got stuck there due to visa issues. And they have not been able to return home.

The problem is their E-2 visa, according to Zabala. This type of visa allows people from certain countries to live in the US "to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, principally between the United States and the treaty country, or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital," according to the US Department of State.

The problem may lie in the word "substantial." Zabala says they were told they were not producing enough income, and their E-2 visa was revoked. "At the same time, we have been supporting more than 10 jobs in the community and growing in sales, and improving everyday," she wrote in an e-mail (that ended, rather heartbreakingly, with the words "Pray for us").

This is a difficult situation for restaurateurs. "Substantial" profits may mean a very different thing in the restaurant business than in other industries. It's also a difficult situation for parents. Their baby is a US citizen.

Zabala says the community of Jamaica Plain has rallied around them, offering support. Congressman Capuano's office confirms it is working on their behalf. As of Sunday, Zabala sounded positive. "We have passed through difficult times trying to get back home, but we're still thinking it's possible," she wrote. "Our lawyer is trying to solve everything, hopefully to have us at home in the next two weeks."

It's a sad irony that people who are contributing to the fabric of their neighborhood are having such a hard time returning to it.

Jean-Georges's Market coming Oct. 29, City Table open now

Posted by Devra First October 19, 2009 05:20 PM

Jean-Georges Vongerichten came to Boston in the mid-'80s to run the Lafayette kitchen. Since then he's gone on to do one or two other things. Next week, his rapidly expanding Culinary Concepts company opens Market in the new W hotel. The menu is inspired by France, Italy, and Asia, with dishes made from local ingredients. Chef de cuisine Christopher Lee Damskey hails from the Twin Cities, where he worked at Jean-Georges’s Chambers Kitchen, among others.

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Jean-Georges Vongerichten explores the produce at the Government Center farmers' market. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

Meanwhile, Azure at the Lenox is no more. It's been replaced by City Table, though chef Dennis Wilson remains. The menu offers creative twists on American classics, with plates designed for sharing. (This approach seems to be where it's at for Boston restaurants right now.) Yummy-sounding things on the menu include Really Good Lobster Soup (props for not calling it "best ever" or "world famous"); white cheddar fondue with roasted potatoes, apples, brioche, and crispy pork belly; hanger steak tacos; house-made pappardelle with braised short rib; and a Cubano.

OK, poll. Here are the disclaimers at the end of the menu:

Raw Food Thing *These items may contain raw ingredients. Consuming raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness. We Might Change Our Minds Menu items subject to change. You Might Change Your Mind Just ask! Large Parties Of six or more subject to 18% gratuity. Good Food Thing Whenever and wherever possible we use organic, sustainable, or local products. We do this in careful consideration of the environment and our effect on it. Thank you and please enjoy your visit with us.

Funny or cutesy? Did you laugh, roll your eyes, or a little of both?

An opening date for Stoddard's

Posted by Devra First October 16, 2009 05:36 PM

Pushed back several times, the gastropub is now slated to open Nov. 17. Stoddard's Fine Food and Ale is on Temple Place in Downtown Crossing. The menu, developed by Mark Cina of Ivy, is meant to be booze-friendly. Dishes such as house-made charcuterie, oysters, burgers, chicken pot pie, and hanger steak complement an impressive list of beer (140 different brews!) and historic cocktails. Bartenders will mix the drinks with house-made block ice, a la Drink. (And with Sasha Petraske's role in the upcoming W Hotel bar, Boston's cocktail scene just keeps looking better.)

Stoddard's interior is historic, too. The building, which survived the fire of 1872, is decorated with original wooden clapboards and hammered tin, tricked out with a mahogany bar, an old safe, a shoe shine stand, and more.

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Stoddard's circa 1920. The former cutlery shop is now a gastropub. But I hope the staff will still sport awesome mustaches.

Dinner is served Tues-Sun until 1 a.m., and there's a Sunday cask ale brunch for $24.

There's also an invitation-only gentlemen's club on Fridays on the lower level. Girls keep out! No ovaries allowed! Gents: Does this seem appealing, or juvenile? I'm under the impression that men sallying out for beverages on a Friday evening often prefer to have the company of women, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

At any rate, for those who expected the long-awaited Lord Hobo to be the area's next beer bar, think again. It looks like the long-awaited Stoddard's could qualify instead. It's a race to the finish.

More on Bonfire replacement Pairings

Posted by Devra First October 16, 2009 12:04 PM

As promised, a definition of "food and drink with personality."

Apparently, Pairings offers small plates of contemporary American cuisine for sharing, in a relaxed atmosphere. (I'm not really sure why it's called Pairings, exactly -- the name seemed to promise drink pairings, or flavor pairings, or a mad hookup scene. As it's not the first two, perhaps it's the last?)

If that description sounds like half the other restaurants in town right now, the food at least sounds creative. Sample dishes: duck with figs, chestnuts, and arugula; lobster corn dogs; grilled prawns with shishito peppers; and smoked gnocchi with oxtail, oregano, and ricotta. Of course, you'll find the requisite hanger steak and local grass-fed burger, as well. Lunch will focus on soups, salads, and sandwiches. Lobster grilled cheese, anyone?

More restaurant musical chairs

Posted by Devra First October 14, 2009 02:03 PM

With Banq now Ginger Park, and Patricia Yeo in the kitchen, what happened to former Banq chef Ranveer Brar?

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Photo/Richard Schultz

He's become corporate chef for One World Cuisine, the group behind Mantra, Diva, Mela, and more, including the new Dosa Factory inside Shalimar in Central Square. He'll be overseeing recipe development for the properties, among other things.

Also new(ish): a naan bar at Mantra (rings a bell) and a new executive chef, Jerry Pabla.

Bonfire's replacement

Posted by Devra First October 14, 2009 12:12 PM

It will be called Pairings. Tagline: "Food and drink with personality." Chef is Bobby Bean, who remains from Bonfire.

Sounds like the restaurant could be a) dishes paired with drinks, b) dishes with two elements that pair together, c) a speed-dating themed establishment. (Refraining from making Todd English jokes.)

More details on what it actually is to come Friday.

Sage: open or closed?

Posted by Devra First October 8, 2009 03:08 PM

What could be going on with Sage in the South End? First chef Anthony Susi announced he would be opening a new restaurant at an undisclosed location, featuring Italian small plates. [EDIT: Looking back, it appears I remembered wrong and the concept was "rustic trattoria," so perhaps the South End is still safe for big plates.] Then rumors began to swirl that Sage was closing. A staffer mentioned to a diner last week that it would shut down after the weekend. And now, the official statement...

"Sage restaurant is currently undergoing renovations as Chef / Owner Anthony Susi explores new restaurant concepts for the space."

Safe to say: Sage is closed for the time being while Susi rethinks things.

Could the Italian small plates restaurant be coming to the current Sage space? Or, at least, was that the plan until Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette's Coppa was announced? And, with Myers + Chang and the new Ginger Park in the old Banq space, will the South End soon be a small-plates-only zone? Stay tuned.

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Anthony Susi: eminently feedable. Found in our archives, Dante de Magistris (left, photo by Aram Boghosian for the Boston Globe) and Barbara Lynch and Ana Sortun feed Susi.

A larger question here is: How does relocation affect restaurants?

Sage seemed to do very well in its North End space, while perhaps it never really found its footing in the South End. (Which is too bad: It was my favorite Italian food in that neighborhood.)

Others -- say, Pho Republique, a few doors down from Sage and a relocation from Cambridge -- do just fine.

We'll have to see how the Bombay Club, moving from Harvard Square to the current Pho Republique space, fares. But it just goes to show what a delicate equation it is matching restaurant concepts with locations.

Like a baby Clio

Posted by Devra First September 25, 2009 11:19 AM

According to the Lincoln Journal, by way of Grub Street Boston, a French bistro-sashimi bar hybrid called AKA Bistro will open in Lincoln this spring. It's from Uni Sashimi Bar chef Chris Chung and Clio GM Christian Touche.

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A dish at Uni. (Globe Staff Photo/Essdras M Suarez)

Touche is from France, and the restaurant will feature some of his grandmother's recipes, according to the Lincoln Journal. Though Clio features riffs on French food and Uni features sashimi, Chung and Touche say AKA will be much more casual than current employer Ken Oringer's pair of restaurants, at a lower price point.

Poppa B's: moving, not gone

Posted by Devra First September 16, 2009 11:31 AM

Take a break to let your arteries clear. Soul food restaurant Poppa B's, which looked as though it might be closed, is simply in the process of relocating.

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Poppa B's fried chicken and ribs. (Globe Staff File Photos/Wendy Maeda, left; Joanne Rathe, right.)

The new spot will be on Washington Street near Codman Square, reports owner Boyce Slayman. It's a smaller restaurant, and it will now be takeout and catering only. The original Poppa B's was a great gathering spot, and that will be missed. But at least we'll still be able to get our fried chicken fix. The new restaurant should be open in early to mid-November after renovations.

Momofuku-esque

Posted by Devra First September 14, 2009 04:03 PM

Look for a new restaurant to open in Inman Square toward the end of the year. Currently called East by Northeast, the project is coming to the space that used to be Benatti. Chef Phillip Tang, who has cooked at Lumiere, T.W. Food, and Hungry Mother, hopes to be in business come early December.

The food will be local, sustainable, Chinese-inspired cuisine, according to Tang: small dishes, dumplings, all manner of porky items (Tang will be getting whole pigs from Vermont), and -- la! I think I just heard the angels sing -- house-made noodles. (I continue to mourn Benatti's excellent house-made noodles of the Italian variety, but a good Chinese-style bowl would help ease the pain.)

Possible dishes include pickled vegetables, soy-marinated bluefish with carrot salad, scallion pancake sandwich with braised beef shank and radish, and roasted pork loin with garlic-chive pesto. Noodles will come in vegetarian and meat versions: say, seasonal vegetables, vegetable broth, and poached egg for the former, a summer dish of cold noodles with cucumbers, house-made bacon, scallion, and sesame dressing for the latter. 

This should appeal to anyone smitten with New York's Momofukus. Though it sounds different in many ways, it's probably the closest that Boston has come to David Chang's culinary stylings.

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Maybe a little like this? Left: Momofuku Ko's short ribs and pickled mustard seeds (Rebecca McAlpin for The New York Times). Right: David Chang does noodles (Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times).

Post 390: a preview

Posted by Devra First September 9, 2009 12:52 PM

Post 390, a restaurant from Himmel Hospitality Group, is set to open in early October in the Clarendon building (corner of Clarendon and Stuart). The space will be quite big, with two floors, three fireplaces, and more than 300 seats. "It will be very high energy, very high volume," says Kenneth Himmel, founder of the restaurant group. "It's a restaurant really geared for people who want to think young." You'll be able to eat for $35 or for $85, depending on what you're in the mood for, he says. He adds that wine will be a good value, particularly at the higher end.

In the kitchen, you'll find chef Eric Brennan, formerly of Harvest and Excelsior. The restaurant's concept is "urban tavern." What does this mean? "It definitely has the comfort of a tavern, but it's a lot sleeker, more modern," Brennan says.

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Eric Brennan will be cooking at the new Post 390. (Globe Staff File Photo/Wendy Maeda)

The food sounds more tasty than groundbreaking. Just about everything will be made in house, including the root beer that will go into the barbecue sauce and floats. Tentative menu items include Peking duck potstickers, grilled flatbreads, a fried haddock po'boy, a carved roast beef sandwich, a Kobe beef hot dog, turkey pot pie, ribs, grilled liver, beer and bacon macaroni and cheese (all the major food groups in one dish!), a lobster clambake, meatloaf stuffed with ham and fontina (a tweak on Brennan's mother's recipe), and for dessert, house-made pies, an ice cream sundae, and chocolate cake. (You'll be able to get a whole slice, or just a sliver, an option I've long dreamed of at restaurants.) There will be daily specials such as pot roast, fried chicken, and leg of lamb.

Brennan says his aim is not to surprise people, but to turn out very good versions of standard dishes, using high-quality ingredients. "It's food people that like to eat," he says.

Banq becomes Ginger Park

Posted by Devra First September 8, 2009 06:15 PM

Banq, the South End restaurant outfitted with ribs of blond wood and a menu influenced by India and Asia, is morphing. It is slated to reopen as Ginger Park at the end of the month. The new chef will be Patricia Yeo, who moved to Boston from New York for the project. Yeo was previously at Monkey Bar, Sapa, Pazo, and AZ, among others.

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Patricia Yeo will be chef at Ginger Park. (Associated Press)

The food will be "modern Asian," according to Chris Haynes of PR firm CBH Communications. Prices will top out around the $20 mark, and the owners aim to make it a lively, casual, and affordable neighborhood place. The menu is still in the works, but there will be shared plates and a strong Chinese influence. Ginger Park won't serve sushi, and sadly it will not be the noodle bar Boston still lacks.

It does sound familiar, though. Myers + Chang -- lively and casual, with plates for sharing and a strong Chinese influence -- is at 1145 Washington St. Ginger Park is at 1375. Haynes insists the two will not compete. "The busier the neighborhood, the better for everybody," he says.

Where will visiting pols dine?

Posted by Devra First August 28, 2009 05:32 PM

Word is trickling in on where politicians, friends, and relatives will -- or might -- eat while in town to bid farewell to Senator Ted Kennedy.

Secret Service was spotted at Boston Harbor Hotel's Rowes Wharf Sea Grille. They're also stationed all around the property.

Sources expect some of the incoming senators to eat at L’Espalier or Sel de la Terre.

Joe Biden reportedly loves Prezza.

Legal Sea Foods is said to be a likely stop for pols in general.

A large party of Kennedys visited the Union Oyster House this afternoon.

President Obama may be considering restaurants in the South End.

Which South End spot do you think he would/should choose?

If you notice anyone eating around town, let us know.

First visit to Sonic

Posted by Devra First August 27, 2009 05:09 PM
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New England's first Sonic: It's open, in Peabody. Now all those ads will make sense.

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It was the grand opening yesterday, and people wanted in. There were long lines. Loooong lines. All day, lines of cars idled. The environment whimpered. Route 1 commuters cried; the traffic on approach was execrable.

Questions about human nature: Why are people willing to spend hours of their lives waiting to be the first people to eat at a fast food chain? And why will people idling in a queue of cars always -- always -- pull up to block an intersection even though this gets them no closer to their end goal?

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Just when it seemed nothing would ever happen and our quest was futile, like an angel she soared into sight: an angel on skates!

She handed out menus. This helped with our impatience, but looking at them made us hungrier. Sonic is right next to a Wendy's. My companion finally gave in and ran over to get a pre-fast food snack of chicken nuggets. What I learned on my trip to Sonic: Wendy's chicken nuggets are pretty tasty!

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Watching other people wait...

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Finally in. Ain't that America. Eating fast food in our cars, parked in a line. This is Sonic's shtick. This and staff on roller skates. (Or roller blades.) You park, push a button, and place your order as you would at the window of a drive-through.

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The kids on skates are pretty adorable. And that orange Mustang very covetable. What decade are we in?

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A more contemporary view.

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The condiment guy.

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Where did all these kids learn to skate? They're really good at it.

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Sonic on the inside: employees only. (Yes, there's a bathroom, off to the side.)

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De rigueur footwear.

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Every order comes with mints.

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Jalapeno cheeseburger, vanilla Dr. Pepper, vanilla shake. Plain vanilla isn't plain when it's in your Dr. Pepper. At Sonic, you can add all kinds of flavorings to your soda. Plain vanilla is plain, however, when it's in a shake: Other options include pineapple, banana, peanut butter, and malts. But the heart wants what it wants.

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Sonic tots. We got them unadorned, but you can add cheese or chili and cheese. Greasy!

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The reason we went toppingless on the tots: Sonic's Frito chili cheese pie.

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This could have been awesome, but texturally and temperature-wise, it seemed as though it had been nuked too long, then left to get cold.

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A bacon cheeseburger on Texas toast! Sounds like a good idea. Looks so much better on the menu than in real life.

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Note how thin the patty is.

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Was this dry, tan sphere ever a cow? Poor cow.

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Ahh, vanilla Dr. Pepper. As promised by every Sonic veteran I asked, the drive-in's best offering is its ice: tiny little chunks perfect for crunching.

Total caloric impact of meal: youdon'twannaknow. (See here.) What is the culpability of fast food emporia when it comes to the obesity epidemic? It can be hard not to wince watching the crowds gobble. It can be hard not to wince watching yourself. Text from companion many hours later: "I still have no interest in touching food." Likewise. I ate watermelon for dinner.

Conclusion: If I were near a Sonic, I might get a drink or a shake. I might take kids for the fun of eating in (or on) the car and being served by people on roller skates. But it's not worth a special trip, never mind a 3 1/2 hour expedition. Now, when New England gets its first In-N-Out Burger, that will be a different story.

It's official: Zon's is closed

Posted by Devra First August 26, 2009 12:28 PM

JP's loss is Malden's gain.

According to chef Clifton Clark, "between some unforeseen financial discrepancies and a greedy landlord, it had to be done."

The good news: He's been made executive chef at Exchange Street Bistro in Malden. His late summer/fall menu will be up around mid-September, after he settles in.

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Zon's edamame macaroni and cheese and lamb burger. (File Photos/Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe, left; John Bohn, Globe Staff, right)

It's sad for JP, which has some bright spots on its dining scene but isn't the restaurant mecca it seems it should be. It could be great for Malden, though -- particularly if Clark brings along his burgers and mac 'n' cheese.

On the upside for JP, chef Marco Suarez is in at Bon Savor. I liked the food there before, but it will be interesting to see what the former Eastern Standard chef does. For one thing, he's instituting a raw bar, which JP lacked. Also on the menu: the likes of empanadas, ceviche, steak with chimichurri, and veggie crepes.

You've seen the commercials ...

Posted by Devra First August 25, 2009 03:15 PM

Now you can actually eat at Sonic. Tomorrow is the grand opening of the drive-in in Peabody, with Sonic starting regular hours (until 2 a.m.) on Thursday, Aug. 27. It's the first branch in New England.

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What to have? An extra-long chili cheese Coney? Tots? Ocean Water (blue coconut syrup in Sprite -- sounds terrible)? Some crazy-flavor slush? Sonic claims to have more than 168,000 drink combinations, but this blog entry says the number is actually much greater.

I've never been. What are your favorite things to order?

After the Bonfire...

Posted by Devra First August 24, 2009 04:09 PM

What's in store for the restaurant formerly known as Todd English's steakhouse? Good question.

When it closes its doors Aug. 31, English's name will no longer be linked with it. Not only that, it won't open its doors again Sept. 1 with a new identity. It will apparently be closed for the month for renovations, reopening Oct. 1. No word yet on what it will be called or what kind of food it will serve.

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Todd English at Bonfire. (Globe Staff File Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Perhaps it's for the best. "Todd English’s Bonfire may be the worst expensive restaurant I’ve reviewed in more than 25 years," wrote the Phoenix's Robert Nadeau in his 2002 review.

Let's hope the folks in charge are simply carefully guarding their concept. Restaurants that spring from a carefully reasoned and deeply felt raison d'etre are often very good. When the raison is filling an available property, things don't always go as well.

Dorado Tacos opens, El Pelon to rise again

Posted by Devra First July 28, 2009 03:26 PM

One of the best things at JP's now-closed Cafe D was the fish tacos. So when chef Douglas Organ announced he would be opening Dorado Tacos & Cemitas, with fish tacos a cornerstone of the menu, people's excitement was understandable.

The time has come: Dorado opens tomorrow, July 29, at 11 a.m.

Though there are many taco/burrito places around -- particularly in Brookline, where Dorado is located -- fish tacos are under-represented. At Dorado, there will be four versions, plus non-fish tacos, rotisserie chicken, and cemitas, or Mexican sandwiches.

In other taco/burrito news, the Brookline Tab reports El Pelon Taqueria (home of another great fish taco) has filled for permits to open a new location in Washington Square, and Grub Street Boston says El Pelon's Fenway location will reopen in approximately a year.

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El Pelon's fish tacos: returning soon(ish). (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)

Toasting Julia (and Madonna?)

Posted by Devra First July 23, 2009 04:07 PM

On Julia Child's birthday, Aug. 15, the Aquitaine Group is offering guests a free glass of Champagne in her honor. It's also Restaurant Week, which means three courses and bubbly for $33.09 at Aquitaine, Metropolis Cafe, Union Bar and Grille, or Gaslight.

Madonna's birthday is the next night, but the Aquitaine folks aren't doing squat to honor her. You'll have to make Julia's glass count for both.

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AP File Photo/Nancy Palmieri

Red, white, and Port

Posted by Devra First June 30, 2009 01:20 PM

In the July 4 spirit, T.W. Food's wine series salutes the good old US of A tonight. $49 gets you the likes of local fish soup, Vermont veal and beef meatloaf, and local strawberry shortcake, plus the following American wines:

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Chardonnay, Sharpe Hill, 2007, Pomfret, Connecticut
Cabernet Sauvignon, Kamiak, 2005, Columbia Valley, Washington
Petite Syrah, Fleur de California, 2006, North Coast, California
Port, Sakonnet Winery, Little Compton, Rhode Island

Anyone tried the chardonnay or the Port? I'm curious what they're like.

Free burrito alert!

Posted by Devra First June 23, 2009 11:46 AM

Tomorrow, June 24, the Natick branch of Boloco celebrates its second anniversary by giving away burritos from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

The Boys & Girls Club will be there taking donations, so you can give back while getting full.

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New chef at Grafton Street

Posted by Devra First June 22, 2009 12:32 PM

Formerly of now-shuttered Z Square, Scott Robertson is moving over to Grafton Street.

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He's also worked at the Franklin Cafe, the Linwood, Publick House, the Fireplace, and more.

At Grafton Street, his offerings will include raw bar platters, country pork terrine with fig jam, hanger steak frites with roasted shallots and Great Hill blue cheese butter, and a toasted chickpea burger with yogurt and cucumber sauce.

Tory Row: the rebuttal

Posted by Devra First June 18, 2009 01:42 AM

This week I reviewed Tory Row, the new place in Harvard Square from Matthew Curtis and Chris Lutes. They're the pair behind Audubon Circle, Cambridge 1, Middlesex Lounge, and Miracle of Science, all places I like fairly well, some quite a lot. But I didn't much like Tory Row.

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Tory Row's raclette. (Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda)

When writing less-than-kindly about a new business, something I take no joy in, the least I can do is offer a forum for rebuttal. Here's the e-mail I received from their publicist, Elizabeth Lascaze of marlo marketing/communications:

"Saw your review of Tory Row in today's paper. We were disappointed to hear about your lackluster experiences but as the owners continue to fine-tune their newest project, we hope you'll consider another visit in the future once it's more established.

"I also wanted to take an opportunity to respond to some of the questions outlined in the review - really more of an fyi. Hope it helps.

"Raison d'etre - Tory Row is meant to serve as a continuous (breakfast, lunch, dinner) community meeting place at one of the most interesting intersections in the county - particularly as people watching goes. The concept behind the entire storefront being glass is for everything to be as transparent as possible, creating an open dialogue between the restaurant's dining room and the vibe of Harvard Square.

"Menu - the menu's theme is Pan-Atlantic. The owners chose to showcase simple American and European dishes, i.e. the Austrian raclette, Spanish black bean soup, etc. All of their seafood (lobster, cod, clams) is locally sourced and brought in fresh daily.

"Dessert - Chris and Matthew keep desserts minimal as they feel there are a lot of great dessert options in the Square (Finale, Upstairs on the Square and L.A. Burdick) and they want to encourage exploration of the neighborhood.

"Hummus - Would like to clarify that the hummus is house-made."

We all scream

Posted by Devra First June 16, 2009 01:15 PM

Particularly when the ice cream comes in exciting flavors.

Da Vinci is incorporating savory gelati and sorbetti in some of its antipasti and entrees. Examples: beef carpaccio with celery sorbetto and shaved Parmesan, or creamy gorgonzola gelato served on a poached pear. Other flavors include arugula and basil. (I've always wanted to make horseradish ice cream to serve with thin slices of rare roast beef. Someday.)

Starting June 21, Asana and M Bar & Lounge introduce their Summer Ice Cream Delight. Ice cream flavors include lavender honey, green tea, toasted almond, and tiramisu. Sorbet flavors include mandarin orange, kiwi, rhubarb strawberry, banana mango, and green apple. Toppings include candied citrus peel, praline almonds, crunchy meringue, butter crunch toffee, and dark chocolate shavings, plus raspberry, hot fudge, and orange passion fruit sauces.

Who makes your favorite ice cream flavor, and what is it?

Regina: a great place to watch the game

Posted by Devra First June 11, 2009 12:21 PM

Go Sox!

Serving 24/7

Posted by Devra First June 10, 2009 06:00 PM

The South Street Diner doesn't just stay up late anymore. It never sleeps. The wee-hours fixture is now serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond.

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Time to see the diner in a different light? (File Photo/Erik Jacobs for The Boston Globe)

Has anyone been there for lunch? My late-night visits are a blur, but it's hard to imagine eating there at any other time.

Fun book for the right bride

Posted by Sheryl Julian June 9, 2009 06:04 PM
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Skip the spinach dip (fat-free sour cream, Knorr's soup mix, frozen spinach, and mayo) and the broccoli souffle (frozen veg, mayo, and mushroom soup).

The book is divided into holidays, with traditions, oddments, and what look like some decent recipes, including apple-raisin noodle kugel, sour cream coffee cake, and challah French toast casserole. The casserole. which sits in the fridge overnight, has a crumb topping added just before baking. (The pub date on the book is August.)

Challah French toast casserole
Serves 8

BREAD
Butter (for the dish)
1 loaf challah, sliced
7 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspooon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
2. Add the bread to the dish in overlapping layers.
3. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

TOPPING
1/2 cup flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1. Let the casserole sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Set the oven at 375 degrees.
3. In a bowl with a fork, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Work until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture on the casserole.
4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the custard is set and the mixture is browned. Adapted from "Jewish Cooking Boot Camp"

Dorado Tacos and Cemitas update

Posted by Devra First June 8, 2009 11:31 AM

Word comes from chef Doug Organ (Cafe D, Arbor) that the restaurant is almost finished. Everything is painted and the equipment has arrived. They hope to open before the end of June.

Pictures of the work in progress here. More info on Dorado here.

Hopefully it will last longer than the sadly short-lived T-Rex Taqueria a mile down the road. (I never even got a chance to try it.) That's being replaced by another Olecito. Are tacos becoming the new sushi in Brookline?

Kowloon's lobster fest

Posted by Devra First June 8, 2009 10:30 AM

Lobster and tiki drinks go together like, um, well -- why not, right? Kowloon in Saugus is currently having a lobster fest, with twin lobsters for $25.95. You can choose from among 12 different preparations.

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Lobster fest! (Photo from the Kowloon website)

They are:

Boiled
Steamed in ginger and garlic
Sweet chili
Chinese style
Shanghai stir-fry
Spicy tomato sauce
Spicy garlic sauce
Sichuan style
Sesame garlic
Black bean sauce
Thai style
"Eddie Andelman style," with black bean sauce, onions, and pea pods

If you're wondering what "Chinese style" is, as opposed to all the other seemingly Chinese-style preparations on the list, you're thinking too hard. Perhaps you need a Mai Tai.

Ken Oringer's new restaurant

Posted by Devra First June 5, 2009 05:17 PM

Chef Ken Oringer is taking over the former Dish space on Shawmut in the South End.

The new restaurant, which he hopes to open in August with partner Jamie Bissonnette, will be called Coppa.

It will be a neighborhood enoteca, or wine bar, with house-made charcuterie, bar snacks, Italian small plates, wood-oven pizza, and homemade pasta.

The place will be sustainable and market-driven, with ingredients coming from local farmers as much as possible -- "everything from the pigs to the chickens to the eggs in the pasta," Oringer says.

Coppa has a beer and wine license; Courtney Bissonnette, who will be managing the front of the house, is putting together a reasonably priced and eclectic Italian wine list, and artisanal Italian beers will be on offer. There will also be creative cocktails, minus the hard stuff.

Bar snacks will be about $5, with small plates $11-$12 and pizza $12. Jamie Bissonnette will be overseeing Coppa, running back and forth between the new place and Toro, Oringer's tapas bar a few blocks away.

"It's tiny," says Oringer. "It's very intimate -- 40 seats, with 24 seats outside. It's basically a neighborhood enoteca. It's very simple."

A sad day for gnocchi

Posted by Devra First June 3, 2009 06:55 PM

Chef Brian Konefal, the talent behind the amazing gnocchi, carbonara, and other fine dishes at Bina Osteria, has left the kitchen. The restaurant is lowering its price point and he is moving on. Co-owner Azita Bina-Seibel is now executive chef.

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Brian Konefal's quail in hay at Bina Osteria. (Globe Staff Photo/Wendy Maeda)

It's too bad, because Konefal's dishes were really great. Bina-Seibel, of course, is no slouch! I look forward to eating her food. But it's also too bad that Boston couldn't support Bina in its original incarnation. It was expensive, but not that expensive -- many other restaurants charge equal prices for lesser food. It's been clear that they were struggling. The dining room was often emptier than it should be, and e-mails with enticing special offers arrived regularly. Hopefully the lower price point will help Bina weather the economy.

In the meantime, a moment of silence for those gnocchi, please.

Michael Scelfo in at Temple Bar

Posted by Devra First May 15, 2009 03:10 PM

Chef Tom Berry left Temple Bar to cook at Nantucket's Great Harbor Yacht Club. (It seems to me that one of the great things about being a Boston chef is the ability to slip over to a Nantucket restaurant when you need a break from the city.)

He'll be missed, but Temple Bar has a great replacement in Michael Scelfo (left), who won lots of fans at North Street Grill. He's also cooked locally at Dedo, Tea Tray in the Sky, and Good Life.

Dishes he's currently planning for the menu include cider-braised pork belly, pan-seared Gulf snapper with roasted baby artichokes and their puree, house-made sausage and roasted fennel pizza (my stomach growled as I typed that), and wild ramp and morel risotto with Hudson Valley foie gras.

They love New York

Posted by Devra First May 5, 2009 09:11 AM

The James Beard Foundation Award judges, that is. Last night they gave every national award to New Yorkers, except for Rising Star Chef, which went to Nate Appleman of A16 in San Francisco. The others were:

Outstanding Restaurateur: Drew Nieporent, Myriad Restaurant Group, New York

Outstanding Chef: Dan Barber, Blue Hill, New York

Outstanding Restaurant: Jean Georges, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Phil Suarez, New York (Fore Street in Portland, Maine, was a fellow nominee)

Outstanding New Restaurant: Momofuku Ko, David Chang and Peter Serpico, New York

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Gina DePalma, Babbo, New York

Outstanding Wine Service: Le Bernardin, Wine Director: Aldo Sohm, New York

Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional: Dale DeGroff, Dale DeGroff Co., New York

Outstanding Service: Daniel, Daniel Boulud, New York

Best Chef: Northeast, one award a New Yorker never had a shot at, went to Rob Evans of Hugo's in Portland, Maine (left, in a photo by Heath Robbins for Yankee Magazine). He beat out Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier of Arrows, Michael Leviton of Lumiere, Tony Maws of Craigie on Main, and Marc Orfaly of Pigalle. Congratulations to Evans and the folks at Hugo's.

And congratulations to Joe Yonan, food editor of the Washington Post, which won the award for newspaper food section. He was previously food writer for the Globe, and we're hugely proud of him.

But will they serve Cuban sandwiches?

Posted by Devra First April 30, 2009 01:28 PM

Chez Henri chef Paul O'Connell opens the Chilmark Tavern on May 22. The 99-seat restaurant on the Vineyard is a BYOB, described in a press release as "a rough cross between Summer Shack and Harvest." That could mean a lot of different things, but it sounds intriguing. The tavern's at 9 State Road in Chilmark; I'll add phone and website when they come in.

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Chez Henri's pressed Cuban sandwich. (Globe Photo Wiqan Ang)

In other opening news, the opening date for Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale is now late June/early July. On Temple Place in Downtown Crossing, this will be an old-school gentleman's bar with beer in casks and a shoeshine stand. ECG's Chris Schlesinger consulted on the menu. I'm assuming chicks can dig it, too.

What will open in the Excelsior space?

Posted by Devra First April 29, 2009 02:54 PM

The Himmel Hospitality Group, which ran Excelsior and continues to operate Grill 23 and Harvest, will join forces with the London-based MARC, Ltd., to create a replacement in the former Excelsior space. MARC stands for Marlon Arbela Restaurant Corporation; these are the folks behind A Voce in New York, Morello Bistro in Connecticut, and Umu and The Greenhouse in London.

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Soon to be serving ... ? (Globe Staff File Photo/John Bohn)

I had a great meal at A Voce a few years back (though they've since switched chefs), and Umu and The Greenhouse look intriguing. Morello might be the example that gives us the best idea what MARC/Himmel will do with the Excelsior space. Gaia, the restaurant that preceded Morello, was formal; its followup is much less so.

"While my heart is still with Gaia, I have to admit that Morello Bistro is probably more in tune with current economic times and is a very likeable replacement," wrote Patricia Brooks in the Times. That seems about what we might expect from Excelsior's replacement.

Note to the folks planning things, however: For inspiration, maybe you ought to look to Umu rather than Morello Bistro. It's a Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant, and one of the most well-received restaurants in Boston in recent times has been o ya. It's hard to feel too excited about another reasonably priced Italian restaurant opening in the city -- there are probably 10 within 3 miles of the Excelsior site (on Boylston, overlooking the Public Garden), not even counting the North End. A place featuring exquisite multicourse Kyoto cuisine? Now that I could get excited about.

I think they could pull it off, too, if the restaurant aimed at people who love food instead of primarily the business set. It could have a cool, urban feel rather than a more restrained, upscale aura, and there could be a less-expensive bar area specializing in artisanal sake and izakaya-style plates. Also, Boston has yet to capitalize on the handmade noodle trend, and we need a serious soba fix. (Granted, none of this has been Himmel's style.)

What kind of restaurant would you like to see open in the Excelsior spot?

Attention Cafe D fans: Dorado Tacos & Cemitas is coming

Posted by Devra First April 24, 2009 10:54 AM

Did you miss Cafe D's fish tacos? You'll be able to get your fix at Dorado Tacos & Cemitas, a new place from chef Douglas Organ, scheduled to open in June. It's currently under construction at 401 Harvard St., Brookline, near Coolidge Corner.

Cemitas are Mexican sandwiches, similar to tortas but with different rolls. Dorado will be serving several versions: mushroom, carne asada, house-made chorizo, and more, topped with black beans, chipotles, avocado, and cheese.

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Cafe D's fish tacos -- mmm. (Globe file photo/Zara Tzanev)

The taco menu includes not one but four -- yes, four! -- fish tacos. Three come with crispy fried pollock: the Dorado (cabbage, pico de gallo, radish, cilantro, spicy chipotle crema, and lime), the Ensenada (cabbage, pico de gallo, pickled onions, crema, and lime), and an Asian-y version with ginger, daikon, and cabbage. There's also a grilled mahi mahi taco with avocado and tomatillo salsa.

There are four other tacos -- mushroom, carne asada, chorizo, and chicken -- as well as rotisserie chickens, salads, and all kinds of tasty sides (including a Toro-esque corn-and-cheese concoction).

For those mourning Cafe D -- or for that matter El Pelon -- perhaps Dorado will help fill the void.

Fuchsia Dunlop's London restaurant

Posted by Devra First April 23, 2009 05:58 PM

If you've ever tried to cook Sichuan food, chances are you've used one of Fuchsia Dunlop's cookbooks. She was the first foreign student enrolled at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, and books like "Land of Plenty" are troves of classic recipes such as dan dan noodles, ma po dou fu, and fish-fragrant eggplants.

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Fuchsia Dunlop (Photo Tang Yuewu)

Now Dunlop has opened a restaurant in London called Ba Shan with partner Shao Wei, who also owns Bar Shu across the street. Richard Vines recently reviewed it for Bloomberg, and it sounds excellent. Vines writes about Shaanxi Flatbread, "like mini buns, neatly served in a triangular paper envelope, filled with tender stewed pork, cumin-spiced beef or pressed bean curd and vegetable slivers"; Xi’an-style pot stickers, where "the casing melts away, the filling hits you and then you find yourself picking up another"; and more. Also, he notes, Ba Shan isn't very expensive -- kind of what you'd expect from the down-to-earth Dunlop.

It's worth reading for the vicarious pleasure, but particularly if you're heading to London any time soon.

Like Kogi, only closer

Posted by Devra First April 17, 2009 04:16 PM

Kogi is an LA food truck with fare that merges the total yumminess of Korean barbecue and Mexican tacos. By now you've probably heard about it -- it's achieved fame for its long lines, rabid fan devotion, and method of spreading the word about its current location: Twitter, of course.

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A Kogi barbecue truck in Venice Beach, Calif. (Stephanie Diani for The New York Times)

And once you've heard about it, how can you not crave, say, a Korean short rib taco, described like so: "This is our signature taco. We get the best trimmings of short ribs we can find, let it swim in our own special marinade, and chop it nice and small so the flavors just dance on your taste buds. Once on the grill, the fat melts away to create that soft and tender texture everyone loves and the sugars just caramelize to give the meat that deep and savory flavor. This is the Kogi crowd favorite. All our tacos are topped with: sesame-chili salsa roja, julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette, cilantro-green onion-lime relish, crushed sesame seeds, sea salt, garnished with lime wedge, orange wedge and red radish wedge." Other options include spicy BBQ chicken, spicy pork, and tofu.

The trouble is, LA is kind of far away to travel for a taco, even a superdelicious Korean taco (though there's a rumor that Kogi's coming to New York).

But Myers + Chang is not, and the South End restaurant is offering a similar creation Sunday through Tuesday. It's inspired by Kogi, says chef-owner Joanne Chang -- though, having never eaten Kogi tacos, she and executive chef Matthew Barros are "doing what tastes good to us."

They'll fill steamed corn tortillas with Asian pear, cabbage, and radish pickle, then top that with short rib braised in soy and ginger, plus a cilantro-lime-scallion-sesame salsa.

Though you don't need to keep tabs on where Myers + Chang is -- it tends to stay put at 1145 Washington St., having no wheels -- you can follow the restaurant's brand new Twitter stream anyway.

Restaurants offer tax relief

Posted by Devra First April 15, 2009 02:48 PM

Today, several restaurants are offering a buffer to the April 15 blues.

At Grafton Street and Temple Bar, all items on the late-night bar menus will be priced at $9.90 and under, after IRS Form 990, filed by nonprofits. ($10.40 might have had more universal resonance, but I'm guessing they were looking to go under $10.) Dishes include calamari and sliders at Grafton Street and five-spice pork riblets and fish tacos at Temple Bar.

McCormick and Schmick's is on the $10.40 thing, however, serving $10.40 entrees and giving out gift certificates for that amount for future use. (No link because the website is currently down.)

P.F. Chang's is offering a 15 percent discount on your bill.

The Daily Grill has themed cocktails and specially priced happy hour bites, ranging from $2.95 to $3.95. These include spinach-artichoke dip and chicken pot pie. You can sip a Taxpayer's Revolt (sambuca, Chambord, and soda water) or an Itemized Deduction (a pomegranate spin on a Long Island iced tea) while you eat.

From 5-8 p.m., Cinnabon is giving out free Tax Day Bites, which appear to be bite-size cinnamon rolls.

Coming to Hynes: Patrick Lyons and Jasper White

Posted by Devra First April 3, 2009 12:34 PM

The two are joining forces for a seafood and steak restaurant inside the convention center. No name yet. It's scheduled to open later this year.

More info here.

Per Se, a la carte

Posted by Devra First April 3, 2009 11:23 AM

Thomas Keller's New York restaurant just instituted an a la carte menu in the lounge, which means a lot more people should be able to eat there. Previously, the only option for dinner at Per Se was a $275 nine-course prix fixe. (There's also a five-course lunch menu for $175.)

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Per Se (Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times)

The a la carte menu includes $40 foie gras, but also some less expensive options. And then some more expensive options. View a version of it here.

The Wall Street Journal previewed the a la carte meal. According to reporter Juliet Chung, the offerings are upsized (don't get to type that word very often these days) from the nine-course tasting menu, they got amuses-bouches (though the menu makes it seem one would usually get mignardises), and it was sort of annoying to eat at the low lounge tables. Most important fact: The tab was $175 for two, including a glass of wine and two desserts. No tip necessary; service is included at Per Se.

That's a lot less than the fairly prohibitive $275. But would I rather spend $80 to eat white polenta agnolotti, Pekin duck breast, and bombe au pamplemousse -- a meal that sounds lovely, to be sure -- or save my pennies like Charlie hoarding for a chocolate bar, anticipating the eventual Experience awaiting me, exquisite little taste after exquisite little taste?

Well, I guess it's kind of obvious which I'd prefer. And it's not because I'm the restaurant critic and think nothing of spending $275 on a meal -- I'm a pretty conservative spender. (Also, the same sum right now will practically buy you a round-trip ticket to Mexico City, where infinite reasonably priced gastronomic pleasures await.) I guess I believe in having places that are special, that you can't really afford but maybe one day you just go for it, and it's worth it, a night and a meal you'll always remember.

There's not much room for that kind of romance in today's business plans, however, and the financial sector folks who booked Per Se for private events aren't doing so as much anymore.

So, until the economy picks up, let them eat grapefruit bombe. It's only $14, and I bet it really is the bomb.

Saveur's 12 restaurants that matter

Posted by Devra First April 1, 2009 06:34 AM

In April's issue of the magazine, I was surprised to find Sportello listed among a dozen influential US restaurants. (Corby Kummer of the Atlantic and Boston mag wrote the entry.)

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Sportello (Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe)

I like Sportello a lot. I could see it included in any number of stories about great restaurants around the country. But I'm not sure I'd call it influential, or -- among all the restaurants in all the cities in the land -- single it out as being of great significance on the national restaurant scene.

To give some perspective, the restaurants included are:

1. Joel Robuchon
2. Sportello
3. Commander's Palace
4. Topolobampo
5. Canlis
6. Gramercy Tavern
7. Manresa
8. Watershed
9. Marlow & Sons
10. Musso and Frank
11. Blue Hill at Stone Barns
12. Slanted Door

The mention is great for Sportello, and I'm happy for Barbara Lynch and crew; it should bring people in the door who otherwise wouldn't have found it, and they'll enjoy themselves.

But for a list of Restaurants That Matter -- and this isn't necessarily the same thing as Restaurants That Rock our Worlds, though there's overlap -- I could just as easily see the inclusion of Craigie on Main, Hamersley's Bistro, Hungry Mother, Locke-Ober, Oleana, O Ya, or Ten Tables. Or even B&G Oysters and the Butcher Shop, two other Barbara Lynch restaurants.

What do you think? Is Sportello's mention dead on? If you were going to put a local spot on a list of restaurants that matter nationally, what would it be?

Vegas comes to Kneeland Street?

Posted by Devra First March 31, 2009 03:46 PM

Frank De Pasquale (Bricco, Mare, etc.) plans to open a new venue on Memorial Day, in the old News space. It will be called Splash, and it's inspired by a Vegas nightclub called AquaKnox.

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AquaKnox

Think: roof deck, fountains, cabanas, house music, and dining till 5 a.m. on weekends. Planned for the menu are gourmet burgers (e.g. Kobe, lobster, and pulled pork) and Mediterranean tapas, as well as the requisite "creative cocktails." After 2 a.m. on weekends, there will be a breakfast buffet with a $20 cover. Wednesday nights will feature fashion shows.

What happens on Kneeland stays on Kneeland.

Opening day approaches

Posted by Devra First March 27, 2009 04:44 PM

Baseball season arrives with a noticeable gap in the Fenway food scene, left by the Peterborough Street restaurants destroyed in a January fire. Ball fans will miss their pre- and post-game stops at Thornton's Fenway Grille, Rod Dee Thai Cuisine, El Pelon Taqueria, Greek Isles, Sorento's Italian Gourmet, and Umi Japanese Restaurant.

What to eat until they're rebuilt? (It might be a while.)

Audubon Circle, Eastern Standard, and La Verdad are always good bets.

Cambridge 1 recently expanded beyond pizza. They're now also offering antipasto plates, sausage and white bean soup, and a few pasta dishes. (According to the Wall Street Journal, pizza's popularity is waning.)

Also, if a bit out of the way, M Bar & Lounge in the Mandarin Oriental hotel is offering opening day bento boxes on April 6. These include items such as Kobe sliders, lobster wontons, and, of course, hot dogs and chowder. You choose up to six, with each item $5-$7.

What do you eat when you go to Fenway? For me, it's all about the franks.

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I believe those are mine. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

Dinner with Jacques Pepin

Posted by Sheryl Julian March 27, 2009 02:21 PM
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When Jacques Pepin comes to town to teach at Boston University's food and wine program, program director Rebecca Alssid always has a dinner afterwards. Alssid runs a salon in true Gertrude Stein fashion. You never know who will be there. You only know everyone will be interesting.

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This is restaurateur Michael Leviton of Lumiere and Persephone with his wife, Karyn Cohen. Below is Leviton with Barbara Lynch.

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Valerie and Ihsan Gurdal of Formaggio Kitchen and South End Formaggio were there (below), as was Garrett Harker of Eastern Standard, 51 Lincoln's Jeff Fournier and his wife, and Jeremy Sewell of Lineage, who is now running his restaurant and working on Eastern Standard's menu.

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On of the hits on the table was Jacques's ballotine. He and his students boned and rolled several chickens and filled them with various things. This has mushrooms.

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Caviar was everywhere. Jacques has his own label now, a pressed caviar called payusnaya. It's an inky, salty, and quite delectable caviar he served on toasts with creme fraiche and on little boiled potato slices. He's an illustrator and designed the tin's cap as well.

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The highlight of the table was a smoked salmon mousse covered with capers, finely chopped red onion, and chives. Here is Jacques' recipe.

Smoked salmon mousse
Serves 4

1 cup smoked salmon bits, ends, or trimmings
1/2 cup ricotta or farmer cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 teaspoons drained capers
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. In a food processor, combine the smoked salmon, ricotta or farmer cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Work until smooth. Transfer to a gratin dish or deep platter. Using plastic wrap, press the mousse into the dish to create a smooth layer between 1/2 and 1 inch deep.
2. Scatter the red onion, capers, chives on top. Sprinkle with olive oil. Adapted from "More Fast Food My Way"

L'Espalier does Restaurant Week ... for dinner

Posted by Devra First March 19, 2009 02:08 PM

L'Espalier has participated in Restaurant Week for lunch before, but this is the first time they've offered dinner. (I'm not even going to blather on about the state of the economy here; you've heard it all before.)

The menu is priced at $40.09, a bit higher than the standard Restaurant Week price of $33.09, but much less than dinner at L'Espalier would usually run. It includes a first course, main course, and dessert. The deal will be offered through March 27, with the exception of Saturday, March 21. It's a bit on the down low, as L'Espalier is officially listed in Restaurant Week materials as offering lunch only.

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L'Espalier chef Frank McClelland. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

As for lunch, they're extending the Restaurant Week offer ($20.09 for three courses) an extra week, to March 31.

The dinner menu for Restaurant Week includes ... chicken and salmon. You can also substitute items from the regular menu for an extra cost, which changes from dish to dish but is about $12 for the first course and $18 for the main. Two substitutions, therefore, raise your Restaurant Week price to about $70.

The details of the menu might change from day to day, depending on what's freshest, but the basics are:

First course:
Endive and frisee salad with poached apple and Three Sisters Serena cheese
Vidalia onion soup with sherry flan, toasted almonds, and licorice sugar

Second course:
Seared salmon with golden raisins and saffron couscous
Grilled, air-dried Canadian chicken with pommes puree

Dessert:
Bittersweet chocolate gateau

There will also be sides such as macaroni and cheese ($9) and asparagus ($11).

I don't know about you, but mac and cheese is not what I go to L'Espalier for.

Trina's Starlite Lounge

Posted by Devra First March 18, 2009 04:58 PM

That's what the former Abbey Lounge will become. In the summer, owners Josh Childs and Trina and Beau Sturm will open a space inspired by the '40s and '50s, serving affordable, Southern-influenced food and cocktails.

The Inman Square lounge comes with an affordable-bar pedigree: Childs is co-owner of Silvertone, and Trina and Beau Sturm are involved with City Bar and Highland Kitchen, respectively.

The A-Roid cocktail

Posted by Devra First March 11, 2009 12:40 PM

It was, perhaps, inevitable that someone would create an A-Roid cocktail.

That someone is Bonfire. It's offering the drink along with its seasonal Red Sox menu -- Francona's franks, truffled Papel-corn, Guinness "Big Frapi," etc.

What is an A-Roid cocktail, you ask? A shot of El Mejor tequila, straight up, with a "Performance-Enhancing Boost of Spicy Tomato 'Juice'" (smoked tomatoes, tomato juice, lemon juice, Tabasco, and jalapenos). It comes in a syringe without a needle; you can inject it into the shot or use it as a chaser.

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Am I the only one who's actually starting to feel a little sorry for A-Rod?

High-end steakhouse, low-end economy

Posted by Devra First March 10, 2009 04:20 PM

KO Prime is rolling out the deals.

1. All-you-can-eat prime rib on Retro Mondays and Tuesdays (a continuation of the restaurant's Retro Sundays). Starting March 28 (right after Restaurant Week), KO Prime offers all-you-can-eat USDA choice beef, cooked and sliced to order, for just $25. If you don't go crazy on the sides, this is a real bargain.

2. Steak frites for $20: a 5-ounce steak with fries and onion marmalade. Available every night.

3. Half-price bottles of wine on Wednesdays. (What does that say about the markup on other days?)

4. $5 chili at the bar on weekdays. The recipe changes -- it could be chicken chili or boar chili -- but it's a bottomless bowl Mon-Fri from 5-7 p.m.

KO Prime, 90 Tremont St., Boston. 617-772-0202.

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KO Prime, Ken Oringer's steakhouse. (Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe)

Menu preview: Il Casale in Belmont

Posted by Devra First March 6, 2009 12:21 PM

Chef Dante de Magistris and brothers are planning an early spring opening for their new restaurant, in a renovated firehouse. (They're the folks behind Dante in Cambridge.) Il Casale's menu will feature old Italian family recipes, which makes sense as Belmont is the de Magistris family's stamping grounds. (Pater familias Leon styles hair here.)

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The de Magistris brothers (from left): Damian, Dante, and Filippo. (Globe Staff File Photo/Dina Rudick)

The menu begins with a section of small plates, or sfizi. These include salads, salumi, bruschetta, and polpette -- in fact, there will be a whole selection devoted to polpette, or meatballs.

Primi include Barolo-braised wild boar, rigatoni with tomato sugo and house-made ricotta, and a minestra of braised dandelion greens and escarole cooked with pig’s feet and poured over "my family’s very special cornmeal 'pizza,'" Dante de Magistris writes in an e-mail. I'm not totally sure what that is, but I know I want to eat it.

De Magistris says he follows his grandmother's rules for the secondi: 1) use the best and freshest meat and seafood available, 2) season it with care, 3) cook it with respect, and 4) serve it with a simple sauce. That means the likes of wood-grilled seafood (shrimp, red mullet, calamari, and sardines), lamb chops, and veal ossobuco.

Sorry, you'll have to wait till spring. I hear that's coming soon, though.

More affordable sushi

Posted by Devra First February 26, 2009 12:30 PM

After yesterday's story on good sushi that won't break the bank, many have written in to share their favorite places.

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The "shrimp fantasia" at Sakurabana. (Globe Staff Photo/John Tlumacki)

Some names keep cropping up in your recommendations. They are:

Bamboo in Westford
Fuji in Quincy
Gari in Brookline
Kagawa in Quincy
Ma Soba in Boston
Sushi Corner in Melrose
Takara in Canton
Zen in Boston

Have you been to these places? Are they indeed a good value? Further suggestions always welcome.

The Friendly Toast comes to Cambridge

Posted by Devra First February 18, 2009 02:37 PM

The folks at Chowhound report that a second branch of the Portsmouth, N.H., institution is scheduled to open in April at 1 Kendall Square.

A little taste of the original Toast.

This is great news, because boy could we use more good breakfast places in these parts. Think of it: a rainy Sunday, head to the Friendly Toast for almond joy pancakes; spicy mashed potatoes topped with chorizo and fried eggs, served with toasted homemade bread; the Vegan Valhalla wrap (tortilla stuffed with sesame tofu, portobellos, brown rice, spinach, and tahini dressing) or the Mission Burrito; and maybe a chaser of sweet potato fries with brown sugar, Tabasco, and sour cream. Slurp mojito milkshake, various flavors of cocoa, or an alcoholic beverage. (Seacoast Online reports there will be a full bar.) Then roll out of the restaurant -- decorated with retro dinette sets, mannequins, '50s lamps, tacky wall art, and rubber cow heads -- and into a matinee.

As far as I'm concerned, that's a Sunday that can't happen soon enough.

Here's their menu.

Excelsior is closed

Posted by Devra First February 3, 2009 02:12 PM

It will reopen as a more casual restaurant in the fall, according to a statement on the restaurant's website.

"Several dining options will be offered; from casual supper and drink at the bar to a full dinner menu on both the first and second floors," the statement says.

Alison Arnett gave the restaurant 3 stars in her 2003 review.

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Chef Eric Brennan at Excelsior. (Globe Staff File Photo/Wendy Maeda)

It was clear from the many deals they'd instituted of late that they were struggling. I recently spoke with Paul Dias, senior vice president of operations for American Food Management, which operates Excelsior, Harvest, and Grill 23. He didn't indicate a closing was imminent, but he did say "the recession is having a pretty significant impact. It's a little different across the three restaurants."

Harvest held up best, he said, due to strong neighborhood support. Excelsior and Grill 23, more dependent on business customers, weren't faring as well.

"The Boston restaurants, which carry a little higher check averages, feel the effect more. Particularly December saw a slowdown in private dining events."

What does this mean for Grill 23? For high-end dining in Boston in general? The joy of cities is in part their diversity, on every level. I hope we continue to see the increased culinary adventurousness of recent years.

See a bit more on this subject in my upcoming review of Bina Osteria, which should be up on Boston.com later today.

P.S. They say Grill 23 is doing fine.

That's money

Posted by Devra First January 23, 2009 06:29 PM

BOND just opened in the Federal Reserve Bank at the Langham. They like to spell its name in all capital letters, and I am humoring them (for now). According to a press release, "BOND's mission is to resurrect glamorous cocktailing from years past." As you can see, the design is opulent, reflecting banks of the past rather than the present. Big Money dominates the room, literally -- look at the artwork on the walls. It's giant, blown-up representations of bills.

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The place might be fun for an evening of escapism. What troubled economy? It doesn't feel like it particularly has its finger on the pulse of the now, but maybe people could use a little of that. What do you think? Outmoded, or a welcome avoidance of reality?

In light of Locke-Ober's closing for lunch, today Globe staffer Andrew Ryan wrote this musing on whether the power lunch is dead. It's a nice read. It also mentions Bond (and does not humor their love of all caps).

"The target audience is business people in search of a quick, upscale lunch -- hand-cut, crisp fried fingerling russet potato chips; dim sum, and Asian lobster rolls," Ryan writes.

Sounds about right.

Seems they're also going for the nightlife crowd: At night "guests will bask in the different levels of lighting reflecting off the expansive chandeliers and mirrors, while listening to music ranging from cutting edge electro-lounge to smooth eclectic beats. DJ Mario will offer live music-styling Thursday through Saturday evenings from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m."

I don't know whether the three-martini lunch is dead, but the three-saketini night out is alive and well.

Stars align for Rialto

Posted by Devra First January 22, 2009 07:07 PM

How many four-star restaurants are there in Cambridge? One, according to the 2009 Mobil Travel Guide: Rialto. The guide's new ratings came out today.

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Rialto chef Jody Adams. Globe Photo/Bill Brett.

What does four stars mean? According to the guide, these are "exceptional restaurants featuring food that's creative and complex, and emphasizes seasonality and culinary technique. A highly-trained dining room staff provides refined personal service and attention. Mobil Four-Star restaurants that provide this style of refined dining include Michel Richard Citronelle in Washington DC, Daniel in New York, as well as several of the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons dining rooms."

According to the guide's online search engine, the four-star restaurants in Boston are Aujourd'hui, Clio, L'Espalier, Meritage, and No. 9 Park. I'm not sure if this reflects the new ratings, as it still lists Craigie Street Bistrot instead of Craigie on Main. (It gets a mere two stars, less than Salts, Harvest, and Oleana at three, and tied with Elephant Walk and Baraka Cafe -- discuss.)

Neither Boston nor Cambridge has a single five-star restaurant -- nothing, that is to say, in the company of the French Laundry, Jean-Georges, and Charlie Trotter's.

Could Sensing be a contender next year?

Restaurant deals for the recession

Posted by Devra First January 13, 2009 03:46 PM

Many restaurants are offering dining deals to combat the bad economy. (See story here.) This is an incomplete list, which we'll be updating as new deals come in. Please call before you go, as deals are subject to change.

28 Degrees, $1 Island Creek oysters nightly, 5-7 p.m.

33 Restaurant & Lounge, three courses for $33 daily. There's also a $10 coupon available online.

51 Lincoln, $33 for three courses Tues-Thurs.

All Seasons Table, buy one appetizer and get one free, Mondays-Wed 5-7 p.m.

Aquitaine, $9.95 prix fixe brunch all day Saturdays and 10-11 a.m. Sundays.

Ashmont Grill, Monday Night Wine Club, four courses for $30, 6:30 p.m.

Aujourd'hui, $55 for three-course Sunday supper.

Aura, order an entree from the "specialties" section and get your choice of a soup or salad at no additional cost.

B&G Oysters, oyster small plates (Sunday evenings) and lobster small plates (Monday evenings) January-March. $3-$12 for oyster dishes, $6-$12 for lobster dishes.

banQ offers the "banQ bailout" -- three courses for $29 -- Sun-Thurs 5:30-6:30 p.m. throughout the winter.

Beacon Hill Bistro, fondue with accompaniments $26 per pot on Sunday nights.

Bella Luna, $5 appetizers every night.

Black Trumpet (Portsmouth, N.H., but a good deal nonetheless), three courses (soup, snazzy sandwich, and dessert) for $19 Sun-Thurs.

Catch, three course Sunday supper $38.

Clio, $49 for three courses on weeknights.

Craigie on Main, Neighborhood Menu, three courses for $38 Tuesday-Friday, Sun, and after 9 p.m. Sat; Chef's Whim, $39.99 for four courses or $54.99 for six courses Sundays after 9 p.m.

Da Vinci, $29 for three courses Mon-Tues.

Estragon, $1 tapas Mon-Thurs, 5:30 p.m. "till they're gone."

EVOO, three courses for $35 daily ($50 paired with wine), choice of 6 starters, 6 mains, 6 desserts.

Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar: three-course pre-theater menu. $39.95. 4-6 p.m.

Gargoyles on the Square, Tokyo Tuesdays, bento boxes $15 and sake flights $10 at the bar.

Grafton Street, nothing over $12 on bar menu.

Great Bay, three courses for $35 Mon-Sat. Sand Dollar Menu offers $1, $5, and $10 appetizers on weeknights.

Hamersley's Bistro, $40 for three courses daily.

KO Prime, Retro Sundays, includes all-you-can-eat prime rib roast for $24.95.

La Verdad, $1 Taco Tuesdays.

Legal Sea Foods, six oysters for $6 Mon-Thurs 3-6 p.m. at the Kendall, Charles Square, Copley, Long Wharf, Framingham, and Warwick locations.

L'Espalier, $24 for three courses at lunch daily; Wine Mondays, four courses with wine, $60; Cheese Tuesdays, four cheesy courses with wine, $68.

Lineage, $1 oysters daily at the bar, 5-7 p.m.

Locke Ober, $25 lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Note: Restaurant not serving lunch in January.

Masa, 50 cent tapas Mon-Fri 5-7 p.m. Brunch $7.95 all day on Saturdays and 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Sundays, includes coffee or tea and a basket of cornbread. $5 pitchers of sangria every night in the bar.

Metropolis, nothing over $20 on the menu.

The Metropolitan Club, Monday Night Burger Night, choice among three burgers, $4.99 each.

Milky Way, $7 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet on Monday nights.

Myers + Chang, Cheap Date Night, $40 per couple for a variety of menu options, Sun-Tues.

Navy Yard Bistro, $12 for meatloaf with mashed potatoes, green beans, and red wine mushroom gravy or shrimp scampi Sun-Mon nights.

Olives, $35 for three courses Sun-Thurs.

Persephone, $40 for three courses at Tuesday Night Supper Club. Add $20 for wine pairings. Seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m.

Pigalle, $40 for three courses Tues-Sun.

Prezza, Snow Emergency Deal: Any time it snows in the city, buy a glass of Barolo ($15) and get a complimentary half-order of handmade potato gnocchi Bolognese.

Radius, three courses for $45 Mon-Fri.

Red Rock Bistro
, $1 bar snacks on Mondays.

Red Sky, daily half-price appetizers 4-6 p.m., soup, salad, and sandwich for $6.

Regatta of Cotuit, Wine & Food Flight Menu, Wednesday nights, four courses and three wines $45.

Rendezvous in Central Square, $38 for three courses on Sundays.

Restaurant dante, "Menu da Favola," three courses for $35 daily, through Feb. 29. (Dinner only, excluding holidays.)

Rialto, $1 oyster Mondays, $20 Sunday roasts.

Rocca, three-course Sunday Supper for $22.

Sage, $35 for three courses Tues-Fri 5-7 p.m., $22 for three-course Sunday Supper.

Sandrine's Bistro, three courses for $35 nightly, $25 daily Alsatian special throughout the winter, $2 amuse bouche of moules marinieres throughout the winter.

Sel de la Terre, Sunday dinners $45 for four courses (Boylston St.); Wine Tuesdays, $45 for four courses and wine (Natick); Cheese and Wine Wednesdays, three courses with cheese and wine $38 (Natick); Wine Wednesdays, $48 for four courses and wine (Long Wharf); Thursday Chef's Table, four courses for $38 (Natick).

Sibling Rivalry, Monday Night Fight Night, chefs battle to make two different three-course menus, $35 each.

Small Plates, Happy Tappy Hour features a selection of tapas, wine, and wine cocktails for $5. Sun-Mon 5-6 p.m., Tues-Thurs 4-6 p.m.

Summer Winter, $35 for three-course Friday Date Night menu.

Tapeo, $5 tapas at the bar; Mon-Fri happy hour 5-7 p.m., Sat-Sun 12-7 p.m.

Tasca, appetite stimulus package, three courses for $15 Mon-Wed, plus three pinot noirs for $6.50, through January.

Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro, Tuesday Tastings, $10 for four tastes of wine paired with four snacks; Wednesday Food & Wine Flight Night, four courses with wine pairings $35.

Temple Bar, nothing over $12 on bar menu.

Townsend's, Economic Relief Fund Program Mon-Fri 5-7 p.m. (last order 6:45). $15 per person; choose an appetizer and an entree. Add a bottle of the red or white wine selection of the week for $15 per bottle.

Tremont 647, $2 Taco Tuesdays, three-course vegan dinners for $22.50 on Sunday nights.

T.W. Food, $39 for three courses Sun-Mon and Wed-Thurs.

Uni, Maki Mondays, all-you-can eat maki for $32.

Union Bar and Grille
, free bar bites weekdays 5:30-7 p.m. $9.95 prix fixe brunch all day Saturdays and 10-11 a.m. Sundays.

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.

Contributors

Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.
 

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