Abby Lane

Abby Park (in Milton)

Abe & Louie's

Alba Bar & Grill (in Quincy)

The Alchemist Lounge

Alden & Harlow

Alma Nove (in Hingham on the Harbor)

Al-Wadi (in West Roxbury)

Amelia's Kitchen

Amrheins

"AMULETO" (in Waltham)

Anchovies

Anthem

Anthony's Pier 4

Anthony's Pier 4 Cafe (in Swampscott)

"ANTIQUE TABLE" (in Winthrop)

Appetito

Aqua

Arbor

Aragosta Bar and Bistro

Aria (in The North End)

Artisan Bistro at The Ritz

ARTISTRY-ON-THE-GREEN

Asana

Atara

Atlantica (Cohasset)

Arirang House

Audubon Circle Bar & Restaurant

Aujourd' hui

Austin Grill

Avila

Azure

 

 

Back to Top

Babbo Pizzeria and Enoteca

B & G Oysters, Ltd. and The Butcher Shop

Bacco

Bacco (New)

Back Bay Social Club

The Back Eddy (Westport)

Bangkok City

BanQ

Bar Boulud (at The Mandarin-Oriental Hotel in the Back Bay)

BAR LYON

Basta Pasta
 

Bastille Kitchen

The Beacon Hill Bistro

Beehive

Bella Luna

La Bella Vista

Benatti's

Bergamot

Berkshire Grill

Betty's Wok and Noodle Diner

Bina Osteria & Alimentari

Bistro du Midi

Blackfin Chop House & Raw Bar

Blantyre

blu

Bob the Chef's

Bocelli

BoMa

Bomboa

Bond

Bondir

Bonfire

Bon Savor

Boston Chops

BOSTON'S TWENTY BEST RESTAURANTS

Bouchee

La Brace

The Brahmin

  Brasserie JO

Bravo (at the Museum of Fine Arts)

BRELUNDI (in Waltham)

Bricco

Brioche at the Berkeley (Wellesley)

Bristol Lounge

Bronwyn

Brown Sugar Cafe

Brunello Bistro (in Somerville)

Bukowski's Tavern

Buona Vita 

La Buona Vita (Arlington)

Burtons Grill

Byblos (in Norwood)

 

 

Back to Top

Cafe at the Library

Cafe Bistro at Nordstrom in The Natick Collection

Cafe 47

Cafe Italia

Cafe Polonia

Cafe D

Cafeteria

Caffe Umbra

"CAFFE NERO" ("BLACK COFFEE")

Caliterra

"CAL MARE" at the MGM HOTEL in SPRINGFIELD

Le Calypso (Nantasket Beach, Hull)

Capital Grille

The Capital Grille (in the Hynes Convention Center)

Carlito's

Carlo's Cucina Italiana

Carmen

Il Casale

Casa Romero

The Catalyst (in Cambridge)

Central 37

Centro

P.F.Chang's at the Prudential Center

The Chateau (in Braintree)

Chau Chow City

The Cheesecake Factory

Chef Orient

Chili's

Chinese Mirch

Church

Cibo

Cinquecento (500) Roman Trattoria

City Landing

City Table (at the Lenox Hotel)

Claremont Cafe

Clink

Clio

CODA

Colonial Inn in Concord

The Common Man (in Wyndam, New Hampshire)

Copia

Coppa Enoteca

Cornwall's

The Cottage in Wellesley, MA

Coyote Grill

Craigie on Main (in Cambridge)

Craigie Street Bistro

Crazy Dough's

Croma

 

 

Back to Top

The Daily Catch-Seaport

The Dancing Lobster (Provincetown)

dante

Darryl's Corner Bar and Kitchen

Darwin's

Davide

Da Vinci

Davio's

Davio's at Patriot Place

Delfino (in Roslindale)

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House

De Lux Cafe

Deuxave

Deuxave (A Second Visit)

Dish

Domani

 

 

Back to Top

Eastern Standard

Eastern Standard, a revist

Eclano

Eclipse

Emma's Pizza

Empire

The Enormous Room

Erbaluce

Ernesto's

L' Espalier

L'Espalier (in the Mandarin Oriental)

Estelle's

EVOO

Excelsior

 

 

Back to Top

The New Faculty Club at Northeastern

THE FAT HEN (in Somerville)

Federalist

Il Fiore

5 Guys Burgers

Fire and Ice (Back Bay)

Five Napkin Burger

Flash's

Fleming's Steak House

Fogo de Chao

The Forum

Frank's Steak House

Fraser Garden Court Terrace

The Friendly Toast (in Cambridge)

Front Street (Provincetown)

 

 

Back to Top

Gallia

The Gallows

Garden of Eden Cafe

Gaslight, Brasserie du Coin

George-An American Tavern

Giacomo's in The South End

Ginger Exchange

Giulia (in Cambridge)

Golden Temple (Brookline)

Grafton Street Pub and Grill (in Harvard Square in Cambridge)

Gran Gusto at the Brickyard

Great Bay

Grill 23 and Bar

G'Vanni's

Grotto

 

 

Back to Top

Happy's Bar and Kitchen

HARU-Sushi

Hazel's Country Kitchen

Henrietta's Table

Hilltop Steak House

Himalaya

Hobson's Choice (in Willamstown)

Hops and Vines (in Williamstown)

House of Blues (Gospel Brunch)

House of Blues (Boston)

House of Siam

Hungry Mother

 

 

Back to Top

The Inn at Harvard

Intermission Tavern

Intrigue Cafe and Terrace

Island Creek Oyster Bar

 

 

Back to Top

Jacob Wirth

Joe V's

Jerry Remy's Sports Bar and Grill

JOSEPHINE

 

 

Back to Top

Kingfish Hall

Kitchen

K O Prime

 

 

Back to Top

 

The Landing in Marblehead

Laurel

The Left Bank at the Stonehedge Inn in Tyngsboro, MA

Legal Harborside

Legal Sea Foods

Legal Sea Foods C Bar (in Dedham)

Legal on the Mystic (at Assembly Row in Somerville)

Liquid Art House

Limoncello

L'Impasta

Locke-Ober

Lodo

Longhorn Steakhouse

LTK Bar & Kitchen

Lucca

Lucca Back Bay

Luciano's (in Wrentham)

Lulu's Bake Shoppe

 

 

Back to Top

Maggiano's Little Italy

Main Street Cafe (Williamstown)

Ma Maison

Mamma Maria

Mantra

Marco Cucina Romano

Mare

"MARE OYSTER BAR" (in Boston's North End)

Market ( in the "W" Hotel)

Marliave

Masa

McCormick's and Schmick's

McDonald's

Margo Bistro

Max Brenner

Menton

Meritage

The Metropolitan Club (in Chestnut Hill)

Mezze Bistro & Bar (Williamstown)

Mezze Bistro & Bar (in Williamstown in the Berkshires) New Location.

MIDA

Miel

The Mill-on-the-Floss (in Williamstown)

THE MILL ON THE FLOSS (in Williamstown,MA)

MILKWEED

The Mission Bar & Grill

Molly Darcy's

Monica's Restaurant and Grill

La Morra

Morton's Steak House

Mother Anna's

La Motta

"MR. CREPES in DAVIS SQUARE" (Somerville)

MUMBAI SPICE

 

 

Back to Top

Nappi's (in Medford)

NEBO

Neptune Oyster

The New American Cafe (at the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston)

Nico

Nightingale

Noche

Nubar

 

 

Back to Top

Oak Long Bar + Kitchen

The Oceanaire

Oleanna

The Oak Room at the Plaza

Oak Room at The Plaza-A Revisit.

Olives

OM Restaurant and Lounge

Orfano's

Ostra

Otto's Pizzeria

Outback Steak House

 

 

Back to Top

Pairings

Palm

Panificio Back Bay

Parish Cafe

Pasta Beach

Pastoral

Pazzo

El Pelon Taqueria

Penguin Pizza

"PEPE BOCCA"(in Davis Square, Somerville)

"PEREGRINE" in the WHITNEY HOTEL

Perdix

Persephone at The Achilles Project

Pescatore Seafood (in Somerville)

Petit Robert Bistro

Petit Robert Central

Pho Basil

Piattini

Picco

Pigalle

Pierrot Bistrot Francais

Pierrot Bistro Francais (return visit)

"LA PIZZA & LA PASTA" (at Eataly in The Pru)

Pizza Oggi

Pizza Pie-er

Plum Island Grille

Pops

Porcini's

Post 390

Powow River Grille

Prezza

 

 

Back to Top

Q Doba

 

 

Back to Top

Rack

"REAL GUSTO" (in Medford)

Red Clay

Rino's Place

The Red HouseThe Red House

The Red Lion Inn (Stockbridge in the Berkshires)

The Red Parrot (Nantasket Beach, Hull)

Remington's

Rendezvous

Ribelle

Rino's Place

Ristorante Damiano

The Ritz-Carlton Dining Room

Rocca

Rosa Mexicano

Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar (Rosebud Diner in Somerville)
 

Rowes Wharf Sea Grille in the Boston Harbor Hotel

Rubin's Kosher Delicatessen

Russell House Tavern (in Harvard Square)
 

Rustic Kitchen (at Park Square in Boston)

Ruth's Chris Steak House

 

 

Back to Top

Sage

Saint

Salamander

Salts

Salvatore's

Sam's in Louis of Boston

Sanctuary

Saraceno's

Sasso

Sauciety & The Birch Bar

Scampo in the Liberty Hotel

Sebastians (at Church Park)

Sel de la Terre (Back Bay)

Sensing (in the Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel)

75 Chestnut

Shake Shack

Sibling Rivalry

"SIRO'S" AT MARINA BAY

Sister Sorel

Skipjack's

Smith & Wollensky's

SOPHIA'S GROTTO in Roslindale

Solas

Solea (in Waltham)

Sorellina

Sorriso

South End Buttery

Spike's

The Stanhope Grill

Steffi's on Tremont

Southend Galleria

Spire

Sportello

Stars on Huntington

Stella

Stella (in the South End)

STOKED WOOD FIRED PIZZA CO.

Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale

Strega Waterfront

SRV

Summer Shack-Boston

Sweet Cheeks

Symphony 8 /Siansa 8 /Prohibited

Symphony Sushi

 

 

Back to Top

Tangierino

Tapeo

Taranta

Taverna Toscana

Tavern on the Water

Teatro

Temazcal Tequila Cantina

Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain

"Terra" (in Eataly at the Pru)

33

Todd English's Rustic Kitchen

Top of the Hub

Torch

Toscano

Toscano in Harvard Square

Towne Stove and Spirits

Townsend's in Hyde Park, MA

Trade

Trattoria Toscana

Trattoria Zooma (on Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island)

Tremont 647

Tresca

Trina's Starlite Lounge

Trio

Troquet

TUSCAN KITCHEN-SEAPORT

Tu  y Yo

T.W. Food

 

 

Back to Top

 

 

Umbria

Union Bar & Grille

The Upper Crust

Upstairs on the Square

 

 

Back to Top

Vapiano's

The Vault

Vee Vee

Via Matta

Via Valverde

The Village Fish (Brookline)

Vinalia

Vinny's Superette (in Somerville)

Vintage

Vlora

La Voile

Volare (in Revere)

 

 

Back to Top

Water Street Grill (Williamstown)

West Bridge (in Cambridge)

THE WESTLAND

Wheatleigh (in Lenox)

White Star Tavern

The Wine Cellar

Wings Over Boston

Woodward at The Ames

 

 

Back to Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Top

The Yard House (in Dedham)

 

 

Back to Top

Zafferano

Zaftig's

Les Zygomates

 

 

Back to Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intrigue Café and Terrace- If it’s a hot summer night, head to the new Intrigue Café and Terrace at the

Boston Harbor Hotel. The combination of good food, outdoor flowered terrace overlooking the harbor(and

the new architectural gemof the Federal Court House across the water,)live music(on certain nights,)just

can’t be beat. The foodranges from Pizza to Grilled Salmon and Lamb Chops, and it’s all good. For agreat

summer drink, try theStrawberry Sorbet Daiquiri….is it GOOD! (5-Stars) Back to Top

 

 

Monica’s Restaurant and Grill- This charming new addition to the ever-growing new restaurantsof the

North End, is owned by the same Monica whoowns the Pizzeria and the Salumeria in the neighborhood,

and run by her four burlyArgentinian-Italian sons. The menu covers a wide-range of Italian dishes on the

"alta-cucina" up-scale of theItalian food line…don’t look for eggplant parmigiana, veal scallopini, or many

common "red-sauce"dishes here. There were six of us dining, and each one was more than satisfiedwith

his/her dish. The décor is simple/classy and the service is very attentive. (4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT REVIEW- "DISH"

Restaurants seemto be popping up all over the area known as Union Park, in thealready-trendy South End. On Shawmut Avenue alone, we countedthree restaurants, including the one that we ate at called "Dish." Asan interesting alternative to the sometimes-out-of-control pricing of many ofthe South End eateries, this small corner neighborhood place is reasonable,considering the fact that the food is excellent, and the service is also quitegood. Waiters actually know something about the dishes that they're serving! Theambience is charming, and very comfortable. Karl and I started with deliciousvery-large, Antipastas and Pete had what he said was a wonderful home-made ClamChowder. As an entree I had Cajun Meatloaf with Ricotta Mashed Potatos, GreenBeans and Tomatoes. The other entrees at our table were Baked Penne, andLinguini witn Tuna and Reggiano. We sampled the cheeses with a Cheese Platterfor the table. Everything was delicious, or maybe it was the wonderful houseSangria with which we "washed down" our meals!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- THE FEDERALIST

Open onlythree months, this lavish Beacon Hill restaurant is alreadybeing seen as one of Boston'e top 10...and deservedly so. By any criterion thatyou might apply...decor, food, service...this is a 5-star restaurant. From theminute that you step into the beautifully decorated dining room, you know thatgood things are going to happen here. Be prepared to pay dearly however(my entree, Dover Sole, was $42!) for the privilegeof dining here.

(5-Star)

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE INN AT HARVARD"

Relativelynew to Harvard Square is the beautifulGraham Gund-designed Inn at Harvard. The entire atrium of the hotel is givenover to its' restaurant. Although the exterior of the Inn is designed to looklike the brick buildings in Harvard Yard(across the street,) the restaurant isan opulent recreation of a European courtyard, complete with murals, a3-storied balcony, and a glass roof 5- stories overhead. The menu this EasterSunday consisted of everything from Fruit and Salmon, Wild Mushrooms, andOysters and Scallops as Appetizers, to Braised Lamb Shank with Vegetables,Roast Salmon Filet, and Potato and Onion Tart as Entrees. Although the food wasvery good, our interchangeable Indian waitresses managed to get everythingwrong.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "White Star Tavern"(Back Bay Boston)

What used tobe the "new age/touchy-feely" vegetarian restaurant, "SmallPlanet," has been reborn as a very upscale, yuppified, restaurant in theBack Bay. Although the people were often two-deep at the long bar, it's stillmore of a trendy place to eat, than it is a place to go for a drink(the tavernin the name is a misnomer.) Not that the food is anything exceptional. Themenu, although small, is interesting and all over the place, from quesadillasand nachos, to grilled rib eye, lamb chops, and penne pasta with sun-driedtomatoes, shallots and arugula in a saffron cream sauce(my choice.) It's allgood, but nothing to write home about. The desserts(chocolate torte) were excellent,as was the Australian chardonnay. Our table, in the loft, caught the cigarettesmoke from the bar below, and we had to wave frantically to get our waiter totake our order. Just a little nit-picking, but enough to lower the rating.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANT REVIEW- "BOMBOA"

All of thebeautiful people, who have been populating the bar and dining rooms of Mistraland Radius for the past couple of years, have now moved on to the latesthot-spot in town, Bomboa, on the border of the Back Bay and the South End(inBoston.). Don't walk too quickly through the bar area and its' zebra-skinnedbanquettes, or else you'll miss the fashion show of models in their Armani,Versaci, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana duds. The back room is relativelysubdued, although the waiters in their South- Beach- black are somewhatimposing, as is the large rear-wall aquarium! The dishes on the menu are allSouth American, as a French chef would prepare them. At our table we had ChevreSalad, Steak Tartare and Kahlua Cocktail(!) as appetizers, and Steak Frites,Cassoulet, and my Artichoke and Mushroom Puree with Truffles and New Potatoesas entrees. Presentation, Service, and Ambience were all excellent, but thefood fell just a bit short of the 5-Star category. Desserts...Wine Soup withCitrus Fruits and Sorbet, Kahlua Cocktail(!), and Pineapple and Macaroon Tartwith Sorbet, were original and first rate.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

PUBREVIEW- Cornwall's

After themovie, my friend Jack and I went to a pub right in Kenmore Square(near FenwayPark) that I must have passed hundreds of times, and never thought to go in,because it looked seedy from the outside. Inside it's a terrific place, withevery beer that you could think of, and some good food to go along with it.When I go to a new pub, I always try the Shepherd's Pie if it's on the menu. Itwas, and it was very good. Not as excellent as the one at Molly Darcy's, butvery good, and different. The gimmick in this authentic-looking pub is thatthey have dozens of board games up front that people can check out and playwhile they're drinking. The people at the table opposite us were playing"Sorry." If there were more of us, I would have checked out"Clue," "Risk," or "Monopoly!" A fun time.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- ElPelon Taqueria

In what isprimarily a neighborhood take-out place, you can sit down at one of the sixtiled tables and eat some of the freshest, best prepared Mexican food in town.My friend Scott and I had one of just about everything on our table(e.g.,fresh-baked chips and salsa, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tamales.)Everything was delicious, and it's all very reasonable. In a take-out"joint" you don't look for interesting decor, but here, you get it.Study the pictures on the walls, (and in the bathroom;) thery're fascinating.(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- Carlo's Cucina Italiana

It's alwaysfun to find an honest-to-goodness neighborhood Italian restaurant, one thatserves good, wholesome, basic dishes, with decent prices, in an unpretentioussetting. If that's what you're looking for, and you're in the Allstonneighborhhood, then Carlo's is the place! The menu is simple, with all of theusual appetizers, pastas, and veal and chicken dishes prepared in the usualway. No big surprises here. What is a surprise is that everything we had wasgood. Just don't expect goat cheese and truffle raviolis here! The onlynegative is the place itself. It's small, cramped, and overly crowded. Everyoneappears to be at your table. In spite of this, the service was good.(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Garden of Eden Cafe"

The Garden ofEden is a neighborhood cafe in the South End, but it's very similar to thekinds of roadside cafes that are to be found in the countryside in France. Nothingpretentious about the decor(wooden communal tables, as well as round cafetables,) or the food(Choucroute Garnis, Flank Steak with Potatoes andAsparagus, Spinach Tortellini withWine-Herb Sauce and Leeks.) The cheese trayis exceptional, and I was introduced to a delicious new cheese(new to me)called Morbier. Everyone seems to know everyone else in here, adding to theneighborhood feeling of this bistro/cafe. However, other than the delicioushomemade desserts(made on the premises,) the food is really nothing out of theordinary. From the homey look of the place, you really expect better than whatyou get.(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- Maggiano's Little Italy

Boston has abrand new family-style restaurant in the theater district, similiar to VinnyTesta's and La Famiglia here in town, and Carmine's in New York. It's betterthan the two in Boston, and just about as good as Carmine's...and that's VERYGOOD. The place is huge and beautifully decorated in polished woods, paintings,and large framed mirrors. The service is the best we've had in ages; our waiterwas extremely friendly AND knowledgeable. You can order a la carte or familystyle. If you order family style, you get to choose two large portions(for thetable) from each of six courses, and there are plenty of dishes to choose fromin each course. For four of us, we had Spinach and Artichokes al forno, andTomatoes, Bufalo Mozzarrella and Peppers as our appetizer. Maggiano's Salad andCaesar Salad as our salads. Lasagne and Eggplant Parmesan for our pasta course.Chicken Piccata and Salmon Limone with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and SauteedSpinach as our meat/fish dish. Our dessert was Profiteroles with Vanilla Gelatoand Hot fudge Sauce, and Lemon Ice. Everything was delicious. In the nit-pickingdepartrment, the valet service is run by idiots!(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- BRISTOL LOUNGE(AT THE FOUR SEASONS)

For those ofyou who are familiar with "Aujourd' Hui," the premiere restaurant at theFour Seasons(and arguably Boston's finest restaurant,) you know what to expectfrom a restaurant at THIS hotel...excellent service, excellent food, andexcellent ambiance/decor. Well, the "second" restaurant at the hoteldelivers exactly the same. People used to say that the "BristolLounge" was "Aujourd' Hui", but cheaper. Now, unless the pricesupstairs have become stratospheric, I wouldn't call "Bristol Lounge"cheap at all...not at $150 for two(including wine.) But, it's worth it. While"Aujourd'Hui" leans to Classic French cuisine, the "BristolLounge" serves up Gourmet American. We had Onion and Gruyere Tart,followed by a wonderful Wild Rice Risotto with Madeira, and Lobster Bisque,followed by Chilean Sea Bass with Grilled Vegetables. Dessert was ChocolateMousse Tart and Cake. Wine was an excellent Pinot Grigio. Sofas, tables andchairs are arranged in a large room with a beautiful wood-burning fireplace, asthough you were in the magnificent living room of a mansion on CommonwealthAvenue.Truly, a fine dining experience;save it for a special occasion.(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- COYOTE GRILL

There iscertainly no shortage of good Mexican restaurants in the Boston area, but whatsets this new Kendall Square(Cambridge) eatery apart from the others, is thatit is strikingly beautiful in its' decor. It looks as though it was designed byGeorgia O' Keefe! Everything about it is in keeping with the pastels of theArizona desert. What isn't unusual is the menu; it boasts all of the sameMexican dishes that you would find in any other good Mexican restaurant.However, the food itself IS exceptionally good. Even simple dishes like theMexican burger platter (although it had a less mundane name!) were better thanthe usual. My Nachos Rancheros could have fed two easily; they were delicious.Service was excellent...our waiter seated three of us at a table for 6. Theluxury of all that extra room at a table warrants an extra"star!"(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- MOLLY DARCY'S  (CLOSED)

Thiswonderful pub could have been transported directly from the streets of Dublininto Southie. Once you stepped through the wooden front doors into thesmoke-filled side pub, you WERE in Dublin. The wooden walls and floors(withprints of Ireland on the walls,) the beer glasses hanging from the racks overthe long bar, the patrons glued to the TV watching a football game(in Irelandit would be soccer,) and the unusual smell of cigarette smoke in a place offood and drink...this WAS Ireland. In the beautiful side dining room , wherethe tables were made of antique sewing machines(!) we were seated quickly, andordered too much food for a day when we were going to eat a big meal at night.But thank goodness we did, because we all had what I thought was the bestShepherd's Pie that I've had outside of Ireland and the U.K. A wonderfulexperience. (5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- CIBO

I had heardthat this was a hot and trendy new addition to the already restaurant-filledNorth End, and that the food was quite delicious. What I found was a somewhatsmall place, with walls done in a very attractive trompe-l'oeil style (fakemarble columns, brick walls and lots of blue sky,) and an ostentatious waiter,who loved the sound of his booming preacher-like voice. He was aiming forsubtle humor, and sometimes he hit his mark! As for the food, we shared anappetizer of pan-fried greens over a crunchy polenta, which I liked very much,but the others thought was somewhat bland (all portions are huge.) Pete and Ihad one of the specials for an entree...tortellini with gorgonzola, sun-driedtomatoes, pine nuts, and porcini mushrooms. It was delicious, but much too muchfood for someone who had an enormous Shepherd's Pie for lunch!!! Chris' gnocchi(in fresh pomodoro sauce) were somewhat pasty, but Karl said that is ChickenValdostana was delicious. Alan's Linguini Carbonara looked good, but not out ofthe ordinary. In fact, that's what I would have to say about the restaurant ingeneral...GOOD, BUT NOT OUT OF THE ORDINARY. The California Pinot Grigio wasexcellent, anyway!(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "AustinGrill"  (CLOSED)

What can besaid about yet another Tex-Mex restaurant, no matter how good it is? The placeis stylish, trendy, and very large, and it's situated on a busy thoroughfare inCambridge(Mass. Ave.), right near MIT, so it'll draw both the MIT and theHarvard crowds, as well as everyone else. The menu is a clone of Carlito's, andevery other Tex-Mex place in town. The food was somewhat bland, in spite of theadvertised hot sauces, but the beers and the desserts were good. We had a goodgroup, and the conversation was lively, so I wasn't too concerned that my beanand cheese burrito entree tasted like wet cardboard...although my Caesar Saladwas excellent.(3-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "EVOO"

When I wasflying back from Orlando last week, I read a magazine article in which chefsfrom around the country were polled to determine their choices for "bestnew restaurants." Their choice in Boston was EVOO. So I immediately movedit to the top of my "must-eat-at" list, and a group of us went theretonight to try it out. It's not surprising that this stylish place is notreally in Boston, but in fact, in Somerville. Not surprising, because after Imoved out, some of the best new restaurants started opening up there. Tell yousomething? EVOO(stands for "extra virgin olive oil!") does it allright, starting from its' chic industrial look, to the excellent and unusualchoices on the menu(eclectic American), to the preparation, presentation, andserving of the food. All top drawer. Two of our group got something calledChinese box, filled with pulled pork, grilled shrimp, potatos, mushrooms, etc.It was JUST THAT...an inverted take-out paper box with all of the ingredientsmolded into a towering stack. Very creative. Everything was excellent, and weall came away feeling satisfied. (5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTUPDATE- BRASSERIE JO

Thisexcellent restaurant has just eliminated one of their best dishes from themenu...Beef Wellington(the Saturday night "plat du jour"). Since thisdish was the reason that many people went to Brasserie Jo, I thought that itwarranted a "restaurant UPDATE!"

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- CARLITO'S  (CLOSED)

Why anyonewould choose to put a huge, fancy Mexican restaurant in the Roxbury ghetto, isone of the great mysteries, along with the inexplicable popularity of Pokemon,skateboards, and Andrea Bocelli. But there it is, and if you like the Tex-Mexvariety of Mexican food(tacos, enchiladas, burritos,etc.), and a menu in whichalmost every dish is made with chicken, then you'll probably like this newplace. I chose a queso fundido as an appetizer(washed down by a glass ofsangria,)and as an entree, a Mexican pasta in a sauce of chili and creamedshallots. It was pretty good. Our waitress, unfortunately, was the mostincompetent waitress that I've seen since the medicated one at Lodo in theNorth End. She did NOTHING right. Thank goodness the company was good!

(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "BETTY'S WOK &NOODLE DINER

This funrestaurant has just opened down the block, and it already seems to be a big hitwith the Symphony and Huntington Theater crowd...it was packed tonight. The wayit works is: after you've had your appetizer(I had a delicious"Caesar" salad with hot ancho dressing,) you then select one ofseveral types of rice or noodle(I selected Shanghai wheat noodle), then asauce(mine was Cuban chipotle and citrus), then what goes with it...chicken,beef, shrimp, or vegetables(I picked vegetables...which you can selectyourself.)The portions are huge;everything was delicious, and after all of thespices, I needed the fine lemon-ginger sorbet! All of this came to about $21,including tip! The diner atmosphere was designed by Peter Niemitz, who designedthe exclusive Clio(our neighborhood's best restaurant), and it's veryattractive. A welcome addition. (3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- HIMALAYA  (CLOSED)

Although I'vewalked past this neighborhood restaurant at least once a week, I never felt theneed to go in because(a) it has an unappealing storefront look, and (b) Idislike Indian food. After reading a very positive review of it in the BostonGlobe, I thought that I'd give it a try. The first thing that you notice whenyou walk in is, what I consider to be an unpleasant odor...the odor of Indianfood! The menu is very long, filled with lots of lamb, rice, spices and breads.I settled on an appetizer called batata wada(love that name!) which was mashedpotato patties dipped in chickpea batter and deep fried. Very good. My entreewas chicken vindaloo...chunks of chicken cooked with sliced potatos in a veryhot vinegar sauce. Although hot, it wan't nearly as hot as the jerk seasoningson last night's scallops. This was also very good. Nice experience; no need toreturn. (3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- THE NEW LEGAL SEA FOODS

The latestbranch of Boston's most famous seafood chain, has opened in the theaterdistrict, and it's by far, the most beautiful of them all. Of course, the foodis excellent, as is the service. I ordered: as an appetizer, corn and crab hushpuppies; as an entree, sea scallops with jerk seasonings, mashed potatos, andbutternut squash; as dessert, blackberry and lemon sorbet...all as perfect ascould be expected.( 4 1/2 Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- LODO  (CLOSED)

A good diningexperience can easily be ruined by factors that have nothing to do with therestaurant's food. Last night, this happened to me. These factors included: (a)four mermbers of our seven member party showing up 35 minutes late...not thefirst time that they've done this...leaving the other three people to deal withan unhappy owner, (b)the most bizarre, incompetent waitress that I've everencountered in a restaurant("I'm not an airhead; I'm on coldmedication!!!") Other than that, the food and decor in this relatively newNorth End eatery is up there with the best in the neighborhood. All of ourfood, ranging from delicious appetizers of pan-seared scallops, to excellentpasta, seafood and meat entrees was prepared to perfection.(4 1/2 stars forfood; 0 stars for "everything else!"

A RESTAURANTREVIEW- RED CLAY

Owner MichelaLarson, and chef, Jody Adams, formerly of "Rialto" and "Upstairsat the Pudding" both in Cambridge, have opened their new restaurant,"Red Clay" in the Chestnut Hill Atrium. The restaurant is a triumphof interior design, in the Adam Tihany mold. In fact, it may HAVE been designedby Tihany Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, you can't eat the chandeliers!The only thing truly delicious on the menu, are the appetizers; it's downhillafter that. My friends had Lemon Chicken served in red clay pots(get it?)which, they said, was quite ordinary. I ordered a pizza for an entree becausemy appetizer(eggplant panini with olive tapinade,) was very fillling; the pizzawas just OK. To make matters worse, the service was dreadful...long waitsbetween everything. Maybe we should have waited a few months! (2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

DE LUXCAFE- Inside this hot and trendy spot in the SouthEnd, lurks a place where bikers and truckers might eat on a lonely stretch ofroad outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico! The walls are covered with Elvismemorabilia, music of the '50s and '60s is playing, and there's a lightedChristmas tree on the bar. The clientele, far from the expected grungy, is squeakyclean and collegiate. The food is surprisingly good, ranging from spiced turkeywrapped in banana leaves to pork tenderloin in green Thai curry sauce, andgrilled polenta with butternut squash and tomato sauce to chicken quesadillas.Prices are very reasonable, and the waitress suited the decor...possiblymoonlighting as a bike messenger? (3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

THE BACK EDDY: Chris Schlesinger,the owner of the East Coast Grill and The Blue Room in Cambridge, has opened anew riverfront restaurant in Westport, in the Southern part of the state. Thereviews have all been raves. Well, I BEG TO DIFFER! If I'm going to travel 65miles away from a great sea-food town to GET sea-food, it better be somethingvery special. On the contrary, the food(most of which is fried!) is veryordinary, the decor, aside from being right on the water(as is EVERY sea-foodrestarant in Boston!), is nothing to write home about, and the service is sobad that I don't even have a category for it. I can't remember the last timethat I had to deal with such an incompetent waitress.(1 -star)

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Grill 23 and Bar"

The four"best" steakhouses in Boston are: Grill 23 and Bar, Morton's, ThePalm, and Capital Grille. The best of the four is Grill 23 and Bar. If you loveyour steak, in a beautiful atmosphere loaded with testosterone, this is theplace for you. My appetizer was Marinated Tomatoes & Buffalo Mozzarellas,and my entree was Grill 23 Meatloaf with chorizo and wood fired tomato coulis.It was one of the tastiest meatloaf dishes that I've ever had. Dessert wasFallen Chocolate Souffle Cake(!) Service and presentation were excellent.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- TAVERNA TOSCANA- There's nothing pretentiousabout this simple Tuscan restaurant in the North End, except its' excellentfood and gracious service(our waitress had just recently left her home inFlorence to work here.) Although quite small, with tables filling the room, onedoesn't seem to be intruding on the conversations of ones neighbors. I stayedwith the tried and true, a delicious risottto alla contadina,but my friend Peteordered an excellent whole (boned) trout with lemon and capers. Both werecooked to perfection. Unfortunately, the restaurant serves no desserts. (Wewent to the Caffe Paradiso, where they serve nothing hut desserts!) The hostessat the restaurant is an Italian charmer...worth a visit just to talk to her.(41/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

ATLANTICA- Ourplans were to have dinner at the Red Lion Inn in Cohasset, prior to seeingMichael Feinstein at the South Shore Music Circus there. This restaurant wasthe only one in Cohasset recommended by both last year's Zagat Survey and AAA.When we got there, we found that the Red Lion Inn was gutted and undergoing arestoration! After asking around, we found out that there were two otherrestaurants in town. We went to the first, Kimball's to take a look at the roomand the menu. The menu was fine and the room was elegant, but staid(the kind ofplace that you'ld take your grandmother to.) We drove to the second, and brandnew place. Right on the water, everthing about the ATLANTICA was perfect.Beautiful decor, excellent menu, and as we found out later, fine food. Whatkeeps it from getting 5-stars is that when we entered, without reservations, wehad to eat in the very-beautiful pub area, as opposed to the "finedining" area(which has a separate, much more pricey, menu.) Smoking isallowed in this area, and we did encounter a smell of smoking as we entered theroom, but not as we were dining. Definitely worth the short drive(20 miles)over from Boston.(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT BRICCO- As much as I hated to see "VadoPazzo" close (I loved their variety of risottos,) Restaurant Bricco is awelcome addition to the dozens of excellent restaurants in the already-crowdedNorth End.

Taking freshItalian ingredients, and preparing them in a way that is often called "theCalifornia style" chef Bill Bradley, fresh from the Napa Valley, turnstraditional Italian dishes into works of art The interior design of Bricco isby Adam Tihany, and some of the presentations look as though he designed THEMas well..Don't look for your usual red sauce pastas here; instead what you'llfind will be surprising and wonderful. Do save room for a dessert created bypastry chef Kristen Gitierrez; you won't be disappointed. (4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- GOLDEN TEMPLE

For those ofyou who know how much I dislike Chinese food and Chinese restaurants ingeneral, it'll come as a surprise to you(as it did to me) how much I enjoyedthe Golden Temple in Brookline. Maybe it was because of the excellent company,or maybe it was that terrific Frozen Banana Daiquiri, but everything seemed tobe quite sophisticated and high-quality. The decor of the restaurant iselaborate, bordering on Vegas glitzy, and so this helps to make the diner feelconfident that what's coming out of the kitchen is what you've ordered ratherthan the usual "mystery food." This may be a false sense of confidence,but everything was, in fact, delicious and prepared to perfection. For anappetizer I had Scallion Pancakes and my entree was Szechuan Shrimp withpeppers, carrots, celery, and onions over rice.(Very hot and spicy!) One of myfriends had Crab Rangoon as an appetizer and this was the best dish on thetable. The only dessert available was fortune cookies(!) Just as I was thinkingthat the clientele was very classy , I noticed an idiot eating with hisbaseball cap on. OK, so I have certain pet peeves. Who doesn't?

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- CLAREMONT CAFE

On a warmsummer night, when you're looking for a great meal in an outdoor setting, wherethere's good people-watching, in a colorful neighborhood, Boston offers so manychoices. You can either head to the North End, the Faneuil Hall area, the SouthEnd, the Harvard Square area, the Waterfront, Newbury Street, etc. We went tothe South End with its majestic brick townhouses and the constant parade of"colorful" people, and trendy restaurants. The Clarefront Cafe, withits award-winning Sunday Brunch, has been slowly becoming a great dinner place.I'd been hearing so many good things about it that I thought that we'd give ita try. The menu is Meditteranean with a South American touch(tapas.) For myappetizer I chose an Eggplant, Arugula, and Marinated Mozzarella Terrine andGreen Risotto(with Spinach, Arugula, Basil, Tomato and Corn) as my entree.Dessert was a Chocolate Brownie Parfait. We had a delicious Sangria to accompanyour meal. Food and presentation were excellent, but service left much to bedesired. I had to ask for the parmesan to put on the Risotto, and the busboywas a stealth busboy, sneaking up on us like a cat. Once, when I turned to makea gesture, I slammed into him knocking over part of the dish that he wasserving to me! It's a good thing that we were sitting outside, and the lettucejust fell on the pavement like Autumn leaves! Of course, it was HIS fault. Whenhe brought the check, he forgot to include the bill to be signed!!!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

A DAY ATTHE BEACH and a RESTAURANT REVIEW-"THE RED PARROT" at NANTASKET BEACH

When twofriends of mine called to ask me if I wanted to go to the beach, I put aside myplans for the afternoon and evening and grabbed my blanket and sunblock...theweather was perfect. We drove out to Nantasket Beach in Hull, and spent sometime relaxing on this huge Atlantic Ocean beach. When we all got hungry, weleft the beach and walked along the beachfront street, checking out the variousfoodstands, clubs and restaurants, until we found the perfect place. Whatattracted us to The Red Parrot was its size, its huge second-floor deck fordrinking/dining, and its view of the ocean. The menu was eclectic...it includedEVERYTHING! We had drinks and then I had a plate of Pasta Primavera. The foodwas good, but not exceptional, and the service was comical(our waitress didn'tknow what a pepper-mill was!)but everything came together...perfect weather, aspectacular view of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean at sunset, good drinks andfood, and most importantly, good conversation with wonderful friends. A perfectafternoon and evening.

(4-Stars forthe restaurant) (5-Stars+ for the day!!!)

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "KINGFISH HALL"

Chef/OwnerTodd English, who presides over "Olives," (which many people considerto be Boston's finest restaurant,) as well as his three up-scale bistros called"Figs"(in Boston, Chestnut Hill, and Wellesley,) has now created aseafood restaurant to add to his empire. Previously, when friends came to townand wanted my recommendations for a place to get "the best seafood intown," I would always say "Legal's"(Legal Sea Foods,) but ToddEnglish has just upped-the-ante! "Kingfish Hall," in the touristyMarket at Faneuil Hall is as good as it gets. If you've been to Faneuil Halland are expecting the usual granite/brick walled, wood-beamed ceiling decor...forget it. David Rockwell and Adam Chihuly have created a sea-world fantasy ofcopper, gold-leaf, patterned cloth, colored glass, and water-walls! Better thanJaspar White's "Summer Shack", it rivals Legal's as being the best intown...and that really means something in Boston. Chef English takes the usualseafood menu and turns it upside down using spices, wines, vegetables, fruitgarnishes and sauces, to create culinary wonders. He's a genius and theresulting meal is worth a trip to Boston. My appetizer was an Endive andAsparagus Salad with Crab Meat and Mustard Vinaigrette. My entree was GrilledHalibut with Eggplant, Ratatouille, Feta Cheese and Fig Garnish. Dessert wasVanilla Chocolate Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce. English himself was in therestaurant tonight working the room, and when he got to our table, afterchatting up the model business with my friends who are models, he told us thathe's planning to open an "Olives" in Union Square in New York inNovember. When he left the table, we all said the same thing..."he'sspreading himself too thin!" Let's hope not.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "MOTHER ANNA'S"

Those of youwho live in Boston might be wondering why I never got around to eating at thisrestaurant that's been in the North End for over 35 years. Maybe I just had apremonition that it would be as bad as it turned out to be. Actually, the foodwasn't bad...just ordinary. However, I'm sure that you've all had theexperience of eating in a restaurant where the food was blah, and the roomappeared to be an afterthought, but the overall dining experience was excellentbecause of your choice of dinner guest. That was the case last night. In spiteof the ordinary food, I had a fine time because of my dinner companion, a finebottle of Kendall-Jackson Sauvignon Blanc, and a fun, ditzy waitress. We shareda plain Antipasto as an appetizer, and I had Gorgonzola Tortellini withPan-fried Mushrooms and Artichoke Hearts as an entree. We shared Spumoni andTiramisu(ugh!) for dessert. The bread was delicious. With over a hundredrestaurants to chose from in the North End, and most of them in the very- good-to- outstanding category, don't waste your night-out at Mother Anna's.

(2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- THE BACK BAY "FIRE ANDICE"

If you'vebeen to the "Fire and Ice" restaurant in Harvard Square in Cambridge,then you pretty much know what to expect of this new, larger, more yuppy branchin the Back Bay in Boston. The concept remains the same: after you've beenseated you go up to different stations, where you select one-inch chunks ofvarious meats and fish(steak, lamb, veal, pork, turkey, scallops, shark,shrimp, lobster etc.) Then, you add vegetables, noodles, and one of a dozen orso sauces. Once you've created your entree "bowl," you take it up tothe large central grill, where everything is grilled for you and then broughtto your table. While you're waiting, you can go to the salad station and fillup on the salads of the evening. You can keep going back for more, until you'reready to explode. Your dish is as good, or as bad, as what you've createdyourself! It's all lots of fun if you have a good group...and we did.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "ERNESTO'S"

Thisreview is for pizza lovers everywhere. Last night,we went over to the NorthEnd, and discovered a little hole in the wall on Salem Street(probably the ONLYplace that serves Sicilian pizza in the North End.) This was a lucky discovery,because the Sicilian pizza at Ernesto's is easily the best Sicilian pizza inBoston, and probably the best Sicilian pizza that I've had ANYWHERE. TheNeapolitan(round)pizza looked delicious too, with lots of toppings available(ricottaand pesto;roasted peppers and goat cheese,etc.) This is a real find; we'll begoing back THERE often. Unfortunately, they don't deliver.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW: TARANTA

As often asrestaurants come and go in the North End, they always seem to get better. Lastyear's brand-new "Lodo" is now this year's brand-new"Taranta." The cuisine is "cucina meridionale" whichtranslates out to anything South of Naples! Lodo had excellent food, but theservice was laughable. Our waitress notified us, "I'm a little slow wityouse because I'm under medication!!!" At Taranta, EVERYTHING isexcellent. The decor remains unchanged on all three floors, except for largeprints of Sicily and Calabria. All of the windows are still open to the street;a charming look. The food is first rate, as is the presentation, and especiallythe service. My friend and I shared an unusually generous Antipasto, and then Ihad a fine Fusilli with Goat Cheese, Artichokes, and Eggplant. Because therewas a feast on in the streets, we left our dessert for outside at one of themany stands. We met friends, wandered through the streets to the sounds of AlMartino who was singing live at the central bandstand. (If you remember him,you're as old as I am. He was the singer in "The Godfather," whobecame a star when Don Corleone had the horse's head cut off and put in theproducer's bed!) But, I digress. Dessert was homemade cannolis stuffed with thefreshest of ricotta creams. Delicious!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Caliterra"

The strikingnew restaurant in Boston's Financial District, weds the best of Tuscan foodclassics, with the cooking styles of Northern California. The result is oftenquite wonderful. Fresh Italian food products prepared and garnished with lots offresh fruits, like pears, apples and especially figs, raspberries andblueberries. Caliterra in the new Wyndam Hotel is stunning in its decor,matching that of the hotel, with its Art Deco murals of agricultural villagescenes and ceilinged frescoes and terrazzo floors...Mission Style meets WPA ArtDeco! Service is impeccable and enjoyable, and the presentation is excellent.Our appetizers consisted of Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach, and Tomato Confitand Pan Seared Scallops with Vidalia Onions, Goat Cheese, Zucchini and Figs. Weshared a Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad with Pine Nuts and more Figs. Entreeswere, Cappellini with Pomodoro and Basil, and Rock Shrimp with Sun-driedTomatoes, Mascarpone Cheese and Basil. The excellent desserts were Chocolate BreadPudding with Chocolate Ice Cream, and a fine Cheese Tray...with more figs!. Wechose a very in-your-face Sardinian White Wine to accompany the meal.Delicious!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Remington's" (CLOSED)

If you'regoing to the Colonial Theater in Boston and you don't feel like walking far;you don't want to eat very much; and you don't want to spend a fortune, thenhop right next door to Remington's. In a pub-like atmosphere, the food is fine,but not very imaginative, the wine list is OK, and you'll have a hard timespending more than $25! We shared a large plate of nachos with jalapenos(getthe picture?) and then I had Maryland Crab Cakes with French Fries. My friendhad Beef Barley Soup and then Chicken Kiev with Rice Pilaf. A decent glass ofPinot Grigio made it all seem much better than it actually was.

(3-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Atara"

In the placeformerly occupied by the once chic(now defunct) "Uva," is the newbistro and wine bar, "Atara." Beuautiful in decor, with an eclecticAmerican menu, this place should do very well. Three of us enjoyed everythingthat we ordered, and the service was attentive. But the bread was stale! Myappetizer was Artichoke and Goat Cheese Dip with Pita, and my entree was VealMeatloaf with Broccoli Rabe and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. My wine was a PinotBlanc. Sometimes a bathroom will tell you a great deal about a restaurant andthose at "Atara" were beautifully designed, and very clean. When Istart to describe the bathrooms in my restaurant review, it probably shows alack of enthusiasm for something. Unfortunately I can't put my finger on whatwas bothering me about this lovely place. It wasn't the company; my friends whowere dining with me were fine company. Could it have been the stale bread?

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Hazel's CountryKitchen"

If you'retaking a train out of Boston's Back Bay Station and you feel like a sandwich oran omelette, then you might want to cross the street to this new littlerestaurant and sidewalk cafe. Nothing is really out of the ordinary on themenu, but it certainly beats having to eat your meal on an Amtrak train!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Chili's" (at Copley Place)

Believe it ornot, Bostonians, this IS my first visit to this centrally-located(in CopleyPlace)popular hang-out. I haven't been missing much! It's strictly genericAmerican/Mexican food(quesadillas, fajitas,etc.,) not very well prepared.Everything tasted the same. Service is a joke. No need to return to this one.

(1-Star)

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "LIMONCELLO"

It was just ayear ago, that a man from Somerville, Mass.(my old neighborhood) bought a $5scratch ticket from the Lottery , and ended up winning a million dollars. Hisdream was to open a restaurant in the North End, and "Limoncello" isthe fulfillment of that dream. Isn't that a nice story? Luckily, he was able tofind an excellent chef, and the end result is a wonderful new restaurant in thealready over crowded North End. The food is excellent, as is the very personalizedservice and presentation. Many of the dishes are spiced up with the Italiancordial Limoncello, a delicious liqueur. As an appetizer, I had Seared Scallopswith Limoncello and Baby Arugula. My entree was Massetto Pasta with Tomatoes,Prosciutto, and Crema di Limoncello, and Dessert was Tartufo di Limoncello. Seewhat I mean? We had a delicious Vernaccia di San Gimignano(getting ready forthe Tuscany trip!)as our wine, and we ended up guzzling a few glasses of thecordial, Limoncello. It's delicious! If this review sounds a little bit loopy,it's because I'm completely buzzed from the wine and the Limoncello!!! OurRoman waitress Cartuscia, was a definite addition to the overall enjoyment ofthe evening!!!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Ithink!

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Laurel"

Yet anotherfine restaurant in the South End of Boston. This one in the space formerlyoccupied by The Blue Wave. The menu is American eclectic, and the decor isborderline lavish. We were in a bit of a rush, as we were heading off to seethe musical "Copacabana," but no fear, we had plenty of time to enjoyan excellent three course dinner, washed down with a fine full-bodiedArgentinian Cabernet Sauvignon. My appetizer was the usual Mozzarella,Tomatoes, and Arugula with Balsamic Vinegar. My friend Mike had Fried Calamari.My entree was Risotto with Mushrooms and Beets. Mike had Shreaded Veal withGarlic Mashed Potatoes. We shared an excellent English Trifle with Espresso andSambuca.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANT"REVIEW- Flash's

Flash's is nota restaurant...it's a cocktail lounge. The kind of neighborhood hang-out wheresuits take their secretaries after work, with the hope of "scoring."We were misled into thinking that this new eatery in the Back Bay WAS arestaurant. So, we settled in, and ordered four of the nine tapas on thevery-limited food menu. There were three of us, and we had the following tapas:A selection of artichoke and potato ragout, whole roasted garlic, roasted redpeppers, frittata, grilled red onions and smoked eggplant(called "TheMagnificent seven!;") the French brie on doughy brioche toast with an herbsalad and pickled shallots, and a creamy tomato soup dip; Asian fish and chipswith a wasabi tartar sauce; and shittake mushroom ravioli in a celery root puree.As entrees, two of us ordered the seared sea scallops with pumpkin risotto, andthe third ordered chicken breast and some sort of dumplings. We washed it alldown with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and one of Sauvignon Blanc...both fromChile. The wine was fine!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW: "STARS onHUNTINGTON"  (CLOSED)

If you're inBoston visiting Northeastern University, or either of the two nearbymuseums(Museum of Fine Arts or the Gardner,) and you're looking for a goodplace to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, look no further. Now that Stars hasopened, you don't have to resort to either the expensive end of theneighborhood places(Ambrosia, Brasserie Jo, the Fine Arts,) or the cheapend(Dunkin' Donuts, Au Bon Pain.) Stars has a wholesome menu of Americancomfort foods(Meat Loaf, Swordfish, Pulled Chicken and Penne) and asurprisingly good wine list(heavy on the French and American wines.) I had agood Caesar Salad, and then, the Maple-glazed Meat Loaf. My friend Rob had theCaesar Salad as well, and then the Pulled Chicken and Penne. Big portions; bothdelicious. For dessert, we both had Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice CreamSandwich...obscene! We had a fine bottle of Tuscan Vernaccia to accompany themeal. The decor and the service were both excellent.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW-"LA BUONA VITA"

I've beentrying to get back to Somerville for months now to try the new restaurant"Buona Vita," so when we passed this restaurant in Arlington (thenext town over) called "La Buona Vita," I just assumed that it wasthe same place and that the Boston Globe reviewer had made a mistake on thelocation. So we went in and had as good a meal as any that I've had in theNorth End. Everything was excellent including the service. It's a smallunpretentious "mamma-papa" store. Mama and son wait on the tables,while papa Angelo does the cooking...and his cooking is incredible. P.S. It WASthe wrong restaurant...the other one IS in Somerville. But don't let that orthe store-like appearance of the place stop you. As I said before, the food andservice are exceptionally good. If you make the trip out to Arlington, don'tmiss Lakota Bakery. They have the best cookies that I've had ANYWHERE!!!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

forboth!

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW-"Franklin Cafe"

Arguably, themost difficult restaurant to get into in the South End of Boston, is theunbelievably popular Franklin Cafe. Having been told that the secret to gettingin("no reservations accepted,"), is to get there promptly at 5:30pmwhen it opens, we did, and it worked, although we got the next to the lasttable. Is it worth the hassle? Absolutely. It's a charming and romanticcandle-lit room, with a knowledgeable, attentive and attractive wait-staff, andmost importantly, excellent food. As an appetizer, I had Ribbolita...the famousbread, potato and bean soup of Tuscany. My entree was Turkey Meat Loaf with FigGravy and Spiced Mashed Potatoes. Our wine was a delicious, hearty CabernetSauvignon. The Cafe has no dessert, so we walked down the street to the Gardenof Eden where we had really fine mousse and camomille tea. The South End isreally turning into a gourmets paradise, with almost as many restaurants as theItalian North End. The difference here is that the restaurants serve a VARIETYof ethnic cuisines...from French to Vietnamese. Most are excellent.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW-"BACCO"

Just whatBoston's North End needs...another Italian restaurant! Fortunately, the food atBacco, is as good as anything you'll get anywhere else in the North End.Excellent appetizers, pastas, and entrees. What I didn't like, was the factthat, in spite of its choice location at the crossroads of Salem and ParmenterStreets, this two-storied restaurant closes off its main dining room upstairsfrom Sunday to Thursday, leaving diners, like us, to eat in the bar area, wherepeople can smoke. Luckily, there was no one in the bar, so we didn't have todeal with the smoke element. As I said before, the food was excellent, butthere are no desserts, forcing you to go to one of the North End's manypastry/cafes to end off your meal. We went to the Modern, the best in the area.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Prezza"

Withoutmeaning to do so, I'm afraid that many of my restaurant reviews sound boringly similar,unless the restaurants are outstandingly bad, or outstandingly good. Prezzacertainly falls into the latter category. This new North End restaurantfeatures the foods of the Abruzzi region of Italy, and it stands apart from itsneighbors in both its look, its sounds, and its tastes. Looks: the decor iselegantly minimalist (an oxymoron?) in shades of tan and deep brown, withmahogany wood accents and tastefully framed black and white photographs ofItalian scenes on the walls. Sounds: the music of a female cabaret singersinging the more obscure(but beautiful) songs of Gershwin, Arlen, Porter, etc.comes out of the sound system (no Andrea Bocelli here!) Tastes: Ah, the tastes!At our table, the appetizers ranged from Straciatella with escarole, egg,.pecorino cheese and meatballs(mine,) to Wood grilled squid and octopus withbraised white beans and toasted parsley, and Spicy Mussels in a tomato-fennelstew over chorizo polenta. Our entrees were Pumpkin tortelli tossed with brownbutter and sage; Roasted Duck with crispy risotto cake stuffed with gorgonzolaand pears and sauternes glaze. We all had the same dessert...Banana Ice Creamand almond gratin torte in a grappa and fig sauce. Our wine was a fineSangiovese. The service was excellent. Cost: about $70 person.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Buona Vita"

What adifference between last night's restaurant, "Prezza," and tonight'srestaurant, "Buona Vita." The only thing that they have in common isthe fact that both of the owners come from the Abruzzi region of Italy. Butthere the similarity ends. Buona Vita is a small store-front place inSomerville, that looks more like a sub shop than a fine dining establishment.Decor is pleasant, but definitely not of the linen and china variety. Serviceis, at best, well-intentioned. Which brings us to the food, and here's whereBuona Vita earns its growing reputation. Mamma Lidia DiPietrantonio does allthe cooking, and everything is fresh and homemade and comes in huge portions. Ihaven't tasted such delicious Arancini (rise balls stuffed with meat andmozzarella) outside of Brooklyn! All of the red-sauce dishes that we had werehuge and delicious. My Manicotti Fra Diavolo was HOT!!! They don't have aliquor license so there was no wine. It's sort of like "The Little EngineThat Could." Trying SOOOOO hard! I hope that the students at Tuftsdiscover it, and that it fills up all of its 19 seats every night.

(3-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Centro"

With theNorth End, the South End and Somerville, inundated with restaurants, where elseis the Boston restaurateur to go except for the adventurous environment of aneighborhood like Central Square in Cambridge, with its Third World grittiness?Centro will probably usher in a whole batch of chic new upscale restaurants inthe area...it is just that good. Chef/owner Rene Michelena calls it atrattoria. I would call it the best new Italian restaurant to open inBoston/Cambridge this year! With understated, but beautiful decor, excellent,knowledgeable wait-staff, and best of all, some of the finest Italian altacucina in town, Centro is destined for glory. My friend Joy and I ordered theBroccoli rabe salad with lemon and wheat beans, for our Appetizer. (This camewith Tuscan bread spread with anchovy paste.) Her Entree was a giant Pork Chopstuffed with Escarole with Cauliflower gratin. I went for the Garlic Gnocchiwith Roasted Mozzarella and Marinara Sauce. My dessert was a Lemon pound cakewith Thyme-scented Mascarpone. Joy had Toasted "Ravioli" stuffed withfigs, apricots, and oranges. Our wine was a delicious Banfi from Tuscany. Thisone's a find!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- SOUTHEND GALLERIA  (CLOSED)

What's in aname? What used to be "La Bettola" one of my favoritre South Endrestaurants, has now become the ultra-chic SouthEnd Galleria...same management,different name and chef. We went to the SouthEnd Galleria on the last night ofthe "Heart of Puglia in Boston" festival, when we were able to takeadvantage of some of the incredible dishes created by visiting Pugliese chefSalvatore Bufi For an appetizer I had the Veal Meatballs with CaramelizedVegetables, and my friend Ben and I shared a Salad of Greens with MustardVinaigrette. For an entree, I had the Risotto with Shallots; Ben had the VealChop with Triple-Cheese Polenta. My Dessert was Tuscan Gelati with Biscotti.Ben had the Almond Mousse with Gelati and Chocolate Sauce. Our wine was aChianti Classico Riserva. Rita, the maitress d'/owner was intrigued by, eithermy bald head or my charming personality(!!!) In any case, she plied us withprograms of the Puglia Festival, Menus, and complimentary Limoncellos at thebar! Needless to say, I was quite intoxicated by the flattery as well as thealcohol! Did I mention that the ambience is as charming as it was when it was"La Bettola?" I'm a sucker for the look of "walls asruins." The place is overbooked, so make your reservations early...andcarefully! I hope that this review makes sense, because I'm wasted!!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SALAMANDER"  (CLOSED)

Whenchef/owner Stan Frankenthaler moved his Salamander from its former location inCambridge on the banks of the Charles, to the stunning new Trinity Place condoson Copley Square, he brought with him his Asian-Fusion menu, and a reputationfor impeccable service. The menu still consists of dishes with Asianingredients prepared in a European/American way.The decor however, is acomtemporary take on an Asian motif, with lots of walnut woods in the floorsand chairs, and copper and zinc on the tables. Very beautiful, in a sort ofHollywood/Asian way! The food is still as good as ever, and the service is evenbetter. My appetizer was an Albacore Tuna Salad with Marinated Fancy Radishesand Cucumbers all Topped with Sashimi of Scallops. My entree was Potato StuffedSamosas served with Braised Escarole, Mango Chutney and Puree of Lentils. Mydessert was Sorbet of Passion Fruit, Mango, and Orange Champagne. Our wine wasa Verdiccio from Tuscany. I can't quite tell you why I'm not giving it 5-Stars,except to say that everything except the service, fell just a little bit shortof the mark. I'm probably being unfair, because I left my umbrella there, andhad to go all the way back to get it! So, I'm punishing the restaurant!!!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "PIGALLE"

Pigalle billsitself as a "bistro" but that's certainly a misnomer. What it is is avery up-scale Parisian-style French restaurant(read,"expensive")where presentation takes precedence over portion size. This newtheater-district restaurant, in the place formerly occupied by the fine Greekrestaurant Omonia, is done up to look like a men's club in Britain; all darkwoods and fine china, etc. The food is generally excellent, although most ofthe portions could hardly be called anything more than attractive! I had a TunaNicoise as an appetizer, and it was nothing more than a few chunks of tuna, twohard-boiled eggs and some delicious bacon. I just made that sound awful, but infact, it was delicious. It just wasn't the large bowl of Tuna Nicoise that Iexpected. My entree was Seared Scallops with "something wonderful" inthe middle(!) Again, it was delicious. For dessert I had Profiteroles. Theywere excellent. Our wine was a fruity Beaujolais (not "Nouveau" butexcellent nevertheless.) The meal was excellent. The service was expert. Thedecor was understated. A fine addition to the sparse theater-district diningscene.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANT/SHOWREVIEW- THE GOSPEL BRUNCH AT THE"HOUSE OF BLUES"  (CLOSED)

I can'tbelieve that it's taken me so long to get over to the Gospel Brunch at theHouse of Blues in Cambridge. I've had dinner there, but never the GospelBrunch. In any case, it's great fun, if the gospel group performing is a goodone, and ours was(Jessica Hampton and the Heavenly Angels!) The male singerPhil Green, and the back-up band were also very good. They got the people ontheir feet, waving their arms and screaming "Halleleulah." What morecould you want? How about a great Cajun Brunch? There's plenty of gooddown-home food(fried chicken, roasted potatoes, corn bread, collard greens,cajun frittata, carved roast beef, scrambled eggs, catfish, bread pudding,french toast, watermelon, etc.) It's all-you-can-eat so bring a big appetite.We did, and got stuffed!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Lucca"

Have therestaurants of Boston's Italian North End always been divided into two distinctcategories, or have I just noticed that fact since I started writing thesereviews? In any case, there are the dozens of restaurants that have been around"forever," and then there are those that seem to change managementyearly. Prior to Christmas, "Lucca" was "Il Bacio!" IlBacio was a fine restaurant with a laid-back atmosphere and a noisy bar area.Lucca is a fine restaurant with an upscale atmosphere and a subduedreduced-in-size bar area. It's a distinct improvement. If you're looking for amore trattoria/bistro experience, sit on the street level, with itsceiling-to-floor windows open to the street...(perfect for a warm summernight.) Downstairs, the atmosphere is elegant and European with rough granitewalls and tapestries. The food and service(with waiters dressed in "SouthBeach black") at both levels is excellent. At our table we had Tuscan BeanSoup with Vegetables and Bruschetta, and Potato and Wild Mushroom Lasagna asappetizers, Pappardelle and Ground Veal Bolognese with Red Wine and SmokedTomatoes, and Bisteca Fiorentina as entrees, and Flourless Chocolate Cake withMaple-Walnut Gelato and Cappuccino as desserts. Our wine was one of FrancisFord Coppola's Napa Valley Cabernet Francs. A lively new addition to the NorthEnd scene; let's hope that it stays around long enough to join the"been-around-forever" category!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "McCormick &Schmick's"

Bostonprobably has more seafood restaurants, per capita, than any other city in theworld...and now there's another one! What, you might ask, does thePortland-based "McCormick and Schmick's" have, that others don'thave? Just about all of our seafood restaurants serve fish right out of thewater, so what does this one have to offer that's different? For one, its sixor so rooms are lavishly decorated in an Art Deco/Mission/Frank Lloyd Wrightstyle that even tops Todd English's "Kingfish Hall." Secondly, the seafoodmenu is one of the most extensive that I've ever seen, and the freshness of thefish is attested to by the fact that the menu is printed twice a day, to keepup with the catch. Thirdly, the portions are huge; easily enough to be sharedby two normal people. Last, but not least by any means, the wait-staff ispolite, nice, and knowledgable. I had Coquille St.Jacques for an appetizer (itwas large enough to be an entree,) Parmesan-crusted Dover Sole with Lemon CaperButter, Asparagus Spears, Carrots, and Garlic Mashed Potatos as my entree (itwas large enough for two entrees,) and Strawberry Shortcake for dessert (easilyenough for two.) Our wine was a Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay; not MY choice, butit was very good. The restaurant is in Boston's theater district, in the ParkPlaza "triangle" formed by Maggiano's, Fleming's Steak House, andMcCormick and Schmick's....."The Cholesterol Triangle!"

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTRECAP-"Appetito"

After thetheater, we revisited an old "friend" in the South End...therestaurant Appetito. Since this is not my first time eating there, and I'vealready written a review of this long-established South End landmark, I canonly say that it's better than ever, possibly due to the new chef in thekitchen, and the expanded bar-area. Service and food are even better thanbefore. Give it a return shot and see what I'm talking about.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Piattini"

In thevery-desirable Newbury Street location recently vacated by the French bistro"Chanterelle," we now have the lovely Italian restaurant"Piattini." When it comes to ordering the appetizers or"piattini"(little plates!) this restaurant takes its name literally.Although all of the piattini are delicious, we had to order five of them andone salad for three of us (tapas style ). My appetizer was Tortellini withSpinach and Goat Cheese. The others were Crabcakes, and Pepper Stuffed withSpinach and Mozzarella. I chose a Risotto with Spring Vegetables and Parmesanas my entree. One of my friends selected Lobster Ravioli; the other VealScallopini with Potatoes. Everything was delicious. For dessert we had MilaneseProfiteroles and Tiramisu. The excellent wine was an Anselmi from the Veneto.Although service and decor were as good as could be desired (I loved the copper-toppedtables,) I'm withholding the fifth star because the bread, albeit Italian,tasted like white Tastee Bread! Even a fairly good, although somewhat blandolive oil, couldn't make it taste like it should have tasted. Give me a goodTuscan bread anyday. A good meal made much better than it actually was, by theexcellent company. Who said good friends can't make a good meal taste like anexcellent meal?

(4-Star)

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW: "Fleming's SteakHouse"

First of allyou should know that I much prefer a plate of pasta, or a good fish, to redmeat of any kind. Having said that, follow me now back to "the CholesterolTriangle" at Park Plaza, for a visit to the well-respected (albeit a chainrestaurant) steak house called Fleming's. The decor is men's-club-wood, withleather banquettes and well-spaced tables. Not unattractive, but generic.Appetizers come in family-sized portions; we had Spinach and Artichoke Fonduewith Spiced Pita Chips, and Mozzarrella and Tomato Salad. Our entrees were8oz.- cuts of Filet Mignon with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Mushrooms.For dessert I had a Mixed Berry Cobbler With Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Our winewas a Francis Coppola Chardonnay. Although everything that we ordered tastedgood, it wasn't exceptional...just good. We came away from the table feeling sobloated, that even a one-mile walk home didn't relieve the over-stuffedfeeling. In fact, as I'm writing this review, if I weren't in such good health,I'd probably have a heart attack right now, and fall over dead on my computerkeys!!!

(3-1/2 Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Oleana"

It's always apleasure, and usually a surprise, when a restaurant that's been over-hyped andcritically praised, lives up to that praise; Oleanna does that, and more. Whatis basically just two stores and a garden in Cambridge, has been magicallytransformed into a beautifully designed dining room, bar and romantic garden,in a style reminiscent of a Meditteranean villa, with traces of the Middle Eastthrown in. More importantly however, the service, and especially the food,match the beautiful decor. I went with Sue and Joy, two of my friends from thegym, and on a weekday night, the place was packed. Our appetizers were FriedMussels & Peppers with Turkish Tarator Sauce, Grilled Asparagus with LentilVinaigrette & Fried Goat Cheese, and Ricotta & Bread Dumplings withPorcini and Braised Lettuce. My entree was Broiled Baby Sole with Raki, Crab& Eggplant Souffle. The dessert, which had to be ordered at the beginningof the meal, was Orange Cardemon Gelato with warm Chocolate Hazelnut Torte. Mywine was a Pinot Grigio from Venice. Although the portions were not large, wewere stuffed at the end of the meal! Reservations are a must at any time of theweek, and the menu changes fairly often. Because of the beauty of the rooms andgarden, as well as the delicious food, I would recommend saving this place fora special occasion. It WILL be special.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Tu Y Yo"(You and Me)

This cheerfullittle "fonda" of a Mexican cafe, (in my old neighborhood inSomerville,) is modeled on the homestyle restaurants established in 18thCentury Mexico, and is as colorful as a zocalo in a small village in anyprovince of this wonderful country. The food featured on the menu is not of the"Tex-Mex" variety, but is more authentic...there are no chips andsalsa on the table! Our appetizers were "Sopes"(deep fried corn flourdough topped with beans, anejo cheese, onions, and zuccini.) My entree wasCamarones Mocambo(jumbo grilled shrimp in bay leaves, garlic, and guajillopeppers...hot, hot, hot!!!) These were served with a thick (and delicious)Black Bean Soup, and Mexican Spiced Rice. Our dessert was a wonderful homemadeFlan, made by the 85-year-old mother of the owner's sister-in-law!!! We washeddown all of these HOT dishes with an unusual White Sangria with Oranges. Anice, offbeat change of pace...but don't make a habit of it, if you still haveyour gall bladder!!!

(3-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "MARGO BISTRO"

On a beautifullate Spring evening, a stroll along the waterfront in Boston, is a perfect wayto work up an appetite for dinner at one of the many restaurants along theshore. After drinks outdoors at the Intrigue Cafe, we went to Margo Bistro, theMen's Club- style bistro in the new Harborside Inn. Elegant in a simple way,with its mahogany wood panels, and original granite columns (from its days as awaterfront warehouse) and hanging Italian lamps, this is a beautiful additionto the waterfront dining scene.The menu is extensive and eclectic.For anappetizer, I had Warm Salad of Sea Scallops and Jerusalem Artichokes with aLemon-Butter Vinaigrette, Radicchio, and Lamb's Lettuce; for an entree,Asparagus and Porcini Mushroom Ravioli in a Light Sweet Pea Cream with Truffleand Parmigiano, and for dessert, a delicious Blueberry Brioche Bread Puddingwith Creme l'Anglaise and Blueberry Coulis. Our wine was a nice Beaujolais.Everything was presented beautifully, and was cooked perfectly. Service wasfriendly but unobtrusive. The only negative was that the bread was frozen, sosome was too cold, and some too hot! After a day of shopping or sightseeing atFaneuil Hall, the Waterfront, or the Aquarium, this would be a perfect place totreat yourself to a well-deserved, and elegant dinner. Don't bring the kids!!!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANT REVIEW-"Tapeo" (on Newbury Street in Boston)

"Tapas" are hors d'oeuvres or appetizers that areserved in restaurants all over Spain, called tapas bars. These tapas bars havebecome very trendy in places like Columbus Avenue in New York, and now NewburyStreet in Boston. Sister to the well-established and popular Dali inSomerville, Tapeo is authentic in its decor and Sevillana music. When ordering,the diner can either order a single appetizer and entree as my friend Chris did(Shrimp, Chicken, Lobster and Littlenecks in a saffron, tomato, nut, wine andchocolate sauce as his entree,) or cover the table with lots of little platesof single-dish appetizers and entrees, as my friend Mike and I did. Myappetizers(tapas frias) were Anchovies and Black Olives on Tomato Toast, andGarlic Potatoes. My entrees(tapas calientes) were Chicken Croquettes, BakedGoat Cheese with Tomato & Basil, and Artichokes in Saffron Batter. We had acouple of pitchers of Sangria to accompany the tapas. Although the company wasexcellent and we had lots of fun, all of the food began to taste the same aftera while. Too much sangria, perhaps? We walked down the block for some Oreo icecream at Emack & Bolio's for dessert...and lots of people watching (eyecandy) on Newbury Street!

(3-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANT REVIEW- "Eclipse"

Chef/Owner Rob La Grassa's new restaurant Eclipse has anincredible history...one that could only be found in Boston. In 1848 it was thesite of Washington Hall, home to the Boston Whig Club, where Abraham Lincolngave impassioned speeches condemning slavery. Several years later the buildingbecame the Boston Aquarial Gardens, the first public aquarium in the world!Today it it is a beautiful restaurant with walls of soft yellow and eggplantaccents. The banquetts are covered in purple and gold, and pewter chandeliershang above the tables. Chef La Grassa is the third generation of chefs in hisfamily and his food and presentation show the excellence of this experience. Ihad a perfect Caesar Salad as an appetizer, and as my entree, a Dover Sole inLemon Butter with Basmatti Rice and Seasonal Vegetables. My dessert was a PannaCotta with Fresh Sliced Strawberries. Our wine was a delicious fruity PinotGrigio. I'm withholding one star, because the service was spotty,(we had to askfor more bread and water, and there was no ice bucket for our wine) even thoughwe were the only people in the restaurant!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "The Dancing Lobster"

When you comefrom a seafood town like Boston, it's hard to find a better seafood restaurantthan what we have at home. Aside from the picturesque location, on an upperdeck overlooking the beach and the harbor, there was nothing terribly unusual aboutthis place. My Caesar Salad and Crab Cakes were good, or was it just the twoMudslides that I had with them? (3-Stars) Back to Top

It's not hardto kill a few hours in between lunch and dinner, but you do tend to gawk andeavesdrop a lot on the incredible colorful scene all around you. We walkedaround Commercial Street (the beachfront main street of P-town, and stoppedevery now and then to sit and stare! Then it was time for dinner.

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Front Street"

This one WAS asurprise. Although I had heard a lot about Front Street, I never expected thelevel of excellence that we found. We walked on a garden path, and down a fewsteps, into a below-street-level beautifully designed romantic hideaway, wherewe were seated and given menus that could have been prepared in a fine Bostonor New York restaurant...Meditteranean high cuisine at its finest. It's a goodthing that we were told to get reservations a week in advance, because theplace was packed by 6:30pm. My appetizer was a delicious Eggplant Involtini andmy entree was an Asparagus Tortelloni; I couldn't finish it!

Peach andRaspberry Sorbet for dessert. Our wine was a nice Orvieto. (5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Mantra"
 Just when I thought that the restaurant scene in Boston had reached alevel of perfection that would satisfy the most discriminating gourmet in any
 comparable city in the world, along comes a new restaurant that puts itone notch higher. That restaurant is the almost indescribable"Mantra." Just one
 block away from the new Millennium "city-within-a city," (thenew Ritz Carlton on the Common, the 19-megaplex Boston Common theaters, the twoglass
 condo towers, the L.A. Sports Complex,) "Mantra" was built intothe beautiful Old Colony Bank. The designers integrated the former bank's grand
 architectural features into a Phillippe Starck- South Beach kind ofbizarre opulence. If you're in the neighborhood, drop in for a drink at the
over-the-top bar, and just gawk! The Iranian chefs prepare a cuisine that isafusion of French and Indian and it is completely wonderful. Appetizers like
 my Braised Scallops with Pandemum Chips and Crisp Cabbage and my entreeof Grilled Halibut over Jerusalem Artichokes in aYogurt/Wine Sauce were cookedto perfection and served on plates that looked like works of art. The chefgives out "amuses-bouches" (samples of other menu items) at everycourse, so you get to taste more than what you order. Our meal was accompaniedby a magnificent Montrachet Burgundy. The service by a wait-staff in elegantbrown designer Nehru suits was perfection. We had five people serving us! Icould go on forever in praise of "Mantra." Instead, I think that I'lljust go back. Oh, by the way, it costs a fortune!!!
(5-Stars) Back to Top


Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "BERKSHIRE GRILL" atthe Prudential Center
Think"The Ground Round," "Applebee's" and"Charlie-O's," and you'll have a fairly clear idea of what you mightexpect at the attractive new restaurant at the Prudential Center. What youmight not expect is the sheer incompetence of the service, specifically, ourwaiter Boris. Let me back up a bit. As I said, the decor is very pretty, themenu tries to accomodate all tastes, and the presentation of the food is fine.However, my friend Anthony had to send back his Grilled Salmon, which was soundercooked, that it could have passed for sushi!
Now about Boris. Our waiter came to our table, and told us that he wouldeventually get around to waiting on us because he had a big group "overthere" that was taking all his time. Then after taking our order, as hemumbled inappropriate and unintentionally funny remarks, he brought us thewrong bottle of wine. Each time he did, or said, something wrong, he called themanager over to placate us. There was the undercooked salmon, and then finallythe bill was presented, on which he charged us for TWO bottles of wine, insteadof one. He mumbled some more, called the manager over again, and then left usin order to assault another unsuspecting group of diners. All in all, adisastrous, albeit a very funny, dining experience. Go for the laughs and askfor Boris!!
(1-Star)
Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "LES ZYGOMATES"
"LesZygomates" are the muscles in your face that make you smile. There isplenty to smile about in this excellent restaurant that bills itself simply as"a French wine bar & bistro," but which in reality, is one of thefinest restaurants in Boston, or anywhere else for that matter. (It has asister restaurant in Paris.) It's hidden on a virtually deserted quiet streetin the South Station area, but as soon as you enter the front doors, you entera beautifully and artistically designed series of rooms...warm, inviting andelegant. Chef Ian Just and General Manager Lorenzo Savona met in Boston whileworking at St. Cloud, and then both were drawn to Paris to attend theprestigious Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francais. When they returned in 1994they opened Les Zygomates which has since been gaining internationalrecognition for its food, wine, ambience and decor. Reservations are almostimpossible to come by and unfortunately, it took an impending war to make itrelatively easy to get in! My appetizer was a Warm Goat Cheese Salad withMesclun and Arugula. For an entree I had Tomato, Eggplant, Roast Red Pepper andRicotta Timbale and my dessert was a Spiced Gingerbread with Mascarpone IceCream. Our wine was an excellent dry Semillon Bordeaux.
(5-Stars) Back to Top


Nick

DINNER/NIGHTCLUBREVIEW- "THE RACK"
Whenone goes to a nightclub to DINE, rather than just to eat, one shouldn't besurprised if the food isn't the equal of what it would be in one of our finerrestaurants. The surprise then, is that the food wasn't all that bad. "TheRack" is a nightclub, where students, sports figures, and other localcelebs, go to shoot pool at the dozens of pool tables, listen to live rockmusic, and yes, to dance with and pick up women! How successful the black-cladstuds were in picking up the cute-young-things in their sexy outfits, was hardto tell, because we were too busy eating! The Rack is huge, and only a very smallarea in the front is devoted to "dining." The menu is fairlyextensive, with appetizers, salads, pastas, meat and seafood. I had a CasearSalad as an appetizer. It tasted like a plain salad of lettuce, some cheese andcroutons. My entree was Lobster Ravioli, and that was pretty good. I pigged-outwith dessert, having TWO desserts...Chocolate Cake AND Cheese Cake. Our winewas a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Our waitress was a charmer. She was apretty short-skirted young thing, who made us feel as though we were the onlycustomers that she cared about...that's good! Once the music started at 9pm,talk was impossible...but people don't go there to talk...OR to eat.!!!
(3-Stars) Back to Top


Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "TODDENGLISH'S RUSTIC KITCHEN" (not TODD ENGLISH'S anymore)
Whenchef/owner/TV celebrity Todd English opens uo a new restaurant (and he's openedtwo, in Boston, in this one month,) it's always an occasion for a celebration,or at least a visit. So, we headed over to the Fanueil Hall Marketplace wherehis restaurant named "Todd English's Rustic Kitchen" has just opened,right opposite his excellent seafood restaurant, "Kingfish Hall." Thedecor is "European Countryside" centered around a huge open-hearthstone oven. The menu follows suit. My appetizer was Parma Prosciutto withBuffalo Mozzarella and Fresh Basil and my entree was Truffle Ricotta Tortelloniwith Brown Butter Sage. Dessert was a delicious Triple Chocolate Cake. Our winewas a red Malbec from Argentina, and a white Orvieto; both were excellent. I didn'tgive the restaurant a 5-Star rating because I had two major complaints. Themost serious one is that the restaurant has no restrooms; diners have to leavethe restaurant and use the public restrooms at Fanueil Hall; isn't thatillegal? The second had to do with a surly, unsmiling assistant to our waiter,who brought out our entrees while we were still eating our appetizers. I hatethat! She didn't have a clue what she did wrong, and when I told her, sheignored me.However, when I told our excellent waiter, he was very apologetic.
(4-Stars) Back to Top


Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Porcini's"
It'sa good thing that I know my friend Jesse, who invited me out to dinner atPorcini's, because the restaurant is in the kind of deserted neighborhood wherethe Soprano family would take someone to knock him off. Once I knew that Iwasn't targeted for a hit, I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed both the atmosphere,the menu and presentation, and the excellent food in this out-of-the-way finerestaurant in Watertown. The portions are so huge (and I'm so stuffed,) thatI'm actually rushing to get through this review so that I can crash into bed.The decor is reminiscent of tavernas in Italy, with a nice big fire going inthe fireplace. The menu was not your usual red-sauce-and-checkered-tableclothfare. I had a Baked Pistachio-encrusted Goat Cheese Salad served over MesclunGreens in a Raspberry Vinaigrette with Pear & Cranberry Chutney as myappetizer. My entree was Potato Gnocchi Sauteed with Spinach, Fresh Tomatoes,Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic in a Light Pesto Cream. Dessert was a BreadPudding with Blueberries. My wine was a california Cabernet Sauvignon.Then youwonder why I'm stuffed?
(5-Stars) Back to Top


Nick

MEZZE BISTRO& BAR- This upscale Meditteranean restaurantserves gourmet international dishes in a setting that can't be beat. We ate outon a terrace above the beautiful Green River. I had a Watercress & ArugulaNicoise Salad with Goat Cheese Croutons as my appetizer, and Black PepperRavioli with Roasted Garlic, Grape Tomatoes, and Guajillo Broth. My dessert wasa Chocolate Souffle Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. (5-Stars) Back to Top

MAIN STREET CAFE- As good as theMezze was, this was even better! If you didn't know the high quality of thefine food here in Williamstown, you would have been shocked at the excellenceof our dishes. I had one of the best Mozzarella in Carroza that I've ever hadas my appetizer, and Charcoal Grilled Sea Scallops with Fresh Tomatoes overLinguini, as my appetizer. Sorbet of Plum, Grapefruit, and Peach for dessert.(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "TORCH"
BeaconHill is one of the most charming and beautiful, historic neighborhoods inAmerica, and the new French restaurant, "Torch," is a welcomeaddition to the neighborhood. In appearance, this small bistro would not be outof place in either the 5th or 6th arrondisements on the Left Bank of Paris. Thecopper wainscotting, burgundy walls, and candles on shelves create an intimate,but elegant, atmosphere. Chef/Owner Evan Deluty does the rest, and what he doesis wonderful. The food is excellent, as is the service and the presentation.From a menu of tempting choices, I selected as my appetizer, an Endive Saladwith Chevre and Sherry Walnut Vinaigrette. My entree was Monkfish with WhiteBean Ragout and Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce. For dessert I had Assorted Sorbetand we had a tray of Cheeses for the table. Our wines were a Cabernet Sauvignonand a Sauvignon Blanc. I can understand why Julia Child said, "Torch wonmy heart."
(5-Star)
Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- TODD ENGLISH'S "BONFIRE"

How manyrestaurants can Todd English open before he starts to lose his high standards?Judging from the latest one, an endless number! "Bonfire" is ToddEnglish's steak house with a South American flair. Occupying a cavernous spacein the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston's Theatre District, the restaurant is acarnivores delight...and adventurous diners won't be disappointed either.Although the dress code is "casually elegant," the decor isSUMPTUOUSLY elegant, with its burgundy vaulted ceilings and walls, wrought-ironand glass chandeliers, and high-backed tapestry chairs. My appetizer was aMexican-style Caesar salad. My entree was a 14oz Salmon Steak with GorgonzolaSauce. Dessert was a White Chocolate Chunk Gingerbread Pudding with Ginger IceCream and Gingerbread Men. Our wine was an Argentinian White. If your city hasa branch of Todd English's "Olives" or "Figs," skip them,because as with the original Filene's Basement, they don't transfer well. I'veeaten at the "Olives" in New York and in Vegas, and although they'refine restaurants, they don't compare to the original up here. Wait until yournext trip to Boston, and then try any of his five restaurants:"Olives"(Meditteranean,) "Figs"(pizzeria/bistro,)"Kingfish Hall" (seafood,) "Rustic Kitchen" (countryFrench,) and lastly, "Bonfire" ( South American steakhouse.) He'sbecome a gustatory DisneyWorld!

(5 - Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "LOCKE-OBER"
When I first moved to Boston, 35 years ago, the then 110-year-old Locke-Oberwas the finest restaurant in Boston. Since then it has been riding on itslaurels and it soon began to show signs of aging. This year, the venerable oldplace was bought by restaurateur Lydia Shire ("Biba,") who promisedto restore it to its former glory. That's where we found it tonight. Althoughshe maintained virtually the same famous menu as before, she hired noted chefJaky Robert, of the Robert family of chefs ("Maison Robert") toprepare the dishes. The Gilded Age decor remains intact. We dined in the formerMens' Club, with its ambience of 19th Century London...stained glass windows,carved mahogany, hand-painted ceilings, brass-studded leather and themagnificent gleaming silver and polished brass. The Boston Brahmins wereannouncing that they were a force to be reckoned with in 1875. When CharlesDickens, a regular customer when he was in town, ate here he must have feltright at home. Service is impeccable and the food is perfection. My appetizerwas Escargots Bourgouigonne and my entree was a perfect Dover Sole Meuniere withBroccoli Rabe and Hot Pepper. Although I miss the Sultana Roll from "backin the day," the Indian Pudding was as good as any in town...and that'ssaying a lot. To accompany our meal, we selected a Kendall-Jackson Chardonnayand a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you do go to this historic meeting place of theBeacon Hill "subtly rich," be prepared to spend about $100 perperson. It's worth every penny!
(5-Stars) Back to Top


Nick

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Sister Sorel"

Wouldn't itbe nice if every upscale, expensive restaurant did what Tremont 647 and SisterSorel did? Read on. Last year, owners Andy and Gretchen Husbands knockedthrough a wall of their famous South End restaurant Tremont 647, and into aformer art gallery to open the new cafe, "Sister Sorel"...named for AndyHusband's older sister...and since then it's been packed every night. The tworestaurants share the same kitchen and the same chef, only Sister Sorel offersfewer meals (only six entrees each night,) and it's casual and reasonablypriced. It only seats 20 people, the decor is brick-wall-candlelit -Spartan,and the service is sporadic, but oh, the food is so good; comfort food(burgers, chicken, shrimps,) cooked in a gourmet-French style. I had adelicious Goat Cheese Fondue for my appetizer, an Eggplant and Ricotta Pizzettaas my entree, and a Banana Boston Cream Pie for my dessert. The breads in thebread-basket were especially delicious. Our wines were a Pinot Gris and aSauvignon St. Bris.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

RESTAURANT REVIEW-"The Village Fish" 

"Back inthe day" I used to drive out to Brookline at least once a month to whatwas then a hole in the wall restaurant called "The Village Catch," totake friends out for delicious seafood, prepared in an Italian way. Now, almost20 years after my last visit there, I took a group of young friends back to agreatly expanded, but basically the same, restaurant, now called "TheVillage Fish." I'm happy to report that it's still the same excellentplace! There's less emphasis now on pastas than there used to be, and more onthe seafood. For an appetizer, I shared a large order of Calamari Fritte andCaesar Salad with Anchovies. One of my friends ordered Clams al la Marinara andI dipped into his delicious sauce. The fresh breads are excellent. For anentree, I had one of the best Scrods that I've ever had. It's all in thefreshness of the fish, and the seasoning of the breadcrumbs! Our desserts wereChocolate and Vanilla Tartuffi. Our wine was a Shiraz from Australia. If you dogo to this fine place, don't forget to ask for Pete, the waiter. He's a friendof mine, and one of the main reasons that we went out to Brookline for seafood!

(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW-"Bob the Chef's"

People wholive in the Boston area will find it hard to believe that I've never been toBob the Chef''s...that 50-year-old bastion of traditional southern cooking inthe heart of Roxbury...Boston's Harlem. Well, it was worth the wait .Everythingabout this place says two words, "class" and "homemade."The ambience is that of a jazz cafe, which it becomes later on in the evening.The wait staff is knowledgeable and friendly. But, regulars come here for onething...the food. This is where you come for barbecued ribs, glorified chicken,homemade meatloaf, black-eyed peas, collard greens, etc. I had the HomemadeMeatloaf, with Baked Macaroni and Cheese and Homemade Mashed Potatoes as myentree. It was heaven...and I'm a meatloaf "freak." My dessert wasGramma's Apple Pie a la Mode. Our wine was an Australian Shiraz. Even though wedidn't order appetizers (we saw that the entree platters were huge,) the fourof us left the table stuffed. All of this, and the place is very reasonable.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Abe & Louie's"

Because Iknew that "Abe & Louie's" was part of a national chain of steakhouses, I didn't give it much thought...or a visit, until now. Boston has somany excellent steak houses (e.g., "Grill 23 and Bar," "ToddEnglish's Bonfire," "Capitol Grille," "Morton's,""The Palm," etc.) that its easy for another place for carnivores, toget lost in the shuffle. That's what happened to "Fleming's SteakHouse"...a good, but uninteresting place. However, "Abe &Louie's" is a different story. This restaurant can hold its own with thebest of them. It's a truly fine place for prime cuts of meat. The decor iselegant and beautiful. It has a very "men's club" look, with darkwood paneling, bronze chandeliers, leather chairs and faux Remington statuary.The service is first-rate. The menu is quite extensive, and the food is as goodas it gets for a steak house. My appetizer was Beefsteak Tomatoes with BlueCheese and Vidalia Onions. My entree was Shrimp and Scallop Louie. I know, Iknow, "who goes to a steakhouse for seafood?" I DID sample the housespecialty Bone-in Filet Mignon, and the Filet au Poivre...both were excellent.Our wine was an excellent Sangiovese. Be warned however, it IS quite expensive.More in the "Morton's" category than the "Flemings"category!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT REVIEW- "Troquet"

Troquet(slang for a small wine cafe,) although new on the Boston restaurant scene (itopened in October,) had gourmets and wine connoisseurs salivating with greatexpectations, because of the impeccable credentials of its owners and its chef.Owners Chris and Diane Campbell formerly owned "Uva," the ultra-sophisticatedwine palace in Brighton, and Chef Scott Hebert came from Veritas, the equallyfamous wine restaurant in New York. So, with this background, it's notsurprising that the emphasis is on the pairing of the 44 wines with theclassically French-prepared food choices on the menu. My appetizer was a SearedSea Scallop with Piquille Peppers, Cod and Potatoes and Parsley Puree. Myentree was Potato Gnocchi with Braised Mushrooms, Oven Dried Grapes and BlackTruffle Oil.We ordered the cheese tray, because the Campbells were always knownfor the variety of their " fabulous cheeses." They didn't disappoint!I tasted a liquidy Soumatain. Incredible! Normally I would have the cheese inplace of dessert, but renowned pastry chef Natalia Andalo is "inresidence" at "Troquet," so we went for the dessert as well. HerChocolate Fondant Cake with Coffee Ice Cream was sinful. Our wine was a Domainedu Caillou, Cote du Rhone. Boston's Theater District now has a new restaurantto match the renaissance of its theater scene. Bon chance to both!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "blu" (in the L.A. Sports Club)

When the L.A.Sports Club opened in Boston last year, a "well-placed" friend gaveme a membership. I went to this marble-and-brass palace just once, because Idetested the poseurs and voyeurs who spent a small fortune to "workout" there. So it was with great reluctance that I decided to dine at therestaurant, "blu," in this Sports Club. Because it's owned by JodyAdams and Michela Larson ("Rialto") who originally trained under thelegendary Julia Child, I expected the food to be well-cooked, andwell-presented. Chef Dante de Magistris excels in both areas. The eclectic menuincludes not only high-gourmet items but comfort foods as well. (One wouldn'texpect the latter in this Peter Niemitz-designed minimalist black, white, andglass environment. Huge two-story high windows overlook the Downtown Crossingarea of Boston. EVERYTHING is color-coordinated, even the salt andpepper-shakers!) Now to the food. My appetizer was a "Cremini &Zucchini:"an Arugula, Zucchini, Mushroom and Reggiano-Parmigiano Salad. Myentree was Roast Gratin Maine Grey Sole with Olive Oil Potatoes and Pesto.Dessert was a Chestnut Bread Pudding with Jicama Ice Cream. Our wine was adelicious Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. We also ordered the Cheese Tray for thetable. Everything was excellent...but very pricey!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE OAK ROOM ATTHE PLAZA"

The maindining room at the stately Fairmont Copley Plaza used to be known as the CafePlaza, but now it's called the Oak Room. Under any name, it's still the mostbeautiful dining room/restaurant in all of Boston. The Edwardian decor of richoak woods, high carved ceilings, and tapestried banquettes and curtains, makesfor an atmosphere that simply can't be matched anywhere else in town. Theservice was always a bit sketchy (and still is,) but the food could never befaulted. The emphasis in the newly re-opened (and renamed) Oak Room hasswitched to prime-aged steaks and chops. In fact Boston Magazine has voted itthe Best Steak House in Boston. Nevertheless, I chose Stuffed and Baked Shrimpand Scallops as my entree. My appetizer was a Grilled Eggplant, BuffaloMozzarella and Tomato Tart, followed by a Caesar Salad. For dessert, I had adelicious Boston Cream Pie with White Chocolate Shavings. Our wine was aOrvieto Classico. Oh, and yes, my friends said that their Prime Ribs of Beefwere excellent.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "LA BELLA VISTA"

La Bella Vistais your typical, mediocre, red-sauce Italian, with nothing on the menu todistinguish it from a million other places just like this all over the country.But this is the North End of Boston after all, and one expects better. Theservice was delivered with a frown, and the decor was enough to keep the makersof plastic artificial flowers in business for years. My appetizer of Pasta eFagioli wasn't as good as what Progresso puts in their cans, and my entree ofZiti all' Arrabiata was only slightly better. The Pinot Grigio (which wasoverpriced,) made everything taste much better than it really was. The bestthing about this meal was that I was eating it in the company of two wonderfulfriends, who were kind enough to invite me to dinner.

(1-Star)

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "Parish Cafe"

The ParishCafe is one of those Back Bay eating establishments/institutions that isdependent on the good weather for business because of its beautiful sidewalkcafe on Boylston Street. I suspect that there are some people who even go therejust to be seen, rather than for the wonderful sandwiches served there. Let mereassure you that we went for the sandwiches. Each sandwich has been created bya Boston celebrity chef (Julia Child, Lydia Shire, Todd English, Jody Adams, etc.)and bears the distinct trademarks of the individual chef. Although ToddEnglish' sandwich sounded intriguing, I opted for Vinicio Paoli's (Toscanarestaurant) Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato, and Arugula, Focaccia Sandwich, on aBed of White Beans and Herb Vinaigrette. It was absolutely delicious. The factthat the cafe was very crowded may have accounted for the service beingsluggish.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "TheCheesecake Factory" (at the Prudential Center)

Anyone whoknows me, knows how much I distrust the word "diversity" whether ingroup dynamics, or in the cuisine of a restaurant, whose menu consists of atoo-wide variety of items such as steaks, seafood, pasta, tacos andquesadillas, and Vietnamese summer rolls! "Bring the whole gang, and eachmember can eat a food from a different country." I seem to have justdescribed the fare at The Cheesecake Factory, a branch of which has just openeda block away from me, below the new bamboo-garden at the Prudential Center. Inspite of my preference for restaurants where the chefs limit themselves to aspecific cuisine, the food sampled at our table was very good. My appetizer wasa (huge) Caesar salad. My entree was Penne with Eggplant, Peppers, Pine nuts,Kalamata Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (ordered as a test!) My dessert, ofcourse, was a cheesecake: "the Original."(very, very creamy.) Ourwine was a Sauvignon Blanc. The decor was typical Cheesecake Factory...fauxEgyptian! In fact, the Boston Lyric Opera could probably stage the entire firstact of Verdi's "Aida" in the rear dining room. Just a warning to thethrifty: in spite of the cutesy, frivolous menu, the prices are quite serious.All in all, however, it was quite an enjoyable dining experience.....thanks inlarge part, to my guests.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE BEACON HILLBISTRO"

The BeaconHill Hotel is the kind of small hotel that one would find on the Left Bank inParis, in the 5th or 6th Arrondisement, and its restaurant, the Beacon HillBistro, would be perfectly at home in either of those districts. Raisedmahogany paneling, banquette seating, mosaic tile flooring, etched glass,discrete mirrors and a large fireplace, help to create a refined andcomfortable bistro environment on Charles Street in Beacon Hill. Chef Al Soto(formerly of La Grenouille and Bouley,) has created a menu of understatedelegance that matches the ambience. My appetizer was a Zucchini Salad withChevre, Arugula, and Mimolette. My entree was a Strozzopretti Pasta withEnglish Peas, Tomatoes, and Truffles. My dessert was a Chocolate Mousse Torte.The wine that we ordered was a Cabernet Sauvignon. Our waiter was everythingthat a waiter should be, and more. All in all, it was like dining in Pariswithout the danger of terrorists.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "HENRIETTA'S TABLE"

The CharlesHotel in Cambridge is lucky enough to have two fine restaurants. Its premierrestaurant, of course, is Jody Adams 5-Star "Rialto." But its secondrestaurant, "Henrietta's Table," has nothing to be ashamed of.Stepping in off the second-floor lobby, you enter an atmosphere of a NewEngland General Store, with food products spilling off the shelves of antiquesideboards, cupboards, and buffets. There are olive oils, jams,  mustards,candies, and fresh fruits, etc. On a beautiful Spring day, as today was, theentire room is open to the tables set outdoors on the terrace, (calledHenrietta's Porch!) We went for a "power brunch," and the foodcertainly packed a wallop. I had an appetizer of Field Greens Vinaigrette, andmy entree was an Asparagus and Provolone Omelette with Red Bliss Potatoes.Service was first-rate. No dessert, thank you. I wonder if it's as good fordinner. (Although we did end our day at the bar there, enjoying a StrawberryBanana Smoothie as the cool breezes flowed in from the Charles River.)

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "TREMONT 647"

Tremont 647is one of those 5-Star restaurants in the South End that caters to a flamboyantand bohemian clientele at its "pajama brunch," and a rather upscalecrowd in the evening. Having dined there years ago and enjoyed the evening mealimmensely, I decided to try the Sunday brunch. First off, yes, people doactually come there wearing what appear to be their pajamas, and the entirewait-staff does the same. But in spite of the funky dress, the food is takenvery seriously. I had "Two Stinky Cheeses" as an appetizer;(basically an exotic cheese tray with toasted garlic breads.) For my entree Ihad Scrambled Eggs with New Bliss Potatoes and Fruit Salad. My drink was aMimosa; I used to like them. Still an excellent restaurant...for dinner , orfor brunch.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "75 CHESTNUT"

Nestled onthe flats of Beacon Hill, just off Londonesque Charles Street, is one of themost elegant and romantic fine-dining spots in all of Boston. Open only 4years, this charming restaurant has already developed a word-of-mouthreputation as being one of the best all-around dining experiences in town. Fromthe street, there's nothing but a black canopy and two bow windows to mark theentrance. But once you enter the darkened interior, design, class, style andambience announce that you've entered a special place. Service is professionaland abundant; the menu is excellent; and the cooking and presentation of thefood couldn't be bettered. For starters, I had Marinated Smoked Salmon withCucumber Dill Salad. My salad was a Caesar with White Anchovies. My entree wasDivers Sea Scallops and Shrimp with Sweet Pea Ravioli in a Plum Tomato VodkaSauce. For dessert we had Chocolate Bread Pudding with French Vanilla Ice Creamand Strawberries. Our wine was a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. If you're inthe mood for 5-Star Contemporary American Cuisine served in style, in abeautiful, romantic setting, this is your place. But make sure that you've gotenough of a balance on your credit card. This is not Burger King!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

BOSTON'STWENTY BEST RESTAURANTS

People haveoften asked me why my web-site doesn't include reviews of some of the bestrestaurants in Boston (or New York for that matter.) The simple explanation isthat I dined in them years ago, BEFORE I started this crazy hobby of reviewingthings. So allow me to list what, in my opinion, are the Twenty BestRestaurants in Boston.  They're in no special order.

AUJOURD 'HUI
L' ESPALIER
OLIVES
HAMERSLEY'S BISTRO
JULIEN
RADIUS
PREZZA
OAK ROOM
RIALTO
MISTRAL
CLIO
MAMMA MARIA
LOCKE-OBER
BRISTOL LOUNGE
ICARUS
NO. 9 PARK
MANTRA
TERRAMIA
TROQUET
GRILL 23 & BAR

 

BARREVIEW- "AQUA"

Boston'shottest new watering hole is too crowded, too noisy, and too pretentious.Dozens of people were clamoring to get in; we were clamoring to get out!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SPIRE"

Dramaticelegance; that's what "Spire" is all about. From the PhilippeStarck-like white and black design of this contemporary restaurant and bar, tothe excellence of chef Jeffrey Everts cooking and the food's presentation, tothe Rosenthal china on which it's served, to the thoroughly professional andknowledgeable wait-staff that serves it. Dramatic elegance. Nine Zero is thelatest of the many luxury hotels that are popping up all over town, and up aflight of dazzling bright stairs on the second-floor of the hotel is"Spire," the hotel's restaurant. Once you're settled into your paddedwhite seats, walk around and take a look at the place; it's a masterpiece ofmodern design, from its black bamboo hardwood floors, to the blue-curtainedtall windows overlooking the Old Granary Burying Ground, to the dazzlingrestrooms which invite you to linger longer than you should! The room's onlycolor is in beautiful floral and fruit arrangements in the entry and bar areas,and in the glass art-work on the walls. Oh yes, the food. My appetizer was aTomato, Goat Cheese and Spinach Salad. An amuse-bouche was a Cold Green-Pea andTruffle Soup. My entree was a Sea Snapper with Orange Slices, Sliced Potatoesand Balsamic Reduction. For dessert, we chose the Warm Chocolate Cake, withCherry Mascarpone Ice Cream. Another amuse-bouche consisted of Six HomemadeCandies. Our wine was a delicious Pouilly-Fume. We didn't want to leave.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE VAULT"

Is itpossible for the service at a restaurant to be so excellent that it overshadowseven beautifully prepared and presented food? That was the case last night at"The Vault." Our waitress (even the word sounds too insignificant forthis professional) was as good as it gets. Was it those beautiful eyes or herself-assurance? In any case, to the restaurant itself. Chef Rene Michelena,formerly of La Bettola in the South End, and Centro in Cambridge, has, with hispartner Brian O'Neill created "The Vault" in the financial district,and turned it into a happening place. The ambience is that of a wood-paneledand heavily curtained bar, and our table in front of the fireplace in the rearput us far enough away from the live jazz combo, to enjoy it. My appetizer wasa perfectly prepared Caesar Salad. My entree was Pan-Seared Scallops over CornRisotta with Peeled Tomatoes. I selected the Cheese Tray for dessert. Our winewas a fine Domaine du Traillol French red. A fine dining experience, but whydidn't we get that waitress' name?

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "LECALYPSO" (at Nantasket Beach in Hull)

Perched highon a rocky cliff, overlooking the entire crescent of Nantasket Beach and theAtlantic Ocean, sits the beautiful and charming new French restaurant LeCalypso. To the side of the attractive white restaurant is a large garden,filled with tables with umbrellas, and sharing the same incredible view as therestaurant and the open-air deck above. Even if the food were dreadful (it'snot,) this would be a perfectly romantic place to spend a hot summer evening.As it was, we were there today, on a Sunday for lunch. The menu is filled withthe dishes of the Brittany, Normandy and Provence areas of France.Unfortunately, although my Salade Nicoise was delicious, it was not the famoussalad of Nice. The ingredients in this salad were tomatoes, zucchini, peppers,anchovies, hard-boiled egg, olives, and red lettuce. What was left out was themain ingredient of a true Salade Nicoise...tuna! Our drinks were StrawberryDaiquiris. I just can't wait to go back on a hot night, to have dinner in thetorch-lit garden and watch the waves crashing on the beach below.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "33"

Nestled atthe end of Stanhope Street in the South End, with a hedge-enclosed front patiothat makes it look like one of those "tucked-into-an-alleyway"restaurants that are found in every European city, is the trendy newrestaurant/lounge/cigar bar called "33." With a striking interiordecor that makes it look as though Ian Schrager redesigned a Faneuil Hallbrick-and-wood place, the look is one of relaxed chic. The walls are exposedbrick; the ceiling is sculptured slats of polished wood, but the most strikingfeature of the room is the long double bar that runs the length of the entireroom, and is covered in panels of glass that change colors throughout thenight. Down a flight of lighted glass stairs is the mercifully closed-offcigar-bar (cough!) and the very stylish restrooms. Chef Charles Draghi hascreated a novel menu (and cuisine.) One side of the menu consists of Frenchdishes, and the other side is Italian. This follows through to the extensivewine list. My appetizer (from the Italian side,) was a Bruschetta of Tomato,Buffalo Mozzarella, and Basil on two large slabs of Tuscan Bread. From theFrench side, I chose my entree of A Dozen Escargots in Garlic Butter. Mydessert was an Orange/Mint Sorbet with Nectarine Ice-Cream. Our wine was aVernaccia di San Gimignano (delicious.) Right now, the crowd is an unfortunatemix of Eurotrash and Brookline. Wait a few weeks until the normal people startgoing!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "VIA MATTA"

Because"Via Matta" has taken the place formerly occupied by one of myfavorite Italian restaurants in Boston, Lydia Shire's fine "Pignoli,"I was prepared to dislike the new restaurant before I even set foot in it. Thatfeeling went right out the window when I stepped into "Via Matta."The neighborhood outside is quite upscale, with the restaurant wedged into thespace between the Four Seasons and the Park Plaza hotels. Its patio isatmospheric with white tables, umbrellas, and tiny lights in the trees. Thisatmosphere is carried into the restaurant, whose ambience is quite beautiful. Ijust found out that the new owners are the owners (and former chef) of thestill-trendy "Radius." That explains the presence of all of thebeautiful people who filled the place last night. Everything about "ViaMatta" is first class... from its look, to the impeccable service, to thepresentation and preparation of the "alta cucina" dishes on itsFlorentine-leaning menu. My appetizer was a mouth-watering Buffalo Mozzarellawith Yellow Pepper Mostarda. (The bread was some of the most delicious Tuscanbread that I've ever had outside of Italy.) My entree was a Wood Grilled Salmonwith Zucchini and Capers. Dessert was Three Traditional Semi-Freddi (Gelati):Notella, Praline, and Chocolate Crunch. Once again, our wine was a perfectVernaccia di San Gimignano. I take back what I said at the beginning of thisreview. "Via Matta" far outshines "Pignoli" in every way.But make sure that you bring lots of money!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "CARMEN"

The latestaddition to the bustling North End dining scene, is so cozy and intimate, thatit turns away more people than it lets in. There are only 30 seats...so makeyour reservations early. Nestled away in charming North Square, just two doorsdown from Paul Revere's house, "Carmen" looks like your typicalmama/papa neighborhood restaurant, and in many ways it is. It's casual,informal and unpretentious in decor. But wait until you take a look at the menuthat chef Bill Bradley has whipped up. Formerly of the wonderful"Bricco," just around the corner, (and the Napa Valley before that,)Bradley is creating dishes that sound exciting on paper, look beautiful on theplate, and taste like heaven! Our appetizers were Tiny Plates of Crostini withPesto, Sundried Tomatos, and White Beans with Garlic; Marinated Olives, andRoasted Peppers with Mozzarella and Basil. My entree was Roasted Penne enPapillotte, with Ligurian Meatballs, Mascarpone Cheese and Tomato Sauce. Nodessert; too stuffed! My wine was a Montepulciano from Tuscany. Our eyes werebigger than our stomachs tonight!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "ARIRANG HOUSE"

If you're inBoston's Back Bay/Fenway area, and the question is: "where do I go to getan inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffet of delicious Japanese food?" thenthe answer has to be Arirang House. Just down the block and across the streetfrom where I live, is this clean, atmospheric, authentic Japanese restaurant,where the charming and helpful proprietors have set out an extensive buffet ofa wide variety of Japanese foods, ranging from soups and rice, through seafood,beef, pork, and chicken to accompanying vegetables, potatoes, noodles, andfinally to cold salads and fruit slices. Everything is fresh, and presentedappetizingly. When you've eaten to the point of excess (!) and the bill is presented,you'll be shocked to see that it comes to $8.50, including tip! Now, that's adeal.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "CAFE UMBRA"

What happenswhen a city tears down the ugly elevated train tracks that used to darken theinner city streets below...just two blocks from Boston's most fashionableneighborhood, the South End? In a word, gentrification. The gays move in, thestreet gets widened into a beautiful new boulevard, a new "T"line...the Silver Line is installed,  the Cathedral of the Holy Cross emergesfrom the shadows as Boston's major Catholic church, and restaurants sprout upfrom one end of Washington Street to another. The newest, and arguably the bestof these, is the chic Caffe Umbra, in the shadow ("umbra") of themagnificent cathedral. Chef/owner Laura Brennan, formerly the sous chef atBoston's finest restaurant, L'Espalier, has created a beautiful ambience and amenu to match it. The brick walls are nice and through big windows in thefront, there's a good view across the street of the imposing Cathedral. Ourwaiter was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. As far as the food goes...myappetizer was Stacked Mozzarella and Tri-Colored Tomatoes, with Fresh Figs andArugula. My entree was Fresh Herbed Pappardelle with Zucchini Basil Pesto, Mascarponeand Green Beans. My dessert was Two Tuscan Inspired Sorbets: Peach Prosecco andBlackberry Sangiovese...with Milk Chocolate "Cigars."  Our winewas a Red Burgundy from Provence.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "FRASERGARDEN COURT TERRACE" (at the Museum of Fine Arts)  (CLOSED)

Picture astone terrace, with a ceiling so high that it doesn't seem to be there. On thisterrace are scattered beautifully set tables, and off to the side, a pianist isplaying Gershwin. Facing the terrace is a magnificent European garden, completewith fountains, statuary, well-manicured lawns and hedges. When it gets dark,and the statues and fountains are spot-lit, the effect is magical...you've beentransported to Europe, and you know that "you're not in Kansas anymore."This is the new Fraser Garden Court Terrace restaurant at Boston's Museum ofFine Arts. The menu is small, and changes every evening. My appetizer was anincredibly delicious, and filling, Smoked Salmon Pizzetta with Arugula, Chevre,and Heirloom Tomatoes. My entree was an order of Pan Seared Scallops over WildLettuce, Shaved Fennel, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomatoes. All entrees come with abowl of beautifully prepared Japanese Noodles lightly tossed with SmallTomatoes. Our dessert was the Dessert Sampler, with one of each of thefollowing: A Small Profiterole with Chocolate Sauce, a Banana Ice Cream Cone, aStrawberry Tart, a Flourless Chocolate Cake, and I forgot the fifth dessert!Our wine was a full-bodied Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Although the Fine Arts restaurantis still the premiere restaurant at the Museum, the magnificent Fraser GardenCourt Terrace would be MY choice when you're dining on a summer evening.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "PIZZA PIE-ER"(formerly "Dixie Kitchen" on Mass. Ave.)

I had heardthat the new pizzeria in town is as good as our best neighborhood pizza joints(Canastaro's, Newbury Pizza, and Sorento's.) It's not!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "GALLIA"

Back again tothe newly refurbished and gentrified Washington Street, this time to check out"Gallia" on Lower Washington overlooking Blackstone Square. With itscorner location on the Square, the owner was wise enough to feature big windowsso that the outside view becomes an integral part of the mustardy-yellow,green,and purple decoration of this simple restaurant. Because the chef isStefano Zimei, formerly of The Federalist and Harvest, we were expectingexceptional French-based cuisine...and we got it. My appetizer was PotatoGnocchi with Asparagus and Pancetta Sauce. My entree was Black Pearl Salmonwith Spinach, Picholine Olives and Fennel Hearts. The chef sent over anamuse-bouche of Yellowfin Ahi with Anchovy Aioli. We saved room for dessertsbecause the pastry chef is Alex Ricciuti who used to create those unusualconcoctions over at Todd English's "Kingfish Hall." He does the samehere. I had a sinful Milk Chocolate Pot du Creme with Star Cookies. Our winewas a Sangiovese. Before closing this review, I must say a word about theservice. Our waiter was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, as was everyoneat the restaurant, including the owner Cindy Eid, who came over several timesto chat. It's her first time as a restaurant owner. She shouldn't have any problemshere!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "NIGHTINGALE"

In the caseof some restaurants, they announce their presence by assaulting your nose withthe aromas of their cooking long before you get to the front door. In the caseof "Nightingale" you can SEE it from afar long before you arrive,because of the bright lime green of its walls showing through the all-glassfront windows. However, once inside, the loud-colored walls covered with largebold prints become a very pleasant background for two comfortable rooms. Thefine wait-staff takes control as soon as you enter the room, and we wereushered to a large table for four, even though we were only two people. Themenu is one of those which, although not extensive in nature, is filled withsuch wonderful items, that it's hard to choose. But choose we did. My appetizerwas Heirloom Tomatoes with Diced Mozzarella and Arugula. My entree was aGrilled Cod Loin over Spinach and Olive Brandade with Balsamic Vinegar. Mydessert was a Chocolate Cheesecake. Our wine was a delicious, but potent,Sangiovese! In a neighborhood already crowded with fine restaurants (the SouthEnd,) "Nightingale" is a welcome addition, not only for its colorfulpresence on the block, but because its prices are not in the stratosphericleague of some of its neighbors on the block, such as "Hammersley'sBistro," "Metropolis," and "Truc."

(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "TRIO"  (CLOSED)

Tucked awayin the out-of-the-way "Leather District" down around South Station isa new place that most people know as a trendy late-night club. But in addition,it's also a beautiful restaurant served by an inventive chef who's filled withinnovative ideas for exciting dishes. The room has a dramatic look as you enterand pass a copper-covered bar and proceed into the main dining room withexposed brick walls and an enormous crystal chandelier. In the corner, is acandle-filled fireplace. But, we came for the food...and it was wonderful.Before our appetizers, the chef presented us with an amuse-bouche of Mesclun,Apple, and Goat Cheese Salad. My appetizer was then a Simple Pizza ofOven-Roasted Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, Torn Basil and Parmesan. Thenanother amuse-bouche of Tuna Tartar with Crispy Wonton Chips. My entree was anOven-roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Sweet Lobster Risotto. My dessert was aCoconut Cream Pie. We sampled both the Pinot Grigio and the Cabernet Sauvignonfor our wines. We were sent Flutes of Champagne, complimernts of the chef. Idon't know why. To say that we left completely stuffed would be anunderstatement!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "CAFE AT THELIBRARY"

Last month,with great fanfare, the multi-million-dollar Mary Baker Eddy Library opened atthe Christian Science Center, just across the street from my apartment. Whatdid not receive as much publicity as the newly refurbished Mapparium and theinteractive galleries, was the new Cafe at the Library tucked away inside,beyond the Court of Ideas! So, we decided to try it out for lunch today.Although beautifully color-coordinated, with Ian Schrager-like furnishings andmarble-floor decorations, the overall effect is attractively sterile andunder-decorated, in spite of the fact that the walls are painted to look likethe inside of the great Pyramid at Giza! I kept thinking that I was in thelounge of a beautiful airport terminal, waiting for my plane to be announced.The menu was quite extensive for a luncheon menu, and it featured many autumnitems. My lunch consisted of a Half-Sandwich of Grilled Vegetables with PestoGoat Cheese, and a Butternut Squash Soup. We shared a plate of Freshly BakedCookies. Everything was delicious and quite filling. The service was polite,cheerful,  and courteous. After all, this IS the Christian Science Center.

(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- BUKOWSKI'S TAVERN

If you knowBukowski's at all, you probably know it as that weird little beer place perchedover the Mass. Turnpike, where you need about 18 kinds of ID to get in if youlook underage, and where the bar menu features about 100 exotic beers, ales,and lagers. What most people don't know, is that they also feature a specialevery weekday night until 8pm, and that's a very respectable burger or hot dogfor only $1. If you don't add anything to it (cheese, fries, etc. all cost $1each extra,) you can get away with a dinner of a burger and a large hot dog foronly $2. Hell, that's cheaper than McDonald's...and much tastier. Three of ushad three cheese burgers with fries, three hot dogs, and three drinks, and thetab was only $21.00. It would have been much cheaper if we had eliminated thecheese and the fries. But, what the hell...we were splurging!

(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

  

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THERITZ-CARLTON DINING ROOM"

The venerablegrande dame of Boston hotels, the "old" Ritz-Carlton, has reopened,after a two-year restoration period, in which it was restored to its formergrandeur. (I never saw it as anything less than grand!) Part of this elaborateprocess was to return "the grandest dining room in all of NewEngland" to its former glory. They've done their job well. Like afirst-class dining room on an old ocean liner, the second floor Dining Roomstill overlooks the Public Garden, and has retained those magnificent Waterfordchandeliers and the Cobalt Blue water goblets. The menu has changed slightlywith more of an emphasis on French-Continental cuisine. My appetizer was aLobster Caesar Salad followed by the chef's amuse-bouche of a Potato Leek Soupwith Truffles. My entree was a Dover Sole. A before-dessert amuse-bouche ofCreme Caramel was followed by a dessert of Triple Sorbet and Triple Ice CreamDegustation. Our wine was a Napa Sauvignon Blanc.So, even if you're not havingdinner in the Dining Room, or high tea in the Tea Lounge, drop in to see thiswonderful old place. Its new sister hotel, The Ritz-Carlton on the Common, onthe other side of the Common, is all 21st Century opulence. But, if you'relooking for the 19th Century in all of its elegance and heavy tradition, thenthis is the place for you. If you're lucky enough to be staying there, ask for aroom with a wood-burning fireplace. Hell, why not. You only live once!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "BRIOCHE at theBERKELEY"

It's alwaysdifficult to have to review a restaurant that's owned by a friend (or arelative of a friend.) In this case, the relatively new French restaurant"Brioche," in the town of Wellesley, is owned by the brother of myfriend Antonio. Not to worry...the restaurant is wonderful. On the ground floorof what appears to be an apartment building on the "main drag" inWellesley,  one enters, and then,  the hurried atmosphere of thestreet changes to one of soft music, darkened lights, lowered ceilings, andtactfully-spaced tables. Paintings-for-sale adorn the walls. We were waited onby an incredibly efficient and friendly wait-staff. At one time or anotherduring the meal, we must have met all of them. After all, we were with thechef/owner's "baby brother." Although it was difficult to chose fromthe extensive menu, I selected Shrimp Limoncello as my appetizer, Pan-SearedSea Scallops with Lemon Risotto and Asparagus as my entree, and aChocolate/Grand Marnier Souffle as my dessert. Our wine was a Veneto PinotGrigio. Presentation was superb, and everything was delicious. A welcomeaddition to the meager culinary pickings in wealthy Wellesley!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "AZURE"

Boston,America's seafood capital, has a multitude of seafood restaurants, ranging fromthe no-frills, inexpensive variety ("Naked Fish,") to the elaborate,ultra-gourmet, fish-palaces (Todd English's "Kingfish Hall.")"Azure" definitely falls into the latter category. In the spaceformerly occupied by "Anago" in the newly-renovated Lenox Hotel,"Azure" is simple in its decor, but elaborate in everything else. Thechoices on the menu range all over the seafood world, from New England to thePacific, with preparation appearing to lean in the French direction. Service isimpeccable. In fact, each of us felt the need to compliment the wait-staffthroughout the meal. After an amuse-bouche of Crab-meat and Mozzarella on acrispy Crustini, my appetizer was a Salad of Oak-Leaf Lettuce, wrapped inCucumber Slices with a delicious Champagne Vinaigrette. My entree was a RoastedScottish Salmon over a bed of Mashed White Beans, with Whole Potatoes. Mydessert was a Mixed Sorbet of Chocolate and Coffee Cinnamon. Our wines were aWhite Pinot Grigio and a Red Chianti Classico. Old friends from New York, aswell as new friends from Massachusetts pronounced "Azure" an amazingsuccess. I certainly agree.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "TEATRO"

Whenchef/owner Jamie Mammano ("Mistral") bought the site formerlyoccupied by Barbara Lynch's "Galleria Italiana," he did some researchand discovered that it was originally a synagogue. Knowing how ornamental somesynagogues can be, he decided to remove the former restaurant's dropped ceilingand, in the process, uncovered the beautiful vaulted painted ceiling, now thefocal point of this trendy new restaurant. If you like to be where "it'shappening," go now while the place is hot. It's wait-staff is young,attractive, and even more surprisingly, knowledgeable about the food and wineon the menu. My appetizer was an Arugula Salad with Parmigiano Shavings. Myentree was a Filet of Swordfish with Lemon Butter/Caper Sauce, Fresh Asparagus,and A Roasted Potato Cake. My dessert was an Assortment of Sorbetti. Our winewas a delicious Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Although all of the food that Iordered looked good on the plate, most of it tasted bland and ordinary. Thesalad dressing was non-existent (thank goodness for the parmigiano shavings,)and, although it's virtually impossible to render capers tasteless, the lemonbutter/caper sauce was just that...tasteless. The other food at our table(Classic Caesar Salads and Steaks) seemed to be met with greater success thanwas mine, although our perky waitress was almost proud to announce that"there are no anchovies in the Classic Caesar Salad," thereby makingit neither "Classic," nor "Caesar!" Oh well, there's alwaysthat beautiful ceiling and, for now, the beautiful people under it! 

(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SUMMERSHACK-BOSTON"

Several yearsago, noted chef and restaurateur Jaspar White, returned from a self-enforcedexile in Europe, and shocked the restaurant world by opening, not a smallgourmet restaurant, but rather, a huge family-style Cape Cod-like barn of aseafood joint. This now-famous Cambridge landmark proved to be so successful,that White opened a branch at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, and now anew scaled-down version in the former Cheri Theatre complex. (This former moviecomplex has become Kings, an upscale billiards-hall, bowling alley and cocktaillounge...and seafood restaurant.) This smaller version of the original,operates differently. Instead of having a waiter or waitress take your order,you fill out an order form, checking items on a menu. Then you take it up tothe order window, and when your number is called, you pick up your order at thepick-up window. It's reminiscent of some places on the Cape and out on LongIsland. I prefer to be waited on. (The wait-staff only takes your drinksorder.) All of this makes for a very loud, confusing, and rushed meal. However,the food is still excellent...gourmet food, served in a fast-food setting. Myappetizer was a Grilled Eggplant and Onions with Feta Cheese and Cherry TomatoVinaigrette. My entree was a perfectly Grilled Atlantic Salmon with FreshVegetables, Corn Bread and Mashed Potatoes. We ordered a Napa Valley PinotGrigio for the table. (We went somewhere else for our Sorbet/ IceCreamdesserts!) A fun place if you're in a very casual mood...VERY casual!

(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

  

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE ENORMOUS ROOM"

It may havebeen the before-dinner drinks that we had at my place, or it may have been the restaurantitself, but whatever caused it, I kept asking myself at dinner, "Are we inCasablanca or is it Marrakech?" because it sure as hell didn't look likeCambridge! When you dine at "The Enormous Room" in Cambridge, you'rebuying into the notion that you're dining in Morocco with all that entails,because chef/owner Gary Strack, has recreated the experience of being in one ofthe more casual dining rooms at the luxurious Al-Mammounia in Marrakech. Nextdoor to Central Square's "Central Kitchen ," one enters a door markedsimply with an elephant stenciled on glass, climbs the stairs, and enters aroom with exposed brick walls, on one side of which is a platform covered withOriental rugs and large pillows, and on the other side are banquettes and chairs,clustered around long low tables. Get there early enough to choose the locationthat suits you (my suggestion is to go for the corner platform in the rear.) Ifyou choose the rugs and pillows, kick off your shoes, put them in the cubbybelow the platform, and make yourself comfortable. The DJ in the wall behindyou will be playing exotic music all evening. Your food will also be exotic.There are only two enormous plates on the menu. One consists of skewers ofbeef, salmon, chicken, and lamb, over grilled, roasted, marinated vegetables,with baba ganoush, hummus, olives, falafel, couscous, triangles of phyllo doughstuffed with spicy ground beef, etc. The other consists of only the vegetables.Everything is delicious. We ordered both, and devoured them. Our wines were aSangiovese and a Pinot Blanc. Get a few good friends together, go early, staylate....it's an adventure!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "UPSTAIRS ON THESQUARE"

When HarvardSquare's beloved "Upstairs at the Pudding" was forced to relocatefrom its premises in Harvard's historic Hasty Pudding Club Theatre, it movedacross the Square to what was once a prestigious social club, and reinventeditself as two dramatic dining rooms, each with star chefs. Downstairs, chefSusan Regis presides over the Monday Club Bar, a restaurant with a clubatmosphere, two fireplaces, and a "non-threatening" gourmet menu.Upstairs is something completely different. The Soiree Room where we dined, isan elegant supper club, with hot pink walls and tablecloths, mirrored ceilings,and lighting sconces that could be art-nouveau objets d'art. As one criticsaid, it's "Moulin Rouge" meets "Alice in Wonderland!"Amanda Lydon is the chef in the Soiree Room and she has done herself proud. Hermenu is eclectic and, judging from what we ordered, the food is beautifullyprepared and presented. My appetizer was an Endive and Artichoke Salad with RedWine Cream and Marcona Almonds. My entree was an order of Maine Sea Scallopswith Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers, and Broccoli Rabe. My dessert was GrapefruitSorbet with Citrus Salad. I had a delicious Vernaccia di San Gimignano toaccompany my meal, and I wish that I could remember the exotic beer that myfriend Pat had. Service was friendly, intelligent and unobtrusive. In spite ofthe fact that the room was filled to overflowing,  one of the ownersstopped by to inquire if we were enjoying our meal, as did the maitre d'. Allin all, a beautiful high quality dining experience.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "DAVIO'S"

It almostseems as though there's always been a Davio's in Boston! In reality, ownerSteve DiFilippo opened his first Davio's, the upstairs/downstairsrestaurant/bistro on fashionable Newbury Street, just 18 years ago. Then, in1990, he opened the Cambridge branch, with its beautiful terrace overlookingthe Charles River. Now, when Paine Furniture moved out of its spacious showroomon Arlington Street last year, DiFilippo closed down the Newbury Street branch,and moved into this new space .It was a very smart move. It may not get the"Euro-trash" foot-traffic from Newbury Street, but it seems to bedrawing a very eclectic crowd...and it has its own parking lot! The huge roomitself is quite elegant, with its soaring ceiling and high fluted columns, itsexposed kitchen filled with sous-chefs, and its beautifully curved mahoganybar. The "white-linen" atmosphere is conducive to fine dining. Fromthe minute we walked in, the service was attentive and friendly. Our waiter wasknowledgeable about the "alta-cucina" items on the elaborate priceymenu, and was quite friendly, even though he appeared to be serving four tablesat once. Now, to the food. In a word, it's perfect. Preparation, presentation,and taste couldn't be bettered anywhere. My appetizer was a Spinach Salad, withWood Roasted Peppers, Portobello Mushroom, Goat Cheese, Garlic, and Olive Oil.My entree was Pan Roasted Salmon, with Wild Mushroom Risotto, Chives, SmokedPepper Oils and Citrus Sauce. My dessert was a Mango, Raspberry, and LemonSorbet with Biscotti.( From my friends dishes, I tasted a perfect Gnocchi, anda delicious Spaghetti with Shrimps, in an excellent Marinara Sauce.) Our wineswere a Pinot Grigio, and a fine Tuscan Chianti Classico. A very welcomeaddition to the downtown restaurant scene.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SAINT"

Once upon atime, there was a fabulously elegant restaurant in Boston called Cafe Budapest.It's rooms were designed to create the experience of dining in imperialHungary. When it closed, old Boston mourned its loss. When it reopened lastyear, as the impossible-to-get-in- without-a-connection "Saint," newBoston said "let's take a look." From the moment you walk down theflight of stairs onto a lit-from-below with-red-lights foyer, the look says NewYork nightclub or South Beach club, but NOT Back Bay Boston. The first room isan all white martini bar called "Threshold." The second room is aptlynamed the "Bordello," and includes the original ornate bar from CafeBudapest. The room we dined in is the "Main Room" and it's a modern,beautifully designed cocktail lounge. If there's a negative about"Saint," and its probably the only one, it's the fact that you haveto dine on low cocktail tables. There are no dining-height tables anywhere in"Saint." The chef is the formidable Rene Michelena (formerly of"La Bettola," "Centro," and "The Vault.") When hewas gracious enough to come to our table and spend some time discussing hismenu and his background, he told us that he was finally at a restaurant wherehe had full control over the kitchen and menu offerings. He's certainly done afine job with both. My appetizer was a Zucchini and Crab Meatballs with PotatoGnocchi and Crab Bisque. My entree was a Baby Artichoke Risotto with TarragonPesto and Roasted Pepper Salad. Our dessert was a Tray of Six Desserts(Chocolate Souffle with Strawberries, Peach Cheesecake with Ginger and MolassesCrust, Blueberry and Apricot Cobbler, Mango Sorbet, etc.) to be shared. Did Isay that there were only two of us??? Our wine was a delicious Sauvignon Blanc.Our waiter was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, adding to the fine, butvery pricey, dining experience. A worthy addition to the sophisticated,elegant, and traditional Back Bay neighborhood.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "EXCELSIOR"

When two ofthe giants of the Boston dining scene, Lydia Shire ("Biba,""Locke-Ober,") and Tim Lynch ("Grill 23 and Bar,") gettogether to create a new restaurant, it's not surprising when the result isnothing less than magnificent. Such is the case with their new venture, "Excelsior."In the space formerly occupied by Shire's now defunct "Biba," famedNew York restaurant designer Adam Tihany has created a showplace in theHeritage-on-the-Common, overlooking the Public Garden. The ground floor of thistwo-story restaurant, is an open to the street (at least it is this Summer)dark-wood with red decorative touches, bar and cocktail lounge. The ascent upto the dining space is dramatic. You can either walk up the large curvingstaircase, or, as I would recommend, take the glass elevator which ascends upthrough the multi-tiered wine cellar. The room itself, like the lounge below,is all dark wood with red box-like chandeliers, and red-and-tan artwork on thewalls. The windows down the entire front wall overlook the historic PublicGarden. Although I usually hate being seated at a table along the wall, withonly a foot separating the next tables from ours, our"table-neighbors" proved to be so charming and friendly, that a minusbecame a plus. The rest of the crowd last night consisted of the "Three-Pgroup," (Prada, Porsche and Plastic-surgeoned!) My appetizer was aperfectly-dressed Warm Mozzarella and Crushed Artichoke Salad. My entree was aCharcoaled Wild King Salmon with Steamed Toy Sum. (The best salmon that I've hadin ages, and I've become an expert in salmon lately!) We shared a deliciousCheese Tray, and we both had the same outrageous dessert...Sour Dough ChocolateCake with Vanilla Fromage Blanc Ice Cream and Warm Chocolate Sauce. Our winewas a perfect Montepulciano Chianti Classico. We got to taste the food that wasordered by our table-neighbors, Kate and Ethan, as they did ours. (I said theywere friendly!) Everything was cooked to perfection, and presented beautifully.Did I mention that the service was excellent as well? All in all, as fine adining experience as one could hope to have.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "MERITAGE"

Noted chefDaniel Bruce, the mastermind behind one of Boston's premiere Winter events, theBoston Wine Festival, has taken the Festival's idea of pairing fine wines withfine foods, and created a magnificent new restaurant in the elegant BostonHarbor Hotel. Through the hotel's beautiful lobby, up its grand staircase, andonto the second floor, with its expansive views of the sailing ships and yachtsin Boston Harbor, we arrive at Meritage, designed to look like the primaryrestaurant on an expensive cruise ship. Shining hardwood floors covered inplaces with thick carpeting; marble, glass and brass fixtures; spider-webs oflighting that seem to have tumbled right through the ceiling; and bottles ofevery kind of wine imaginable, make up the striking contemporary design ofMeritage. The menu is cleverly designed to match each food item with anappropriate wine...suggested by chef Bruce.  In addition, every dish isavailable in either a small plate or a large plate...the latter being exactlytwice the size (and price) of the former. The idea is to encourage sampling. Myappetizer was a Black and White Shrimp Cannelloni with Saffron Cream andSauteed Spinach. This was paired with a varietal of Pinot Grigio andChardonnay. My entree was a Blackberry-glazed Wild Pacific Salmon with VermontFiddleheads and Shiraz Demi Glaze. This was paired with a robust CabernetSauvignon. The chef sent an amuse-bouche of Gazpacho with Truffles. We orderedthe Cheese Tray of Humboldt Fog Goat, Fontina Cow, and Istara Sheep. Ourdessert was a Chocolate Tasting Tray consisting of Dark Chocolate Tart withCreme-fraiche, a White Chocolate Cheesecake, and a Log of Butter ChocolateMousse. All of this was served by an intelligent, attentive, and well-uniformedwait-staff. A very welcome addition to Boston's Waterfront, soon to be blessedwith the 3-mile-long Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Park, covering theinfamous "Big Dig!"

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "GREAT BAY" in the newHotel Commonwealth

It musthave looked good on paper when the proposal was presented to Christopher Myersand Michael Schlow, the owners and chef of "Radius" and "ViaMatta." Create a luxurious seafood restaurant for the new FrenchChateau-like hotel, the Commonwealth, being built on Kenmore Square. Afteragreeing to create the new restaurant, things started to fall apart on thehotel end. First off, when the scaffolding and shrouding (which had been in placeduring the entire time of the hotel's construction) was removed, the hotellooked less like a Chateau in the Loire Valley, than a motel in New Jersey!Then, Boston University decided to house 60 of its incoming Freshmen in theHotel. That doesn't bode well for a hotel that aspires to 5-star status. Todate, the hotel's facade has been "corrected" so that it more closelyresembles a chateau. However, the students are still planning to move in inSeptember! Now for the restaurant. The restaurant has all of the trappings ofgreatness about it: caring and famous owner and chef, understated ambience,excellent service, and incredibly good seafood chosen from a menu of itemsranging from mainstream to rarities. Everything is there, except the customers!On a beautiful Saturday night, the restaurant was virtually empty! I was toldthat this is the case every night. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a fine meal. Myappetizer was English Pea Soup with Morels, Brandade. My entree was a LineCaught Swordfish with Porcini, Wilted Arugula, Coriander and Walnut Oil. Thechef sent an amuse-bouche of Barbecue Glazed Prawns. The wine was a Stag's LeapCabernet Sauvignon. I ordered the Cheese Tray (Old Chatham Camembert, PutneyTomme, and Great Hill Bleu.) Delicious. In addition,  my dessert was aLemon Sorbet with Blood Orange Slices. Send in the customers! This placedeserves a chance.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "IL FIORE"

If it's awarm summer night (and there should still be a few more of those left,) andyou're lucky enough to snag one of the couple of dozen tables on theroof-garden of this popular new restaurant in the North End, then you're in fora magical dining experience. Unfortunately, "Il Fiore" doesn't takereservations for its roof-garden (the only one in the North End,) so it alldepends on how lucky you are when you get there. Go early; it's always verycrowded. We were lucky. We only had to wait 15 minutes for a table up on theroof-garden. The party of 6 at the next table waited for 2 hours! In any case,roof-garden or not, this is a fine new addition to the already packed North Endrestaurant scene. A 500-seater, it makes its presence felt on Hanover Street,the North End's "Main Street." Everything is first class, from thepeople at the busy maitre d's desk, to the wait-staff, to the presentation andpreparation of the food. My appetizer was a Mozzarella di Bufala. My entree wasa Mustard- Seed-Encrusted Marinated Salmon, under a tower of Spinach and SlicedMozzarella. My dessert was a White Mousse Cake. Our wine was a Pinot Grigio.Add to all of this, good company and you have, as I said before, a perfectlymagical evening.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "CRAIGIE STREETBISTRO"

Chef/ownerTony Maws' "Craigie Street Bistro" is the equal of any of thosedozens of little bistros that line the streets around the Boule'-Miche' in the5th and 6th districts on the Left Bank of Paris...only it's more expensive.It's tucked away on one of those residential streets outside of Harvard Square,in the basement of an apartment building. Only an awning and a small signannounce its presence. So you really have to know where you're going to findit. But, once you're there, what a magnificent dining experience awaits you.The first thing that you notice, aside from the unpretentious decor, and thesmall number of tables, is the incredible knowledge of the wait-staff, as theybegin to suggest wines and recommend dishes, before you've even been seated atyour table! Our waiter was an encyclopedia of fine food. For an appetizer I hadthe Sweet Corn Soup with Green Tomato Tartare and Olive Oil Crouton. My entreewas a Red-Chile-Marinated Hangar Steak with Roasted Bone Marrow, ForkedPotatoes, and Pot-Roasted Carrots. My dessert was a Classic Peche Melba. Toaccompany our meal we ordered a Mercurey "Vielles Vignes" Burgundy.The wine was an experience in itself...truly wonderful. I had a taste of theother dishes at the table...Rabbit and Pancetta Terrine, Scallops with Cockles,and Veal Cheeks...and everything was first-rate. An incredible diningexperience.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "McDonald's"

Believe itor not, this is the first time that I've ever eaten at a McDonald's restaurant,anywhere in the world, in my entire life! Therefore, when my friend Patrick invitedme to have lunch at the McDonald's just across the street and down the blockfrom where I live, I couldn't resist. He was on a mission. I felt like a virginon her first date! When we walked in at Noon, what surprised me was the factthat the place was almost empty. This restaurant is right across the streetfrom the Berklee College of Music. Don't these weirdos eat fast food? The nextsurprise came at the counter when we ordered our meal. The counter"girls" were Chinese, and they ordered our food in Chinese! Yikes,where am I? In an attempt to eat a relatively healthy meal (!) I chose toignore Pat's suggestion to "go with the Big Mac," and ordered as myentree the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Lettuce and Tomato (withoutmayonnaise.) It was very tasty. This came with an order of French Fries, whichalthough delicious (!) tasted as though they had been cooked in hand lotion. Mybeverage was a Barg's Root Beer. I think that my meal came to less than whatsome people might tip the toilet attendant at the Four Seasons. On the way out,as the restaurant started to fill up with strange people, Pat said, "It'sa good thing that you live right across the street because you'll probably haveto go to the bathroom in about five minutes." He was right! Thanks for theexperience, Pat.

(3-Stars) Back to Top

Fast Food

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE RED HOUSE"

If itseems a bit petty to withhold a star, simply because the restaurant served atasteless Caesar Salad, so be it. One of the perks of being a"critic!" Actually, if a chef can't throw together a decent CaesarSalad, complete with Parmigiano and Chopped Anchovies (both missing from ourstonight,) it says a lot about the kitchen. Everything else about "The RedHouse" is in the positive column. Housed in a charming 18th Century cottagejust outside of Harvard Square, this multi-roomed new restaurant, is owned bythe former chef of Giannino's in the Charles Hotel. You enter through apub-type area complete with crackling wood in the fireplace, past some privaterooms for dining, and into the rear main dining room...a crowded but intimateroom.  After settling into our pillowed corner banquette, we ordered ourwine...a delicious Chianti Riserva...and our meal. After the aforementionedCaesar Salad as my appetizer, my entree was a Grilled Filet of Salmon withGinger Glaze and Long Beans. My dessert was a Key Lime Pie, one of the bestthat I've had outside of Florida. Aside from the poorly-prepared Casear Salad,everything else that we ordered was delicious. The service wasn't noticeable...oneway or the other. All in all, a nice addition to the Harvard Square diningscene.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "PERDIX"

The onlything wrong with our dining experience last night, was the annoyingly shrillvoice of the blonde Barbie-doll at the corner table, and the three obnoxious"men" at the next table, who kept stroking each other, emotionally aswell as physically. Oh well, it WAS the South End! "Perdix" has aconvoluted history. Formerly, a hot little restaurant in the ethnically-mixedJamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston, it moved into the trendy South End whenthe once-successful restaurant "Truc," packed its pots and pans andfled into the night. With a new paint-job, and some reconstructive work on theromantic glassed-in greenhouse overlooking the gardens in the back,"Perdix" opened to rave reviews. These reviews were certainlyjustified. Everything about "Perdix" screams CLASS, except some ofthe customers. The decor,  service, knowledgeable and personable wait-staff,and the preparation, presentation, and taste of the food were all excellent. Asmy appetizer, I had Grilled Figs with Arugula, Prosciutto, Parmesan, and BloodOrange Vinaigrette. My entree was a Roasted Monkfish, with French Lentils,Brown Butter Cauliflower and Sweet Garlic Gremolata. My dessert was a GingeredApple Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream. Our wine was an earthy Rubizzo SanGiovesefrom Tuscany. Try to get one of the four tables in the greenhouse in the back.It will make your dining experience at "Perdix" even more memorable.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SKIPJACK'S"

If you'rein Boston and craving a lobster, and the tables at Legal Sea Foods in the"Pru" are booked up for months, then take a walk over to Skipjack's,just outside of Copley Square. In a setting that's comparable to Legal's, andwith a comparable menu as well, you'll get any kind of seafood, prepared toyour specifications...grilled, broiled, or fried. What's more important, isthat the food will be delicious. There were six of us at dinner, and everyone lovedthe food, especially the lobster, which I didn't have. Too much work! Myappetizer was the best Caesar Salad that I've had outside of Mexico, where itwas first created by a chef named Cesar. My entree was a Grilled AtlanticSalmon in a Soy, Lemon and Dijon Sauce, with Green Beans and CaramelizedOnions. My dessert was a Chocolate Bread Pudding (to die for!) I had a PinotGrigio with my meal. Did I mention that the service was first-rate, from ayoung waiter who actually understood English? So, add Skipjack's to theever-growing list of fine dining establishments serving prime seafood. It's notjust Legal's and No-Name anymore!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "GEORGE-ANAMERICAN TAVERN"

I startedto get a funny feeling, when we walked into this new restaurant (formerly"Rattlesnake," a popular college hang-out,) and, in spite of someupgrading of the decor (pictures of various Georges...from Washington toSteinbrenner, lined the walls of the bar in front ) there was the same collegecrowd at the new bar, watching TV screens showing the football and hockeygames, while they guzzled their Pabst Blue Ribbons! We asked to be seated inthe rear of the dining room, far away from the noisy crowd...and then thingscontinued to go wrong. The menu was so limited, that the sections for burgersand sandwiches far outnumbered the sections for appetizers, salads, andentrees. Ten minutes after we settled on our selections, and gave the waitressour wine order, she came back to the table to tell us that they were out of theStuffed Chicken Breast. At 7:30 in the evening? She also asked us if we wantedthe anchovies on our Caesar Salads. When will chef/restaurateurs understandthat this is not an option on a true Caesar Salad? The anchovies must be groundup into a paste with the worcestershire sauce, lemon juice etc. to coat theleaves of romaine. Then, she informed us that they couldn't find the manager,who had the key to the wine cellar. When he was finally found, she apologized,and told us that we wouldn't have to pay for our appetizers. Which brings me tothe food. My appetizer was the Caesar Salad (with Whole Anchovies on top!) Itwas surprisingly good. For my entree, I went with a true "comfortfood," Macaroni and Cheese. Well, this was not the usual orangey Mac &Cheese that I love, but more like a Macaroni Alfredo, with a white creamysauce. It was just alright. One of my friends ordered  Spicy ChickenFingers for an appetizer, and they were delicious, and very spicy. My otherfriend's Pork Chops entree looked good. My dessert was a very large Browniewith Vanilla Ice Cream. For our wine, I chose a Kendall-Jackson Shyra, motherof the famous Australian Shiraz. It was heavy, but very good. Maybe I'll goback sometime to try the burgers and fries!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "BRAVO" (at the Museum ofFine Arts)

The Museumof Fine Arts in Boston has acquired a new work of art, only it's a restaurantrather than a painting. In the space formerly occupied by the staid Fine ArtsRestaurant, the new restaurant "Bravo" shines like a new acquisition.The powers-that-be at the MFA decided to ratchet up the quality of their maindining room, and they hired designer Peter Niemitz to do the job. He'stransformed the space through color, design, lighting, and furnishings, into somethingresembling the living room of a wealthy art patron's estate. Burnt orange,beige, gray, and white are the predominant colors, lit by elegant torcherelamps spaced discreetly around the room. The paintings on the wall are bySpanish artist Claudio Bravo, for whom the room is named. The new chef hasprovided a limited, but high quality menu. My appetizer was a Vermont GoatCheese Tart with Tangerine, Anise Honey and Beet Root Salad. My entree was aFree Range Chicken Breast with Salad of Pear, Blue Cheese, Spinach Cinnamon RedWine Vinaigrette and Pecans. My dessert was a Napoleon of Mascarpone Cheesewith Raspberries, and for the table we had an order of Homemade MiniatureCookies. The wine was a Groth Sauvignon Blanc. Make reservations for lunch or dinnerat "Bravo" when you go to see the Rembrandt exhibit, and you cansatisfy all of your senses in one short day.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE COLONIALINN at  CONCORD"

The idealplace to have Thanksgiving Dinner outside of your own home, is at the site ofthe first Thanksgiving, Plymouth Plantation, in the company of the live-inactors who portray the Pilgrims and Indians on a daily basis. One would havethought that the next best bet would have been at one of the area's historicinns, such as the old (built in 1716,) beautiful Colonial Inn, on the Green inConcord, Mass. One would have been wrong! The old historic rooms on the mainfloor were filled to capacity, so we were relegated to the basement level, in aroom that looked like your grandmother's rec-room! The food was cold, dry andtough, and so was the waiter. No, actually, he was just stupid and rude. Hisaccent was so unintelligible that I thought that his initial question to us was"Is anyone allergic to peanuts and diarrhea?" (He was saying "dairy!")The fact that we were 18 people added to our fun, but to his misery. He simplycouldn't handle it, and the food being served, was left standing until itcooled off considerably. Maybe I should have done the same...cooled off thatis. Oh, did I mention that we had a lot of laughs and a great time?

(1-Star)

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SARACENO'S"

It's always apleasant surprise when a restaurant exceeds ones expectations. I hadn't been tothe North End's "Saraceno's" in years, and I remembered it as an outdatedrelic...one of those "red sauce" places with red-checkeredtablecloths, and wax-dripping candles in Chianti bottles on the tables. Intruth, the decor does run along those lines. After being escorted through theupstairs rooms by a reject from the cast of "The Sopranos," down aflight of stairs, and through a maze of downstairs rooms (covered withbadly-painted murals of Italian city-scenes,) we were finally led to our tablein the farthest corner of the last room. We were a group of 11, and they seatedus at a large table, away from the other large tables. The bread and olive oil(Colavita) were delicious. However, my appetizer of Pasta e Fagioli (a goodtest of a restaurant,) was watery and tasteless, as though it had just beenpoured out of a Campbell's can! The entree, on the other hand was perfect. Ihad a Sogliola Meuniere ( a filet of sole with lemon and butter sauce) withBroccoli Raba and Roasted Potatoes. Those of us who ordered a dessert ofChocolate Profiteroles found them to be so good, (as opposed to the soggyTiramisu and the ordinary-tasting Cheesecake,) that we ordered seconds, only tofind that they had been changed into Vanilla Profiteroles, that didn't tasteanything like the first order. Our waitress, who had been excellent up to thispoint, kept insisting that they were the same Profiteroles. There was noconvincing her otherwise. A small thing, but it said something about thewait-staff and its attitude toward customers. I don't know what the wine was,but my white tasted delicious...and very expensive. All in all, the restaurantwas better than what I had expected it to be, but not one of the top-drawerrestaurants in this neighborhood of excellent Italian restaurants.

(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "BELLA LUNA"

It's hard tobe objective about reviewing a restaurant, when your friend is your waiter, andhe treats you to a round of drinks, and sends over platters of appetizers"on the house." However, I'll try. While we were waiting for Pete toget our table ready, we went downstairs to The Milky Way Lounge to have drinksat the bar. The Milky Way is a quirky-looking lounge that is a combination bar,karaoke lounge, and lanes for candlepin bowling! On the other hand, Bella Lunaupstairs, is a smallish pizzeria, with a menu that includes a full range ofItalian specialties, as well as a wide variety of pizzas. The platters ofappetizers that Pete brought to the table were: Bruschetta of Eggplant andMozzarella, Fried Calamari, and an interesting Antipasto platter. We ordered aregular Cheese and Tomato Sauce Pizza, and an elaborate one with Eggplant,Mozzarella, Artichoke, and Capers. Everything was delicious, and the servicewas as professional as in any 5-star restaurant. On Pete's recommendation, weordered the Pinot Bianco to accompany the meal; it was perfect. A fun meal in afun place.

(4- Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "ARBOR"

When"GQ" magazine names a new little restaurant in Jamaica Plain, as oneof the "best newcomers in America," then it's time to get over thereand see what all the fuss is about. Wow, were they right! This place isincredible. It's storefront is so small and unobtrusive that we actually passedit by. However, once inside the restaurant, the decor is a triumph ofsimplicity, elegance and taste. Wooden floors, marble table tops, and largesquares of black and red cloth designs on the walls. The waiters are dressed injeans, white shirts, and long white aprons, and they all seem to be thoroughlyknowledgeable about the food on the menu. That brings us to the food. Items onthe menu are divided into three courses: Mezze, First, and Main. Everything ineach course sounds mouth-wateringly tempting; it's hard to choose. But choosewe did. My friend ordered the Tasting of all Six Mezze consisting of BasilCured Salmon, Goat's Cheese in Herbes de Provence, Roasted Moroccan Eggplant,Grilled Shrimp in Harissa, Lamb and Rosemary Sausage, and Algerian PotatoSalad. I tasted all of these and they were all delicious! My first course wasan Arugula Salad with Feta Cheese, Marinated Red Peppers, Kalamata Olives, andPreserved Lemon. My main course was a Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms,Sage, and Parmesan. My dessert was a sinful Banana Tarte Tatin with Cinnamonand Honey Ice Cream, and Caramel Sauce. We ordered the Cheese Tray for thetable. On it were Westfield Farm Hubbardston's Cow's Milk  &Bluebonnet Goat's Milk, and Great Hill Blue Cow's Milk, served with MedjoolDates. Our wine was a perfect Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. As if we hadn't hadenough to drink, we ended the night with Limoncello. A perfect ending to aperfect dining experience. Get over to "Arbor" as soon as you can,before the crowds discover it. After that, there'll be no getting in!

(5- Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "UNION BAR &GRILLE"

In the not-so-distantpast, Washington Street in Roxbury, was one of Boston's most dangerous streets.Hidden under an ancient, rusting, elevated train line, its shadows protecteddrug deals and other sketchy goings on. As the wave of the South End'sgentrification swept over the area, reclaiming more and more of Roxbury, theelevated train tracks came down, and the beautification of Washington Streetbegan. The new Silver Line made the street more accessible, and the bricksidewalks and landscaping made it more beautiful. Then came therestaurants...The Red Fez, Pho Republique, Cafe Umbra, Gallia, Flour Bakery andCafe...and the beautiful people grabbed up all of the new condos in the smartnew buildings and in the old converted townhouses. Now Washington Street is oneof Boston's hottest addresses, and with its new respectability, comes itsfinest most elegant restaurant, the Union Bar & Grille. Named by its owner,after New York's Union Square Cafe (arguably New York's most popularrestaurant,) where he worked as sous-chef under Michael Romano, the Union Bar& Grille is Washington Street's crowning glory. The place reeks of class,from its impeccable service, to its chic Peter Niemitz-designed interior, toits perfectly prepared and presented food. Settle into one of those comfortableblack leather banquettes, and take your time in ordering, because the menu isfilled with enticing selections. My appetizer was a delicious Goat Cheeseand Arugula Salad, with Wood Grilled Eggplant and Vine-Ripened Tomatoes. Thewaitress brought us a pan of freshly-baked Corn Bread to accompany ourappetizers. The entree menu included such items as Wild Striped Bass withSquash, Rack of Lamb with Jerusalem Artichokes, Seared Salmon Fillet with SavoyCabbage and Roasted Apples, etc. However, I chose a "specialty of thehouse," the Union Beef and Andouille Sausage Burger with Vermont CheddarCheese and Gourmet Fries!! It was one of the most perfect (and expensive)burgers that I've ever had...and that includes that damn $50 burger at DB BistroModerne in New York! I ordered the Cheese Tray for dessert, but I wouldrecommend that you go with what my friend ordered...the White Milkshake withGodiva Liqueur. I don't know what else is in it, but it tastes like it camefrom heaven!!! Our wine was a perfect Syrah Ste. Michelle. As we left therestaurant, and looked at the beautiful Cathedral across the wide new boulevardof Washington Street, I could only think "now why didn't I buy one ofthose townhouses, when I could have had it for less than $100,000!!!"

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "VINALIA"

Wow! Thesenew restaurants get bigger and better, and "Vinalia" is the biggestand best of the "new kids in town." Located on Summer Street in theheart of Downtown Crossing, just down the block from Filene's and Macy's, theonly sign of a restaurant at street level is a conservative blue awning, withthe name of the restaurant on it. You enter what looks like an office building,proceed up an escalator, and then "Vinalia" starts to reveal itselfaround you, like a mirage. To one side of the escalator is what appears to be acocktail lounge, but is in fact the restaurant's Wine Bar. Low tables, withsofas and chairs around them. On the other side of the escalator, through thefrosted-glass doors of the entrance, is the Ian Schrager/South Beach-likeMartini Bar, which last night, seemed to be the happening place in town! Thedark,  blue-lighted back-lit bar was filled with beautiful young people,milling about, drinking, and doing what people do in hopping bars. Beyond thebar is the huge and elegant dining room itself, with large windows overlookingSummer Street, and beyond the Dining Room are private rooms for wine-tastings.Very impressive. Chef Justin Villa was the Executive Sous-Chef under DanielBruce at Meritage, and he's learned his lessons well from a master. The itemson the menu (creative American cuisine) are extensive, and  the wine listis incredible. There's even a wine-pairing menu each night. Although it wasdifficult to chose, I selected the Spinach and Parmesan Risotto, with FavaBeans and Julienne Prosciutto as my appetizer. Three of us shared a MargaritaWood-Grilled Pizza as well. My entree was a Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass withBlack Quinoa, Corn, and Roasted Pepper Sauce. For dessert, I had the SeasonalFruit and Lemon Sorbet. Our wine was a full-bodied Napa Valley CabernetSauvignon. Although the portions are small, everything was quite filling andvery delicious. Did I mention that the service was impeccable? Our waitress wasdelightful. Although I rarely return to a restaurant (too many new good ones totry,) I would seriously consider returning to this one. It was just too big totake it all in on a first visit. Go, and enjoy yourself at one of Boston's newtreasures!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "ANTHEM"

Sometimesit's hard to tell if you're enjoying a dining experience at a new restaurant,because of the food and the restaurant, or because of the excellent companysharing that experience with you. Such may have been the case last night. SinceI don't intend to start reviewing my friends (!) let's take a look at therestaurant. In the space formerly occupied by the Commonwealth Brewery near theFleet Center, noted chef Robert Fathman ("Azure") has created aspacious, casually glamorous, beautiful new home to his upscale American"comfort" fare. The large dining room and bar are surrounded bystreet-level windows, with lush velvet and beaded curtains used to divide thehuge room up into more intimate sections. Wooden floors, and a dark-woodpaneled bar with lit-from-below vodka bottles as decor, complete the picture.Downstairs is a sexy and sultry lounge, which should become a popular hang outas soon as "the beautiful young people" discover it. Now to the food.My appetizer was an Iceberg Wedgie with Blue Cheese, Bacon Bits, MarinatedTomato and Hard-boiled Egg. My entree was a "Mighty Meat Loaf"(choice beef, chorizo, and Italian sausage,) with Mashed Potatoes and a largeassortment of Vegetables & Gravy. My dessert was a Grown-up Float with IceCream and Bailey's. Our table shared a Fondue of Spinach and Artichoke inMelted Cheese. Our wines were a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chilean PinotNoir. Everything was delicious and abundant (large portions.) The service wasfirst-rate....and so were my friends. Yikes! I AM reviewing my friends!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW: (1) "B & G OYSTERS, LTD." (2) "THE BUTCHERSHOP"

FamedBoston chef and owner Barbara Lynch ("No. 9 Park,") has bravelyopened two side by side (actually, across the street from one another)restaurants almost simultaneously. One serves oysters and other limited seafooddishes exclusively, and the other is strictly for meat-lovers. Sort of anupscale version of "surf and turf!" I had been told that one shouldorder an appetizer in one, and then go to the other for the entree. So, Idecided to try "B & G Oysters, Ltd." for my appetizer. I had adelicious, and quite filling portion of Fried Oysters. From there, I went overto "The Butcher Shop" for my entree. This charming place is modeledafter a European charcuterie, and in fact, it IS a butcher shop by day, whereexpert hands slice and dice some of the best meat to be found in Boston. Atnight, the large counter becomes a communal table, (and I suspect that when itgets overcrowded, the butcher block does as well,) and there are only fiveother granite bar-tables. So be prepared to wait, or do as I did, and waitacross the street while you're having your oyster appetizer. They'll call youwhen your table is ready. My entree was an order of Rilletes en Pot (meatballsin a bearnaise sauce.) I also had Artisanal Cheeses (the cheese tray.) The foodwas absolutely perfect, although the service was typically French...slow, butefficient.  My wine was a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon. Try thisdouble-billed dining experience as I did, going from one to the other. If youdon't mind eating at a counter, you'll find it fun, and very European, for aone-time event. I for one, however, prefer to eat at a real table.

(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SANCTUARY"

The newclub in town bills itself as a "Tapas Restaurant/Bar," and itcertainly is that, and more. Next door to Dockside, and around the corner fromFanueil Hall, this 3-level affair seems to have already proven itself to be asanctuary for the downtown set. It was packed to capacity last night. The crowdseemed to be more the 30-something after-work set, rather than theundergraduate kids one finds at Ned Devine's or the Landsdowne Street"mall" of clubs. Before we sat down to dinner upstairs, we checkedout the street level area, with its curved silver and wood ceiling and its twolarge buddhas guarding the bar. In between the buddhas are three plasma screensfor viewing sporting events. Old time religious icons, and contemporary"religious" icons...take your pick. There are black leatherbanquettes for dining on this level, but its primarily for the bar set. In thebasement level, we stumbled into what appeared to be a private party...at leastthere were lots of balloons and women wearing bunny ears! Down here you'reaware of the Fanueil Hall location, in that the walls are the exposed graniteblocks of this 18th century neighborhood. Two levels up, we were seated at acomfortable table in a dining area away from yet another bar with plasma screens.The setting was modernistic, with dark walls, indirect lighting, and colorfulsuede seats around dark wooden tables. The music was cranked up on all threelevels...loud, but not annoying enough to disturb your dinner. Now, to dinner.Because the menu featured tapas (small plates,) I ordered a Borlotti Bean Dip(pureed cranberry beans, parmegiano reggiano and roasted garlic with olive oiland crusty bread,) The Devil's Olives (in peppercorns, garlic and lemon,) andAlbondigas (homemade Spanish meatballs in a smoked tomato sauce.) For dessert,two of us ordered three plates and shared. We had Mexican Chocolate Wontons(bittersweet ganache wrapped in wontons with cinnamon ice cream,) Roast BananaCake (with roast pecans, butter-rum sauce and rum-raisin ice cream,) and LemonGrass Semifreddo (semi-frozen mousse with lemon confit and roast cashewbrittle.) Our wine was a pitcher of Sangria. (Order by the glass...it'scheaper!) I apologize for the length of this review, but it's a big place, andthere's a lot going on under one roof.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "JACOB WIRTH"

Becauseit's under new management, with a new highly-touted chef, I decided to revisitthis Boston classic...a restaurant that's existed in three centuries! My lastvisit was at least 20 years ago, and as I pulled open the heavy front door, andwalked into the dark wood-paneled bar section of the restaurant, I could seethat nothing has changed...and that's a definite compliment. The atmosphere isauthentic brauhaus, with unpolished wooden floors, high tin ceiling, woodencloth-covered tables, and coat-hooks and hat shelves lining the walls. 19thCentury prints and artifacts cover the walls over the hat shelf. Does anyonewear hats anymore? The menu still has the German classic dishes on it, butthere are some new additions to show off the culinary skills of the new chef.My appetizer was a Classic Caesar Salad with Cornbread Croutons. Incidentally,the breadbasket consisted of freshly-baked cornbread. My entree was a ButternutSquash and Spinach Risotto with a Potato Latke. My dessert was a Triple Sorbet.Our wine was a Riesling. Just a word about my friend's dessert, because it wasone of the most beautiful, and tasty creations that I've ever seen. It was aDark Chocolate Beer Stein filled with a Raspberry and Chocolate Mousse.Everything was edible, although the stein was so nicely crafted that wehesitated to pick at it...but not for long. It was served with a homemadeice-cream sandwich! Everything in Jacob Wirth's is so carefully preserved intime, it was jarring to walk out into the hustle and bustle of Boston's theatredistrict.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "BLACKFINCHOP HOUSE & RAW BAR"

Just whatBoston needs, another seafood restaurant! Why would restaurateur/chef TonyAmbrose close down his beautifully elegant "Ambrosia" on HuntingtonAvenue, and replace it with a stylish new seafood restaurant? Maybe it'sbecause he felt that it's time to get rid of that tired cuisine, Asian-Frenchfusion. I certainly do! Or, maybe it's because he wanted to try to duplicatethe success of his "Blackfin" at the shore in Hingham. In any case,here we are with another fancy "surf and turf" joint, and guess what?It's wonderful. The look is stark, elegant, and ocean-blue, with large fishtanks, custom built raw and sushi bars, and fishing paraphernalia as the roomsdecoration. The menu features mostly seafood of all varieties, and a few itemsfrom the Blackfin Wood Fired Grill. Because it's the hot new spot in town rightnow, everyone seems to be there, and it's very noisy. But that doesn't takeaway from the enjoyment of dining there. My appetizer was Maryland Crab Cakeswith Tomato, Horseradish and Cilantro. My entree was Jumbo Shrimp Scampi withLemon Risotto and Tomatoes. My dessert was a Chocolate Ganache Layer Cake withCoffee Ice Cream. Our wine was a delicious Pinot Grigio. Owner/chef Ambrose wasmanning the raw bar tonight. He had a big smile on his face while he wasshucking those oysters. He knows a good thing when he sees it, and"Blackfin" is a very good thing.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "HILLTOP STEAKHOUSE"

It's beenages since I last took the trek up Route 1 to what may be the largest steakhouse in America. (Their figures for number of steaks and salads sold per weekare staggering.) I used to drive up there at least once a month, to take myyoung relatives (who were in school up here at the time,) and visiting friendsfrom other parts of the country, and Europe, for "a piece of America'sfinest meat." Does it still serve the best steak around? Well, notexactly....but I'm getting ahead of myself. Approaching this vast complex,(restaurant and large butcher shop,) one is impressed by the size of the place.Get there early if you don't want to wait forever for your table; they stilldon't take reservations. The place was packed tonight, and the clientele lookedlike a casting call for "Deliverance." My appetizer was amouth-watering portion of Buffalo Fingers. My friend and I both ordered theFilet Mignon for entrees. (Junior went for the LARGE filet mignon...anoxymoron?...and I went for the PETITE filet mignon...a redundant term?) Bothorders were accompanied by Salad and Baked Potatoes. We decided to go for beerinstead of wine with our dinners. Our dessert was an Apple Crisp with Vanilla IceCream. So how was the food? Disappointing. Although the portions were HUGE, thesteak was not what I would call a filet mignon; too much fat. The largeportions were a welcome change though, from the cutesy, over-decorated tinyportions served at some of our best gourmet restaurants...especially those damnFrench-Asian "fusion" places! OK Nick, stop waving the flag. It's aRESTAURANT review, not a political statement! In summary, the emphasis was onquantity, not quality...and seeing so many senior citizens in sweat suits, andred-necks in plaid, was not the ideal way to take ones mind off a bad steak!

(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT REVIEW: "OUTBACKSTEAK HOUSE" (in Quincy, Mass.)

Believe it or not, I've never been to an Outback Steak House,and so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the food was so good. The decoris faux- Australia, with wooden booths and tables, and lots of Foster's signs,and pictures of kangaroos and Ayer's Rock.  The clientele was bluecollar/family, in the nicest sense of those terms. I had a delicious piece ofGrilled Salmon (I know, it's a steak house, stupid!) with Tartar Sauce &Lemon, Baked Potato, and a Garden Salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing. We shared aPecan Brownie Sundae with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce. Our drink was CoorsLite! A fine wholesome meal in what appeared to be a very wholesome setting,but then again it was early! 

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Yeh, that's right...4-Stars

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW: "SOLAS" (in the Lenox Hotel)

I had a craving for Irish pub fare, so we decided to head overto the "authentic Irish pub" in the Lenox Hotel (at the finish lineof Monday's Marathon.) Because the weather was beautiful, everyone else had thesame idea. We were able to get a table upstairs overlooking all of the activityon the street below. I realized when I looked at the menu, that what I reallywanted, was either Shepherd's Pie or Meat Loaf, neither of which was on themenu. So I settled for a fine plate of Fish & Chips as my entree. For anappetizer, I had their Tuscan White Bean and Escarole Soup, which was moreCampbell's than Tuscany! The ambience was very "pubby," with a lot ofpeople (post Red Sox/Yankees game fans) on cell-phones trying to talk toone another over the blasting of the Rolling Stones on the sound system."Solas" would not be out of place in either Dublin or Belfast; itlooks like an Irish tourist pub (not a neighborhood pub.) The service was verybad. Our waitress kept telling us, "I'll get that, hon," and thennever did. Considering what she looked like, that was a blessing!

(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW: "MORTON'S STEAKHOUSE"

If"Mortons" isn't the best steakhouse in town (and I tend to think thatit is,) then it certainly ranks up there with "Grill 23 and Bar,""The Palm," "Abe & Louie's," and the "CapitalGrille," as being ONE of the best in town. Often referred to as "TheDungeon" because of its below-ground location, one enters"Mortons" by way of a modern office-building, down a set of marblestairs, and through a speak-easy-like wooden door. Once inside, the atmosphereis sleek, dark, and reeking of intimacy and efficiency. After a Jack Danielsand Water, I had an appetizer of Morton's Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing,Chopped Egg and Anchovies. Our waiter wheeled up a cart bearing all of thevarious cuts of meat available on the menu. From the cart, I chose a Double CutFilet Mignon with Sauce Bearnaise. We shared a delicious order of Hashed BrownPotatoes. My dessert was a Godiva Hot Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream.Our wine was a Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon. This was one of thoseperfect nights where everything came together...good company, beautifulsurroundings, excellent food, and  impeccable service. It doesn't getbetter than this.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW: "Q DOBA"

Fast food,Mexican style: burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and tacos. "Taco Bell"with less attitude, this counter-service-only place turns out inexpensive foodwith fresh ingredients. I had a large Cheese Quesadilla, and a Chopped SirloinTaco. My drink was a Root Beer!  For those of you in the Boston area,another branch of this chain is about to open at Northeastern, in the placevacated by "Stars." Supposedly, it will have waiter-service, plusbeer and Margaritas. Just what our students need, another watering hole!

(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW: "TOP OF THE HUB"

In Boston,two of the classic "restaurant rules" don't apply. Rule #1- Never eatin restaurants in hotels. (Some of our best restaurants are in our hotels.)Rule #2- Never eat in tall buildings with a view. (Up until a short time ago,this would have been true. Now, it's not.) For over 35 years, the "Top ofthe Hub," on the 52nd floor of "The Pru'," had been a dreadfulrestaurant, with a kitchen similar to one that one would find at a HowardJohnson's. A new executive chef , Mark Porcaro, has changed all of that. Now,the room is not only beautiful and elegant, with a view unsurpassed in all ofNew England, but it also has food worthy of the view. The new menu leansheavily on native seafood and shellfish, and aged meats. My appetizer was adelicious Jonah and Lump Crabmeat Cake with Sweet Pepper Remoulade. Myappetizer was a Lemon and Black Pepper Pasta with Rock Shrimp, Olives, RoastedTomatoes and Leaf Spinach in a Roasted Garlic Cream . My dessert was a WarmChocolate Cake with Chocolate Mint Ice Cream, and a Raspberry ShortbreadCookie. Our wine was a fine "Kings Estate" Pinos Gris from Oregon.  After dinner we strolledaround the perimeter of the now-darkened, candle-lit restaurant and lounge,taking in the incredible views of a beautiful city, from an altogetherdifferent perspective. It was fun to look into Fenway Park from this angle, aswell as to peer into my own apartment just a long block away. Oops. Did I leavea light on?

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW-MA: "CHEF ORIENT" (inFramingham, Mass.)

The lasttime that I went to a "Japanese Steak House" was at the Japanesepavilion at DisneyWorld...it was fun, the food was good, and the show was thechef at your table. The same could be said about Chef Orient, out in the Bostonsuburb of Framingham. Although far less decorative than the DisneyWorld steakhouse, Chef Orient, delivers the goods. The Japanese maitre d' (owner?) andwaitresses studied our reservation, and got us to our table, with theefficiency and detachment of workers at a Toyota factory. No "be friendlyto customer" here. We were the first diners seated around the largetepanyaki grill, and as we ordered our drinks, were apprehensive about whomight be joining us. Our fears were justified. A local family with endlessamounts of children and a retarded uncle with a bad toupee (who sat next tome!) were our dinner companions. An unintelligible, but efficient, waitresstook our order, and the show began. Once again, the chef was the star. With theskill of a surgeon, and the grace of a ballerina, he played with, and preparedour food, tossing bits of shell to the children as he cut the shrimp and vegetables.Mercifully, once the food was slid onto our plates on the blades of his dancingknives, it was excellent. My appetizer was a Salad with Ginger Dressing. (Thewaitress brought us two each..."no extra charge.") Then came an OnionSoup, Japanese Style (the bowl was Japanese.) My entree was an Hibachi Salmonwith "Garlic Touch" served with Hibachi Vegetables. Dessert wasCoconut Ice Cream. We left the restaurant over the bridge covering the smallpond with goldfish, feeling strangely full, and smiling about the surprisinglysatisfying dining experience.

(41/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "L" (at Louis of Boston)
In a men's store as elegant and exclusive as Louis of Boston (where nothingseems to cost less than $1000,) it shouldn't be surprising to find an elegantand exclusive restaurant. In the past there was the "Cafe Louis,"similar to the Armani Cafe, but now there is the very up-scale "L."Although minimalist in decor, "L" achieves a colorful ambiencethrough the use of Mondrian-like geometric shapes and colors. The food matchesthe simple elegance of the look. Chef Pino Maffeo, "stolen" fromseveral famous restaurants in New York, has done wonders to turn this placeinto a destination in and of itself, regardless of whether or not you need a newsweater or shirt! The wait-staff is perfection: knowledgeable and extremelycourteous. But now to the food. My appetizer was a Watercress & EndiveSalad with Warm Basted Pears, Peanuts, and Stilton Cheese. This was followed byan amuse-bouche of some sort of Chicken and Pork Dumpling. My entree was a PanRoasted Salmon with Tiny Gnocchi, Bacon, Fiddlehead Ferns and Tomatoes. Anotheramuse-bouche...this time a Chocolate Ball Flavored with Anchovy. Believe it ornot, it was delicious! My dessert was an Assortment of Citrus Sorbets. Thefinal amuse-bouche was Cappuchino Cotton Candy !!! Our wine was a wonderful '84Cotes du Rhone. As we were leaving, a large party hosted by Ferrari was movinginto the other side of the restaurant. A classy car manufacturer knows where tothrow a classy dinner, it seems.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "CROMA"

A newItalian restaurant on Newbury Street, owned by a British restaurateur? What'sthat all about? "Croma," in the space vacated by "Davio's,"is the sister restaurant of a successful restaurant in Manchester, England. Themenu features pastas and pizzas, and for those of you who still think ofEngland as a gustatory wasteland, forget about it. This one's a winner...moreor less! The ambience is that of a lovely townhouse, with two elegant, butunderstated interior floors, and a charming garden patio out front on NewburyStreet. We started off with a Margherita pizza as an appetizer. Reallydelicious, but be warned. They're small and expensive. Then, we shared a drearyCaesar Salad. After which, I had a Three Cheese Lasagna, which I shared with myfriend who had an order of Eggplant Parmesan. Everything was very tasty, butnothing more than what would expect from a good "red-sauce" Italianjoint. Maybe it was the delicious Pinot Noir, or the cocktails that we hadbefore dinner, but everything seemed just a little better than it probably was!Oh well, it's a pretty place, and the waiter was a great guy. Very friendly,and helpful. If you go to "Croma," get boozed up as we did, andeverything will seem better than it really is.

(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW-"TANGIERINO"
What's a chic, exotic, and elegant Moroccan restaurant...one that wouldn't beout of place in Casablanca...doing on Main Street in Charlestown, in the shadowof Bunker Hill? Well, whatever it's doing there, it's doing it very, very well.Executive Chef and Owner Samad Naamad has combined his passion for interiordesign, with his expertise in the culinary arts of his native country ofMorocco, to come up with a dining adventure that is unrivaled in Boston, ormany other cities, for that matter. With its luxurious furniture, crimsoncolored walls and fabrics, original artwork, painted mirrors and authenticMoroccan accents, one could have stepped into the world of the Arabian Nights,or into one of the many luxurious palaces in Morocco itself. (It reminds me ofthe dining room at the fabulous Al Mamounia in Marrakech. That's a very highcompliment.) In fact, one visiting Moroccan Royal said that it was "betterthan the Palace!" The women who are working there are gorgeous! But whatabout the food? In a word, fabulous. My appetizer was Moroccan Crisp Calamariwith Spicy Charmoula Sauce. My entree was Harissa Seared Salmon Tagra Filet andMoroccan Essence, with Vegetables, Plum Tomato Tartare, and Orange-Sake Glace.My dessert was a delicious dish of Mango, Lemon, and Strawberry Sorbet. Weshared a plate of Moroccan Date, Fig, and Almond Pastries. Our "wine"was a tasty, but potent Moroccan Sangria. If you're looking for somethingclassy, but different, this is it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "THE STANHOPE GRILL"(in the New Jury's Hotel in Boston)

One ofDublin, Ireland's most famous hotels has always been Jury's. Now, Jury's hascome to Boston. After a multi-million dollar restoration, the New Jury's Hotelhas moved into the palatial Italian Renaissance building formerly occupied bythe Boston Police Headquarters! The interior decor is simple, but elegant. Ofcourse, there is a Cuff's Irish Bar there, but its premiere restaurant is TheStanhope Grill. We took a table facing the open kitchen, rather than sittingoutside on the sunken terrace. As there always is in Ireland, there was achance of rain. The friendly wait-staff made us feel at home very quickly.Possibly because we were the only ones eating inside. My appetizer was theHouse Smoked Salmon with Warm German Potato Salad, Creme Fraiche and SturgeonCaviar. My entree was the best Shepherd's Pie that I've had since Molly Darcy'sPub closed its doors in South Boston. Our dessert was a sampling of threedesserts...Pineapple Sorbet, Chocolate Souffle, and a Vanilla Panna Cotta. Weselected a Pinot Noir from Ireland as our wine! It was delicious, as waseverything else.

(4 -Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "SMITH &WOLLENSKY'S"
The prestigious New York steakhouse chain has come to Boston in style, biddingfor top honors as "the best steakhouse in town." The neweststeakhouse in town has moved into one of the oldest buildings in town...thePark Square historic landmark known as "the Castle." Previously, thisbuilding has served as an armory, and a place for special "events."The restaurant occupies all four floors of this 22,000-square-foot space, withvintage dark-wood wainscotting, beamed ceilings, wrought iron stairwells, giantoil paintings, moose-heads, and huge period light fixtures. In short, it's theperfect "mens' club"...masculine to the max. But as the saying goes,you can't eat the furniture so, how's the food? In a word, excellent. I can'tremember the last time that I had a more perfect filet mignon. My appetizer wasS & W's Famous Split Pea Soup with Croutons. My entree was the 10 oz. FiletMignon with Corn off the Cob and Hashed Brown Potatoes. Our wine was adelicious, full-bodied French Chateau St. Emille Syrah, grandfather toAustralia's Shiraz. No dessert, because we went back to my place for macaroonsand Jagermeister. Did I mention that the service was old-school...a mixture ofcharm, know-how and class? Watch out Grill 23 and Bar, Morton's, Abe &Louie's, and Capitol Grille. The big boy has come to town, and he'll probablyattract every business person from Connecticut to the Canadian border. Get yourreservations now, for your "steak and testosterone fix."
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTREVIEW- "VIA VALVERDE"
Via Valverde will set the standard for excellence in the North End for years tocome...excellence in decor, excellence in service, and excellence in foodpreparation and presentation. When a new restaurant joins the hundred or sorestaurants already up and running in Boston's North End, America's largest"Little Italy," it's often hard for the new place to get noticed.This certainly won't be a problem for the "new guy in town," ViaValverde. Owned and operated by the same people who run the highly successfulTrattoria alla Scalinatella next door, this one's a winner. Unlike the rusticTrattoria, the atmosphere at Via Valverde is like that of an ancient palace orvilla in Italy. One almost expects the uniformed servants to come in andannounce that dinner will be served shortly. When "that dinner"finally is served, it's quite an incredible meal. From the moment that ownerPaolo Diecidue greets you at the door and ushers you to your table, you feel asthough you're the most important guests dining that evening. Paolo gives you achoice of selecting from the menu, or trying the three course tasting meal. Weselected from the menu. I skipped the appetizer and went straight for one ofthe Prima Piatti, which was Rigatoni alla Norma with Braised Eggplant, and SanMarzano Tomatoes topped with Shavings of Sicilian Ricotta Salata. My choicefrom the Secondi Piatti (entrees) was Ramba Sacrense (East Coast Line CaughtHalibut, Brushed with Seasonings and Slowly Roasted, Garnished with WhippedPotatoes and Drizzled with Salsa Verde.) Instead of dessert, we selected theCheese Platter, consisting of Taleggio, Gorgonzola, and a delicious Cheese fromVenice (I missed the name.) Our wine was a Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and aCabernet Sauvignon. Keep up the good work Paolo; you've got a winner!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTREVIEW:MA- "UMBRIA"

First itwas "Trattoria Il Panino," and now the five-story extravaganza in theFinancial District has been completely redone and is now called"Umbria." Owners Frank DePasquale, Rita D'Angelo and Chef/OwnerMarisa Iocco (the trio who brought us the highly-successful "Bricco"in the North End,) are using the same format of their old "IlPanino," that is, a state of the art bi-level nightclub on the top twofloors, a Vegas-style plush cocktail lounge on the third floor, event rooms onthe second floor and a rustic restaurant (with open kitchen) on the lowerfloor. Chef Marisa Iocco claims that this is the first truly Umbrian menu inthe United States, with fresh ingredients flown in daily from the owners' farmin Umbria. The young and the beautiful who've packed the place every nightsince it opened earlier this month, don't seem to care if she were cooking upburgers and fries, and probably couldn't tell a truffle from a dorito! I do andI can, so this is what I ordered: a shared Platter of Perfect Salumi andProsciutto (Spicy Umbrian Sopresatto and Prosciutto, with Regional Cheeses.) Myappetizer was Polpette di Polenta (White Polenta "meat" balls withCrispy Veal Bites in White Wine Tomato Ragout.) My entree was a perfect Risottowith White Truffles. My dessert was a Panna Cotta. Our wine was a smoothUmbrian Orvieto. The excellent food aside, there are some negatives to diningat Umbria. First of all, there's a pompous, rude and uptight maitresse d', allattitude and no service, who kept us waiting a half-hour beyond our reservationtime. Then we were seated in the very intimate (read cramped) dining area.Luckily, we had chatty and friendly "neighbors" on either side of us.My friend was brought the wrong entree, but it was soon replaced with thecorrect one, and we weren't charged for the entree. Someone finally realizedthat they were jacking us around, and they tried to make amends. Too little,too late. Knock one and a half stars off of what could be a 5-Star restaurant.(Get rid of the plasma screen in the open bar area, and the maitresse d', andput some space between those tables in the dining room.)

(31/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT:MA REVIEW- "SIBLING RIVALRY"
A new restaurant, one with an interesting gimmick, has opened in the chic endof the already very chic South End. The brothers Kinkead, Robert ( of Kinkead'sin D.C., and Harvest in Cambridge,) and David (of Kingfish Hall in FanueilHall, Boston,) are doing what might be called "dueling chefs." Thebrother chefs each do their own take on a particular ingredient, listedside-by-side on the menu. If you sit at the long food bar, you can watch these"iron chefs" at work. We didn't. After an amuse-bouche of Duck FoisGras, my appetizer was Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage, Pecorino, Pancetta, PumpkinSeeds and Brown Butter. My entree was Grilled Swordfish Steak with GiganteBeans, Artichokes and Puttanesca Sauce. My dessert was a Trio of Vanilla IceCream, Coconut and Raspberry Sorbet. Our wine was a DaVinci Chianti Classico.Everything was delicious, and presented beautifully. The wait-staff wasfriendly and knowledgeable. The neighborhood is trendy and moneyed, (therestaurant is in the same building as the upscale new condo, Atelier, and rightnext door to the new theater complex, the Calderwood Pavilion,) and so theclientele is theater-goers and serious foodies from the South End, itself. Thedecor is contemporary, with earthy colors and lots of copper. It's a high-energy,fun place, with the emphasis on good food. It should do very well here.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT:MAREVIEW- "LA MORRA" in Brookline,Massachusetts

JoshZiskin's family had a picture-framing store in Brookline. Thinking to join thefamily business, Josh decided to take a trip to Italy first. In the small townof La Morra, in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, Josh fell in love withthe town and its cuisine, and stayed on for two years, learning everythingabout the foods and wines of Italy. Having decided to become a chef, hereturned to Boston, where he apprenticed with Marisa Iocco("Umbria,") and Rene Michelena ("Saint.") He bought a smallstore in Brookline, opened his new restaurant, "La Morra," and therestaurant is becoming history. Critics have called this new restaurant one ofthe most outstanding places to get Italian food, not only in Boston, but in theU.S. as well. (One even said that it has the finest Italian food outside ofItaly!) Well, that's certainly a challenge, and so we went there last night.Well, we went, and although it might not be the finest place for Italian foodoutside of Italy (that spot is reserved for those four restaurants in Brooklyn( Fra-Mar's, Romano's, Villa Vivola, and Tommasso's ) where I ate as a childand young adult, it's certainly one of the most authentically Italianrestaurants in all of America. We started our meal with cicchetti (Venetiansmall plates): Arancini and Tuscan Polpette. My appetizer was an Escarole Saladwith Ricotta Salata, Walnuts and Apples. My primi piatti was Gnocchi allaBolognese. My secondi was Sea Scallops served with Parsnip Puree, Sage BrownButter and Spinach with Lemon and Capers. We had the Cheese Tray for dessert aswell as a Sorbet Trio. Our wine was an excellent Trebbiano. Everything wasdelicious, and the service equaled the food. Jennifer Ziskin, the chef's wife,treated us as though we were visiting celebrities. That's always nice. I lovethis place!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS:MA-"EMMA'S PIZZA" (in Cambridge)
As a true pizza lover, I feel qualified to say that I've always thought thatthe best pizza in the Boston metropolitan area is Canastaro's (for Neapolitan)pizza, and Ernesto's for the best Sicilian pizza ( the square one) anywhere.(If you're a New Yorker, don't send me e-mails saying that Spumoni Gardens hasthe best Sicilian pizza anywhere. I ate there last summer, and it doesn't!)Anyway, for the past couple of years, I've been hearing from friends,neighbors, and food critics, that "Emma's Pizza" in Cambridge has thebest pizza in the Boston area. We tried it tonight, and it doesn't! It's anextremely thin-crusted, flaky pizza, and if that's what you like, then I willsay that it's as good as the thin-crusted pizzas at Todd English's"Figs" and "Woody's" (a favorite with Northeasternstudents.) But, it's no better than those.
Although I had a traditional Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce Pizza, my friends haddifferent varieties ranging from Smoked Mozzarella, Artichoke Hearts andGarlic, to one that was so colorful in its variety of ingredients, that I hadto photograph it! Our wine was a hearty Sangiovese. Anyway, we had a greattime!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT:MA-REVIEW- "PIERROT BISTROTFRANCAIS"
Feel like having a real French meal in an authentic Parisian bistrot, withoutspending the $1,000 on that Air France flight? Well then, head over to the backof Beacon Hill to the new restaurant, "Pierrot Bistrot Francais" forthe most authentic bistro French food that I've had in America, outside of"Balthazar" and "Pastis" in New York. The ambience in thesimple, small dining room is all dark woods and exposed brick, and thewait-staff is right out of Provence. The maitre d' is so French that herequires sub-titles! My hors d'oeuvre was Escargots Bourguignonne. We shared aSalade de Saison avec Chevre Chaud et Pignons. My entree was a Fricassee deSaint Jacques Provencale compote de Fenouil. My dessert was an order ofProfiteroles au Chocolat. We shared a delicious Cheese Tray. Our wine was aChateau Prelzat Cabernet Sauvignon. We both came away from the place stuffed,but very content!
(5- Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT:MA REVIEW- "THE UPPER CRUST"

In mynever-ending search to find the best pizza in Boston, tonight, the searchbrought me to Coolidge Corner in Brookline, to The Upper Crust, "the bestpizzeria in Brookline." As soon as I walked through the door and saw thethin-crust pizza being served, I knew that, no matter how good it was, thispizza wouldn't qualify as a "traditional" Neapolitan pizza. I ordereda simple Pizza Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil,) and it wasdelicious. It was better than some of the other thin-crust pizzas around (Emma's, Woody's, and Figs, ) but it wasn't a traditional pizza. As far as I'mconcerned, the best Neapolitan pizza is still served at Canestaro's, and thebest Sicilian, at Ernesto's. The search goes on.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT:MAREVIEW- "SORRISO"
The Leather District is an out-of-the-way neighborhood down near South Stationin Boston. For the past 10 years, the most famous restaurant down there hasbeen Ian Just's fine French restaurant "Les Zygomates." Now, in thecavernous space formerly occupied by the dance clubs Epiphany, and before thatOskar's, Just has opened a sister restaurant to "Les Zygomates," theItalian trattoria. "Sorriso." Designed by Peter Niemitz, the place isquite beautiful, with pumpkin-colored banquettes, dark wood accents, creativechandeliers, and beautiful murals painted on the brick walls. The menu isextensive in both the food and wine areas. We decided to order several of themany piattini, as our appetizers. So, the three of us shared the followingdishes: Italian Cheese Fonduta, Arancini, White Bean and Roasted Garlic Pureewith Basil Oil, Fried Calamari, the Salumi Plate (Brasaola, Capicola,Soppressate, Mostarda and Prosciutto,) and Meatballs and Chicory in Brodo. Allwere delicious, especially with the fine Tuscan Bread served at the table. Formy entree, I had Monkfish Piccata, with Capers, Mushrooms, and Roasted GoldPotatoes. My dessert was homemade Vanilla and Chocolate Gelati with a ChocolateBiscotti. For our wine, we decided to be a little adventurous, exploring thenew area of fine Sicilian wines. Our Colosi Rosso was excellent. If there isanything negative to say about "Sorriso," it's that the service issomewhat erratic, with the wait-staff sometimes there, sometimes not. It wasoften difficult to find our waiter, but when it came time to leave, they hadour coats to us and our taxi waiting, even BEFORE we had paid the bill! Hmmm.
(4 1/2- Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT-MAREVIEW: "SALTS" in Cambridge
Boston/Cambridge are sister cities with well-defined neighborhoods (Back Bay,North End, Beacon Hill, South End, Harvard Square, Faneuil Hall, CentralSquare, etc.) each of which is filled with famous restaurants. Tucked away in aside-street in Cambridge away from all of these neighborhoods isBoston/Cambridge's best kept secret..."Salts." Chef Gabriel Bemer hasbeen honored by Food & Wine Magazine with their coveted BEST NEW CHEF INAMERICA award. It's well deserved! The interior of the restaurant looks like acharming bistro on the Left Bank of Paris, and the food is as good as anythingyou'll have there. I suppose that it could be classified as New American, byway of France and Eastern Europe. On second thought, why try to classify it.It's just superb. After an amuse bouche of Cured Cod with Sliced Potato, myappetizer was a delicious Potage of Jerusalem Artichoke and Vidalia Onion withBlack Truffle and Beurre Fondue Poached Lobster. My entree was a Slow RoastedTasmanian Trout with Potato Gnocchi, Brussels Sprouts Leafs, Spanish Chestnutsand Winter Truffle. On our Cheese Tray we had a Rocbleu and a Tommed'Abondance. My dessert was a Clementine Tart with Tarragon Foam, ClementineSorbet, and Pate Brisee. Our wine was a fine Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.Decor, service, presentation, and of course, the food itself were alltop-drawer. A wonderful place. (Make sure you engage the Front Room Manager,Noeli, in conversation. She's a charmer!)
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTMA:REVIEW- "AMELIA'SKITCHEN" 
I don't have any reason to go back to my old neighborhood of 27 years, but Ihad heard so much about this mom-and-pop restaurant that opened the year that Imoved, that I thought that it was time to head back to Somerville, and try itout. The restaurants of Somerville are either old storefronts, if they've beenaround for ages, or very upscale if they were built after the big Somervillerenaissance of 10 years ago. ( The renaissance began the year that I moved!)"Amelia's Kitchen" is only 10 years old, but it looks as though it'sbeen around forever...just a plain storefront, with a few tables inside, and agarden out in the back. Everything about Delio and Amelia Susi's place ishomemade on the premises...from the pastas, and the bread, to their own pizzadough...and everything is incredibly delicious, in a very old-fashioned Italianway. Kind of like your own grandmother is in the kitchen cooking (if yourgrandmother is an old Italian!) There were three of us for dinner, and ourtable was covered with delicious Arancini, Crisp Calamari coated with a PolentaBatter and served on a Bed of Greens, a thin and light Lasagna Abruzzo, one ofthe most delicious Potato Gnocchi (served in a brown pottery dish in a CreamyAlfredo-style Sauce) that I've ever had, and homemade cannoli. All of this wasserved with a fine Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. An old-fashioned dining experience...atrue luxury nowadays.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS:MA-REVIEW- "PENGUIN PIZZA"
I've given up trying to find the best pizza in Boston (there are so many goodones,) so now I'll just survey what's out there, and report on it. My surveyhas taken me to Penguin Pizza, at the foot of the mysterious Mission Hill, andthere we discovered one of the best non-traditional thin-crust pizzas in town.My friend and I split a large pizza, with my side being the standard Margarita(basil, mozzarella, and Penguin's own very delicious tomato sauce.) There wasnothing bad about this pizza (except that it was thin-crusted, not my favoritetype of pizza.) With it we had a strong Shiraz. The restaurant looks more likea pub, and our waitress, complete with Irish brogue (and piercings) completedthat image. A colorful place, but because of its location, we drove awayCinderella-like, before it got dark out. I suggest you do the same, unlessyou're under 30, and armed!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS-MAREVIEW: "ZAFTIG'S" 
No, you don't have to go down to New York to get a classic, perfect, pastramisandwich. Just head over to Coolidge Corner and follow the crowds to Zaftig'sJewish Delicatessen. On entering, we lucked out, because of a hat! There was acrowd at the reservation desk, and as I left my name, I forgot that I waswearing my NicksReviews cap. As the girl at the desk glanced up at the cap, Iwas told that there would be a half-hour wait for a table, but in two minutes,they called my name. Hell, it may have been a coincidence, but this isn't thefirst time that this cap "pushed me to the front of the line." Peopleget intimidated so easily. They think I'm a real food critic. Jerks! Anyway,the menu was extensive and very authentic. I ordered a lean Roumanian PastramiSandwich with a Pickle and Potato Salad. My drink was a Dr. Brown's Cream Soda.It was exactly as I like it. On the way out, some of the people who werewaiting for a table when we came in, were still waiting. There was somegrumbling in the ranks, and I felt awful. If you believe that, you don't knowme!!!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

They didn't have club. I had to have it on a Bulkie Roll.

RESTAURANT-MAREVIEW: "THE METROPOLITANCLUB"
The classiest, elegant new restaurant in town is NOT in town, but out in thesuburb of Chestnut Hill, the land of fancy prep schools, up-scale malls, andsoccer moms. Why they opened out here rather than in one of the De Luxe hotelsin town probably has to do with availability and rents, but whatever thereason, it's probably just a matter of time before it makes the move. You cansee and feel the class of the place even before you enter its luxuriousinterior. The exterior looks like "money." When you enter the lobbythere's a fire going in the fireplace, and a lot of beautiful people in thelarge, sleek and sexy bar beyond. These rooms set the tone for the elegantdining room inside. Everything is a dark chocolate color, with lots of wood andleather, and shiny zinc table tops. Huge modern art hangs on the walls. ChefJeffrey Fournier (formerly of Pignoli and more recently, Sophia's) has createda menu that emphasizes prime cuts of meat and fresh seafood, dressed in gourmet"clothes." We started with a house novelty, Watermelon Steak. Itlooks like steak, it tastes like steak, but it's watermelon! Braised in creamand sherry until all of the water is drained out of the watermelon, it actuallydoes take on the consistency and taste of steak. It was served with French Fetaand Arugula. My primi piatti was Fettucini with 17-minute Marinara Sauce. Thesauce is cooked from scratch in-house with all fresh ingredients, and it ISdelicious. My entree was Pan-Seared Tilapia with Mango Salsa and New Potatoes.As good as it gets. My dessert was a Trio of Seasonal Sorbets (Coconut,Raspberry, and Rhubarb) with Bite-sized Cookies. Our wine was a medium-bodiedCastle Rock Pinot Noir. Before ending, I have to say a word about the service.I can't remember the last time that we had a more knowledgeable, pleasant, andhelpful waiter. This man was European and old-school. What a difference thatkind of service makes. Bravo!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS-MA-REVIEW:"PETIT ROBERT BISTRO"
Jacky Robert , formerly of the now defunct "Maison Robert" (I willnever understand why the Robert family closed that beautiful restaurant in thehistoric Old City Hall building,) has now opened his dream place...a perfectFrench bistro (with Pierrot Bistro Francais, it's the second bistro to open ina year) in the heart of Boston. Maybe Jacky just wanted to get away from therest of the family. In any case, this unpretentious little place sits on"the Left Bank" of the newly invigorated Kenmore Square, just a blockaway from the faux chateau that is the new Hotel Commonwealth. The restaurantis below street level, so after proceeding down a short flight of stairsoutside, you enter the upstairs dining room. (Below the dining room there is aPastry Bar.) The decor is, well, French bistro, with a very casual flair. Weate in the less noisy, less crowded Pastry Bar...a charming room. From theminute we walked in the door, the service was first-class and very friendly. Iordered the Esgargots Bourguignon for my appetizer. We shared a Garden SaladShallot Vinaigrette with a Panko Crusted Goat Cheese. My entree was the GrilledWild Salmon Filet, with Thyme Butter Sauce and Mashed Potatoes with ShreddedVegetables. We shared a Cheese Plate, and then I had a Trio of Sorbet for mydessert. Our wine was a full-bodied, delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from the NapaValley. A wonderful evening, in a memorable new restaurant. Did I mention thatthe place was so crowded that the maitresse d' had to borrow two chairs fromour table of four? The word has obviously gotten around. 
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTS-MAREVIEW: "THE WINE CELLAR"

Thespecialty of this tiny Swiss/French restaurant is wine, obviously, and fondue.My God, when's the last time that you had fondue outside of Switzerland? Ifyou're old enough, you'll remember the fondue craze back in the day, when everyyoung married couple received a fondue pot as a shower, engagement, or evenwedding, gift. Well, in the case of this charming, but cramped, Back Bayrestaurant, the craze is back! Although there are other items on the menu foreach course, we couldn't resist going for the fondues. (Just in case you mightnot know about fondues, they're served in hot pots brought to the table, andyou then dip chunks of bread into the melted cheeses, meat into the boilingolive oil, and strawberries and banana chunks into the meltedchocolate/brandy.) For our appetizers, we had the Escargots with Pesto, and theClassic Cheese Fondue. For our entree, we had the Beef Bourguignon Fondue, andfor our dessert, we had the Grand Marnier Chocolate Fondue. Complete overkill,and sybaritic joy!!! (I was just reading about Sybaris, as part of the researchon our up-coming trip to Italy. I would have loved living there in its ancientglory days.) But, I digress. The meal was delicious, and we washed it down witha terrific appropriate wine-pairing for each course: Chateau Haut Peyruguet2002 Bordeaux with the Esacargots; Louis Latour Chardonnay 2002 with theCheeses; Chateau Courlat Bordeaux 2001 with the Beef; and Marquis de la Tour Sparklingwith the Chocolate. Owner Thierry Charles should be congratulated for themagnificent pairings of wine and fondues. I'm writing this review late atnight, because I'm so damn full, that if I went to bed, I'd probably fall rightthrough the mattress!

(41/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "PIZZA OGGI"
My never-ending search to find the best pizza in Boston has finally ended! Thebest pizza in Boston, by far, is served in a small take-out joint in JamaicaPlain, where there are no tables, just a small counter, and about 6 square feetof waiting space where the orders are taken. There are only 6 pizzas on themenu, and they don't deliver. We ordered the plainest of the six...Tomato,Mozzarella, Roasted Garlic and Fresh Basil. Although it was shaped like a largeamoeba, it was perfection. The semolina dough produced the finest crust thatI've ever tasted, and the ingredients were so fresh, that they produced a tastethat elevated the pizza into a different category. As I said to my friend as wewere eating it, "this pizza is serious." 
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "BYBLOS" (in Norwood, MA)
My friend Omar, (who IS Lebanese,) has been telling us about this famousLebanese restaurant in Norwood, (just a short drive from Boston,) for awhilenow, and last night, he invited me, and two special guests, to join him therefor a lavish Levantine feast. It was all that he said it would be and more. Assoon as you set foot in the restaurant, the atmosphere is a Middle Eastern one,because of the decor, the live music, and the aromas floating around thespacious rooms. It was difficult to choose our dishes from the extensive menu,because there were so many wonderful foods from which to choose. So, for anappetizer, Omar ordered several Mezzah Platters for the table. (They consistedof hommus, baba ghannouj, fattoush, potato salad, shanklish, and a stuffedartichoke.) It was enough for a dinner!! My entree was Kafta Kabob (beefsirloin seasoned with special spices and ground with fresh onions andparsley...skewered and broiled.) This was served with a Salad with Feta Cheeseand Crisp Fries. My desserts were a Lebanese Baklawa (less sweet than the Greekversion,) and Katayef (a Lebanese "pancake" stuffed with Byblos CreamCheese. It was like a soft cannoli! ) With all of this, our table was served aRobert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. It was delicious AND reasonable...unusualfor a Mondavi. In addition to the incredible food, there was a belly dancer,and our waitress was charming and attentive. All in all, a fun, memorable night.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "DOMANI"
Like the ubiquitous Donato Deserio in New York, chef/owner Rene Michelena likesto buy a place, set up a fine kitchen in that place, and then move on, leavingbehind a well-established new restaurant. I became aware of this fine chef whenhe was at "La Bettola" in the South End. Then, I followed him to"Centro" in Cambridge, "The Vault" in the financialdistrict, "Saint" in the Copley Square Hotel, and now, "Domani."The man has a case of culinary ADD! The present restaurant located on thestreet-corner above "Saint," is an upscale trattoria, with largewindows opening onto a sidewalk cafe on the beautifully gentrified HuntingtonAvenue. The interior of this small, but already trendy place, uses warm woodtones and orange accents, to recreate the earthy atmosphere of a sophisticatedcafe on the Via Veneto in Rome. (Don't miss the red Vespa in the framedalcove.) Graphics of random numbers and letters spill across walls and onto thevelvet banquettes; curvy waves of white plaster covered the wall behind us. Themenu is Italian, of course, but with Michelena, it's never the usual Italian.Everything is just slightly different than what you'd expect. For an appetizer,I chose the small Margherita Pizzette because I wanted to see what he could dowith a pizza. It was delicious. For the pasta course, I had Polenta Gnocchiwith Artichokes, Wild Leeks and Prosciutto. My secondi was Roasted Chicken withLemongrass, Nutmeg, Rapini, and Lemon Thyme Risotto Cake. All in all enoughcarbs to last me a week! My dessert was a Raspberry and Strawberry Gelato withShortbread Cookies. We shared a Banana Butterscotch Napoleon. Once again, ourwine was the light red Nero D'Avola from Sicily. A nice new addition to theBack Bay dining scene, and so much classier than the noisy and ugly sports barthat it replaced!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "CRAZY DOUGH'S"
"Voted unanimously America's PIZZA OF THE YEAR, by 5 judges at theprestigeous 2004 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas"
Who am I to argue with 5 judges at a Pizza Expo? It may not be the best pizzathat I've ever tasted, but it sure comes close if it isn't! I had a deliciousMargarita, with the freshest of ingredients, such as sliced tomatoes,mozzarella, fresh basil, parmesan cheese and chopped garlic. While waiting forour large pizza (my friend's half was covered with pepperoni, sausage, andseasoned ground beef,) we shared a large Sicilian slice of Nutty Tuscan(roasted plum tomatoes, caramelized onion, roasted garlic, toasted pine nuts,crumbled gorgonzola, fresh basil, and pesto.) Just perfect. I can't wait to goback to try a regular Sicilian pizza, to see if it's better than my favorite,Ernesto's, in the North End.
(4 1/2- Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT-MAREVIEW: "EASTERN STANDARD"

KenmoreSquare, in the heart of Boston University territory, has been transformed froma sleazy, down-at-the-heels second-rate Boston square into a place to go forfine dining and a pleasant walk-around. Much of this change is due to theopening of the chateau-like Hotel Commonwealth, which occupies most of theSquare. It contains a fine seafood restaurant, "Great Bay," a newtrendy lounge, "The Foundation Lounge," and now, a Parisianrestaurant, "Eastern Standard." Looking, inside and out, very muchlike the Cafe de la Paix in Paris, you're immediately swept away from Boston tothe streets of Paris. On the street-side, there is an al fresco cafe underlarge red awnings. On the inside, is a cavernous Art Deco restaurant. ThinkBalthazar in New York or one of the grand cafes of the "city oflights." The mastermind behind this wonderful place, is Garrett Harker,partner to Barbara Lynch in such ventures as "No. 9 Park," "B& G Oysters," and "The Butcher Shop." Although Parisian inappearance, the menu is distinctly American, albeit gourmet American. Myappetizer was a beautifully presented order of Salt Cod Fritters. There was anamuse-bouche of Crudites for the table. The entrees were Beef Wellington withMashed Potatoes, one of my favorites, and all-too-rarely seen on menus. Ourdesserts were Sorbets (Watermelon, Pineapple, and Strawberry.) Our wine was aSouth African Pinot Grigio. Everything was delicious. I have to say a wordabout the charming wait-staff. From the two young ladies at the reservationsdesk, to the statuesque maitress d', to our lovely waitress, all were charming,helpful, attentive, and quite attractive. This certainly added to the diningexperience. All in all, an excellent dining experience...and in Kenmore Squareof all places!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "TRATTORIATOSCANA"
I've walked past this new restaurant, on my way to the movies, at least once ortwice, without even noticing it, and yet this little hole-in-the-wall servessome of the best Tuscan food that I've tasted outside of Florence and Siena!Forget about the decor....there isn't any. This place is all about the food,and there, it excels. When we were given the menu, and I saw the dish,Ribolitta on it, I knew that this was the real thing. One almost never seesthis bread soup (with white beans, carrots, celery, cabbage and saltlessbread,) outside of Tuscany. Of course, I ordered it. My appetizer wasProsciutto di Parma, with Juicy Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella. It was SO fresh.For the next course, I had the Ribolitta. The soup was hearty, dense, andearthy, nothing watery about THIS dish. For my entree I had Rigatoni allaNorcina, or Rigatoni with Sweet Italian Sausage. It was incredible. The sausagewas ground, not sliced, and mixed in "soffrito," a base of onions,carrots, and celery, with a dash of white wine. The mix gave the sausage anintense, meaty flavor, and there was no irritating sausage casing to deal with.Speaking of wine, our wine was a delicious Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Fordessert, we had Limoncello and Chocolate Tartufi. This place is a real find.It's not Italian-American...it's Italian!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT- MA REVIEW:"STELLA"
Is this beautiful corner in Boston's South End jinxed? First there was"Blackstone on the Square." It closed. Then there was the fine Frenchrestaurant "Gallia." It closed. The Delutys (who own the 5-star"Torch" on Beacon Hill) are taking a chance, but it seems to bepaying off. Ever since it opened just three months ago, crowds (the young, thegay, the suburbanites, and the hip) have been jamming the place. It's the placeto be this summer. First of all, the owners have changed the look of the placeentirely. The dark tones of "Gallia" have been scrubbed, in favor ofwhite, white, white. It looks like the bedrooms of the Delano in South Beach!It works. (Maybe this is a world-wide trend, because I just came back fromItaly where I ate a fabulous meal in the very-white dining rooms of theincredible "Don Alfonso 1890" in Sant Agata.) Then there's the food.Chef Joe Cassinelli (formerly of the theater district's "Teatro,) haswhipped up a fine menu of light Italian appetizers, followed by moresubstantial entrees. The grilled pizzas are also very popular...at least lotsof people were eating them tonight. My appetizer was one of the pizze...aGrilled Gorgonzola, Prosciutto, Arugula, and Pinot Nero reduction Pizza. It washuge, and delicious. My entree was Orecchiette with Smoked Salmon, Summer Peas,Lemon, and Creme Fraiche. My dessert consisted of Two Cannoli (made by CaffeVittoria in the North End.) Our wine was a Torre de Greco White, from theCampania region of Italy. (That's the Amalfi region.) All in all, a fine diningexperience, and in the summer, when the outdoor dining patio is open, this newrestaurant is a fine addition to Blackstone Square. Now, if they could only getrid of the bums and winos who hang out there at night!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT-MAREVIEW: "MARE"
First there was "Bricco," then "Umbria," and now"Mare." Executive Chef Marisa Iocco has done it again. She sets up anew restaurant, and then leaves it in the comfortable hands of a trusted chef.In this case, chef de cuisine Jeffrey Michaud. The location is perfect...on thecorner of Richmond and North Streets in the North End, just down the block fromPaul Revere's house. The look is modern...chrome and glass, with windows thatwrap around the corner building. The food is alta cucina, with claims to beBoston's first 98% organic ingredient list, based entirely on certified organicseafood from the U.S. and Italy, and organic vegetables, whole grain pastas,hormone-free beef, etc. You get the picture. The taste of the food isabsolutely delicious. In my appetizer of Bufala Mozzarella with HeirloomTomatoes, my tomatoes looked and tasted like those that I had in Italy a fewweeks ago. My entree consisted of three different kinds of"left-over" pasta with zucchini and peas, in a light cream sauce. Idon't remember what the waitress called it, but it was excellent...and veryfilling. My dessert was a Chocolate Polenta Souffle with Vanilla Gelato. Ourwine was a Sicilian White. In addition to the freshness of the ingredients, theemphasis is on presentation. Although the portions are small, everything looksbeautiful. In spite of the small portions, I was stuffed when I left. If you'replanning to go to "Mare," give it a couple of weeks. They're stillironing out the kinks. (The air-conditioning, and some of the electricity inthe kitchen went out while we were there! The maitresse d' had to open all ofthe windows to the street, bringing in a welcoming breeze and adding to theatmosphere of the place.)
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT-MAREVIEW: "NEPTUNE OYSTER"
This tiny 40-seater (including 12 stools at the zinc bar) has become thehottest new restaurant in the already inundated North End. Last night, it wasfilled by 5:30, and turning people away by 6. Judging by the number of youngattractive couples dining there last night, it would seem that some peoplestill believe in the aphrodisiac qualities of oysters! For some reason (maybeperceived cleanliness) I love the look of tile in a seafood restaurant, and"Neptune Oyster" is virtually all tile. There are only four largemarble-slabbed tables in the place, so you're dining communal style. Noproblem. The service is top-notch...our waitress was attractive, knowlegeable,and attentive. As far as the menu goes, no, it's not ALL oysters. In fact, Ihate oysters, and I had a perfectly wonderful meal. My appetizer was Crab Cakesover Seasoned Tomato Salad. My entree was Flounder Veronique with Green Grapes,Lump Crab, Capers, and Basil. The freshness of the fish, and the seasoningsadded to them by master Chef David Nevins, couldn't have been betteredanywhere. Our wine was a perfect Orvieto Classico. Following the tradition ofmost North End restaurants, no desserts are served, so we went down the blockfor some of the North End's excellent Cannolis. It's summer and so a feast wasin progress. (There's a street festival every weekend in the summer.) We didn'tstay around for this, although I would have liked to have heard the liveperformances of Al Martino and Frankie Avalon!!! I intend to come back NEXTweekend for the big Feast of St. Anthony, Boston's answer to New York's SanGennaro Feast. Joni James and Jerry Vale will be live in performance. If you'reunder 50, you've never heard of any of these once-great stars. So, come for theoysters and fish, not the "stars."
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTSMA-REVIEW: "ZAFFERANO"
In terms of driving time, I suppose there are some restaurants in neighboringRhode Island and New Hampshire that are closer to where I live than is thisoff-the-beaten-path "mama-papa" place in the Orient Heights area ofEast Boston. But, because I had heard that this newly-opened, but old-schoolrestaurant, specialized in the foods of the Campania area of Italy, and Irecently returned from there, I thought that it might be worth the trip. Wasit? Absolutely! Chef Pietro DelViscovo and his wife Giuseppina (who handles thedining room and makes all the desserts,) have created the feel of a restauranton the Amalfi Coast, with peach-colored stucco walls, and stone floors. Allthat's missing is the view. There were so many wonderful choices on the menuthat it was hard to decide on our dishes, but decide we did. My appetizer wasGrilled Eggplant Layered with Mozzarella and Basil. My entree was Gnocchi withTomato Sauce and Saffron (Zafferano means saffron in Italian.) My dessert was aslice of Neapolitan Ricotta Pie. Our red wine was a classic Lacrima Christi diVesuvio from Campania. It was as delicious here as it was in Amalfi. SignoraDelViscovo gave us a selection of her homemade cookies at the end of the meal.They were perfect. If there was anything wrong with this fine diningexperience, it was that the waiters, although they did their job well and werevery courteous, were a little too young, and neighborhood "Guido" forsuch a fine establishment. Other than that, this place is a find...although anout of the way one!
(4 1/2- Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "BACCO"(New)
Ten years ago, when I ate at the restaurant "Sage," it was on thesleepy corner of Prince and Salem streets in the North End; anoff-the-beaten-path location, away from the crowds on Hanover Street...theNorth End's Main Street. Today, the North End has grown into the largest LittleItaly in the country, with over 140 restaurants, and there are no more"sleepy corners" or "off the beaten path" locations. Everystreet is filled with people, and the aromas of fine cooking. "Bacco"has replaced "Sage," and this two-story corner building is alive withvibrant decor (both inside and out,) fresh menu choices each month, and apersonal flair for creativity. The exterior of the building is so colorful,with large open windows filled with flowers, on each floor, that it beckons youin...IF you have a reservation, that is. It's extremely popular. The hostess atthe door was charming (and she had great legs!) After being escorted past themahogany and granite bar on the ground floor, up to the more formal dining roomon the 2nd floor, we were given the menu, and were almost overwhelmed by themany choices. We were also overwhelmed by the noise level of the room, and thefact that the service was so slow, that I almost started to nibble on the tableedge! Once started however, things were just fine. My appetizer was anAntipasto of Roasted and Marinated Summer Vegetables with Imported Meats andCheeses. My entree was a dish of Three Preparations of Summer Tomatoes withRisotto and 22-Year Balsamic. We shared an order of Crispy Calamari with SpicyTomato Relish. My dessert was a Chocolate Ganache Tart with Caramel Sauce. Ourwine was a Pinot Grigio. Another fine addition to the colorful North End scene.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTSMA-REVIEW: "INTERMISSIONTAVERN"

What usedto be a sleazy little bar in the Theater District, is now a sleazy littlerestaurant in the Theater District. The difference is that it now has decent food...agood place to stop before a show, if you don't want to stuff yourself at one ofthe more famous ethnic restaurants in the area. Actually, to be fair, it'sreally not very "sleazy" anymore; it's been cleaned up and paintedover, and the food is just fine for a comfort-food menu. I love Meat Loaf, andthat's what I ordered as my entree. It came with Mashed Potatoes and LemonAsparagus, and it was good, but not terrific. (My appetizer was a salad ofBufala Mozzarella and Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing. )My dessert was a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. The main problem with this newlittle place, is that the service is just awful. It was a chore trying to makeeye contact with one of the three waitresses in this full house, just to getsome bread and water. At least the bathrooms were new and clean!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "MAMMA MARIA"
I haven't been back to eat at this North End landmark for at least 25 years, soI thought that it was time to go back and check out what travel guru ArthurFrommer has called the "best restaurant in the North End, and possibly inBoston;" (Frommer's Boston 2005.) The 19th Century brick row-house sits onhistoric North Square, just across the square from Paul Revere's house. It'sdivided up into several charming dining rooms (all named after composers ofoperas,) spread out over the three floors of the townhouse. In this world-classrestaurant, the menu is Italian "alta-cucina" (high-quality gourmetcooking.) It most closely resembles similar menus in the high-end diningpalaces of Italy itself. After being seated in the charming Verdi Room, weordered our meal. My appetizer was a dish of Divers Scallops with Risotto. Myentree was Free-Range Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables and Roasted Potatoes. Mydessert was a Chocolate Torte with Mint Gelato. Our wine was a Pinot Grigiofrom Friuli. Everything was delicious. Frommer may be right!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "RUTH'S CHRISSTEAK HOUSE"
Although its grand opening was delayed for almost a year, this world famoussteak house has finally opened, in the majestic spaces formerly occupied by"Maison Robert" in the historic Old City Hall. Was it worth the wait?Absolutely! First of all, where the decor of "Maison Robert" contradictedthe beautiful architecture of this magnificent landmark building, "Ruth'sChris Steak House" compliments it. Upon entering the restaurant, one isconfronted with the classic look of burnished woods, leather, exposed brick,and polished brass. There is a sophisticated bar, "Curley's" (namedfor Boston's infamous former mayor, James Curley,) and six dining rooms. Onceseated comfortably in The Board Room, we were presented with the extensivemenu. The emphasis, of course, is on steak. I chose the huge Filet (hardlymignon!) with Potatoes Au Gratin and Creamed Spinach New Orleans, as my entree.My appetizer was a large order of Jumbo Crab Cakes. I had some Raspberry Sorbetas my dessert. My wine was a lusty Syrah. Everything was first rate, includingthe service (especially our charmer of a waitress, Tatiana,) and thepresentation. I would have to say that this new steak house in town is aninstant success, and moves right up into the Big 5 of Boston's FineSteakhouses, along with "Mortons," "Grill 23 & Bar,""The Oak Room," and "Smith & Wollensky's." That'sincredible company for a newcomer!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTMA-REVIEW: "MARCO CUCINAROMANO"
Go into the North End (Boston's 140-restaurant Little Italy,) down HanoverStreet, and up that tall flight of stairs leading to the space formerlyoccupied by the charming "Trattoria a Scalinatella." In what was oncea dark cavern with a fireplace at one end, owner/chef Marc Orfaly (owner/chefof the successful "Pigalle,") introduces his second restaurant (andhis first Italian restaurant,) to Boston. It's no longer a dark stone room witha fireplace. Now, it's cheerful and charming. This trattoria-style placefeatures the rustic regional flavors of Rome...and they are incredible! A finemenu of hand-made pasta dishes, antipasti, insalate and secondi piatti (maindishes) complements the extensive wine list. The service, ambience, andpresentation are all first class, and the food is excellent. Starting off, wewere served a Caponata with Rosemary Focaccia Bread for the table. It was so deliciousthat we kept asking for more. My appetizer was Artichoke Hearts with GoatCheese. My entree was a huge Risotto with Truffles and Mushrooms alla Romano.Our wines were a perfect Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and a hearty, smoothSicilan Corlozzi (Rosso.) No desserts, because we bought Macaroons downstairsat Modern Pastry, and then came back to my place for Cheese and Limoncello. Aperfect ending to a perfect evening!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT-MAREVIEW: "DARWIN'S" (in HarvardSquare)
Back in the day (the 60's) when the name "Kennedy" was still a nameto be reckoned with, and Harvard Square had the unique charm of a Dickensiangathering place, "Elsie's" was the sandwich shop of choice, famousfor its roast beef sandwiches. Today, when the name Kennedy doesn't meanAmerican Royalty anymore, but rather a fat, windbag senator whose every word isan embarrassment, and Harvard Square has become a glorified outdoor mall....thesandwich shop of choice is "Darwin's" on Mt. Auburn Street. This isthe place for gourmet sandwiches filled with the freshest meats, cheeses, andvegetables. The sandwiches are named after the famous streets of Cambridge.Although the tourists to the school and the neighborhood don't seem to be awareof this jewel yet, the natives certainly are, and it's packed everyday forlunch. So get there early, and bring your appetite; everything isdelicious. 
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE MISSION BAR & GRILL"

On Mission Hill, one of Boston's "neighborhoods in transition," gunshots alternate with wine corks popping out of bottles at fine restaurants. Tucked amongst the triple-deckers, the Victorians, and the big cathedral on the Hill, is "The Mission Bar & Grill," the newest of these restaurants. In a space formerly occupied by a sleazy bar named "The Chopping Block," "The Mission" is surprisingly wonderful. With beautiful decor to rival anything in the more upscale North or South Ends, "The Mission" has a menu that could be called "American Gourmet." My appetizer was a Salad of Arugula, Pecorino, Romano, Walnuts and Balsamic Dressing. My entree was a Grilled Salmon with Marinated Winter Vegetables and Asparagus Spears. No dessert...still dieting, sort of. (Actually, they don't serve dessert!) My wine was a fine Sauvignon Blanc. It's restaurants such as this one, that help to gentrify a neighborhood. Hopefully, more will follow.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "RENDEZVOUS"
Believe it or not, what was once a cheesy, sleazy Burger King, is now the most beautiful new restaurant in Central Square in Cambridge, since "The Enormous Room" opened ages ago. Chef/Owner Steve Johnson (formerly of "Hamersley's" and "The Blue Room,") has transformed this place into a destination to be reckoned with. This time, however, he's not behind the stove, as he was in "The Blue Room," but his chef Deepak Kaul certainly is in sync with his boss. The food is exquisite! The room has a minimalist look, done up in browns, woods and mustards, with streaks of orange. It's comfortable, but something is missing; I'm not sure what. But there's nothing missing with the food, the presentation, or the service. All are top-drawer. The menu leans to Mediterranean, with hints of the Middle East. My appetizer was an Early Spring Vegetable Antipasto with Roasted Eggplant Puree. My entree was a Grilled Alaskan King Salmon with Curry Leaves, Basmati Rice & Mustard Butter Sauce. No dessert, as I'm still sort of dieting. (Just three more pounds to go before I lose the full 24 pounds that I gained last year!) Our wine was an absolutely delicious Feudo D'Elimi Sicilian Red. I love these new Sicilian wines; so smooth! By the way, if you're lucky enough NOT to be dieting, order the Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Pralines and Cinnamon Cream; it's supposed to be delicious!
(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:“SORELLINA”

Take a trip with me toBack BayBoston, then walk up the beautiful part of Huntington Avenue to the western end of Copley Square, and there, in that up-scale celebrity-filled condo behind the Library, is Jamie Mammano’s (“Mistral,” “Teatro,”) new restaurant “Sorellina.” The room (all blacks and whites) is stunning, with massive white columns and a black ceiling. White leather banquettes are spaced nicely around the room, backed by a huge photograph of an impressionistic garden (once again in black and white.) It’s the kind of room that makes you glad that you wore a suit! In its brother restaurant “Mistral,” the fare is French, while here, it’s alta cucina Italian. My appetizer was an order of Verdure (Green Beans, Sunchokes, Artichokes, and Black Olive Vinaigrette,) and my entree was Grilled Salmon with Pancetta, Ceci, and Dragoncello Butter. Both were absolutely delicious, and very filling. Our wine was a wonderful Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. Because our tables were close to the tables on either side of us, we soon engaged in conversation with the two women on one side (one of whom was a charming doctor with issues,) and the architect and his documentarian girlfriend on the other side. Across the room was one of the two brothers from Jordan's Furniture. (The one with the pony-tail) It's that kind of a place, and in spite of that,  I loved it!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA- REVIEW:“ECLANO”

What can a new restaurant add to the already bustling restaurant scene in the largest “Little Italy” in the world…Boston’s North End, with its 140 restaurants? Well, I’m not sure that this simple, straightforward storefront adds anything new, except possibly the owner’s commitment to very serious dining. The décor is simple and straightforward, with a 50-seat dining room with leather-covered banquettes, oak chairs at 12 tables, wooden paneling below wainscoting and pale yellow walls. If the décor is simple and straightforward, the food certainly isn’t. The menu is lush and inviting. While we were reading it, we were presented with a bowl of a variety of large olives floating in briny olive oil, and warm, crusty bread. From this menu I finally chose Rabbit Sausage as an appetizer. This was accompanied by garlicky sautéed broccoli rabe. It almost filled me up. But, I forced myself to continue. For a salad I had Hearts Of Romaine Dressed with Roasted Garlic, Lemon and Aged Cheese. For an entree, I had Pan-Seared Halibut with Yellow Peppers and Fava Beans. My dessert was a Citrus Tiramisu with Lemon Biscotti. Our wine was a delicious Chianti Riserva Sensi. I must say that our dining experience was enhanced by the charm and sociability of the maitress d' Caterina,  who would be an asset to any restaurant.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "dante"
The Royal Sonesta Hotel sits on a prime location on the Charles River. It's windows, terraces, and restaurant overlook the River, the entire skyline of Back Bay Boston, and the charming, historic Longfellow Bridge. Replacing "Davio" as the main restaurant of the hotel, is "dante," the brainchild of Dante de Magistris. It's his first restaurant in America.  When he was only in his 20's, chef Magistris was the sous-chef at the world famous, incomparable "Don Alfonso1890" restaurant in Sant' Agata, on the Amalfi Coast, (arguably, Italy's finest restaurant...where a few of us were lucky enough to have dined last summer.) From there, he came to Boston, where he was the chef at "blu," "cafe Louis," and "The Federalist." Now, with the help of his brothers Damian and Filippo (who have also worked in some of New York and Boston's finest restaurants,) they have established "dante" as the new "destination restaurant." The decor is dramatically stark and minimalist, reflecting the colors of the River outside of its large windows. There are eight separate spaces, including two dining areas, two bars, two lounges, a balcony, and an outdoor dining patio overlooking the Charles River. Some of the unusual features of the decor include a concrete bar, imported Italian leather dining chairs and bar stools, and special stained compressed bamboo dining tables. On the walls, are paintings from the world-renowned art collection of Sonesta owners, Roger and Joan Sonnabend. The food is inspired by the Mediterranean....classic Italian, French and Spanish, and it is magnificent. After an amuse-bouche of Chicken Rillet and Fava Beans, my appetizer was Escargot with Truffle-Whipped Potato Spuma, Candied Lemon and Garlic Crumbs. My pasta course was Potato Gnocchi with Cheese Sauce, Porchetta, Sweet Peas and Fava Beans. My entree was Porcini Crusted Scallops with Truffled Tapioca, Fava Puree, and Soft Vidalia Onions. My dessert was a Chocolate Mousse Tart with Frozen Creme Fraiche and Sliced Strawberries and Tangerines. Our wine was a delicious, but potent, Cotes-du-Rhone Burgundy. Everything about this place reeked of class, including the chef, who came to our table to sign a menu from "Don Alfonso" which I had brought with me. Tacky, but effective. Dante was very surprised and impressed, and took the menu into the kitchen where all of the sous-chefs stopped their work to read it. We all have our weaknesses. Mine was the length of this review. Sorry!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 
 

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW:"Cafe  D"

When Doug Organ's Jamaica Plain restaurant, "Arbor" first opened a few years ago, it was named as "one of the best newcomers in America" by GQ magazine. We ate there and agreed with them. Therefore, I was surprised to hear the news that Organ was closing it down, renovating it, and reopening it as a less expensive "cafe," albeit with most of the menu items from "Arbor" intact. According to Organ, "Arbor" was doing "no business on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights!" Now, as "Cafe D," it looks like an elegant cafe, with foreign newspapers papering the walls, modern art and colorful murals,  and mismatching chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. In spite of all of this, (or maybe because of it,) it still looks very "uptown." Thankfully, the food is still exceptionally good (the same chefs from Arbor are in the kitchen,) and now they're doing great business during the middle of the week. Good for them! My appetizer was a beautifully seasoned Steak Tartare with Olives, Capers, Herbs, Aioli and Toasts. My entree was a Roasted Monkfish with French Green Lentils, Sesame Roasted Asparagus and Moroccan Charmoula Sauce. Delicious! My dessert was a creamy delicate Italian Rice Pudding ringed with Marinated Cherries. It was one of the best desserts that I've ever had. Our wine was an exceptional Australian Shiraz. It would appear that chef/owner Doug Organ made the right decision. Less really Is more!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"OM Restaurant and Lounge"

From the minute that you walk through those heavy wooden doors (in fact, even before that,) you can see that the owners of "OM" have spent a great deal of money on this new Harvard Square restaurant, to give it a distinctive look. Inside those carved wooden doors, is a darkened lobby with a waterfall, that opens into a lavish lounge and upstairs dining room, filled with the owners personal collection of Tibetan art (sculptures and paintings.) Add some flowers and candles, and you've got "a look." In my case, I was thankful that the food wasn't Tibetan as well! Instead, it's an unusual type of American Nouvelle, where several of the dishes are deconstructed (the ingredients are on the plate, but YOU have to blend them to create your own version of a classic dish.) We started our meal with an amuse-bouche of Shrimp, Squid and Ham with Couscous. My appetizer was a Deconstructed Caesar Salad. It was fun putting it all together, including the Coddled Egg, the Anchovies, and the Croutons. My entree was Grilled Steak and Eggs ( a Grilled Filet Mignon with Fried Truffle Egg, Yukon Potato Puree, Asparagus Spears, and Bordelaise Sauce.) My dessert was Carrot Cake with Parsnip Ice Cream, Creme Fraiche Icing, Toasted Walnuts and Habanera Chili Caramel Sauce. Our wine was a hearty Brunello di Montalcino. For some strange reason, if you go to OM early, the restaurant is filled with families with children, albeit well-behaved ones. So, go after 7pm. That aside, the place is a perfect place for fine, gourmet dining.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"BASTA PASTA"

When you come up to this Cambridge hole-in-the-wall, resist the temptation to turn around and go elsewhere. It looks like a cheap sub-shop...a dive. But, it most definitely isn't! Go in, pass the self-serve drink refrigerator, the take-out counter, the pizza oven, and grab a seat at one of the basic tables. As soon as you see the menu, you'll know that this isn't what you thought it was. Chef/owner Reno Hoxallari has cheffed at some of Boston's finest restaurants and his menu selections show what he can do. My appetizer was an order of Crispy-crusted Mini Arancini with Fontina Cheese. After an appetizer of rice I should have chosen a different entree, but you know that I can't resist a good risotto!  My entree was the White Risotto with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Thyme. I probably won't have a bowel movement for weeks!!! (When's the last time you saw that sentence in a restaurant review?) In any case, everything was absolutely delicious...and ridiculously inexpensive. How refreshing.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

Hell, I had to take something off for decor, right

 

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "TRESCA"
The most elegant restaurant in Boston's North End, "Via Valverde," has just changed management. The new owner is the former captain of the Boston Bruins, Ray Bourque. Because Bourque was a silent partner in the original restaurant, not much will change behind the scenes, where it counts. "Tresca" now sets the standard for excellence in the North End, as "Via Valverde" did before. The decor is still palatial, and service and presentation are still top-drawer. The major differences between the "Via Valverde" of the past, and the present-day "Tresca," is that, where the former had a "jacket-and-tie" dress code, the latter is "anything goes," and the present restaurant for some reason is LOUD, very loud, and somewhat boisterous. But, it's the food that counts, and the food at "Tresca" is every bit as good as it was at "Via Valverde." My appetizer was a Capesante Veneziane (large native sea scallops pan-seared in a tomato and shellfish broth infused with saffron and thyme.) My entree was Risotto con Aragosta (fresh Maine lobster simmered with Vialone Nano risotto in a basil tomato broth.) I ordered the Cheese and Fruit Plate for dessert. Our wine was a delicious Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

  (Those bachelorette parties were really LOUD!!)
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"LULU'S BAKE SHOPPE"

If you're in the North End in Boston, and you're looking for an alternative to Modern Pastry or Mike's, try the little shop on Hanover Street that looks like it belongs on the Main Street at DisneyWorld. It's tiny, decorated to look like an old-fashioned kitchen, and it's filled with the most delicious old-fashioned American baked goods. There are chocolate-chip cookies (and every other type of all-American cookie,) brownies, shortbread, cheesecake squares, and trays filled with freshly-baked cupcakes. I had a chocolate cupcake, with marshmallow filling. Yum, Yum!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"CAFE POLONIA"

If you need a break in your routine of dining out at one of Boston's fine steakhouses, or Italian, French, and seafood restaurants, why not try a Polish dinner, at Boston's only authentic Polish restaurant, the charming Cafe Polonia in "Southie?" Just a short cab-ride from the center of Boston, one steps into what could be a tiny restaurant in any city in Poland. The walls are stone, and the seats and tables are polished oak, with seats covered in woven pillows. There are artifacts from Poland on the walls, and up on the shelf above. Up above us, is a picture of the former president of Poland, Lech Welesa, when he dined here three years ago. The beautiful, charming hostess/waitress seats us, and after studying the menu, I selected the following: my soup was a delicious Sour Pickle and Potato Soup. My appetizer was a Half Ring of Grilled Fresh Kielbasa with Mustard and Horseradish. My entree was an order of 8 Pierogi...Cheese, Potato and Cheese, and Cabbage and Mushrooms. My dessert was Szarlotka (Warm Polish Apple Cake served with Whipped Cream.) Our beverage was a Polish Beer. My friend Krys is fluent in Polish, and having him with me, conversing with our lovely hostess in Polish, added to the whole dining experience. Moral: if you decide to eat  there, go with a Pole or a Polish-American; it's more fun!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT REVIEW: "HOBSON'S CHOICE" (in Williamstown,MA)

A local favorite for many years, I can't understand why I've never been here before. It's a real treasure! "Hobson's Choice" is a rustic bistro that serves healthy, country fare. The decor is wood, wood, and more wood! We sat in a nook for four, with high-backed wooden seats with soft pillows on each seat. Our waitress was a charming, smart local girl...probably a student at Williams College. After a delicious wholesome Garden Salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing & Croutons, I had a Grilled Mahi Mahi with Putanesca Sauce, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Grilled Zucchini. My dessert was the specialty of the house...Mud Pie. Our wine was a fine Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay. An excellent dinner for our first night in Williamstown on this trip. The fresh mountain air makes you want to eat more than you should...and we did!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "AVILA"
Why would an enterprising entrepreneur like Steve DiFilippo chose to open a new restaurant just a few blocks away from his record-breaking place, "Davio's?" I have no idea, but Boston diners should be thankful that he did, because "Avila" is quite wonderful. Featuring the cuisine of five Mediterranean countries--Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, and France--dinner at "Avila's" is like eating at a Michelin-star restaurant in Europe. Chef Rodney Murillo uses traditional Mediterranean recipes, but gives the resulting dishes a modern presentation and uses the best ingredients available anywhere. When you enter the restaurant, there's a sense of deja vu about it, because it does resemble "Davio's" in size and decor, with the kitchen at center stage, as it is at "Davio's." But, getting back to the food, for an appetizer, I choseEscargots, with Fennel, Garlic Butter, Pernod and Parsley. We shared a portion of Davio's Hand Rolled Gnocchi with Basil, Shaved Parmigiano and White Truffle Oil. They were every bit as good as I remember them being at Davio's. My entree was Za 'atar Spiced Black Pearl Salmon with Roasted Garlic Pepper Cream, and Feta Cheese Risotto. My dessert was a Tray of Twelve Greek, Italian, and French Miniature Pastries. Our wine was a hearty Montepulciano. A fine addition to the dining scene in the Theatre District.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

BAR AND RESTAURANT REVIEW:SAUCIETY & THE BIRCH BAR
When that magnificent new 2-million-square-foot Convention & Exhibition Center opened on the South Boston Waterfront, it needed some company out there in that once-deserted neighborhood. Now it has that company, by way of the Westin Waterfront Hotel. In the soaring atrium of this glass marvel, is a "forest" of birch trees, and nestled in that forest is The Birch Bar. What a wonderful place to go for a getaway from the hectic craziness of the downtown, South End, North End, or Back Bay bar scene, or for a pre-dinner drink before dining at Sauciety, the gourmet American grill at this hotel. That's exactly what we did, and were rewarded with a fine pre- and-after-dinner drink experience (Birch Bar also has an excellent bar menu,) as well as an exceptional dining experience at Sauciety. The decor is "simple, but very elegant," with oversized windows overlooking the waterfront. The culinary twist at this restaurant is simple. The meat and fish entrees can each be matched with any two of the 15 different sauces offered, from a tempting lemon artichoke emulsion to a spicy black currant glaze, served separately for easy sharing. Each dish comes with the chef's suggested sauce pairing. My appetizer was an unexceptional Caesar Salad with Shaved Grana Podana, and Crispy Lemon. My entree was a Grilled King Salmon with the Lemon Artichoke Emulsion Sauce and the Chimichurri Sauce. My dessert was a "Make-Your-Own-Sundae," with Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberries and Blueberries, Oreos, ButterCrunch Candy, and Burnt Vanilla, Toffee, and Chocolate Syrups. Yikes! So, if you're looking to feel that you're far away from Boston for just one night, this hotel, this restaurant, and this bar are the places to be.
(5-Stars) Back to Top


 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "L' ESPALIER"
In my on-going survey of the world's finest restaurants, I thought that I should pay a long-delayed return  (I haven't been there in 20 years) visit to what is arguably the finest restaurant in Boston, and one of the finest in the world. Housed in an 1880 Back Bay townhouse, the restaurant looks elegant before you've even set foot inside the iron gates at the front door. The luxurious appointments of a bygone era usher you into the foyer and dining rooms of this truly magnificent interior space. One may choose to eat in either the Front Room, the Library or the Salon. I chose the Front Room, because, very simply, its beauty is stunning. Picture an elaborate, yet tasteful Victorian dining room in the home of a very wealthy family, and this is it. The taupe and cream room, with its carved marble fireplace, luxurious plasterwork, and views overlooking Gloucester Street has a feeling of classic elegance. Now, to the food. Frank McClelland, world renowned chef/owner has created several prix-fixe dinners. We chose the 3-course dinner (with a few "add-ons.")  For starters, there were two amuse-bouches, of several small Napoleons of Salmon and Herbed Cream Cheese, and Tartes of Goat Cheese. Then came the Caviar, with Traditional accompaniments of Capers, Onions, Parsley and Hard-boiled Eggs with Brioche Toast Points! After that, my appetizer was Equinox Field Greens with Buffalo Mozzarella and Balsamic-Marjoram Vinaigrette. My entree was Seared Scallops with Fresh Farmers Beans and Chorizo, in Lemon-Shellfish Broth. Then, another amuse-bouche of Spiced Soba Noodles with Oysters. We had the Cheese Tray which included La Tur, Peve Sauvage, Petit Jurassic, Affidelice, and Bayley Hazen. All were delicious. Our dessert was a Valrhona Dark Chocolate Fondant with Roasted Black Mission Figs, Ginger Almond Crisp and Lemon Verbena Ice Cream. If this weren't enough, a small tray of Petits Fours and Homemade Candies was brought to the table to finish us off! All of this was accompanied by a Westport Rivers (the winery that we visited last Sunday) Chardonnay. Needless to say, everything was sheer perfection...the decor, the impeccable service, the presentation of the food, and the incredible food itself. Save this for a special occasion. It's expensive, but well worth every dollar.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 Sorry for the length of this review; I could have said more!

 

 
RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BOUCHEE"
Charles Sarkis and the Back Bay Group ("Abe and Louie's," "Papa Razzi,") have opened an authentic French brasserie, in the style of New York's "Balthazar" and "Pastis," in the place formerly occupied by the now defunct "DuBarry" on Newbury Street.  We have several of these bistro-type restaurants in Boston...most recently opened, Jacky Robert's "Petit Robert Bistro," but it's always good to have another one. Hell, Paris is loaded with them, right? In any case, the designers have got the decor right. It looks just like a Parisian bistro/brasserie, with a zinc bar, hardwood floors, and a tin ceiling, dressing up this two-story space on Newbury Street. I had access to the extensive menu for a week, so I was able to study the many wonderful choices offered. In fact there are so many, that it was hard to choose. But choose I did. For an appetizer, I couldn't resist the Escargots in Garlic, Butter and Parmesan Breadcrumbs. We came on a Thursday night, because the Plat du Jour on Thursdays is Imported Dover Sole, one of my favorite dishes, and one that's not always found on menus, except in very expensive places. (In "Alize" in Vegas it cost $70!) Here, it was served with Beurre Meuniere with Fingerling Potatoes, Mushroom Fricassee and Citrus Tapenade. We had the Assiette des Fromages (Cheese Tray,) and then a Sorbet Tasting for dessert. I had a glass of  Sauvignon Blanc. It's a noisy place, especially when it starts to fill up (and fill up it did,) but that's what a bistro should be. This one's a goldmine!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

Whereas the old Faculty Club had old world/ivy league charm, the new Faculty Club has all of the charm of an unoccupied laboratory. With the exception of a view of the downtown skyline out of the 6th floor windows on one wall, the rest of the room is barren. I mean BARREN. No ornamentation whatsoever. Give me back the old Club, now used only for functions. Thankfully, the food and service are excellent.
The buffet consisted of: Antipasta of Cold Cuts, Bufala Mozzarella and Heirloom Tomatoes. The soup was a delicious Vegetable Soup. The entrees were Baked Squash Casserole with Romano Cheese, Zucchini Stuffed Sole in Herbed Cream, Braised Chicken in a Morel Veloute, Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Ravioli with Pomodoro Sauce, and Orange Glazed Sweet Potato Wedges. Our desserts were Boston Cream Pie and Apple Cinnamon Crisp. As I said before, the food and service were just fine (although our waiter got more absent-minded as the meal progressed,) but it didn't make up for the lack of chandeliers hanging from high carved ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces on either end of the room, ceiling-to-floor windows covered with velvet drapes and overlooking The Fens, and huge oil paintings of past presidents of the university. I can't wait to rent the old Club for a private dinner!
(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

 
RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "CLIO"
In between reviewing new restaurants that have opened lately, I've gone back to my list of Boston's 20 Best Restaurants (listed on Restaurants MA on my web-site,) to eat at, and review the 10 restaurants that I ate at before I had a web-site, so there are no reviews posted for them. I'll remedy that. One of my favorites on that list has always been Ken Oringer's "Clio" in the Eliot Hotel. When internationally-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten started here at the now-defunct "Lafayette" restaurant before he became world famous, his sous-chef was Ken Oringer. Chef Oringer learned a lot from the master! His "Clio" is beautiful, elegant, and intimate, with velvet banquettes and large floral arrangements. The menu is small, but filled with superb choices. My appetizer was the Salad of Mesclun, Crisp Vegetables, Herbs and Flowers with Fresh Goat Cheese and Vinaigrette. My entree was Extra Virgin Olive Oil Poached Arctic Char with Kohlrabi, Grapefruit, and White Asparagus. We then selected the Plateau de Fromages (Cheese Tray,) with several fine cow, sheep, and goat cheeses. My dessert was a Caramelized Brioche with Fresh Raspberries and Chocolate Sorbet. Our wine was an excellent, but strong, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, "Clio" is still one of Boston's 20 Best restaurants! 
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"AUJOURD' HUI" In Boston's Four Seasons Hotel,

walk up the grand staircase with its sweeping views of the Public Garden, off the elegant lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, and you'll enter the even-more-elegant dining room known as "Aujourd' hui." One of only two restaurants in the entire state of Massachusetts to receive the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award, it was rated #1 in Food, Service & Decor in the 2005 Zagat Survey. The lush decor features oak flooring and rich dark chocolate furnishings, accented with grey and chocolate floral fabrics. Set beneath soaring columns, with Georgia O' Keefe-like black and white paintings hanging on the walls, Rivolta linens dress each tabletop adorned with Ginori china. Chef de Cuisine William Kovel, serves modern French cuisine, prepared with the freshest regional ingredients flown in daily from around the world. In short, the stage is set for a dinner to rival anything served in any of the world's great restaurants. Did it make the grade? Absolutely! My appetizer was Cauliflower Risotto with Baked Truffles. There was a delicious amuse-bouche of Turnip Soup, followed by an entree of Sea Scallops with Truffled Potato Puree, Melted Leeks and Lobster Sauce. Our Cheese Tray consisted of an assortment of Cow, Goat, and Sheep Cheeses with a Goat Cheese Waffle, Nuts, and a Pureed Apricot. My dessert was a Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Bar with Caramelized Banana and Latte Mascarpone Mousse. Our wine was a strong Sardinian White.
In the 15 years since I've been to this restaurant, the chef has changed, and so has the decor. But everything...food, presentation, and service...are still perfection!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "OLIVES"

Todd English, the "rock star" of the chef world, has opened restaurants all over the world, including one on the Queen Mary II. But this original one in the charming old neighborhood of Charlestown, near picturesque Bunker Hill, was the first, and is still considered the flagship of his gustatory empire. When it first opened, 15 years ago, it was unique in a Boston that still did not have the hundreds of diverse, gourmet restaurants that it has today. The chef was always "at home" in the place, bouncing from table to table, and back to the kitchen. Now, a visit to "Olives" is something like going to one of Boston's many historic sites....but one with excellent food! And the food IS still excellent, with unique menu choices that can only be found at a Todd English restaurant. My appetizer was the Olives Tart with Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, Anchovies, Olives and Basil. Absolutely delicious! My entree was Ricotta Agnolotti "Al Plin," over Slow and Low Braised Veal Bolognese, Lemon Thyme and Basil. Our dessert was Todd English's classic Fallen Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. Our wine was my favorite Tuscan white, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Not only did Olives not disappoint. It was even better than I remembered it being on my last visit over a decade ago. A true classic.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "JOE V'S"

My friend Keith recommended this small Italian neighborhood restaurant to me, and so we headed over to "Joe V's" in Union Park in the South End. Union Park is a long block of brick Victorian townhouses, surrounding an oblong gated park in the British tradition. (Boston's South End is the largest collection of Victorian brick townhouses in America; 40 picturesque and charming blocks of these buildings, which surround Irish and British-like green parks, complete with fountains.) "Joe V's" sits on one corner, overlooking Union Park. Inside, the restaurant is very "old school" Italian, complete with butcher-block tables, and original art on the walls. I decided to order two of my "test items," to test the authenticity and accuracy of the food preparation at a restaurant. The first of these was the appetizer, a Caesar Salad. It was perfect. Prepared as a true Mexican Caesar Salad,  without any extras (peas, chicken, tomatoes, etc.) The second was my entree, Gnocchi with Vodka Cream Sauce. Many good restaurants have gone down in smoke with this one. They're either overcooked, or borderline "mashed potatoes." Here they were just right. I felt like Goldilocks!  We had some delicious Garlic Bread as a side-dish. Dessert was a Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. Our wine was a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon. Although it was crowded, and very noisy, (and I could have done without the plasma screen and the football game,) this 3-year-old place is a welcome addition to the ever-growing South End dining scene.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"AMRHEINS"
"Southie" (South Boston) has always been an area of the city, that I rarely get over to. Philosophically, if not geographically, it always seemed a world apart. That's probably why I've never eaten at one of Boston's grand 100-year-old restaurants, "Amrheins." Just a short cab-ride away, there's this traditional old New England restaurant called Amrheins. As you step through the front doors, you step into Boston-1890...a world of tin ceilings, hand carved bars, large ornamental mirrors and leather and wood banquettes. The menu is filled with every standard New England dish that you could possibly want. Because it was so difficult to select a single appetizer, we went for the combo platter consisting of 6 appetizers (fried calamari, chicken tenders with chili sauce, chicken pot pie, potato cups, crispy eggplant sticks, and pan fried mozzarella.) Of course, we were full after all of this. Nevertheless, we did order entrees. Mine was the Stuffed Filet of Sole with Atlantic Salmon, Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Baby Spinach. My dessert (yes, I had dessert!) was the Banana Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate-covered Strawberry. We managed to forget what we were eating, with a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon. It was just too damn much of everything!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"LTK BAR & KITCHEN"

The Legal Sea Foods culinary empire has created, on Boston's waterfront, a test kitchen that also serves as a functioning hi-tech restaurant. The purpose of this experimental restaurant is to test out new dishes which, if successful, will find their way onto the menus of Legal Sea Foods restaurants around the country. It's hi-tech aspect involves laptop plug-ins, wi fi capability, and plasma screens. Waitresses place orders by tapping on blackberry-like menus. They'll even bring a small TV to your table, if you must watch TV while you're eating! It's all very 21st Century. With all of these bells and whistles, one must ask, "how's the food?" It's great! My appetizer was a perfect Caesar Salad. We ordered a plate of Fried Calamari for the table. My entree was a delicious Grilled Day Boat Sole with Lemon Caper Butter, Spinach and Jasmine Rice. My dessert was a Chocolate Ganache Peanut Butter Tart with Oreo Cookie Crust. Our wine was a creamy, clean Soave Classico from the Veneto in Italy. A caveat, if you're planning to go, and have made reservations, call several times to confirm your reservations, because they keep losing them. After my third call to confirm, only to find that they didn't have me listed, I told the manager, "get rid of the resident idiot who's making the reservations, and replace her with a computer!" Other than that, and the fact that the young girl who brings you to your table is a moron,  the place is a fun place to get excellent seafood.    
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"PANIFICIO BACK BAY"

Beacon's Hill's charming trattoria has opened a branch in the Back Bay, just up the road from where I live, and with its menu of paninis, pizza, and hot entrees, it looked to be a welcome addition to our neighborhood. On the corner of Commonwealth Avenue, Boston's most beautiful boulevard, and Massachusetts Avenue, Boston's busiest thoroughfare, it certainly has a good location, although parking could be a big problem with no valet service. We walked over, so that was no problem for us. Although it's small, it's a nice little place, and its large front patio should be busy in the Spring and Summer. Once we set foot in the door, however, things started to fall apart. First of all, it's a cold little place. Literally, cold. In additionthere was no one there. Once we were seated we were brought the menu, which was so small that it didn't even have an appetizer section. So we ordered Salads for starters...Caprese and Mediterraneo. As entrees we got Ricotta Gnocchi with Slow Braised Short Ribs, Garlicky Escarole and Parmesan Brodo. When we asked to see the wine list, we were told that they didn't have a liquor license yet. I had to go up to the front counter to ask our waiter to bring us bread, which was stale when he finally brought it, accompanied by those little plastic-wrapped squares of butter that I hate.  Our dessert was an overly sweet Lemon Meringue Tart. The food was good, but the negatives far outweighed the positives. I give the place another three months, and it'll be a Starbucks!
(1-Star)
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "COPIA"

Just across the little bridge from Boston in historic Charlestown, is the new restaurant from restaurateur Anthony Caturano, (the owner of what is arguably the North End's best restaurant, "Prezza.") This new place, "Copia," is just across the square from Todd English's first, and original "Olives," and it has a similar menu. Both restaurants include dishes from all countries bordering the Mediterranean...from Italy, Spain and France on the North, to Northern Africa on the South, and The Middle East on the East. That covers a lot of ground, and it gives the chef plenty of room to be highly creative...and creative he is. There were so many delicious-sounding appetizers from which to choose, so we selected a Mediterranean Antipasto which included several... Baba Ganoush, Hummus, and Tzatziki on Grilled Pita, as well as Zucchini Fritters, Mixed Olives and Marinated Mushrooms! They were all perfect. The entree section was also filled with many tempting choices, but I couldn't resist the Gnocchi with Broccoli Rabe and Nuggets of Sausage. It was excellent, but next time, I'll go with the Whole Branzini with Braised Winter Greens. It looked great. While reading the dessert menu, I was distracted by the sight of the magnificent, new Bunker Hill Bridge, just outside the wide expanse of windows. So dramatic. Back to the dessert menu. I chose the Cheesecake with Spiced Apple and Walnut Compote. We also had an order of wonderful Zeppole Dipped in Honey for the table. Our wine was a dry, but potent, Nero D'Avola Sicilian Red. The room is done in all shades of beige, which makes for a perfect backdrop for the wildly-colorful dishes being served. Were there any negatives about this beautiful new place?  Yes. It's cold (my head froze every time the damn door opened,) and loud. So bring a cap and earplugs!
(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "MIEL" (at the Intercontinental Hotel)

Those tall shiny towers on the waterfront are the new Intercontinental Hotel. The front entrance to the hotel opens onto what will soon become the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (formerly "The Big Dig,") Boston's three-mile long downtown park, which replaces the rusty old Expressway. A grand entrance for a grand hotel. The main restaurant at the hotel, is "Miel," Boston's first 24-hour Brasserie Provencale. Boston already has several authentic and excellent French bistros and brasseries, but this one is the first one that is open 24/7. Michelin rated (2-star) Celebrity Chef Jacques Chibois, has created a menu celebrating the wonders of Provence, including lavender, honey ("miel",) and olive oil. The restaurant includes a glass-enclosed dining room with a chef's table made from a one thousand-year-old olive tree. In the summer, the outdoor dining terrace in the back,  will overlook the historical Boston waterfront. We'll have to come back then. For now, we looked at the menu and ordered. My appetizer was a Pistou Soup with Vegetables and Basil...authentic and delicious. My entree was one of my favorites, Grilled Dover Sole with Mandarin-flavored Olive Oil. We ordered the Plat des Fromages for the table, and followed it up with a delicious Chocolate Torte with Honey Ice Cream. Our wine was a tasty Sauvignon Bargemone de Provence. Everything about "Miel" is class...French Provencale decor, service, food preparation, presentation  and taste. A great addition to the Waterfront, and the late-night dining scene in Boston.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"PLUM ISLAND GRILLE"

Drive up the North Shore, past "The Witch City" of Salem, and into the beautiful oceanfront town of Newburyport. Cross the tiny bridge, and you're on the marshes of Plum Island. On the inland edge of the state's largest barrier island, is the romantic Plum Island Grille. From the dingy exterior, it looks like a beach shack where you might buy crab cakes and lobster rolls. But don't be put off. Inside it's a charming candle-lit inn with tables formally set for a grand dinner. Chef/Owner Francis Broadbery's world-class creative cuisine has been given countless awards by every important magazine, but tonight is something special. Tonight, Broadbery is serving a Classic French Wine Dinner, with wines paired with each course. My seat faced the open kitchen and I was able to watch the military-like efficient preparation of the dishes, by the chef and his two sous-chefs. We started with an amuse-bouche called Trio des Cornets. It consisted of a trio of cornets ("horns,") filled with Brie Mousse and Apricot Jam, a Trumpet Royale Pate with Tomato Thyme Confit, and a Truffled Honey Creme Fraiche with Beluga Caviar. This was served with a Sipp Mack Pinot Gris Reserve. My appetizer was a Souffle de Fromage, served atop a Pear Gelee. The wine for this dish was a Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne Montrechet Maltroie. The soup course was a Bisque de Morel et Tartuffe. The wine, a Jean Marc Bouley Pommard. My entree was a Beurre Monte Poached Sea Scallop...(Large Sea Scallops Poached in Butter served over a Lobster Blini, with a Saffron and  Vanilla Jus, accompanied by an Asparagus Gratin.) This was paired with a Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc. For dessert we had a Petite Tarte Tatin, with a Trio of Mousse. The wine was a Sauternes. There was a Plat de Fromage (Mimolette, French Brie, Chimay Grand Cru, and Saint Andre.) This was served with a Chateau Beausoleil. In between each course, a knowledgeable sommelier described the wine about to be served for that course. He was extremely informative, and I learned a great deal. The wine pairings were absolutely perfect. The magnificent sunsets and stunning panoramic marsh views just outside the windows, are no competition for the incredible food being served. If you're in the Boston area when this kind of special dinner is served again, don't miss it!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"FRANK'S STEAK HOUSE"
When Zagat published its most recent list of the "Top 10 Steakhouses in Boston," I realized that I had eaten at all of them except one (and I'm not a steak person.) So, I decided to remedy this by checking out the remaining steakhouse..."the oldest steakhouse in Boston." After a $20 taxi ride from my place, we arrived at what appeared to be a fairly large unassuming neighborhood restaurant. When we went into the already crowded lobby (over 1 1/2-hour waits for tables without reservations) we were seated fairly quickly. Now that's all of the good things that I can say about this ridiculous place! The clientele was very blue collar...truckers with fat wives. Our booth was a decent size, although my friend Ryan slipped into a hole where his seat cushion should have been. The decor of the place is sort of upscale cafeteria...a Perkins on steroids! The menu was typical, and our waitress took our orders. Then everything went wrong. The plates started to arrive too quickly...appetizers, salads and soups at the same time. The Nachos Platter was a good one, but everything else was bland. Who would have known that the Nachos Platter was going to be the best dish of the evening...and THAT wasn't anything special! Although the dishes arrived quickly, they were very slow in being removed, so our table began to resemble the place in a cafeteria where you return your used plates. My Petite Filet Mignon with Lobster Bernaise Sauce in a Puff Pastry, with Sauteed Vegetables and Potatoes was nothing more than a flattened piece of chewy mystery meat, in an uncooked Pillsbury roll. On the side were some undercooked zucchini, and the kind of mashed potatoes that you feed to babies who are teething. The less said about my rock-solid Oreo Ice Cream Cake, the better. Did I mention that the service was terrible? Our waitress forgot to bring me my Guinness, and had to be asked to bring bread and water to the table. She brought the check long before I asked for it. Oh, why continue. The place is a mess; don't ever go there!
(1-Star)
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SASSO"

"Sasso" is the third restaurant to occupy what some people might have considered to be a beautiful, but jinxed, location in a prime spot on Huntington Avenue. Restaurateur Tony Ambrose opened the spot 12 years ago with his elegant Italian restaurant "Ambrosia." Then, after mysteriously closing it at the height of its popularity, he reopened it as a rustic, yet upscale, seafood place called "Blackfin." When Ambrose finally called it quits, the owners of the wonderful "Lucca" in the North End bought it, and after a thorough renovation, just opened it as the lavish "Sasso." So much for background. As you approach "Sasso," one perceives a large dimly-lit, high-ceilinged room through the two-story-high street-front windows. Once inside, the room is simply decorated and candle-lit, but the overall effect is grand...with a wide marble-staircase leading up to another dining room on the mezzanine level. Service is very attentive and we were soon presented with the menu, with its heavy emphasis on game (wild boar, venison, rabbit, etc.) The other items on the menu put "Sasso" smack in the category of "alta cucina." No spaghetti and meatballs, or chicken parmigiana here! We skipped the gamey choices. My appetizer was Crespelle...Whole Wheat Crepe with Wild Mushrooms, Leeks, Escarole, Pecorino, and Truffle Vinaigrette. My entree was Cappasante...Olive-Crusted Scallops with Beluga Lentils, Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Agrodolce Pepper Reduction. We ordered the Cheese Plate which consisted of Tartufa, Ubriano, Craba, and Pecorino di Fosa...all delicious. My dessert was an assortment of Sorbetti. We washed all of this down with a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Welcome to the Back Bay, "Sasso." You're a classy addition to our neighborhood...and a short three-block walk from my place!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE ALCHEMIST LOUNGE"

When a bar like Triple D's, that's been a neighborhood favorite for 15 years, closes down, and is replaced by a yuppie-appearing "lounge," that place better be damn good, in order to keep the old clientele, and still attract the kind of pretty young things who drink mojitos and eat tiny tapas. From the looks of the crowd tonight, it seems to be doing just that...and this is Spring Break Week for nearby Northeastern! The place is huge, and the decor is still more pub than lounge (God knows, Jamaica Plain has enough pubs!) But the crowd seems to like it, so I guess that the transition is working. I had heard that The Alchemist has a great Shepherd's Pie, one of my comfort food favorites, so I ordered that, and it was delicious and plentiful. In fact, all of the portions are large. My appetizer was one of the best Caesar Salads that I've had outside of Mexico, and it was prepared in the Mexican way, with unbroken leaves of Romaine. Even though we were stuffed, there's always room for dessert, which was Apple Crisp a la Mode. Although the place was packed, our waitress had time to be nice, as well as competent. Now THAT'S refreshing. Although the food is very good, and the portions are generous; the service is attentive and knowledgeable; and the prices are very reasonable, The Alchemist still needs a make-over. Even a few well-placed plants, tablecloths on the wooden tables, and some nice, colorful paintings on the walls, would do the trick. Then it would be a restaurant that would draw people from further afield than the immediate neighborhood.
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "POWOW RIVER GRILLE"

Once again we set off on a culinary adventure to the North Shore, to participate in another of Chef/Owner Francis Broadbery's Classic Wine Dinners. Last month, it was a superb Classic Wine FRENCH Dinner, and last night it was a Classic Wine SPANISH Dinner. This time, the venue was the Powow River Grille in Amesbury, chef Broadbery's other restaurant on the North Shore. (He really should do something about the terrible names of his two restaurants!) We were told by diners at last month's dinner, that the Powow River Grille was more elegant than the Plum Island Grille. It certainly was. The restaurant is in one of the great old renovated textile mills of Amesbury. All of the old mills have been beautifully converted into condos, restaurants, and shops. Once again, the tables were set with candles and fine china. The view from our table, up on the balcony next to the fireplace, was of the entire restaurant's interior below, and outside our window was a Norman Rockwell-ish scene...a raging stream, with rapids and waterfall, bisecting a picturesque park, complete with little iron bridges crossing the stream! Just beautiful. The food came a half-hour late. (They have a bad habit of waiting for all late-comers, before the punctual people can be served.) We started with Tapas, consisting of: Serrano Ham served with a Caper Berry and Spanish Green Olive Tapenade; Grilled Marinated Jumbo Shrimp and Avocado on Toast, with Sweet Hot Bell Peppers; and Spiced Potato and Spinach Croquette. This was paired with a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. The appetizer course was a Traditional Spanish Omelette with Manchego Cheese and a Tomato and Caper Berry Sauce. This course came with a Blondeau Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France. The soup course was a Rustic Peasant Castilian Spiced Garlic and Bread Soup, finished with Toasted Almonds. The wine for this course was a Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir from Carneros, California. My entree was Merluzzo (Hake) Romesco, baked with a Garlic and Almond Crumb Crust finished with a Romesco sauce, over a bed of Crabcake and Spinach. This was paired with a Clos de los Siete from Mendoza, Argentina. A sommelier came to each table and talked about each of the wines before they were served. Each of them was perfect. The meal was finished off with an incredibly rich Spiced Hot Chocolate with Cuarenta y Tres Liquour. Everything about this dinner was every bit as grand and enjoyable as the last one...including the food preparation and presentation, the service, and the wine "lectures." This time the meal only took two hours, instead of the four that the French dinner took. They're getting better at moving the food out to us! I look forward, with great anticipation, to chef Broadbery's next Classic Wine Dinner. Unfortunately I have to miss the next...the Tuscan Dinner...but I'll certainly be there for the Greek and Moroccan Dinners after that. Bravo Chef Broadbery!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "AUDUBON CIRCLE BAR & RESTAURANT"

There's been a great deal of buzz about this new place in the Kenmore Square/Fenway Park area. The word is that it's an "ultra-sophisticated, hip bar," with "the best burger in town." Well, I'm not really interested in either ultra-sophisticated bars OR burgers, but I thought that I'd take a look to see what all the fuss is about. NO name on the outside; a bit pretentious. Inside, it looks like nothing more than the neighborhood bar that it is. So much for sophistication. If you want sophistication, go to The Metropolitan Club, Radius or Vinalia. Audubon is just a neighborhood bar where college kids go to "chill." After being seated, we did battle with an overly-ambitious waitress (a business student at B.U.?) who was determined to get us out of there in 20 minutes. I finally had to tell her to go away, and come back in a half hour! We ordered Asian Potstickers in Chinese take-out boxes, and Tuscan Bread with White Bean Paste for appetizers, and Hamburgers with Roasted Potatoes, for entrees. The appetizers were excellent, and filling enough to be a meal in themselves, especially with the Irish Stout that we were drinking. The hamburgers were OK; the roasted potatoes were not. But the best hamburgers in town are still over at Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage in Cambridge. When we allowed our waitress to come back to the table, we ordered Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis for dessert. A somewhat disappointing culinary experience, but a fun night because we knew how to make the most of it...especially when it came to toying with the idiot waitress. An easy target!
(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "VINTAGE"in West Roxbury, Massachusetts

I rarely venture into the suburbs of Boston to sample any of the wonderful restaurants there. But, my friend, who lives in West Roxbury, invited me to dinner at "Vintage," so I accepted, and I'm certainly glad that I did. This attractive restaurant, just off a major thoroughfare, is beautiful in its exterior design, but you wouldn't necessarily stop there, unless you knew of its fine reputation. Upon entering this large place, you're struck by the elegant tasteful design of the place. Done in Mission style, with lots of dark woods and leather, and a wood-burning fireplace blazing in the corner, it looks like an elegant San Francisco restaurant. The menu consists of basic American dishes, prepared in a Mediterranean style... lots of seafood and steaks and chops, etc. Our appetizer was the Spinach and Artichoke Dip, which was excellent, although for those of you who love this dish at Maggiano's, it's heavier on the spinach and artichoke, and lighter on the cheese. My entree was the Tuscan Pasta which consisted of spicy hot Italian sausage sauteed with yellow, red and green bell peppers and red onions, tossed with chopped tomatoes, parmesan cheese and penne. We washed this down with a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. Our dessert was a refreshing Pineapple Sorbet. Sure, you can get just as good a meal right here in town, in any of dozens of fine Italian restaurants, but it would probably cost twice as much in Boston. This place is reasonable, so there's a reason to venture out of Boston.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "Pops"

First it was a charming Normandy-like French creperie. Then, it was "Truc," serving rustic French dishes. Then it was the ultra-fancy neighborhood restaurant, "Perdix." Now, in the very same location in the South End, we have what chef/owner Felino Samson (formerly the chef at "Bomboa,") is calling "Pops." Hopefully, the location is not jinxed, but really, four restaurants in just a little over a decade? Sounds jinxed to me! In any case, I hope not, because "Pops" is anything but the homey comfort-food place that the name suggests. It's not that it's not comfortable. It certainly is. With its attractive black and white decor, Louis XIV chairs, tin ceiling, and zinc and etched-glass dining counter overlooking the kitchen, the place is quite beautiful...and very comfortable. We sat out in the enclosed greenhouse out in the back. All of the servers were friendly and competent. Now, there's an interesting novelty. The food was prepared beautifully and presented in a very attractive way. All of our dishes were good enough to put this new restaurant up there with the best of the South End restaurants. If good restaurants keep multiplying in this neighborhood, the South End might someday overtake the North End's number of quality restaurants (140 at the present count!) My appetizer was Lobster and Cod Croquettes with Aioli. My entree was Crispy Skin Salmon served with Miso and Thai Basil Scented Cucumber Noodles and Black Sesame Rice. My dessert was White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Fresh Cherries. Wine was a delicious, dry Tallo Rossa from Sicily. Go early. They don't take reservations!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

  

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"ROCCA"
It's amazing how quickly the area of Roxbury now known as SoWa (south of Washington Street) has been transformed from a neighborhood of urban squalor, into a place that has attracted condo developers and restaurant owners from other more famous parts of town. Once slummy Harrison Avenue has been transformed. From the people who brought us the original "Rialto" in the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, and "blu" at the new "Ritz," we now have "Rocca." The huge space was once a factory, and now its decor echoes the colors of the mountains and the sea of Liguria in Italy...blues, browns, and greys, and multiple levels, to bring memories of the hilly landscape of Liguria. Why Liguria? Because that's where chef Tom Fosnot's mother was born! The menu also conveys the spirit of Liguria, filled as it is with dishes consisting of wild mushrooms, pesto, olives, seafood, and herbs of all kinds. My appetizer was Handrolled Trofie with Pesto (a type of pasta that I've never had before.) We ordered Potato Gnocchi for the table. My entree was a Veal Involtini Stuffed with Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Basil, on a Bed of Herbed Risotto with Fresh Tomato Sauce. My dessert was a Chocolate Ganache. Our wine was a Sicilian Nero D'Avola.  Everyone was so nice and polite to us. In fact, although the huge place was packed to the rafters, both of the owners came over to chat with us, and they sent us complimentary after-dinner Vin Santo cordials. I can't think of anything negative to say about this place, Even the bathrooms were beautiful...all tile and hammered copper. Hell, I'll come right out and say it...it may have been the company, but I loved this place!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "LA BRACE"

When I think of Italian dining, the first thing that comes to mind is NOT "grill." However, Mark Fredette, formerly of "Mare," has opened this new restaurant in the North End, with an extensive menu including homemade pastas, but specializing in grilled seafood and meats. (After all, "La Brace" does mean "the grill.") I was curious, and I always welcome the opportunity to stroll around the streets of Boston's "Little Italy," so we went. Off of the North End's "main street," Hanover Street, on the slightly less-hectic Salem Street, one encounters this charming little trattoria-style restaurant, with a menu that's anything BUT trattoria-style! From the menu, I chose as my appetizer, Grilled Scallops with Baby Arugula and Aged Balsamic Dressing. My entree was Grilled Salmon with Roasted Potatoes, Escarole, and Roasted Pepper Vinaigrette. I couldn't resist the Eggplant Parmigiana with Slow Cooked Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil, so we ordered it for the table, in addition to an order of Mozzarella in Carrozza, also for "the table." Everything was beautifully prepared, nicely presented, and tasted delicious. Our wine was a hearty Chianti Classico; robust, hearty and dry. "La Brace" is a welcome addition to the already-overcrowded North End restaurant scene, presenting grilled foods not usually associated with Italian cooking. But, I'm repeating myself. Let's just say, we enjoyed it immensely, and leave it at that. Unfortunately, however, the dining experience was made less than perfect by a loudmouthed greaser in a baseball cap, who screamed at the trash at his table, in a voice that echoed throughout the entire room. Isn't it amazing how one loud loser can mar everyone's meal, just by being the scum that he is? The management should have told him to shut up or get out! They didn't.
(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: BURTONS GRILL at the TRILOGY
Just a few blocks from Fenway Park in the huge new residential complex called The Trilogy, that out-of-town small chain of Contemporary American restaurants, Burtons Grill, has opened its latest location, the first in Boston. Friends who have eaten at the other locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, have recommended them highly. It was a beautiful night, so we walked the mile over from my house, through the Fens. The restaurant has an ideal corner spot, with a large sidewalk cafe...perfect for the before-or-after-a-Red Sox-game crowd. The interior is sleek and modern-looking, and yet very comfortable...lots of leathers and wood. The menu has a tempting selection of soups, appetizers and salads, and entrees divided equally between seafood and meats. It was hard to chose, because of so many mouth-watering items in all areas. I went with A Grilled Stuffed  Zucchini (stuffed with Herbed Cheese in a Tomato Sauce for my appetizer, and for my entree I chose the Haddock Imperial, which was Local Day Boat Haddock Topped with Lump Crabmeat Stuffing, and Finished with a Lemon Thyme Butter. On the side was a Fresh Cauliflower and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes. For dessert I had the Key Lime Pie, the best this side of the Delano in South Beach! For our wine, we selected a refreshing, strangely light Cabernet Sauvignon. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, before going to a Dodgers game at Ebbets Field, we would always eat at our friend's restaurant Lefferts Bar & Grill, just across the street from the Field. It was upscale and casual, serving the best contemporary American food. We loved that place, and Burtons Grill brings back memories of both that restaurant and my team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Priceless memories!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ALBA BAR & GRILL" in Quincy
Quincy, a small picturesque suburb, just about 20 miles south of Boston, is the birthplace of two past presidents...John Adams. and his son John Quincy Adams. Not too far from the Adams "compound," (which we visited later,) is Quincy's finest restaurant, the "Alba Bar & Grill." Because I was spending some time with a friend who had just bought a new condo in Quincy, we thought that this would be a good opportunity to dine here. In keeping with the "presidential" tone of the town, Alba features upscale "New American" cuisine. Although the bar area is beautifully wood-paneled, the dining section is unpretentious in decor.  The menu, however, makes up for the lack of frills in the surroundings. It was hard to choose from so many fine selections but choose we did. For an appetizer, I went with the Maryland Jonah Herbs Crab Cakes, with Braised Artichokes, Meyer Lemon, and Caper Remoulade. For an entree, I chose a 10 oz. Grilled Hand-Cut Filet Mignon, with Portobello Mushroom Demi-Glaze, and Herb Risotto. My dessert was a Trio of Sorbets (Orange, Mango and Coconut,) and my wine was a Sangiovese. Our friendly waitress did everything that she could to deliver fine service, and she succeeded. As close to a perfect dining experience as one could expect to find in the suburbs. 
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"BEEHIVE"
For the past few months, since it opened, the hype/buzz on this new club in town has been incredible, so I figured I'd better get over to see what all the fuss was about. Lucky for me (I'm not a big club person,) it's also a restaurant. Critics have been comparing it to the big jazz joints in Montparnasse and Montmartre, in the Paris of the 1920s. I've been to those clubs (in the Paris of the '50s and '60s,) so I could make a valid comparison. If you know Boston, it sits under all of the theaters and restaurants of the Boston Center For the Arts in the South End, in the old boiler room (!) and that's a huge space. It sure does LOOK like those Parisian clubs, with its funky furnishings and lighting, and student musicians from Berklee doing the honors, in between professional bookings.  There was  a reggae band tonight. After checking out the decor (exposed brick walls and overhead pipes with fancy chandeliers,) we settled into our seats and studied the menu. Interesting. For an appetizer I chose the Grilled Shrimp with Hummus and Black Olive Oil.  My entree was Orrecchiette with Spicy Lamb Sauce. Our dessert was a Plum Cobbler. The wine we selected was a delicious Sangiovese from Tuscany. The service was excellent, and I can't really think of a reason for NOT giving this place 5-Stars, except that it's not in the same category as Boston's finest 5-Star restaurants (e.g. "Aujourd 'hui," "L'espalier," "Clio," "Olives," etc.) Does that make sense?
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"K O PRIME"
In the luxury, boutique hotel "Nine Zero," just up Tremont Street from the Boston Common, there used to be a dramatically elegant restaurant called "Spire." It was just about perfect in every way. Unfortunately, in Boston, perfection is often not quite enough! The restaurant closed, and in its place, chef/owner Ken Oringer (of "Clio's) has opened "K O Prime,"  his take on an upscale steakhouse. When will this trend of converting everything into condos or steakhouses, end? Anyway, back to "K O Prime." Where "Spire"was all Philippe Starch white and black, "K O Prime" is dark, in deep shades of brown and dark red (the color of steaks?) with animal prints and stylishly-shaped banquettes. Actually, it's quite attractive in a very hotel-chic sort of way. The menu leans heavily towards meats and seafood, albeit prepared in a slightly off-the-beaten-path way. After all this IS Ken Oringer (who started out as sous-chef to Jean Georges Vongerichten, right here in Boston.) For an appetizer, I chose a simple, but perfect, Caesar Salad. My entree was a Dover Sole with Brown Butter, Capers and Lemon. On the side, was an order of Pommes Frites, with Ricotta Salata & Rosemary. So good! My dessert was a Phyllo-wrapped Lemon Curd with Fresh Seasonal Berries. I'm embarrassed to say that I forgot the name of our wine, which was new to me, but quite delicious. It was a medium to full-bodied red. Ken Oringer has done it again. It's a beautiful new place with excellent food.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT-MA REVIEW:"BLANTYRE" (in Lenox, MA  in the Berkshires)
I don't know why I'm finding it so hard to describe Blantyre, which after dining there several times over the past 25 years, I've concluded isthe best dining experience in all of America. Blantyre, is a magnificent Tudor manor house...an estate surrounded by manicured lawns, gardens, and the hills of the Berkshires themselves...just a 2 1/2- hour drive from Boston or New York. Dressed in suits and ties, we arrived at the stone pillars at the entrance to the extensive grounds of Blantyre. Through the pillars, up a winding stone road through the beautiful woods on the estate grounds, and then majestically up ahead, the manor house itself appears. As we walk toward the heavy oak doors, a hostess meets us outside, and welcomes us to Blantyre. We're welcomed several more times as we proceed into the living room, filled with its antique furnishings, huge fireplaces, oil paintings, deer heads mounted on the wall, carved ceilings, and through the leaded glass windows, the lawns and hills beyond. We're asked if we'd like to have our pre-dinner drinks and hors d'oeuvres on the covered terrace outdoors. We sit on rattan lounges with thick paisley cushioning, and are served our drinks in Waterford crystal, with a huge silver bowl filled with nuts, and cheese, olives, fois gras, mushrooms etc. The sommelier comes out, introduces himself, and presents us with the extensive (expensive) wine list. The charming Alsatian maitress d' gives us leather-bound menus, and takes our orders for dinner. When dinner is announced, we're ushered into the Great Hall, and then beyond, to a private alcove, complete with oil paintings, fireplace, Dresden figurines, and our round table set with Limoges china, French crystal, and a beautiful centerpiece of a couple of dozen pale roses.
  As we progress through the incredible courses of the three-course meal (plus amuses-bouche,) I'm impressed by the old-world service of our head waiter, our bus-boy, and his two waitresses (attired in long black gowns with white lacy aprons.) They're as professional as any wait-staff I've seen anywhere in the world. The presentation and preparation of our food was first-class, and our dishes of oysters, salmon, chicken, lamb, bass, etc. were all prepared in unusual and delicious ways. After our desserts were served at table, we proceeded to the Music Room, where homemade chocolates, petites fours, cookies, coffee, and after-dinner drinks were served, while a pianist played songs on a grand piano. The bill for all of this was not presented at the table, but was settled in a small private office, just before we left. I can only compare this experience to dining at "Don Alfonso 1800" in Italy. In comparing the two, Don Alfonso must now share the title of "finest dining experience in the world" with Blantyre, right here in the hills of Western Massachusetts! Yes, it's that good.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

plus!

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE RED LION INN" (in Stockbridge, in the Berkshires)
When we were at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, I pointed out his painting of "Main Street in Stockbridge," and told them to study the buildings, especially The Red Lion Inn on the right of the painting. Minutes after leaving the museum, we were staring at those very same buildings, looking exactly as they looked in the painting! We proceeded up the steps of The Red Lion Inn, took some pictures on the long porch, and went into the building. The Red Lion Inn has been welcoming travelers to the Berkshires for more than two centuries. One of the few New England inns operating continuously since the 18th century, The Red Lion is convenient to the numerous cultural and outdoor attractions in the Berkshires. I had made reservations out on the flowered Courtyard in the rear of the building. We were seated at a large round table, under an umbrella that managed to block out most of the sun. Some of us ordered local beers and ales while we checked the menus. A few at our table ordered dishes like Shrimp and Spinach Crepes, Asparagus Risotto, and Chicken Pot Pie, but I opted for a special plate that I rarely have....a Cheeseburger with French Fries and a Pickle! I mean it, I almost never eat this, as much as I love it. Just not very healthy, you know? It was delicious. The forbidden fruit syndrome I guess. Everything was quite wonderful, as it always is here. We were in no hurry to leave, but we decided to forego dessert here, and opted to go across Main Street to buy some homemade baked goods, at one of the local bakeries. Wise choice. Have you ever had homemade oreos?
(5-Stars) Back to Top


RESTAURANT MA- REVIEW:"SAGE"
There are some restaurant locations in Boston that are beautiful, but that are considered jinxed, because of the fact that so many restaurants have failed in that same spot. One of these is on the very picturesque corner of the newly-posh Washington Street in the South End, diagonally across from Boston's majestic Sacred Heart Cathedral. "Caffe Umbra" used to be there, and before that it was something else. Now, it's "Sage," and I truly hope that this one succeeds, because it's so good, and because the owner made a daring move by transferring his restaurant from the North End, where I thought that he was doing very well. Owner-chef Anthony Susi has put together a creative inclusive menu of what he calls "modern Italian cuisine, with French and Asian accents." Mmm. Has he left out anything? Anyway, there's enough of a variety of interesting dishes from which to chose, and chose we did. On the recommendation of our waitress, for an appetizer, I chose Buffalo Mozzarella Crostini, Caponata. My entree was a house special, Hand Rolled Gnocchi with Lobster, Asparagus and Basil. Both courses were exceptional. My dessert was a Sorbet Medley of Coconut and Raspberry Sorbets. Our wine was a hearty Tuscan Moltipulciano. The decor of the place was dark, sparse and warm; it worked. Another welcome addition to the ever-growing South End restaurant scene. It won't be long before it rivals the North End for quantity of restaurants.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"STELLA"
In Boston's picturesque South End, on a street-corner reminiscent of Rome or Paris, sits one of Boston's most charming new Italian restaurants, "Stella." Overlooking a park (Blackstone Park,) and boasting of "the largest outdoor sidewalk cafe in the South End," this restaurant has replaced a former restaurant, "Blackstone-on-the-Park." We walked over there from my place, on this, one of the hottest and most humid end-of-summer nights. We chose the comforts of air-conditioning to the heat and humidity outside. The interior of "Stella" is done in the brightest of whites, and it looks beautiful. The menu is eclectic Italian, with authentic-sounding dishes from all over Italy. For an appetizer, I chose one of my favorites, Bistecca Tartare with Fried Egg, Cornichon and Grilled Focaccia. My entree was Swordfish "Siciliano," with Capers, Raisins, and Summer Asparagus. My dessert was a Classic Cannoli (actually three miniature cannolis.) Our wine was a delicious, light Vernaccia. Everything was prepared and presented expertly, and was absolutely delicious. The South End has become a dining destination for people who are seeking fine Italian cuisine, that is beginning to rival the North End in terms of quality of food, although certainly not in terms of quantity of restaurants. "Stella" is a good enough reason for choosing the South End, if you're looking for a fine Italian meal. Now, all they need to do is to turn the park across the street, into an all-year-round street festival. Wouldn't that be fun?
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"Clink" in the new Liberty Hotel in Boston
Drive down Cambridge Street in Boston toward the river, pass the Mass. General Hospital, and just before you turn off onto Storrow Drive, you'll come to what, for most Bostonians, is a familiar building. It's the Victorian-Gothic, Cathedral-like, 150-year-old Charles Street Jail! This commanding old granite building has been converted into a Deluxe hotel, complete with its original 100-foot central rotunda and cupola built in 1851. The public spaces are linked by historic catwalks, and there are even vestiges of some jail cells that have been preserved, along with the magnificent oversized windows. Most of the hotel guest-rooms are in the 16-story tower, built adjoining the original jail building. "Clink" is the first of two restaurants that has opened, and it's already been discovered by the likes of Mick Jagger, Meg Ryan, Paula Poriizcova, and Peter Wolf, all of whom were there last Saturday night. The decor at "Clink" is minimalist and modern, with some bars and exposed brick from "back in the day," when the likes of Sacco and Vanzetti and The Boston Strangler were "guests" here. The menu is all about small plates (tapas-style) which I usually hate, but these proved to be quite filling. For a snack (appetizer) I had Fried "Mac and Cheese" (done up in the style of arancini balls) which was absolutely delicious. My "small plate" (entree) was Heirloom Tomato Salad with New Bedford Farmer's Cheese, Hydro Mache, and Herb Vinaigrette. We had a platter of Three Artisanal Cheeses for the table. Our dessert, compliments of Ari the manager, who turned out to be a friend from the gym, was the platter of Assorted Gelati and Sorbetti. Our wine was a delicious Veneto Valpolicella. This place will draw the tourists and the natives alike, because it's the only hotel in America to be built into a former jail...and because the food is very good. Ask for Ari!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"GASLIGHT, BRASSERIE DU COIN"
If you love "Balthazar" and "Pastis" in New York, as I do, then you'll surely love our new brasserie du coin (brasserie on the corner,) "Gaslight." The Aquitaine Group, who seem to be determined to turn Boston's South End into The Left Bank, have added another Parisian-style restaurant to their already successful collection. As you step through the door of "Gaslight," you step into a Parisian atmosphere of wooden floors and antique mirrors, a zinc bar, mosaic tiles, and beamed wooden ceilings. But all this would just be window dressing if the food wasn't authentic as well. It is. The menu even looks like it was printed in Paris, with those characteristic brasserie graphics that one finds all over my favorite city in the world. From this menu I chose as my hors d'oeuvre, one of my favorite dishes, Escargots du Bourgogne with Garlic and Parsley. Delicious.  I soaked up the sauce with wonderful hot bread from Iggy's. As an entree, I went with the special, Espadon Roti (Roast Swordfish) au Poivre with Haricots Verts. We shared an excellent side dish of Pommes Puree a la Robuchon.  We selected the Assiette de Fromages ( a Selection of Artisanal Cheeses, mostly French,) and then I ended up with a medley of Three Sorbet as my dessert. Our wine was a light Chardonnay. Although I generally hate Chardonnays (and Merlot,) this one was very good, and a perfect accompaniment to a fish dinner. Si seulement nous pourrions avoir conduit à la maison le long de la seine au lieu de le long de l'avenue du Massachusetts. C'est la vie.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"CODA"
"CODA" is one of those trendy new restaurants in the South End, that builds up its "hard-to-get-in" reputation by not taking reservations, and by not answering its phone. That usually annoys the shit out of me, and I say, "see ya." (I usually say worse than that!) But, I wanted to go to see what they did to one of my favorite old dives, "Tim's Tavern," the home of one of Boston's best burgers! What they did was to turn it into an upscale pub, more in keeping with the highly gentrified South End. It's not your neighborhood bar anymore, gramps! The decor consists of shiny wooden floors, brick walls, artwork, and bare tables (no tablecloths.) Pub-like, but definitely upscale. The menu has been ratcheted up a notch as well. The burger is still there (only now it's $9, not $3,) as are the Chicken Wings. But now, there's also Turkey and Portobello Mushroom Meatloaf served with Red Onion Marmalade and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. (I had that as my entree.) There's also Artichoke and Fontina Ravioli, served with Portobello Mushroom and Asparagus in a Tomato Cream Sauce and Topped with Lemony Greens. (We shared that.) My appetizer was an excellent Traditional Caesar Salad. For dessert, I had Two Chocolate-covered Cannoli. Our wine was a hearty Valpolicella. So, if you're looking for slightly elevated pub fare, then you might consider "CODA." But if you're looking for a great burger, then your best bet is still "Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage" in Harvard Square.
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"GRAN GUSTO AT THE BRICKYARD" (formerly "Tartufo")
Aside from the incredibly delicious food at this out-of-the-way, hidden gem of a new restaurant, the reason for going there, is the Castellano brothers, the owners and chef. They're young, talented, charming, and willing to please every single customer. Giuseppe ("Pepe") the chef, spent as much time at our table as he spent cooking our food in the kitchen! We enjoyed him immensely, and I'm sure that he enjoyed us. GranGusto is one of the best-kept secrets in town. It's in a desolate area of North Cambridge known as The Brickyard. Actually, the Brickyard is a small warehouse-style office complex that it shares with Comcast and an empty space for lease. Not exactly the kind of venue that screams "come eat here; it's charming!" It has its own parking lot, which adds to the forlorn look of the place, but is convenient if you drive there, as we did.  After ringing a buzzer, and being buzzed in (!) you step inside, wander through the hallways, and then, there's the restaurant. The decor is generic Italian trattoria, with Italian pop music playing in the background. Our waiter, the only one there, was an idiot. Things started to pick up when we looked at the menu, which looked promising, filled with red-tablecloth-type Italian "comfort food." After our waiter seated us, he got lost, and Pepe took over. He told us "if you want something, and it's not on the menu, just tell me and I'll make it." So, I did. For an appetizer, I had him make one of my favorites, "Spedini alla Romana." It was delicious. My entree was a wonderful Risotto Asparagi e Gorgonzola. Our wine was the best Sicilian Nero D'Avola that I've ever tasted. For dessert, I had Pepe's special homemade Tiramisu. I usually hate tiramisu. but this one was perfect! He brought us some of his homemade biscotti, and poured us some complimentary glasses of his own iced Limoncello. It tasted just like the "real stuff" back in Amalfi, where the Castellano brothers are from. In fact, they've brought a little bit of the Amalfi Coast to Cambridge, and it's worth the trip just to meet these guys...and to eat their amazing food.
(5-Stars) Back to Top


RESTAURANT-MA REVIEW:"T. W. FOOD"
For the second Saturday in a row, we travelled back to the North Cambridge area, to what's become a small enclave of fine dining, just a short distance from Harvard Square. This time the destination was the highly-acclaimed "T.W. Food." Set on a quaint and pretty block, this new restaurant showcases top quality food and ingredients grown and raised on local farms, as well as carefully chosen ingredients from around the world. Most of the pork, beef, chicken, and lamb, come from Big Ox Farm in Concord, MA, and the herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers come from Grateful Farms in Franklin, MA. International ingredients that are imported are fish, mushrooms, some vegetables, and beef. The 40-year-old Balsamic vinegar comes from Modena, the Epoisses from Burgundy, etc. I knew that the wine must be a bordeaux, in honor of my dining companion, who is a Commanderie du Bordeaux.  With that in mind, we started to make our selections from the very brief, but exciting, menu. As a starter, I had a "Martini" of Maple Cured Nantucket Bay Scallops with Fresh Apple, Pear and Orange Juices. Sweet and delicious. My main course was a Squash Risotto of Ancient Spelt Grain with Wild Oregon Porcini Mushrooms, with Vermont Mascarpone and Saute of Autumn Vegetables. Unusual texture. Not at all like the standard risotto, but delicious nevertheless. Our cheese course consisted of Three Cheeses: Mimolette, Roquefort, and Petit Livarot. Yum, yum. My dessert was a Sugar Spice Pumpkin Pie in Puff Pastry with Housemade Maple Ice Cream. We shared something called "Scotch and Cigars," which consisted of Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake with Vanilla- Tobacco (yes, tobacco!) Creme Anglais and Laphroiag Single Malt Scotch Syrup. Wow! Our wine was a Chateau de Cruzeau, 2003 Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux, which got better and better as the night went on. Service was attentive, by the owner-chef and his sweet wife, but it was very "white bread," compared to last week's overly charming Italian warmth. I know, I shouldn't compare. Both were wonderful in their own separate ways. But if I had to choose one of the two, I'd go with "Grangusto."
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SALVATORE'S"
Is this new restaurant, that's opened in the Fish Pier area near "No Name," "Legal Sea Foods Test Kitchen," and "Anthony's Pier 4," a fine Italian Restaurant? Yes indeed, it certainly is. Is it worth driving 3 miles from my apartment to this area of town to eat there? No, not really, when there are dozens of 5-Star  Italian restaurants within walking distance of my place, in the North End, the South End, and all over the rest of Boston. Salvatore's is a well known name in Lawrence , Massachusetts, where it's known for it's pizzas ("Sal's Pizza") and its pastas. But here, Salvatore has branched out into other areas of Italian cuisine as well. You get that clue as soon as you walk in the door, because the decor is anything but red-checkered-tablecloth. It's sleek and minimalist, with not a mural of Venice in sight! We ordered accordingly. For an appetizer, I had the order of Rice Balls...one Bolognese, one with Mushrooms and Mozzarella, and one with Spinach and Mozzarella, served with a Mammarosa Sauce. We shared one of their trademark Pizzas, a Margharita. Although it was delicious, it wasn't exceptional. My entree was Shrimp and Scallops Fradiavolo, Sauteed in Olive Oil, Garlic, Cherry Tomatoes, Chili Peppers, White Wine, and Tossed with Mafaldine Pasta. Both dishes were delicious. Our wine was a hearty Bartera Mattei from Piedmont. For dessert I had a Tiramisu, which although not as good as the definitive one at Grangusto, was really very good. A word of warning...the portions are HUGE, so order accordingly. All in all a very nice place, but nothing to write home about.
(3 1/2- Stars) Back to Top


RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"CHAU CHOW CITY"
Let's get the negatives out of the way up front. First of all, this is the ugliest restaurant in all of Boston, and the service is so jarringly fast, that the entire meal is on your table before you've even ordered it! Now to everything else. If you know me, you know that I hate Chinese food, and that I stay away from Chinese restaurants because I think of them as filthy places serving questionable food! So why on Earth would I voluntarily go to eat at Chau Chow City? Because it was recommended to me by someone who knows about fine dining around the world, and who knows that that's what I'm used to. The place itself is a three-story set-up for Chinese food, sitting on a corner in Boston's Chinatown. The first two floors showcase fresh seafood, from abalone and conch to sea bass, and the third floor serves dim-sum. Since I don't even have a clue what dim-sum is, we sat downstairs. To my surprise, the restaurant actually appeared to be clean. Is that possible? Another misconception shot down. The menu is filled with hundreds of items in 16 different categories (e.g., seafood; lobster, crab, shrimp; duck; chicken; pork; beef; abalone; squab; etc.) so that even a China-phobe like me was able to find something that sounded safe to order. Our appetizers were Chicken Fingers, Scallion Pancake, and Crab Rangoon, all of which we shared. My entree was one of the house specials, Scallops with Asparagus and Macadamia Nuts. All were absolutely delicious. We washed all of this down with a bottle of decent Pinot Grigio. The waiters whose specialty was speed, spoke little to no English. They brought everything much too quickly, and then whisked everything away as soon as you finished. No long waits between courses here. So what am I saying here? The food was excellent. The waiters were swift. The place was filled with a strange collection of people, with an Asian and an African-American at just about every table...a requirement that wasn't fulfilled at our table! By the way, the bathroom was filthy. My preconception stands!
(3-Stars) Back to Top


RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"CAFE BISTRO at NORDSTROM in THE NATICK COLLECTION "
Before attending this afternoon's Live in High Definition telecast of "Hansel and Gretel" from The Met, my friend Priscilla and I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and have lunch at the adjacent new very-upscale mall (oops, don't call it a "mall,")...The Natick Collection. The high-end shops are extraordinary, and there are branches of two of Boston's finest restaurants there. We opted to go somewhat casual, and chose to eat at the Cafe Bistro at Nordstrom, since there are no other Cafe Bistros or Nordstroms in Boston. It was a good choice, in terms of the food at least. But their seating and ordering policy was ridiculous. On your way in, you pick up a menu, head over to the counter, quickly decide what you want to eat, order it, and pay for it. Then, a waitress ushers you to your table, and eventually serves you your food. Why the hell couldn't she have taken the order as well, and eliminate the hassle at the entrance? The Turkey Sandwiches that we ordered were delicious, served on toasted whole-grain ciabatta bread, with tomato, gruyere cheese, baby greens, citrus cranberry chutney, and garlic aioli. But all we talked about was the stupidity and inefficiency of their ordering policy. Of course, I had to tell the waitress that, as she hovered over us looking for a tip...one that she didn't earn!
(3-Stars) Back to Top

...although the food was excellent!


RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"DA VINCI"
It's always a pleasant surprise, and an event, when a truly elegant restaurant opens in town. "Da Vinci" is that new restaurant. Picture, if you will, a De Luxe Italian restaurant, in one of the more exclusive neighborhoods of New York, Paris, London or Rome. The walls are burnished woods, there are several large frosted chandeliers overhead, marble statuary sit in niches above the open kitchen, and comfortable velvet sofas in the bar area invite drinkers to sit and converse. Everything spells "class" in this very-welcome addition to Boston's upscale Italian market. You're greeted at the inner podium by charming (and very attractive maitress d's) and then ushered to your table. No sooner have you been seated, by a very attentive wait-staff, when menus are produced, suggestions are made, and questions answered. The menu itself is not extensive, and doesn't include the usual Italian dishes (e.g., manicotti, lasagna, spaghetti with marinara sauce, etc.) Instead, the choices are inventive and imaginative. As an appetizer, we both settled on An Edible Basket, Filled with Prosciutto and Arancini, over Baby Arugula and Shaved Parmiggiano. Absolutely delicious, especially the prosciutto! For the Primi course, we both selected Gnocchi Sorrentina. I'm a "gnocchi-freak" as many of you know, and these were some of the best I've had in a long time. Light, and just enough not to fill you up. For our Secondi platter (Entree,) we ordered Pan-Seared Flounder with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Green Olives, Italian Bread Crumbs. and Fresh Mint, Served with Stuffed Zucchini, Roasted Purple Potatoes and finished with Tomato Confit. A masterpiece of a dish! Our dessert was a shared Souffle Al Cioccolato with Vanilla Ice Cream, and Strawberry Slices. Just enough to put us both over the top! To wash all of this down, we had a smooth, and not too strong Pinot Nero from Puglia. All in all, a perfect meal in a perfect setting, which is exactly what we told one of the two owners (a beautiful young Polish woman) when she came to our table to chat. Her partner is a young Italian man. I wished them both luck, but they didn't seem to need it, judging from the fine clientele that packed the place last night.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"LUCIANO'S" in Wrentham
If you're heading down to Gillette Stadium for a Patriots game in upcoming seasons, and you'd like a hearty old-fashioned Italian meal before or after the game, look no further than Luciano's in Wrentham. You can't miss it. Just go past the stadium, ride for three miles, and there it is. It's a big, sprawling villa-like place, right on the highway, with a large parking lot in front. Inside, it's decorated in vintage-Italian-restaurant style. In the lobby, there are photos of "celebrities" with Luciano, the owner. There are many comfortable rooms, with painted murals of scenes from Italian cities. We were seated near a mural of Amalfi, and I was able to look at the hotel where we stayed two years ago! The music is Italian popular songs and very enjoyable. As one might expect in the hinterlands, service was amateurish. The maitress d' kept us waiting 15 minutes in the lobby before seating us in an empty dining room, and our first waiter was a moron. But once we ordered our food, things really picked up. A new waiter was polite and knowledgeable. Portions are huge, but prices are very reasonable.  After a nicely seasoned House Salad, I had Fettucini Alla Bolognese. It was delicious. Our wine was a California Cabernet Sauvignon. For dessert, I had a Tartufo Limoncello (in honor of the Amalfi mural!) Oh yes, there's a Sinatra night in the restaurant's large club room, almost every night, where a Sinatra impersonator sings the Sinatra songbook. You get the picture, right?
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"LA VOILE"
The question must be asked, why would an owner of a successful restaurant in Cannes, France, close up his restaurant there, and move it lock, stock and barrel, complete with wait-staff and chef, from the French Riviera to Newbury Street in Boston? Perhaps the answer is in the cheapening of the American dollar as opposed to the Euro, or maybe there's insanity in his family! In any case, it's here, and we're lucky to have it. As soon as you walk through the door, from Boston's tony shopping street, Newbury Street, you're hit with the nautical theme. Ships and sails are everywhere. (In France, the restaurant was called "La Voile au Vent"..."the sail in the wind.") It's quite beautiful. We're seated quickly, and presented with menus that must be replicas of the menus in Cannes...they're that authentically brasserie or bistro. The emphasis is on seafood, since both Cannes and Boston are cities on the sea. We had an amuse-bouche of Parsnip Soup and Olive Tapinade on Toast. As an hors d'oeuvre, I had Les Petites Ravioles de Romans au Pesto (mini-raviolis with pesto.) My entree was one of my favorites, La "Belle" Sole Meuniere (Dover sole de-boned at the table.) It was delicious, although it cost a fortune! Well worth it. My dessert was the traditional Tarte Tatin. Our wine was a mild, delicious Bordeaux. Stephane Santos, the young owner, came over to our table and introduced himself. I asked him the question, "why?" He answered, "for the adventure and the travel." He then introduced us to his wife, a charming transplanted French Canadian. She didn't seem completely convinced of the wisdom of her husband's decision, but judging by the packed enthusiastic house tonight, he made a wise move! Bon chance to this charming young couple! 
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW:"CAFETERIA"
There's a renaissance of sorts going on on Boston's exclusive "shopping street" Newbury Street, at least when it comes to new restaurants. This is the second new restaurant that I've gone to in as many weeks. (Last week it was "La Voile," a very different kind of place.) "Cafeteria" is a bright and gleaming two-story affair, that sits on one of Newbury Street's busiest corners (Fairfield Street.) From the outside, it looks like a high-class pick-up bar for young people. From the inside, you realize that it IS one... filled with Newbury Street Eurotrash, and annoying fraternity types. The music is very loud. Everything seems to be made out of cork, and it's a quite attractive look. But doesn't cork absorb the sound? Then, why is it so damn loud? If the noise really disturbs you (it didn't,) then ask to be seated upstairs, where it's definitely quieter. By the way, after confirming my reservation time twice, they still had us down for the wrong time. But we came for the food, not for the music, or the decor,  and the menu has lots of worthwhile items from which to choose. From the appetizer section I chose an order of Pan Seared Crab Cakes with Baby Greens and Piquillo Pepper Coulis, which was delicious. From the entree section, I chose one of my favorites, which I haven't had in a long time, Grilled Salmon with Herb Butter, Spinach, Mushrooms, Seared Potato Cake, and Red Wine Vinaigrette. This wasn't very good. The salmon tasted as though it was about to turn. Service was amateurish, and too damn young. The waiters kept bringing the wrong food to the wrong tables. For dessert I wanted an Assortment of Sorbet, but they had run out...at 8:30pm! So,
in summary: pretty place, lousy service, mediocre food, trashy clientele.
(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"SYMPHONY SUSHI"
I have a confession to make. With the possible exception of a few pieces that I might have eaten in Japan many years ago, I've never eaten sushi in my life! Just as I've never sucked on leather, chewed on wood, or eaten grass, I've never felt a pressing need to eat raw fish. However, I walk past this restaurant every day, and it's always packed for lunch and dinner. So, that's when a friend of mine stepped in, and offered to be my sensai into the world of uncooked fish. The place is fairly attractive in a minimalist Japanese (redundant?) style. The menu is huge, filled with every type of raw and cooked fish. Are there that many fish in the sea? We ordered some little pots of tea and some warm sake, which we drank while we checked out the menu, and my friend, Zach, taught me how to use the chopsticks. (Zach is either a terrific teacher, or I'm a quick learner, because I was fairly good at them in 5 minutes!) Both drinks (the tea and the sake) were two of the foulest-tasting liquids that I've ever put into my body voluntarily. With Zach as a guide, I selected the following: Crab Sticks, from the nagiri (I think) section of the menu, and Philadelphia Maki Rolls (Salmon, Cream Cheese, etc.) and Spicy Tuna Maki Rolls as my entrees. I also sampled Zach's eel. Can you believe it? OK, here's the best part. All of the sushi was absolutely delicious, especially the eel, and the Spicy Tuna Rolls. Am I really saying this? In addition, our Chinese (!) waitress was perfectly charming, and very helpful. We ended our meal with a dessert of Ice Cream Covered in Mushi or Mishi. In any case, it's a candy-like casing for the ice cream, and it's very refreshing. I'm looking forward to going back, and trying some other things on the menu.
(4-Stars) Back to Top


RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"THE OCEANAIRE"
Former bank buildings make for beautiful new restaurant spaces, like "Teatro" and "Lucien" in Boston, and "Capitale" in New York. Old-school banks were lavish affairs, with marble floors, murals by famous painters (like the Andrew Wyeths in "Lucien,") and soaring columns leading up to high coffered ceilings. They make for elegant restaurant spaces. (Modern-day banks, on the other hand, look like fast-food joints. There's social commentary in that statement!) Anyway, the new "The Oceanaire," in the former U.S. Trust Bank building, is quite beautiful. But, we came for the fish, and not necessarily, for the hardwood floors, the columns, and the chandeliers...and plenty of fish there is! The menu is so extensive, that there's even blow-fish (fugo) on it. I thought that that was illegal! In any case, every kind of fish is on that menu. It took us a while to study the menu, but I settled on the following: my appetizer was a delicious order of Escargots Bourgogne. For an entree I had Stuffed Nantucket Yellow Tail Flounder, Stuffed with Baby Bay Shrimp, Blue Crab and Brie Cheese. The side dishes are large enough for 2 to 4 people, so we shared Hashed Browns and Creamed Corn. Our wine was a flavorful Pinot Noir from Oregon. My dessert was a nostalgic, fun Root Beer Float! Up to a point, everything about "Oceanaire" was perfect...truly 5-Star. But there were two major gaffes in the otherwise very attentive, helpful service. The major mistakes? When our wine steward brought our wine, he poured two glasses, neglecting to have one of us taste it. Then, when our very good waiter brought us the bill, there were two versions...one $25 more than the other! When I pointed this out to them, they left the table to correct it, and took forever to get back to us. These kinks will be ironed out by a manager who seemed to be on top of things when he chatted with us, and then, it will be a 5-Star restaurant...and a very welcome one to the downtown scene.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BANQ"
I always worry when I hear that a restaurant that I'm going to, features a "French-inspired Asian fusion" menu. First of all, I don't really know what the hell that means. Even though I've eaten at many of these places, the food is prepared differently at each one! "BanQ," in the very chic, trendy South End (Boston's historic-landmark neighborhood of brick Victorian townhouses,), is owned by an Indian and an American, and they searched for quite a while until they hired their chef, Ranveer Brar, from "Claridge's" in New Delhi, by way of Singapore, and London. "BanQ" is architecturally stunning. The beautifully-designed space has a ceiling covered by a Baltic birch wood-slatted canopy, and in the middle of the dining room, there's a huge structure reminiscent of a banyan tree, but which, in reality is the wine cellar! All of the decor is in shades of dark brownish-gray, umber, and emerald. It's all predominantly wood. So much for the decor; now to the food. We shared an amuse-bouche of Coho Salmon Wrapped in Rice Paper on a Sugarcane Stick, with Watercress, tossed in a Bamboo and Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette. My appetizer was Cumin Scented Green Pea Soup with Soy Ginger Monkfish Wontons and Straw Potatoes. My entree was Grilled Cod dusted with Morels, Pommery Banana Flower Relish, Lotus Root Provencal, and a Green Tea Miso Beurre Blanc. The Indian bread served with the meal,  was delicious. For dessert, I had a Chocolate Torte with Liquid Centered Bittersweet Chocolate, Vanilla Ice Cream, and Warm Berry and Ginger Coulis. Our wine was a medium-bodied Sicilian Nero D'Avola. I love this wine! Everything was absolutely perfect...service, preparation and presentation. A beautiful evening, in a truly beautiful restaurant.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"P.F. CHANG'S at the PRU"
Am I the last person in America who had never eaten at a "P.F. Chang's?" Well, we remedied that last night. We walked (in torrential rains) the short 5 minute walk to the Prudential Mall, where we entered the huge two-story "Asian temple" called "P.F. Chang's." The bar, downstairs, was packed and very noisy. Upstairs, at the maitre'd's desk, we gave our name and reservation, and was handed one of those dumb vibrators. So much for reservations. As we waited, about 15 minutes, until our vibrator started to hum, I had time to notice the decor. Aside from some huge Chinese-looking murals on the wall, the decor was generic. It's basically a faux-Asian "Cheesecake Factory." When we were finally seated, we gave our order, screaming it over the noise of the crowd in the place. Service was pretty amateurish. We ordered a bottle of wine, and was brought a glass of wine. We had to ask the waiter to clean up a spill of noodles under the table, that was left over from the last diners, etc. When the food arrived, it was very good, and very filling. My appetizer was Steamed Vegetable Dumplings. We all shared a large order of Spring Rolls. My entree was Sichuan Sea Scallops with Chili and Garlic Sauce. My dessert was some silly new Lemon Torte kind of thing, but we all shared my friend's HUGE "Great Wall of Chocolate" Seven-Layer Chocolate Cake. Three of us couldn't finish it! Our wine was a serviceable California Pinot Noir. All in all, the food was good, the service was not, and there's no need for me to ever return to a "P.F. Chang's" again!
(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CAFE ITALIA" at the foot of Mission Hill in Boston
Mission Hill in Boston is a "neighborhood in transition." Formerly a part of the crime-filled ghetto of Roxbury, the Hill has been discovered by Northeastern University's students,  for its low rents, and attractive large old triple-decker houses. Now, it's inundated with drunken students on the weekends, and the former residents have all been driven out. Not happily, I might add. Hence, it's still a relatively dangerous place. But, new restaurants and bars are springing up there, and one of these is the tiny "Cafe Italia." A friend at the gym has been touting the merits of this tiny eight-table place. "Get there before the whole town discovers it. The mayor has already eaten there several times." So, after the opera broadcast today, we went. It is indeed tiny, but its decor is charming. We were greeted at the door by Luisa, one of the friendliest, young (and cute) waitresses that I've ever met. The menu is filled with basic traditional Italian dishes, including sandwiches. (People kept coming in for their take-out orders, but this didn't disturb us.) From the items on the menu, I chose as my appetizer, Rolled Eggplant , with Fresh Ricotta , Parmesan, and Mozzarella, baked In Tomato Sauce and Cheese Broth in the style of Manicotti. This was one of the most delicious appetizers that I've ever had! Our entree was Penne Puttanesca, and our dessert was Sicilian Cannoli (made on the premises, as is everything!) Our wine was one of my favorites, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. All in all, I'd say this little gem of a restaurant is a wonderful find. Get there before the whole town discovers it, and the very low prices of the menu items get doubled!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"CENTRAL 37"
On the site of what used to be "The Black Rhino" in the financial district, just one block from the Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market tourist mecca, chef-owner Rene Michelena ("La Bettola," "Centro," "The Vault," "Saint," and "Domani,") has created a new restaurant, "Central 37," (named after a colonial tavern that used to be on this spot in the 18th Century.) It's one of two new restaurants that he's opened simultaneously. (The other is "MKT" on the site of what used to be "Aqua" next door.) He's like a hit-and-run chef! The bar/restaurant is huge, filling the three floors (as did "the Black Rhino,") and the soon-to-open roof deck, which should be very popular in the summer. The crowd is typical financial district "booze and bitches"...the secretaries who don't go home after work...at least not to THEIR homes! Throw in some men having a business dinner,  complete with a lap-top on their table during dinner and...well, you've got the picture. The decor is Colonial New England meets urban contemporary chic...lots of dark woods, beamed ceilings, velvet booths, etc. The menu claims to be "New American," but it seems to be very pricey for basic meat and potatoes dishes.  But these dishes are prepared by chef Michelena, so they're probably somewhat different. As an appetizer, I went with the Baked Stuffed Artichoke with Goat Cheese and Sliced Serrano Ham. It was delicious. My entree was Cavatelle in a Spicy Sauce with Veal and Beef Meatballs. Also, quite good. My dessert was three Miniature Baked Banana Milles Feuilles with Coconut Ice Cream. The official opening of this restaurant is next month. It should do very well, especially after that roof deck opens.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT REVIEW:"THE COMMON MAN" (in Windham, New Hampshire)
Just a short 40-minute drive North of Boston, one encounters the first of a unique chain of restaurants called "The Common Man." Unique, in that they are located in charming barns and taverns that duplicate an era and a style of dining long since gone in the big cities. The food is traditional home-style American cooking, served in huge portions, by friendly waitresses who actually appear to love what they're doing. Even the clientele seems to have been hired by central casting to appear to be attractive church-going families from a 1950's sitcom. The family at the next table held hands and said grace before they ate! Guess what? The place was packed, and there was not one baseball cap being worn by any men during dinner. While we were waiting for our table, we went upstairs to the barn loft for some cheese-dip and crackers, and a glass of Common Man Ale. While we were enjoying our beer and crackers, we had an opportunity to look around at all of the antiques that made up the decor. Did I mention that they sold old copies of Life magazine, and old movie posters in the vestibule as we came in? When we were seated, our waitress told us the specials and we ordered our meals. My appetizer was one of the creamiest and most delicious Macaroni and Cheese dishes that I've ever had. My entree was one of my favorites...Meat Loaf with Caramelized Onions and Maple Syrup, with Butternut Squash and Mashed Potatoes. Just perfect, but I couldn't finish it. We shared one order of Cherry and Cranberry Pie with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. As we drove out of the parking lot, we commented on how charming and picturesque everything looked, with several inches of snow on the ground. It all seemed unreal, and a thousand miles from Boston.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE LEFT BANK" at the STONEHEDGE INN in TYNGSBORO, MA
Last night, a friend and I returned to one of my favorite destinations in Massachusetts...The Stonehedge Inn in Tyngsboro. Just a 45-minute drive from Boston is the majestic estate called Stonehedge. It houses a restaurant, a spa, and the second finest wine cellar in America. I've written about this place extensively in the Travel section of this web-site, under the heading "A Weekend in the Country at The Stonehedge Inn," so I won't repeat myself, except to say that when you cross the bridge in Tyngsboro, you're transported to another place...that could be the rolling fields of Northern England, or the horse country of Kentucky or Virginia. I returned, because the elegant restaurant "Silks" at Stonehedge, has been converted into a less formal, less decorative steakhouse called "The Left Bank." I wanted to know why, and to see if it still maintained its high standards as one of the finest culinary experiences in the state. On a tour of The Cave, the incredible wine cellar built in a cave under the resort, the owner's son told us why. He said that it was to attract a larger clientele...one that wouldn't be intimidated by the elegant, formal trappings of "Silks." Let me just say that I'm never intimidated by elegance or formality. Yes, the decor has changed. Gone are the huge chandelier, the velvet banquettes, and the silk curtains. Now, everything is wood, glass, and burgundy leather. It's quite beautiful in a more informal way. If you'd never been to "Silks," you would find the look to be just right for the food being served. As for the food, the menu is less extensive, and less diverse than before, but it's quite good. As an amuse-bouche, we had Rice Croquettes served in a Red Pepper Sauce. For my appetizer, I had Burgundy Snails in Puff Pastry with Asparagus, Lemon Zest, and Red Wine Vinaigrette. My entree was Pan-seared Salmon with Beets, Watercress, Baby Shitake, and Horseradish Crema. Our dessert was the best Apple Strudel (with Creme Anglais and Vanilla Ice Cream) that I've had outside of Vienna. (The pastry chef is Austrian!) Our wine was a fine Pinot Grigio. Everything was excellent. One thing that hasn't changed, thankfully, at this fine establishment, is the service of the wait-staff...drawn from Turkey, France, and India. It's impeccable. One wonders where these young people were trained. They're the best, and so unlike any wait-staff one comes to expect in American restaurants. How sad. Take a drive up to Tyngsboro some weekend, and stay the weekend to enjoy the restaurant AND the pool and spa. You'll thank me.
http://www.stonehedgeinnandspa.com/
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "VLORA"
If you didn't know that it was there, you could easily walk right past this relatively new restaurant in Copley Square. The only thing that marks it at street level, is a sign with the menu on it, and the top of a long flight of stairs down to the small below-street-level outdoor patio. At the bottom of the stairs is a large double set of wooden doors that could have come off of a farm in the Mediterranean somewhere. In fact, that's where the chef owner, Aldo Velaj, came from....specifically, Vlora, Albania. The restaurant is large, designed in a contemporary minimalist style, with a water wall at the entrance, and a large mural of Cinque Terre, next to the large glass-enclosed wine cellar. Chef/owner Velaj, looking young enough to be a good-looking college kid, wanders the room talking up the values of his beloved Mediterranean cuisine...the foods of Albania, Sicily and Greece. The emphasis is on freshness, from everything to the oranges and olives, to the bass, that our waitress said was "caught today and brought in at 4 o'clock!" Speaking of our waitress, she was charming, and extremely knowledgeable. The menu is filled with enticing selections, and it was difficult to choose. But choose we did. My appetizer was the Arancini Siciliani, three delicious rice balls stuffed with goat cheese. My entree was the Vlora Special Potato Gnocchi, with Kalamata Olives, Tomatoes, and Onions. Light as a feather and wonderful. My dessert was Baklava with Vanilla Ice Cream. Our wine was a Sauvignon Blanc from California. Everything about this restaurant is high quality...the preparation and presentation of the food, the excellent service, and the understated but beautiful modern decor. It should have been packed on a Saturday night at 7 - 9pm. It wasn't. Hopefully, the people of Boston will start to hear about this fine place, and support it. It deserves it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"SCAMPO" in the Liberty Hotel
Boston's legendary chef/restaurateur, Lydia Shire ("Biba," "Excelsior," "Pignoli," and Locke-Ober,") has opened her latest dining destination in the already famous (infamous?) celebrity-hangout, The Liberty Hotel (formerly the Charles Street Jail!) Her designers have chosen not to go along with the jailhouse theme as the other restaurant ("Clink") and bar ("Alibi") in the hotel have. No bars, mug-shots, or actual cell floors for our diva Lydia! Instead she's gone with a simple, but elegant modern Italian decor, to compliment her choice of Italian foods. Very Milan. For starters, you can choose from an abundance of freshly baked breads and homemade mozzarellas (a la "Bond 45" in New York.) The breads are extra, although crisp homemade breadsticks and chickpeas in olive oil are complimentary. We went with the Bread Tray and Mozzarella Selection as appetizers. My mozzarella dish was Homemade Mozzarella with Roast Aubergine, Garlic and Basil Oil. For an entree, I had Homemade Spaghetti Bolognese. Our wine was a delicious Sicilian Nero D'Avola. My dessert was Lemon Ice, Brown Sugar Cookie and Limoncello. Most of this was delicious, but there were several negatives. For starters, our waiter was a klutz! He spilled drops of wine on the tablecloth every time he poured. Secondly, my pasta dish sucked! It was much too greasy, and the meat was what is known in cafeterias as "mystery meat." Then, to cap it off, the restaurant was much too noisy. The decibels were up there at the dance-club level. One had to shout across the table to be heard. By 8pm, the place was packed with the kind of clientele one usually sees at our fancy clubs and even fancier pick-up bars. Not exactly what one would expect of a Lydia Shire establishment. But then again, her partner here is Patrick Lyons, who owns just about every fancy club and pick-up bar in town! Oh, well. 
(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"LONGHORN STEAKHOUSE"
if you've got one of these chain steakhouses in your city, then you know exactly what to expect. We went after the movie, and the place was packed because there was a Red Sox game on, and it's only 3 blocks from Fenway Park! The "decor" is faux Western, with saddle-wheel chandeliers, bull and buffalo heads on the walls, and Western-prints hanging everywhere. The food is generic, but pretty good. I had a Bleu Cheese Burger and Mashed Potatoes, and an overindulgent Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. It was all as good as could be expected.
(3-Stars)

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"PERSEPHONE at THE ACHILLES PROJECT"
Just behind South Station (Boston's Penn Station,) and across the bridge, lies one of Boston's new artsy neighborhoods, Fort Point Channel. In the past few years, a new convention center (one of the most beautiful in the country in my opinion,) and expensive condos, have replaced the warehouses along the colorful channel, and lately, bars and art galleries have popped up there as well. All in all its become an interesting destination. One of the latest hot spots is something called "The Achilles Project," which consists of a loft-like, expensive, men's and women's clothing store (similar to what you'ld find in SoHo in New York,) and, sharing the cavernous space,  a restaurant and bar called "Persephone." The owner/chef is Michael Leviton, who cooked at "Le Bernardin" and "Daniel Boulud" in New York, and was the owner/chef of "Lumiere" in Newton. The decor is very interesting with a minimalist, loft-like theme, and tables that slide on tracks, to form any combination needed. Since every new menu must have a gimmick these days, "Persephone" does as well. All of the dishes are divided into Small, Medium and Large categories, and you can order just about everything on the menu in any one of these sizes, which are priced accordingly. For my small dish (appetizer,) I ordered the Sweet Pea Croquettes with Fava Bean Puree and Bacon Aioli.  My medium (entree,) was Seared New Bedford Sea Scallops with Peas a la Francaise and Lemon Sauce. My dessert was a Ginger Ice Cream Soda, with House Made Ginger Ale, Ginger Ice Cream, and Ginger Cookies. Too much ginger...but delicious. Our wine was a Nero D'Avola. Everything about  this place was excellent, from the fine server, to the decor, to the incredible food. I highly recommend it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BENATTI'S"
When it comes to excellent Italian restaurants, Boston has a few hidden gems that many people are not aware of. One of these was "Cafe Italia," which mysteriously closed just a few months after it opened. Another is tucked away up in North Cambridge, and that's "Gran Gusto at The Brickyard." Yet another is the "Trattoria Toscana," so reminiscent of dining in Florence, and yet just a stone's throw from Fenway Park. The fourth is "Benatti's" near Inman Square in Cambridge. It took me three weeks before I could get a Saturday reservation, so that says something about this tiny little place. Something like the Yogi Berra saying, "nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded!" In any case, this place is terrific. Even though it's just a hole in the wall, it has the kind of warm decor that makes you feel welcome. The wait staff goes a long way toward adding to that welcoming effect. The menu is filled with traditional Italian dishes, but filtered through the magical hands of a genius of a chef. From the list of many appetizers, I chose one of my favorite dishes, Risotto e Funghi Porcini (Arborio risotto with porcini mushrooms and parmigiano reggiano, finished with white truffle oil.) We both shared an order of Gnocchi con Pesto. There were so many meat, pasta, and fish entrees from which to chose, that, once again, I settled on one of my favorites, Salmone alla Griglia di Limone con Potatine (Grilled salmon served over potatoes and sauteed leeks, topped with a lemon beurre blanc.) Both dishes were mouth-wateringly delicious, and very filling. But not so filling that there was no room for dessert. There's ALWAYS room for dessert. I chose an Almond Meringue Semifreddo. Yum, yum! Our wine was a fine Pinot Rosso blend. I recommend this restaurant very highly, and I also suggest that you call well in advance, if you're looking for a Saturday reservation. There are only 18 seats in the place. It's well worth the wait.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"BROWN SUGAR CAFE"
If you're from Boston, you'll probably be surprised that I've never been to the Brown Sugar Cafe...a small restaurant in my neighborhood, and arguably the finest Thai restaurant in all of Boston. Ah, but that's the problem. I've always thought of Bangkok City, another restaurant in my neighborhood, as being the best Thai restaurant in Boston. Well, I thought that it was time to settle the argument, so we walked over to Brown Sugar, just two blocks from Fenway Park. The crowd heading to the evening Red Sox game had just left, and we settled into this plain little place, with its small sidewalk cafe, and ugly faux-Thai decor. The menu is much more extensive than the one at Bangkok City, and the description of many of the dishes makes them appear to be more elaborate and more unique. We made our choices.
For our appetizer we shared the Combo Platter, which consisted of Chicken and Beef Satay, Spring Rolls, Vegetarian Rolls, Cozy Shrimp, Tofu and Golden Triangles, Ravioli, and Spareribs. My entree was Chili Salmon...Charcoal Grilled Fresh Salmon Filet with a Special Blend of Thai Herbs, in Hot Chili Oil & Peppers, Topped with Crispy Basil Leaves; very spicy and very delicious! My dessert was a huge platter of Coconut Ice Cream. Our wine was a 45 Cotes Du Rhone. Aside from the non-existent decor, this place is a great Thai restaurant, rivaling my favorite, Bangkok City.
(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"CHURCH"
What used to be a relatively popular neighborhood barbecue joint, is now a slightly more upscale eatery and live-music venue. The place is attractive in a bar/pub sort of  way, with dark woods, and large windows looking out on the street. The courteous waiter gave us our menus, which had some interesting choices on them. As we read the menus, the place started to fill, with young girls going to the bar, and with what appeared to be a bachelorette party behind us. I recognized a few faces from the gym.  For my appetizer, I settled on a Crab and Corn Chowder with Smoked Paprika Oil. (It turned out to be delicious, and very filling.) As my entree, I had Baked Local Cod with Herbed Mustard Breadcrumb Crust, Wilted Spinach, Mashed Potatoes, and Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce. I asked our waiter if it was a filet, because I wanted to make sure that it would be thoroughly boned. He assured me that there would be no bones in the portion. (In fact, my first bite of the fish had a large bone in it!) For dessert I had a Root Beer Float. That was fun. I suppose that if you live on the block, or nearby, this would be a decent place to come to once a week. The menu choices are fine, and the food, in general, is good. Also, the price is not bad, with entrees running around $15 to $20. It appeared that people either start out their night here with a drink, or end up their night here listening to live music. I'll probably never do either one, as I can't see any reason for me to return there.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"VEE VEE"
The thought of eating vegetarian or vegan food always gives me the shudders, and choosing to eat in a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, voluntarily, is like the culinary equivalent of swimming with sharks. So I was apprehensive about eating in the new Jamaica Plain restaurant "Vee Vee," which was getting a lot of buzz about its "health-conscious" cuisine. Let me dispel that notion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The food may be healthy, but it's also as good as it gets. When we entered "Vee Vee" we were pleasantly surprised to see a very attractive, albeit small place, with dark-wood wainscoting and deep orange walls. We were greeted at the door by one of the two owners, who made us feel at home immediately. Her husband was behind the bar. She's the more people-friendly of the two. The menu listed several appetizers and entrees, all of which sounded delicious. From this list, I chose the following: my appetizer was Shrimp and Scallop Cakes with Chipotle Aioli. Delicious! My entree was something new for me, Quinoa Croquettes, with Sweet and Hot Pickled Summer Squash and Minted Yogurt. Even better than the appetizer. My dessert was a fabulous Banana Cream Pie..the best that I've ever had. Our wine was a Nero D'Avola. A perfect compliment to a perfect meal. My friend, Carmine, chose to let our hostess decide his entire meal for him. He loved everything that she brought, which was exotic, beautifully prepared, and beautiful to look at. All in all, a perfect dining experience. I can't recommend it highly enough.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"TOSCANO"
It's been ages since I dined at this famous, old-world Italian landmark on Beacon Hill...long before I started reviewing restaurants on my web-site. Besides, it's under new management. So, I thought that it was time to go back and check it out. If you're familiar with Beacon Hill, you know that the entire hill, with its beautiful townhouses, cobble stoned streets, and gaslights, is a National Landmark. At the foot of the hill on historic Charles Street, is "Toscano." I forgot just how beautiful this place is, with its Italian stone walls, hand carved wooden doors and trim, and hand painted chandeliers. The service, of course, is impeccable. But then we expected nothing less of a restaurant with "Toscano's" reputation. The menu is extensive, and filled with mouth-watering selections, ranging from the most traditional Italian dishes (albeit prepared in unusual ways,) to the most hard-to-find dishes rarely found in American-Italian restaurants. A suggestion. When you're ordering from this large menu, if you're planning on getting a pasta (primi piatti) as well as a meat or fish entree (secondi piatti,) get a half portion of the pasta dish. The portions are large. From this wide variety of antipasti, primi and secondi piati, I chose the following: I skipped the antipasto, and for my pasta dish, I chose the Pappardelle Maremmana (with chopped veal and sausage meat sauce,) and as my entree, I selected the Sogliola Toscana (egg battered Georges Bank lemon sole with potatoes al forno.) For dessert, I had an Apricot Torte with Vanilla Gelato. Everything was incredibly delicious, and beautifully presented. Our wine was a Sangiovese Antinori Santa Cristina. Another suggestion. The large wine list lists mostly wines in the over-$30 category. However, there are a few under $30. Ours was $28, and it was just perfect. Congratulations to the new owner, and especially, to the new chef. They're doing a great job.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "HUNGRY MOTHER"
A new restaurant has been getting a lot of buzz lately. It opened in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge...an area not generally known for having a lot of fine dining establishments. Also, it's being touted as having "contemporary American/French cuisine." What the hell is that? Old New Orleans-style? So, we headed over there to find out. The menu did have some Southern-style dishes...Shrimp and Grits, Cornmeal Catfish, Sauteed Collard Greens, etc. I didn't order any of that stuff! Let me back up a bit to say something about the look of the place. It's attractive in a Cambridge sort of way, with white brick walls and black wood wainscoting. But, back to the food. From the small menu (only four items for each course,) I chose the following: Spicy Pimiento Cheese, with Celery Hearts, and Toasted Pain deMie , "to tide me over." (That's what it read on the menu.) Equinox FarmsMesclun with Goat's Milk Cheese, Radishes, Spiced Almonds, Beets,  and Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette, as my first course. For my main course, I couldn't resist the French-Style Gnocchi with Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, and Basil-Parmigiano Broth. My dessert was a Chocolate Mud Pie, with Rum Cream. Nothing especially contemporary American or French about any of those dishes! OK. Enough negativity. Everything was delicious...prepared well, and presented creatively.
  Our waitress was the best...knowledgeable, courteous, and extremely helpful. One of the owners came over to tell us about the credentials of  the chef (L'Espalier andLumiere ...quite impressive) and the tiny space of the kitchen. We saw it, and it was very tiny. Nevertheless, what that chef whipped up in that tiny kitchen was incredible. I'm impressed! Our wine was a Cabernet Franc fromPellegrini Vineyards, on the North Fork of Long Island. It was delicious and potent! This place is a find. Get over there, before all of Boston discovers it. All of Cambridge has already!

(5-Stars) Back to Top


RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "L'ESPALIER" (in the Mandarin Oriental)

"L'Espalier," arguably Boston's finest restaurant (along with "Aujourd hui," and "Olives,") has vacated its beautiful townhouse setting of many years, and moved a few blocks away, into the ultra-elegant new Mandarin Oriental Hotel. According to owner/chef Frank McClelland, the opportunity to expand, especially into a much larger kitchen was irresistible. Those of us who loved to eat in those charming, small rooms spread out on two floors, reminiscent of eating in an elegant private home, never had to experience the trauma of cooking under impossible conditions in the cramped kitchen. (Chef/owner Thomas Keller did the same thing in New York, when he moved from his popular "French Laundry" in the Napa Valley, into the spacious "Per Se" in the Time Warner Center in New York City.) So, off we went to dine at the new restaurant. How does the new "L'Espalier" look? Well, nothing is the same. You enter from the street, into a small lobby, from where you're ushered into a glass elevator that whisks you up to the second-floor restaurant. Spread out in several rooms, the three dining rooms are spacious and elegant in a contemporary way, but lacking the charm of the original. We chose to dine in The Library, which was the most reminiscent of the old period rooms. You're seated under shelves lined with books with covers all in shades of blue. It's also darker than the other two dining rooms...no windows. From the menu, we chose the 3-course prix fixe dinner ($75 excluding wine, tax and tip.) There were two amuse bouches: the first was a miniature Napoleon of Goat Cheese and Salmon. The second was something involving Onion Custard, Crab, and Apple Shavings. The bread tray came and it was wonderful, as it should be since the bread came from Sel De La Terre, the sister restaurant of L'Espalier, now housed directly next door. My first course was Ben's Wild Mushroom Omelet with Niman Ranch Ham and Morel Foam. My main course was Seared Hawaiian Opah ("it tastes like Ahi Tuna") with Sweet and Sour Peppers and Crab Summer Roll; Chili and Pineapple Foam. My dessert was a Mixed Berry Souffle with Molten Chocolate Center and Pina Colada Ice Cream. Our wine was a delicious Nero D'Avola. Needless to say, the service was impeccable, as was the presentation. The food was every bit as good as it was in the old restaurant. We were able to go into the kitchen (through the magic of my "NicksReviews" hat!) and it's huge and spotlessly clean. Everyone seemed happy working in there. So, when you go, try to forget those rooms in the old townhouse with its uneven floors, and enjoy the truly elegant, spacious, bright and airy ambience of this classy new place. It's still the best restaurant in town...arguably!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW:"NICO"
What's The North End of Boston coming to? In this, America's largest "Little Italy," Nick Varano, owner of the very traditional restaurant "Strega," just down the street, has opened a 2-story establishment, consisting of a bar and a restaurant...with a '70s disco theme! The two venues are dotted with screens showing music videos of the '70s (there were music videos in the '70s???) and there's even a twirling disco ball hanging from the ceiling. But we came for the food, so we headed right for the dining room. From Hanover Street, you enter "Nico" through a glitzy bar, with flashing blue lights, the revolving disco ball, and blaring '70s music. Last night, it was packed to the rafters. It was so distracting, I almost tripped on the top step leading down to the tiny dining room in the basement. (Our waiter did trip on the stairs later on, dropping his tray of food! ) The dining room almost seems to be an afterthought, it's so small. When we sat down, it was empty, but it soon filled up. The maitre d' asked us if we wanted music or the baseball game on the TV screen facing us. I said "music," he put on the game! The other people in the dining room looked like the cast of "The Sopranos," but no real mafiosi would ever eat at "Nico;" it's just too damn noisy! But we came for the food, and that was excellent. For an appetizer, I had Arancini Siciliana (Sicilian Rice-balls) in a Calamari-based Marinara Sauce. Delicious. My entree was a Chilean Sea Bass served with Cherry Tomatoes, in a Garlic, White Wine and Consumme Fish Stock, with Seasonal Vegetables. Also delicious. My dessert was a Coconut Sorbetto. Our wine was a fine Cabernet Sauvignon. So, the food is great, but the ambience is a bummer, unless you're in the food for eating in a loud disco, surrounded with meatheads, their slut wives, and children text-messaging while twirling their spaghetti in the air!
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"BOCELLI"
For all of those 25 years that I lived in Somerville, once a week I would hop in my car and drive down Main Street to have dinner at my favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, Di Pasquale Bros. Many of you who went to school up here joined me for meals there. Remember their delicious White Pizza? The restaurant was a "mama-papa, red-tablecloth," favorite. Now, it's a new place, with a new owner and a new chef. So, of course, I had to go and check it out. From the outside of Bocelli's, to its interior, nothing appears to have changed. It's still a "mama-papa" place, and at 6pm tonight, it was packed to the rafters...all two floors. Most of the crowd consisted of large parties. The crowded place didn't hinder our overworked waitress in any way. She was excellent. From our extensive menu, we selected the following. For appetizers, I ordered Arancini (I'm on a rice-ball roll,) and we shared an order of Mozzarella in Carrozza. My entree was a Filet of Sole, with Spinach and Roasted Potatoes. My dessert was a Coconut Sorbetto in the Coconut Shell. Our wine was a hearty Montepulciano D' Abruzzo. Everything was delicious, and the portions were huge, but reasonably priced. Would I recommend driving all the way out to Somerville (actually Medford) to eat here? No. But it sure as hell is cheaper than going into The North End, to eat the same food for twice the price!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"MARLIAVE"
The Cafe Marliave has been in operation in Boston, in one form or another, since 1885. It's been a French restaurant and then an Italian restaurant, and now, in its present reincarnation, it's a hybrid American restaurant. I say hybrid, because the restaurant, under chef-owner Scott Herritt ("Grotto") now features upstairs and downstairs dining areas, plus a little oyster bar. The levels have different menus and different goals. Downstairs is understated, with an old tin ceiling, hanging lamps, glossy black paint, and a slab of marble for a bar. The food on the menu in this cafe is Italian, French and American comfort food. The more formal upstairs dining room takes food more seriously with dishes presented in multiple parts. I'll explain this later on. There's also a Lounge upstairs, where you can choose from either of the two menus. This is where we chose to eat, because it gave us more options. From the downstairs menu, I selected my appetizer: Meatball Sliders on Toasted Brioche with Homemade Tomato Sauce. Absolutely delicious. I could have stopped there...but I didn't. I chose my entree from the upstairs menu. As I said earlier, main courses upstairs come in sections. The dish called "Scallops," which I ordered, is a plate of Nantucket Bay Coquilles St. Jacques with Mornay Sauce. It also includes a portion of Divers Scallops with Artichokes and Uni Butter. Believe it or not I ate it all. I washed it all down with a delicious Northern California Cabernet from the Rock and Vine Vineyards. No dessert, thanks. I'm stuffed!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BINA OSTERIA & ALIMENTARI"
The brother and sister team who own the beautiful "Lala Rokh" restaurant on Beacon Hill, have opened the most exciting venue in the category of Italian dining and Italian food shopping in Boston, in years. On the one hand there is the very contemporary, high-end Italian eatery "Bina Osteria," with a menu that's so unusual that I almost couldn't find anything that I could eat. (I like mainstream appetizers and entrees.) On the other hand there is the adjoining Italian Alimentari (grocery store.) The items available are those that are usually not found outside of the exclusive North End mama/papa shops, however, the place is so small, with virtually no inventory, don't waste your time shopping there! Back to the Osteria. The decor is so stark, minimalist contemporary Italian, that it cries out for someone with a box of crayolas to color it up with graffiti. From the sparse but alta-cucina menu, I selected the following: my antipasti was an Autumn Salad of Roasted Sunchokes, Mache Salad, Hazelnuts, and White Balsamico. My primi piatti was House Made Ricotta di Upingill, and my secondi piatti (entree) was Slow Poached Atlantic Blue Cod with Artichoke Romesco and Taggiasca Olive Potatoes. My dessert was a Moscato D'Asti Mousse (Orange Sorbet, Honey Cream, and Sumac Meringue.) Our wine was a hearty red Nera D'Avola from the Sicilia IGT by Zabu '07. Everything was so absolutely delicious, that we forgot that the place was so bland in decor, and my wooden seat was as hard as concrete!

(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ERBALUCE"
 Bay Village is one of Boston's gay enclaves. It's a charming and picturesque neighborhood of brownstones,
 just West of the Theater District and South of the restaurant-filled Park Square. It's here, that chef/owner
 Charles Draghi ("Marcuccio's," "Limbo," "33,") has chosen to open the Village's only restaurant, "Erbaluce."
 Named for a grape varietal, the Italian restaurant's goal is to serve superb, sophisticated food at reasonable
 prices in a welcoming environment. There is an enoteca (bar area) at the front of the restaurant...a dark
 space, with a tile floor and flickering candlelight. Proceeding into the dining room, one encounters more
 flickering candlelight, with white walls and linens, and unique art on the walls. The simplicity of the space is
 welcome and peaceful enough to focus all of your attention on the food. Ah, the food. If food can be
 complex and yet simple at the same time, Draghi has accomplished this. As soon as we had a chance to study the menu, and order a bottle of red Nero D'Avola, our attentive waiter brought us a delicious amuse bouche of Sicilian-style Mussels with Saffron, Lemon and Fresh Herbs. My first course was Minestra of Veal Broth and sweet Fennel with Veal Polpettini. As my entree, I selected the Roasted Potato Gnocchi with a Ragu of Wild Boar, Winter Herbs, and Golden Vegetables. We finished with a refreshing Orange Sorbet with Saffron, Honey and Egg White with Waffle Biscotti. Everything was perfect, including the Truffle Candies just before we left. A perfect place to dine on a cold Winter night!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "RISTORANTE DAMIANO"
As I've said in past reviews, Boston's North End has more Italian restaurants than any other neighborhood in America (140 to be exact.) So, if you're going to open a new restaurant here, you'ld better have a gimmick. The "gimmick" at Damiano's is that they serve nothing but piattini (small plates,) which, thankfully, are anything but small. I hate those tapas joints that charge a fortune for dishes the size of my watch! The decor here is very modern, as opposed to the traditional red-checkered-tablecloth look of older Italian restaurants. Think Milan, but very tiny. With the menu in front of us, we had to decide which of the many piattini to order, and how many. What complicates things is that I'm not a sharer...only one of the reasons why I hate Chinese restaurants! I settled on the following: Butternut Squash Risotto with Brown Butter, Sage, and Fresh Mozzarella, and Seared Sea Scallops with a Sweet Grapefruit, Chile Pepper Glaze, and Oyster Mushrooms. We ordered a plate of Penne Gorgonzola, with Sundried Tomatoes, Spinach, Roasted Garlic, and Cream "for the table." Our waiter was a "Guido," who brought everything at different times, so that my friend finished everything before I even started. Nevertheless, all of the food was delicious and filling, and the fine Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coppola vineyards acted like an anti-depressant! We enjoyed everything!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SPORTELLO"
Noted restaurateur Barbara Lynch ("No.9 Park," "The Butcher Shop," "B & G Oysters,") has opened her latest eatery in the up-and-coming trendy Fort Point Channel area, on Congress Street, between the Children's Museum and the new Convention Center. "Sportello" means "counter service" in Italian, but don't be fooled. This is not your neighborhood Subway or Quiznos! Yes, there are only three tables, and all of the diners sit at the counter (a serpentine white Corian counter,) but reservations are required, and the setting is one of casual and informal elegance (an oxymoron?) From a fairly extensive menu of traditional, and not so traditional, Italian dishes, I selected the following: my appetizer was one of my favorites, Tuscan Bean Soup with Garlic Sausage, Fregola, and Escarole. My entree was my favorite pasta, Papardelle with Sauce Bolognese and Fresh Basil. We had an order of Fresh Mozzarella with Black Olive Crostini and Swiss Chard "for the table."  Because the portions were large, I stopped there. Our wine was a smooth Chianti Ruffino. Oh yes, I did have dessert...Chocolate Ginger Cake. Everything was delicious and filling, and the service couldn't have been better. Congratulations Ms. Lynch...you've done it again!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "HOUSE OF BLUES"
The first House of Blues in the Boston area, opened in 1993, in a small house in Harvard Square. It closed ten years later, because it was seen to be too small for all of the business that it brought in. Now, the largest House of Blues in America has opened on Lansdowne Street directly behind Fenway Park. It consists of a restaurant, a souvenir shop, and the largest House of Blues Music Hall in the country. Last night we went to see Tom Jones in the Music Hall, and we ate at the restaurant before the show. The restaurant is not very large, and it's decorated in the same funky style as the one in DisneyWorld and New Orleans. As far I can recall from having dined in the other restaurants, the menu is exactly the same. I loved the meat loaf when I ate at the one in DisneyWorld, so I ordered it here. For an appetizer, we shared two: the Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip, with Roasted Salsa, and Tortilla Chips as well as a Traditional Caesar Salad, with Brick Oven Croutons and Fresh-Shaved Parmesan Cheese. Both were delicious. As I said before, as my entree, I had the Cajun Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy, Mashed Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables. I loved it! For dessert, we both had the White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding with Jack Daniels Whiskey Sauce. Yum, yum! We pulled a few strings (our friend is the bar-back there) and we were walked into the music hall, before the lines were let in. Nice. (See review in Concerts.)
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 
 Best Hotel lounge in Boston

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BOND" in the LANGHAM HOTEL in BOSTON
In a magnificent, ornate 19th Century building, that wouldn't be out of place on the Avenue Foch in Paris, is the grand Langham Hotel. With its marble entryways, bronze doors, Corinthian columns and coffered, gold-leaf ceilings, it's easily one of the most elegant spaces in town. Its premiere restaurant is BOND, with decor that is a worthy backdrop for the N.C. Wyeth original oil paintings that hang in the private Wyeth Lounge, overlooking the dining area. When the menu was presented, we saw that it was divided into three main categories, each of which seemed to have a wide selection of what appeared to be "small plates." In Category 1, I ordered the Basket of Warm French Breads, Maine Butter and Sea Salt, with White Bean Dip Tapenade. From Category 2, I chose the Fricasse of Burgundy Escargots with Exotic Mushroom en Croustade. In Category 3 (entree?) I selected the Truffle- Scented Baked "Mac and Cheese" with Shelbourne Cheddar, Taylor Gouda, and Woodcock Timberdoodle! We shared an order of House Smoked Salmon and Caviar, with White Corn Meal Blinis, Sour Cream and Chives. Our dessert (Category 4?) was a Bond Chocolate Cache..a Sampling of Four Chocolate treasures. All of this was accompanied by a fine Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon. Wow! The one jarring note, and one that warrants the loss of a star, is that the music that greeted us as we entered this elegant room, wasn't music...it was RAP!!! It got better as the evening progressed. Inexcusable.
(4-Stars) Back to Top


 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ASANA"
All of the premiere restaurants, at the Mandarin-Oriental Hotels, at which I've eaten, seem to be almost the same as one another. For instance, their names all start with the letters "AS-" (Asia, get it?) In addition, they all have Continental-Asian fusion cuisine, minimalist decor, and high prices! I'm not complaining, because they're all high quality restaurants, especially "Asana," right here in Boston, just three blocks away from where I live. Right next door are two of our best restaurants, "L'Espalier," and "Sel de la Terre," so the competition was rough from the day the hotel opened. Not to worry. The place is truly excellent. Enter through the ultra-classy lobby of the Mandarin-Oriental Hotel into Asana, with its bamboo floors, walls covered with handicrafted carved limestone blocks, rich exotic woods, and tables carved from ebony and inlaid woods. After we were seated in our comfortable banquette by the window, we ordered the following: my appetizer was a Dill and Citrus Marinated Atlantic Salmon with Creme Fraiche, Baby Potato and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We shared an incredible Creamy Risotto with Spring Vegetables. My entree was an order of Large Sea Scallops cooked Meuniere Style with Potato Puree. My dessert was an assortment of Sorbet. Our wine was a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Everything was cooked to perfection by chef Nicholas Boutin and his staff of sous chefs, and presented beautifully by our waiter and the friendly Manager. Even with our troubling economy, the place was packed. That's a good sign, I hope!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "STEFFI'S ON TREMONT"
Steffanie Sokolowe owns "Steffanie's," which is on Boston's trendiest shopping street, Newbury Street. It caters to Euro-trash and spoiled rich kids from New York. Needless to say, I'm not a big fan. Now, she decided to expand into the South End, with this new restaurant "Steffi's on Tremont." The South End caters to an entirely different clientele, and I give credit to her for not changing her menu. The food was always good in the other place. and it is here as well. (If you know the South End, this restaurant is in the place formerly occupied by The Garden of Eden Cafe.) "Steffanie's" on Newbury Street has a sidewalk cafe that's larger than the inside restaurant. "Steffi's on Tremont" will also have a small sidewalk cafe, but the restaurant inside is much larger. Both places have a bistro look. The place was packed when we arrived at 5:30pm. Unfortunately, there's a no-reservations policy. We were lucky enough to grab one of the last free tables. My "Nicks Reviews" cap may have helped! Service was excellent, and from the extensive menu I chose the following. As an appetizer, I went with the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Crushed Pretzel Crust, Sauteed in Brown Butter, served with Tangy Mustard Aioli and Mixed Greens. From the "Comfort Food Classics" section of the menu, I chose the Meatloaf stuffed with Cheddar Cheese and served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Haricots Verts and Mushroom Gravy. My dessert was a Warm Hot Fudge Brownie served with Vanilla Ice Cream and Creme Anglais. My wine was a Sangiovese Blend from Tuscany. Everything was absolutely delicious, and I can't think of any reason not to give this new South End eatery 5-Stars.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ANTHONY'S PIER 4"
Forty-three years ago, when I moved to Boston, this was one of the first restaurants at which I ate. It was then, as it still is now, a Boston landmark, sitting out all alone on its pier, like a massive lighthouse. Although its light has dimmed somewhat, due to the vast number of restaurants that have come to Boston in the last four decades, it's still a major tourist attraction. It's now surrounded by new condo buildings, hotels, restaurants, and a major museum in its architecturally stunning new building, but it still stands alone out there on its pier overlooking the water. "Anthony's Pier 4" was always popular with Hollywood and Broadway celebrities, as well as other dignitaries from popes to comedians. When you enter its lobby, the walls are adorned with pictures of all of the greats. As we were ushered to our table, I noticed that the dress code has become much more relaxed. Back in the day, if you didn't come in wearing a jacket, they gave you one to wear! I liked it better then. The menu appears to be the same as I remembered (I haven't been there in about 20 years!) As an appetizer, I chose the Escargots Bourguignonne. For my entree, I ordered the Baked Boston Scrod, with Baked Potato and Glover Salad. My dessert was the Hot Baked Indian Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream. (I think that these are the same dishes that I ordered 20 years ago!) Everything was still as good as I remembered it to be. Servers still come around with those wonderful complimentary hot popovers, as well as delicious marinated  mushrooms. Pardon me for using the word "still" five times in this review, but in a restaurant reeking with nostalgia, "still" is an important word...as in, everything is STILL as good as it always was!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "IL CASALE" in BELMONT, MA
Dante de Magistris is one of my favorite chefs. I first became aware of him when he was sous chef at "Don Alfonso's," that magnificent pink villa, high up in the hills overlooking Sorrento in Italy, and arguably the finest restaurant in the world. Then, he and his brothers moved to America, and opened their own place, "dante," in Cambridge's Royal Sonesta Hotel on the banks of the Charles River in Boston. It became one of Boston's best restaurants. Now, he's opened his second restaurant, "Il Casale," in his adopted hometown of Belmont, a wealthy suburb of Boston, and the former home of ex-Governor Mitt Romney. The restaurant is in an abandoned firehouse, just down the block from his father's barbershop. He's decorated it simply with wooden tables, and he's even kept the old firepole. Many of the items on the sophisticated alta-cucina Mediterranean menu come from the menus of "Don Alfonso," and "dante," and others are new and original. It's hard to choose, but choose we did. The appetizers are called "Sfizi," and are what I would call piattini or tapas. We chose four for the two of us: Traditional Meatballs with Tomato Sugo; Arancini of Porcini Risotto, Scarmozza, and Spicy Tomato; Tomato and Garlic Bruschetta; and Buratta- Buttery Mozzarella from Apulia with Sicilian Oregano, and Pistachios. My entree was an order of Gnocchi with Porcini Crema, Asparagus, Peas, and Fava Beans. For dessert, I had the Piccolini Mini Cannoli and Biscotti. Our wine was a lovely Sangiovese from Molise. Everything was absolutely perfect...the decor, the presentation, preparation and taste of the food, and the service. Dante must have recognized me from my visits to his other places, because both he and his brother came over to talk to us, and they comped our desserts, and the powerful dessert cordial that they sent to the table. An absolute must if you're in the Boston area. It's easily worth the 6 mile drive in from town.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PAZZO"
In the very desirable Newbury Street location, formerly occupied by "Croma," the British pizzeria (!!!) we now have another Bill Bradley restaurant. That's not the Bill Bradley of basketball fame, but rather Boston's well-known chef-owner of such notable restaurants as "Bricco," "Carmen," and "Rustic Kitchen." As you walk up trendy Newbury Street, you can see the colorful Italianate umbrellas on "Pazzo's" front patio. They seem to say "come on in." So we did. The interior is just as bright and airy as is the exterior patio.  After being seated at a front table, near an open window overlooking the patio, and presented with the large menu, we began the difficult task of deciding. Some of my favorites were on the menu, so I had a tough time. But choose I did, with the help of our friendly, knowledgeable waitress. For an appetizer I had the Arancini Telephono, a Saffron ball of Risotto, stuffed with Mozzarella. My pasta plate was Potato Gnocchi with Salsa Pomodoro alla Nonna, and Pecorino Toscano. My entree was a wonderful Braciola..a rolled Tuscan-style "meat loaf" with Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins, and Tomato Agro Dolce. I would have said that this was definitely more Sicilian-style than Tuscan-style, and it was delicious. Our wine was a hearty Montepulciano di Abruzzi. For dessert, to cleanse the palette after this very-filling meal, I had a plate of Three Sorbetti with Sigaretto Cookies. Everything was perfect, including the weather! A wonderful addition to the Newbury Street dining scene.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "TEN TABLES in JAMAICA PLAIN"
My friend Mike and I have been trying to get over to this trendy neighborhood restaurant for a couple of years now. In the meantime, owner Krista Kranyk has opened a branch in Cambridge. Mike and I live very busy lives, and we finally got around to dining at the original last night....just in time, before Mike leaves for Honduras where he'll settle down with his lovely bride-to-be Ana. Anyway, getting back to the restaurant.  It was worth the wait. The place is tiny, and it does only have ten tables. The walls are exposed brick, the room is candlelit, and the gleaming steel kitchen is exposed as well. The music is funky blues. In other words, the place is charming. The menu is non-threatening French cuisine. I selected the following: my appetizer was Yellowfin Tuna Meatballs Sicilian Style with Homemade Fazzoletti. The chef sent over an amuse-bouche of Almond and Garlic Soup ("Ajo Blanco.") My entree was Organic Scottish Salmon with Lemon Coulis, Glaceed Peas, Asparagus and Maitake Mushrooms. For dessert I had the Cheese Tray (a Robiola du Piedmont.) Our wine was a
hearty and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. I must say a word about the service. The young waiters were attentive and knew what they were talking about it. Now, that's a rarity! All in all, an excellent choice for a farewell dinner between old friends.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ROWES WHARF SEA GRILLE" (in the Boston Harbor Hotel)
Walk through the grand lobby of the beautiful Boston Harbor Hotel to the rear of the hotel, and there you'll find the new Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, where once the Intrigue Cafe stood. Sparkling white, with other decor in sea colors of blue and green, and with huge windows overlooking its own outdoor cafe, the Grille is just a few feet away from the Marina, with its yachts, tall ships, and dinner boats. One of these yachts tonight was the 50 million dollar yacht of Boston Red Sox owner John Henry and his guests, who were celebrating on the  eve of his wedding! On a beautiful summer night, it might be wonderful eating outside at the cafe, with the ocean virtually at your feet. But this was not a beautiful night, so we chose to eat indoors. Actually, I might have chosen to eat indoors anyway, because there are so many people outside promenading by, to see and be seen, as they stroll along the water. The menu boasts the usual cast of seafood characters. After all, this is New England. From the extensive number of selections, we chose the following: Lobster and Vegetarian Spring Rolls for the table. Then, my appetizer was Scottish Salmon Carpaccio with Caper Parsley Oil and Fennel Sour Cream.
 My entree was my favorite pasta, Parmesan Cheese Tossed Fresh Pappardelle with Spinach, Tomato and Basil Sauce. My dessert was a Milk Chocolate Compote with Fresh Raspberries. Our wine was a hearty, delicious Sangiovese/Chianti Classico blend from Tuscany. An excellent meal in a beautiful setting.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SENSING" (in the Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel)
The setting is very beautiful. The new Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel is situated on one of Boston's waterfront wharves, overlooking Boston Harbor and the dozens of tall ships that are in town this week. The restaurant in the hotel is "Sensing." The owners managed to entice Michelin 3-star chef Guy Martin, to leave Paris, and come to Boston to set up "Sensing's" kitchen, create its menu, and train the staff. He's done an amazing job, and has left the day-to-day operation of the kitchen to Chef de Cuisine Gerard Barbin. The menu features dishes that Martin describes as "contemporary world cuisine inspired by seasonal New England ingredients." There are only four meat dishes and four fish dishes offered as entrees, but they sound as though they've been created by a master chef. From the menu I chose the following: my appetizer was a dish of Six Stilton Cheese Croquettes with Tomato. My entree was an incredibly delicious, and filling, Green Risotto with Fava, Asparagus, and Spinach. The chef sent us an amuse-bouche of Eggplant Caponata. The wine was a French Pinot Noir. My dessert was an Assortment of Sorbets with Financier Cake. We had a dessert amuse-bouche of Petits Fours. Did I mention that we ate outdoors on the patio right on the water? It was a treat on an unusually summery night. Did I also mention that I'm wasted, so please excuse any errors in this review? Thanks.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "HARU Sushi"
The only excuse that I have for not having visited this large and lavish 2-year-old restaurant, just one block from where I live, is that the food served there is sushi, sashimi, and all other forms of Japanese cuisine, and I simply don't understand it or appreciate it enough to enjoy it. But tonight we went, ate an extensive meal, and I must say that I really enjoyed everything. Let me back up a bit to describe the decor, which is opulent, with hardwood and granite floors, a pond, and a very grand sushi bar. The abundant floral arrangements were typically Japanese and quite beautiful. As for food,  I chose unadventurously, but wisely for me, and it all was delightful. My appetizer was King Crab Dumplings with Spicy Soy Vinaigrette, We shared an order of Kiss of Fire Roll (Super White Tuna, Salmon, Jalapeno Peppers and Wasabi Tobika, Wrapped around Crunchy Tuna and more Jalapenos.) My entree was Grilled Spicy Garlic Shrimp, Marinated in Hot Chili Sauce. Our wine was a fine Cabernet Sauvignon from California. None of that Sake shit for me! Everything was excellent. Presentation was especially beautiful, as was our charming waitress!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "DAVIO'S at PATRIOT PLACE"
If you live in Boston, there's no need for you to drive down to Foxboro, to visit Patriot Place at Gillette Stadium just to eat at Davio's. Just go to the original, right there in town. But if you're in the neighborhood for a Patriot's game, Davio's is giving the hometown favorite, Leonardo's, a run for its money. We stopped in after a movie, and of course we had one of their most famous dishes, Gnocchi with Medley Tomatoes and Basil Pesto Sauce, some of the best available anywhere. I paired that with a delicious Caesar Salad. Yum, yum.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "TAVERN ON THE WATER"
We didn't go to this popular summertime nightspot expecting fine dining (although the food turned out to be very good.) The popularity of the place is due to its location and its view. It's located on Pier 6 on the water in Charlestown (in the former Navy Yard,) next to the U.S.S. Constitution ("Old Ironsides,") with a perfect view of the Boston skyline across the harbor.  The Tavern has a pub-like decor; nothing fancy, but pretty. If it's a beautiful Summer night, as it was tonight, eat outside on the upper deck. After settling in at a table with a great view, we started to study the extensive menu, and actually had a hard time choosing between all of the terrific selections. From these selections I chose Blackened Sea Scallops with "lip-searing" Spices and Horseradish Marmalade as my Appetizer, and Crab Asparagus, George's Bank Haddock with Hand-cut Fries and Dressed Greens as my entree. Both were perfectly prepared, and the Haddock was boned correctly. They were delicious. Our wine was a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. OK, now here are the negatives. Service is amateurish, and there's no bread or dessert! Otherwise, it's a perfect dining experience on a warm Summer night. 

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "TOWNSEND'S" in Hyde Park, MA
Don't believe everything that you read on a restaurant's web-site! Townsend's advertised itself as an "authentic Irish pub," with a pub menu. The menu included such authentic dishes as Shepherd's Pie, Bangers, and Fish & Chips. First of all, if you live in, or are visiting Boston, there's no reason to drive the 7 miles out to Hyde Park for an authentic Irish pub. The town is loaded with them. So, we have no one to blame but ourselves. What we found when we got to Townsend's, was a very pretty, woody, generic restaurant. Not a dart-board in sight! It got worse. When we were handed the menu, it bore no resemblance to the on-line menu. There were NO pub dishes on it. None! The robot-like waitress said that the menu had just changed, and so "many items were lost." I ended up with a bizarre Caesar Salad (the damn thing was grilled and it tasted vaguely medicinal!) My entree was a Cheeseburger and Fries!!! Our dessert was a Kiwi and Pineapple Sorbet. The only thing that salvaged this weird and unexpected meal, was a fine Cabernet out of the Josh Vineyard in Sonoma. Good luck to the chef and the two owners. They'll need it.

(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "POST 390"
I love a good meatloaf, and I love checking out a new restaurant. So, I thought that I'd kill two birds with one stone, by going to the new restaurant in town, "Post 390," which is reputed to have an incredible meatloaf on its menu. The restaurant is on the first two floors of the former grand, old Back Bay Post Office building, which is now the new Clarendon condo building. Yet another condo. Don't they know that we're still in a recession? Anyway, the restaurant is quite grand, even though it's billed as An American Tavern. The menu does reflect the tavern concept with lots of comfort food as well as fancier dishes. The place was packed tonight, so I would suggest reservations. We had them. From the menu, I selected the following: as an appetizer, I had the Crab & Spinach Dip with Pita Chips. My entree, of course, was Marian's Meatloaf (who the hell is Marian?) with Veal, Beef, and Pork, as well as Ham and Fontina Cheese and Marsala Sauce. It came with Mashed Bliss Potatoes and Green Beans.  Our wine was a fine Nero D'Avola from Sicily. For a restaurant that's only two weeks old, everything was surprisingly good...service, presentation, decor, and the food itself. Warning: the portions are huge, so pace yourself and order accordingly.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CITY TABLE" (at the Lenox Hotel)
"Azure" in the Lenox Hotel, has joined the ever-growing list of 5-star restaurants in Boston ("Aujourd hui," "Banc," "Great Bay," etc.)  that have recently closed due to the Recession. Two have reopened as scaled-down less expensive bistro-type eateries. One of these is "City Table" which has replaced "Azure." If I remember correctly, "Azure" had the elegant look of an upscale hotel restaurant. I had heard that "City Table" was going to look more like a fun cafe/bistro... all bright colors and casual decor. Not so at all. It's still quite elegant in a darker, sleeker way. The floors are wood, and the walls are chocolate brown, bordered by etched mirrors. The lighting is mostly by candlelight with some modern chandeliers. Thankfully, the chef is still the same. Dennis Wilson is still running the show in the kitchen, and he's doing a fine job. Although I had the choice of lots of interesting meat and fish dishes on the menu, I chose to go "the carb route."  For my appetizer, I chose the Whipped Feta with Roasted Peppers and Grilled Pita. My entree was a Farm Vegetable Risotto The portions were so filling, we had to forego dessert.  My wine was a Cabernet, Annabella, from the Napa Valley. I have to say that "City Table" was so good that I don't miss "Azure." Change is not always bad!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BON SAVOR"
Jamaica Plain is one of Boston's most ethnically-diverse neighborhoods, and the residential area around Jamaica Pond is J.P. at its most beautiful. Centre Street, the commercial main street of J.P. is dotted with many fine eating establishments, the latest of which is "Bon Savor." Marco Suarez, the former chef at Eastern Standard has opened this tiny 27-seat restaurant, and already its reputation has spread as one of the hottest new places in town. Better make a reservation if you intend to dine there. Brick on the outside, and brick on the inside, it's not much in the decor department. It's all about the food. The chef has decided to go with a menu that features dishes from France and dishes from South America, with little or no attempt to fuse the two distinct cuisines. Let me tell you what I had, and then I have to say something more about this charming, albeit noisy, little gem. My appetizer was a Roasted Blue Hubbord Squash Soup with Roasted Pepitas, Cinnamon, and Creme Fraiche. Delicious! My entree was Coquillettes au Trois Fromages with Sun-Dried Tomatoes...a meal in itself. My dessert was a Tres-Leches Cake with Spiced Rum Cream Sauce. Our wine was a strong, but unusually smooth Napa Valley Cab. Now, I don't usually tell people to do this, but I suggest that you go to the restroom at some point in your meal. It will take you through the closet-sized kitchen, where you'll have to excuse yourself to the hardworking chef and sous-chef, down a treacherous set of stairs, where you'll bump your head if you're over 4 feet tall, through what appears to be the only storage space in the restaurant. to the clean, utilitarian rest room. I recommend this trip, because it'll make you appreciate even more, the miracle that the chefs are performing in this unbelievably small kitchen. In fact, the entire staff of this new restaurant is wonderful...helpful, charming, and efficient. (One of them ran across the street to his car, to get me a copy of the menu!) The best of luck to all of you.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "MARKET" (in the "W" Hotel in Boston)
Jean-Georges Vongerichten may be the finest chef/restaurateur in the world. Born in the Alsace region of France, he came to America 25 years ago, and opened his first restaurant, the Lafayette, in Boston. It went on to become one of Boston's finest restaurants. Unfortunately, it closed several years ago. Since then, he has opened great restaurants all over the world...the Michelin 3-star "Jean-Georges" in New York, the "Vong" in London and Hong Kong, the "Prime" in Vegas, etc. Now, he's come back home to where he started, by opening "Market" in the new tower-of-glass "W" Hotel, in the theater district of Boston. One enters "Market" either from a set of dark, huge doors at the corner of the hotel, or through the hotel's not-so-grand lobby. Simple in its modernistic style, the restaurant's decor still shines with a contemporary elegance. The menu features the dishes that one expects to find in a Jean-Georges establishment. From this menu I chose: Seared Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower and Capers in Raisin Emulsion. We shared one of Jean-Georges' signature dishes, Fois Gras Brulee with Spice Fig on a Toasted Brioche. I can't believe that I loved it because I hate liver!
 My entree was Slowly Cooked Salmon on Mashed Potatoes, with Brussel Sprouts and Truffle Vinaigrette. Our dessert was a Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with Concord Grape Sorbet and Dates. We had a delicious Banfi from Tuscany as our wine. I can't think of a thing that wasn't perfect about this dining experience from the good company, the beautiful decor, the exceptional service, and the excellent food. To make the night even more perfect, we went on to join friends at Symphony Hall to hear an amazing concert. In all, a perfect 5-star evening.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "LUCCA BACK BAY"
First there was "Ambrosia;" then, there was "Blackfin;" then "Sasso;" and now, this beautiful, albeit jinxed, space is occupied by "Lucca Back Bay," a branch of the 5-star "Lucca" in the North End. As with its predecessors, "Lucca Back Bay" is elegant in decor (deep chocolate predominates) with a wonderful menu. The cuisine is alta cucina...high gourmet Italian. Why the excellent restaurants that were here in this space before, failed, I'll never know. I gave them all 5-stars. No, don't be a wise-ass, that's not the reason that they failed! In any case, from the extensive menu of unusual dishes (no red-sauce pasta here,) I chose the following: my appetizer was the Sweet and Spicy Wild Boar Meatballs with Cippolini Onions and Rosemary. My entree was my favorite pasta, Pappardelle Bolognese with a Meat Sauce of Beef, Pork and Veal with Parmagiano Reggiano. I don't think that I've had this much meat in one meal in months! My dessert was Tre Sorbetti (Coconut, Lemon and Orange.) Our wine was a fruity Sicilian Nero D'Avola. Everything was perfect...decor, service, preparation and presentation of the food. The owners made a big fuss over us. It must have been my "NicksReviews" cap! We walked the three blocks back to my place, stuffed, and asking each other, "will this one fail as well?" I certainly hope not. Right now, it's the best Italian restaurant in my neighborhood.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAUTRANT MA-REVIEW: "BISTRO DU MIDI"
Whenever the sous chef of New York's finest restaurant, Le Bernardin, leaves that place, and comes up to Boston to open his own restaurant, the "dining community" must pay attention. In the exclusive space at The Heritage at The Four Seasons, formerly occupied by Lydia Shire's "Excelsior," and her "Biba" before that, Robert Sisca has opened his Provencal restaurant, "Bistro Du Midi," featuring the foods of the Provence region of France. So, expecting to find lots of seafood dishes, prepared with various herbs and spices, on the menu, we headed over to The Four Seasons, across from The Public Garden. The glass elevator up to the second floor is still there, taking the diners past the exposed large wine cellar. The decor is an elegant, upscale interpretation of a rustic Provencal tavern, with exposed beams, cream-colored walls, and elaborate comfortable sofas.  After being seated, we were given the menus, and I wasn't surprised to see the many seafood choices available. Of course, there were other dishes on the menu as well. From all of these, I chose the following: Marinated Bay Scallops with Tomato and Capers Marmalade as my appetizer. My entree was Roasted Monkfish, with Artichokes, Shallots, Thyme and Capers. We shared orders of Mashed Potatoes and Olive Oil, and Pomme Frites with Chilies. My dessert was an incredible Chocolate Souffle. Our wine was an excellent Cotes du Provence, Reserve. Everything was just perfect...decor, service, preparation and presentation of the food, and the location of the restaurant itself. This new dining destination can take its place proudly with the ten other new restaurants that have just opened in Boston.

(5-Stars) Back to Top


RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "WOODWARD AT THE AMES"
In the 18th Century, the Ames family homestead sat on what is currently the intersection of Court, State, and Washington Streets. The family ran their tavern , the "Woodward," in their home. Flash forward to the present, when the Morgan Group bought the ornate office tower, The Ames Building on this same site, gutted it, and turned it into the elegant boutique hotel, "The Ames." The restaurant in the hotel is called "The Woodward." All the names are the same; history repeats itself. From the minute that you enter the classy lobby, you can see the hand of a master designer at work. The designer of both the lobby and the restaurant is David Rockwell, one of the best. "The Woodward," although called by the owners, an "urban tavern, " looks nothing like any tavern that I've been in! The walls are a bright milky white; the room is filled with Victorian curios; and the seating is mostly high-gloss Windsor chairs and black leather banquettes. It's very beautiful, as is the staff that works there. As a matter of fact, from the minute that you walk in the door, you're confronted with the most beautiful women servers (maitresses d', waitresses, and coat checkers) in town! Owner Seth Greenberg ("Mistral",) and his chef, Mark Goldberg, have created an exciting, eclectic menu. From this, I chose as my appetizer, House-cured Salmon, with Herbed Mascarpone, Watercress and Shaved Red Onion. My entree was Ricotta Gnocchi with Fall Vegetables, Tomato Broth and Shaved Parmesan. My dessert was a Warm Chocolate Brownie, with Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Hot Fudge Sauce!!! Our wine was a hearty Tuscan Chianti Classico, Banfi. Everything was as good as it gets. If you do go, eat upstairs. It's quieter, although nowhere in "The Woodward" is it really quiet, except in the beautiful bathrooms. What's with those sinks?
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: SYMPHONY 8 /SIANSA 8 /PROHIBITED

I've held off writing a review of this new three-in-one venue, across the street from where I live, because I know the owners (a couple from Dublin,) and I wanted to give them enough time to shakedown the new place, and decide who they were aiming for as a clientele...the beer crowd from Northeastern, or the wine crowd from Symphony Hall and my building, Church Park. After having eaten there at least 5 or 6 times, and attended the Grand Opening party (free drinks and food,) I'm not sure that they still know! When you enter, you enter a lounge area with an HD TV screen. From there, past the maitre d's podium, you may proceed either into the rear dining room, Symphony 8 (with a bar and more HD TV screens,) into the pub Siansa 8 (which looks like a pub, with more HD TV screens,) or through a clever sliding bookcase into the "speakeasy," Prohibited, downstairs. OK, here are the plusses: the food is good, ranging from duck, and short ribs, to shepherd's pie, fish and chips, mac and cheese, burgers and sandwiches. The pizza sucks! The drinks are fine, and there's even a fairly long list of decent, reasonably priced wines. The speakeasy might be fun at 1am, after you've had 10 drinks, the music is blasting, and you're dancing with someone who looks like she'd like to devour you. Here are the minuses: the rear dining room looks like a VFW hall, where seats and tables have been brought in for the night, and the lights dimmed. It's very dreary and cold. It needs plants, rugs, and paintings on the wall. The service is very slow, and the wait-staff consists of students from Northeastern who wouldn't know a creme brulee from a popsicle! You sometimes have to tell them that you don't have any silverware, or that you would like a glass of water. No bread is served with dinner. Having said all that, convenience for me is the biggest plus. It's nice to be able to walk across the street from where you live, get a decent meal (with wine) for under $20, and bump into one of your gym friends or neighbors. Of course, depending on the person that you bump into, that could also be a negative. Anyway, I'm glad that it's there.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: TRINA'S STARLITE LOUNGE
If it looks like a dive, it smells like a dive, and the food tastes like a dive, then it's a dive! There was so much chatter about this new restaurant in Somerville, that I had to head over there to see what all of the fuss was about.  This building used to house the old Abbey Lounge, which featured loud punk and cheap beer. It still pretty much looks the same, and it still features cheap beer and comfort food, like griddled hot dogs and Angus burgers. So, it's a dive...but the food is good, and now there are some slightly upscale items on the menu as well as the hot dogs and burgers and beer. I had a couple of those. My appetizer was a delicious Crab Cake sitting on a bed of Arugula with Old Bay Aioli. My appetizer was a huge portion of Honey-mustard-glazed Salmon with House-made Spaetzle and Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Our wine was a hearty Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon. But even though we were able to eat some fine food here, we were pushing it, because the emphasis is on comfort food in what is basically a neighborhood dive. So, should you drive over to Somerville to eat here? Not really, when there are neighborhood dives just like it, all over Boston (like Symphony 8, right behind my building.) But if you live in Somerville, this dive is a nice addition to your neighborhood.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "COPPA ENOTECA"

This tiny new restaurant in the South End doesn't take reservations, so in order to get in, one must either go a half hour before they open (at 5:30pm) and stand out in the cold of a Boston Winter night, or go later in the evening, and wait an hour or two for a table. This policy sucks! Is the food worth it? In a word, no. Let me go back a bit. The restaurant is owned by chef/owners Ken Oringer ("Clio," and "KO Prime,") and Jamie Bissonette ("Toro.") So they're the ones responsible for this absurd customer-unfriendly policy. The unfriendliness continues at the door, where we were confronted with one of the rudest, most up-tight maitress d's in recent memory. Once we were finally ushered in, we entered a narrow, cramped restaurant with tables down one side, a bar down the other, and an unwalkable space in between. There are only 40 seats including those at the bar. Because we had to sit at the bar a few minutes to wait for our table (in spite of the fact that we were the first ones in,) we ordered a drink. Guess what? They don't have a liquor license yet, so we had to start drinking our bottle of wine. Once we got seated, practically in the laps of the people on either side of us, we ordered the dishes for our table. The dishes, we were told, were small tapas sized, so we ordered as follows: I had Arancini (traditional risotto balls with fontina cheese,) and Meatballs Alforno (wood roasted with tomato sauce,) as my appetizer. We ordered Prosciutto di Parma and Buratta (fresh mozzarella with sea salt, olives and raisins) for the table.  My entree was Lasagna alla Bolognese (homemade baked pasta with butternut squash puree, bechamel, and meat ragu.) It was actually too much food, and it was all extremely well-made and delicious. One other caveat. The dishes come out as they're ready, so there's no special order as to what comes out when. Another annoying policy! Our wine was a fine Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. They had no desserts last night!!! (We went to Fancesca's for our desserts!) So, is it all worth it? No. Go to any of the 140 restaurants in the North End where they take reservations, and you'll get just as good a meal with none of the hassle. Change your policy guys. Your customers deserve better.
(2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW:"THE CAPITAL GRILLE"
Those of you who know me well, know that I'm not a big steak eater. In fact, my red meat of choice is either a good meat-loaf plate, or a cheeseburger! But, every once in a while, I decide to eat at one of Boston's many steak houses, and tonight was one of those nights. I hadn't been to Capital Grille in about 15 years, and it was about time that I checked it out again...and reviewed it. It's on Newbury Street, just a short walk from my place. One distinct improvement is that diners don't have to walk through a smoke-filled bar area to get to their table anymore. Thank God those days are over. The place is very beautiful, in a British men's club kind of way. We were seated promptly and given our menus. After studying the many excellent choices of meat and seafood, I settled on the following: my appetizer was Cold-smoked Maine Salmon with Capers, Dill Mayonnaise and Onion Pita Chips. My entree was Filet Oscar...Sliced Filet Mignon with Asparagus Spears, Lump Crabmeat, and Housemade Bearnaise Sauce. We shared a large order of Creamed Spinach. My dessert was Cheesecake with Fresh Berries and Strawberry Sauce. My wine was a hearty Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon. Everything was delicious, and the service, preparation and presentation of the food, and the woody decor, was still as high-quality as I remembered it being. It's nice to see that some good things never change. Bravo!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "VINNY'S SUPERETTE" (in Somerville)
"Vinny's" or "Vinny's Superette," as it is sometimes called, is one of those carefully guarded secrets that few hear about, and even fewer dine there. Just a few miles north of Boston, in the town of Somerville (where I lived for 26 years,) there's an Italian "deli" called "Vinny's" on a quiet corner on Broadway. Proceed through the deli portion of the place, into the back room, and you enter one of the best, albeit tiniest, Sicilian restaurants in the area. It's a true mama-papa place, with a menu filled with the kind of dishes your grandmother used to make ...if your grandmother was Sicilian, as was mine! It's almost a requirement to start with the overabundant Antipasto, where one gets to select from the Antipasti Table, filled with everything imaginable. I did! We then shared a delicious portion of Gnocchi. All portions are huge at Vinny's, so share. Then, as my entree, I ordered Pork Sausage (made in house,) Sauteed with Sweet Bell Peppers in Garlic Marinara Sauce.  I rarely get to eat sausage, and this, one of Vinny's specialties, was a wonderful treat. My dessert was a Coconut Sorbet (which I love.) I passed on the cannoli and the tartufo! Did I mention the delicious bread which I used, to sop up everything on my sausage plate, as well as to eat with my artichoke heart, arancini, stuffed pepper and meatball,  in my antipasto? One of the things that I judge a restaurant by, is the freshness and abundance of its bread. (Another is its bathrooms!) With all of this, I drank a delicious House "Chianti." A lovely dining experience, filled with the nostalgia of my grandmother's kitchen, back home in Brooklyn!!!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "THE FRIENDLY TOAST" (in Cambridge)

What a fun place this new eatery in Kendall Square  in Cambridge is. It's a large, funky '50s-style diner, with a menu that includes huge portions of just about everything, served by friendly and polite, (but weird looking,) waiters, and filled with the junk of many closets, attics, and garages. The only drawback is that it doesn't take reservations, so you might have to wait some time to be seated (we waited 25 minutes,) but the time goes by quickly, and the food is worth the wait. I got caught up in the diner atmosphere and ordered a huge portion of pancakes with butter and syrup, and chocolate milk. Yum, yum! The place was packed even in the midst of the torrential rains of a Nor'easter! It's a gold mine!!!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE YARD HOUSE" (in Dedham)
There's no need to go all the way out to Dedham to eat at this very attractive new restaurant, especially if you have a Cheesecake Factory near you. That's basically what it is. It's large and very beautiful, and if you substitute beer (there are endless varieties on tap) for cheesecake, well you get the picture. We shared a Lobster, Crab and Artichoke Dip as an appetizer, and I had Four Sliders with Cheese,  Bearnaise Sauce, Fries and Pickle as my entree. The service was fine....local college students who seem to enjoy their work!
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "MENTON"
If you're looking for "class and quality," in a restaurant that, in less than a month, has become one of the finest (if not the finest) in town, dine at "Menton." Chef/Owner Barbara Lynch has made this the flagship of her already impressive fleet of restaurants ("No.9 Park," "The Butcher Shop," "B&G Oysters, Ltd.," "Sportello," and "Drink.") After more than a year of research, in which she searched for the perfect wine glass, just the right china, unusual silverware, and the perfect staff, she opened "Menton" in Fort Point Channel, (just across the water behind South Station) in the building already housing "Sportello" and "Drink." She's proclaimed it her flagship, and "the most expensive and high quality" restaurant in town. When you enter the room, after climbing an outdoor staircase made of tiny lights, you enter a room of subdued elegance. The colors are muted grays, blacks and whites, with fine rugs, abstract paintings in the same colors on the walls, and 16 large tables surrounded by large black Windsor chairs. The service was impeccable, from the minute you check your coat, until the minute that you retrieve it after dinner. There are only two dinners available on the menu...a 4-course prix fixe dinner for $95, and a 7-course prix fixe dinner for $145! We chose the 4-course dinner. (There are three choices available for each course.) We started with an amuse-bouche of Watercress Veloute with Fois Gras. My appetizer was a Late Winter Vegetable Salad with Banyuls Vinegar, Yogurt, and Shallots. My fish course was Line Caught Maine Halibut with Periwinkles, Grapefruit, and Sea Urchin. My entree was a Duet of Beef with Parsley Root, Pearl Onions, and Sauce Perigueux. My dessert was a Palet d'Or with Honey, Pine Nuts, and Milk Glace. Our wine was an absolutely delicious 2007 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d'Avola from Sicily. There was a dessert amuse-bouche of Flavored Meringue Balls. All of the portions were very small, but trust me, you'll be stuffed when you leave the table. (The in-house baked rolls are delicious and you'll eat lots of them!) We seemed to be getting special treatment, or maybe that's the way they treat all of their customers. In any case, at the end of the meal, we were given a tour of their large, spotless, state-of-the-art kitchen, filled with a dozen chefs and sous chefs, scurrying about, each with a mission. A wonderful way to end a wonderful night of elegant gourmet dining. Jackets are required!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BANGKOK CITY"

Just down the block from where I live, is the finest Thai restaurant in Boston, "Bangkok City," and because I hadn't been there for awhile, I thought that it was a good time for a revisit. When you enter this restaurant, you leave the hectic, noisy street life of busy Mass. Ave., and enter the serene world of "Bangkok City." We were greeted at the door by the owner, who acted as though I eat there every week! This friendly service is one of the trademarks of this restaurant. We were ushered to one of the traditional, low tables in the center of the room, where you're required to remove your shoes before you climb the three steps, sit down at the table, where your legs extend into a pit below the table. It sounds awful, but it's very comfortable. If you're not familiar with the extensive menu, take your time reading it, because it's loaded with wonderful surprises. We ordered our appetizers, and ate these while we studied the many entrees. Our appetizers, which we shared, were Thai Dumplings, Shrimp Tempura and Noodle Rolls, each dish complete with appropriate sauces. They were all delicious, and we could have stopped there because they were so filling, but we didn't. My entree was Scallops with Garlic, Bell Peppers, Onions, and Chili. It was spicy and wonderful! We shared a large bowl of Brown Rice. My dessert was Coconut Ice Cream. There was enough food left over for a large doggy bag! I'm so glad that we revisited this old friend.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "LEGAL SEA FOODS C BAR" (in Dedham)

This is supposed to be a new concept for the famous Legal Sea Foods chain, similar to their test kitchen restaurants. With the exception of about 10 items from their classic menu, all of the items are supposed to be new. With the exception of a category where you create your own grilled dishes, by choosing the fish, and selecting your own sides and sauces, everything looked pretty much the same to me. Oh yeah, there's also a Small Plates section. In any case, let me back up. The new place at the Legacy Place Mall in Dedham, is very beautiful, with lots of wood and brass and a huge open kitchen. Service was excellent, and the waitresses were all cute, competent, and friendly. So what did I get? An order of Grilled Atlantic Salmon (no oil spill to worry about,) with Fries, and Roasted Asparagus. Hardly revolutionary! Anyway, it was delicious and the portion was large enough to fill me up.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

When "Rustic Kitchen" was in Fanueil Hall, it was owned by chef/owner Todd English. Then it moved to Porter Square under new management. Now, it's moved to the Radisson Hotel on Stuart Street, just out of Park Square, under an even newer management. The place is beautiful, but that's all that's good about it! After being seated, I noticed that the table was so sticky, that I had to yank to get the bread plate off of it. When I called this to the waitresses attention, her response was, "I know, isn't that terrible?" I should have left then, but I was curious. I ordered a Veal Meatloaf, with Parmesan Potatoes, and Green Beans. When it came to the table, it looked beautifully constructed, like a pillar of food. When I took the first bite, it tasted more like a pillar of salt! I ate the whole thing because I was hungry, realizing that it was enough to send a normal person's blood pressure up to 250/150. My suggestion, if you're in the neighborhood, and you're craving a good meal, walk around the corner to Maggiano's!!!
(1-Star)
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ANCHOVIES"

I think that we had dinner at a gay bar/restaurant last night...at least one that would become a gay bar after dinner time! When we walked into this 25-year-old funky classic joint on Columbus Avenue, my friend noticed that the bartender and the entire waitstaff (including one manly lesbian) were gay. I only mention this to prevent any homophobe from inadvertently stumbling into a dining experience where they might feel uncomfortable. Did we? Absolutely not. Aside from a table of five gay men sitting opposite us, the rest of the clientele was quite diverse. In any case, that aside, the place is small, charmingly decorated in funky memorabilia, and lined on both sides with large comfortable wooden booths. Aside from the tiny-ness of the restaurant, everything else is large about this place, especially the portions! My advice to you is SHARE. We didn't know this, so we didn't share. Big mistake. My Antipasto was the size that my grandmother used to put at the table, filled with rolls of prosciutto, mortadella and salami, chunks of provolone, artichoke hearts, and every kind of pepper. I ate about a half of it! My entree was a huge portion of Potato Gnocchi with a Putanesca Sauce. Absolutely delicious, but again, I ate about half of it. There were a lot of doggie bags to take home...and because the prices are so low (about $10 for appetizers, and $15 for entrees,) if you share dishes, you can have a relatively inexpensive (even for college students) meal. My wine was a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon. We walked out of there happy, but in a food coma. We walked back to my building, for a dessert of Banana and Chocolate Sorbetti at "Bon, Bon" downstairs. It sort of settled that enormous meal...somewhat!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "GIACOMO'S IN THE SOUTH END"

The two branches of this classic Boston Italian restaurant are considered by many to be Boston's best Italian restaurants. I hadn't been to either in years, so I thought that it was time to check out the closest one to me, the one in The South End, to see if it still had what it takes. We walked over on this beautiful summery night, to the same block where we ate last week, at "Anchovies." In fact, "Giacomo's" is literally right next door. As soon as you walk in, the look of "Giacomo's" is distinctly different than its next door neighbor. There's valet parking for one, so its different even before you walk in. Where "Anchovies" is funky, "Giacomo's" is more up-scale and classic in its decor. The walls, painted in elegant Italian tones and covered with paintings of Pompeian or Sicilian mosaics make for a classy, albeit small, environment. There's a large open-kitchen in the rear, and a bar, where you can eat and watch the chefs prepare the food. The menu lists just about everything you would want from a fine Italian restaurant. No pizza here! From this large selection, I chose Homemade Maine Crab Cakes with Roasted Corn Tartar Sauce, and Arugula and Tomatoes. In spite of all of the many seafood dishes on this menu, I chose as my entree, my favorite pasta, papardella, in a dish of Squid Ink Papardella with tiny Cubes of Swordfish and Tuna Putanesca. It was absolutely delicious. My wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon and my dessert was an Orange Sorbetti (in the orange.) The price is almost as reasonable as "Anchovies" next door, but be warned...THEY DON'T TAKE CREDIT CARDS. Also, the portions are large, but not as large as "Anchovies." So is it as good as it always was. Absolutely. Is it Boston's best Italian restaurant? In this city of excellent Italian restaurants, if it's not  the best, then it's certainly up there with the best. Go, and decide for yourself.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

   

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BERGAMOT"
On the border of Somerville and Cambridge, in the space formerly occupied by "EVOO," is the hot new restaurant in town, "Bergamot," (named after an orange-like Mediterranean fruit.) Drive into the free parking lot adjacent to the restaurant, and walk into the large open space of this tastefully designed place (muted grays and olive greens.) The owner is also the maitre d', so there is personalized service from the minute you walk in. The couple in front of us were walk-ins, and they were told that the restaurant was sold out all evening, as it has been since it opened three months ago. So make reservations. We were seated at a corner table near the window. There are too many tables in the room, cramped together, but that's a minor criticism, and you'll forget it once you start eating. We were brought our menus by a waiter who actually knew details of the items on the menu, and he made some useful suggestions, especially in the wine department. We started off with an amuse-bouche of Trout Rillettes. My appetizer was a Berlotti Bean Soup with Acini Di Pepe, Zucchini, Green Beans, Pancetta, and Basil Puree. Like a delicious, light minestrone. My entree was Pan-Seared Scallops, with Peas, Cippolini Onions, Bacon, and Cumin-Carrot Sauce. Our dessert was a Guajillo Chili Chocolate Pave, with Taza Chocolate, Milk Stout Ice Cream, Apricot Caramel, and Pretzel Sticks. It tasted like the fantastic french chocolates that my mother and aunts used to make when I was young. Wonderful memories.  Hi Mom! The wine that I ordered was a Coteaux du Languedoc 'Bronzinelle'/Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigne. Perfect. We had a final amuse-bouche of Plum Plat d'Fruit, and after being presented with a copy of the menu, by the owner himself, we stumbled into the hot Summer-like night, stuffed, but happy. This one's a must!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SAM'S IN LOUIS OF BOSTON"

If you know Boston, you surely know that Boston's most elegant men's shop has been Louis of Boston. Housed in a stately Fifth Avenue-like mansion on Newbery Street for decades, it's been the go-to place for the most exclusive, and expensive, mens' wear in town. I can only assume that the recession and high rents caused it to close, and move from its prime location in town, and to build, what appears to be a retail-outlet warehouse on the Waterfront at Fort Point Channel. Louis has always housed a small restaurant in its building, and now that restaurant is Sam's. Noted restaurateur and chef Esti Parsons ("Rialto" and "Radius,") is in charge of this small room on the second floor. Unfortunately, the room itself looks like a glorified cafeteria or diner, albeit one with a deck, and spectacular views of Boston Harbor. In spite of the cheap-looking decor, there are many plusses about Sam's...the view, the food, and the service. The menu has many fine selections. From these we chose Steak Tartare with Chopped Egg, Red Onions, Capers, and Toasted Baguette Slices, as our appetizer. My entree was Halibut Provencal with Whole Fingerling Potatoes, and Roasted Corn, Onions, and Peppers. Our dessert was a Brownie Sundae. The wine was a hearty Sicilian Nero D'Avola. Everything was delicious. So, there you have it. Will diners/customers drive or taxi out to Fort Point Channel to eat at Sam's or shop at this scaled-down, stripped-bare Louis? Only time will tell. As I said to the owner last night, "Good luck!"
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PAIRINGS"
A beautiful new restaurant has moved into the large space at The Park Plaza Hotel, vacated by Todd English's South American steak-house, "Bonfire," which recently closed. Whereas "Bonfire" was dark and Spanish-looking, "Pairings" is bright, designed in metallic tones of deep gray, copper, and silver, with white vaulted ceilings, and polished dark wood trim and tables. There are some of the Roman bricks left over from "Bonfire" that fit in beautifully. It has a very contemporary look to it, as does its menu, featuring "contemporary American cuisine," (whatever that is!) At least, that's what its chef, Stuart Race (out of New Zealand, Australia, and the Westin Hotel system,) calls it. The gimmick on the menu is that a specific wine is recommended for each dish. Of course, we chose to ignore these suggestions. As an appetizer, I chose the Red-Wine-Cured Salmon, with Creamy Polenta and Pickled Relish. My entree was a Lobster Pappardelle with Mixed Wild Mushrooms, Dijon Mustard Sauce, and Dill. Hardly "contemporary American cuisine!" Everything was so filling and delicious, that there was hardly room for the refreshing dessert of Mango, Lime, and Raspberry Sorbet in Small Waffle Cones. Our wine was a robust Sonoma Valley "Jack London" Cabernet Sauvignon. An excellent addition to all of the restaurants in and around this lovely hotel.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "VAPIANO'S"

How disappointing. It's just a fancy cafeteria!!!
I had never heard of this chain of pasta/pizza restaurants, although they have 70 locations around the world, from Dallas to Saudi Arabia! In its ads, it claims to be "a fast food restaurant with leanings toward casual; like a European fast food restaurant." If you're familiar with Boston, "Vapiano's" replaces the old "Bennigan's" in the Transportation Building in the Theater District. It's a very attractive huge space, with a large outdoor patio/cafe. It could have been very popular with the theater crowd, although there are no meat or fish entrees on the menu...only appetizers, soups and salads, pizza and pastas. However, what could kill this place, is that it's set up like a fancy cafeteria. There are no waiters; it's serve yourself. Customers use a "chip card" to personally order their food or drinks from the bar or from the individual fresh pizza, pasta or salad stations, cafeteria style. That's not my style. We were constantly juggling our wine glasses and plates of food, as we made our way from counter to counter to get our damn food. It was fun watching our food being made as we stood there waiting for it, and the food was very good. We shared a fine Antipasto for an appetizer, and I had Pappardelle Bolognese for my "entree." Both were delicious. My wine was a Sicilian Nero D'Avola. So, if you don't mind eating your dinner in a cafeteria, the food is very good and it's relatively cheap ($60 for two people; no dessert or tip.) I can't even imagine what it'll be like when the place is crowded and there are lines in front of every station. Ugh!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

Mainly for the good food.

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "TOWNE STOVE AND SPIRITS"
Two of Boston's biggest star restaurateurs, Lydia Shire and Jasper White, have created an exciting new two-story restaurant, whittled out of the East corner of the Hynes Convention Center on Boylston Street. Shire ("Biba," "Scampo," and the newly restored "Locke-Ober,") and White ("Jasper's,""Maison Robert," and "Summer Shack,") aren't doing the actual cooking. Her husband, Mario Capone, is the chef. No expense was spared in creating this huge (13,000 square feet!) culinary palace. It has three dining areas, three bars, a large glass-enclosed patio/cafe in the Pru's courtyard, a two-story kitchen, complete with Peking duck oven, an Indian tandoor, and a large wood-fired rotisserie. The menu aims at combining local favorites ( an extensive section devoted to all kinds of  lobster dishes,) with international dishes from Italy and France, to Turkey and Russia! So, let's step in and look around. We were shown around the various dining areas, including the beautiful second-story salon. The decor is contemporary but elaborate, with plush red leather banquettes, carved wood ceilings, and chandeliers in the shape of glass riverboat paddle wheels! After touring the place, we settled in at the dining room overlooking the massive kitchen, and began to study the menu. My God, it's like an upscale Cheesecake Factory for serious diners, aiming to please Boston's sophisticated gourmets, to conventioneers in the building that it shares with the Convention Center. There's something for everyone, including pizza and a $24 burger!!! From this high end menu I chose the following: my appetizer was a very filling order of Fettuccine Alfredo. My entree was Potato Wrapped Cod with Homemade Tartar and Chowder Sauce. My dessert was Lemon Sherbet and a very tart Lemon Tart. Our wine was a Montepulciano Tuscan Pinot Noir. Everything was delicious. By the time we left, the place was mobbed with all of the beautiful people, trying to be a part of the opening weekend of this beautiful new addition to Boston's restaurant scene...and only three blocks from my apartment.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "RUBIN'S KOSHER DELICATESSEN"

Oh my God! I just had the most delicious deli meal that I've had outside of New York City. In fact, it was as good as anything you would get in New York. In the Jewish enclave of Brookline (a 10 minute drive from my apartment,) sits a small, family-run, very old deli and restaurant. It's just a few blocks North of Brookline's more well-known deli, Zaftig's. Although Zaftig's gets all of the tourists, Rubin's has the better food. From a 14 page menu (!) I chose a mouth-watering Romanian Pastrami Sandwich on a Bulkie Roll, Potato Knishes, and a Pickle. I drank a Dr. Brown's Cream Soda. My dessert was a Slice of Cherry Cheesecake (non-dairy, because Rubin's is kosher.) Everything was just perfect.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "NOCHE"
When Chris Douglass decided to close down his "Icarus," one of Boston's top 10 restaurants, and open two excellent restaurants, "Tavola" and "Ashmont Grill," in the Dorchester neighborhood where he lives, the space in the South End was vacant for awhile, until this June, when "Noche" opened there. This beautiful new place...all chocolate, warm cream colors and modern decor, with geometric designs of large circles all over...had to live up to the reputation of the space's former tenant, "Icarus." Does it? Well it's certainly as beautiful...brighter, and more contemporary looking (less likely to impress your elderly grandmother.) If our meal tonight was any indication, the food is as good as I remember it being at "Icarus." As my appetizer, I chose the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with White Wine Dijon Sauce. My entree was a Citrus Chilean Sea Bass with Bean Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms. The chef, Reginald Collier, really knows what he's doing. Everything was delicious. Our wine was a California Pinot Noir. My dessert was a refreshing Sorbet (Mango-Lime Tequila & Strawberry Coconut Rum.)  Now, all that "Noche" needs to have people stop comparing it to its predecessor, are a few years to develop its own reputation. That shouldn't be too hard. It's a winner!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "STODDARD'S FINE FOOD & ALE"
This historic building in the Ladder District of Downtown Crossing was built in 1868, and is filled with many interesting architectural details collected from other historic sites in the area, such as cast-iron mezzanines and railings from the original Filene's Building, a foot rail at the bar is an original trolley track from the oldest subway station in America, the magnificent oak and mahogany bar itself, standing 15 feet high and 30 feet long, was imported from West Yorkshire in the UK, the lamp-posts are recreations of Boston's street lamps of 1900, etc. The building was once a corset store, when Temple Place was once the Newbury Street of Boston, focusing on female fashion (see the displays in the front of the restaurant,) and a shop that sold fine cutlery. The current six owners, two of whom also own "Ivy" across the street, have set out to create a classic American place, "where people meet to eat, drink, and actually carry on conversation."  So look around before you settle down and start to read your menu. From this menu, I chose the following: my appetizer was Lobster Scallion Hush Puppies with Spicy Avocado Aioli. My entree was Beer Batter Crusted Cod with Roasted Potatoes and Creamed Corn. (It came with Little Neck Clams and House Made Linguica, but I eliminated those. Too much going on!) My dessert was a Lemon Souffle with Fresh Blueberries and Creme Fraiche. My wine was a hearty Cab from Sonoma. Everything was delicious, and the service was excellent. Go to eat, or just to sample many of their ales, lagers, and fine cask-conditioned ales. There's even a Sunday Cask Ale Brunch! A fine addition to the block already housing "Mantra" and "Ivy."
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA REVIEW: "THE GALLOWS"

If the meal that I had last night, at Boston's hottest new restaurant, didn't clog my arteries, then nothing will! Listen to this. For the Hors D'oeuvres course, I had two huge old-fashioned Corn Dogs and Tartar Sauce. Our shared appetizer was the specialty of the place, the French Canadian dish Poutine, which consists of Large Crispy French Fries and Cheese Curds, Smothered in Gravy (three of us shared this, and there was some left over!) My entree was Potato Dumplings with Fava Beans, Peas, Mushrooms, Asparagus and Pecorino. For dessert, I had another specialty of the house, Banana Fluffernutter Brulee, which is exactly what it sounds like...Bananas, Covered with Pureed Peanut Butter and Chocolate, and Topped with Bruleed Marshmallow. Yikes! How did we survive? All of this was accompanied by a delicious Sicilian Nero D'Avola. Let me back up a bit. "The Gallows" is on Washington Street (in the spot formerly occupied by "Sage",) across from the Cathedral. I had heard that the decor was very woody and rustic, with some chicken wire as chandeliers! Well, it is woody but it's hardly rustic. I would call it "rustic elegant," an oxymoron, but accurate. One wall is sculptured wood, another is exposed brick. The ceiling and floors are wood, and the chandeliers are indeed, chicken wire. But it's all quite fancy. Service is incredibly good, with an older, more experienced wait-staff. There was one noticeable exception. When my friend's Boston Baked Scrod appeared to be undercooked, our waitress took it back, apologized, and said that she would "take care of us." That's usually a euphemism for "I'll take it off the bill." However, when the check came, it was still on the bill. Not one to let mistakes go uncorrected, I called her attention to this, and after more apologies, she took it to the manager, who removed it from the check, reducing our bill to $140, (including wine, tax, and tip,) for three people. All's well that ends well!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

\

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PETIT ROBERT CENTRAL"
My favorite French chef in Boston, is my friend Pierre Jamet at "Anthony's Pier 4," but the most famous French chef in Boston for decades has been Jacky Robert, who cooked at his family's restaurant, "Maison Robert" for years, and then opened his own restaurants, the two "Petit Robert Bistros" and "Jacky's Table". Now he has just opened the flagship of his fleet, "Petit Robert Central" in Downtown Crossing, in the spot formerly occupied by "Vinalia."  It's anything but "petit!" Enter up the escalator, which used to be bathed in blue neon when it was "Vinalia." The look of the place then was very South Beach...bright white and blue neon. Now, it's much more subdued...lots of dark woods and white tiles. It's quite elegant, although the dress is casual. The menu is, as expected, thoroughly French, and quite extensive. After being seated, we looked it over, and I settled on the following: Escargots Bourguignon as an appetizer. Lots of garlic, olive oil and basil, and a delicious freshly baked French baguette to soak it all up! My entree was Crab and Potato Cake, Sauce Tartare, and Curried Steamed Rice. We shared an order of Potato Croquettes! Wine was a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Our dessert was a White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream, which we shared. We both were in carb overload!!! Everything was delicious, and the wait-staff were friendly and knowledgeable. My only complaint was that the wonderful background French music wasn't loud enough to be heard in the dining area because of the many people speaking while dining. I guess that's a good thing if you're Monsieur Robert. People equal money, n'est pas???
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PHO BASIL"
Many of my neighbors have been telling me about "this wonderful new Vietnamese/Thai place just down the block," so I thought that I'd give it a try. First, of course, I grabbed a menu the other day, to make sure that there were things on it that I could eat. It's an extensive menu with items with strange names, like Chao Tom, Com Suon, and Thit Lui, but it's all fully annotated with English descriptions of everything, and I found lots of things that at least sounded like I might enjoy them. So we headed over there for an early dinner. It's a very small place, with too many tables, and virtually no decor. No problem. I've been to many beautiful places where the food was garbage! I chose the following from this stuffed menu. My appetizer was Roti'n Curry Dip, (a crispy scallion pancake served with curry sauce for dipping.) My entree was Pad Gra Pow, (a Thai-style stir-fried basil with ground beef, pepper and onion in garlic chili sauce.) Yikes! That was a hot mother!!! But, the menu said that it would be. I love spicy foods. The hotter the better. We washed everything down with a  very good Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm happy to say that everything was delicious, huge portions,...and very inexpensive. If I'm in the mood for Vietnamese food, I might go back, but my favorite Thai restaurant in Boston, is still Bangkok City, just a few doors down.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

(Lost a star because of tacky decor. Plastic flowers in shadow boxes on the wall is not decor!)

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "DEUXAVE"
A few years ago, a friend of mine and I had dinner at a new restaurant at this same location. It was called "Panificio Back Bay," and everything about it was just plain horrible...one of the worst restaurants that I've ever eaten in. (See my review of that place.)  When I heard that a new luxury up-scale place was opening at that same spot, I was curious to check it out. So, that same friend of mine and I went over last night for dinner. The new place is beautiful, truly luxurious, from the formal front patio with what appeared to be indoor furniture, to the inviting front bar area, to the large, elegant dining room, in dark romantic colors, built around a large stone fireplace, which was ablaze last night, on this chilly Boston evening. And, they have valet parking, because there's no place to park on this desirable corner location, where two of Boston's major avenues (hence the title "Deuxave,"...two avenues) come together. We were seated in a cozy corner location next to the fireplace (when you go, get a table that has a view of the whole room.) But, let's get to the food. From a small, but excellent, menu, I chose the following: my appetizer was Five Vegetables of Summer Salad consisting of a Potato Basket filled with Equinox Farms Baby Greens, surrounded by Heirloom Peppers, Cucumbers, Corn, English Peas, Petit Tomato, and Burrata. My entree was Seared Local Divers Scallops with Potato Rosti, Dill Creme, Leak and Parsley Fondue, Lardons, Roasted Tomato Confit, Shaved Black Truffles, Gingered Cumin Carrot Emulsion, and Lemon-Vodka Syrup. Our wine was a Sangiovese from Napa. At this point, we were so stuffed. that we shared a Plate of Sorbets! Everything was first-rate about this new restaurant...classy enough to erase the memories of the terrible place that preceded it. RIP.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ISLAND CREEK OYSTER BAR"

An excellent new restaurant has opened at the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square, in the spot vacated by Michael Schlow's failed "Great Bay." From the minute you walk in the door, you know that this is a class operation...from the subdued and restful grays of the stunning decor, to the friendly and knowledgeable owner, maitre d' and wait-staff (all from "Eastern Standard" in the same hotel,) to the perfect presentation and taste of the food itself. Last night the restaurant was packed...the bar was full, and every table was taken. As we walked to our table in the rear, I studied the cedar wooden slats covering the windows and walls, the entire rear wall made out of oyster shells, and the beautiful upside-down photo-mural of oyster cages in Duxbury. All in shades of gray. We were presented with the little throwaway paper menus as soon as we were seated. Now let me say up front, I hate oysters! But, don't worry oyster-haters. In addition to many types of oyster dishes (no Oysters Rockefeller, however,) there are three lobster plates, four meat dishes and lots of other fish selections prepared in every way imaginable. As my appetizer, I chose the Smoked Salmon Carpaccio with Liberty Apples, Tangerine Slices, Toasted Fennel, and Roe. We shared an amuse bouche of Crab Salad and Chips. My entree was the Hand Shucked Day Boat Scallops with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Meyer Lemon, and Neil Van Sloan Squash. We shared three desserts, but I ate most of the delicious Bread Pudding a la mode, and Pumpkin Cheesecake with Blueberries. The third dessert was a nostalgic Chocolate Pudding! Everything was delicious. (No wine for me, because I'm on medications, in preparation for my upcoming surgery. However, I did have a sip of the very tasty Chablis!) While the Snookies and Situations paraded outside in near nudity,  in very cold weather on this Halloween Eve, we ate in the lap of luxury. It was wonderful.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "DEUXAVE" (A Second Visit!)
You may know that I rarely go back to a restaurant twice. There are just too many new places to visit. But I wanted to see if "Deuxave" is really as excellent as I thought it was last month on my first visit there (see that review.) It is. It's still as beautiful; the staff is still excellent, and the food is as good as it gets. This time around I thought that I'd try, as an appetizer, a dish consisting of a food that I hate...beets. Let's see if they can make me like them. It was Roasted Baby Heirloom Beets, with Laura Chenel's Chevre, 8 Brix Verjus, Spiced Walnuts, Pear and Mache. I loved it!!! My entree was House-made Tagliatelle "Bolognaise" (notice the French spelling for this French version of the Italian dish) with Veal, Beef, Pancetta, and Foie Gras, with Creamy Tomato Sauce, Aromatic Vegetables, Mozzarella and Basil. Whew! The pastry chef at "Deuxave" likes to deconstruct his desserts, so I had a deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake (and my friend had a deconstructed Tiramisu!) All of the ingredients are there on the plate arranged in a beautiful pattern, but looking nothing like the dessert you know. They were delicious. Our wine was a hearty Umbrian Sangiovese. I recommend this restaurant highly, and sometimes things are just as good "the second time around."

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BACK BAY SOCIAL CLUB"
Excellent new restaurants have been sprouting up all over my neighborhood, within blocks of my place..."Towne," "Deuxave," etc. When I heard that a new restaurant had opened in the place vacated by "Vinny T's," I assumed that it was going to be an Italian restaurant like the one before it. A little research later, I found that it was going to be more upscale American ( cod, leg of lamb, chicken, salmon, braised ribs, etc.) In fact, there was only one Italian entree on the menu, and that's the one that I ended up ordering, because it's my favorite. I started with a light appetizer, Mixed Baby Greens with Radishes, Herbs, Balsamic Reduction, and Olive Oil. My entree was my favorite, Pappardelle Bolognese. I know, I know. I just had Tagliatelle Bolognais last week at "Deuxave," but I told you, it's my favorite. I truly love it. Who knows when I'll be able to eat it again, right? Not exactly hospital food! Just a word about the decor. It has a very pub look about it, with faux leather banquettes, black and white checkered floors, and faux tin ceilings. Lots of faux, but the food is good...not great, but good.....AND it's cheap! 
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PESCATORE SEAFOOD" (in Somerville)
Every neighborhood in every city has its "hidden gem,"...a restaurant that only the local folks know about, and nobody else talks about or even knows that it's there. We were lucky enough to find one last night. The phrase "hidden treasure" is too often used to describe places that really aren't but in the case of Pescatore Seafood, it's absolutely accurate. Tucked away behind its own storefront kitchen and pizza take-out place, is this lovely 15-table restaurant, with attractive decor, and an equally attractive and knowledgeable staff of waiters and waitresses. The menu is just filled with tempting dishes and it was truly hard to choose what to get. Many of them sound as if they came right out of your grandmother's kitchen, if your grandmother was Italian and wore nothing but black! By the way, the place was packed, with a very attractive clean-looking clientele. From all of the wonderful appetizers, I chose Arancini, (two baseball-sized rounds of arborio rice, fried to a crispy coating, and stuffed with a pocket of beef, red sauce, and mozzarella at its center.) Just like my grandmother's! Luigi and Anna Buonopane own the place and Anna, who is from Gaeta in Italy, makes all of her own pasta in-house. My friend got the Fusilli Amalfi...a huge platter of fusilli, covered with shrimp, scallops and lobster. I ordered the Fettucini Bolognese...fresh fettucini covered with veal, beef and pork. Absolutely delicious and huge portions. We were just too full to order any dessert, which were all homemade, even the tiramisu, gelati, and cannoli. I understand that in the summer, Anna even makes her own sorbet. Get over there (it's just out of Ball Square near Broadway) before everyone else discovers this place, and the prices skyrocket.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "AL-WADI" (in West Roxbury)

Those of you who love Lebanese food need not trek down to "Byblos" in Norwood anymore. Just head over to the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, to "Al-Wadi," and you'll get some of the best Lebanese food that you'd ever want to eat outside of the Lebanese kitchen in your friend's mother's home! The decor is the usual non-descript Middle Eastern faux-exotica, tasteless and glitzy with colored lights over the long bar, flashing and changing color every minute, and chandeliers that have to be seen to be believed. But the food is delicious, if you like Lebanese food, and there's lots of it. I had three Mezza (appetizers,) as my meal, and I could only eat half of it. They consisted of Rekatat (a blend of three cheeses, wrapped in phyllo dough and lightly fried,) Kibbeh Krass (beef dumplings stuffed with minced beef, a hint of onions and pine nuts, served with a chilled yogurt and garlic sauce,) and Batata Harra (spicy sauteed cubes of potatoes in a fresh coriander mix.) Everything was delicious. Service, however, left much to be desired. It was so slow and inefficient, that my friend had to wait so long for his Mixed Grill ("the grill is too crowded!") that I had already finished my meal (he gave me permission to start) when his arrived. Inexcusable. Get a bigger grill for God's sake! The owners are charming and friendly, and the wait-staff is very polite...but the damn grill is too small!!!
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "STREGA WATERFRONT"

First of all, let me say what's good about this new restaurant. It's a beautiful place, although it's out on Fan Pier, with the new Institute of Contemporary Art, the new Louis of Boston, and Anthony's Pier 4...making it nearly impossible to get to on public transportation. The service is excellent, although there's a "Mob"-like quality about the owner and the people at the front podium. The food is excellent. From the extensive menu of traditional and not-so-traditional Italian dishes, I chose, for an appetizer, the Rollatini di Nico (Rolled Sicilian Eggplant, with Fresh Ricotta, Spinach, and Mozzarella, and baked with Plum Tomatoes and Parmigiano Cheese.) My entree was Pappardelle Emiliana (Homemade pasta served with Tenderloin Meat Sauce and Porcini Mushrooms.) My dessert was a Lemon Sorbet served in a Lemon. We shared a Cannoli which crumbled at the touch. Our wine was a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Now, this is what's bad about the place. There are at least a dozen large flat-screen TV's over the bar area up front, and over the bar in the dining area itself, giving it the distracting look of a sports bar, rather than a place for fine dining. I was constantly attracted to scenes from "The Godfather- Part 2!" Then, and most importantly, there's the free valet parking, which is a must in this deserted area. The incompetent illegal alien types who parked our car, wrecked the back bumper so badly that the air-bags were deployed. The management will cover the expenses to repair the car, but this is still not a way that you want to end your dinner out!!!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE COTTAGE" in Wellesley, MA

I rarely venture beyond Boston, Cambridge and Somerville to find good new restaurants, because there are so many excellent restaurants in those areas. But when a friend invites you to one of his favorite places, you go, especially if the friend has good taste, and knows good food. Last night, we headed out to Wellesley to eat at "The Cottage," a second branch of the main "Cottage" in La Jolla, California. My friend has eaten at both and likes this one better than the original! It may be hard to find, because it's in a strip mall, and has a commercial-looking facade. But once you step inside this big restaurant,  you can be on The Cape, or Nantucket, or The Vineyard. It's all bright white-painted wooden walls and banquettes, and hardwood floors. The menu features comfort foods taken to the fine-dining level. It's the same menu as the one in La Jolla. We shared  a huge order of Capellini Crabcakes (Pan-seared Lump Crab-cakes with Old Bay Aioli.) For my entree, I had one of my favorite dishes, Meat Loaf (Ground Beef and Turkey, Merlot Demi-glace, and Whipped Sweet Potatoes.)  I washed it down with a very nice Cab from California. For dessert, we shared a huge piece of Coconut Layer Cake with Lemon Filling and Frosting. (Again, one of favorites.) All of the food was delicious and I was stuffed when I left. It was a fun night, with a good friend and good food. Perfect, and just what I needed!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

The first thing one encounters at the spectacular new American Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, is the soaring Atrium, a huge space reaching up four stories, with massive glass walls overlooking gardens and statuary. Almost lost in the center of it, is a collection of chairs, tables and high-tops, looking more like a temporary indoor picnic spot, than an up-scale restaurant overseen by one of Boston's finest chef/owners, Ken Oringer ("Clio," "Coppa," "Toro," etc.) It looks as though the whole thing could be cleared away entirely, in minutes, to make room for a large function...as in fact, it can! They don't take reservations, so you have to wait on line to be seated...further cheapening the quality of the place. You know immediately that you're not eating at "Bravo," the luxurious, high-quality, up-scale restaurant at the other end of the Museum. The first signs of the fact that you are in a high quality eating establishment, is when you get the menu, which features real dishes that one expects to find at a Ken Oringer restaurant, including a nice tasting prix-fixe tasting meal. There were four of us there, and we had everything, from the tasting meal, to a platter of ribs and noodles, a burger with chips that was a work of art, exotic flatbread pizzas (pear and gorgonzola) and my soup, a nice Potato and Leek Soup served in a soup platter that was huge, but the soup, almost hidden in the center of the platter, wasn't. In any case, the preparation, presentation (little works of art,) and the food itself, were excellent. Although it's a bit pricey ($16 for the burger,) it's a good place to eat before plunging into the tremendous collection of American art inside.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SPIKE'S"

If you live in, or are visiting,  Boston and you have a craving for a great hot dog, as I did for lunch yesterday, head over to "Spike's" a take-out joint tucked away between the two music schools, Berklee, and the Boston Conservatory. It's just a counter and ten tables, but oh those hot dogs. Home of the "junkyard dog," in addition to hot dogs, there are burgers as well. I had two delicious hot dogs (the best hot dogs this side of Nathan's in Coney Island,)  curly fries, and Spike's own Root Beer. It all just hit the spot!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

The highest rating one can get for a take-out joint!
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CASA ROMERO"

Just a block off of one of the busiest, and most charming, shopping streets in America, Newbury Street, is a dark and narrow public alley. If you walk down this alley for about 20 feet, you'll come to a door covered with decorative old Mexican tiles...the entrance to "Casa Romero." Pull on the door handle, and you'll enter a beautiful place, with many atmospherically lit rooms. It's almost like being in someone's home in Mexico itself. The small rooms have tables covered with tiles, and the walls are also covered with different hand-painted tiles which extend halfway up the walls. The rest of the walls are covered with a coffee colored paint, and dark green faux marble. There are hand-painted ceramic plates hanging on the walls as well. It's all a beautiful backdrop for eating the best Mexican food in Boston. Don't come here if you're looking for tacos and burritos. There are none on the menu. From a very serious menu filled with traditional Mexican dishes, I chose to lean toward Tex-Mex with the following: my appetizer was Grilled Quesadillas of Cheese and Roasted Poblano Peppers; my entree was Enchiladas en Salsa Verde (stuffed with cheese and beans, masked with a green sauce, and finished with melted cheese.) Our desserts were Besos de Coco (coconut  and ricotta cheesecake, covered with chopped pineapple and strawberries.) My wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon. I chose not to go with Sangria.  I haven't been to this 40-year-old landmark of a restaurant in 20 years. I promise not to let another 20 years pass before I return!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BRUNELLO BISTRO" (in Somerville)

Another trip out to Somerville in pursuit of a good meal, and another fine restaurant on the other end of the trip. Nothing fancy to look at on the outside, it's even less fancy on the inside, but one is coming to expect good things from these unpretentious gems in Somerville. Good things are what Brunello is all about...good service from an excellent waitress, fine food preparation, nice presentation, and most importantly, excellent food. We shared a beautiful Antipasto for the table (there were four of us.) My appetizer was Stuffed Eggplant with Ricotta, Basil Pesto and Tomato Sauce. My entree was Potato and Lobster ( with 1/2 of a lobster on the side) Gnocchi in a Light Cream Sauce and Saffron. We all got Hot Chocolate Volcano Mousse Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert. Our wine was a delicious fruity Arancio Pinot Noir from Sicily. I love these Sicilian wines. A bit pricey for Somerville, but it was worth it. We came away stuffed and moaning "great meal."
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CRAIGIE ON MAIN" (in Cambridge)

Boston has become one of the world's greatest eating cities (not as great as New York or Paris, but far ahead of every other city,) because there are so many chefs and restaurants here striving for perfection. Not all achieve this, but "Craigie on Main" certainly has. The winner of just about every Best Chef, Best Restaurant award, these accolades are well deserved. Chef/Owner Tony Maws is the driving force behind the restaurant's great reputation. His philosophy (the freshest foods straight from the marketplace, farm or ocean, right to the table,) drives everyone and everything at this relatively new place. (Maws used to own "Craigie's" but when he found a bigger location, he moved on and "Ten Tables" took over the old location.) The new location is on Main Street in Cambridge at the site of the decades old former restaurant, "La Groceria." (Remember that one guys when you all went to school here back in the day?) Tony Maws is the first person you see as you walk into the restaurant, hard at work in the open kitchen at the center of the room. He has a large, young, experienced staff in the kitchen with him, as well as working the tables out front. From what I understand, they all eat their meals chosen from the menu items at the restaurant at his expense, so they know what they're talking about when they answer your questions. The restaurant is large, with a bar and dining area off to the right, and the main dining room off to the left. The decor is simple but very attractive, and it takes a back seat to the food. The food on the menu leans to the exotic...Octopus, Cod Cheeks, Pig's Head...but there are dishes on the menu for non-venturesome diners like me. My appetizer was the House-Made Farro Flour Rigatoni Pasta with Wild Boar Ragout. My entree was Line-Caught Black Bass a la Plancha with Rock Shrimp, Bok Choy, Horseradish, and Beet-dashi Broth. Our dessert was Three Sorbets; Autumn Olive, Pineapple and Yogurt. Our wine was a fruity Cotes du Rhone. Everything was delicious, and memorable. Although the portions are small, we came away stuffed. A word to the wise: make your reservations well in advance ( I made mine three weeks ago,) otherwise you'll never get in. This one is one of the best, and I highly recommend it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SOLEA" (in Waltham)

If you're in the mood for tapas, and for taking a field trip, combine the two urges and head over to Waltham to "Solea." Solea looks as though its been sitting on that street corner for decades, and maybe it has. It has a classy exterior, but when you get inside, the Spanish/Portuguese decor (glitzy and somewhat weather-beaten) makes it look as though a camp of gypsies just packed up and left. You expect to see a bunch of cockroaches crawl out from the nearest dark corner, and yet as far as I could tell, it was immaculately clean. It looks like the kind of place that has a jumping bar scene at night. Our waiter was very friendly and helpful, suggesting that the two of us order six tapas, and so we did. Here's what we got, in English: Codfish Croquettes, Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato and Basil, Scallops in Saffron Cream, Lobster and Crab Ravioli in Langostino Sauce, Artichoke and Spinach Fritters, and Wood Roasted Pepper Stuffed with Crab, Shrimp, and Pearl Onions. (We ate lightly because we were going to a three-hour opera broadcast afterward. No Sangria, for the same reason) Everything was delicious, and served practically, three orders at a time. Anyway, for our purposes, it hit the spot.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "G'VANNI'S"

This is one of the worst dining experiences that I've had in a long time! It started when I bought a voucher on-line at "Town Hog Dot Blu" for "four 3-course dinners at G'Vanni's restaurant in The North End, including limo service to and from the restaurant," for only $190 (plus tax, tips and wines.) Who could resist? I should have. The "limo" got here on time. It was a large black SUV something, not my idea of a limo. The driver was an idiot who couldn't stop talking. He got us to the restaurant in a short 15 minutes, but when we got there, and stepped into the postage-stamp-sized packed  place, we were informed by a rude and stupid maitress d' who I nicknamed muffin-top for obvious reasons, that we'd have to wait outside because our table wasn't ready yet, and there was no room inside to wait! We waited in the car. After another 20 minutes we were finally informed that our table was ready. Our waitress, another idiot, and part of the family of inner-city women who made up the wait-staff that included muffin-top, explained to us that 3-courses consisted of an appetizer, a pasta course, and an entree, not the appetizer, entree, dessert that I expected. There were plenty of choices on the menu so we ordered. Service was unbelievably slow...it took a half-hour between courses...and incompetent. When the food finally arrived, it arrived in large portions and was almost all bad. It was overcooked, over-salted,  my pasta fagioli came right out of a can, and my meat lasagna had no meat in it! We couldn't wait to get out of there. When we called for our limo, we were told that he would be there in twenty minutes. He got there a half hour later. We had already spent almost 3 hours in this dump. By the way, the bathrooms were filthy. If there's a moral to this story, I guess that it's, don't buy restaurant vouchers on-line, unless you've already been to the restaurant. 
(0-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "JERRY REMY'S SPORTS BAR AND GRILL"

There were always bars and clubs in the streets leading into Fenway Park; places where college students could get drunk, vomit, and meet their future wives. In the past few years, expensive condos and restaurants have sprung up as well. Most of these restaurants serve decent comfort food. Don't expect duck here! One of these places is "Jerry Remy's Sports Bar and Grill," owned and managed by the former baseball player, and Red Sox announcer. Don't expect to get near it on the day of a game, unless you have reservations long in advance. I did. Of course the menu consists of the usual comfort food, with a few "grown-up" dishes. What does it matter? After 10 beers at the baseball game, the average diners wouldn't know if they were eating filet mignon or horses hooves! I ordered Spinach and Artichoke Dip as an appetizer, and Nachos with Jalapenos, Olives, Tomatoes, Green Onions, and Chili as my entree. I was stuffed, and everything was delicious. By the way, every inch of wall space is filled with TV screens of all sizes, so don't go with your book club and expect to have a meaningful discussion! So, those are the rules of the game. If you chose to "play" it, you'll have a great time, and eat well.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

 5 stars if you're drunk!

  

RESTAURANT MA- REVIEW: "FIVE NAPKIN BURGER"
My endless search for the perfect burger in Boston, has taken me to a new restaurant  just a couple of blocks from where I live. Past the huge reflecting pond at Church Park across the street, and next door to The Cheesecake Factory is "Five Napkin Burger," in the jinxed space previously occupied by the now defunct Berkshire Grill, Daily Grill, etc. It's a pretty place with bistro decor: white tile walls, tin ceiling, exposed light bulbs hanging from a ceiling meat rack, etc. The menu features burgers, but has lots of other entree items as well. It also serves cocktails, beer and wine. I chose the Original Five Napkin Burger, consisting of 10oz of ground chuck, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and thick rosemary aioli, on a soft white roll ($10.95.) With it I had the Tuscan Fries...fries tossed with thyme, garlic, and rosemary. My wine was a carafe of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, which they consider a glass, but it's more like two. For dessert I couldn't resist the Root Beer Float. Everything was delicious, and well served by a knowledgeable waiter. (He was so good that I overtipped him!) I'd rank the burger up there with the best under-$12 burgers in Boston and Cambridge...the burger at Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage in Cambridge (still the best in town, ) and the burger at Woody's on Hemenway Street (beef from Savenor's, where Julia Child used to shop for her meat.) So head on over and check it out.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

(The highest rating for a "burger joint.")
 

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: LEGAL HARBORSIDE
For decades, the two reigning seafood palaces on the Boston Waterfront, were Anthony's Pier 4, and Jimmy's Harborside. Inexplicably, Jimmy's closed a while back, and the huge space remained vacant for a while. Then, the Legal Sea Foods chain bought it, redid it completely, and just recently reopened it as Legal Harborside, the flagship of its fleet. It's three floors, with 700 seats, and has decks overlooking the harbor. Only the first floor is opened now, but eventually there'll be catering rooms on the second floor, and a large indoor-outdoor space on the roof...with a retractable roof! It's quite a showplace. The place is nicely designed, with all tables overlooking the Harbor, and the boats going by. It's big and noisy, but who cares? It's all about the food and the view, and both are excellent. The menu is a combination of the old and the new. My eye was immediately attracted to the old section entitled "Ode to Inman Square," the original Legals, when there was only one restaurant. (Now there are 32!) Here are signature dishes from the original restaurant. I chose the most famous of these as my entree, Anna's Baked Boston Scrod with Seasoned Crumbs and Tomato, and a side of Mashed Potatoes It was delicious. We shared an appetizer of Crab and Corn Fritters with Tartar Sauce. Our dessert was a sinful Coconut Cream Pie! Our wine was a Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon. (If you drive there, park across the street and have your ticket stamped in the restaurant.) We parked in the wrong place, so we had to walk a bit getting to and from the place. We welcomed the walk after dinner; we were stuffed!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "MAX BRENNER"

Now I know that "Max Brenner" is known as a chocolate shop because of its famous chocolate selection. However, prior to its opening in Boston, I had never heard of it, or its chocolates. The original "Max Brenner" is in Israel! Before making reservations there, I checked to see if there was a menu of real food, because I wasn't in the mood to have filet of chocolate or chocolate scallopini! There is indeed a full menu, and so we walked over to check it out. (It's just a few blocks from where I live.) There are a lot of burgers and pizzas on the menu, but also some real knife and fork dishes. As an appetizer I chose the Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Fondue with Warm Chili-dusted Tortilla Chips. My entree was the Black Sesame Salmon with Vegetable Stir Fry, Garlic Spinach and Wasabi Aioli. It was all quite good...not excellent, but quite good. Our wine was a Francis Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon. Excellent. The place is very loud, and the decor is made up of enough chocolate paraphernalia to satisfy even Willy Wonka! It's a fun new addition to the neighborhood.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "DAVIDE"

The last time that I ate at "Davide" was more than twenty years ago. At that time, it was a fine, upscale Italian restaurant run by the Gesualdi family. Although I was unaware of it, since then, it had stumbled into a decline, due to family problems, mismanagement and the family's inability to keep it up to its own high standards. Then, in the past year, it became the subject of one of star chef Gordon Ramsey's "Kitchen Nightmares." Supposedly, he worked his usual wonders on the place, and restored it back to its former glory. It's still owned and run by the Gesualdi family. So, curiosity brought me back to see what was going on. The basement establishment, at the foot of The North End, on the waterfront, looks beautiful, with its red "leather" banquettes and dark woods. Actually, it looks a lot like how I remembered it to be, with a bit of tweaking here and there. One of the Gesualdi brothers seated us, and we were presented with our menus immediately. Our waiter was very cordial and knowledgeable. The menu presents some wonderful choices from Southern and Northern Italy. We decided to share a Caesar Salad. because it was prepared at the table, and because I wanted to see if they included all of the necessary ingredients. They did, and it was excellent. In addition to that, my other appetizer was a Tuscan Bean Soup, loaded with Tomatoes and White Beans. All of the portions were large. My entree was a filling Risotto Primavera with Asparagus, Fava Beans, and Mascarpone. Our dessert was Limoncello Panna Cotta. The wine was a hearty Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. "Davide" is back to what I always remembered it to be...a place where the food, service, and decor were all first class. Welcome back!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "TEMAZCAL TEQUILA CANTINA"

First of all, drop the long name and the word "cantina." This is as much of a cantina as is the White House! No surprise, since it's on Fan Pier, the trendiest new area for yuppies to go dining and drinking. It's sandwiched between Del Frisco's and Jerry Remy's. The setting is fabulous, a lush restaurant with a large terrace right on the Boston Harbor overlooking all of the "ships at sea." The emphasis is on the yuppie drinking crowd, with a no-reservations policy. Serious diners will stay away until that changes...and it will change, or else the place will close, when the yuppies move on to the next trendy place. For now, after 5pm, it's packed all night. We went early. The menu looks great (it's on iPads!)...authentic Acapulco Mexican food, not Tex Mex stuff. Because there were so many things that I love on the menu, I decided to recreate one of my favorite meals from one of my 10 favorite restaurants in Acapulco..."Carlos n Charlie's" on the Costera. After 30 Christmas/New Years in Acapulco, I know what I like. I had planned to start with Queso Fundido...sort of a spicy fondue, with Tortillas in which to roll it all up. As my entrada, I had planned to have Huachinango Veracruzana (Red Snapper with Hot Spices and Herbs,) but I got so full on the Queso Fundido, that I had to scrap the Huachinango and substitute a lighter Ensalada Cesar, which, on the menu, appeared to be as true a Caesar Salad as I've had outside of Mexico, where it was invented. No, it's not Italian! Unfortunately everything was disappointing. The Cesar Salad was a mess...just a chunk of lettuce with a wedge of lemon and some cheese on the side. Ugh! The Queso Fundido was over-baked and the tortillas were overcooked. Ugh! Ugh! Our wine was an OK Stone Cellars Cab. The service was as horrendous as many of the Yelp reviewers portrayed it as being. Will I go back? Probably not, until next summer when it probably will have opened as a Tibetan Yak Grill!!!

(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE FORUM"

Whenever I hear that a newly-opened restaurant is featuring one of my two or three favorite dishes on their menu, I try to get over there as soon as possible to sample the dish. Such was the case with the new Back Bay restaurant, The Forum. (New restaurants are springing up all over the Back Bay like daffodils in Spring.) The dish is Beef Wellington, and, for those of you who know Boston, The Forum has taken over the vast space formerly occupied by Vox Populi. It's quite lavish, with a large bar and lounge at street level, and an elegant dining room on the second floor, with windows overlooking cosmopolitan Boylston Street. With a name like The Forum, one would expect the cuisine to be Italian, or at least Mediterranean. Such is not the case. Instead, it's American cuisine at its finest and most upscale. Nevertheless, my appetizer was a Caprese Salad, with delicious Heirloom Tomatoes, House-made Mozzarella, and Balsamic Vinegar. My entree was the Beef Wellington, consisting of an 8oz Filet Mignon, topped with Foie Gras and Wild Mushrooms, and cooked in a Puff Pastry. Disappointingly, as is all the rage today, it was a deconstructed Beef Wellington. That is, it was a filet mignon, with a puff pastry, duxcelles mushrooms, and foie gras on the side. Nevertheless, it was perfectly prepared and presented. Our wine was a fine Tuscan Villa Masseto Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Just perfect for the Beef Wellington. Our dessert was a refreshing Almond Cake, with Almond Ice Cream. If any more new restaurants open up in the Back Bay (Capitol Grille has just relocated a block closer to where I live,) I won't have to travel more than three or four blocks for an excellent meal!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ARAGOSTA BAR AND BISTRO"

The latest addition to Boston's vibrant Waterfront dining scene, is "Aragosta" in the beautiful Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel. Just off the lobby of this understated, but elegant, hotel, is the attractively decorated dining room of the restaurant, which opens onto a large terrace and patio overlooking the Boston Harbor and U.S. Coast Guard...perfect for summer dining. (We ate out on the Terrace.) Chef David Daniels has created a menu that offers a combination of foods from the Mediterranean and those of New England...fresh homemade pastas with unusual ingredients in the sauces, and local seafood prepared simply, as well as exotically. Everything sounded interesting. For an appetizer I chose to sample their Caesar Salad, with Toasted Focaccia Croutons, Parmesan, Roasted Garlic Dressing, and Anchovy. It was perfect. We shared a plate of Warm Black Mission Figs, Wrapped in Prosciutto with Gorgonzola Dolce. My entree was Pappardelle Bolognese (one of my favorites,) with Veal Cheek and Oxtail Ragu, and Porcini Mushrooms. Service, preparation and presentation were all excellent. Our wine was a Tuscan Sangiovese. My dessert was a platter of Limoncello and White Chocolate Sorbetti. A perfect dining experience.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "MEZZE BISTRO & BAR" (in Williamstown in The Berkshires)
In Williamstown, one of America's most picturesque towns, "Mezze" is nestled on a hill overlooking a charming duck pond. It's housed in a white Victorian house with a porch, on three bucolic acres. After parking at the foot of the hill, a valet drives you up to the front door of the restaurant, in a golf cart. The restaurant is only a three-minute drive from The Williams Inn where we were staying, but because of its peaceful setting, it could have been a thousand miles away. The inside decor is very simple... polished wooden floors and lots of windows. Minutes after we were seated (at an early seating, because we were going to the theater,) every seat in the place was filled. The menu features American cuisine from local farms and markets. As an appetizer, I chose Meadowood Farms Sheep's Milk Feta with Tomato Water, Cucumber, Purslane and Lemon Oil. We shared the Domestic Cheese Plate. Enough sodium in these two dishes to fill my week's quota! My entree was a delicious Housemade Tagliatelle Pasta with Beefsteak Tomato, Basil, and Pecorino Cheese. We eliminated wine...gotta stay awake for the show...and dessert...too full! Back down the hill in the golf cart, and off to the Main Stage theatre at The Williamstown Theater Festival. "Mezze" is now the new go-to restaurant when going to the theater in Williamstown...although I want to try the old "Mill on the Floss" next time. It's been around forever!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

Doesn't anyone know how to make a good Caesar Salad anymore? You have to mince the anchovy and coddled egg, along with the other ingredients, and then coat the leaves of romaine lettuce with this paste. My Caesar Salad appetizer was bland, missing just about every flavor required for a good Caesar Salad. Poor Senor Cesar (an Italian who invented the salad in Mexico) is turning over in his grave! My Crab Cake with Corn Aioli was OK...nothing more. Oh yes, the restaurant. The Grafton Street Pub and Grill is a huge, perfectly-located and beautifully decorated pub, posing as an upscale restaurant. Its clientele...mostly after-work young drinkers...knows exactly what it is, and they packed the joint!
(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE BRAHMIN"

Starting with its name, this new restaurant was meant to invoke the elite class of Bostonians...the Brahmins of Beacon Hill. It's anything but that! Although its decor is somewhat elegant, and our waitress was charming and pleasant, almost everything else is a negative. The music is much too loud for people who are coming there to dine. The food is served too fast. Although the presentation is fine, the dishes ranged from good to a bad joke. Most of the appetizers are "small plates," requiring you to order two to be satisfied. Although my order of Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Basil was good, the order of Heirloom Tomatoes and Mozzarella was a joke, You needed a magnifying glass to find the mozzarella! On top of that, we were told "we don't serve bread!" My entree of Pappardella with Vegetables came with virtually uncooked pappardella and too many vegetables. After being told that they don't usually have desserts, our waitress came up with an order of Banana and Chocolate Bread Pudding for the table. It was decent. Our wine was a fine Cotes du Rhone...strong, but not strong enough to make up for the lousy food. I'm sure that The Brahmin has a lively bar scene, but skip it if you're going for a fine dinner and conversation.
(2-Stars) Back to Top

The big news is that The Capital Grille has moved...from its decades-old location on Newbery Street, to its new location in the Hynes Convention Center, two blocks away. It's now three times the size of the old restaurant, and has an outdoor patio. My major concern was that, with the move, and the growth in size, it would lose all of the charm of its London-mens-club-look. It didn't! They must have stripped the walls of the old place, taking over all of the wood paneling, the oil paintings, the giant old chandeliers, and the sculptures. They even have cozy side dining rooms. In short, it looks great. More importantly, the service seems to be even better, and the food is still excellent. My appetizer was a delicious Lobster Bisque with Sherry. My entree was a Filet Mignon. The side dishes are so huge, that we shared side dishes of Creamed Spinach and Sam's Mashed Potatoes. My dessert was the classic Cheesecake with Fresh Berries. Our wine was one of my favorites...a Nero D'Avola from Sicily. Everything was perfect. Thanks to you, John, Bob, and Anthony. Your birthday gift card covered the enormous bill EXACTLY. I just had to add the tip!!!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE CATALYST"

This one is as good as it gets! Open only three days, "The Catalyst" is one of the best restaurants in Boston. Tucked away in Technology Square in Cambridge, amidst the high-tech biochemical buildings and MIT, the area was deserted on this Saturday night. I had very low expectations for this new arrival. But when I entered, and was greeted by a very friendly maitress d', and manager, and looked around at the beautiful sleek, modern decor, in this large place, I began to think that this might be something different than what I expected. We were ushered to a table next to the open kitchen, where we could watch chef/owner William Kovel and his highly competent staff of young sous chefs at work. After studying the interesting menu, I settled on the following: as an appetizer, Gnocchi with Oven-Dried Tomato, Black Olives, Capers, and Lemon. My entree was Lemon Sole with Roasted Fennel, Creamed Leeks, Lobster and Vermouth Butter, with a side order of Potato Puree. Our desserts were Root Beer Floats with Ginger Ice Cream and Blueberries on the side. Our wine was a fine hearty Montepulciano Red from Tuscany. Everything was just about perfect. I can't wait to see the crush to get into "The Catalyst" once the word gets around.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "WHEATLEIGH" (in Lenox)
During our weekend stay at Blantyre, we had dinner at another of the dozens of mansions that dot the area. (The picturesque towns of Lenox, Lee and Stockbridge are filled with mansions that are now some of the leading hotels and restaurants of the world. This triangle of towns is known as "the Newport of Massachusetts.") This white, Italianate, marble mansion houses not only a grand hotel, but also a fine dining room. After being greeted by several hotel personnel as we stepped out of our limo, we were ushered into the glass-enclosed dining room, and our round corner table. (There were six of us, and we had decided to go black tie, so we all looked fine, especially the ladies, in their gowns and jewels!) It's a French restaurant, and so all of the portions were small, but beautifully prepared and presented, by a staff that barely spoke any English. We were served everything from Escargots, Loup de Mer, and Cookies with Gelati and Sorbet, with several amuse-bouches consisting of Foie Gras, Bisques, etc. It was all delicious. Our wine was a Cusimano Sicilian Nero D'Avola. After all, we had to slip something Italian into our meal! Although not as perfect a dining experience as one gets at Blantyre (still, along with Don Alfonso in Sorrento, the finest restaurant, in the world,) just a mile away, it's right up there with the best of them.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "OAK ROOM AT THE PLAZA"

I went back to revisit one of my favorite dining rooms in Boston, The Oak Room at The Plaza, to see if it was still as good as ever. It is! Of course, it's the most beautiful dining room in the city of Boston, and the adjoining Oak Bar is the most beautiful bar/lounge. The food and service are still excellent, and you'll pay a hefty price for both. But it's worth it. I had Escargots in a Garlic Pesto Sauce as an appetizer, and we shared a Chateaubriand for Two with Steamed Spinach and Mashed Yukon Potatoes. Our wine was a light Mondavi Merlot. My dessert was Boston Cream Pie. A fine dining experience. We sat in that glorious room for four hours!!! You can't time elegance and class.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "TRADE"

"Trade" is the first new restaurant to open, overlooking the beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway downtown...the Greenway being the beautiful 2-mile park that was built over The Big Dig. (The Expressways are now all underground, under the park.) "Trade" is big and beautiful, with an industrial vibe about it...tall windows, high ceilings, exposed brick, wooden floors, and hanging work lights. The high windows all overlook the Greenway. It works. "Trade" is the brainchild of old-school chef/owner Jody Adams of Rialto in Cambridge. The menu starts with Small Plates, goes on to Soups and Salads, Flatbreads, Entrees, and Desserts, with only about six items per category. They don't serve bread, so we ordered a flatbread. From the Appetizers, I chose Arugula Salad with Lemon, Olive Oil, and Parmesan. My entree was Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Ragu and Provolone. For Dessert, I had Christina's Ginger Ice Cream with Chili-Chocolate Sauce and Pistachios. Our wine was a light, delicious California Pinot Noir. I'm sure that many other restaurants will open overlooking the Greenway, because it's such a beautiful European-like open space, filled with fountains, trees and flowers, and gravel paths and benches. "Trade" was smart to get in there ahead of the others. It should do very well. Great decor/ambience, great service, great food. We loved it, as did all of "the beautiful people" who have discovered it after only one month!!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SEBASTIANS"(at Church Park)
The long-awaited opening of the cafe downstairs in my building has finally taken place (at least the soft opening has,) and it's a big disappointment. The official opening takes place on January 6th, but as of this weekend, it's just a very expensive, bad cafeteria! I had three meals there (two "dinners" and one breakfast,) and the score is two terrible, one good. Here are the negatives: the staff is barely trained, so they have no idea what they're doing, or what they're serving. There are no plates or trays, so that everything (including an omelette,) is served in deep, narrow cardboard boxes! The sandwiches are adequate, but two dollars more than anywhere else where I get sandwiches, including the excellent deli at my gym. My pasta bowl (whole wheat penne bolognese,) tasted like it was just poured out of a can. When I asked the server who was making it, "is the bolognese in a red or brown sauce?" he said "what's red or brown?" The omelette was burned, so it was brown on the outside, and not fluffy and yellow. Eating it out of a deep cardboard box was a chore. Last night's dinner of Turkey Meatloaf, with Peas and Mushrooms, and Mashed Potatoes, was very good. But once again, it was served in a deep cardboard box. Actually two boxes. I made him put the mashed potatoes in a separate box, so that everything wouldn't be all piled up in one box. The salads look good, as do the soups, but the manager had no idea about the nutritional contents of either. The soups looked like sodium bombs! In short, as of this weekend, this place is a mess!!! Any positives? It's attractive, comfortable and right downstairs, in case there's a blizzard. Thank God, there are three other restaurants in the building!!!
(1-Star)

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BONDIR"
Could this cheap-looking little hole-in-the-wall in Cambridge, be the exclusive hard-to-get-in restaurant that "Bon Appetit" magazine called "one of the best new restaurants in America in 2011?" My God, from the outside, it looks like a neighborhood bar! Nevertheless, we had to make reservations a month ago. Now, here we are. With a mixture of worry and excitement we went in. Inside, it's very tiny...only 24 seats and a fireplace. It's neat and clean, in a rustic sort of French/Italian countryside way. Chef Jason Bond (of Relais & Chateaux fame,) doesn't put his limited menu together until the very same day, so as to take advantage of the freshest produce, fish, and meats available. So you can't even go on-line before-hand to plan what you're going to have. Is it all worth it? We'll see. From the small menu, I chose Butterball Potato and Celeriac Chowder with Smoked Paprika Oil (absolutely delicious, and so comforting on this freezing cold night.) My entree was the highly recommended Scituate Scallops with Caramelized Roxbury Russet Apple and Macomber Turnip, and with Brussels Sprouts and Sage Foam. Everything was just about perfect, from the impeccable service, noticeable from the minute you enter the place, to the preparation, presentation, and taste of the food. No negatives except for the fat bore, lecturing to the hostages at the table on one side of us, to the shrill princesses screaming at the hostages at their table on the other side. The disadvantage of it being a small place!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "L'IMPASTA"

The best house-made breads and pastas in town! In this town world-famous for its Italian restaurants (in the North and South Ends,) it's exciting to hear about the opening of a small "mama/papa, red-checkered-tablecloth" new Italian place. Only a four-person operation...chef/owner Riccardo, two waitresses and a dishwasher..."L'Impasta" has already developed a reputation for its incredible house-made pastas, and especially its wide variety of house-made breads. People are actually going there just to buy the breads and take them home, similar to what happens at the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. (It's the best selection of breads that I've had in a restaurant since "Robichon" in Vegas!) We walked into this tiny (24 seats) place in North Cambridge, just North of Porter Square, and were made to feel comfortable and right at home. The menu is loaded with pasta dishes of all kinds, from the ordinary (Rigatoni with Meatballs) to the very exotic (Gnocchetti con Sardi.) There are some appetizers and pizzas, but only two meat entrees...one veal and one chicken. As my appetizer, I ordered Pan-seared Scamorza (Smoked Aged Mozzarella) with Parma Prosciutto and Crostini Bread. This was filling enough to be a main course. We shared a perfect Caesar Salad with Anchovy Paste on another slice of their delicious bread. My main course was my favorite pasta, Pappardella with Baby Shrimp in a Zucchini Sauce. Absolutely delicious...everything! Needless to say, we more than sampled a variety of the breads...before, during, and after the meal. They're all exceptional. No wine (they're still waiting for their liquor license.) Go for the bread and pastas...but go, before everyone hears about it and it's impossible to get in. My main worry is that the chef won't be able to keep preparing these magnificent dishes every night all by himself. I told him so, but he says he loves doing it. They gave us a loaf of their Scamorza Bread to take home. Go get a loaf of bread, but stay for some pasta. I slept for 12 hours last night, and I'm still in carb overload!!!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ARTISAN BISTRO"

Just a short stroll from the old grande dame Ritz Hotel ( now The Taj,) across the beautiful Public Garden, and the historic Boston Common, is the relatively new Ritz Hotel. It's ultra-modern, very trendy, starkly luxurious, and filled with marble, and beautiful floral arrangements. Not at all my cup of tea! Nevertheless, the movie stars and rock stars love it. Taking the place of "Jer-ne," which never worked as a hotel restaurant, is the new "Artisan Bistro." This one seems destined for success. In keeping with the look of the rest of the hotel, the look of the restaurant is sleek, minimalist, modern, and stylish, with ivory leather banquettes and booths, and floor-to ceiling windows facing the street. On this busy Saturday night, service was impeccable...friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful. Our waitress was also the food and beverage manager, and she treated us as though we were longtime customers. From the fairly extensive menu, I chose Beef Tartare with Yukon Potatoes, Herb Crackers, and Mustard Sauce as my appetizer. My entree was Seared Atlantic Salmon with Wild Rice, Braised Fennel, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Everything was excellent, except for the fact that I had a bone in the last bite of my salmon. When I pointed this out to our waitress, she comped us for our delicious desserts. Mine was Profiteroles, with Gingerbread Gelato and Warm Chocolate Sauce. Our wine was an incredible Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux. All in all, the place went from housing one of the worst hotel restaurants in town, to one of the best. Bravo Ritz!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CAFE 47"

I had such a delicious breakfast here this morning, that I decided to come back for dinner. (My breakfast consisted of Three Eggs, Scrambled with Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, and Mozzarella, with Home Fries and Toast. So fresh and home-made.) This mama/papa-type place (not for the yuppie crowd,) specializes in locally-harvested food products, and is only a short 10-minute walk from where I live. How come I didn't know that it existed? It's relatively new (three years old,) but that's no excuse. Anyway, it's simple in decor...dark woods and exposed brick, lots of tables, and a few banquettes. Kind of old-fashioned looking. Nothing old-fashioned about their dinner menu though. They specialize in Italian dishes...some traditional (Spaghetti and Meatballs,) and others not-so-traditional (Salmon and Goat Cheese Linguini.) As my appetizer, I selected the Truffle Parmesan Arancini (Riceballs,) with Garlic Whipped Ricotta. My entree was Hand-formed Meatballs with Slow Roasted Tomato Garlic Sauce and Spaghetti. I'll have to come back another time to sample one of their many varieties of Pizza. As for tonight's meal, everything tasted "made from scratch" and was excellent. Our wine was a hearty Tuscan Montepulciano. Only complaint? We had to ask for bread, and when they brought it, it was a huge portion of delicious foccacia, but they charged me $1 for it!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

Breakfast AND Dinner!

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "MASA"
The last time that I ate at this South End restaurant, was thirteen years ago, when it first opened...before I was writing reviews. That was before the South End became the second most popular dining destination in town (after the North End,) and before every neighborhood in town had its favorite eateries. So it was time for a revisit. It still looks like a 1950's classy Mexican restaurant out of an "I Love Lucy" episode, and its menu still consists of items that can only be classified as "gourmet Southwestern cuisine." It's not the kind of upscale authentic Mexico City type of Mexican restaurant with the kind of dishes found at "Casa Romero" here in town, and at "El Parador" in New York. The choices on the menu are originals, created in the mind of master chef Philip Aviles, whose credentials go back to the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York, and include a long cooking stint at The Waldorf Astoria. From all of the many choices, I selected as an appetizer, Mofongo Yucca Fritters with Chicharone, and Red Chile Sauce and Jalapeno Salsa. My entree was Roasted Salmon with Chipotle and Horseradish Crust, over Warm Cilantro and Cucumber Relish, Creme Fraiche, and Salmon Caviar. Our wine was a hearty Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. For dessert we had Strawberry Cheesecake. Everything was delicious, and the service and presentation were top-notch. The bar is crowded and noisy because of the $1 tapas every night, so sit as far away from the bar as possible. Other than that caveat, the place is terrific!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "NUBAR"
The Sheraton Commander Hotel just outside of Harvard Square has been in the hands of the Guleserian family for three generations, and there's been a restaurant here for 100 years. The last time that I ate in this hotel was over a decade ago, when it was stodgy, dowdy, and smelled like your grandmother's bedroom. Just recently, it underwent a massive multi-million dollar renovation, which included turning the restaurant into an upscale destination called "Nubar," named after the owner of the hotel, Edward Nubar Guleserian. It's beautiful, chic, and decorated in warm brown tones, ranging from beige leather ottomans and seats, to dark chocolate-colored tables and chairs. A linear fireplace divides the trendy lounge from the dining area. We were presented with our menus as soon as we were seated. From the many items on this eclectic menu I chose the following: as an appetizer, I selected the Maine Peeky Toe Crabcake with Grilled Asparagus, Valencia Oranges and Sauce Gribiche. My entree was Potato Gnocchi with Morels, Asparagus, Peas, Piave Cheese, and Cream. Our desserts were Homemade Cannolis Dipped in Orange Rind and Pistachios. Everything was delicious. Our wine was a special Chateau Gillet Bordeaux (2009.) So, if you're looking for hotel dining in Harvard Square, and don't feel like going to "Rialto" in the Charles Hotel, here's your alternative. It's really classy, and a welcome alternative.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ROSA MEXICANO"

Boston's new restaurant row on Seaport Boulevard on the Boston Hartbor Waterfront, has become one of the hottest new dining destinations in town. All of the restaurants down there ("Del Frisco's," "Legal Sea Foods," Temazcal Tequila Cantina," "Strega's," "Morton's," "Jerry Remy's," and the venerable "Anthony's Pier 4," have several things in common. They're huge, colorful, loud, have large decks/roofs facing the water, and with the exception of "Anthony's," feature their drinks, as much as they do their food. Because of this, they tend to draw a younger crowd. Hell, what else is there to do down there for the occupants of all of those new waterfront condos! Joining this group of restaurants is "Rosa Mexicano," which has branches in cities from Panama City to Los Angeles. Beware of their no-reservations policy, we had to play some mind games with the maitresse d' over the phone, and money changed hands, but we got our table right away. I hate this kind of shit! The decor is mostly nondescript with the exception of a great 3D "mural" of the Acapulco divers. When we were seated, our waiter immediately descended on us. He was annoyingly effeminate and thoroughly incompetent! After giving us all the wrong menus several times (gluten-free, no entrees, etc.) we finally got the right ones. The menu is less Tex-Mex than authentic Mexico City-Mex, and from this I chose the following. My appetizer was one of my favorites, Queso Fundido (melted chihuaha cheese served in a cast iron skillet,)...an old Acapulco favorite. It was delicious. My appetizer was Pescado Pibal (Yucatecan-marinated butterflied red snapper, with tomatillo and roasted garlic salsa.) Another Acapulco favorite where it's known as Huachinango. After warning our idiot waiter that if there were bones in it, I would kill him...there were bones in it! I didn't, but I should have. Our wine was a fine Napa Cab. For Bostonians, just a heads up. Unless you live in this neighborhood, there's no need to come all the way over here for good authentic Mexican food. The best in town can still be head at the classic "Casa Romero" in Back Bay. This one is just OK.
(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE LANDING" (in Marblehead)

Only a 45 minute drive from Boston, the beautiful town of Marblehead could be a world away, with its historic homes and stunning views of the boat-filled harbor. Along the winding streets, one sees mansions and 17th and 18th century smaller homes. All are photogenic, charming, and typically New England. We drove up for brunch at "The Landing," a well known eatery on the water. It was such a beautiful day so we ate outside on the canopied deck. The view was stunning and the smell of the salt water gave us an appetite. We had perfect Bloody Marys, followed by a Three Egg Omelet with Tomatoes and Peppers, and Cottage Fries and Fruit. I also had a fresh out of the oven Croissant. After brunch, we took a nice much-needed walk up to the Fort, for some pictures. A beautiful way to spend a perfect Sunday morning.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SOUTH END BUTTERY"

Located on the corner of a charming and picturesque area of the South End, we came for breakfast, after treating my friend's dog to a frolic with other dogs in one of those beautiful and practical dog parks on Washington Street. Didn't realize that the theme of this early morning would be DOGS. Everyone in this part of the South End seems to come attached to the other end of a leash! Getting back to the Buttery, I ordered a Roasted Vegetable Quiche, a small Banana Bread, and Freshly-Squeezed Orange Juice. The bill came to $17. A bit pricey, wouldn't you say? The juice and banana bread were very good, but the quiche was awful...rubbery, eggy, and only about a half an inch thick. I've been told that the other food on the menu is excellent, but based on what I had this morning, I don't feel the need to return.
(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "HAPPY'S BAR AND KITCHEN"
Noted restaurateur Michael Schlow ("Via Matta," "Radius," etc.) has decided to go the "home cookin' " route, with his new place near Fenway Park. The atmosphere of the huge bar area, and the open-kitchen dining area is funky, with graffiti and random cartoon-like pictures on the walls. The food is up-scale comfort food. While waiting in the bar area for the dining room to open, we had our appetizers...Do-It-Yourself Nachos (with all of the toppings arranged on a lazy Susan, and Crunchy Meatballs. When we were seated in our booth in the dining room, our waiter (one of the guys from the gym,) handed us our menu, and made some suggestions. We both selected "Not Your Frozen TV Dinner," which was Spicy Turkey Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, and a Nutella Tart! Everything was very good...not great, but good. The huge place was packed, and the Red Sox weren't even in town. It should do very well.
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "RINO'S PLACE"
This little hole-in-the-wall in East Boston, claims to have "the best Italian Food in Boston." However, it's more well known for being the most difficult restaurant in town to get into, because of its no-reservations policy, and the resulting long waits for tables...sometimes extending into two and three hours! In fact, the owners have opened a place across the street, where patrons waiting for a table can have drinks and a snack. Is it all worth it? The answer is a resounding "no." We went for lunch, when there was no wait. The lunch and dinner menus are virtually the same. What makes the place popular with its returning customers, is the huge portions and the extremely low prices. Between two of us, we had six dishes (Arancini, Pasta e Fagioli, Gnocchi, Ravioli and Veal Francese. All we needed to get stuffed, were two! The bill came to $48.00 for everything. As far as the food goes, the arancini were delicious but too soft; the soup tasted like vegetable soup; the gnocchi were ordinary; the ravioli were absurdly large, like large burritos; and the veal was chewy. My friend took home enough for two complete dinners! So, when you have a craving for good Italian food in Boston, stay in your own neighborhood, rather than trekking out here. It's not worth it!
(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

for the food.
(0 Stars) Back to Top

for the no-reservations policy!

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "WATER STREET GRILL" (in Williamstown)
What looks like an ordinary tavern, inside and out, turns out to be a fine dining establishment, albeit a very casual one. We ate a lunch and a dinner there this weekend. and both meals were excellent. For lunch we shared a large Nachos Plate, and then I followed this with a Caprese Salad...a huge one. For dinner, I had a Cream of Broccoli Soup; for my entree I had a traditional Milanese Mushroom Risotto. Both were excellent. I recommend this restaurant, as a break from the formal dining at "Mezze" and "Mill on the Floss," which we're eating at next time.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE MILL ON THE FLOSS" (in Williamstown,MA)

After all of these years, "The Mill on the Floss" is still the best restaurant in town. I haven't been there in decades, but this charming old house is still in the Champagne family, and the food, presentation, and service are still first class. Slightly out of town, and up a slight hill, this old New England home is a combination of rustic charm and sophisticated class. The interior is all shining log-beams on the ceiling, with Franklin stoves and wooden hutches, but the hutches contain the elegant Villeroy and Boch china used for all of the meals. From the extensive menu, we chose as our appetizer, the best-prepared Escargots with Garlic and Butter, that I've had outside of France! Our entrees were Crab Cakes Dijonaise, with Potatoes and Grilled Vegetables. Excellent! Our wine was a new-to-me Loire Valley Gamay. Light, fruity, and delicious. We were much too full to order dessert, but they certainly were tempting. I probably should have waited until the morning to write this review, when I was sober, and more able to do it justice, but what the hell, I think that I said what had to be said. The place is still great!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT REVIEW: "HOPS AND VINES" (in Williamstown, MA)

In the prime location, once occupied by one of my old favorites, the "Main Street Cafe," we now have the even larger "Hops and Vines." (For those of you who were there for that memorable weekend years ago, the Main Street Cafe is the place where we chatted with Emmy Rossum, who was about to go on in "Romeo and Juliet" that evening. She was charming and very gracious to all of us.) I was a bit resentful of "Hops and Vines" that seemed to be trying to take the place of one of my old favorites. You know how that is. Well, I needn't have been. This new place is terrific. It still has that beautiful flower-filled garden in front, with tables for dining al fresco, and the interior has a very contemporary decor, with an expanded new bar room with a lively bar scene for before and after the theater. The menu is not very extensive, but it has some fine selections. From these, I settled on a Mushroom Risotto which was absolutely delicious. I didn't have anything else, before or after, because I know how filling this dish usually is. Good move! Our wine was a light and fruity Pinot Noir. With its convenient location only a few blocks from the theater, this new place deserves the crowds that it appears to be getting. I know that I'll be back next year.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "OAK LONG BAR + KITCHEN"

Boston has always been a world-class city known for its elegance, class, and style, and yet...many of its most famous dining rooms have either closed or been remodeled to suit the taste of moneyed yuppies, who crave $50 steaks and apricot martinis, although they were raised on hamburgers from Macdonalds! First there was Cafe Budapest, then Julien, L' Espalier, Aujourd hui, the Dining Room at The Ritz, and now the most beautiful bar and dining room in town, the Oak Room at The Plaza, has undergone a facelift. Gone are all of the elegant trimmings of the Oak Bar and Oak Room, except the magnificent carved baroque ceilings...ceilings that could easily grace one of the palaces in Europe. In place of the elaborate banquettes, and two-story window draperies, is a huge 30-foot copper bar! The tables and chairs are modern and functional. In short, this is no longer the room where the Brahmins of Beacon Hill would come to dine, after the Friday afternoon concerts at Symphony. The menu itself has been dumbed-down as well. Gone are the Dover Sole. the Chateaubriand for Two, the Lobster Thermidor. In their place is a generic steak and seafood menu. There's even a burger on the menu! From this menu, I reluctantly chose the following: my appetizer was Jonah Crab and Asparagus Au Gratin with Rustic Crackers. My entree was Skin-seared Steelhead Salmon with Purple Potato, Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Relish. For dessert, I had a Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with Gooseberries. Our wine was a tasty Nebbiola. Everything was delicious. Now, in spite of everything that I've just said, the new space works, as a dynamic addition to the grand hotel bar and dining scene! The music is too loud, the crowd is noisy, the service is friendly and attentive, although completely new at what they're doing (the "sommelier" brought us the wine, but forgot to bring the glasses!) They don't bring bread to the table unless you ask for it. The dress is so casual, that there are people there in everything from suits to shorts! But the room was packed last night with people of all ages who were apparently having a good time. Gone is the look of old-world elegance, but the new decor is quite beautiful by modern contemporary standards. There are chandeliers and leather seats. Oil paintings next to plasma TV screens that turn into ornate mirrors as the night progresses. Dark wood and inlaid-tile floors. Reminders of the old room next to tasteful additions to the new space. Anyway, it works! Go check it out for yourself.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

Not 5, because it's too damn loud!
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "GROTTO"

Tucked away on the "flats" of Beacon Hill (the rear side of the hill, away from the Common and the Public Garden,) but still in the shadow of Paul Revere's golden dome on the state's magnificent Capitol building, is a subterranean (basement) hidden gem of a restaurant, "Grotto." A quote from Zagat says it all..."basement dining room, penthouse food." Similar to the countless small, neighborhood restaurants that one finds all over Italy, this gem has been serving the politicians from the Capitol building for years. If you chose from the $40 3-course prix fixe menu, it's also one of the best bargains in town. Because of its cave-like atmosphere, the place is small, very crowded, and always packed. (Make reservations.) But the service is excellent, and the food is as good as it gets. From the fixed price menu, I chose the following: my appetizer was a fresh-from-the-farm Insalata Caprese. My entree was a classic Tagliatelle, Meatballs, and Grotto's Special Tomato Sauce. As good as any Italian grandmother could whip up in her own kitchen! My dessert was a Lemon Panna Cotta, with Raspberry Sauce, and Crispy Pizzelle. A perfect meal, and all for under $40. Our wine was a fruity California Cab.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SEL DE LA TERRE" (BACK BAY)

I was shocked, when chef/owner Frank McClelland closed his popular waterfront restaurant "Sel de la Terre," several years ago, but not surprised, when he reopened it next-door to his prestigious "L'Espalier" in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on trendy Boylston Street, in sophisticated and beautiful Back Bay. As "L'Espalier" did when it moved from its elegant townhouse setting into the modern Mandarin Oriental, "Sel de la Terre" also lost its original distinctive look of rustic Provence. Now they're both contemporary in decor. That's a loss in both cases. But, when all is said and done, the emphasis is still on the food in both of McClelland's establishments, and the food is magnificent. The menu at "Sel de la Terre" is distinctively and elaborately Provencal (if that isn't an oxymoron!) It was difficult to chose, but chose I did. My appetizer was Escargot de Bourgogne with Foraged Mushroom Ragout in a Buttered Brioche. My entree was House-made Potato Gnocchi with, once again, Foraged Mushrooms, Apple Street Farm Greens, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil Pesto, topped with Crispy Eggplant. Our wine was a very fine Nero D'Avola. Chef Daniel Bojorquez knows how to prepare the food of Provence, one of my favorite areas in France; everything was perfect. The breads are still the best in Boston, and service is as good as it gets. This restaurant is only a ten minute walk from where I live, so I don't know why it took me so long to get here, but it was certainly worth the wait. As a footnote, Conde Nast Traveler picked it as one of the "Hottest 100 New Restaurants in the World." The award is well-deserved.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

Darryl Settles, whose newer restaurant/nightclub is "Beehive," has owned a restaurant on this corner of the South End for decades, from when it was called "Bob the Chefs," until its current incarnation as "Darryl's Corner Bar and Kitchen." Its always been famous for its excellent Southern cooking, its live entertainment every night, and its eclectic black and white clientele. I've always enjoyed coming back to it, to see what's new (although they've taken my favorite dish, meatloaf, off of the menu!) After "checking out the joint," I determined that it pretty much looks the same, only spiffed up a bit to suit the gentrification of the neighborhood around it. There's so much good home-style authentic Southern cooking from which to chose on the menu, it's hard to settle on just a couple of dishes, but settle I did. My appetizer was Cajun Crab Cakes, which I love. My entree was Spicy Shrimp Etoufee served over Rice, the best that I've had since the old days in New Orleans. Dessert was simple...Vanilla Ice Cream. Our wine was a hearty California "Cab." The live entertainment last night consisted of a jazz quartet, which was loud, but not intrusive. All in all, a lovely way to spend a Saturday night, and just a short walk from where I live!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PICCO"

What finally brought me to "Picco," was its proximity to the Calderwood Pavilion, where we were seeing a play last night. It's just down the block, and it was pouring! The restaurant is noted for its pizza and homemade ice cream. I had neither which was probably a big mistake. At 6:30pm, the place was packed. We were lucky to get the last table, two pushed-together hi-tops, which I usually avoid. It was fine. Picco doesn't take reservations. Another thing I hate! Anyway, after telling the waiter we were in a hurry, the three of us ordered. As my appetizer, I had a Goat Cheese Bruschetta with White Beans, Roasted Red Peppers and some sort of Pesto Spread. It was delicious. As my entree, I had the worst Pumpkin Raviolis that I've ever had! Ten raviolis served with a Brown Butter and Sage Sauce, and Topped with Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. They were so overcooked that they tasted like a wet dish-rag! Ugh! I cleansed my palette with a perfect Concord Grape Sorbet. If we go back, I'll get the pizza!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "KITCHEN"

In the space formerly occupied by "Pops," where our friend Gabriela worked as pastry chef, we now have the chic new place called "Kitchen," with chef de cuisine Scott Herritt ("Marliave" and "Grotto,") running the show. That block on Tremont has turned into quite the restaurant destination, with "Kitchen" joining "Hamersleys Bistro," "Sibling Rivalry," "B & G Oysters," "The Butcher Block," and "Picco" as places to dine before or after the Huntington Theatre productions at the Calderwood Pavilion. The decor at "Kitchen" is all exposed brick and black leather banquettes. We walked past the open kitchen with its 10-stool bar, to the coveted seats in the glassed-in Conservatory out in the backyard of the restaurant. It's a lovely room for 20 lucky guests. Scott Herritt's menu consists of recipes from a collection of historic cookbooks put together by famous chefs of the past. It's quite impressive, and makes it difficult to chose. As my appetizer, I chose a 19th Century recipe for Steak Tartare with Mustard, Capers, and Slices of Hard-boiled Egg. My entree was a dish that was created by the great chef, Marie-Antoine Careme for the composer Gioachino Rossini in 1830...Tournedos Rossini, a Filet Mignon, topped by Fois Gras and Black Truffle, in a rich Madeira Sauce. On the side was a Ramekin of Creamed Spinach laced with Cheese. Magnificent!! My dessert was a hot-from-the-oven Apple Crisp (Sweet-tart Apples and Sweet Strudel-like Crumbles) with a Scoop of House-churned Vanilla Ice Cream. Our wine was a smooth Pinot Noir from France. A perfect meal in a perfect setting!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BoMa"

When this part of what is now the ultra-chic South End was still part of Roxbury, Washington Street was the worst street in a slum area...under an elevated train line, and populated by prostitutes and drug dealers. When the elevated train came down, and the South End extended into more and more of Roxbury, Washington Street became one of the hottest addresses in town, with expensive condos and fine restaurants. One of these new restaurants is BoMa (formerly Pho Republique.) It's a very attractive place, with distressed cedar and exposed brick on the walls, beamed ceilings, and a highly polished wooden floor. There's a Greenwich Village look to the place. The cuisine is gourmet American, with touches of Mediterranean, and all of the food comes from local farms. That's all there is. The rest is bad news, primarily due to the waiter from hell!!! This old guy who should have retired long ago, knew nothing about how to be a waiter. He mumbled the specials, told us that just about everything on the on-line menu wasn't available, then left. I chose Flatbread with Caprese dressing, (which was just a salty too-big-for-an-appetizer pizza.) The waiter from hell came with our entrees while we were still eating our appetizers. I told him to take them back but not to put them under a heat lamp. When he brought them back later, our Swordfish with Spinach and Gnocchi had obviously been reheated! It was bad. There was no dessert menu so our waiter mumbled the three desserts. I had a dish of Plain Vanilla Ice Cream. You can't ruin that. There were more things that he screwed up, but why go on...the meal sucked. We had a good time because of the good company, so I gave the asshole the tip that he deserved, left, and continued the after-dinner drinks at my place. As for BoMa, bring back the prostitutes and drug dealers!!!
(1-Star)

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CITY LANDING"
This new American restaurant on Boston's waterfront has class written all over it. It claims to be a casual eatery, but it's really not. It has an excellent location, facing the new Rose Kennedy Greenway on one side, and the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel and Aquarium on the other. It's decor is contemporary chic, with Roman brick walls, ceramic-block stone floors, spacious banquettes and tables, and wraparound windows facing the Greenway and the Hotel. Last night at least, it seemed to be satisfying the needs of two distinct groups...young people crowding the large bar area in one separate area, and families with very well-behaved young children, in the even larger dining area. Neither disturbed the other, or us. What kept things under control was the excellent, efficient, beautifully-uniformed staff. The kitchen is run by one of the Cape's most renowned chefs, Bill Brodsky, formerly of the exclusive Wequasset Resort and Golf Club in Harwich. He's now devoting his full time to creating the mouthwatering dishes on his fine menu at "City Landing." From all of the choices available, I chose as my appetizer, the Spinach and Ricotta Farmhouse Dumpling with Parmesan, and Artichoke Chips. My entree was a Seasonal Mushroom Risotto with Truffles and Parmesan. Both were excellent, and very filling. So filling, in fact, that I couldn't have the Chocolate Sorbet that I was eyeing on the extensive dessert menu! I was very impressed by this new addition to the Waterfront scene. I think you will be too.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE CHATEAU" (in Braintree)

I had never eaten at one of the many Chateau restaurants in Massachusetts, and I should have kept it that way. It's not a good chain-Italian restaurant like "Maggianos," but rather a bad-chain Italian like "The Olive Garden!" The signs leading to the restaurant are so misleading that we had to resort to a GPS to find it. It's attractive in the interior in a sort of faux Italian way. The menu has everything on it, so I thought that I'd test it out with a Caesar Salad followed by Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce. The top inch of the Caesar Salad tasted good, but everything below that was just tasteless lettuce...no dressing. The Manicotti were all right, but the sauce was an orange sauce with chunks of meat. I hate chunks of meat in my meat sauce! I risked a Cannoli for dessert. It tasted like a piece of cardboard rolled around some mystery cream. I'm glad that I finally tried the Chateau "experience"...one that I'm not likely to repeat in this lifetime!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

I'm being kind!
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CINQUECENTO (500) ROMAN TRATTORIA"

Just down the block from "Gaslight" on Harrison Avenue, in the huge space vacated by "Rocca," is the latest addition to the growing SoWa dining scene, "Cinquecento." From the minute you step off the sidewalk, and head down the ramp to the imposing side entrance, everything has an industrial look to it, which suits the neighborhood. Inside, you're faced with a wide staircase with lights built into the steps. On the first floor is a large private dining room for catering. As one proceeds up the stairs, the large room upstairs takes shape. It's more Roman trattoria, than elegant dining room, with its wooden floor, brick walls and hanging industrial lights. But it's beautiful, and it was packed last night. We were seated in one of the brown leather banquettes, and given the menus. As my appetizer, I ordered Ricotta Fresca (Warm ricotta, with olive oil, and grilled bread.) We ordered a platter of Salumi (Sopressata Piccante, Prosciutto di Parma, and Moliterno Tartufo...sheep's milk cheese with truffles) for the table, as well as an order of Gnocchi al Sugo di Cinghiale. (The gnocchi were overcooked and soft, so they comped us for the dish.) My entree was Sogliola al Cartoccio (Sole in parchment, with potatoes, leeks, and porcini.) That was one of the most delicious fish dishes that I've ever had! When our waitress told us that this is one of only two restaurants in town that serve some wines on tap, of course we had to try it. We had my favorite, Nero D'Avola, and the only thing different about it, is that it was served cold. Since I like my red wine served at room temperature, I wasn't impressed by the novelty of it being on tap. All in all, when the wrinkles are ironed out (it just opened two weeks ago,) this should prove to be one of the hottest dining destinations in town. Go now, and beat the rush!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "EMPIRE"

Step through the massive double doors of the huge new entertainment complex on Fan Pier on Boston's Waterfront, and you'll feel as though you've just stepped into a James Bond movie, set in Hong Kong or Macao. It's 15,000 square feet, with nine rooms...a club, a restaurant or two, a bar, and several rooms for private parties...all decorated in a tasteful, Asian style by the designer of "Shrine" at Foxwoods, and "Red Lantern" in Boston. It's beautiful, gigantic, and colorful. The food is excellent, consisting of just about everything that you would find on a Japanese, Thai or Chinese restaurant...sushi of all kinds, satays, noodles etc. I don't like sushi at all, and yet I loved it all. We were at a friend's private holiday party in one of the large private rooms, and we wandered through the rest of the complex, checking it out. It was packed, and it was a Wednesday night! It won't take long before this new venue is discovered by the club crowd, and there should be long lines at the door, and a tough time getting reservations. Check out the art work in some of the high-ceilinged rooms; it's stunning. A beautiful new addition to the dining/clubbing scene.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "FOGO DE CHAO"

In only a little over a month since it took over the former "Palm" space in the Westin Hotel, "Fogo de Chao" has become one of the hottest restaurants in town. Everyone from old to young is coming to enjoy this new-to-Boston concept in dining. You enter by going up a winding stone staircase, and enter a beautifully decorated large dining room, centered around an enormous appetizer/salad bar. After being seated, one of the highly trained waiters comes over and explains how the system works. First you go to the appetizer bar and fill your plate with as many of the 30 items that you'd like. They range from prosciutto, salmon, salami, to various cheeses, salads, and potatoes. Then back at your table, when you finish this first course, you turn over your little disk at your place, from red to green, and the carvers start coming. They come with large skewers, each with a different meat, from filet mignon and top sirloin, to lamb and pork chops, to chicken and sausage. Everything is carved right at your table. You pay one price ($46.50,) it's all you can eat, and everything is delicious. I took two big eaters, and they came away stuffed...reluctantly turning their disks from green to red! Unless you're a vegetarian, go, you'll love it!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

As my friend, Carmine, said as we were all dining here, after seeing "Pippin" at the A.R.T., "this is no TAVERN." He was absolutely right. Don't be fooled by the word "tavern." This is a full-blown, gourmet, five-star American restaurant dressed in the authentic, albeit elegant, clothes of the old tavern for which it was named. There's a bar and dining at street level, but proceed down the long staircase to the more formal restaurant downstairs. It's large (complete with its own bar,) comfortable and beautiful. We were seated at a round table for seven and given our menus. There are some tavern items on the menu (burgers and pizzas,) but most of the items were of the gourmet variety. I selected, as my appetizer, Steak Tartare with Quail Egg-yolk, and Garlic Toasts. My entree was Grilled Scallops with Carrots, Faro, and Celeriac Aioli. My cleansing dessert was a Trio of Sorbet....Cassis, Blood Orange, and Champagne. My wine was a fine Cab from Napa. A wonderful dining experience, made even better by the six other friends at our table. (We were a perfect group of 9 at the theater. Two had to dine elsewhere.) So where do we go next, guys, for our next theater day? How about a one-day field trip to Broadway????
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SWEET CHEEKS"
If you know me, then you know that I'm not a big fan of barbecued food, especially pork belly, pulled chicken, brisket, pork ribs and whole chicken (including dark meat.) Not surprisingly, I've just named almost the entire menu at Tiffany Faison's new restaurant, "Sweet Cheeks!" So why did I go? Because I'm a big fan of chef/owner Tiffany Faison, from her days as owner/chef at the now defunct, gigantic and excellent "Rocco," one of my favorite Italian showplaces in Boston. "Sweet Cheeks" is about as unlike "Rocco" as two restaurants can be. It's a big, colorful, pricey Texas-style BBQ place with an authentic Texas-style menu. So, if you like barbecued food, this is the place for you. Just a few blocks from Fenway Park, it's always packed, even when the Red Sox aren't playing. For my dinner, I chose the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, with Collard Greens, Heirloom BBQ Beans, and Hush Puppies. Of course, it was delicious. It brought back memories of my four years living in Oklahoma. Why else would an Italian-American from Brooklyn eat and enjoy collard greens and hush puppies???
(5-Stars ) If you love BBQ.
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "WEST BRIDGE" (in Kendall Square)

It's always exciting when a new restaurant opens, especially when lots of people, especially critics, are raving about it. So we went over to 1 Kendall Square in Cambridge to check it out. It's a big place, with lots of windows and very chic and trendy industrial decor. Right from the front desk, it's obvious that something is slightly different about this place. Everyone working there is so nice! Their aim is certainly to please. But you can't eat great service. So from the "French-inspired New England fare" we began to choose. The menu is divided up into Small Plates, Large Plates, and To Share plates. The knowledgeable waiter was incredibly helpful. From the small plates I chose the Burgundy Snails with Sugar Snap, Black Garlic, and Mushroom. It was one of the best escargots dishes that I've had in a long time. My large plate Breaded Filet of Fluke, with Roast Potatoes, Red Endive, Saba (cooked grape juice,) and Pea Tendrils. Everything was absolutely delicious...cooked, prepared and presented perfectly. (No surprise, since Chef Matthew Gaudet has worked at 11 Madison Park, Jean-Georges, and Aquavit in New York, as well as Brasserie JO in Boston.) Anyway the place is great, certainly worth a trip over the Longfellow Bridge, formerly known as the West Bridge, for which it's named. We all loved it. On the way out, I counted the number of times that the work staff said "thank you." Fifteen! The co-owner brought us our coats!!! Any negatives? It's noisy, but you'll love it anyway.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "5 GUYS BURGERS"

When this popular franchise fast food place opened around the corner from where I live, I thought that I'd give it a shot. Here's the deal: if you order a regular burger and fries with a coke, you'll get two greasy patties and a large take-out paper bag filled with fries...enough for two to three people! The drink will also be large. I ordered a "little cheeseburger," a "little fries," and a regular drink. It was more than enough for me, and it was all pretty tasty. It came to $10. It's nice to know it's there but I don't see myself going there more than once a month. By the way, the cashier who took the order, was an idiot. She got everything wrong!
(3-Stars) Back to Top

Fast Food.
 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "DELFINO" (in Roslindale)

Delfino's is in Roslindale, a small town just outside Boston proper. It doesn't take reservations. I hate that policy. It you live in Boston where everything is in walking distance of the North End with its 100+ fine Italian restaurants, do you have to go to Roslindale for a great Italian meal? NO! But if you do go, go right when it opens at 5pm. By 5:20, the place is packed! It's a charming little place, and there are many wait-staff to keep things moving. Things are also moving in the open kitchen with its many sous-chefs. The chef-owner Judith something-or-other was nowhere to be seen! Last night, in addition to the many menu items, there were two appetizer specials, and four entree specials. They all sounded wonderful. From these, I chose a Caesar Salad, which I shared as my appetizer. It was huge and tasted as it should. My entree was Pappardelle with Shrimps and Arugula. It was also huge and delicious. My dessert was a Homemade Cannoli (overflowing with custardy cream.) Everything was excellent at Delfino, except their no-reservations policy. If you're in the neighborhood at the right time, drop in. Otherwise, if you're in Boston, make reservations at an excellent 5-Star North End restaurant!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

Lost a star for its no-reservations policy!

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ARIA" (in The North End)
The North End was filled with the usual hustle and bustle last night. Lines at every restaurant, Ferraris, no parking anywhere, cannolis, and a violinist serenading the people on line at Il Fiore. We gave our car to the valet and headed up the stairs to the new second-floor restaurant, "Aria." (What do handicapped people do here? There were no signs of an elevator.) The tiny place was packed to the rafters...every inch of space filled with tables. Later on, a table was placed directly in front of the fireplace obscuring the view of the fake fire! OK, you get the picture. It's crowded and noisy. Owner Massimo Tiberi, who used to be the bread boy when this place was "Scalinatella," wants to squeeze every buck out of the place. Those are the negatives. What are the positives? The food, food, food! It's excellent and abundant. My appetizer was Polpette della Nonna (Nonna Rosalie's Signature Meatballs in San Marzano Tomato Sauce.) I skipped the Primi and went right to the Secondi. I had the Capesante in Fagioli (Local Sea Scallops pan seared, White Bean Ragout, Sauteed Spinach and Crispy Prosciutto.) I left half of my entree...it was all so filling. Our wine was a Montepulciano di Abruzzi. As I've said, the food was great and plentiful, but I'm taking away a star because the place is so crowded and noisy, and the service is very slow.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: BOSTON CHOPS

Everyone is clamoring to get into this exciting new hybrid of a steakhouse in the South End. Owner/chef ("Deuxave") Chris Coombs has created a hybrid, with the traditional decor of the best steakhouse in town, "Grill 23 & Bar,"...lots of red leather seats and banquettes, wooden floors, floor to ceiling wine racks, masculine chandeliers, etc. but, as a concession to its neighborhood, the South End, there's funky music and an increasingly noisy ambiance. Right now, the clientele seems to consist of the cast of what could be a new reality show, "The Real Housewives of Boston," and their fat-paunched and fat-walleted "husbands." Fake blond cougars all around us last night! Throwing another bone to the South End, the menu consists of all of the usual steakhouse items, plus lots of other unique dishes and sides. I chose traditionally, with an 8oz Filet Mignon, perfectly cooked, Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, and White and Black Garlic Spinach Gratinee. Everything was excellent. As an additional bonus, servers come around throughout the meal, with hot popovers (a la "Anthony's Pier 4") and creamy butter. I must have eaten a dozen! (Not really.) They also serve complimentary Pommes Frites...all you can eat! Everything about the place is first-class...decor, service, presentation and food. One warning however. The place is very pricey. Count on about $100 per person including one bottle of a good wine, and a good tip to the very-knowledgeable waitress. It's worth it. You'll love it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: WINGS OVER BOSTON

A new fast foods joint has opened across from the Main Quad at Northeastern (in the space formerly occupied by Gnomon Copy, if you know the area.) It's down about eight steps, and isn't handicapped accessible. Lucky for them. The place sucks! I ordered the smallest order of Boneless Wings (about 7 pieces) with Bleu Cheese and Wimpy Buffalo Style Sauces (very hot.) The chicken was chewy and stringy. I didn't like it at all.
(1-Star) Fast Food.

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "GIULIA" (in Cambridge)
Is it worth the trip over to the Porter Square area of Cambridge to check out this new Italian restaurant. Not really, when there are so many excellent Italian places right here in The North End, The South End and the Back Bay. But we did and we enjoyed our meal. It's a lovely place, all exposed brick walls and wooden floors, with a large pasta table, just outside the open kitchen, where they make all of their homemade pastas, during the day. My entree was one of these pastas...Papardelle with Wild Boar, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Juniper. Our wine was a delicious Nero D'Avola. My dessert was a Pistachio Gelato over Crushed Cherries and a Pizzelle. Any negatives? Yes. No bread plates. My wine glass on the wrong side of my dinner plate, and my coat and umbrella brought out to me before we had finished our wine!
(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BRONWYN"
Whenever I wanted my annual fix for German food (wurst, sauerkraut, dark pretzels, etc.) I would head over to Jacob Wirth's, one of the oldest restaurants in town, and as traditionally German as you get in Boston. Now there's a new kid in town. "Bronwyn" in Union Square in Somerville, has a menu similar to Jacob Wirth's, and it's fine looking...classic German with dark, repurposed wood and antique Gothic chairs in the dining room, and communal tables made out of used beams from an old farmhouse. It looks great! But back to the food. I chose to go with noodles rather than wurst, so I had the Biemudeln, which is Dark Beer Pasta, with Artichoke, Mustard and Blue Cheese. I skipped the usual usual beer, because I knew that I was going to have some wine at home later, although they had a fine beer and wine selection. The food was excellent as was the service. I probably won't go again because of their "no reservations" policy, but it was certainly worth the visit.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

No reservations policy.

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PALM"
"The Palm," or just "Palm," in its new location on The Greenway, is one of the most elegant, impressive, and beautiful restaurants in Boston, with its high ceilings, marble columns, painted murals high up on the walls, hardwood floors, and large leather banquettes at the glass windows overlooking The Greenway. It's stunning. Go in just to look at the décor and have a drink, if you don't want to pay the high prices for dinner. A little history about Palm. The original Palm was founded in New York in 1926 by two young immigrants from Italy. When they went to register the name, they wanted to call it Parma, after their hometown in Italy. The clerk misunderstood them, and wrote down Palm. Hence, the name! Our new Palm in Boston is three times the size of what it was in its old location in the Westin. Wow, those chandeliers are impressive. Anyway, to get back to last night's dinner. My friend, Priscilla and I were celebrating the completion of her new book. We did a lot of sharing, because the platter's are huge. Our appetizer was a delicious Caesar Salad, which we shared. It was perfectly made. They're usually not, in restaurants. For our entrees we both chose the rare Chilean Sea Bass (almost extinct,) with corn relish. We shared a large portion of Goat Cheese Whipped Potatoes which we couldn't finish. Our dessert was a shared piece of New York Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce. Our wine was a very nice Sicilian Arancio Pinot Noir. All in all, a memorable dining experience in a classy new restaurant.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PASTA BEACH"

If you're strolling The Greenway, and are looking for a quick Italian meal away from The North End, don't go any further than Rowes Wharf, to the crescent-shaped "Pasta Beach," with its lovely outdoor patio overlooking both The Greenway on one end, and the busy harbor on the other. It's very contemporary in décor and very comfortable. From an extensive menu loaded with a variety of appetizers, salads, pizzas, calzones, and pasta dishes, we settled on a pasta dish. My friend Carmine had been here before and so he recommended that we share the pasta plate called Maccheroncini Mediterranea, consisting of maccheroni, cherry tomatoes, garlic, oregano, cubes of fresh mozzarella, and olive oil. It was certainly big enough to share, and we loved every bit of it. Too full for dessert and too early (for me) for wine. I'll go back for dinner sometime.
(5-Stars) Back to Top


 
If you like very thin-crust pizzeria, then you'll love Otto's. I don't, and it's as thin as it gets here. To use a bathroom analogy, I felt like I was cleaning my ass with 1/2-ply toilet paper!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: HOUSE OF SIAM

When I want Thai food, I usually go to either Pho Basil or Bangkok City, both down the block from where I live. Now I can add "House of Siam" to the list, although it's a short taxi ride away, in The South End. We went over by Uber cab, which is a reliable taxi service, using prompt service, clean taxis, and drivers who speak English!! How refreshing! I really enjoy Thai food, every once in a while, and I put it up there with Italian, French, American Comfort Food, and Mexican, as my favorite cuisines. "House of Siam" is a charming little corner restaurant with an outdoor patio in front. The menus of all of the Thai restaurants that I frequent are relatively interchangeable, so I just told the waiter, I want noodles, finely-ground chicken, a few vegetables, and a hot and spicy sauce. What he brought me was delicious, although the chicken was not as finely ground as I like it. There were some chunks, and a couple of chewy pieces. With my food, I had a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Back home again by Uber cab. All in all, a fine dining night out with friends.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "GINGER EXCHANGE"

I don't like sushi, and I hate Chinese food, so what was I thinking going to a restaurant that bills itself as Asian Fusion cuisine??? I figured I could get something Thai or Vietnamese. So I did the usual, and told my waiter, "bring me something with noodles, ground chicken, and a spicy sauce." That usually works! Well, they had no ground chicken, so they gave me a dish called Bee Gereng, with noodles, ground beef, and a spicy sauce. It was just OK. What wasn't OK was the service. It was terrible. Our waiter spilled wine while pouring it in my glass; he took forever to bring the forks that we asked for; he never brought enough napkins, etc. Our wine was a delicious Fitch Mountain Cellars Cab, which was recommended by our wine distributor friend, Judy Lebel, who joined us later on in the meal. That was the good part of the meal! My dessert, a Banana Cheesecake was too sweet and too hot. It's not a cheap place, and the tip was included on the bill...for an incompetent waiter, no less! The place is pretty, but I'll probably never go back again.

(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "NAPPI'S " (in Medford)

I've now completed my dining adventure of eating in the three "mama-papa" hidden gems of Italian cuisine in the Boston area... "L'Impasto" in Cambridge, "Vinny's" in Somerville, and now, "Nappi's" in Medford. Of the three, Nappi's has more of a restaurant look on the inside...more tables, nicer decor, etc. Joe and Anna Nappi and their daughter-in-law,, run the whole show. He cooks, and the ladies wait on tables. It's a bring-your-own-bottle place, rare for Boston, so we brought our own wine. Also, there is no menu as such. One of the ladies will come to the table, and tell you all of the ingredients that Joe has to work with in the kitchen tonight...meats, fish, pasta...and then you tell him what you want, and he'll make it. The choices are endless. I brought two big eaters, so our table was covered with food, and all of it was delicious. We started with a big Antipasto for the three of us. We also had some Meatballs, and a Shrimp Marinara with Bruschetta. I ordered my own plate of Meatballs and Gnocchi, and my friends had a huge Frutta Di Mare with all kinds of fish, over Fusilli and Gnocchi, and mouth-watering Lamb-chops with a big platter of Pasta on the side. A lot of food, but all of it was eaten. I made a dent in mine, and the boys finished all of the rest. All in all, a fun dining experience, and I recommend it highly. P.S. "Nappi's" is CASH  ONLY. Dinner for three came to $150 last night, and that included one Espresso and a tiny Cannoli. Also, the bill is not itemized...just the total and a big Thank You!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT NA-REVIEW: "NEBO"

Following the trend to open a new restaurant on Boston's beautiful 2-mile in-town park, The Greenway, the Pallotta sisters have closed their restaurant in The North End, and reopened it in fancy new quarters on The Greenway. It's much larger than it was in its former location, and the decor is industrial chic with huge ceiling to floor windows overlooking the park, and its own large heated sidewalk cafe. It has an extensive menu, and it's hard to chose a dish. We ordered Polpettini (Meatballs) and Arancini (Riceballs) for the table. Both were delicious. My entree was a Zucchini Lasagna, which won a "throwdown" with Bobby Flay's!  It was excellent, but very filling. Our wine was a medium-bodied Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. Very smooth. Service was very upscale, and attentive. Overall, my only complaint was that they charged you for the bread! It's worth a visit, especially if you're in the neighborhood strolling the beautiful Greenway.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "SHAKE SHACK"

Like the over-hyped restaurant and original kiosk in New York, this branch in the Chestnut Hill mall, The Street, serves the same menu, burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, etc. Are they the best burgers and milk shakes in town? Asolutely not. They're good, but not great. So if you're shopping at the Mall or going to the Super Delux movie theater there, drop in. Otherwise, stick to your favorite neighborhood burger joint!

(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT  MA-REVIEW: "OSTRA"

Style. Class. Excellent food. Fine service. Jamie Mammano delivers all of these in his beautiful new restaurant "Ostra." Mammano has the Midas touch, as chef owner head of his company, the Columbus Hospitality Group. Their first was "Mistral," then "Teatro," then "Sorrelina,"  then "Federalist" which became "Moo," and in Burlington, the Tuscan farmhouse "L'Andana." All gold. Quite an empire! But back to "Ostra." When you enter the impressive, but unobtrusive entrance, on the corner of a very up-scale residential building, you're immediately impressed by the overwhelming stark beauty of the place. Everything is bright white...walls, high ceilings,  modern chandeliers...with large black and white photo murals, brown leather banquettes,  and a beautiful lounge with an octopus wall mural,  and a row of high-backed blue banquettes facing a piano player. It's all huge and incredibly beautiful, elegant, and stylish. But you can't eat the decor. The menu leans toward Mediterranean seafood using local fresh products. With the help of a helpful, knowledgeable waiter, I selected Jonah Crab Salad with Cucumber-Jalapeno Sorbet as my appetizer.  My entree was a Grilled Salmon with Heirloom Squash Veloute, and Autumn Vegetable Roti. Dessert was a delicious Parfait of Coconut Tres Leches, Pineapple, Rum Granite, Mango Sorbet, and Coconut Ice Cream. Our wine was a fine Cab from Rickshaw Vineyards in California.  Everything was perfect, but there is a caveat. You will pay dearly for this dining experience. It's pricey! Expect to pay about $100 per person, including wine and tip. But it's worth it.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "DEL FRISCO'S DOUBLE EAGLE STEAK HOUSE"

Why are steak houses so damn expensive? Is there a shortage of cows? I prefer a good plate of pappardelle bolognese over a steak. Anyway, we came down to "restaurant row" on Seaport Boulevard to check out this steakhouse, which has joined some of the many huge restaurants that overlook the harbor...Legal Harbor-side, Morton's, Rosa Mexicana, Blue Dragon, etc. It's all relatively new, and it's become quite a dining destination. "Del Frisco's" sits on top of Jerry Remy's, so it requires a walk up a long flight of ornate stairs to get up to the main dining rooms. If there's an elevator, I didn't see one. Once up there, you are seated in one of several beautifully decorated dining rooms...all dark woods, stone carved walls, dark banquettes, large shaded chandeliers. Our table was right at the window overlooking the harbor. From the minute you sit down you notice that service is incredible...attractive wait-staff coming out you from all directions. They hovered, but very efficiently so. From the usual steakhouse menu, I ordered Caesar Salad and Filet Medallions with Chateau Potatoes and Green Beans. Our wine was a fine Soiuverin. OK, maybe I ordered wrong, but after a perfect Caesar Salad, served the correct Mexican way, my three medallions of beef were disappointing. Two out of three were chewy and gristly. At these prices, all should have been center-cuts...filet mignon...and perfect. They weren't! My friend's huge steak was excellent...big an tasty. Anyway, I left stuffed but disappointed. I won't go back anytime soon. When I want a good steak...almost never...I'll continue to go to my favorite steakhouse in town, "Grill 23 and Bar."

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ESTELLE'S"

The latest restaurant to come to my neighborhood is the New Orleans flavored "Estelle's," just a short walk up Mass. Ave. Entering this corner restaurant, you'll find yourself in the crowded bar area, forced to walk the narrow lane between drinkers who are facing each other and watching the hockey game on TV. We were ushered to our corner table in the small dining area in the back,  and presented with our menus. All of the dishes are items that could be found on the menu of a comparable place in New Orleans...cajun, creole, etc. That sounded promising. I won't lie. I came for the meat loaf, my favorite comfort food, so that's what I ordered. It was a Spicy Coca-Cola Glazed Cajun Meat Loaf with a large floret of Grilled Broccoli, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Buttermilk Fried Onions. It was delicious! When we asked for bread, our waiter said that he would have to charge us for it. I don't like that at all, and it rarely happens. Another star off the review! (The first one was taken off for the crowded entranceway.) All that was missing was some live jazz, beads and party hats, for it to make you feel that you were on Basin Street. That would have been nice. Instead we got a hockey game on TV, and expensive bread! In fact, the whole menu is fairly pricey for this newly gentrified corner on Mass. Ave. So, as they say on "Shark Tank," for that reason, I'm out!!!

(3-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ABBY PARK" (in Milton)

Friends in Boston invited me out to dinner last night. "Anywhere" they said. So, we settled on the much-talked-about "Abby Park" in Milton. I had heard good things about this place, so we went. Worth the trip? Don't bother. Although it's quite an attractive place, with lots of wood on wainscoting and floors, original oil paintings, and pretty chandeliers, it's LOUD, LOUD, LOUD! The maitress d' offered to put us in the downstairs dining room "where it's quieter," but I figured, how bad can it be? As it turned out, pretty bad. We weren't counting on the loud-mouthed hard-of-hearing drunk at the next table! So we stayed, and ordered. Two of us ordered the Grilled Kobe Meatloaf, with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Portobello Mushrooms and Red Wine Sauce. (I prefer a good meat loaf over steak!) It came built up like a tower, the way Todd English used to do it decades ago, at Olives. The meat was overcooked, to the point where you couldn't taste any of the ingredients, and it was covered with a sweet red wine that tasted like Manishevitz!  The mashed  potatoes and mushrooms tasted like they had been cooked last week, and simply reheated. It's a pretty bad meal, when the best thing about it was the Raspberry Sorbet, which didn't quite wash away the taste of the meatloaf entree. I had intended to give this place three stars, but in writing this review, I realized I couldn't give it more than two, and those are really for the decor. Stay in town next time. You'll get a better meal...anywhere!!!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ALMA NOVE" (in Hingham)

The Wahlberg brothers (actors Mark and Donny, and chef Paul,) have created a beautiful destination restaurant on the picturesque harbor in Hingham, just 14 miles South of Boston. "Alma Nove," named for their mother Alma, and the nine (Nove) Wahlberg siblings, is an upscale, very pricey, Italian restaurant, that I would recommend going to when the weather is perfect, and you can chose to eat out on the patio deck (complete with fire pits and large umbrellas,) or sit indoors by a window, watching the boats and people form a great backdrop for an excellent meal. We went, because it was just that kind of perfect-weather night, and I had heard so much about the place. The indoors part of the restaurant is not very large, but when combined with the outdoors patio deck, it makes for a good-sized, beautifully designed place. The service staff is all attractive and knowledgeable about the extensive menu items. From this menu, I chose an appetizer of Suppli (Roman Rice Balls,) with San Danielle Prosciutto, Fresh Asiago Wrapped in Crispy Risotto, and an Arrabbiata Sauce. My entree was Homemade Gnocchi, with Wild Mushrooms, Madeira, and Truffle Pecorino. My dessert was Blackberry Cheesecake. Our wine was a delicious Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. Everything was delicious, but there was nothing that you couldn't get at one of our many fine Italian restaurants right here in town. You go to "Alma Nove" for the ambience, and at about $100 per person, you pay for it!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA_REVIEW: "VOLARE"

A pattern seems to be developing, of exploring interesting restaurants in the nearby suburbs around Boston. Last Saturday, we were on the harbor in Hingham, and last night we went up to Revere. What brought us there was a chef from Sicily who runs a restaurant called "Volare." Chef Salvo comes from Monteleprre in Sicily, where he trained as a classical trumpeter as a young boy. As a young man, he even played his trumpet at Palermo's great opera house, the Teatro Massimo. To make ends meet he worked in his uncle's restaurant, where he learned the culinary arts. There, he fell in love with cooking. When he came to Boston, his skill in the art of cooking took him to jobs in restaurants in the North End, in places like Antico Forno and Lucia, and eventually to a job as chef at the Taj Hotel. It wasn't long before he opened his own restaurant, Volare, in Revere. It's a fairly large place, with minimalist, industrial-style decor. It's run in a very "mama-papa" way, with chatty waitresses who mispronounce "gnocchi" ("nucky,") but who treat you like visiting royalty! The menu is filled with just about everything. From this variety, we chose to share our appetizers of Veal Meatballs in a delicious dipping Tomato Sauce, with Shaved Parmigiano Cheese, and an order of Aranciette in a Bolognese Sauce with Mozzarella and Tomato-Basil Sauce. The meatballs and rice-balls were many and huge, and we certainly didn't have much room left for the Gnocchi Sorrentina in Plum Tomato Sauce with Mozzarella and Basil Pesto, that we foolishly ordered as entrees. The devil must have made us order the desserts of Cannoli for me, and Sfinge for my friend, Omar.  Hell, I had to try the cannoli, a true Sicilian "invention." It was perfect, but Omar ended up taking home half of the gnocchi and half of the desserts. They gave you TWO cannoli, and half a dozen sfinge. All in all, A wonderful place for great home-style food...but I'm still full!!!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "RIBELLE"

Restaurateur Tim Maslow (of "Strip-T's" fame in Watertown) has opened up a new up-scale Italian restaurant in the enclave of trendy restaurants in Washington Square in Brookline. It's just a 10-minute ride from where I live, but it seems like a world away, because of the people who live there. Go, and you'll see what I mean! Rather than the fancy diner-like fare that he serves up at "Strip-T's," the menu here is made up of Italian dishes prepared in unusual ways. First of all, the look of the place is a bit bizarre, with two long communal tables, made of planed tree trunks, stretching the length of the room. There are some tables for two around the perimeter of the room, and there's a large outdoor are on a patio in front. Our waiter couldn't have been more attentive, or knowledgeable, about the odd dishes on the menu. If you're a picky eater, as I am, go on-line and look at the menu beforehand, otherwise you might have a problem picking out something. The safe pasta dishes (pasta being Maslow's specialty after his years apprenticing at "Del Posto" in New York) are paired with some unusual ingredients, to make them unrecognizable (e.g. rigatoni with octopus, etc.) As an appetizer, we shared an excellent, authentic, Sicilian Caponata with Semolina Bread and Pine-nuts. My entree was Porgy (the whole fish with head and tail, which I promptly cut off and had the waiter take away,) with Putanesca Sauce, Fregola, Favas, Porcini, and Capers. One big problem with both of our entrees is that Maslow has a heavy hand with the salt. Everything tasted over salty! We skipped dessert (also unusual dishes,) and went across the street to Emack and Bolio's where I had a delicious Root Beer Float, to take away the taste of all that damn salt!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

  

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "LIQUID ART HOUSE"

Wow! A stunningly beautiful, creative, and unique new eating establishment, has joined the other restaurants ("Maggiano's," Davio's," "Smith and Wollensky,") in the triangle behind the Park Plaza Hotel. From the minute that you walk in the double glass doors into the bar area, you know that something different is going on in here. Part restaurant, part art gallery, the Liquid Art House is a new kind of eatery. Owner Ruta Laukien has hired a design team to make the place a showcase for fine food, as well as a serious venue for art installations. Walk in those glass doors and you're in a huge room, with two-storey high ceilings, a bright white in color, dominated by a tremendous oval bar, marble-clad pillars around the perimeter of the room, colorful original oil paintings around the upper walls, and a massive wine-colored glass chandelier from Murano, Italy. It's one of the most breathtaking entries to a restaurant, in town. Go in just for a drink and to look around. Everything is for sale. That's right. All of the art, and the jewelry in the glass cases around the room. But we went for dinner, so we ordered from the menu that chef Rachel Klein has created. We shared an appetizer of Cheese Dumplings and one of German Beer Pretzels. My entree was Local Roasted Scallops, with Cauliflower Puree, Snap Peas, Pickled Carrot, Pomegranate, Spiced Meringue, and Vadouvan-Labne.  My dessert was Sorbet of Cantaloupe and Honey Dew, and Pineapple and Earl Grey. After you've finished eating, take a walk around the whole place. It's very big. Look up, look around, but don't break any of the glass sculptures! They're beautiful, but they must cost a fortune, as will your meal. The place is not cheap, but it's comparable to other up-scale restaurants in the area. The yuppies and hipsters have already discovered LAH, as they call it, so you'll walk through a group of these to get to your table. Take a look at the bartenders. These male and female baristas are  very good-looking, and dressed in striking uniforms to match the chandelier! By the way, did I mention that service was excellent, although the food took a while to get to the table. But don't be in a rush when you go here. There's too much to look at in addition to dining. I really enjoyed this welcome new addition to Boston's changing dining scene.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "PASTORAL"

What the Fort Point Channel/ Seaport Boulevard neighborhood needs is a large Whole Foods or Wegman's, not another restaurant or pick-up bar. But, the restaurants keep opening, and here's the latest. "Pastoral" is diagonally across the street from the finest restaurant in town, "Menton," and its accompanying "Sportello" and "Drink." But judging from the crowd that was already at "Pastoral," early in the evening, there are enough yuppies and hipsters to go around. Chef/Owner Todd Winer, who did wonders at The Met Club, has taken this large space and stripped it down to its rough brick walls, cement ceiling, neon overhead lights, and exposed air/heating ducts. Old window frames separate the bar from the dining area and the floors are rough wood. The decor is funky but it works, and creates a very casual atmosphere. The menu is vaguely Italian, and I chose Veal Meatballs with Peppers and Goat Cheese as my appetizer, and my entree was a 1/2 portion of Mezzi Rigatorni with a Bolognese Sauce and Fior Di Latte. My dessert was House-made Peach Gelato. If you're a normal eater, go for the half portions, because the servings are large. Service is very slow, but when the food gets to you, it's delicious. I'm taking a star away from the rating because we had to ask for, and pay extra for the bread. That's a "no-no" in my book. I wouldn't go back, but it's worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "ALDEN & HARLOW"

Under the historic Brattle Theater in Harvard Square, where, for decades, the cult classic restaurant "Casablanca" used to be, now we have the beautiful new place with the fancy name "Alden & Harlow." It's dark, subterranean, and with lots of granite, wood and leather. Very fancy. Being a picky eater, I had a problem with the menu items going in. Out of about 15 entrees, I could only eat about 3. Chef/owner Michael Scelfo has created some very exotic dishes out of ordinary ingredients. My eyes immediately went to one entree, and that's what we both ordered. It was Sweet Corn Gnocchi with Zucchini and Blossom Ragout, and Serrano Crumbs. It was absolutely delicious, and the portion was large. As a dessert, I had a Single Portion of Cheese, with Figs, Honey and Shortcake. A fine meal in a beautiful new setting. The place was packed at an early hour for dinner, so it's obvious that the "beautiful people" are hungry for a new fine-dining establishment. Well, it appears that they've found it!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANTS MA-REVIEW: "TOSCANO IN HARVARD SQUARE"

Beacon Hill's finest classic Italian restaurant, Toscano, has opened a branch on a picturesque corner of Harvard Square, on Brattle Street, just a three minute walk from the American Repertory Theatre, where we have our season tickets for the upcoming theater season. How convenient! And how beautiful the decor is, with its dark woods and leather, deep grays and marble tabletops, and hand-painted Italian chandeliers. And how extensive and varied is the menu, with all of your favorites, and many more. And how excellent is the attentive and knowledgeable wait-staff. It's all first class, and a fine addition to the Harvard Square dining scene. And speaking of fine dining, let me tell you what I had. My entree was Pappardelle Bolognese "Bianco," with Veal, Beef and Pork, in a Tomato and Cream Sauce with Ricotta. It's a good thing that we didn't have appetizers or desserts, because the entrees were so filling...and very delicious. I can't wait to go back to try one of their four risotto dishes, or their pasta e fagiole, or their Filet of Lemon Sole. And so it goes!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "THE DAILY CATCH-SEAPORT"

Beautiful setting, unique, delicious food, great service. All of these describe the seaport branch of the wonderful old-school restaurant in the North End..."The Daily Catch."  That restaurant has become virtually impossible to get in, because of its 20 seats, and no reservations policy. So it was good news to all the fans of the restaurant when they opened this huge branch of the Sicilian seafood and pasta place. I say "huge," because it holds 100 diners indoors, and 300 more on the patio deck, overlooking the harbor with its boats coming and going. We followed the smell of garlic, which led right to our table right on the water! The menu is extensive, filled with lots of dishes prepared Sicilian style, and lots of calamari plates...their specialty. From all of these, I chose the Homemade Black Linguine (Tinta di Calamari...Squid Ink,) Puttanesca,  with Onions, Mushrooms, Bell Peppers, Olives, Anchovies and Butter Sauce. It was absolutely delicious! Our wine was a Sicilian red, "Il Moro."  Excellent. All in all, everything was just perfect, including the company. When the next warm Summer night comes around, and you're really hungry for a big meal in a beautiful waterfront setting, try this. You'll love it!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BAR BOULUD" (in the Mandarin-Oriental Hotel in Boston)

It didn't really surprise me when the world's greatest chef, Daniel Boulud, opened his first restaurant in Boston at the Mandarin-Oriental Hotel in the Back Bay. What really surprised me was that the previous two restaurants at the Hotel, "Asana" and "Sel de la Terre," had closed! Rents too high in the Back Bay? Anyway, Chef Boulud saw the opportunity and grabbed it. He hired Adam Tihany, the most famed restaurant designer in the world,  to do over the old "Asana" space on the street level of the hotel. The only thing remaining of "Asana" is the huge glass wine cellar-wall at the entrance. The rest is lots of wood, on floors and carved wine-crate-logo walls, red velvet and black leather banquettes, and all covered by a vaulted ceiling of wooden slats, creating a wine-cellar atmosphere. It all looks very beautiful and very expensive. We decided to head over there during its opening two weeks, while Daniel Boulud was still cooking in the kitchen. He hands over the chef's hat to Aaron Chambers, formerly the chef at Boulud's wonderful "Boulud Sud' in New York, in two weeks. So what did we have him whip up for us? As an appetizer I got one of my favorites, Escargots de Bourgogne with Parsley, Minced Vegetables and Garlic. I scooped up every bit of those veggies and garlic, with the wonderful French bread generously provided. Next came another one of my favorite dishes, the entree Filet of Lemon Sole Meuniere with Cauliflower, Capers, Marcona Almonds and Brown Butter. Yum, yum, yum, and not a bone in sight! To cleanse our palette, our dessert was a refreshing Lemon Sorbet with Bisque Tortoni Crumbs on the bottom. Our wine was a Tuscan Chianti Riserva, the only Italian wine on the all-French wine list. Everything was just about perfect at this meal, including the excellent service. Yes, it's a pricey place, but it is the Mandarin-Oriental Hotel, and it is in the Back Bay.  So bring your appetite and your credit card. Go for it!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "ROSEBUD AMERICAN KITCHEN AND BAR" ("ROSEBUD DINER" in SOMERVILLE)

Rosebud Diner, the historic diner in Somerville since 1941, where I used to eat very often when I lived in Somerville, has reopened, after extensive renovations, and is now being called the "Rosebud American Kitchen and Bar." The diner has been a fixture in Davis Square for decades, and is now a National Landmark. The diner part of the restaurant has been furnished with red banquettes and retro-looking tables, and the long counter has been replaced by tables and chairs matching the banquettes. In addition, there's now a huge dining room, with matching decor opening off the rear of the diner. It all looks great. Of course, we asked to be seated in the original diner section of the restaurant. By the time we finished an early dinner, the entire restaurant was filled. The menu consists of typical diner food...American comfort food...and then some. We ordered the BBQ Baconator Meatloaf Fatty with Buttery Smashed Potatoes and Poblano-Onion Gravy. It tasted as though it just got off the barbecue grill..very smoky, and delicious. Our wine was a Sicilian Nero D'Avola from a new (to me) vineyard. No room for dessert. One negative about the place. They don't serve bread. So if you want bread with your meal, you have to order a side of biscuits. That's a no-no for me, so I'm taking away one star for that. Other than that, the Rosebud is worth a trip to Somerville, and if you pass my old house on Broadway, say "hello" for me!

(4-Stars) Back to Top


 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "LEGAL ON THE MYSTIC"

Clustered along the Great River Road at the Assembly Row shopping plaza, with several of the other big restaurants, and overlooking the Mystic River (who knew that it could look so good???) is the new Legals..."Legal on the Mystic." It has a vaguely industrial look, and lots and lots of wood. There are communal tables behind the large bar area, and lots of other configurations of seating. Even though it's so big, there was a 25 minute wait for seats at tables other than the communal tables. We sat at a communal table, and were all alone there for most of our meal. The menu is about the same as what you'd find at the other Legal restaurants. From this menu, I chose Legal's Signature Crab Cake, with Mustard Sauce and Seasonal Salad. We shared a delicious Warm Spinach and Feta Dip with Whole Wheat Pita Chips. The only negative about this new place is that service is very slow. Our waiter did everything to avoid us!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BASTILLE KITCHEN"

I thought that Fort Point Channel, the location of this new restaurant,  was right across the bridge behind South Station. It's not. It's several blocks down in "Southie,"  near the Red Line Broadway T stop, diagonally across from Ming Tsai's "Blue Dragon," near the 100-year-old German restaurant "Amrhein's." Now that I've made it sound far away, let me say that it only took us 10 minutes to drive there. So, it's not far. I guess the next question is, "is it worth the trip?" The answer is, if you're driving, "yes." The large 260 seat place is beautiful, in an ultra-chic industrial way, with brick walls, wooden floors, comfortable banquettes, etc. No TVs in the bar area. Thank God! The decor looks expensive, and the prices on the menu match the decor. The menu is very authentically French...just like eating in a cafe/bistro in Paris. From the extensive menu, I chose two of my favorites, Escargots with Butter, Garlic, Parsley and Grilled Baguette, and as my second plate, Dry Aged Steak Tartare with Quail Egg, Fried Pickles and Mustard Aioli. Our bread basket was filled several times with fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants. Our wine was a Vin du Maison Pinot Noir. The service was excellent. Everything about the dining experience was first class, but aside from going to the restaurant itself, and enjoying the new hot spot in town,  there was nothing that I ordered that I haven't had at "Brasserie JO," just a block away from where I live!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "CHINESE MIRCH"

A new restaurant opened downstairs in my building about three weeks ago. It's an Indo-Chinese restaurant serving spicy Chinese and Indian food...a blending of Hakka and Szechuan style and traditional Indian. All of this means nothing to me because, if you know me, you know that I don't like either Chinese or Indian food! Ah, why not a good mama//papa Italian or French restaurant, or better yet, a 24-hour diner??? But we've got what we've got, so I haven't rushed down to eat there. Besides, the reviews from my neighbors haven't been exactly glowing. Eliminating those who know nothing about truly fine dining, they've ranged from "good food/terrible service" to "the worst dining experience that I've ever had!" So I haven't really felt the need to rush there. However, last night I felt the need for some nice spicy noodles, so I took a deep breath, didn't even put on a coat, and headed down for a bowl of noodles. The place opens at Noon, so I was surprised to be told by the waitress that it was closed at 5. "Come back in a half hour." No explanation. Not a good start. Luckily, I live upstairs. So after hanging out in my lobby for a half hour, I went back in. Since I was the only diner in the place, I was greeted by two waiters, the waitress, and some older guy, who good have been either an owner or a janitor! They were all very friendly, and when I told them I wanted a bowl of spicy noodles, they made some helpful suggestions. In a few minutes, out came a huge bowl of bright red Chili Garlic Noodles Tossed in Chili Garlic Paste with Vegetables and Egg. I plunged in. It was absolutely delicious. Let me qualify that. It wasn't Pappardelle alla Marinara, drenched in a dippable tomato sauce, but it was exactly what I was looking for last night...and I really enjoyed it. What I also enjoyed was five of my neighbors, who were just passing by and spotted me in there, coming in individually to say hello, and asking me what I thought of the place. So, because this new place was exactly what I was looking for last night, and the fact that I was the only diner in there, I might be giving it more stars than what it truly deserves, but only time will tell.

(4-Stars) Back to Top


 

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "PIERROT BISTRO FRANCAIS"

After this coldest and snowiest record Winter in Boston, you might want to hop on a plane and head over to Paris to celebrate April in Paris. However, if you can't indulge yourself with this trip, take the short drive to the flats (backside) of Beacon Hill, and have a wonderful dinner in one of the most charming restaurants in town, the tiny, corner "Pierrot Bistro Francais."  From the minute you walk in the door, and pull aside the velvet curtains, you'll feel as though you've been miraculously transported to Paris. The ambiance, the decor, the Parisian waitresses, the menu, and especially the preparation and presentation of the food, all say Paris, Paris, Paris! The menu is not a long one, but everything that you might want, will be on it. I selected the following: my appetizer was Escargots, prepared simply, but perfectly, in butter and garlic. My entree was a perfect Coquille St. Jacques (Scallops in White Wine with Rice and Vegetables.) My dessert was a Tangerine and Raspberry Sorbet. Even the bread was perfectly Parisian. Our wine was a Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux/Merlot blend. The place was packed, even though the weather wasn't very pleasant, so I suggest making reservations. What surprised me the most about this wonderful venue, is that it's been around for ten years, and I've never heard of it. I guess that you can still fly under the radar, even in Boston, where I've eaten in just about every restaurant. Oh well, I finally made it, and I'll certainly be going back again. Bon apetit!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

  

RESTAURANT MA-REVIEW: "BABBO PIZZERIA AND ENOTECA"

Generally it's not a good idea to go to a restaurant during it's first week, but who could resist, when Mario Batali himself was in the kitchen this weekend, and his business partner, Joe Bastianich, was roaming around out front. So we went down to this new place in the Fan Pier/ Seaport Boulevard area, where huge, new restaurants pop up every month. It's a big place, with a trendy industrial look, and as the night progressed, it seems that every yuppie, hipster, and "oldies with money," seemed to be flooding in. While we waited for our friend to arrive, we sat at the long bar, and had a drink and shared a delicious Mozzarella in Carrozza, a Batali specialty. When our friend arrived, and we were seated in a corner away from the crowds, but not away from the noise and the loud music, we took some time to check out the long menu. Oh, by the way, some fat little maitress d' at the front desk refused to seat us, until our entire party was present. She was very rude, and lost the restaurant one star in this review. We were told that all of the dishes were piattini, small plates, and were priced accordingly. It's not a very expensive place. Because I bitched a lot up front, they sent us two little pots of Sicilian Eggplant Caponata and Cauliflower Alla Siciliana to eat while we pondered the menu. We also ordered our wine, a Sicilian Graci Etna Rosso Nerello. It seems that the theme was shaping up to be Sicilian for this meal. My entree was Rigatoni Cacio e Pepe and an order of three Polpette (Meatballs of Heritage Pork, Beef, and Sunday Sugo.) The size of the portions was just perfect for me, but some of the dishes might be small if you're a big eater. Ask the waiter before ordering. My friends shared a Pork Cheek Pizza after their small entrees. My dessert was a mixture of Two Sorbetti (Lemon and Blood Orange) and a Housemade Vanilla Gelato. Everything was delicious, and very filling for me, and the night was great fun, due to the excitement of checking out a new place, and the company was excellent at my table. Go with good friends and you'll have a wonderful time, as I did

(4-Stars) Back to Top

.

RESTAURANT REVIEW: "ABBY LANE"

If you're going to see anything at the Shubert theatre in the Theatre District downtown, this couldn't be more convenient. It's right next door. Where there once used to be a ratty old pizzeria, there's now a glamorous, big, trendy "tavern," with burgers, pizzas, and lots of fun appetizers, and hearty entrees. From the latter, I chose Roasted Wild Sockeye Salmon with Pan-fried Spietzle, Asparagus, Shiitake and Leek Ragu, Tarragon and Creme Fraiche. It was delicious. We were sitting at one of the open-windows up front, so it was very noisy. But don't confuse this restaurant with Abby Park in Milton, where it's loud, loud, loud, and the food is terrible!  I do have one complaint. They don't really have any bread. They bring chips and dip. When I asked for bread, they brought a piece of what tasted like grilled Tastee bread! Other than that, the place is a fine addition to the ever-expanding Theatre District dining scene. Oh by the way, our wine was a nice Sangiovese.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

RESTAURANT REVIEW: "PEPE BOCCA"(in Davis Square, Somerville)

I shouldn't even be reviewing this as a restaurant, because in reality, it's an Italian deli (in Davis Square in Somerville,) with tables, indoors and outside. There's no waiter service, but they will bring your order to your table. The place is stocked with homemade and packaged food products, all of which you can buy, either to go, or to eat there. There are all kinds of pizzas and calzones, meatballs, arancini, homemade cannoli, etc. You get the picture. I ordered two delicious meatballs, a big slice of pizza fra diavolo with calamari in the sauce, and a potato croquette. Yes, it was too much food, but my friend Priscilla, shared some of the meatballs. Everything was delicious. I bought a loaf of olive bread and some scamorza to go. Tonight's dinner?

(5-Stars) June 27, 2015.   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW: "SOPHIA'S GROTTO" (in Roslindale)

To whoever recommended this restaurant to me, "Thank you; it's absolutely wonderful!" It's a 23-minute drive from my place, and there's a Roslindale "T" stop across the street. so, it's accessible. As you enter, look around this strange looking place, with many outdoor features like brick walls and floors, and even an overhanging rooftop, indoors. A huge chandelier hangs inexplicably, in the middle of the room. The walls are covered with stills of Sophia Loren. The look is funky and surreal. But, the best is saved for outdoors. Outside, is a huge meandering yard (too big to be called a patio,) filled with tables with umbrellas, and a large awning covering many of the tables. The lights from stores behind the yard fills the place. The whole thing is reminiscent of my favorite restaurant in Rome, "Da Meo Pattacca." We should have taken pictures. But, you know you can't eat the scenery, so let's get to the food. In a word, it's excellent! I was there with two of my dearest friends, and from an extensive menu, we chose platters of Mediterranean Salad, Meatballs, and Arancini as appetizers. My entrée was Tagliatelle Bolognese. Our wine was a Sangiovese, and my dessert was Cannoli. Be warned. If you order the Cannoli, you'll get two big ones. Everything was delicious, and the restaurant is reasonably priced. All in all, this was an exceptional dining experience. Go, you'll love it. Invite me. I'll be there in a heartbeat!!!

(5-Stars) August 17, 2015   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW: "Ma Maison"

How wonderful it is when everything comes together to form a memorable dining experience...exciting new restaurant, good friends with whom to share the experience, fine French food and impeccable service. That's what happened last night when we ate at "Ma Maison." World-renowned chef/owner Jacky Robert ("Maison Robert") came out of semi-retirement to create a new restaurant, where for decades, there was the popular French bistro, "Pierrot Bistro Francais." I ate there several times and loved it. Chef Robert changed the décor considerably. No more clowns on the walls, and with brass railings behind more formal looking banquettes, the old place looks all shining, dressed up, and much less casual. To the untrained eye, the menu seems to have all of the bistro favorites on it. From these I ordered Escargots in Garlic and Butter as my appetizer, and Pan-Seared Scallops with Mushroom Risotto as my entrée. For the table we had a platter of Heirloom Tomatoes with Gorgonzola Cheese. Dessert was a Peach and Raspberry Sorbet. Our wine was a Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux. Everything was delicious and served perfectly. The service couldn't have been better. A perfect night out for fine dining.

(5-Stars) September 5, 2015   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW: "Trattoria Zooma" (on Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island)

Someone recommended this restaurant to me, so after looking at the menu on-line and spotting a few of my favorite peasant dishes, pasta e fagioli and mozzarella in carrozza on it, we decided to take a drive down to check it out. It's about a 45 minute drive down depending on traffic. Was it worth it? No. Not when you come from a city filled with hundreds of fine Italian restaurants, with 140 of them in the North End alone. But the food was good, the décor was comically tacky, and we had a good time. But there's no need to go back again. I had the Pasta e Fagioli and the Mozzarella in Carrozza. Both were good, not great. I'm spoiled of course, because I grew up in Brooklyn where we ate in restaurants where both of these dishes were cooked to perfection. In any case, it was a fun night with good friends and good food.

(4-Stars) October 3, 2015   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW: "La Motta"

Seth Woods and his Aquitaine Group ("Metropolis," "Gaslight," "Cinquecento,") have closed down their elegant restaurant in the South End, "Union Bar and Grill," and after extensive renovations, have reopened it as "La Motta." Their goal was to make it look like the mama/papa, red tomato sauce Italian restaurants in the Bronx/Brooklyn of the 1950s. Well, it doesn't. It's much too fancy to look like one of those wonderful places. I should know. I've eaten in enough of them. Lots of reclaimed woods on wainscoting and floors, tin ceilings, and chalk-board menus on the walls. But as the cliché goes, you can't eat the setting. So, let's get to the food. There's nothing really unusual on the menu, that you can't find at any other good Italian restaurant in town, such as the Mozzarella in Carrozza that we drove down to Providence to test a couple of weeks ago. So we tried a little of this and a little of that. I started with a delicious Tuscan Bean Soup with Escarole and Lemon. Then, as an entrée, I combined some Arancini, which were very tasty,although theytasted more like Potato Croquettes, and Beef Meatballs, good but not exceptional. My dessert was a Chocolate Italian Ice, which tasted very much like a New York Italian Ice. Close, but it wasn't Ralph's! So, I guess what I'm saying is that everything ranged from good to delicious, and it was very reasonable, but there's really no reason to go back there again.

(3 1/2-Stars) October 31, 2015   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW: "AMULETO" (in Waltham)

Oles and bravos all around, for this excellent new Mexican restaurant on Moody Street in Waltham, just across the river. Don't go there expecting your typical Tex-Mex taqueria, although its extensive menu does have tacos and enchiladas, albeit with unusual fillings and sauces. This is more the kind of fine-dining Mexican you'd find in Mexico City, similar to the Casa Romero right here in Boston. The décor is not as charming as Casa Romero, (not many restaurants are,) but in its own way, it does convey the sense of what you're going to eat. From all of the many appetizers, I chose one of my favorite dishes, Queso Fundido. For those of you who joined me from time to time down on my many Christmas vacations in Acapulco, it was as good as the one that they served at "Carlos 'n Charlie's." My entrée was Pescado Veracruzana (Sauteed Swordfish with Tomatoes, Capers, Onions, Garlic and Rice.) I washed this too-large portion down, with a much-too-strong Sangria! Dessert was the traditional Flan. Everything was delicious and pricey, and there's really no reason to come all the way out to Waltham for fine Mexican food, when we have the excellent 50-year-old Casa Romero right in town.

(4-Stars) Novemver 7, 2015   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"MUMBAI SPICE" (formerly "Chinese Mirch")

If you've eaten in an Indian restaurant, you don't have to tell your friends that you've eaten in an Indian restaurant, they'll tell YOU that you've eaten in an Indian restaurant...because you'll reek of the damn stuff all evening and into the morning. Having said that, I went downstairs to check out the new "Mumbai Spice" (formerly "Chinese Mirch," which tanked,) because if it's any good, it'll come in handy during a harsh Winter. Hell, it's in my building and just four floors below my apartment...where I can't smell the stink of curry! The managers (the same managers who ran "Chinese Mirch,") treated us as though we were visiting royalty. That was nice. They allowed us to sample some of our possible choices, made changes in some ingredients, etc. Décor is exactly the same as it was in its former iteration. Having decided that I could handle it, I ordered the "very spicy" Chicken Vindiloo, substituting chicken breast white meat for chicken legs/thighs. It was very tasty and very hot. I used some Naan to dip up the hot chili sauce. So, if you like Indian food, you'll probably love this convenient new place. But unless you live upstairs in my building, I wouldn't travel crosstown to come and eat here, unless you want to reek for hours afterward.

(3-Stars) Novemver 10, 2015   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"JOSEPHINE"

Boston certainly has its share of authentic French bistros...places like La Voile, Ma Maison, Gaslight, Aquitaine, Mistral, and the several Petit Robert Bistros around town. When the Petit Robert Bistro in Kenmore Square closed, "Josephine" opened there in its place. Down a flight of stairs you enter a long dining room, with little décor to charm you, except the open kitchen in the rear. When we were there last night, there seemed to be more waiters than customers, but it filled in quickly . The wait-staff is knowledgeable and attentive. After presenting the menus, they give you enough time to check out the authentic French bistro dishes on the menu. From these, I ordered the following: after a polenta amuse bouche,I ordered Escargots, served out of shells, in a small cast-iron pot. My entrée was a Mushroom Risotto, with four kinds of Mushrooms. These dishes were large, very filling, and delicious. Half portions are available. For dessert, we had Lemon Meringue Tart. Why no sorbet on this menu? It would have been perfect. In any case, go and try it out. Wine pairings are available.

(5-Stars) January 2, 2016   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"SRV"

Whenever I've visited Venice in the past, I've had a problem with the food served at the mama/papa trattorias on the side and back canals. It's wonderful food, but it's usually of the exotic variety...baccala, octopus, tripe, clams, liver, etc....not to my liking. So, I ate more meals at the grand restaurants, like the rooftop of the Danieli, the gardens of the Cipriani, Cafe Quaddri in the Square, etc. All of this speaks to the authenticity of the one and only Venetian restaurant in Boston, "SRV." The dishes that I've just mentioned are all on the menu of the new restaurant. So why am I going if the food is not the kind that I like? It's because, also on the menu, is one of my favorite dishes...Mozzarrella in Carrozza. To my knowledge, the only other place in town that serves this, is Mario Batali's place, "Babbo." Anyway, "SRV" finally opened after long delays, and there we were.The place is huge and tastefully decorated, with not a trace of Venice in the decor! From the decent-sized menu, I ordered the Mozzarella in Carrozza (which was cylindrical, but delicious, the small Veal and Beef Meatballs, and the Risotto al Tartufo (Black truffles, pumpkin, and parmesan.) A little too sweet and creamy, but still very good. My dessert was Three Scoops of Ice Cream (Vanilla Bean, Stracciatella, and Mascarpone.) Some Biscotti accompanied the Ice Cream. Everything was delicious, and the army of waitstaff kept things running smoothly..A fine addition to the neighborhood (two blocks away,) although I'll probably never go back again. There's always something new.

(5-Stars) February 6, 2016   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"STOKED WOOD FIRED PIZZA CO."

It started out as a food truck at the Prudential Center in Boston, where people waited for 1 to 3 hours for a slice of pizza! Then the owners opened up a place in Brookline, where they claimed to be serving the "best pizza in Boston." It isn't, but it certainly is ONE of the best thin-crusted pizzas in the Boston area. The decor is clean, colorful, and relatively industrial looking. The staff is friendly and helpful. All pizzas are individual-sized (about 12 inches; six slices.) They make a delicious homemade lemonade, and they also serve a small selection of beer and wine. All in all, it's a nice addition to the Boston pizza scene.

(4-Stars) September 3, 2016   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"MIDA"

The newest neighborhood restaurant is not a "mama-papa" red-sauce Italian, nor is it an "alta-cucina" Italian. It's something altogether different. Using the very same ingredients as your typical Italian restaurant, the innovative chef has devised a menu filled with new, creative dishes. For instance, my appetizer was your typical Arancini, only now, the Rice Balls were also stuffed with Bitter Greens, Fontina Cheese, Spicy Tomato, and Winter Chow-Chow. My entree of Ricotta Gnocchi was made with Kale, Sunchoke, and Parmesan. My friend's entree was Duck Breast with Beets, Marcona Almonds, Charred Onion, Ginger, and Bing Cherries. Get the picture? Portions are small and pricey, but everything was delicious. By the way, my wine was a very tasty, surprisingly light Cabernet Blend. Even better than the fine food and the attractive contemporary decor, was the outstanding service. I can't remember the last time that I had a waiter who was so knowledgeable and attentive. He was what old-school waiters used to be. By the time we left the restaurant, it was packed...not a table to be had, and with quite a lively bar scene. It should do well.

(5-Stars) February 12, 2017   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"ARTISTRY-ON-THE-GREEN" (in the Inn at Hastings Park in Lexington)

A perfectly beautiful restaurant in a perfectly beautiful inn. That's an accurate description of this wonderful restaurant in the newly-designated Relais et Chateaux property in historic Lexington, Mass, just a half hour from Boston. If you're not familiar with the Relais et Chateaux designation, it's a world renowned travel award given to the finest restaurants and hotels in the world. It's highly coveted and as prestigious as it gets in the travel industry. Artistry on the Green in the Inn at Hastings Park joins only four other places in the entire state of Massachusetts that have won this award. The Inn consists of a Main House, and two other smaller buildings around a private parking lot. All three are beautifully designed and decorated in the traditional New England style...gray and white with a wraparound porch on the Main House. The restaurant in the Main House, Artistry on the Green, carries out the New England Style of decor in grays and whites with wooden chairs, and a working fireplace. It's a perfectly appointed room in every way. The menu consists of traditional New England dishes. Service, presentation, and the food itself are all excellent. I'm really not doing this restaurant justice...it's much better than it sounds. If you're in the area, drive out and check it out for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

(5-Stars) September 9, 2017   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"Terra" (in Eataly at the Pru)

Combined with the ones in New York and Chicago, Eataly is the largest Italian marketplace in the world! This one in Boston, alone, is 45,000 square feet. The sit-down restaurant in this Eataly is owned and operated by chefs Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali. Located on the second and third floors of the Pru (the Prudential Center,) Eataly is like a huge bazaar of every kind of Italian food product imaginable...from coffees and herbs to olive oils and baked goods, to meats and fish. If you don't want to be overwhelmed by the abundance of everything Italian that's edible, head straight for the elevator, and take it up one floor to Terra, Eataly's sit-down restaurant. Simply decorated with bright wooden tables and chairs, built around a wood-burning oven, with lots of glass skylights, and overhanging baskets of plants, Terra is comfortable without being pretentious. The menu could be considered pretentious, however, with even the simplest of dishes, embroidered with herbs and spices and sauces, to take them to a new realm. From the Primi Piati section of the menu, I chose Gnocchi with Roasted Fennel and Yellow Tomatoes. A relatively small plate of gnocchi. but enough to fill me up. We wandered around Eataly after our meal, sitting down to enjoy a cup of gelati and sorbetti. I may be back, to wander through the endless maze that is Eataly...or maybe not!

(5-Stars) October 1, 2017   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"LA PIZZA & LA PASTA" (at Eataly in The Pru)

Fifteen different kinds of pizzas and twelve different kinds of pasta dishes served in this very casual, informal trattoria in the heart of Eataly. I had Pappardelle with Roasted Mushrooms. Soffritto, and Pancetta. It was delicious, and I assume that everything else on the menu is delicious as well.

(5-Stars) October 11, 2017   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"MR. CREPES in DAVIS SQUARE" (Somerville)

If you enjoy French crepes, which originated in Brittany in France, head for the new, popular restaurant in Davis Square in Somerville, where the menu consists of nothing but crepes. Go to the counter, and order your crepe filled with ingredients of your choosing, ranging from simple crepes with butter and sugar, to more elaborate crepes (eggs, cheeses, salmon etc.) Then go to your table with a pager, which will light up when your crepe is ready. A waitress will bring it to your table. That's it. Simple and fast. The crepes were good, but mine was a little dry. It's probably my fault, since I ordered egg, ricotta and parmesan, and tomato. Kind of boring. My drink was a delicious cold cider. We went on Sunday, when it was raining out, and the creperie was packed, so it's already become a neighborhood favorite. A welcome addition to popular Davis Square in Somerville.

(3-Stars) October 30, 2017   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"Eastern Standard, a revist

We had a terrible dining experience at "Eastern Standard" yesterday. We went there at about 3pm after the movie, were seated, and given a relatively limited menu. We were told that it's the menu that's used between lunch and dinner!!! My friend wanted salmon, but she was told that there wasn't any. I was staring at a slab of salmon on the raw bar! We told the waitress to go back to the kitchen and ask the chef if he could "find some." She did, and he did. I ordered Escargots, which came in a cream of mushroom sauce rather than the traditional garlic, olive oil and parsley. It was good, but I would rather.....Oh well. It just wasn't a good dining experience...and it was $50 for two! For lunch?????

(1-Star, For this specific visit to an otherwise good restaurant!) December 20, 2017   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"CAFFE NERO"("BLACK COFFEE")

A branch of the popular European coffee-shop chain opened in our building yesterday, and it's a welcome addition, as far as I'm concerned! I took a walk around yesterday morning, just a few hundred feet from my front door. The large courtyard in front is filled with tables and chairs covered with large umbrellas. I met my neighbor Judy and we sat outside enjoying our complimentary cup of coffee. After that, I went inside to take a look around. The large space is divided into an area for dining, surrounded by an area for sitting in large armchairs, and other comfortable chairs. The walls are covered with bookshelves filled with books. There's even a small stage in the front corner, with a spinet piano on a small stage. Future in-house concerts? I sat down at one of the comfortable chairs and greeted friends (Blake), neighbors (Elizabeth, Billy, Bruce) for quite a while. My new spot? The menu consists of breakfast sandwiches, pastries, muffins, every kind of coffee and tea, and a dozen different kind of ciabatta sandwiches and salads. I came back for lunch with Kristen. What a fun place! I can't wait to go back today. Come over and meet me there.

(5-Stars) May 26, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"SIRO'S" AT MARINA BAY

Just a short 20-minute drive from where I live, is the beautiful Marina Bay. Marina Bay consists of a complex of resort-like condos, upscale restaurants, a yacht basin filled with large luxury boats, and a large boardwalk, all on beautiful Marina Bay, with the skyline of Boston in the background. It's one of those settings where you feel that you're far away from a bustling city. It reminds me of the Boardwalk and Yacht and Beach Club Resort area at DisneyWorld. One of these upscale restaurants on the boardwalk, is Siro's...a Northern Italian restaurant. The interior of Siro's is luxurious...with white walls and seats, and charcoal grey rugs and cushions. There's a hydrangea on every table. It's very luxurious, and yet very comfortable. From a small, but classy menu, we selected Fried Calamari with a Sweet Thai Sauce, which we shared. Then, my entree was Pappardelle Bolognese (Veal, Beef, and Pork.) Our desserts were Raspberry and Lemon Sorbet, Everything was delicious, and the service and presentation were perfect. A wonderful choice for this, my birthday dinner. Happy Birthday to me!

(5-Stars) August 4, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"Anthony's Pier 4 Cafe" (in Swampscott)

If you're feeling nostalgic, as I was, for the now-defunct, wonderful Anthony's Pier 4 restaurant and Cocktail Boat on the old waterfront, head up to Swampscott, to his son's place, "Anthony's Pier 4 Cafe." It's not as huge as the original two-story building in Boston, and it's missing the dozens of pictures of celebrities who ate there...from popes, to presidents, to movie stars. But, thankfully, the menu is the same, and I ordered the entree that I ordered every time that I ate at the original place...Baked Boston Scrod with Baked Potato and Glover's Salad. I loved the complimentary Popovers that were brought around by a waiter, and they had them here as well. So delicious! I can't eat as much as I used to eat back in the day, so I skipped my usual appetizer of Escargots, but I did have my usual dessert of Indian Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream. My God, how did I used to eat that much? The view is excellent, as this place is right on the water, as was the original. So if you're in the mood for a traditional New England seafood dinner at its best, head up to Swampscott. You won't be disappointed.

(5-Stars) August 26, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"CAL MARE" at the MGM HOTEL in SPRINGFIELD

Vegas has come to Massachusetts, in the form of the spectacular new MGM Hotel & Casino in Springfield, just a short 1-1/2 hour drive from Boston. As you approach the massive hotel complex, the exterior is all New England, brick and granite, with not a trace of Las Vegas glitz. But in the interior, it's Vegas everywhere...glamorous, exciting, and over the top. We walked around and took in some of the sights, even gambled a bit, before heading over to our reason for coming out here...Michael Mina's "Cal Mare" restaurant. It's a large restaurant with a classy industrial look, built around a huge open kitchen. There are many communal tables in the center of the room, clustered under an unusual chandelier of many lights. The menu is extensive, with some old favorites prepared in new ways. For our table, we ordered Mozzarella and Heirloom Tomatoes, Sardinian Octopus, Nana's Meatballs, and Lasagna Rotolo. We shared a dessert of Blood Orange Sorbet. Everything was delicious and presented beautifully. Service was excellent and surprisingly friendly. We didn't get a chance to see the large theater, but maybe we'll be back in April, when Cher will be appearing.

(5-Stars) September 9, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"TUSCAN KITCHEN-SEAPORT"

We went to check out the spectacular new Tuscan Kitchen in the Seaport District, because of two dishes on the menu. The first was one of my favorite dishes, "Mozzarella en Carrozza," which can't be found in any Italian restaurant in Boston. Before going, I decided to call the restaurant to have them describe their dish, because as described on their menu on-line, it didn't sound like the dish I know. The manager was kind enough to tell me about their dish, and I realized it wasn't the dish that I know. However, the chef got on the phone and said that he would make it for us when we got there. The second menu item was Tagliatelle Tartuffo, which was pasta with truffles prepared in a large cheese wheel at the table. We couldn't resist, so we went to try out both. The restaurant itself is tremendous, beautifully designed, with marble, woods and leather banquettes, in several high-ceiling rooms. Now the food. The chef had indeed made a perfect Mozzarella en Carrozza for us, but told us not to tell our friends! It remains on the menu, incorrectly described! The second dish, which was listed on the menu for $45, because of the special preparation we assumed, was brought to us in regular plates with no sign of a cheese wheel or special at-table preparation. We were told that they don't do that anymore because of a health violation...but they still charged us $45 a plate!!! A big disappointment, and one that cost the restaurant two stars in this review.

(3-Stars) September 16, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"BRELUNDI" (in Waltham)

When my friend told me that he had heard about a restaurant in Waltham that served lots of Sicilian dishes, we thought that we should check it out. After a short 15-minute drive from my place, we came to a huge condo building, that was formerly an enormous watch factory. In the corner of this imposing building is Brelundi, our restaurant for dinner. The decor of the interior is beautiful, with reminders of the watch factory, around the room. After reading the entire menu, which, as promised, is filled with Sicilian dishes, I decided to test the chef with two of my grandmother's specialties, Meatballs in Marinara Sauce, and Spinach and Cheese Arancini (Rice Balls.) Both were large portions and both were delicious. As we were eating, we spotted a familiar face coming out of the kitchen. It was Riccardo, the chef and owner of our favorite small Italian restaurant in Cambridge, L'Impasto. What a pleasant surprise. He was very happy to see us. It's been six years since L'Impasto closed, and now he's here, waving his culinary magic wand in the kitchen of Brelundi. They're lucky to have him. I don't know where we found room for dessert but we did. I had a traditional large Cannoli with a scoop of Chocolate and Hazelnut Gelato. I'm sure that we'll be coming back here again.

(5-Stars) September 23, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"MARE OYSTER BAR" (in Boston's North End)

A close friend called me yesterday, and said that his former college room-mate and his wife were in town, and asked me to join them for dinner in The North End. Although I'm not good with last-minute invitations, and nowadays it takes a lot to pull me out of the comfort zone of my apartment building, I couldn't resist joining good friends for an Italian meal in The North End. The new restaurant in town, joining the nearly 100 restaurants in The North End, is called Mare Oyster Bar. It's a good thing that I didn't know the name in advance, because I don't like oysters. But, luckily, the menu contains much more than oysters. After valeting the car, we entered the restaurant down a long alleyway and through a well-stocked grocery store. Inside, the place is posh and cozy, with fire-pits in the cocktail area, and a full crudo bar. Lots of yuppies around the fire-pits! From the extensive menu I chose Wild Boar Pappardelle as my entree. It was delicious. People at the next table plowed into huge, really huge, portions of lobster, and halibut putenesca. Our wine was one of my favorites, the Sicilian red, Nero D'Avola. It was so good. All in all, for a last minute decision, it was a very enjoyable dining experience. I'm so glad that I went!

(5-Stars) October 9, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"BAR LYON"

Chef/Owner Jamie Mammano, founder of The Columbus Hospitality Group, which consists of some of Boston's best restaurants, including Mistral, Sorellina, Moo, Teatro and Ostra, has just added a new French Bistro to the list...Bar Lyon...featuring the food of the Auvergne, Rhone, and Alpes areas of France. It's not that Boston is lacking in good French bistros. So is Bar Lyon much different than places like Gaslight, Petit Robert Bistro, Aquitaine, and Eastern Standard? Not really. Their menus are almost identical, and their decor is similar, with tile flooring, wooden tabletops, and plush banquettes. Like the others, it's also too noisy, and the tables are too close together. I'd hate to be here when it's crowded. I decided to order something different than what I usually order in these bistros. I went with a traditional dish of Lyon, Coq au Vin ( Red wine, baby white chicken pieces, pearl onions, button mushrooms and parslied fettucine.) It was delicious. I went with a glass of Nero D'Avola wine. I can't resist that Sicilian wine. The big question is, would I go back again? Probably not. I was invited, so I went. But I'm used to the other bistros, especially Petit Robert Bistro.

(4-Stars) November 4, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"THE FAT HEN" (in Somerville)

Somerville has more than its fair share of good restaurants, from the 30plus-year-old Vinny's ("mama-papa Italian") and Rudy's ("Tex-Mex,") to the large upscale restaurants at the Assembly Row shopping complex. Joining these is the tiny (only 30 seats) restaurant with the funny name...The Fat Hen. It may be small in terms of seating, but it's enormous in terms of preparation, presentation, and taste of the food, as well as the wait-staff's friendly and knowledgeable service. On the menu, there are some old favorites, prepared in unusual ways, and some rare but interesting items. There are also prix-fixe, and wine-pairing choices. I ordered Arancini with House-made Ricotta as my first course, and Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Black Truffles as my entree. The Arancini were the best rice balls that I've ever tasted (not counting my grandmother's!) If I'm forced to be critical of one aspect of the restaurant, it would be that the seats and tables are too close together. But that's just nit-picking. Now about the name. We were told that, when the place opened two years ago, the chef's wife had a dream about a big fat hen, and the chef saw it as a good luck omen. Let's hope that it is.

(5-Stars) December 3, 2018   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:THE WESTLAND

After being shuttered for almost three years, the large space across the street has finally opened as a new "upscale" restaurant. I'm calling it upscale after having been given a preview of the menu, with prices of entrees ranging from $24 to $29, and shareable appetizers from $10 to $16. We went for an early dinner last night, and entered the front bar area, which features an elegantly designed long wooden bar with a floor covered with tiny bistro-style tiles. We hit the first snag when we came to the maitre-d's podium. It 's up a flight of five stairs with no access for handicapped people. After climbing the stairs, we entered the beautifully designed main dining room. It consists of wine-colored "leather" chairs and banquettes, and modern covered chandeliers. Very attractive. After being seated at our table, and being presented with the large menu, I ordered two items that I usually use to test a new restaurant's kitchen...meatballs and Caesar salad. When we asked for bread we were told that they have chips and hummus instead. When the plate came, they were much too salty. I pressed for bread and we were brought a few slices of grilled bread. Snag #2! As the place started to fill, the noise level increased until it was difficult to hear the person you were sitting with. The acoustics are terrible. Snag #3. It took forever to get our food, and when my dishes came, the meatballs were overcooked and smothered in a cloying thick marinara sauce, and the Caesar Salad was bland, with none of the ingredients present that make a salad a Caesar salad. Snag #4. We shared a dessert called an Opera Trifle, which was supposed to be mostly chocolate mousse, but we couldn't find the mousse! That could be Snag #5, but I'll give them a pass because service was generally good. In all fairness, because of it's proximity to where I live, I'll go back again when they knock out the first-week kinks. Oh, by the way, their burgers are $14 to $16 dollars. Snag #5!!!!!

(2-Stars, for now, but I'll go back and reevaluate it.) January 10, 2019   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"ANTIQUE TABLE" (in Winthrop)

With over 100 Italian restaurants in Boston's North End, there's really no need to leave town to get a good Italian meal. But if it's a nice day and you're up for a road trip to a restaurant where parking is not an issue, take the short drive up to Winthrop where a funky little Italian restaurant is serving up an extensive menu of Italian dishes. The walls of this small place are covered with prints of famous oil paintings, actual clocks, and photographs. But back to the food. It was tough selecting from the many good choices, but I selected Fettuccini Puttanesca (fettuccini with anchovies, olives, capers, and fresh tomatoes in a marinara sauce.) My wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon from California. I found room for a delicious dessert of White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream. All in all, a fun experience, and we decided we'd go back to try other dishes another time.

(5-Stars) April 7, 2019   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"REAL GUSTO" (in Medford)

On my quest to find one of my favorite foods, mozzarella en carrozza, a dish not found on the menu of any restaurant in Boston, we ended up in Medford, just a short car ride from where I live. Of course we ordered it, and although a little too dry, it was acceptable. Mission accomplished! "Real Gusto" is a find. It's a small but elegant new restaurant owned by Matteo and Francesca, a young couple from Milan. The decor is sophisticated, very Milanese, with beige tile floors and walls, and everything else a stark white. It overlooks the Mystic River, which can be seen below the large rear windows. Getting back to the food, we stayed in the Appetizer category, with orders of Potato Croquettes, Arancini stuffed with Meat and Peas, and Meatballs in White Wine Sauce with Apples(!) I had a glass of my favorite Nero D'Avola Sicilian wine. Everything was prepared and presented well, and was delicious. Service was excellent as well. Because we never ventured into the Pasta or Entree categories, this wonderful new place requires a return visit. You should try it as well. I guarantee that it's worth the short field trip.

(5-Stars) April 28, 2019   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:"PEREGRINE" in the WHITNEY HOTEL

In what was once a residence for nurses at Mass. General Hospital, is now the beautiful new elegant boutique Whitney Hotel. On the corner of Charles and Cambridge Streets at the foot of Beacon Hill, it houses an upscale restaurant called "Peregrine," which features the foods of the Mediterranean islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia. The decor consists of bright white walls and coffered ceiling, wooden parquet floors, and a single wall painted in peregrine, slate gray/blue. Everything is very modern and very elegant. If you're looking for traditional red-sauce Italian dishes, you won't find them here. The food of these islands, especially Sicily, leans toward white sauces and seafood. I ordered the Tagliatelle alla Vongole, which contains a “good dose” of black pepper and black truffles right in the dough, and small chopped clams, with white wine, butter, and chili oil. Although I don't usually order clams in my pasta, this was highly recommended and it was delicious. We ordered a Sardinian white wine..."Nuo" Cardadu Vermentino di Sardegna I'm a red wine guy, but this white was excellent. I would have liked to have tried one of the interesting desserts, but the pasta dish was very filling. I'll have to come back another time. Excellent service matched the high quality food. A welcome addition to Boston's Italian restaurant scene.

(5-Stars) September 7, 2019   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:Orfano's

According to a recent count, there are close to 100 restaurants in Boston's Italian North End, and many more scattered throughout the city and its suburbs. So do we really need another Italian restaurant in town? Chef/owner Tiffany Faison ("Tiger Mama," "Sweet Cheeks") seems to think so, so she opened the elegant, classy "Orfano's," on Boylston Street, next door to her barbecue place. The decor is very beautiful, with chevron flooring and velvet and mahogany banquettes. The chandeliers are golden globes hanging above the tables. But it's all about the food not the look of the place. The menu is filled with some of your Italian favorite pastas, meats and seafood. We shared an order of Tre Carne Meatballs as our appetizer. (Perfect; just like my grandmother's.) I was intrigued by a dish called Cacio e Pepe (Tortelloni with Cheese and Pepper) covered with Salsa Verde. I had that as my entree. It was delicious. My dessert was a Spumoni Sundae. Our wine was a mellow Puglian red. Those are the positives. Now here are the negatives: the portions are small, the prices are high, you're charged five dollars for bread that's not very good, the Spumoni was just three scoops of chocolate, blueberry and pistachio ice cream, and there's something called a "kitchen appreciation tax" added to the bill. My advice is to go to your favorite Italian restaurant and pay half the price for a meal that's just as good, if not better!

(3-Stars) September 15, 2019   Back to Top



RESTAURANT REVIEW:MILKWEED

It's always fun when a relative comes to town and takes you out to eat in a restaurant in your own neighborhood... a restaurant that you've never heard of before. This happened today when my cousins took me to lunch at "Milkweed" on Tremont Street in Mission Hill. The place is obviously a neighborhood hot-spot because it was packed. Luckily they had made reservations. Part of the attraction is the large eclectic menu, with everything from pancakes (which I had,) to Salmon Cakes, Country Fried Chicken Sandwich and everything in between. The portions are large and inexpensive, and the food was delicious. The clientele appeared to be young and eclectic as the menu. Milkweed is open for brunch, lunch and dinner. Give it a try. You won't be disappointed. By the way, if you still have room, walk down three doors to Mike's Donuts, where we had jelly donuts that were made right in front of us, by three Albanian women. They were some of the best donuts that I've ever had!

(5-Stars) December 31, 2019   Back to Top