En Boca: A Welcome Addition to Harvard Square

By Caroline Gentile ’17

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Logo from En Boca Website

As of late, the food scene in Harvard Square has been bleak.  With the onset of construction and subsequent mass exodus of restaurants, there have been significantly fewer options to choose from.  Add into the mix that HUDS is on strike, and the options further dwindle.  Thankfully, as of Thursday, October 6th, there is a new restaurant in the square: En Boca.  

Originally in the building that used to be Sandrine’s, En Boca was purchased by restaurant developers Bill Goodwin and Peter Sarmanian, who are also behind two well-known Irish pubs in Boston, in March of 2015.  Unlike their other restaurants, En Boca is far from an Irish pub.  Goodwin’s goal in creating En Boca was to serve “creative, farm-to-table food with a Mediterranean influence” in an ambiance that is “classic with a modern feel,:  

Crimson Crave co-President, Richa Chaturvedi ‘18, another friend, and I decided to check it out. Upon walking into the restaurant, we were struck by how beautifully decorated it is.  We immediately felt transported from the grind of the Harvard Bubble, despite being a stone’s throw from the River Houses. We sat by the large window overlooking Holyoke Street, which was truly a treat, even with the construction across the street.  

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Menu from En Boca Website

 

En Boca’s menu mostly consists of small plates; our server recommended we order three or four plates per person.  “It’s all about the sharing experience,” Goodwin explained to me over the phone, before I even set foot in the restaurant.  With this in mind, my companions and I ordered seven small plates, and one of their larger, yet still shareable, dishes. 

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At En Boca, everything comes out to the table as soon as it is ready.  Before we knew it, our table was adorned with several small plates.  The first thing we sampled were the patatas bravas, which were paired with aioli, tomato, and sweet pepper. The potatoes were cooked perfectly; the skin was crispy, but the potato itself was tender. To me, the highlight of the dish were the sauces, though.  The sweet pepper sauce and creamy aioli not only complemented each other, but also the saltiness of the potatoes. Overall, this dish was delicious and simple.  I imagine it will be a popular menu item as time goes on!

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Next up were the crispy brussel sprouts.  It seems as though the chefs at En Boca have realized the truth about vegetables, particularly brussel sprouts: they are much, much tastier when paired with bacon. The brussel sprouts themselves were beautifully browned and lived up to their description as crispy, but I stand by my assertion the bacon was the star of the show.  Of all the small plates, my dining companions and I agreed that this was one of the best.

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One of our fellow diners would argue that the best dish was the chicken liver pâté.  In fact, she refused to share it because she liked it so much, and claimed it was some of the best pâté she has ever had!

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Another standout dish was the local halloumi cheese. For anyone who has never tried halloumi, ordering it at En Boca is the perfect opportunity.  The small plate gives you just a taste of this delicious, salty cheese along with notes of hazelnut. After your first bite, you’ll wish this dish came with more than just three pieces.

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The charred cauliflower, while not quite a standout, was still quite delicious. Lightly fried, the cauliflower itself was not particularly flavorful, but the accompanying sultanas and labneh, which is basically a creamy mediterranean aioli, really made the dish.  In fact, the labneh also paired extremely well with the falafel.  Without dipping it in the labneh, we found that the falafel was too dense and dry, but it was elevated to new levels once we realized this unexpected yet harmonious combination.

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Of all the dishes, the baked farm egg with chorizo dressing and polenta was our least favorite. Though it sounded good on paper, this dish lacked the texture and flavor that the other dishes so beautifully capitulated. The egg was well-cooked (complete with plenty of yolk porn), but blended in too much with the polenta, resulting in a mushy texture and bland flavor. The chorizo was more salty than it was flavorful, and did nothing to salvage the dish.  However, I liked the idea of a poached egg on the menu, and hope that the chefs will find a better way to serve it.

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Our final savory course was the half roasted chicken with a sunchoke reduction.  It seems as though the chefs had saved the best for last.  After all, there are few things better than flavorful, juicy chicken covered in crunchy, briny skin. The sunchoke reduction amplified the chicken’s flavor perfectly. Though we were already pretty full by the time we got our final course, the chicken was one of the best dishes we had, and we made sure to make room. However, since this dish was advertised as one to share, we think that the presentation could have better reflected the sharing aspect.  The chicken was served on the bone.  In order to share it, we had to cut into it with our own utensils, which, if you were not dining with close friends or family, could get awkward. Given how delicious it is, leaving people to their own devices to cut the chicken could create a hunger games-esque situation.  If this chicken were sliced before it were served, then it would probably be more socially acceptable to eat in a group!

In terms of drinks, En Boca is technically a wine bar, and boasts an extensive wine list, including plenty of fine wines by the glass.  However, only one member of our group was over 21, and she does not like wine. Thankfully, En Boca offers many other options, including cocktails, beers, and ciders.  She decided on the strawberry peach fizz cocktail. After her first sip, she decided it was both too sweet and too strong; the overwhelmingly saccharine aftertaste did not mask the taste of alcohol.    Upon noticing that our friend was not drinking her drink, however, our server offered to get her another one that she might prefer.  

This is just one example of the outstanding service at En Boca. While aspects of the menu are still a work in progress, one thing that En Boca has mastered is its service.  Our server, Isabella, was polite, knowledgeable, and attentive. She truly made our dining experience as enjoyable as possible.

 

 

As for dessert, chef Bryan Jacobs, who used to be the private chef for both George Bush and the Anheuser-Busch family, is still experimenting with the menu.  He served us a palate-cleansing dessert as well as an Egyptian cake.  The palate-cleanser consisted of a quince sorbet with tahini shortbread, hazelnut and mint oils, and chantilly.  While on paper, this combination may sound strange, it was one of the most unique desserts we had ever sampled; light, refreshing, sweet, and tangy.

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The egyptian cake, made with semolina, and run, had a wonderfully crumbly texture without being dry.  To achieve this texture while still maintaining the flavors of the cake, chef Jacobs used a brown butter reduction as his base, instead of the tried-and-true method of creaming butter and sugar together.  Paired with the the airy chantilly, made using an oxygen gun,  this dessert was also light, and the perfect amount of sweet.  Though at this point in the meal, we had sampled at least nine different dishes, we were not completely stuffed to the point of feeling like we needed to lay still for hours.  To achieve desserts that are both decadent and light is quite a feat, and chef Jacobs certainly accomplished it.

Two hours and $103 later (a reasonable price for such a high-quality dinner for three people), we left En Boca, stomachs full of delicious food and a desire to come back soon.  While some of the small plates were not quite perfect, the chicken and the desserts were more than enough to keep us coming back for more.  Before En Boca officially opened its doors, Goodwin acknowledged his excitement about opening and  “correcting our mistakes as we go.” With its outstanding service and talent in the kitchen, En Boca has a great deal of potential, and we can’t wait to see how it evolves in the coming months.

 

Location: 8 Holyoke Street, Cambridge, MA

Reservations: OpenTable

Standout dishes: Half-Roasted Chicken, Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Patatas Bravas

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Food: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

 

Shojo: Modern Asian Fusion from the Center of Chinatown

By Bovey Rao ‘19

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It is obvious by now that I have a profound love of Asian food. While I am unfortunately underwhelmed by the Chinese food in Boston, I adore the prevalence of other Asian cuisines. Even more intriguing to me are Asian fusion restaurants. Given my glowing review of Asian fusion powerhouse, Mei Mei, it is only natural that I visit Shojo, another Asian fusion icon in Chinatown. As they prepare to expand with a ramen shop, Ruckus Noodles, Shojo is a dining destination worth a visit.

In the center of Chinatown, there are a plethora of delicious Asian dining options from Chinese and Japanese hot pot to dim sum to traditional Chinese dumplings. Why would anyone go to the hipster joint with rock music blaring and Ip Man 2 on the TV? I asked myself this questions as I walked into Shojo with a few companions. It had a small dining room but was packed with a young crowd. After being seated, I glossed over the menu and was overwhelmed the number of delicious options. A waitress offered her insights and informed us of the specials for the day.

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Starting with an order of their famous suckling pig bao, I could scarcely hold myself back when they arrived. Whenever I see pork bao on the menu, I will tend to order them as one of my favorite dishes. Biting into these pork buns, I was simultaneously enthused and slightly underwhelmed. The tender pork meshed with the crisp cucumber and sweet steamed bun. However, the overtly smoky barbeque sauce was overpowering and prevented me from fully enjoying the bao.

 

Our Shadowless Duck Fat Fries came out next. This dish has stood out amongst the crowd of starches when it won Boston Magazine’s best potato course. Crunchy fries with a mildly spiced mapo tofu, thick cheese sauce, and light scallions. The decadence of this dish is truly laudable as we devoured it in a hurry. My single qualm was that I wished the mapo tofu spicier to balance with the creaminess of the cheese. However, I truly respect the creativity and depth to this Asian and American amalgamation.

The peanut sauce ramen and the daily special arrived concurrently. With an eclectic mix of peanut sauce, grapes, and cucumbers, the ramen was slightly convoluted. However, the flavors surprisingly meshed excellently and evoked a sense of childhood nostalgia. The daily special of seafood squid ink ramen was visually impactful with the jet-black noodles. With a light creamy sauce, the collection of scallops, mussels, clams, and calamari was elegantly and subtly flavored. I was quite upset that this dish is not a menu staple, as they elevated ramen to another level. To finish, I had the kimchi fried rice, a traditional rendition with aromatic jasmine rice. Topped with an expertly fried egg, it was a savory and spicy masterpiece.

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During the course of the meal, I was enthralled with the exceptional bar service. With bartenders mixing and shaking complex cocktails, I lamented being underage. However, I strongly encourage visiting the bar as there was a constant stream of activity. Loud and hip, you must find your way to Shojo for exceptional Asian fusion cuisine. There are incredible restaurants in Chinatown, and Shojo stands out as the wild little brother.


Shojo

Location: 9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

Reservation: Reserve or Call (617)-423-7888

Stand out dishes: Shadowless Duck Fat Fries, Seafood Squid Ink Ramen

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Food: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Atmosphere: 4/5 (Loud)

Feel free to contact the writer at boveyrao@college.harvard.edu with food musings, dining requests, or any restaurant advice!

Mei Mei Pops Up at Shepard: Shepard and Mei Mei Team Up for Dim Sum Brunch

By Bovey Rao ‘19

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What exactly is a pop-up restaurant? Most people do not know this terminology, as they are a relatively new development. Pop-up restaurants are when kitchens are lent out to other restaurants or chefs for temporary residence. While this seems like an extravagant venture, many great restaurants (Mission Chinese, NYC) have emerged from pop-ups, and many great restaurants (Aliena, Chicago) have hosted pop-up sessions. Usually, the menu is specially prepared for each individual session. Thus, when I heard that Mei Mei was hosting a pop-up at the nearby Shepard, I quickly booked a reservation.

Entering Shepard, we were greeted by the two teams and were seated after a brief wait. Glancing at the menu, I was immediately drawn to the unique fusion dishes. However, glancing at other tables, I noticed that the portions were a little small and ordered accordingly. After we ordered a long list of various dim sum dishes, I waited excitedly for our mix of buns, dumplings, and vegetables.

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The dry aged lamb buns were a delicacy with complex savory notes of Chinese five-spice. While incredibly soft and moist, the order only came with three relatively small buns, which was unfortunate for my party of four individuals. Later, we would discover this applied to most dishes we ordered. The corned beef and xo dumplings similarly had rich, savory flavors, but texturally the shredded beef was not the most appealing. As the dishes continuously arrived, I enjoyed the mildly spicy beef tendon. The gelatinous texture melded perfectly with the crisp skin that garnished the dish.

Still insatiated, I salivated as stuffed chicken wings and Carolina gold rice were placed at the table. Chicken wings filled with a smooth chicken mousse with a sweet glaze proved to be one of the highlights of the brunch. While rice may seem to be a peculiar dish to order, Carolina gold rice is a specific breed that garners significant national attention for its flavor. Anson Mills, a seed restoration group, found and revived this heritage breed and distributes it to many of the United States best restaurants (notably, Husk). Thus, I was excited to see them on the menu with a soy butter. While it may not taste empirically different, I had a profound appreciation of the crop, which may have altered my perception of the dish.

After these courses, we added rounds of cabbage, leek, brined duck egg dumplings, lily shoots, and lo bok go, parsnip cakes. Dark green dumplings quickly reached the table, and we dived in. Freshly steamed, the dough was stickier than I was normally accustomed to but were appropriate to hold the looser filling. While the lo bok go were respectable, the accompanying fermented black beans were truly delicious. A light acidity complemented the natural creaminess, and I snacked on them thorough the meal. My favorite dish of the day was actually the lily shoots with fried shallots. Dark soy sauce provided the perfect salinity for the chewy but smooth shoots. I honestly was tempted to order more sets of lily shoots with rice but instead settled with the select dessert courses.

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The fried sesame balls and egg custard tarts proved to be elevated versions, but nothing that truly affected me. Delicious and simple, we enjoyed them as a solid finish to the meal. Overall, I was slightly disappointed with the size of the dim sum and the unequal portions for the table. I expected that they could accommodate a table of 4, since that is a standard party number. Regardless, the dishes proved to be soundly delicious with a few notable standouts. Mei Mei is arguably one of the most important restaurants in Boston, and I am glad they decided to come nearby. Hopefully, they will return soon with yet another nuanced menu. Shepard is one of the newest restaurants in Cambridge, and I hope people will join them for dinner one day.

 

Shepard

Location: 1 Shepard St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Reservation: OpenTable or Call (617)-714-5295

 

Mei Mei

Location: 506 Park Dr, Boston, MA 02215

Reservation: Reserve or Call (857)-250-4959

Stand-Out Dishes: Lily Shoots, Carolina Gold Rice, Stuffed Chicken Wings

Overall Rating: 4/5

Food: 4/5

Service: 3.5/5

Atmosphere (Shepard): 5/5

 

Feel free to contact the writer at boveyrao@college.harvard.edu with food musings, dining requests, or any restaurant advice!

When Hungry, Mix-it Up

by Hayoung Chang ‘18

Last Saturday, I decided I had had enough of HUDS food. Don’t get me wrong; HUDS is great. Especially if you employ some of our dhall hacks. But after a rough week of midterms and papers, I wanted to treat myself. My friend and I decided on Mix-It, an Asian fusion restaurant on Mass Ave near the Quad/Law School.

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We arrived at noon, right when it opened. Although usually crowded during weeknights, we were able to enjoy a spacious and lengthy meal that Saturday afternoon. Craving some sushi, we each ordered a special roll – The Kiss of Fire roll and the namesake, The Mix It roll. One caveat, however, is that the special rolls were not accompanied by the staple miso soup and salad like the regular rolls were. When the sushi came out, we were disappointed by the portions. Initially, we thought they had only brought out one roll, when it was actually both rolls. The Kiss of Fire was also extremely spicy due to slabs of jalapeno. You might be thinking that I just have no spice tolerance. But just trust me on this one, I do.

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Still hungry after the meager rolls, we decided to split the yaki soba with shrimp. Service was pretty quick, however, as the noodles were brought out promptly. Although not the most photogenic dish, the noodles were decent. The shrimp was tangy, and the noodles chewy.  The sauce was a bit too greasy for me, though.

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Overall, the lunch was satisfactory. If I had to recommend the place to fellow Quadlings, I would recommend dinner. Although more expensive, the atmosphere and food portions might be worth it.

Mix-it Restaurant

Location: 1678 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

Reservation: Seatme or Call (617) 547-0212

Overall Rating: 3/5

Food: 2.5/5

Service: 4/5

Atmosphere: 3.5/5

Brunch with a Beat

by Audrey Thorne ’19

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My parents and brother came down for opening weekend of my play. When asked where I wanted to go for brunch, I quickly answered Beat Brasserie. From the outside it looks hip and too fancy for a casual college student meal, but as a foodie, Beat Brasserie struck my curiosity.

Beat Brasserie is divided into booths, tables, and high tops. Upon our arrival we were seated promptly in a booth. The waiter brought us menus, then water. He came to check if we wanted anything to drink, then if we were ready to place our food order.

The menu was eclectic. I wanted to try everything. Between the four of us we ordered a Sophia’s Greek Yogurt, a mushroom soup, steak frites and eggs, oysters, and shrimp tacos. While we waited for our food to be cooked we listened to the smooth live music.
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The fruit in the fruit cup was ripe, fresh. The yogurt was tart and the granola crunchy. I stole a few perfect bites from my dad.

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The mushroom truffle soup was beyond description. Warm and creamy, it was a god send, especially with my side of crispy wheat toast.

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My brother ate the oysters so quickly I was not able to steal one away from him. I have deduced that they were pretty good, but I hope to try them for myself next time.

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The shrimp tacos were flavourful and filling, with juicy shrimp, crunchy lettuce, cheese, sauce, and a myriad of other ingredients. Honestly, I could not pick up on every individual flavour but the combination was delectable.

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The steak frites and eggs came with the wheat toast, which I dipped in the mushroom soup, a nice, light mixed salad, a flavourful side of joint dressing/steak sauce, french fries, and steak. The steak was tough but flavourful, with a kick coming from its peppercorn rub. The fries were not too crispy, nor too salty, but just right to complement the well seasoned steak.

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With an atmosphere that cannot be beat, Beat Brasserie is a great place for a celebratory meal with the family, or even a fancy date.

With Panera Closing, Tatte Bakery Steps In

by Bovey Rao ‘19

Oh, Panera, you never really meant that much to me… While for some students Panera is a staple, I’ve never been the biggest fan of ‘commercialized’ foods. My friends can attest to the fact that I frequently voice my distaste for chains like Chipotle, Panera, and Au Bon Pain. Ok, you might think this is all a bunch of food snobbery, but for me, the problem is not the flavor of the food, but the principle of it.

While these businesses advertise non-GMO, pesticide and antibiotic free food, what does that really mean? Are we not falling for the same trap of the previous generation that was promised fast, convenient, and cheap food? We are becoming numb to what is out there in the world of food, and falling into the trap of buzzwords and catchphrases. I’ll be honest: when Panera closed, I smiled. When I found out what replaced it, my smile only widened.

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Tatte Bakery and Café is a homegrown Boston bakery and café with numerous branches throughout the city from Kendall Square to Brookline. They serve a wide range of Middle Eastern dishes and pastries as well as the more traditional café fare. From a small stand at Boston farmer’s markets to five established and beloved bakeries, Tatte has proven to be a Boston success story. And it all started with one person, owner Tzurit Or.

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Tzurit Or, from Tatte’s website

 

Tzurit grew up in Israel and learned traditional baking techniques from her mother. After years of working as a film producer, she realized her true calling in life was baking. She picked up her belongings and moved to Boston, where she started baking from her kitchen. Starting at local farmer’s markets, her carefully crafted pastries received rave reviews. The rest is history.

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Delicious various pastries (buttery croissants, fluffy popovers, rich morning buns)

As you probably guessed, a new Tatte Bakery and Café location will be opening in the space previously occupied by Panera Bread. I could barely contain my excitement when I heard this news. A locally-operated business replacing a national chain? It was music to my ears. However, I do humbly applaud Panera for their business model and their care for the customer.

In early February, Panera Bread purchased a majority stake in Tatte Bakery and Café, but will allow them to run independently. This funding allowed Tatte Bakery to fill the Panera space and reach a new audience of (I hope at least) excited and hungry Harvard students. While construction may take some time (it opens in summer according to a manager at the Main Street Tatte Bakery and Café), it is an addition that is sorely needed. As I sip my café au lait and enjoy my pistachio-filled, baklava-esque croissant, I cannot help but think:

Goodbye Panera; Welcome home Tatte.

A selection of tasteful shots from Tatte Bakery and Café on Main Street and all the ‘yum’ that is to come:

*Note: The straight croissant is a sign that means it was made with butter. Curved croissants usually have margarine or an alternative form of fat.

Update: Eater provided exciting information with an email from Tzurit Or.

 

Dine Out Boston: Starter Kit

By Bovey Rao ’19

The city of Boston is a great place to find an eclectic and engaging dining experience. Home to some of the oldest restaurants in America–and some of the hippest new bars–, Boston has a diverse and incredible food scene for any palette and budget. From March 6-11 and 13-18, 2016, Boston will offer its hungry masses two weeks of good-eating. It’s called Dine Out Boston (formerly called Restaurant Week), an event organized by the city of Boston with the goal to make restaurant dining more economical for two mouth-watering weeks. Enjoy two or three course meals at some of Boston’s finest restaurants (Lunch $15/$20/$25, Dinner $28/$33/$38). While I encourage looking through all 169 restaurants participating, here are some of my recommendations.

Note: You are strongly encouraged to make a reservation at the restaurant, whether by calling, booking through OpenTable, or using the Dine Out website.

 

I Sea Food – Boston’s prime location (i.e. by the Atlantic Ocean) means that fresh seafood is always close and convenient, so don’t miss out!

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Photo Courtesy of Atlantic Fish Company
  • Atlantic Fish Company – 761 Boylston Street, Lunch: $25
  • Mare – 135 Richmond Street, Dinner: $33
  • SELECT Oyster Bar – 50 Gloucester Street, Lunch: $25
  • Union Oyster House* – 41 Union Street, Lunch: $25, Dinner: $38
  • Oceanaire Seafood Room – 40 Court Street, Lunch: $25, Dinner: $38

Best of the North End – The Historic North End is known nationally for its authentic Italian food, and some of their best restaurants are participating this year:

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Photo Courtesy of Terramia Ristorante
  • Bricco – 241 Hannover Street, Dinner: $33
  • Mamma Maria – 3 North Square, Dinner: $38
  • Nico – 417 Hannover Street, Dinner: $38
  • Terramia Ristorante – 98 Salem Street, Dinner: $33
  • Tresca – 233 Hanover Street, Lunch: $25, Dinner: $38

Italian outside the North – While the North End boasts some pretty impressive Italian fare, other exceptional Italian joints are scattered all over Boston.

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Photo Courtesy of Scampo
  • Da Vinci – 162 Columbus Avenue, Dinner: $38
  • Davio’s – 75 Arlington Street, Lunch: $25 Dinner: $38
  • Grotto – 37 Bowdoin Street, Lunch: $25 Dinner: $33
  • Scampo – 215 Charles Street, Lunch: $25

Je Suis Francais – French food has a strong showing this year, with many past and current winners of Best French Boston participating in Dine Out Boston.

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T.W. Food Photo Courtesy of Boston Magazine
  • Bastille Kitchen – 49 Melcher Street, Dinner: $38
  • Bistro du Midi – 272 Boylston Street, Dinner: $38
  • Gaslight – 560 Harrison Avenue, Dinner: $33
  • T.W. Food – 377 Walden Street, Dinner: $38
  • La Voile – 261 Newbury Street, Lunch: $25 Dinner: $38
  • Ma Maison – 272 Cambridge Street, Lunch: $20 Dinner: $33

Something’s at Steak – Do you have a beef with someone? Resolve it at one of the many great steakhouses in Boston!

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Photo Courtesy of Grill 23
  • Boston Chops – 1375 Washington Street, Dinner: $38
  • Capital Grille – 900 Boylston Street, Lunch: $25, Dinner: $38
  • Grill 23 & Bar – 161 Berkley Street, Dinner: $38
  • STRIP by Strega – 64 Arlington Street, Lunch: $20, Dinner: $38

Somewhere Beyond the Sea – Other countries exist besides Italy and France, I promise, and they have delicious offerings as well.

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Bronwyn Photo Courtesy of Boston Magazine
  • Bronwyn – German, 255 Washington Street, Dinner: $33
  • Oishii Boston – Japanese, 1166 Washington Street, Lunch: $20/$30
  • Q Restaurant – Chinese (Hotpot), 660 Washington Street, Lunch: $20, Dinner: $33
  • Estragon – Spanish, 700 Harrison Avenue, Dinner: $33

Murica has Food Too! – Why is it so hard to describe American food…?

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Photo Courtesy of Parker’s
  • Courtyard Restaurant – 700 Boylston Street, Lunch: $20
  • Kitchen – 560 Tremont Street, Dinner: $28
  • Parker’s** – 60 School Street, Lunch: $25 Dinner: $38

Nearby Dining – If you feel like leaving Harvard Square is too much of a chore, fear not! A number of restaurants nearby are participating.

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Photo Courtesy of Henrietta’s Table
  • Beat Brasserie – 13 Brattle Street, Lunch: $25
  • Grafton Street – 1230 Mass Avenue, Dinner: $28
  • Harvest – 44 Brattle Street, Lunch: $25, Dinner: $38
  • Henrietta’s Table- 1 Bennett Street, Lunch: $25, Dinner: $33
  • Park Restaurant – 59 JFK Street, Dinner: $28
  • Rialto – 1 Bennett Street, Dinner: $38
  • Russell House Tavern- 14 JFK Street, Dinner: $28
  • Temple Bar- 1688 Massachusetts Avenue, Dinner: $28
  • Toscano Harvard Square – 47 Charles Street, Lunch: $20, Dinner: $38

 

*One of the oldest restaurants in America with frequent visits from presidential candidates.

** Original creator of the Boston Cream Pie

Oishii Boston: Sushi Like You’ve Never Tasted Before

by Bovey Rao ‘19

Sushi is simple. A thin slice of fish gently draped over a molded portion of rice. The minimal offers of rich soy sauce, spicy grated wasabi, and refreshing pickled ginger serve as accents to the beauty and purity of sushi. In the modern era, one of the cornerstones of Japanese cuisine is being desecrated. The art of sushi-making has been refined for hundreds of years, and we seem to disregard those traditions as we partake in our California rolls, green dyed horseradish, and pink ginger. I cringe as I watch yet another sushi “enthusiast” take the massive glob of “wasabi” and dump it into their dish of soy sauce. The suffering only intensifies as each meticulously formed nigiri or maki is dunked nonchalantly and left to soak in the soy sauce. These practices not only destroy the essence of sushi but are considered to be disrespectful to the work of the chef.

Oishii Boston is an offshoot of the original Oishii store in Chestnut Hill, and thank god, they chose to expand. After a particularly stressful week, all I wanted to do was to get off campus and rehabilitate my mind. For me, this often involves a long conversation with a friend over a truly magnificent meal, and Oishii Boston went above and beyond my expectations (in price as well, so be prepared financially).

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My friend and I ambled through the sunny South End, as we perfectly timed our route for our reservation time. After promptly being seated, we marveled at the lengthy sushi bar and cracked open the menu. Oishii serves an eclectic mix of Japanese cuisine. Japanese techniques like sushi, robata, and tempura are combined with an incredible collection of fresh ingredients, both traditional and nouveau. Similarly, conventional Japanese ingredients like Hamachi kama, enoki mushrooms, and yuzu are given new life through the techniques of haute cuisine. Oishii incorporates the best of both worlds in every imaginable way. After ordering a diverse set of dishes and sushi, we waited for our courses to arrive.

We did not wait long as a bamboo steamer was quickly brought over. My favorite dish to order at modern Asian restaurants is the pork belly bun. The pork belly bun has played an essential role in the rapid dissemination of Asian food throughout the country. It may seem to be a lazy dish of a steamed bun, a slice of pork belly, and some assortment of pickles, but the execution of the simple things characterizes a restaurant. This pork bun was truly transcendental. Pork belly is an incredibly difficult protein to manipulate as the high levels of fat can lead to unappealing textures and oily aftertastes. The first bite blew my mind, and I was left pining as the entire bun vanished quickly into my mouth. The soft sweet bun caressed the tender pork belly as miso provided the necessary salt and umami. With such an indulgent and soft dish, the acidity and crispness from the brined cucumbers left me refreshed, without the cloying oiliness that I have sometimes experienced.

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The okonomiyaki that followed also did not disappoint. Okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese style pancake with cabbage and miscellaneous seafood. Oishii’s version came with a generous portion of bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, with the thin flakes magically flowing with the subtle air currents. The savory pancake filled with fresh seafood was flavorful and melded wonderfully with the lattice of sweet mayonnaise.

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For the last of the hot dishes was a uni cream pasta, which was the most indulgent dish I have ever eaten. With shavings of black truffles over a perfectly poached egg, the al dente pasta absorbed the voluptuous yolk as we made a small incision. While I am normally not a fan of these almost hedonistic ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised as the flavors were not overwhelming. However, it is a dish that makes an incredible impact on the palette that I am unsure if I would order it again.

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For once it felt like appetizers truly stimulated the appetite, and we prepared ourselves for our sushi order. At Oishii, they import the freshest seafood from Tsukiji, the famous Japanese fish market, and from various other seafood markets in the US. Thus, they can guarantee the best possible product. One day, I will return for a sushi omakase to truly subject myself to the whims of the chef. However, on this day, I wanted to indulge in my own desires for sushi.

Oishii chooses to not serve minimalist sushi, where it is simply fish and rice. Rather, they choose to include nuanced accessories to each piece of sushi to elevate the flavor even further. Whether it was the thin slice of lime on the botan ebi or strawberry on the Hamachi toro, the already sophisticated taste of sushi was balanced with complex but necessary garnishes. It would be tedious to describe each individual piece, so I will keep it brief and only discuss the highlights. My personal favorite was the chutoro topped with pickled shallots. Chutoro is tuna with moderate fat, so it has the butteriness that is so sought after, while still retaining the natural savory flavor of tuna. Additionally, the tamago or egg sushi was exceptional. The light, fluffy egg was given a deep sweetness that was greatly reminiscent of a cake.

For dessert, we selected the coconut sphere with coffee mousse and yuzu sorbet. A truly interactive dessert, it might have been a hassle to consume, but I enjoyed the process of steadily chipping away at the frozen sphere of sweetened coconut milk to reveal the subtly flavored coffee mousse.

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Over the course of the three hour meal, I was delighted with every bite of food that I consumed. While this process may be more time intensive for me than the average person, I can truly attest to the quality and dedication that Oishii puts into their food. It is a pricey experience, and many may scoff at the ephemeral nature of food. But for me, Oishii delivered exactly what I needed. When I wish to receive another monumental sushi experience, I will return to Oishii.

 

Oishii Boston

Location: 1166 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

Reservation: OpenTable or Call (617)-482-8868

Stand out dishes: Pork Belly Bun, Chutoro, Tamago, Coconut Sphere

Overall Rating: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Ambience: 4/5

“Some ‘Ting Nice” to Eat

by Audrey Thorne ’19

My insatiable hunger for Jamaican patties stems from a visit to my friend John (often identified on campus as Jamaican John) over winter break and has remained for so long, largely because of the inaccessibility of Jamaican food in the states. Though he found my addiction to jerk chicken and Jamaican patties comical during my visit, after a little pestering, he has since come to my rescue by showing me his favorite Jamaican place in Massachusetts.

All the way in Somerville, Some ‘Ting Nice Caribbean Restaurant delivers to Harvard dorms online and through Door Dash for a small fee. With an expansive menu written partially in Jamaican Patois and partially in other Caribbean Patois languages, Some Ting Nice is a Caribbean gem that I am amazed John was able to find outside of the Harvard bubble.

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Picture from DoorDash Website

Less than half an hour after pressing the order button for the most quintessentially Jamaican dishes I could find, Door Dash delivered an order of two patties with coco bread, jerk chicken, and sides of both fried dumplings and rice and beans, often referred to as rice and peas.

First we cracked open the jerk chicken. Throughout my time in Jamaica I stuck to what John considered the “bad” jerk chicken, flavourful but unspicy. In comparison, the spicy, mouthwatering collection of white meat chicken reads as far more Jamaican than the jerk chicken I ate in the country itself. John, unenthused by American food in general, even conceded that Some ‘Ting Nice’s jerk chicken “can pass” for Jamaican.

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Saving the patties for last, I decided to try the sides. Fried dumplings dubbed “unlike an actual fried dumpling” by John were indistinguishable to me from real fried dumplings as a non-native. Fluffy inside, crispy outside. They perfectly complemented the jerk chicken, contrasting the intense authentic spice. I also found the rice and beans tasted best mixed in with the flavourful jerk chicken sauce.

Last, and most highly anticipated, I cracked open the patties, one chicken and one beef. Upon unwrapping my patties I discovered the consistency largely varies from that of a Jamaican patty, being solid rather than flakey on the outside. Disoriented, I ventured a bite. The chicken tasted much like an American meat patty, and though delicious, did not quench my thirst for a Jamaican patty. I decided to try the beef patty. Perhaps this one will be the one, I hoped. Yes. Once my teeth penetrated the solid outside, the Jamaican influence in seasoning the beef became palpable. Though the outside texture was different, the consistency of the meat in this patty was the same as those I was eating just a month ago. Wrapped in a plush cocobread, I was transported back to eighty degree weather and sandy beaches.

Some ‘Ting Nice really is something nice to eat when you feel like taking a break from your regular spots in the square.

Brunch Gets a Contemporary Transformation at Townsman

By Bovey Rao ’19

Let’s retake brunch and make it our own. Brunch, of all the meals, has the most posh reputation with fancy sounding dishes and cocktails. Not to say that I do not love a well-made eggs benedict with hollandaise or a perfect slice of spinach gruyere quiche. But sometimes a little adventure is needed to blow the dust off the brunch tradition. Brunch needs to be an event.

One of Boston’s best new restaurants, Townsman, on the periphery of the Financial District, makes brunch its own. Normally, Townsman is the destination for towers of fresh seafood, imaginative cocktails, and nuanced entrees. However, on the last Saturday of each month, they open their doors on Saturday morning for brunch. It is everything that brunch needs.

Loud electronic music reverberated through the restaurant as you open the door. Immediately, I felt the excitement as the warm light and tasteful decorations draw you in further. While the hostess brought my group to our table, we couldn’t help but marvel at the comfortable and expansive cocktail lounge and bar. We pass a live DJ expertly manipulating the soundboard and peer into the open kitchen for a live shot of the action.

Our last stop before being seated was the renowned cake table, which is periodically restocked with a wide array of breads, cakes, and pastries. The large windows bathed the dining room comfortably with warm light, as we excitedly sat down examined the menu.

Being a devout fan of pastry natural brought me to the cake table (AYCE for $10), as I examined the various prepared confections. The thin slices of quiche were unbelievably buttery as the crust simply melted in the mouth. The splendid puffed pastries filled with a savory mix of ingredients that I was unable to identify served as an excellent counterbalance to the sweets. Monkey, zucchini, and banana breads covered my plate as I nibbled at the thin slice of filled brioche. The overwhelming variety of pastries seemed more appropriate for a coffee shop window, but I relished the opportunity to finally reach over and help myself to whatever I so wanted. The peanut butter and chocolate trifle might have been better as a dessert, but the rich chocolate cake with light peanut mousse would help satisfy any sweet tooth.

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Already feeling slightly full after spending 20 minutes at the cake table, our meals arrived. While the menu contains of the classic dishes like chicken and waffles or steel cut oatmeal, the chef playfully modifies the dishes with touches like a sweet and sour piperade or fried sprigs of rosemary. My chicken and oatmeal waffles was a misstep on my part. After the cake table, the amount of starch began to slow me down. The complex sweetness of the maple syrup absorbed deep into waffle and complemented the spicy creamy mayonnaise. The true surprise was the pickle brined fried chicken. My first bite simply melted in my mouth as the chicken was juicy beyond belief. It was truly a revelation as my chicken vanished from the plate. The unique chicken fried (chicken fried is a method of preparation) hanger steak with poached eggs and pepper gravy was a savory masterpiece. As the yolks slowly dripped over the steak and melded with gravy, it was almost an orgasmic sensation. Finally, the breakfast burger with oven roasted potatoes was a satisfactory rendition albeit slightly hard to eat. The burger fell apart after a few futile attempts but was delicious nevertheless.

Townsman delivered a memorable brunch with a unique approach to the menu. While incorporating many traditional dishes in the menu, the modifications proved to be necessary improvements and refreshed the archaic identity of brunch. After hosting only a few brunches, the level of execution and the innovative menu at Townsman are representative of a great restaurant. Perfect for a casual date or a hip business meeting, Townsman’s brunch is one of the best in the city. And there is an endless cake table.

 

Townsman (Brunch)

Location: 120 Kingston St, Boston, MA 02111

Reservation: Recommended (2-3 weeks in advance)

Stand out dishes*: Cake Table, Chicken Fried Hanger Steak

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Food: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Ambience: 5/5

* Note: Menu changes monthly, so menu items may not be available at each dining session.