Boston rss

Highlights from the Boston board. Restaurants, bars, food stores, and more.

Finger-Lickin’ Chicken

amatto has fallen head over heels with Korean fried chicken, saying happily, “It is gooooooood stuff.” Chains specializing in this Korean take on fried chicken—freshly fried, greaseless, and glazed with a chile or soy sauce—have been proliferating in the New York area, and now the dish is making inroads in Boston too.

New York’s Korean chicken chains are either fast-food joints or nightclubs that serve chicken along with drinks and attitude. In Boston, the chicken is served at a Japanese sushi lounge, Privus in Allston, which digga says just happens to have a Korean chef who makes chicken that compares favorably to the best of the New York varieties.

How good is it? SaraASR says: “I am extremely particular about chicken … I never eat chicken on the bone, and only eat chicken breast. However, BonChon is an exception to the rule. This stuff is ridiculous.”

Privus Lounge [Allston]
165 Brighton Avenue, Allston
617-787-7483

Board Link: korean fried chicken

The New New Marliave

Marliave, the Downtown Crossing joint that opened last year in the same space as a restaurant of the same name that had stayed open for more than 120 years, is getting some love of late.

When the Marliave first reopened in 2008, Chowhounds loved the historical atmosphere (it “feels like you have stepped back in time 50 years,” says Carty), but others were a bit put off by the place’s two disparate menus: fancy Continental classics upstairs, and Prohibition-era cocktails, updated American cuisine, and a more casual atmosphere downstairs. Now the two menus are much more integrated, with an “After 5” menu that’s available on both levels of the restaurant.

Bob Dobalina says the changed menu means diners now need choose only by atmosphere: “I think the upstairs is more suitable to quiet conversation and downstairs is more open and more focused on the bar, so more prone to louder conversations. Just depends on the mood which one you might prefer.”

Picks from the menu: tender, juicy, roasted sirloin lamb; the enormous Reuben sandwich, served on airy house-baked rye bread; plump and clean mussels in a fragrant herb broth; and the garlicky roast chicken. Marliave also has a fine burger; order it with a side of Boston baked beans.

Marliave [Downtown Crossing]
10 Bosworth Street, Boston
617-422-0004

Board Links: Kingston Station, Marliave, or Silvertone?
Marliave 1/30/09

Best Beef Bargain in Boston

Craving some churrasco, savory grilled meat, and bummed that his favorite Brazilian restaurant is closed after a fire, StriperGuy took a tip from a fellow hound and tried Pampas Buffet & Grill. The verdict? Yum. “Most notably the beef at Pampas was tender, rare, and luscious whereas at Cafe Belo it is usually kinda chewy,” he says. The prices are right too: just $8.99 for the all-you-can-eat dinner buffet, which StriperGuy says is “downright absurd given the quality of the food. Seriously at this price, if you are hungry this might just be the best deliciousness/quantity/price scenario in Boston.”

Other than the great beef, there’s pork, chicken, bacon-wrapped chicken, chicken hearts, wings, and stews on the buffet table. The night StriperGuy went, the stews were beef and chicken with okra. On the side there’s farofa (the typical Brazilian dish of roasted corn or cassava flour) and nicely done vegetables.

StriperGuy tried the Somerville location on Medford Street, but the same family owns another Pampas in Everett. Neither have a wine/beer license so it’s BYO for now. AnyaEssen says to try the great fresh fruit juices, available in tropical flavors like guava or passionfruit.

Pampas Buffet & Grill [Somerville]
505 Medford Street
617-960-8978

Pampas Buffet & Grill [Everett]
983 Broadway Street
617-387-6001

Board Link: Pampas is Delicious, Props to Itaunas, Wicked Bargain

Shop Haymarket Like an Expert

Haymarket, the bustling open-air produce, meat, fish, and cheese market near Faneuil Hall Marketplace, gets a bad rap for being overcrowded and full of rude vendors selling produce on the verge of being rotten. But Carty is here to tell you that it has its good sides. Don’t even bother going if you can afford Whole Foods without flinching, says Carty. But the exceptional bargains are often worth it: Chowhounds have scored great oranges six for $1, four-pound bags of spinach for $1, and three freshly-shucked cherrystone clams for $2. Those prices, and the colorful crowd and vendors, make shopping the market worth it.

Newbies will have a better go of it if they remember a few simple rules: never go looking for a specific produce. Instead, vow to cook whatever you buy. “I like this, forces a sort of Iron Chef thing every week,” says Carty. Next, don’t ask the vendors to make change. Just bring a pocketful of $1 bills, advises Allstonian.

If the vendor wants to pack your bag of limes or whatever you’re buying, that’s fine, say experienced Haymarket shoppers. If the bag ends up full of crappy selections, the unspoken Haymarket rule is that you can return the bag and get your money back. And if the teeming masses start to get to you, just relax and enjoy the show. “Haymarket is worth it for the entertainment value alone. Three-foot-tall Asian ladies elbowing their way to the front getting yelled at by six-foot-tall Italian vendors, not understanding a single word, to save 25 cents—priceless,” says drb, while Northender adds, “It is terrific fun to see the new immigrants interact with the vendors. Lots of fake spats and arguments but generally happy interactions.” Others fondly remember the “meat guy” in a bloodstained apron who used to whisper, “Psst, want some meat?” to passersby.

Parking in the area can be tough, but there is paid parking nearby. If you park in the Parcel 7 garage and buy a slice of Haymarket Pizza for a buck or two you can get a validation that allows you to park for two hours for $1.

Haymarket Pushcart Association [North End]
61 Salem Street, Boston
617-742-5109

Board Link: Learning to Love the Haymarket

Dining With the Chef at L’Espalier

Suze123 has been gifted with a dinner at L’Espalier and wants to know whether she should opt for the special-treat chef’s table in the kitchen or just sit in the dining room?

Go for the kitchen, says Joseph Helfgot, who chose that option a few weeks back to celebrate his son’s birthday. The service was so exquisite that servers literally walked diners through the kitchen on the way to the bathroom to ensure their safety, and offered careful explanations of each of the 14 dishes on the menu. There was also a kitchen tour with the chef, which is a fascinating look at “how a truly professional high end kitchen is run,” says Joseph.

Others disagreed, saying that the food was more the point than the service at L’Espalier, and that the kitchen space was cramped. But everyone agreed that both the seasonal and chef’s tasting menus are wonderful, if a bit rich at times, particularly the beef dishes. Suze was also reminded to ask the cheese cart to wheel by, otherwise cheese would be plated less festively.

L’Espalier [Back Bay]
774 Boylston Street, Boston
617-262-3023

Board Link: Chef’s Table at L’Espalier

FuLoon Chowdown

A group of 12 Chowhounds met at FuLoon, a somewhat nondescript Chinese place in Malden, and had a delicious meal. The highlights:

• Ma po tofu, “excellent citrusy szechuan peppercorns and not overly sauced, permitting the tofu, ground pork and peppercorns to each stand out with texture, flavor and spice,” says gourmaniac.

• Dong po pork, which BarmyFotheringayPhipps says was served in one-inch cubes with fat that dissolved in the mouth: “Seriously, I never fully understood the import of the term ‘melt in your mouth’ before this: the effect was oddly like eating a soup dumpling without the wrapper. And when the fat was gone, the remaining belly was so intensely, richly flavored that it was rather like eating six pieces of perfectly-cooked bacon in one bite.”

• Custard scallop, fried milk custard, and fried scallop, which was silky, sweet, and rather bland.

• Szechuan whole fish, served in a brown sauce with whole peppers.

Other dishes, like Peking duck and spicy cabbage, were less successful, but several hounds liked the homestyle braised pork shoulder. The price was right, at $30 a head for a table full of dishes.

FuLoon [Malden]
375 Main Street, Malden
781-388-3338

Board Link: Fuloon chowdown 1/24/08

Classic Fish and Chips

The Battery, a British/Irish-style fish and chips joint in Brighton, is receiving inconsistent reviews. Some people love the freshness of the fish, pointing out that paying the extra two bucks for a fillet of haddock rather than pollack really pays off as you get a beautiful piece of fish. Other hounds complain that the skin is left on.

“In the UK, that is how it is normally done and I would bet it’s the same in Ireland. Those who don’t like it often reflect that it stops them from eating half of the batter, so it isn’t all bad,” says chickendhansak. Still others are concerned about the Battery’s method for holding fish for orders. It is pre-fried, and then put on racks in glass cases in the front of your store. When you make your order, they’re whisked to the back and re-fried, which can lead to inconsistent results.

The fries are universally reported to be a bit limp in classic British style, which some people love and others hate. “Perfect combination of small, crispy ones and larger, soft ones. They know what they are doing here,” says chickendhansak, who is a fan.

The Battery [Brighton]
379 Washington Street, Boston
617-987-0884

Board Link: New Fish and Chips Joint in Brighton Center

Mistral Tries a Recession Buster

Venerable South End bar/restaurant Mistral has added a small plate menu to its bar service, and bacongirl2009 reports that it’s good. Prices are rock-bottom ($2 to $9), and bacongirl2009 says the serving sizes are correspondingly small, but the flavors are huge. She tried the black truffle deviled egg, potted foie gras, steak tartare, and duck confit with risotto, and the foie gras won: “It had the most amazing texture, smooth and silky and the flavor was perfection, savory, sweet, and salty all in one bite.” She does wish that Mistral would hop on the classic cocktail bandwagon, as she finds the wines expensive and the cocktails unexciting, but says she’ll be back for the foie gras if nothing else.

Lauren R. was excited to hear about the foie gras on the bar menu, because she’d had it from the dining room menu a few weeks ago and it was wonderful, served on top of duck-confit stuffed brioche. But at $22 a plate, she wouldn’t be able to order it often. bkizzl3 also notes that the service at the bar is good, with attentive bartenders instead of sometimes indifferent waiters.

Mistral [South End]
223 Columbus Avenue, Boston
617-867-9300

Board Link: New Small Plates Menu at Mistral Bar

T.W. Food: Hot or Not?

WineAG raves about T.W. Food, saying: “There’s something special happening at this small place in Cambridge,” and “The quality and finesse of the best dishes are staggeringly good.” WineAG was particularly impressed by the winter boudin, stuffed with veal and pork and served with cranberry beans and chard, as well as the barley risotto, with gorgonzola, local onions, and blood orange-glazed turnips, a dish WineAG says could easily fit in on a three-star menu, and was a bargain at only $11. “I knew that chef Tim Wiechmann was the real deal,” WineAG reports. The prices were nice too: $39 per person for a three-course prix fixe. WineAG liked the food so much that he plans on returning for the $69 seven-course option.

Not everyone is as thrilled with T.W. Food. purple bot calls it “precious” and “staid,” while Kelly001 complains: “Almost every dish was ultimately lacking in flavor. They were all well seasoned but the main ingredients’ flavors were mostly absent or underrepresented and at times just heavy with butter.”

Particularly contentious is T.W. Food’s “scotch & cigars” dessert, a very weird-sounding dark chocolate mousse with tobacco-infused crème anglaise and aged single-malt syrup. jamaicaplain says it’s outstanding: “The balance of the tobacco flavor in the crème anglaise was perfect, the scotch syrup was fascinating and balanced, and the chocolate mousse was excellent.” rufustfi disagreed, saying that the dessert had the “consistency of play-dough and even less flavor.”

And so the argument rages on. Is the food blah, flavorless, and too expensive? Or is it divine, balanced, and well-priced?

T.W. Food [West Cambridge]
377 Walden Street, Cambridge
617-864-4745

Board Links: TW FOOD ‐ A Special Spot
T.W. Food
TW Food ‐ disappointing

The Whole Beast Is Best

lipoff delved deeply into some offal selections at tapas spot Toro in a recent visit, and found it lip-smackingly good. “Crispy sweetbreads with a kalamansi sauce were terrific—just slightly crispy on the outside and deliciously tender on the inside.” Bone marrow was also lovely: “Fatty, juicy, succulent,” raves lipoff, set off by a salad of citrus and radish, and served with toasted bread topped with oxtail, which lipoff calls “nothing special.” Ask for a demitasse spoon to scoop the marrow out of the big half-bone it’s served in, as a marrow spoon does not accompany the dish.

Also on the menu: smoked beef tongue, served thick, rare, and juicy, with lentils and salsa verde. It “impressed even the offal-wary, yet still had a very distinctive taste and texture,” says lipoff. MC Slim JB agrees, adding that chef Jamie Bissonnette, “is the king of parts.”

For the offal-averse, there’s plenty on the menu to occupy the palate. Particularly popular with hounds: sweet/salty/tangy dates stuffed with Marcona almonds and blue cheese wrapped in serrano ham; simply prepared (olive oil and salt) Brussels sprouts; and grilled corn with cotija cheese, lime, and aioli.

Toro [South End]
1704 Washington Street, Boston
617-536-4300

Board Links: Offal at Toro
Toro Recommendations