Boston rss

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

Mallomar Mania

A marshmallow-starved hound wants to know where Mallomars can be found in Boston, and fast, because they’re “in season” right now (Nabisco halts production in the summer because Mallomars melt so easily). They’re hard to find outside of the New York/Jersey/Connecticut area, and once they’re sold out for the year they’re gone.

Shaw’s Supermarket in Porter Square stocks the addictive cookies, and sells them at a great price: $5.79 for an eight-ounce box; way cheaper than buying them online for about $12. Mallomars can also be found at the Roche Bros. Supermarket and the Stop & Shop in Quincy, as well as at various Costco and Walmart stores. But when you can’t find the Mallomars, you should under no circumstances try less-expensive knockoffs, says sailormouth. “Pinwheels are no substitute, so don’t even go down that route. It’s a Hydrox/Oreo situation,” says sailormouth.

Shaw’s Supermarket [Porter Square]
49 White Street, Cambridge
617-492-5566

Roche Bros. Supermarket [Burlington]
34 Cambridge Street, Burlington
781- 273-3261

Stop & Shop Supermarket [Quincy]
65 Newport Ave, Quincy
617-328-4477

Board Link: Any retailers of Mallomars in Greater Boston?

Mean Lamb and Soupless Dumplings

Chinatown stalwart New Shanghai closed down for a time in the fall, after the restaurant’s license was temporarily suspended for health code violations. It has now reopened in the same spot with a different menu, one 9lives calls “ambitious and interesting” with “various preps of rabbit, kidney, tendon, sea cucumber, cumin lamb and more,” and which is an improvement over the unexciting old menu. So how’s the food on the plates? Delicious, say hounds, who laud the twice-cooked pork belly, cold shredded chicken with special spicy sauce, and the boiled beef filet with red pepper and bean sprouts.

Cumin lamb is controversial. yumyum called it “mean” and “excellent,” particularly enjoying the sliced garlic that was mixed with chiles and cilantro. But others complained about the cumin, wishing for freshly toasted and ground cumin, and about a “powdery” quality to the lamb. But everyone seemed to enjoy numbing hot beef tendons, a small heap of thinly sliced tendon with sauce and shredded scallions on top.

Those who order xiao long bao (a.k.a. “soup dumplings”) may come away disappointed with New Shanghai, however. It seems that the translation of xiao long bao may be different depending on where the cook hails from in China. New Shanghai’s XLB do not contain broth; instead, they’re more like a doughy steamed dim sum pork buns. 9lives calls them “the weakest of the dishes” tried at a recent visit, though others enjoyed them. Just don’t expect a spurt of soup when you bite in.

New Shanghai Restaurant [Chinatown]
21 Hudson St, Boston
617-338-6688

Board Links: New Shanghai/Chinatown
Where did the folks from New Shanghai go?

The Perfect Oyster

Marmalade is going to take a first-time oyster eater out, and wants to do it up right. Where to take the friend?

Neptune is an overwhelming pick, with a “well-chosen selection of well-cared-for oysters from different regions; so they could taste the subtle differences in oysters from different regions,” says 9lives. Neptune also has a nicely descriptive menu that lists the size and flavor profile of each oyster selection: “Great for a novice, especially if they want to start with the smaller ones,” says Rubee.

Speaking of those flavor profiles, gyppielou has always loved Island Creek oysters, native to Massachusetts, but in the past year has been getting meh specimens: “Whether it be the oyster, the handling of the oyster, the temp of the oyster, or the shucker of the oyster I cannot say.” rlh reports similarly varying experience with Island Creek oysters, but that the best oysters ever were Island Creeks at the East Coast Grill, described on the specials menu as “very stressed,” i.e. from a place where they had to grip tightly to avoid being washed out to sea. That tighter grip equalled a plumper, meatier oyster rlh has never forgotten.

Neptune Oyster [North End]
63 Salem St, Boston
617-742-3474

East Coast Grill [Mid-Cambridge]
1271 Cambridge Street, Cambridge
617-491-6568

Board Links: Oyster Myths
Oysters for a first timer?

You Say Tonnato

Reports are filtering in on the new Franklin Southie. Food4Thought loves the new location, which is much bigger than the Franklin Café, with two or three times as many tables. Food4Thought had a Station 6 cocktail (vodka and pickle brine, with an olive, a grape tomato, and a cornichon as garnishes), as well as a “relax” margarita that came with a salt foam.

Food4Thought appreciated the short ribs, “very tender,” and the pan-smoked mussels, served with drawn butter like lobster instead of the more typical broth-y presentation. The mussels were “plump and sweet” with a smoky flavor. Other nice touches: A carafe of water with lemon slices was left on the table, along with focaccia, bean spread, and salt and pepper shakers. “These seem to be disappearing in many Boston restaurants and it’s kinda a pet peeve of mine,” says Food4Thought.

The vitello tonnato appetizer, a split plate with raw tuna and capers on one side and medallions of grilled veal on the other, is a bit controversial. Food4Thought thought it was good, and Devout Sal calls it “a classic Franklin-type dish,” but Wursthof says the tuna was “woefully flavorless and underseasoned” and the veal “might as well have been shoeleather because that’s what it tasted like.”

Parking can be a problem in the neighborhood; walk or take public transportation if you can.

Franklin Southie [South Boston]
152 Dorchester Avenue, South Boston
617-269-1003

Franklin Café [South End]
278 Shawmut Avenue, Boston
617-350-0010

Board Link: Anyone been to The Franklin in Southie yet?

The Original, the Best

Carty wonders if an oft-repeated rumor is true: Is the pizza from the North End Regina Pizza better than that at the satellite locations, or “is it a myth reinforced by the over-all feel of authenticity in the North End location?” It’s true, says trufflehound, and the difference is the oven, better at the original North End Regina’s.

The pizza at all the Regina locations is still pretty darned good, however, particularly at the Medford location. Be sure and order it well done. “I love the character of the North End original, but the pizza, if ordered well done, is just as good in Medford,” says yumyum.

Regina Pizza [North End]
11 1/2 Thacher Street, Boston

617-227-0765

Regina Pizza [Wellington]
44 Station Landing, Medford
781-306-1222

Board Link: Boston Chow Myth-Busters

Just Shoot Me

The pea shoots at Hong Kong Eatery are fantastic, say hounds, but why the heck do they cost $15 per order? Luther suspects a conspiracy: “Restaurants seem to take advantage of the fact that this is known to be a slightly more expensive vegetable and jack up their profit margin.” But yumyum thinks the high cost is justified: “Super labor intensive + delicious and unavailable elsewhere = high prices.” And barleywino remembers shoots running $12 a plate 17 years ago in the Bay Area, so thinks that the price is well worth it.

Hong Kong Eatery [Chinatown]
79 Harrison Avenue, Boston
617-423-0838

Board Link: Hong Kong Eatery (1/3/08)

Serious Libations

The cocktails are fantastic at Drink, the Fort Point bar with a laserlike focus on fine drinks. Manager John Gertsen, formerly the bar brains of No. 9 Park, begins with the ice: Each cocktail comes with a certain kind of ice, either machine made or custom chipped from a giant 50-pound block in front of customers, a sight entertaining enough to ensure that “ice bar” seats are coveted. The cocktails are then made with freshly squeezed fruit juices, house-made syrups, and fresh herbs, a point that will be driven home to the customer if she happens to order a basil gimlet, which hounds adore.

Other picks: the Mint Julep, served in a traditional frosty silver cup; the 1794 cocktail of rye, Campari, and sweet vermouth; and the punch drinks, mixed up in a big bowl for group imbibing. One bummer: a limited bar menu that features just-OK deviled eggs for $4 an egg. “See, the challenge with a place like Drink is that on your arrival it’s the giddiness of anticipation of the superb cocktails that might lower your guard against what you’d otherwise see as questionable snack prices,” says wcantonese, “and after a couple of said cocktails, it’s pretty much the liquor itself taking over that job. Either way, you’re feeling expansive, and before you know it saying things like, ‘Eggs all around!’”

Many hounds also complained about the bar being too crowded to find a seat, particularly on weekend nights and during the after-work rush. Drink tries to manage the crowds by greeting walk-ins and assigning seats at the bar according to when they arrive. This can confuse people who come in and see empty seats at the bar, only to be told they’re saved. Don’t be alarmed, says jgg13: “Two of us went around 7pm on Saturday two weeks ago, walked in, waited under 5 minutes and had seats at the ice block bar where Misty proceeded to take really good care of us.”

Drink [Fort Point]
348 Congress Street, Boston
617-695-1806

Board Link: Drink opening tomorrow?

Craigie Street: Still Sweet

The slavishly devoted throngs who have adored Chef Tony Maws’s Craigie Street Bistrot since it opened in Cambridge in 2003 must be breathing a sigh of relief right about now: The new Craigie on Main appears to be about as good as it was in the old space, now set in a sleek dining room with an open kitchen that’s worthy of Maws’s talents.

Craigie’s new bar menu is a big draw, with small, tapas-size plates that show off Maws’s “luxurious take on French Bistro cooking with a locavore slant,” according to MC Slim JB. WineAG advises hounds to sit in the bar area even if they plan on ordering dinner, because bar patrons can order from the main restaurant menu and the bar menu, while in the dining room the bar menu is off limits. “So the bar offers the best of both worlds… you can have whatever you want in a relaxed atmosphere… trust me, you won’t find food like this in any other bar around,” says WineAG. Several early Craigie on Main adopters talked up the smelts, the sashimi specials, and the seared pork belly. kimfair1 loved the $80 six-course “surprise me!” menu, in which, she says, “the wow factor was huge.” Other dishes hit the wrong gustatory notes; in particular, the polenta is not up to snuff.

The new location is a lot more upscale than the old, somewhat gritty basement room. Some worry that the nicer digs will spark pretentiousness and that “dressing-up-for-the-sake-of-dressing-up thing,” as Sgt Snackers puts it. But despite the upgrade, Sgt Snackers swears that Craigie is “about the food, which is stellar, and it need not be any fancier than it has to be to have a good time. So wear your sweaters with pride.”

Craigie on Main [Downtown]
853 Main Street, Cambridge
617-497-5511

Board Link: Have you been to the Craigie St Bistro at it’s new location?

Xiao Long Bao with Tons of Crab

A table of hounds tried the fare at Gourmet Dumpling House a few days after Christmas, and as Dr.Jimbob puts it, “a title like ‘Gourmet Snack House’ would be closer to the target on this place. They aren’t really a dumpling house at all, but seem to serve up a variety of treats from a range of Chinese coastal cuisines (in this case, Shanghai/Zhejiang, Fujian/Taiwan and Guangdong) with expert skill, though not aiming for the rarefied or the sublime.”

Best thing on the table: sautéed eel with yellow chives, which Dr.Jimbob calls “expert” and “flavorful,” if not quite classic Shanghainese because it didn’t come served in a pool of raw garlic and oil. Beware, those who haven’t ordered the dish before: the preparation of very small eel fillets does not resemble the barbecued eel one finds in Japanese restaurants. “The first time I had it in New York, I was grossed out by the sight of what looked like worms on the plate,” says Dr.Jimbob. “But then I tried it. And I haven’t been able to get enough of them since.”

Dr.Jimbob is also crazy about the Taiwanese-style rice cake with pork and vegetables, a savory patty of perfectly al dente, nongreasy rice with a “beautifully balanced” meat and vegetable mix served on top. Other hounds are fans of Gourmet Dumpling House’s xiao long bao (a.k.a. soup dumplings), which are nicely formed and contain an unusually generous amount of crabmeat. They’re served on a steamy cloth napkin instead of the typical lettuce or cabbage leaf, and Wursthof says “the cloth napkin actually released the dumplings a little easier,” important for those intent on slurping every last bit of soup from the dumplings.

Gourmet Dumpling House [Chinatown]
52 Beach Street, Boston
617-338-6223

Board Links: Gourmet Dumpling House ChowDown, 12/27/2008
quick lunch at Gourmet Dumpling in chinatown

Roll Around in the Carbonara Bowl

Upscale Bina Osteria is open in the Boston Common Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Towers and is getting wildly mixed reviews. LifeisGood58 had a terrible time her first visit, saying both food and service were awful. The chicken in the chicken marsala tasted processed and the beet salad was flavorless. And to top it all off, the plates were minuscule yet pricey.

Blumie strenuously disagreed, stating that “In terms of portion size and price, I feel like we’ve been through this when Clio first opened, and fortunately Clio lovers have discovered that enjoying a wonderful meal does not mean having to engorge oneself.” Blumie also liked the suckling pig and the spaghetti carbonara, much-praised dishes by other hounds. “My friends and I wanted to roll around inside the carbonara bowl. it was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in Boston,” says hotoynoodle, while avial had love for the suckling pig presentation, “a pressed square of suckling pig pulled pork style with a perfect square of crisp skin on top. The meat was tender and oozed that fatty pork flavor that I’m sure many of us have come to crave. The skin was crispy and crunchy, perfectly done with just enough of a minuscule layer of fat on the underside to give it quintessential porky flavor.”

hotoynoodle also drooled over the “pig butter,” rendered fat from the suckling pig mixed with fruity olive oil and brought to the table to spread on crusty bread. “Heaven,” says hotoynoodle.

Finally, DowntownChick recommends Bina’s Bloody Marys, made tableside from your choice of various vodkas, salts, and garnishes like olives and pickled green beans.

Bina Osteria [Chinatown]
581 Washington Street, Boston
617-956-0888

Board Links: Bina, Boston
Bina Boston?