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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Bob Lobster’s Deep-Fried Delights

In spring, a young hound's fancy turns to thoughts of fried seafood, and Bob Lobster has a dab hand at the fryer. Pat Hammond says, "The clams weren't big, but they were fresh tasting and tender. The breading was crisp with no greasiness at all; the oil must have been nice and clean." The tartar sauce was nice, too. Fried shrimp were "perfectly cooked" with the same crispy breading.

The place is casual; step up to the counter to put in your order and take a seat outside to wait for the food to be brought out. Drinks, ice cream, and fresh seafood are for sale inside as well.

Bob Lobster [Merrimack Valley]
49 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury
978-465-7100

Discuss: Bob Lobster – Newbury, Ma.

Boil Your Own at the Q

Mongolian hot pot, a style of cooking with a tabletop bubbling vat of broth in which diners cook their own food (like its Japanese cousin shabu-shabu), is pretty much a guaranteed good time. But the broth at the Q Restaurant (formerly Little Q of Quincy) is something else again. samovar32 says this place "blows away other Boston area shabu-shabu joints. Broths were full of multiple whole spices, garlic chunks, ginger, scallions—more like full-fledged soups than mere dipping broths."

lipoff particularly recommends the vegetarian mala broth, "numbing and hot," and even better with some cilantro thrown in. The herbal broth is lovely, too, with whole spices: "longitudinal slices of ginger root, whole garlic cloves, green onion, maybe some lemongrass, some other seed pods that, once boiled open, revealed seeds that had a fennel/anise-y taste that was quite nice in the bottom of the soup bowl," says Bob Dobalina.

The meats and vegetables are of good quality. samovar32 particularly recommends the beef tendon: "melts in your mouth after a few minutes in the broth."

The Q Restaurant [Chinatown]
660 Washington Street, Boston
617-773-5888

Discuss: Little Q Hot Pot, Arlington

Overheard on the Boston Boards

"Go to Rendezvous and have the lemon curd with huckleberry dessert. I don't even like lemon desserts and it rocked me." – StriperGuy, on a fine-dining dessert worth its salt

"Has anyone ever tried Azuluna products? The brand was started by a large-animal veterinarian at Cummings Veterinary School (Tufts) in Grafton. I sampled both the veal and the eggs at Oleana in Cambridge: spectacular. (The calves are raised on pasture, fed by—get this—their mothers!)" – Elowheeze on an ethical New England meat and eggs producer now carried by Whole Foods

"[T]he fries in this place surprised me, particularly since they serve homemade potato chips with the burgers instead of these fries, which you have to order separately. Which doesn't make sense because the potato chips are not good (nor are the beans if you don't want a sugar rush) but the fries (we had the garlic parm) rock." – robpeekmiller on the fries at the Boston Burger Company

Street Food Strikes Back

Once upon a time, street food ran unfettered and unregulated, for both good and ill. But in many cities across the U.S., an increasingly tight cord of legalese has choked or even strangled the culture of food trucks, leaving citizens far poorer for their absence.

On that front, gastronomes the world 'round must concede: Chicago chef Matt Maroni is doing the Lord's work. The sandwich purveyor is petitioning the City Council with a model ordinance aimed at opening up the Windy City to freshly made food truck delicacies; right now, only pre-prepared and packaged foods can be sold on the street.
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The Disturbing Truth About Snacks with Less Salt

Putting salt in your coffee tastes nasty. That didn't stop Alton Brown from recommending it in a new advertisement for Cargill. That's just one of the dirty details in a great behind-the-scenes New York Times story on the processed food industry's attempts to keep antisodium initiatives at bay. We've known that salt is really bad for you since the 1970s (it causes hypertension in some people), but every time anybody tries to get the companies that supply our nation with frozen pizzas and potato chips to cut back, those companies launch a coordinated offensive. This time around, they're battling New York's Mayor Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, and the Institute of Medicine.

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The Spirit of Rick Bayless Comes to Los Angeles

For many folks in the culinary scene, the best Mexican cooking in America might be at Rick Bayless's restaurant in Chicago. It doesn't matter that he's a gringo—many a hard-core lover of Mexican delights has been wowed by Bayless's deep connection with the Mexican culinary soul.

Now we have our own Bayless spiritual outpost, the new Red O. Rick Bayless isn't in the kitchen, nor does he own the place—but he designed the menu and trained the staff.

The menu is partly traditional, partly Cal-Mex. There's grilled Mazatlan blue shrimp tostaditas, with roasted garlic mojo, avocado, and fresh jicama chips. It's a surprisingly complex, balanced dish, says kevin h.

One of the best dishes is a rare woodland mushroom ceviche. "I loved the interplay of the earthy mushrooms with the sweet and vegetal notes of its various accoutrements, and how the heat of the serrano built up so eloquently on the long, lingering finish," says kevin h.

anothernotch's favorite was a corn and goat cheese tamale: perfectly balanced, slightly spicy, and incredibly creamy. "Perhaps the best tamale I've ever had," says anothernotch.

Another highlight: tinga poblana, a braise of pork shoulder and belly, chorizo, chipotle, avocado, tomatoes, and potatoes. It's got a lovely char and a great lingering spice, says kevin h. And pollo en mole poblano is beautiful: pure, mild chicken melded with a surprisingly nuanced mole. "It had the trademark flavors of sweet, smoky, and spicy, but the savor was far more integrated with the chicken than I'd imagined it would be—so complex, layered, confident," says kevin h.

There is so much more: wonderfully tender, dark beef short ribs on sopes; smoky-sweet pork belly on stout masa sopes; immensely flavorful slow-cooked duck stuffed into taquitos.

Red O [Hollywood]
8155 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
323-655-5009

Discuss: Red O Opening Night Report

Positively Reeking of Caring, Home-Style Mexican Cooking

Yxta "positively reeked of caring, homestyle Mexican cooking," says Ciao Bob.

They put a lot of care into everything, much like they did at the owners' original restaurant, El Arco Iris. "I was particularly impressed with the way the beans and the rice were not just afterthoughts, but actually varied so as to pair with the various main items," says Will Owen. "They are hip to detail and nuances of flavor," says Ciao Bob.

Chiles rellenos are spectacular, and stuffed with all sorts of goodness, says Ciao Bob.

Yxta Cocina Mexicana [Downtown]
601 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles
213-596-5579

Discuss: Yxta - ¡Muy Auténtico - I think-ico

Cooking Channel: Tree Falls in Television Forest

The Cooking Channel has debuted, created by the folks behind the Food Network, and results have been surprisingly quiet. Replacing the Fine Living Network on the cable dial, it's aimed at younger viewers.

The lineup is intriguing at first glance: Chefography does bio-treatments of favorite cooks like Julia Child and Nigella Lawson; Food(ography) is hosted by wry comedian Mo Rocca and delves into the historical and cultural aspects of foodstuffs like noodles and ice cream. Former CHOW staffer Aida Mollenkamp has a new show, in addition to Ask Aida, which has migrated to the network: Called FoodCrafters, it scouts out artisan food producers across the country.

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Cozy, Simple, and Fresh: Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day is "a cozy neighborhood spot for delicious, fresh fish, well-prepared; nothing fancy or ostentatious here in the way of presentation, just a generous serving of fish at a fair price," says Joani Macaroni. "For those who love a homey spot with lots of quaint signs and other seaside decor you'll have plenty to browse at."

Macadamia-crusted flounder and macadamia-crusted halibut are both excellent: fresh, generously sized, and cooked to perfection. Service is friendly, and there are bunches of regulars.

Catch of the Day [Orange County - Beaches]
6854 Edinger Avenue, Huntington Beach
714-841-5472

Discuss: Catch of the Day - Huntington Beach

Overheard on the Los Angeles Boards

"Have heard from others that I should go to Madeo, if for no other reason, than to have their pasta Bolognese. It was superb. Best I can remember eating outside of Italy." – maudies5

"The fried de ga, best described as a noodle in the shape of a cube, visually reminiscent of a butter mint, is chewy like cat ears noodles and is very good." – Chandvakl on the brand-new Beijing Restaurant

"It was only after I took the first bite that I realized how much I missed Black Perigord Truffles. There's a beautiful fragrance that's unmistakable, which engages your sense of smell before you even taste. And then the soft, quivering Poached Egg breaks open to bestow this amazing silky, creamy quality to every bite." – exilekiss on RH at the Andaz Hotel