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End of the year Dining Chat [moved from Boston Board]

I too like Wesley Morris's writing but seriously you thought his story about being grateful for PFChang's was legitimate? I'm sorry but I've eaten there twice and had to leave both times. I did not find it to be passable Chinese food or Americanized Chinese food. People may like it and the lines prove that they are popular but it's not representative of good Chinese food any more than Au Bon Pain is of a decent patisserie. I'm not knocking Au Bon Pain either. But if it was on a list of places to be grateful for in 2008 for people wanting French pastry I'll bet people would raise eyebrows.


We went the other night for the first time and had a really lovely meal. For one I actually thought the prices extremely reasonable. Maybe that's because I'm used to Boston prices - many of the entrees were in the 20s and there was a prix fixe menu for $36 that looked great. I know of a lot of restaurants with this quality of food that will charge $36 just for the entree. We had the beet appetizer with goat cheese and grilled bread - the beets were sweet and perfectly cooked and drizzled with a goat cheese and placed on good bread and some butter lettuce. We also had a fig and blue cheese appetizer. Super honey sweet figs and blue cheese. It was simple and great! I had a scallop entree that had 3 huge scallops and buttery couscous and summer veg. I could hardly finish it, it was a lot of food, but I did finish it because it was so yummy. My DC had the steak and said it was great. We skipped dessert. Service was good - maybe a little overbearing but our server was new (maybe the same server as JoeM?) But overall I was impressed with the food and the restaurant.

Excellent Meal at Rendezvous

I was so happy to read this post - I too had a fabulous meal at Rendezvous a few weeks back but as a new Chowhounder (well, new to posting; I'm a long-time lurker) I often forget to post. It was our first visit and we had a great meal from top to bottom. I started with a Lychee and Cassis champagne cocktail that was perfectly balanced, cold and fizzy and a great way to start off the evening. We shared a few appetizers - the octopus salad, the gnocchi, and the softshell crab. The octopus was divine - it was so tender I couldn't believe it was octopus and it was served with roasted peppers and fennel and black olives. The gnocchi had morels and maitake mushrooms, truffle, and piave. The gnocchi was a TOUCH heavy but really just a touch; how can you go wrong with mushrooms, truffle and cheese? And the soft shell was fried and placed on top of asparagus and lemon. I've heard that it's not a great soft shell season and it's true that this one was small and not that full of crab-ness. But the preparation was light and well seasoned and the crab was crispy and not greasy at all. We split the vegetarian entree. It was escarole stuffed with farro, ricotta salata, olive, and truffled cannelini puree. To be honest it didn't look like much on the plate - 4 rolls placed in an x pattern on top of some bean puree. But it was really tasty and we polished off the plate. We skipped dessert to get ice cream at Toscaninis. The service was friendly and accomodating and we even engaged in a conversation with the couple next to us who were regulars and big fans of the chef. We can't wait to go back.

Coffee House/Cafe "Crema" now open in Harvard Square!

I had a late lunch there a few days ago and really liked my sandwich - it was a grilled chicken sandwich with cojita cheese, corn, and avocado. I did find it pricey (6.95) for the size (wonder bread size) but I was in the middle of Harvard Square so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. The chicken was juicy and well flavored, the cheese was melty and creamy, and the corn added a nice fresh touch. I got one of the lemon curd cupcakes and was disappointed, especially given the comments I'd read here about it. I found it to be very artificial tasting, almost like pledge. The texture was fine, and it had a little dollop of lemon curd inside that was really lovely, but the overuse of lemon oil (?) turned me off. I also wasn't too happy with the carrot cake which was a mini bundt cake filled with a little bit of cream cheese. The cake was really cute but it was dry. Service was friendly; the place looks great (although the seating facing the street when you first walk in seemed awkward to me) and I think they'll do fine. I do love that an independent has opened up in what seems to be an increasingly commercialized Harvard Square.

Banq - news/comments/reviews?

I've been twice and I've been so-so'd by it, not wowed. The decor is really cool - very warm and welcoming and I loved the wood ceiling. The service was cordial and friendly although slow the two times I've been. It's still new so I'm sure they're working out the kinks.

I liked some of my food but not all. I've had the shortribs with cumin which was a tiny itty bitty 2-bite shortrib - delicious and small, on the amuse side of the menu. It was really tender and smokey and I liked it. For $5 it's a nice bite to start off the meal. The sea scallops with lentils was my favorite - again on the amuse side of the menu and again around $5 and yes small - one scallop with a delicious sauce and the lentils were spicy and well flavored underneath it. The lamb spring roll was well flavored and not greasy - I'm not a huge lamb person so while this was good I wasn't a fan. And the duck samosa amuse was too tough for me to enjoy but I did really like the duck flavor inside.

Less successful was the grey sole appetizer - a small piece for $12 which was just wrong. It had some sort of mango sauce and some rice underneath and the flavor of the sole was off-putting and with the sauce the whole dish was not a hit. I didn't finish this. Another time I had the mung bean crepe for $10 I think and again I wasn't impressed with this. It was greasy and the goat cheese and mushroom ragout it was served with didn't really go all that well together.

I've only had the Zucchini and Tofu Steak main course for $19 which was served with a flavorful noodle tomato combo. This was interesting but not flavorful enough for me. The tofu was bland but the noodles were good so when I ate them all together it was okay. It was passable to me but I won't order it again.

I've tried one dessert - the pear tart - and it was okay. The crust was tough but the pear was tasty. The ice cream was fine - although i can't remember what flavor it was.

Overall it's nice to see a restaurant doing food that is different from what everyone else is doing in Boston, which I really like. I found it to be quite a scene, with the bar out front and everyone looking fabulous. I thought the prices to be okay - not super pricey but not cheap either, especially if you go with amuse, app, entree, etc. It seems like more of a social scene than a food scene so I don't think I'll be back soon.


I love Picco and am surprised it doesn't pop up more often here. The crust is great- it's chewy and flavorful and charred (I ask for it not well-done which they advise you to do on the menu if you don't want it too dark) in a good way. The toppings are always super fresh and the last time I was there I had a vegetable pizza that was so much more than a typical veggie pizza - caramelized onions, roasted garlic, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes and a little creme fraiche. It was delicious. I also really love the ice cream and sorbets. And the fish tacos are delicious! Really fresh fish and toppings. Very filling too. The salads are a little small to me, and the service can be a bit rough, but I've always had very friendly waiters.

New Restaurant Updates?

I heard that Petit Robert Charlestown is no longer happening. Something about the landlord being difficult to work with I think?

Upper Crust - what don't I get?

I'm so with you. The crust does NOTHING for me unless i take it home, put it in the toaster over and heat it up really fast and hot to try and give it some crisp and texture. Otherwise I feel like their pizza is SO mediocre and I just don't understand the buzz. Why do they get Best Pizza each year from the local mags? I find the sauce to be boring - it looks like they just opened up a can of crushed tomatoes and that's it. The toppings are okay but to me if you don't have great crust it's not worth it. I try this place occasionally hoping that it will get better and I will say that I'm the type of person who thinks there's no such thing as a bad pizza but there is such a thing as not great pizza and to me upper crust is just that - not great

Tatte's Cookies Brookline

I agree. I've been to Tatte several times and really want them to do well...but I've been so shocked at the prices for some items that I wonder how they'll survive. I got a pear tart that was pretty good, nothing outrageous - it was about 5 inches across and it cost $20. I thought it was a mistake but I got it another time to bring to a friend (and I was assuming it was going to be rung up cheaper) and it wasn't. They told me that is the correct price. I had a little cellophane package of cookies for around $8 that was pretty overpriced as well.

But I love that they've taken an old bakery and put something beautiful and fresh in its place and I hope they find a market out there that allows them to stay in business. Unfortunately I don't think that market includes me.

Best local spin off?

A recent thread asking about the worst local spin off had me thinking about what are the best. I know there are plenty of Boston chefs and restaurateurs who have expanded their business successfully (from a Hounds perspective not just a financial perspective) and I'd be interested in hearing what you all think. One that comes to mind immediately for me is No. 9 and then B&G (although it does seem like Butcher Shop might be an outlier for Barbara Lynch?). Others?

Favorite Chinatown desserts?

My favorite Chinatown dessert treat that I get at Ho Yuan is the red bean rice flour bun/pancake. I'm not sure what the actual name of it is -it's about 5 inches in diameter and flat and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It's translucent white in color and inside it is filled with red bean paste and it looks like it's been pan fried on the bottom. I'm always amazed at how cheap everything is in here! It is around a dollar I think.

Tatte Bakery

Mmmmmm I'm enjoying a really delicious and unique biscotti from Tatte right now -the mile long biscotti or something like that. I wish the nuts were toasted but other than that it's got great flavah! The brownie covered in hazelnuts is also really good - fudgey and rich and made with good chocolate and real butter (it seems) but again the hazelnuts are sort of chewy because they are not toasted.

I don't like their brioche - the one I had was small and dense and pretty pricey for $2. I look forward to going back and trying a few more items. The Savoy used to be pretty good many years ago if I remember correctly and it's nice that a local business person has taken the reigns and freshened up this space. Best of luck to them!

Your favorite thing to eat in and around Boston at the moment

I love love love the Margharita (sp?) pizza at Picco. I love the crust, the cheese, the sauce. The crust is chewy and has that charred taste from the fire in the oven - I ask for it less well-cooked because I don't particularly love a lot of char and it is so delicious.

Meyers+Chang? What's the Word?

I've now had lunch, dinner, and take-out at Myers and Chang and have been really happy with all of my meals there.
Lunch - I thought it was going to be counter service based on posts here but the waitress told me they switched to table service, mostly because of how confusing the counter service was for customers and for them. I had the thai chicken salad and my DC had the hot and sour soup and tea-smoked ribs rice bowl. The thai chicken came in a huge bowl and was on top of a bed of greens and I couldn't stop eating it. It was so fresh and flavorful and spicy. I am definitely getting this again next time. The hot and sour soup was really nice - it wasn't thick and full of cornstarch as I'm used to seeing in Chinatown. It was really fresh as well and full of bright hot and sour notes. The ribs were smokey and tender and on top of some stir-fried greens and a bowl of rice. Very tasty. Service was quick and I love the space (as has been mentioned in here before) - it is really pretty and fun and looks totally different during the day than at night. It's a great place to meet a friend for lunch or have a business meeting (as I saw others doing) or just grab a quick bite.

Dinner - I've had several terrific meals here for dinner. The service is sometimes a little discombobulated but I've always had friendly waiters. As a former vegetarian I appreciate their vegetarian menu. The highlights of my meals have been: the dan dan noodles, the tofu and broccoli chow fun, the crispy whole fish, the striped bass clay pot and the whole prawns. The dan dan was spicy and topped with cucumbers and celery and really delicious. The tofu chow fun was literally brimming over the bowl and was full of gingery chinese broccoli, lots of charred noodles and big chunks of soft tofu. I wanted to eat the whole bowl but it was too much for one sitting so I took it home and had the rest for lunch the next day. The whole fish (we went last weekend and it looked like it was a chinese new year special?) was incredible - topped with kumquats and a soy-based sauce and so fresh. The striped bass (I keep using this word but it really applies to everything I've had here) was really fresh too and in a miso broth with rice and vegetables. Perfect for a cold stormy evening. And the whole prawns - I don't usually think to eat the whole shrimp but our waiter told us it was like a soft shell crab so we dug in ...and were well rewarded - the shrimp were juicy and tasty and covered in a piquant sauce with lime and salt and pepper and so, well, fresh.

Take-out: I got salmon and brussel sprouts. The salmon was perfectly cooked and had a sweet soy ginger glaze. It was on top of rice with a little garnish of cucumbers and cilantro pickle which went really well with the richness of the fish. The brussel sprouts were stir fried with garlic -very simple and flavorful. There was also a container of pickles and an extra container of rice packed along with my order. A nice touch!

A great neighborhood place that I can see myself (well I've already been doing it) coming back to time and time again. I agree with an above poster about the reservations - I love that I can come in without a reservation, especially since I don't always plan my meals far enough in advance to make a reservation. I've seen a lot of my neighbors there so it seems to be a good approach. I'm not a bar person and I love that I can come here and have a wonderful meal in a fun atmosphere in a cool looking place.

Expensive Steakhouses like KO Prime

I had a great meal there recently. It wasn't inventive but it was well prepared and delicious and the server was very helpful in choosing a wine for us to enjoy. We shared a chopped salad which was full of fresh vegetables and olives and sharp cheese and I had the swordfish which was PERFECTLY cooked and served with hazelnuts and green peppercorns and haricot verts. My DC had the strip which he said was cooked exactly as ordered - rare to med rare. I like the dark elegance of the dining room (I never saw it as Spire) and again I thought our server was attentive and charming without being too present. It IS expensive but it seems to me that steakhouses of a certain level all over town are all incredibly pricey.

How does Oishii Boston compare to Oishii Chestnut Hill?

You hit the nail on the head by calling Chestnut Hill cramped - while I love eating there I often feel rushed if there is a line of people waiting for my seat. The South End location is serene, elegant, and beautiful. The service is solicitious and the two times I've eaten there Ting has come over to say hello and check in to see if we are enjoying our meal. It's a great place for an anniversary dinner, especially if you are prepared for the sticker shock, which for an anniversary I would imagine you would be.

TORO: Great experience; Much Improved

I agree - I love Toro. I went recently with a friend and we sat at the long table in the middle and had many snacks along with lots of sangria. The sangria left such an impression on me that I unfortunately can't really comment on the snacks but I can say that service was charming and friendly and when I asked our waitress what she liked about working at Toro (because clearly she was having a good time) she said that the owners are all about the servers having fun so that the customers can have fun too. I liked that philosophy - her friendliness definitely made an impression on me!

Choco Choco House South End

I don't have details but I heard that the woman who opened it decided to join her family in their restaurant business (sorry I don't remember which restaurant her family owns) and that a new chocolatier is coming to take her place. I'm looking forward to the new place AND to Aroa Chocolates as well.

Xinh Xinh Closed?

I tried to buy some stuff at Mings and they were closed too. I'm assuming it's the New Year too.

Where to get a bite near BMC?

How about Orinoco? They are inexpensive and service is really friendly. Plus the interior is fun- it's casual and comfortable. And the food is great too!

House of Siam is on Columbus is a little further up, but if you're willing to walk a bit my friends in the SE swear by it. I've had some good take-out from there but I've never actually eaten there.

Nice meal at the Blue Room

I used to dine at the Blue Room quite often, mostly because I lived near Cambridge. I don't live so close anymore so it's not in my travel circle anymore, and that is too bad, because based on my meal there a few nights ago, it still rocks. I was meeting a friend for a quick bite and neither of us was terribly hungry but we were wanting a comfortable place to enjoy a great meal without having it be too formal or stuffy. That's what I've always felt the Blue Room offers.

We settled on the grilled squid and smashed potatoes and the beet salad with warm goat cheese and ginger dressing for appetizers and we split a wild mushroom and polenta vegetarian entree.

The grilled squid was delicious with nice char on the squid, perfectly tender. I wasn't crazy about the olive-y and olive oily potato side that it came with - for me it was a bit to greasy and oily, but my DC loved it and the bread they provide (iggy's francesa) was perfect for sopping up all the juices and oils. I loved the light and bright dressing on the beet salad. The mache was fresh and the goat cheese breaded and lightly fried. All in all a very nice beginning to our meal.

The mushroom/polenta main was delicious. The polenta was light and had a little parmesan and truffle oil in/on it and the mushrooms were sauteed with thyme and other herbs and the whole dish was simple and easy and just what we were looking for.

Service was fine - it was a little mechanical and I wish my server seemed more interested in how things were with us rather than just going through the motions....but he was definitely competent. No complaints.

The vibe was great - lots of intellectual Cambridge types, a few single diners, some kids (going to the movies?) and some families. The interior looks like I remember it, clean and simple and comfortable. I'll gladly go back!

scones, where do you buy the most delicious ones?

I agree with those who love Canto6's scones - they are drop scones so they have tons of great craggly nubs and crannys and the high quality of their ingredients really shines through. I also love the lemon ginger scones at Flour and while I'm not a big fan of lowfat items (usually find them not worth the effort - just eat less of a full-fat item if you're trying to cut back!) I also really like their heart healthy dried fruit scone with raisins and cranberries and candied ginger and apricots. They somehow make it moist and tender without seeming lowfat.