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Winter 2009 Restaurant Week Reviews

We went to Bina Osteria last night: we started with a breadbasket accompanied by 'pig butter' -- a small bowl of lard (i think?) infused with deep herbal flavors -- quite addictive. then we had the calamari salad and parsnip soup for appetizers, both were excellent, though the calamari almost tasted raw, which was fine for me but some may find off-putting. for mains we had the pasta e fagioli -- the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente but lacked real flavor and had a grainy sauce; we also had the pollo al diavolo, which was also under-flavored, and came in a strangely pale tubular form. while the presentation was artful, none of the sauces on the plate added anything to the limp tube of chicken. dessert was a nice change of pace: we tried all three, the poached pear (fantastic), panna cotta (quite good and generously portioned) and orange crostata (great for citrus lovers). service was excellent -- attentive without being obtrusive. they also have a list of 10+ wines for $33/bottle -- we had the cortese, which was good but not remarkable (have had excellent wines at Bin 26, so was a bit disappointed in the selection). all in all, a very pleasant experience with the odd exception of some pretty bland main courses. the menu seems quite different from their regular dinner menu, so I wonder if they didn't make some poor choices for restaurant week entrees. given how much more expensive it is on a regular (non-resto-week) night, i'm not sure I'd return, except maybe for a drink and dessert.

Mar 21, 2009
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Banq Bailout Menu ($29.95 3 course, Sun-Thurs)

Has anyone tried Banq's "bailout menu", which they are offering Sun-Thurs from 5:30-7:30? Any recs?

Feb 11, 2009
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Are There Any Wine Bars in Boston?

what about les zygomates, whose address (not that it proves anything) is www.winebar.com?

Jan 28, 2009
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

First Chocolate President candy bars

Saw these on sale when I was in DC for inauguration last week, and thought they were clever and funny. It turns out the artist who designed the labels lives right here in Boston. I thought the chowhound community might appreciate these (www.chocolatepresident.com).

Jan 28, 2009
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

What restaurants have bread made from chickpea flour?...

Dhokla is a great steamed Indian bread, made with mostly chickpea flour. Don't know where in Boston you can find it, but its originally from Gujarat, so maybe an Indian restaurant run by Gujaratis...? You can also make decent dhokla from the Gits instant mixes found in many Indian groceries. Good stuff.

Jan 09, 2009
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Fava Beans ...

You can get them canned at many places that carry Middle Eastern goods; the shops near Haymarket have them (don't know the name of the street, but its the one where the Fri/Sat outdoor Haymarket takes place...also, its the street behind Union Oyster House). You can also get them dried (Goya) at Shaw's in Eastie (Central Square), and I imagine at other Shaw's too where they have foods from Latin America or Market Basket.

Dec 08, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Oran Cafe Reopens

We went a few weeks ago and had an excellent meal. The decor harks back to the 1950s, but oddly, it enhances the feeling of sitting in someone's home -- which is exactly how the food tastes, homecooked with care. We had the chicken couscous -- light as air couscous and really flavorful chicken that tasted very much like chicken (no dry cardboard industrial chicken here), definitely enough to share between two or more people. It reminded me of a couscous I once had at an outdoor eatery in a small village in Morocco's Atlas mountains. We also had the kibbeh with a tomato/bell pepper sauce -- the meat was a little dry for my taste, but my DC couldn't put them down. Finally, we also ordered a lamb stew with vegetables, very rich and hearty. Overall, with mint tea, the meal for three came out to about $15/head including tip.

Some artwork on the walls and maybe even some beautiful Moroccan pottery would change the ambience quite a bit for the better. But if you're going just for the food, you can't go wrong.

Nov 23, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Tolls and East Boston Restaurants

Of course the increase in tolls will impact businesses, including restaurants, in East Boston -- while it may not sway wealthier diners from heading this way, it is certainly enough to have an impact on those of fewer means.

Interesting to note that the first rally about the proposed toll hikes will take place at Ecco (a restaurant) on December 3rd at 4pm. (See http://stopthepikehike.org/) . Its not common for public demonstrations to take place at restaurants, so this event convinces me that the restaurant community in Eastie is and should be worried.

Nov 21, 2008
smooncakes in Not About Food

Ecco in Eastie -- anyone have an update?

D'Parma, right across from the Maverick T station, is a nice place to have a drink, glass of wine, and something nice to eat. Their eggplant app was excellent.

Sep 28, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Just moved to Boston and need help!

Try the new location of Orinoco in Brookline, great arepas and other south american food.

Sep 18, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Ecco in Eastie -- anyone have an update?

Thanks fredid, have you been? what's the word? i'm hoping for a new destination here in eastie.

Sep 18, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Eastern Pier Closed?

Unfortunately Eastie's got prime harborfront real estate but no restaurants on it. It's bizarre, really, and seems like a business opportunity waiting to be seized.

Sep 18, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Sel de la Terre - Excellent

When did their baker leave? Last summer I had great bread at Sel de la Terre, but when we were there last night it was definitely 'average.' For a Friday night I would think they would put out their best. If that was it, then its nothing to write home about.

Also, our waiter was brusque, curt and unhelpful -- while the other staff were all gracious and hardworking, when your main interlocutor for the house cannot answer basic questions about a not-too-extensive menu and makes you feel demanding just for asking, it is pretty damaging. Last summer I thought the place was great, but it just moved into my 'overrated, no plans to go back' category.

Jun 07, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Boston CSA delivery

I looked into a lot of CSAs a couple weeks ago and most with drop-offs in Boston/Cambridge were indeed sold out, but Parker Farms seems to have some slots left. Same thing, they don't deliver to your door, you have to pick up at one of their weekly drop-off points.

Jun 03, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Ecco in Eastie -- anyone have an update?

It seems that the site for 'Ecco' in Eastie has been under construction for months now. I hear its being opened by the same folks who run Santarpio's. Does anyone know when they're planning to open, and what kind of place it will be? Thanks in advance for any intel!

Jun 03, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Food shopping bargains: Tips and suggestions?

As far as I can tell, none of the outdoor vendors validate, but the indoor ones do, and have been uniformly generous about it (no 'hey, why don't you buy something first' attitudes). The garage is the big one just around the corner from the market, think the entrance is on New Sudbury St. With validation parking is $1 for 2 hours. The produce prices cannot be beat, even at Super 88 or Market Basket.

May 28, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Food shopping bargains: Tips and suggestions?

Haymarket, every Friday or Saturday. Some people complain that the food from Haymarket spoils quickly (and some of it does), but I've bought fruits and veggies there many times that lasted as long as anything from Shaws, Trader Joe's, Market Basket, etc. There's also a good deal on cheese and Middle Eastern groceries from the indoor shops. With validated $1 parking in the nearby garage, its easy to see why the place is mobbed every week.

May 28, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Tiny North End Spot

Another vote for Carmen -- it has to be this place! Dark interior, cobblestone road, right near Paul Revere, and great pasta and wine. Have not yet had better in the North End.

Apr 09, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Where have you always had a bad meal?

Wagamama in Cambridge. Overpriced, terrible, badly seasoned food, and the wait staff have an annoying habit of writing on your placemat. AND, they can't bother to time the dishes so that they come out together, so that either you feel rude eating when no one else can, or your (disgusting) food gets cold. And there was *buzz* when this place opened?!?

Feb 26, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

CSA with pick-up in Eastie?

After scanning both the chowhound postings on CSAs and other resources (e.g. www.localharvest.org, a great site), it seems that there's no CSA that currently offers a pick-up location in East Boston. But since chowhounders often know about things that I don't, I was wondering if anyone knew of any good options for a new Eastie resident looking for a CSA option without having to travel too far? Last year when we lived in Allston, we subscribed to Stillman's -- great produce, friendly people! -- but having moved eastward, I'd like to find a place closer to home. Any advice would be appreciated!

Feb 24, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Meyers+Chang? What's the Word?

I'd agree with kweesee about avoiding lunch. A group of three of us went last Saturday for lunch, and ordered a bowl of pho, chicken banh mi (chef's special), tofu banh mi, spring rolls, and tiger's tears salad, along with some green tea, one of their house sodas, and the moinette beer (very good). As other posts have noted, the tiger's tears is very good, and the quality of the beef is impressive; I thought it wasn't quite spicy enough, though, and the vegetables couldn't quite stand up to the beef. The banh mi were a big disappointment, both because they were so small and they lacked the complex flavors of an authentic vietnamese banh mi: the bread wasn't crusty, the tofu tasted like a flavorless slab, the pickled vegetables were scarce and barely had any zing, and the whole combination was just underwhelming. At $6 each, about double the price of a larger and better-tasting banh mi at a number of Vietnamese shops around town, it was unjustifiable. The pho was also not very pho-like, with a broth that was a bit oily and lacked that long-simmered depth of real pho. The spring rolls were fine, but average. And for that, we paid over $60 total for lunch for 3 -- too much for sub-standard food that left us hungry and unsatisfied. I know M+C is not a Chinatown joint, but (again, as others have said above) if they're going to charge that much for vietnamese food, they should make it right. (not surprisingly, nobody who looked like they might be of chinese or southeast asian descent was eating in the nearly-full restaurant -- this is often a damning sign for any restaurant specializing in non-western cuisine!)

Finally, my last complaint is about the lack of table service at lunch. It's just kind of odd and doesn't feel right -- the 'waiter' brought us water, brought us menus, brought us our drinks, and then we walked up to the cash register to order and pay, and then the waiter brought us our food. If that's not 90% of the way to table service, I don't know what is. Since they also don't clearly explain from the get-go what customers are supposed to do themselves (order and pay), and what the wait staff will do (everything else), the whole situation was a bit awkward. I don't mind places without table service, but at least most such places are clear that they don't offer it. I think they may as well just offer lunchtime table service and let their waitstaff make a few extra bucks in tips.

But, given my experience there, I wouldn't go back, and wouldn't recommend it to friends. What a shame, because the space is great.

Jan 24, 2008
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Calling all hounds: Angela's Cafe needs your help!

Been to Angela's twice, and think its the best and most authentic Mexican I've had in New England. Having recently scoured the Allston/Cambridge/Somerville areas for good Mexican, I'd say the trek to Eastie is worth the difference in quality.

Dec 29, 2007
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Potato flour for breadbaking

Hi, does anyone know where I can get potato flour for baking potato bread in the greater Boston area? King Arthur's sells it online, but with a $6 shipping charge on a $4 bag of flour...
thanks!

Nov 24, 2007
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area

Where's the best place for Sushi in Boston?

Must say found Fugakyu disappointing; sushi just as good but less expensive at the unfortunately-named Mr sushi around the corner on harvard ave. Definitely not worth going to Osushi in the Copley plaza area -- gimmicky and overpriced! Still looking for a memorable sushi experience in the boston area...

Apr 22, 2007
smooncakes in Greater Boston Area