clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Eastern Standard, Under Fire, Flame Szechuan: Reviewed

Here's what the critics said this week about Eastern Standard a decade in, plus interesting tastes popping up in Cambridge and Back Bay.

Eastern Standard
Eastern Standard
Meg Jones Wall for Eater

Eastern Standard celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and according to The Boston Globe's Devra First, it is a perfect restaurant. It caters to all occasions: birthdays, baseball games, friendly dinners with dietary specifications, and more. To First, Eastern Standard represents the next generation of tradition in Boston's restaurant world.

"The space itself gives pleasure — a big, bustling brasserie that isn't overdone or self-conscious. It's just right," First writes. The expansive dining room with its red glow and ideal lighting invites guests to stay longer to enjoy the welcoming environment.

"[Garrett] Harker's restaurants are known for hospitality in a town that doesn't always specialize in it; he might be the closest Boston comes to a Danny Meyer," First says, noting his other spots: Island Creek Oyster Bar, The Hawthorne, Row 34, and Branch Line. Service at Eastern Standard holds strong, with the bar menu "eternally one of the strongest in town."

First said the food at Eastern Standard is why it's not a four-star restaurant (she grants it three.) While "the steak tartare is the best in town" and the burger is lovable, some nights the balance of dishes is off or lacks oomph, or is overcooked.

Across the river in Cambridge, The Boston Globe's Ellen Bhang finds flavorful hot pot on Mass. Ave between Harvard and Central squares. Flame Szechuan Hot Pot & Sushi Restaurant has been open for about two months. The restaurant has guests cook raw meat, veggies, and noodles in a pot of hot "mala" broth built into the table.

The broth is "spicy and numbing," according to Eddy Hsia, who runs the restaurant. Ingredients for the pot come a la carte or in combinations, like the surf-and-turf platter of seafood, which can serve two. Bhang praised the appetizers from executive chef Dabo Wang. The mapo tofu, she says, "offers rustic satisfaction."

Bhang says the menu is large, but the place is still getting organized in terms of set up. "The self-serve condiment bar, awkwardly squeezed into a corner, requires you to push past other diners," she says, noting that the lunch hour "seems more serene."

Under Fire, the downstairs bar at Fire & Ice in Back Bay, has an overhauled menu complete with "decadent" tacos, according to the Boston Herald's Kerry J. Byrne. Rafael Barbosa, the director of operations for Fire & Ice, reportedly wanted to re-concept the bar, and did so by installing a food truck-style serving station behind the bar and "combining two of Boston's hottest dining trends": street food and craft cocktails.

Barbosa spent significant time traveling the coast of California seeking inspiration, and the taco menu at Under Fire "reflects great diversity of flavors and influence," Byrne says. The tacos are priced at $2 each or $11 for all you can eat.

According to Byrne the top menu items include the braised beef short rib taco, the Peruvian grilled chicken taco, and the "piggy piggy piggy" taco, which "is doused with house-made sweet peach bourbon barbecue sauce and garnished with shredded cheddar and sliced scallion."