"Funky trappings and an enthusiastic young staff make this feel like a real college-town hangout, in a good way," she writes of Night Market. Shaky shaky beef is a "simple, satisfying supper," while dan dan noodles have "a pleasant, creeping heat, and the egg noodles are wonderfully chewy." But a sake-based pineapple slushie "just tastes like pineapple juice, and is about as intoxicating."
At Koy, opening chef Sebastian Martinez is already gone — he'll be at SELECT Oyster Bar as chef de cuisine when it opens next month. Koy's spicy wings are "sticky, hot, and sweet" and the kimchi fried rice is "satisfying," but scallion pancakes are "dry and dull" and a bulgogi sandwich is "a fantastic idea gone awry" — "it's bland and impossible to pick up."
"More laidback than polished, Koy and Night Market offer a pleasant night out — welcome in their neighborhoods, if not destination dining," First concludes.
For the Globe's "Cheap Eats" column, Catherine Smart reviews Sakura, a new restaurant in downtown Waltham that offers "impeccably fresh, skillfully sliced sushi and sashimi at very reasonable prices."
"Service starts out as sweetly attentive," writes Smart, "but we are reduced to nervous giggling when the waitress leans into our conversation (nothing to do with the restaurant) and starts asking concerned questions. At least you won't feel ignored."
Simple sashimi is "sparkling," although the cooked food is "mixed." While veggie tempura is "light and perfectly delicious," a teppanyaki dish is "disappointing." Stick with the "well-prepared fresh fish, at better prices than you’ll find in Boston."
For The Improper Bostonian, MC Slim JB reviews the new South End outpost of Barcelona Wine Bar, which is part of a "c-word" (chain). "To food geeks, chains evoke a triumph of uniformity and scale economies over soul and idiosyncrasy, MBAs over cooks." Fortunately the restaurant has a "fresh, attractive design" and a local familiar face as executive chef — UpStairs on the Square alum Steven Brand. The long menu includes a lot of small plates that are "too generous to be considered tapas." There are "clean, vivid flavors" to be found, particularly in the prawns a la plancha ("fat beauties," MC writes), which you should shell by hand.
Brand's "haute-French chops" come out to play a bit in dishes like "a gorgeously done hunk of skin-on crispy pork belly" and "an exquisite version of spiced veal cheek."
"A menu and space this big often lead to dilution, to a something-for-everyone versatility that’s at odds with both tradition and innovation," MC writes, but this outpost is doing something right — as long as it "keep[s] finding and highlighting the islands of individual heart, originality and excellence peeking out from behind its efficient, noisy, occasionally overgroomed facade."