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Viale, MDM Noodles, the Revamped Lala Rokh, and Royal, Reviewed

Here's what the critics thought this week.

Viale
Viale
Katie Chudy for Eater

Boston Magazine reviewer Corby Kummer felt "plenty of grief" when Rendezvous closed last summer, and it gave him a "constructive attitude" toward its replacementViale. The Italian place, which opened in Central Square in October, did present "some missteps and glitches" during Kummer's first visit, but he is "warming up to what intends to be a very warm restaurant, with big portions of accessible food offered at accessible prices."

Highlights include a dish of roasted marrow, categorized as a small plate but described by Kummer as a "Fred Flintstone bone plunked in the center of a plate barely big enough to hold it." Served with escargot, garlic butter, toast, and a thick onion ring, "this was a fairly outrageous dish," he writes. "It’s also one I’d have every time." Kummer also enjoyed chef Greg Reeves' main entrees, like "masterful," moist, and "imperceptibly smoky" duck breast. Two staples of Italian fare are lacking, though: Reeves' homemade pastas arrive undercooked, and the thin-crust pizzas "turn to crackers, and could have used more flavor development." But Kummer finds the menu approachable overall and sees potential for the warm neighborhood spot.

MC Slim JB heads to Brighton Center to check out the new MDM Noodles for The Improper Bostonian. The cuisine at the 40-seat restaurant is inspired by China's Henan province, a region less represented in the area's restaurant scene. A glass buffet case at MDM Noodles' entrance includes ingredients for guests to build their own mala soup or stir-fry. The soup's "broth combines the fire of capsicum chilies with the mentholated, numbing 'heat' of Sichuan peppercorns." With a variety of raw meats, vegetables, seaweed, fungi, and tofu items to add, Slim surmises that section of the menu will also appeal to paleo eaters.

Noodles are, naturally, MDM Noodles' strong suit. The hand-pulled noodle, in particular, is the wheat backbone of three "astonishing" dishes: Spicy boiled lamb, which also has an "insistently garlicky and numbing-hot sauce"; lamb meat soup with "three superb accents: a silky, milky, lamb-bone/marrow broth; cubes of lamb leg with the old-fashioned, richly gamy flavor of mutton; and quail eggs with miraculously creamy yolks"; and the "gorgeous" Xinjiang chicken stew. In addition to the interesting food, Slim has found service to keep pace with the crowds that are already flocking to MDM Noodles.

In Beacon Hill, The Boston Globe's Devra First finds the revamped menu at the 20-year-old Persian restaurant Lala Rokh "still tastes traditional, more old-school than new." On the "classic" section of the menu, "pure comfort food" like kubideh kebabs (ground beef and raw onions over rice) and fesenjan, a pomegranate-walnut stew with duck leg, "can be elegant too," says First. She notes that fruit and nut compositions can often be too sweet, but at Lala Rokh, the dishes are balanced. But two versions of polow, a Persian dish with pistachios and rice, are served with overcooked, dry meats.

Even more classic is the mazze section of the menu, or small plates. With lamb innards, brain fritters, and slow-cooked tongue on the list, Lala Rokh "stays true to its culinary vision" where it could have dumbed it down, First says. The flavor profiles of much of the fare is "warm and balanced" versus diverging in different directions. Chutneys, if one knows to order them, can help, First advises, as do many dishes' additions of citrus. For the dessert course, First advises guests to skip the Persian cookies, which are inedibly hard, and stick to the frozen offerings.

And finally, the Globe's Sheryl Julian heads out to Watertown to try the newly-opened Royal, where she finds "some fine cooking ... and some that isn’t as gutsy as you might expect." She calls chef Rachid Kourda's cooking "restrained." He does offer an inexpensive and creative cut of beef, a petit tender. This is served with a house mixed potato and vegetable, as well as chips that taste good but are limp, cold, a "need rethinking." While duck confit is one of the best dishes on the menu, it is also served with the mixed vegetable, which Julian finds to have pieces "almost too hard to cut into." Plus, the dish is plated on stone, over which moving a knife "is jarring." One bold move is offering fried Oreos on the house for all guests of a certain age (that would be young.) But overall, Julian wants to see more risks taken by Kourda at Royal.

MDM Noodles

351 Washington Street, , MA 02135 (617) 208-8663 Visit Website

Royal

45 Lexington Street, Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 924-0439 Visit Website

Lala Rokh

97 Mount Vernon St, Boston, MA 02108 (617) 720-5511

Viale

502 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, Cambridge, MA Visit Website

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