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The Critics Try Brewer's Fork, Santouka Ramen, River Bar, and a Few Old Favorites

Here's what the critics have to say this week.

Brewer's Fork
Brewer's Fork
Katie Chudy for Eater

The Improper Bostonian popped in quickly to try the eggplant parmesan sandwich at Panelli's Pizza + Parm in Brookline. Chef David Iknaian's version "is as tidy as it is tasty," Elizabeth Bomze writes.

Head through the Hub with The Boston Globe's Catherine Smart to try the month-old Brewer's Fork in Charlestown. An hour-long wait — including for a bar stool — greets Smart and her dining companions on a recent weeknight. While the extensive draft beer list assuages her impatience, she advises approaching the list "with an open mind," as two of the group's choices are no longer available. Such is the hazard of a fluid draft menu. Once Smart is seated, "one bite of the cured beef salad ($13) makes it all seem worth it ... It’s a dish I think about a week later, and a lovely contrast to the rich, warming foods out of the wood-fired oven, which make up most of the menu." And her experience only improves from there. While pizza was the reason for her visit to Brewer's Fork, Smart says she has trouble moving on from the small plates, enjoying oven-roasted meatballs, root vegetables, smoked bluefish pate, and more. But the pies satisfy, too: clam pizza avoids being too salty, and a squash pie "is addictively savory-and-sweet."

The Globe's Devra First takes on some Asian cuisine this week in a review that revisits Chinatown's Shojo and Blue Dragon in Fort Point — and she also files a Quick Bite column on Santouka Ramen, newly opened in Harvard Square.

Shojo is "a tremendously fun restaurant with plenty of character, great cocktails, creative food, and competitive prices." It has only gotten better since it first opened in 2012, she writes. With the constantly-changing menu, "snacking is always a satisfying pursuit." One of First's favorite snacks are Shojo's "Shadowless" duck fat fries, the restaurant's take on poutine. Incidentally, this dish just won the honor of Boston Magazine's Starch Madness champion. For large plates, "noodles are always cooked to the ideal chewy texture." Plus, Shojo's cocktails are as much a draw as the food, and the atmosphere is eclectic. "You should be here too," First writes.

When Blue Dragon first opened in 2013, both the food and service experienced initial unevenness, but Ming Tsai's restaurant has found its groove, says First. The restaurant's shishito peppers stand out among a sea of similar dishes around Boston, and a lamb lollipop dish is "perfectly composed." A lettuce-wrapped duck special "deserves to be on the regular menu." First has ideas of what it could replace: Roast pork tail with mango sticky rice "is almost great, but it is far too sweet."

Over at Santouka Ramen, the tonkotsu broth is refined and "leaves you sated, not stuffed," says First. Start there, she advises, with its "chewy, fine noodles, pieces of tender pork, crinkly black mushrooms, and pink-swirled slices of fish paste."

And in Somerville's Assembly Row, Brittany Jasnoff visited River Bar for Boston Magazine. Chef Patrick Gilmartin's food is "whimsical," she says, including a burger topped with spring rolls. But the execution of the dishes has been uneven for Jasnoff, including an overcooked burger on one visit. There are hits, too: salt-and-pepper-fried oysters are "perfectly tender and crisp," and fried sweet potato cubes "were brilliantly paired with zingy pomegranate molasses." Plus, location, location, location. Even during a January visit, a few River Bar guests huddled in the heated corner of the 2,600-square foot riverfront patio. As the temperatures climb, Jasnoff anticipates the crowd to grow at the new Assembly Row spot.

Santouka Ramen (Harvard Square)

1 Bow Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 Visit Website

Blue Dragon

324 A Street, , MA 02210 (617) 338-8585 Visit Website

Brewer's Fork

7 Moulton Street, , MA 02129 (617) 337-5703 Visit Website

Panelli's Pizza + Parm

415 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446 (617) 232-0512

River Bar

661 Assembly Row, , MA 02145 (617) 616-5561 Visit Website

Shojo

9 Tyler Street, , MA 02111 (617) 423-7888 Visit Website

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