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Week in Reviews: Elephant Walk; Townsman; a Mediterranean Duo; and Southie Bars

Here's what the critics ate, drank, and wrote recently.

Townsman
Townsman
Katie Chudy for Eater

Boston Globe critic Devra First recently visited the South End Elephant Walk, "a low-key neighborhood restaurant in a neighborhood where low-key restaurant openings are rare," and awarded it 2.5 out of 4 stars. Elephant Walk's menu is wide-ranging and flavorful. First began with rouleaux, Cambodian spring rolls. The wraps are crisp and chewy, a "compelling texture." Another essential order is nataing, a dip made of ground pork, coconut milk, peanuts, and garlic, served with rice cakes. A dish of duck braised in soy, ginger, and tamarind, with mushrooms and raw snow peas over polenta, "is deeply savory and delicious." Elephant Walk's salads — "tabgles of vegetables, herbs, and tuk trey" — are a perfect lunch this time of year, she notes.

Generally speaking, First finds the entrees to be "less well-executed" than the starters. The beef sauteed in the loc lac, for example, is too dry. The restaurant offers some French-inspired cuisine, too, and a seared tuna dish served with chili sauce and pear ravioli is "successful fusion, the sweet and spicy flavors coming together naturally." With friendly staff and a good beer selection, the new Elephant Walk is well worth a revisit, First writes.

Ellen Bhang, also writing for the Globe, tried out two Mediterranean spots recently. At Piperi Mediterranean Grill near Government Center, "delicious" tabbouleh substitutes white beans for traditional bulgur wheat, though the hummus "could be creamier and needs more zip in the form of lemon juice." The mezze plate on which both items were featured is fresh, she notes. Sandwiches are served on chef Thomas John's take on Turkish flatbread gozleme. The "ample wrap" is worthy for the subtly-spiced chicken, greens, and yogurt cucumber sauce.

At Cafe Med, which opened earlier this year in Back Bay, Bhang finds Greek-influenced Mediterranean fare and long lines at lunch time. Falafel balls are mildly spiced and available with a variety of side dishes; the fries are "tasty enough, but not from fresh-cut spuds." The Greek salad is generous, but the lunch rush prevented Bhang from trying baba ghanouj or lentil soup. Grape leaves stuffed with lemony rice is a worthy replacement, though.

In the Financial District, Improper Bostonian critic MC Slim JB tries out the "rustic and refined" Townsman. "What [chef Matthew Jennings is] doing there might just restore jaded food geeks’ faith in shopworn terms like 'farm-to-table' and 'snout-to-tail,'" he writes. The chef excels at charcuterie, especially terrines: "a dazzling assortment of pâtés" are "carefully paired" with relishes, jelly, nuts, and pickles. The raw bar is also a draw. Yellowfin crudo, "with the salty snap of chicharrones," tart grapefruit, and "mildly funky" black garlic, is a nicely-contrasting dish. Lamb crudo is elegantly plated, but the beef crudo flops: "It’s unattractively spread thin across the plate, and its mild flavor and contrasting accents of confit egg yolk and gribiche are overwhelmed by the oil of housemade potato chips."

Vegetables (yes, there are vegetables at Townsman) are well done: The fava crudo "bursts with springtime flavors and verdant colors." For small plates, a baby octopus dish is overcooked to an unpleasant toughness. A hangar steak entree surprises Slim with its tenderness, though. "Its best idea is a sprinkling of fierce Southeast Asian-style fried garlic, a trick more steakhouses should steal," he says. It's no surprise that Jennings, a three-time Cochon555 winner, offers a "knockout" suckling pig. "It’s a tour de force de porc," Slim writes. Desserts, while a short list, are "winsome and delectable," the cocktail program is "extraordinary," and service is "mostly on point."

Metro contributor Luke O'Neil drank his way through South Boston recently. But which Southie do we mean?" he rhetorically asks. Southie is developing, and he didn't find much for "gritty" neighborhood bars. "That doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile destination for a drinking jag," he writes. His first stop is the young Moonshine 152, where cocktails are hit or miss, he finds. The New Classic is a spirits-forward hit, with rye, Chartreuse, Aperol, cherry syrup, and Bittermens Boston Bittahs.

Stephi's in Southie, a Newbury Street offshoot, is still a good time, even if you feel the need to grumble at its presence, O'Neil says. The bar highlights local distillery GrandTen in cocktails like its After School Special, with strawberries muddled with Fire Puncher vodka, ginger beer, citrus, and agave.

Croke Park/Whitey's is O'Neil's example of authentic, old-school, Southie bars. "Don't act like a jerk and you'll be fine." There, he drinks "a domestic and a shot of whatever."

Finally, he "hurl[s himself] back into the Southie throngs" at Loco Taqueria and Oyster Bar and Lincoln Tavern. "The bars themselves are often three deep, but there's no better spots to get a slice of the young Southie crowd that's come to define the area."

Croke Park/Whitey's

268 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127 (617) 464-4869

Townsman

120 Kingston Street, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 993-0750 Visit Website

The Elephant Walk (South End)

1415 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

Cafe Med

, Boston, MA

Piperi Mediterranean Grill

1 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108 (617) 227-7471 Visit Website

Stephi's in Southie

130 Dorchester Avenue, , MA 02127 (617) 345-5495 Visit Website

Moonshine 152

152 Dorchester Avenue, , MA 02127 (617) 752-4191 Visit Website

Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant

425 West Broadway, , MA 02127 (617) 765-8636 Visit Website

Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

412 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127

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