The Improper Bostonian critic MC Slim JB has been a vocal fan of chef Josh Smith at Moody's Delicatessen & Provisions, and his praise continues this week for the Waltham deli's new, adjacent restaurant, The Backroom. "One of the prettiest open-kitchen features in town," the Backroom's copper-domed oven, produces "phenomenal: big and richly fatty" meatballs and "wonderful thin-crust pizzas like croque-madame flatbread," whose house-cured jamon qui is, unsurprisingly, the main attraction.
Occasionally the prices get out of hand, though; Slim declares the by-the-glass options easy to love, "but a check with local retailers makes the markups feel a bit stiff for Waltham." In the $36 smoked Wagyu beef brisket, "scant little survives of the fine-grained marbling that makes this cut worth the premium," but it is "lovely" and tender.
In Natick, The Boston Globe's Ellen Bhang got some "Cheap Eats" at Shaanxi Gourmet, a new venture from first-time restaurateur and recent Northeastern University grad Kang Li, located on Rt. 9. The menu by chef Yonghong "Jack" Qian lists some mystifying ingredients, like sauerkraut, "[b]ut good flavor is not lost in translation," Bhan writes.
The customary cuisine of the Chinese province Shaanxi is heavy on wheat products. Qing's pork dumplings "sport chewy, substantial wrappers, filled with gingery ground meat that spurts broth." Dense rounds of bread "do a good job capturing the juices of the mildly seasoned meat" in the shredded pork "Chinese burger." The service and some dishes need work, but Shaanxi "has what it takes to draw crowds."
At SELECT Oyster Bar, chef Michael Serpa is differentiating his first solo venture from the restaurant that made him, Neptune Oyster, writes the Globe's Devra First. While there is no Neptune signature lobster roll, there is a lunchtime sandwich with the meat, which earns praise in First's three-star (out of four) review for its "personality, bold, bright, and balanced."
Most other dishes are more "highbrow" and innovative, based on the daily catch. On one visit, a sea bream crudo with sweet corn puree and thinly-sliced pickled Persian cucumbers is "cooling and lovely." Dishes from chef de cuisine Sebastian Martinez (Koy, Volle Nolle) with a Spanish influence are especially good, according to First. Arroz frito with squid and more is "enlivened with chimichurri and the heat of serrano chiles."
But some compositions flop, and the menu needs something hearty, like a sandwich. "There’s a summery beer list here crying out for a clam roll or some improved version of the Filet-O-Fish."