Improper Bostonian critic MC Slim JB optimistically approached Mario Batali's first Boston venture, Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca, and it begins well, with "excellent" bread service and "inexpensive" small plates. A $5 peperonata dish is "vivid" and "unimpeachable," and even lentils Toscana, which Slim finds bland, "deliver[s] solid peasant comfort."
While the pizzas come to the table with "fantastic" char and chew, the toppings don't always hold up, Slim assesses. The vongole pizza, for example, is a victim of "brutal oversalting." Some pasta dishes are also "puzzling." "Quintessentially simple" rigatoni cacio e pepe is egregiously off, with the wrong noodle and again, too much salt. But linguini with Maine crab is "beautiful, balanced, wonderful."
Depending on the order, a visit to Babbo may be "the best reason to dine and drink in the Seaport," especially considering the modest bill. But a number of "menu landmines" are "disconcerting."
Boston Globe food editor Sheryl Julian finds "outstanding" Indian food at Santa Banta on Waltham's Restaurant Row. The cuisine spans regions of India, and it is all well-done, Julian writes. She doesn't, but the critic may have been tempted to fill up on bread; naan and aloo paratha are "terrific." For entrees, Punjabi tadka daal is "complex," and lamb biryani is "delightful," "moist nuggets" of lamb with a "cooling" yogurt sauce.
For Boston Magazine, critic Corby Kummer finds great ingredients at Townsman, as well as Matt Jennings' skill, but he doesn't necessarily find "how [the chef] intends to focus it." Very New England-seeming menu items, like seared Cape scallops, span cuisines; a server describes the menu as "eclectic ... what the chef likes." The scallops are served with a Thai sauce of galangal and lemongrass.
The house terrine board " show[s] the chef’s knack" for this preparation. On other dishes, "hummus-weight purees and sauces" can overwhelm. "It’s great glop, but Townsman gives you a lot of it," Kummer writes about one fava-cheese combination. The critic finds a tendency for the chef to overdo things, such as with a harissa-coated bone-in chicken. "Jennings seems loath to let his carefully sourced products shine on their own." Meat dishes are the best, he writes, which tend to "know where to stop." Lamb ribs with appropriate accompaniments have "clarity."
Overall, he finds the experience "interesting," and looks forward to Jennings harnessing his powerful flavors "with a firmer hand."