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Naco's Not on It; Back Bay's Food Scene Is Improving

And more from the critics this week.

The patio at Naco Taco
The patio at Naco Taco
Katie Chudy for Eater Boston

Nice in theory, off in execution, is essentially Boston Globe critic Devra First's one-star review of Naco Taco. For example, a spicy carrot michelada, with miso and togarashi salt, is "sweet and brackish and off." While it "is an adventurous, interesting idea," there's no reward for taking the risk. "Sometimes one wonders whether items have gone straight to the menu without anyone's tasting them first."

The tacos vary in execution, she assesses, starting with flavorless, tough tortillas (both the vegetarian and lard-based versions). A lamb belly option is "consistently gamy," overwhelming its accompaniments. Naco (meaning an "uncultured lout," she notes) is better at not tacos: Salsas "look beautiful and many of them taste great." Tortas are much better than the namesake dish; an egg-and-cheese with shishito peppers andcilntro aioli is "simple. It’s tasty. It’s not overthought. It’s what more dishes at Naco Taco should be."

But the restaurant has improved since it first opened, she says, and it still has a delightful patio.

In Dorchester, the Globe's Ellen Bhang visited Jerk Jamaican Fine Dining and Take-Out for owner George H. Whitehead Jr.'s signature cooking. His jerk chicken, "deeply savory, a little sweet" and spicy, is "masterfully prepared." Curried goat is "tender," and braised oxtail has a "delectable mahogany-hued gravy." Side dishes, like red beans, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese, are "well-prepared."

Prices are lower for take-out, but the packaging piles everything into one container, which is awkward, she notes.

Boston Magazine reviewer Corby Kummer finished his plates at SELECT Oyster Bar, even when the dish wasn't flawless. Chef Michael Serpa "doesn’t treat freshness, lightness, and simplicity as an excuse for a lack of imagination or technical skill." Crudos stand out; a salmon version, peak wild Pacific fish served raw with nutty pistachio oil and a stripe of Japanese red pepper flakes, is a simple treasure. Starters are substantial; a yellowtail hamachi "improved on everybody else's rendition."

Entree portions are generous, too, and therefore expensive. Maybe too much. "Pan-roasted lobster ($35) was notable more for the long and lazy shoots of roasted Vidalia spring onions draped over the meat than the meat itself." A few summery fish specials are "stunning," though. Despite no dessert, no reservations, and an automatic 20 percent gratuity on all checks, SELECT is succeeding in "making the Back Bay feel like a real neighborhood."

There's another new facet of Back Bay: Low-budget dining along a section of Mass. Ave. is "becoming unterrible," according to Improper Bostonian critic MC Slim JBDumpling Palace, sibling to Dumpling Cafe, is "exorcising [previous tenant, bad Chinese food Nan Ling's] execrable memory with excellent traditional Taiwanese food." Of course, reigning Improper Boston's Best mini juicy buns are not to be missed.

There are "fine" (as in actually fine, not "meh") seafood dishes, such as the spicy Sichuan-style flounder. Meat entrees are generous; Taiwan-style pork liver is a "subtle treatment that should tantalize even the offal-averse." Pan-fired dishes, like a roast beef with scallion pancake, and a pan-fried chives with clear noodle pocket, fall short, and there's also no beer. But the lengthy menu, spanning the region at attractive prices, more than makes up for the shortcomings.

Dumpling Palace

179 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02115 (617) 266-8888 Visit Website

Naco Taco

297 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 (617) 945-1548 Visit Website

Select Oyster Bar

50 Gloucester Street, , MA 02115 (857) 239-8064 Visit Website

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