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The Critics Ate Squid Ink Bao, Grilled Octopus, and Crudo This Week

At Pagu, Restaurante Cesaria, and Cultivar

Four bao are on a long, narrow tray. The two in the forefront are black and made of squid ink. Bright pink pickled onions are visible inside.
Bao at Pagu
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Tip-Top Bao

Boston Magazine’s Jolyon Helterman reviews Pagu in Central Square this month. “There’s so much this beloved restaurant-industry haunt gets right,” he writes, including the high-degree items like the delicate baby squid and fried chicken katsu with soy-spiked alioli. The Guchi’s Midnight Ramen “musters transcendence,” Helterman writes, adding that the braised pork-belly bao and its “squid-ink-tinted sibling” that’s filled with fried oyster are both in “tip-top form.” Alas, the restaurant is “dogged by squirrelly inconsistencies and...a host of niggling unforced errors,” he writes, but there is still much to love, and he awards it two stars out of four (“good.”)

The Food of Resourceful Grandmothers

Catherine Smart stops in at Restaurante Cesaria in Dorchester for her latest piece in the Boston Globe. The Cape Verdean dishes include items like polvo grelhado, which is grilled octopus over vegetables. Smart calls it “fresh, simple, and addictive on a hot summer evening.” She writes that the lunch buffet, which goes for $9.99 in-house or $5.99 per pound for takeout, “has to be one of the best deals in town,” with dishes like baked tuna with chickpeas, fried salt cod, rice and seafood casserole, or bean stew. “Whatever’s in the pan, it’s likely smothered in sweet peppers and onions, often topped with hardboiled eggs,” she writes, and nothing is labeled, giving the illusion that “the back is full of resourceful grandmothers turning bits of this and that into something completely craveable and satisfying.”

Tranquil Dining

The Boston Globe’s Devra First pays a visit to Cultivar for a quick check-in on chef Mary Dumont. “Inside, all is tranquillity,” with a botanical theme, First writes. She makes note of dishes like crudo, crab cakes, and bluefish Caesar on herb focaccia. There are also seafood platters, a beet salad, and nettle bucatini with lamb neck sugo. Another entree features squid ink pasta with seafood, and dessert ranges from cherry wood-smoked brownies to mango bavarois with matcha meringue and black sesame ice cream.

Review: Pagu in Cambridge [BM]
Restaurante Cesaria Conjures Cape Verde [BG]
An Early Look at Cultivar, Chef Mary Dumont’s Downtown Restaurant [BG]


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