As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2018 by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we’re publishing their responses in these final days of the year. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section below, or hop into our Facebook group to discuss — we’ll post a thread for each survey question.
Keep an eye on the Year in Eater page for other stories in this series.
Up next: What was your best (local) restaurant meal of 2018? (See the 2017 responses here.)
“Erbaluce held the last in a long line of its annual mushroom dinners in late October, a gorgeous parade of mushroom-centered dishes with a lot of beautifully fragrant, delectable black and white truffles. I think my favorite course was the last: panna cotta showered with white truffles from Alba. Chef/owner Chuck Draghi is a Harvard-trained playwright and a great raconteur, so his narration of each course added greatly to our pleasure. We also got an education from his forager, the legendary Ben Maleson, who has been gathering wild mushrooms from secret locations all over New England since the 1980s, garnering an encyclopedic knowledge of fungi in the process. Joan Johnson matched wines beautifully to each course, making for a languid, decadent three-hour meal, made poignant with the knowledge that Erbaluce would close at the end of the year.”
Jacqueline Cain, deputy food editor at Boston magazine:
“The Nightshade popup ‘birthday edition’ dinner in April at Soall Bistro. I can still taste the umami cheddar bay biscuit and lemongrass butter melting in my mouth. I sincerely hope a version of both the smoked sausage and wild mushroom banh coun and the ginger-scallion scallop with crispy egg noodles are on the menu at chef Rachel Miller’s forthcoming North Shore noodle bar.
I ate so well to fully update Boston magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year. My next trip to O Ya will undoubtedly be my Best Meal Ever, as I’ll know to save my budget for more otherworldly nigiri over the (still quite tasty) sashimi, vegetables, and ‘other stuff’ I sampled.
So glad I made it to Island Creek Oyster Farm’s raw bar at least once during its inaugural season — and that I did so when Highroller Lobster Co. brought its signature crispy cheese-shell lobster taco there for a pop-up.”
“I finally got to Carl Dooley’s the Table at Season to Taste in February (two years after it opened!), and I was unprepared for its superlative...everything. That meal was brilliant, unflappably rigorous, yet chilled-the-f*ck-out vibe-wise, a stunning sequence of — if I’m remembering it correctly — (1) yellowfin tuna sashimi with chilled green-curry vinaigrette, crunchy puffed rice, and Thai basil, (2) smoked-trout spaetzle with sauerkraut, parsley, dill, house-made saucisson sec, plus the spaetzle scraps rolled through a pasta press, cut into squiggles, and crisped up to make crunchies, (3) foie gras mousse with toasted house-made brioche and cultured butter, (4) roasted venison served a blushing rare-plus, with an intensely complex and savory chocolate mole sauce, rehydrated native corn that had been dried the previous season, scallions, and house-cured lomo, (5) lemon and yuzu posset with toasted vanilla bean meringues. And more! But I could easily have picked almost any of my subsequent three meals — the three that earned the restaurant four stars in my final review for the magazine.”
“I finally got around to visiting Juliet in Union Square for a full-blown meal and couldn’t believe what I had been missing all this time. From menus that incorporate chef Josh Lewin’s poetry to the thoughtful tableside explanations of each dish, Juliet feels less like a conventional restaurant and more like a dinner party hosted by your coolest friends.”
“Tough one. I had memorable meals at Publico in South Boston, Home Taste in Watertown, and Silvertone in Boston, but the one meal that seems to stand out is the ridiculously great mashawa (lamb with beans and yogurt) from Helmand in East Cambridge.”
“SRV’s tortelloni with goat milk’s ricotta and huckleberry. I’d go for basically any pasta dish at SRV without hesitating, but this one was especially memorable.”
“While I had countless amazing meals in Boston this year, the one meal that really stands out in my mind is the chef’s lobster tasting menu at Natalie’s in Camden, Maine. Five courses of the freshest lobster I have ever had, prepared in the most creative formats that I have seen in a while. And imagine enjoying all that on a late summer’s day on a veranda in coastal Maine!”
Sam Hiersteiner, contributor to the Boston Globe and more:
“Brassica x Nightshade pop-up for my birthday dinner in October. Grilled duck rice, spicy Asian mashup bolognese, seared beef with aromatics. Little Miller High Life fat boy bottles. So damn good and proof that there are places in the Boston dining scene to find head nodding inventiveness and flavor, despite what national critics say.”
“Cafe ArtScience. Chef Benjamin Lacy’s potato gnocchi with miso parmesan and summer black truffle was unreal, and pair that with a cocktail from Tenzin Samdo, it’s just sheer delight.”
“My partner and I had just booked flights to Barcelona, so we decided to be very corny and go to Taberna de Haro for dinner. We sat on the patio (it was still nice out), drank too much red wine, and ate a ton of tapas (the veal sweetbreads were exceptional.) It was very sweet and very low-key.”
“Outside of my immediate neighborhood, I probably logged the most meals of the year at Dakzen in Davis Square. All of them have been special, but the first time I went shortly after it opened over the summer was magical. I had caught glimpses of Thai food like that before — at places like Sugar & Spice in Porter Square, Kor Tor Mor in Davis Square, S&I Thai in Allston, and Thai North in Brighton — but something about that first meal at Dakzen (ba mee moo dang, khao soi, rook chin tod) sent me spiraling into an obsession with Thai food. I immediately bought several cookbooks, and a month later, I booked a trip to Thailand. (Shameless recommendation request: Please email me if you have recommendations for Bangkok and Chiang Mai restaurants! I’ll be there in February!)
Other honorable ‘best meal’ mentions this year: Mida (get any pasta, but also make sure to try the arancini and the focaccia); Erbaluce (I had never been, somehow, but made it in twice after the upcoming closure was announced and thoroughly regret not making it there much sooner and many more times — now I’ll never forget that carbonara); Yume Ga Arukara (the udon is always worth the wait); Chickadee (the squid ink fusilli is a must); Pammy’s (the bolognese is one of my top favorite Boston-area dishes of all time). Yes, I like carbs.
One other memorable meal...well, two: Some friends and I tried to get into Kava Neo-Taverna at an ill-advised peak time on a Saturday night. There was a very long wait, of course, so we put our name on the list and wandered the South End planning to grab a drink — or several — while we waited two and a half hours. On a whim, I checked to see if one of my favorite spots, Bar Mezzana, had any tables; we were in luck, as a large party had canceled at the last minute and freed up some space at the usually fully-booked restaurant. We planned to just have some light snacks and drinks, but it turned into a full, excellent meal...and then we got back to Kava right as our table was ready there, and we pretty much ate a second full-sized meal. While I wouldn’t necessarily advise this approach — two big meals in a row is a bit different than my usual favorite activity, a food crawl — it was certainly a memorable evening, and both restaurants were, and always are, wonderful.”