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South End Restaurant Delivers ‘Lovely Food and Drinks’ With Promise for More

A local critic takes an early look at Black Lamb in the South End; plus, more recent restaurant reviews

An interior shot of Black Lamb in the South End, featuring tan leather booths and mint green accents
Black Lamb in the South End
Reagan Byrne

Welcome back to Week in Reviews, an occasional round-up of the restaurant reviews recently written by Boston’s food critics at publications such as The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and Boston.com.

“A Lot of Lovely Food and Drinks”

Longtime Improper Bostonian critic MC Slim JB now provides dispatches from new restaurants for Boston.com. His first: Black Lamb in the South End, the latest addition to the neighborhood family of Bar Mezzana and Shore Leave/No Relation. Partners Heather and Colin Lynch, Jefferson Macklin, and Ben Kaplan, along with beverage director Ryan Lotz and the rest of the team, call the restaurant their “love letter to the neighborhood,” and Slim writes that executive chef Chris Drown delivers an adventurous menu.

Black Lamb serves a “terrific” jumbo baked Island Creek oyster, and duck breast frites with a “luscious orange-accented Béarnaise sauce,” and more. Slim also calls attention to the “swoony” lamb tartare and the “perfect” grilled lamb chops with apricot-mint chutney and lemony couscous, as well as pastry chef Christina Larson’s “fine New York-style cheesecake.” The cocktails “are mostly sensational,” he writes, including a neatly balanced gimlet and an “update to the tired dirty vodka martini” that includes a black pepper infusion and dark olive brine.

Black Lamb is still in its early stages, so the few “early flubs” in service and food are expected, Slim writes, such as “careless shucking of oysters” and “a lack of coursing coordination,” but he also expects that this talented group of restaurateurs will course correct in the coming weeks.

Black Lamb opened in mid-July, and Slim stresses that this is an early look, not a formal review, as will be the subsequent pieces in his Boston.com series.

“What a Lovely Place to Be a Human”

For the Boston Globe’s “What She’s Having” column — not exactly formal reviews, but essays on the restaurants that the Globe’s food writers have been recently enjoying — Devra First muses on dinner on the Oleana patio (one of the prettiest patios around) and the beauty of leaving things to chance (like getting a seat on said patio and not getting rained upon).

“The uncertainty that you will get a table on Oleana’s patio heightens the specialness of eating in what is already an enchanted place,” she writes, describing the patio as “a secret garden...a fenced-in space of twining vines and flowers in bloom, potted plants and sheltering boughs, opened umbrellas and strings of twinkling lights.”

The meal includes several specials — “ephemeral pleasures,” writes First — and ends with baby baked Alaska, an “adorably miniaturized version” of the restaurant’s most popular dessert.

“Cool, Tranquil Domain”

For Harvard Magazine, Nell Porter Brown reviews high-end Japanese restaurant Kamakura in downtown Boston, praising the “beautiful presentation” of the whole meal and recommending that diners head to the seventh-floor lounge, if it’s open, to enjoy views of downtown and “breathe in the salty ocean scent wafting from the wharves by the New England Aquarium.” It’s the “prime spot,” Brown writes, “to meet up after a long hot day exploring the city — or for a late-night rendezvous over sake.”

Kamakura has made its rounds on the Boston review circuit: In January, MC Slim JB reviewed it favorably for the now-defunct Improper Bostonian, writing that it “deserves a spot in the firmament of Boston’s better mid-high Japanese restaurants.” In April, Colin Kingsbury granted it two and a half stars out of four — between “good” and “generally excellent” — in Boston Magazine, writing that the dishes were “exceptionally beautiful, and mostly very good, occasionally excellent,” an ambitious restaurant overall, with some room to grow. And in June, Devra First reviewed it for the Globe, calling it “sincere, ambitious, and expensive — the sort of restaurant that opens often in larger cities but is harder for Boston to support.” She gave it two and a half stars out of a possible four (between “good” and “excellent”) — “eccentric, imperfect yet filled with personality.”

Black Lamb Capers Blithely (and Noisily) in the South End [Boston.com]
Black Lamb Coverage on Eater [EBOS]
At Oleana in Cambridge, Leaving a Perfect Night to Chance [BG]
Oleana Coverage on Eater [EBOS]
Japanese Elegance [HM]
Kamakura Coverage on Eater [EBOS]

Black Lamb

571 Tremont Street, , MA 02118 (617) 982-6330 Visit Website

Oleana

134 Hampshire Street, , MA 02139 (617) 661-0505 Visit Website

Kamakura

150 State Street, , MA 02109 (617) 377-4588 Visit Website

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