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One Critic Would Eat Salsa by the Tubful at a New Local Taqueria

Plus, more early looks at some of the Boston area’s newest restaurants

A colorful skull with a sombrero decorates a wall at Taqueria el Barrio near Boston University
Taqueria el Barrio
Sarah Storrer/Eater

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.

Salsa by the Tubful

Boston.com’s Erin Kuschner visits Taqueria el Barrio, which opened a little over a month ago near Boston University, for an early look. There, she finds flavors of Sonora, a town in northwestern Mexico, and a concise menu that starts with chips and salsa worth talking about hours after the meal. The salsa asada has a “smoky, charred taste of roasted tomatoes and just the right amount of garlic,” and while the other versions (roja, verde, and macha) are excellent, Kuschner writes that she “could eat [the salsa asada] by the tubful.” The al pastor taco has melty pork, oozy pineapple, and soft corn tortillas, and there’s an impressive fried fish taco with “light-as-air” chipotle mayo. While the chicken taco didn’t hit the mark for Kuschner, the dulce de leche churro did.

Snails Smothered in Garlic and Butter

Kuschner also visits Ban Tôi Restaurant (which opened in June in Dorchester) for an early review, where she eats garlicky snails that might be “one of the best things” she’s eaten all summer. Also on the menu: a sizable selection of hot pot options ideal for a group, featuring beef, goat, fish balls, seafood, or chicken. Kuschner tucks into goi mit, or jackfruit salad, that piles onto an airy rice cake with a smattering of sweet and sour fish sauce to create “a lovely medley of sugar and spice, acidity and fat, and varying levels of crunch.” Ban Tôi also has a fantastic bowl of beef pho that’s savory and comforting, Kuschner writes, with “a reasonable amount of noodles that won’t threaten to fill you up halfway through the dish.” The focus on southern Vietnamese cuisine means there’s no bun cha on the menu, but there’s ample seafood and sweet drinks like mung bean milk.

“A Judicious Bit of Char”

MC Slim JB is back for Boston.com with an early review of T&B Pizza, open since late June in Somerville’s Union Square. Owners Bronwyn and Tim Wiechmann “have been slinging original, soulful, subtly high-technique food all over Cambridge and Somerville for a dozen years,” Slim writes, and they continue to do so with “first-rate” Neapolitan-style pies. Flames from the restaurant’s pizza oven bestow “a judicious bit of char.” There’s a mushroom pie worth swooning over, and Slim finds a winner in the bacon and jalapeño version. He calls the Roman al taglio style “novel,” comparring its cold-fermented dough to a “focaccia, but softer, lighter and far less oily.” The restaurant also has “a serious drink program” and feels like “a proper neighborhood joint.” In its early stages, T&B shows a bit of inconsistency in the pies, but overall, it’s charming with an “inviting combination of exquisite ingredients.”

A “Winky-Respectful Salute to Tradition”

The Boston Globe’s Devra First stops in for an early look at Tiffani Faison’s brand new Italian-American restaurant in Fenway, Orfano. With a motto of “sorry Nonna,” Orfano delivers a “winky-respectful salute to tradition,” First writes. There are “warmhearted takes on classics,” including clams with pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs, meatballs, and pasta dishes like lobster bucatini and cacio e pepe made with stuffed tortellini instead of spaghetti. The drinks are noteworthy for First, including a sidecar cocktail, Lambrusco, and a heavily Italian wine selection. The restaurant’s pepper grinder is also of note, for its size close to that of a small child. Overall, First writes, “Orfano serves food with a point of view and a sense of humor.”

A Taste of Cambridge

John Mariani of Forbes visits Harvest and Little Donkey in Cambridge while giving an overview of the local dining scene. (The article trips over local geography a bit, mistaking Somerville for a neighborhood of Cambridge, for one thing, but it’s nice to see a couple local gems getting some attention on a national stage.)

At the nearly half-century-old Harvest, chef Tyler Kinnett is “doing his own cuisine” but “in the line and spirit of what was done before.” Mariani recommends the haddock, a garlic and fennel roasted porchetta, and a plump duck breast with stone fruit. Pastry chef Joshua Livsey’s desserts are also of note, including a “dense but moist” flourless chocolate cake and a blackberry Pavlova meringue. Overall, Mariani writes, “Harvest is as good as refined dining gets in New England.”

He also stops in at Little Donkey, where Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette “have forged their ideas into a winning formula.” Mariani has a “cooling” tuna poke, a pile of patatas bravas, and an “exciting” bibimbap with “fiery” kimchi, tofu, Korean fried broccoli, Persian cucumbers, and egg.

Taqueria el Barrio Is Serving Perfect Salsa — and That’s Just the Beginning [Boston.com]
Come for the Pho, Stay for the Snails at Dorchester’s Ban Tôi Restaurant [Boston.com]
This Charming Spot Offers Roman al Taglio and Neapolitan-Style Pies [Boston.com]
A First Visit to Chef Tiffani Faison’s Orfano [BG]
Where MIT and Harvard’s Elite Eat Around Cambridge [Forbes]

Orfano

1391 Boylston Street, , MA 02215 (617) 916-9600 Visit Website

Harvest

44 Brattle Street, , MA 02138 (617) 868-2255 Visit Website

T & B Pizza

251 Washington St., Somerville, MA 02143 Visit Website

Taqueria El Barrio

1022 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 Visit Website

Little Donkey

505 Massachusetts Avenue, , MA 02139 (617) 945-1008 Visit Website

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