Welcome to The Best Dishes the Eater Boston Team Ate This Week. Every Friday, we each share one Boston-area dish (or, occasionally, something from afar) that really hit the spot in the past week. Want to share your own favorites? Join our Facebook group — we open up a discussion thread each week to go along with this post.
December 20, 2019
Drunken noodles with crispy chicken (and more) at Pad Thai Cafe
6 Hemenway St., Back Bay/Fenway, Boston
When I lived in Allston, it was comforting to know that I was never more than a few blocks and, like, a maximum of 15 minutes away from eating drunken noodles and papaya salad at S & I Thai. But I no longer live in Allston, and that comfort has been stripped away. Fortunately, my new apartment is a quick bike ride/car ride away from Pad Thai Cafe on Hemenway Street. It has since become my go-to for Thai takeout. I had the drunken noodles with crispy chicken and papaya salad one day for lunch this week, and it didn’t disappoint. The papaya salad was spicy and funky and sweet. I soaked the crispy chicken with sweet and sour sauce and devoured every bite. The noodles were dressed in a spicy sauce and accompanied by various vegetables, including spicy green and red chile peppers. Whenever I order takeout for lunch, and especially this specific combination, I promise myself I’ll save a little for the following morning’s breakfast. Hasn’t happened yet; probably won’t ever happen. —Terrence B. Doyle
After perusing my Instagram photos from the past week, I’m realizing that I did plenty of drinking this week, but not so much eating, at least not anything I haven’t already raved about on this page multiple times. (Hello again, Chalawan; I still love you.) So instead of telling you the best thing I ate this week — well, I’ll tell you; it was those Chalawan scallops again (see below) — I’m going to shamelessly glom onto Terrence’s recommendation above and tell you my trick for Pad Thai Cafe, which is also one of my favorite spots.
Pad Thai Cafe’s best dishes, in my opinion, are from the Thai menu. At the restaurant, it’s written only in Thai, so non-Thai speakers are out of luck...unless they look at the restaurant’s website, where it’s written in a mix of English and transliterated Thai. (Go to the section titled “Authentic Thai Taste.”) Those unfamiliar with Thai dishes outside of the usual Thai-American canon might have to Google a few terms to zero in on what they want. My favorites, so far: yum pla dook fu, a cloud of fried catfish with green apple salad (more traditionally prepared with green mango, I think, but the apple is nice); pad sator goong, which features stink beans (which I regret to inform you have a similar physiological effect as asparagus, but worse); and laab woon sen, laab (made with your ground meat of choice) mixed with glass noodles. I haven’t yet tried the khao soi, but that’s next on my list. — Rachel Leah Blumenthal
December 13, 2019
Hamburguesas at Toro
1704 Washington St., South End, Boston
My fiancée had never been to Toro, so we decided to go in the middle of this past week to celebrate some minor and major wins at our respective jobs. Toro has been around for nearly 15 years, and it’s still almost impossible to get a table on a Wednesday night. Which is to say, Toro is still as excellent as it was when it debuted. We ordered beef tartare, patatas bravas, tomato bread, boquerones, and burger sliders. We loved everything — especially the several glasses of tempranillo we drank — but the sliders, which Toro refers to as hamburguesas, stood out. They were cooked to a perfect medium rare and were topped with tomato jam, alioli, and pickled red onions. I ate one; I could have eaten three more. —Terrence B. Doyle
Duck for two at Woods Hill Pier 4
300 Pier Four Blvd., Seaport District, Boston
There’s a lot I find disappointing about the direction of development in the Seaport District; that’s a discussion for another day, but suffice to say that it’s particularly exciting when a truly lovely and local restaurant opens up among the chains and skyscrapers. I had a really good feeling about Woods Hill Pier 4 when I spoke with owner Kristin Canty and chef Charlie Foster for a pre-opening feature recently (and I’ve always heard great things about Woods Hill Table in Concord). It seemed like the type of restaurant that lived and breathed the whole “farm-to-table” ethos, and not just in a buzzword-y marketing way. (Canty literally owns a farm and sources quite a few of her restaurants’ ingredients from it.)
So I was thrilled to eat at the restaurant this week and find that it more than lived up to my expectations. My husband and I decided to splurge on one of the large “for two” dishes — the duck — and a couple smaller items, and I’m glad we took the plunge on the duck dish, whose full name is “dry-aged Woods Hill Farm duck breast and crispy confit,” served with dirty wild rice, barberries, and frisee. A bite of the confit topped with a smear of tart barberries, followed by the rich rice (more on that in a second), was the clear winner of the night and the week as a whole.
As Foster told me when we chatted for the aforementioned feature, the team raises the ducks, gets them slaughtered humanely “at great cost,” and dry-ages them, making use of the hearts and livers in the dirty rice served with the dish, going along with the restaurant’s “nose-to-tail” philosophy.
Another highlight at Woods Hill Pier 4 is actually the bread, sourced from Bread Obsession, a local company that makes appearances at local farmers markets and in a few shops. It’s long been a favorite of mine, but it’s not as easy to find around me as I wish it were, so it was exciting to be able to eat it (so much of it) at Woods Hill, with the restaurant’s delicious butter.
And before I wrap this up, one honorable mention for the week: spicy miso ramen at Amateras, a bustling two-and-a-half-year-old shop near South Station. It was the cure for a long walk on a frigid day. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
December 6, 2019
“Not pepperoni” and mushroom pizzas at Area Four Boston
264 East Berkeley St., South End, Boston
Area Four is doing some of the best Neapolitan-adjacent pizza in Greater Boston, and I’m lucky enough to live close by the South End outpost. My fiancée and I were both exhausted after traveling to our respective hometowns for Thanksgiving and couldn’t muster the will to grocery shop and then cook last Sunday evening. We decided on pizza and drinks at Area Four and ordered the ”Not Pepperoni” and the mushroom. The “Not Pepperoni” comes topped with sopressata (from Moody’s Delicatessen, no less), red onions, mozzarella, pecorino, and tomato sauce, and is brilliant in its relative simplicity. The mushroom is topped with mushroom sauce, shiitake mushrooms, fontina, gremolata, and pecorino, and is brilliant in its extreme richness. I drank several kolsches; my fiancée drank several glasses of malbec; we housed both pizzas; we were very glad not to have to grocery shop and cook; we slept very well that night. —Terrence B. Doyle
Boat noodle soup at Mâe Asian Eatery
781 Main St., Cambridge
It was a competitive couple of weeks in my “best dishes I ate this week” file (I’m counting last week, too, since we didn’t update this round-up on the day after Thanksgiving.) I’m granting a bunch of honorable mentions because, as always, I refuse to follow the rules of my own round-up: T&B Pizza’s Saturday morning bagel pop-up is definitely worth checking out; Celeste continues to be incredible, especially the ceviche and lomo saltado (stay tuned on Monday for a feature on Celeste, which was our 2018 Restaurant of the Year winner); Mariel is not just a gorgeous spot but also serves excellent food — please try the Havanese lamb belly, fufu gnocchi, and pan queso frito; and the Somerville location of Buk Kyung is as reliable as ever (I would like to eat the duk mandu guk daily).
At the top of my list, though, is Mâe Asian Eatery, which celebrates its first anniversary later this month and serves Thai and Vietnamese food (with a bit of Chinese as well). It’s a restaurant I visited quite a bit at the beginning of the year, and I promptly fell in love with it. It fell out of my regular rotation as the year filled up with other new openings I felt compelled to explore, but I finally made it back there last night, and it was even better (and busier) than I had remembered. I loved my nam tok, a fiery beef salad — Mâe will serve you significantly spicy food upon request — but the bites I stole of my husband’s boat noodle soup were the winners of the evening. It’s a hearty noodle soup packed with pork slices and pork meatballs, with a side of pork cracklings, and it’s a cold-weather essential. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
November 22, 2019
Another week, another stop at the Super 88 food hall for a bowl of soup. This time, I hit up Isshindo Ramen for a bowl of its signature soup. I ate at Isshindo the week it opened, and while it was solid, it didn’t exactly blow my wig back, either. But restaurants often don’t find their feet in the first week or so — indeed, it usually takes much longer than that — so I figured it was time to give Isshindo another try. I’m glad I did. The tonkotsu broth was silky and had the perfect balance of salty and funky. The ajitama egg was as good as I’ve had in some time — the yolk was somewhere between just-set and runny, and when I tipped it toward the hot soup it began to ooze out, but only slightly. The pork char siu nearly melted on my tongue, and the noodles had exactly the right amount of spring on the tooth. This is a very fine bowl of ramen. —Terrence B. Doyle
Queso frito at Casa B
253 Washington St., Union Square, Somerville
Casa B in Union Square serves a queso frito snack that I would deem absolutely perfect. Caribbean cheese, lightly fried, comes in a small, boat-shaped wooden bowl, swimming in its own puddle of guava sauce. Often fried cheese feels heavy, but Casa B’s queso frito has the lightest of crispy layers to break through to get to a pop of gooey cheese. Smother each bite in as much guava sauce as possible and delight in eating this treat with the restaurant’s tiny utensils. The dish was a highlight of the week and made even better paired with one (or two) of the restaurant’s carefully made cocktails. Additional tip: Give the Brussels sprouts a try too. Much like the cheese, they’re crispy, delicious, and come with a sauce I would put on everything if I could. —Dana Hatic
Duan’s Whip and Chong Qing dry hot chicken at Blossom Bar
295 Washington St., Brookline
I already gave this combo a little shoutout earlier today in my story on Blossom Bar’s Ran Duan planning a mysterious third project, but it’s so good that I have to highlight it here as well.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to spend time with friends who have very young children is to get takeout and eat it at their place instead of dealing with the logistics of bringing the baby to dinner or finding a sitter. Everyone saves a little money, the parents probably get some leftovers if we order smartly, the kid can eat their own thing and then go to bed while we’re hanging out — everyone’s happy.
This week, I caught up with a friend who was picking up her baby at daycare in Brookline Village. The neighborhood is full of good dining options, but we both have an affinity for Blossom Bar and don’t get there enough. (I actually made my way to the neighborhood earlier in the day and tried out the brand new Ōmori Izakaya, too; it’s promising!)
After placing the takeout order at Blossom Bar, there was time for a speedy drink at the bar while the meal was prepared. Duan’s Whip — a boozy take on the Disney classic, a pineapple Dole whip — was dangerously delicious. If we had been dining in, I’m sure it would have been a perfect pair for the Chong Qing dry hot chicken, which we ate ravenously upon arriving to my friend’s place a little later. Light, crispy, tingly-spicy — I can’t get enough of this chicken.
I’m very excited to learn more about what Duan and the Baldwin/Blossom team are cooking up for their next project, which Duan says will feature a cocktail style “that doesn’t exist in Boston.” —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
November 15, 2019
I usually order the pho with thinly sliced beef and meatballs whenever I go to Pho Viets in the Super 88 food hall in Allston, but I’ve been trying to eat less meat lately, so I ordered the pho chay with vegetables and tofu instead. It was packed with silky tofu; grassy, lemony cilantro; salty and slightly bitter celery; and chunks of funky cabbage. The rice noodles were plentiful, and the broth — I went with chicken broth, because I’m apparently incapable of eating an entirely vegetarian meal — was rich and nourishing. Indeed, this soup was necessary on an afternoon that saw the temperature dip below freezing for the first time this fall. There really isn’t a bad bite at Super 88. I imagine I’ll eat this one again in the not-too-distant future. —Terrence B. Doyle
Aunty Wang’s steamed snapper dumplings at Chalawan
1790 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge
Chalawan, a recently overhauled Southeast Asian restaurant in Cambridge’s Porter Square, has a vast and impressive menu of dishes. On a recent night with some Singha beer to go with the meal, we had a few dishes from each category of appetizers, salads, mains, and sides, but the standout for me was the steamed snapper dumplings with chile and black vinegar sauce. Eat the whole thing in one bite and make sure to get an extra spoonful of sauce, which is a perfectly tangy complement to the dense but not chewy dumpling dough that holds in a flavorful filling. The sauce is a great sign of things to come, too: The tamarind sauce on the prawn entree is another winner. Don’t skip dessert here, either. Chalawan serves a great creme brulee. —Dana Hatic
First, I want to enthusiastically second Dana’s comments above; I’m in love with Chalawan, and those dumplings are excellent. (I also got the scallops again — the ones I mentioned in the October 4 update below — and they were just as good on my second visit as on my first.) Definitely one of my favorite new restaurants of the year.
Aside from Chalawan, a major standout for me this week was chef Meqdes Mesfin’s Ethiopian brunch at Bow Market, available on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the recently opened Nibble Kitchen space. I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of dinners at Ethiopian restaurants over the years, but never brunch, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. One of the two options, firfir, consists of torn injera — the spongey, slightly sour bread that is a hallmark of Ethiopian food — soaked in siga wot (spicy beef) with a side of tomato salad, scrambled eggs, and a springy roll of injera to use as an eating utensil. I’m rarely in the mood for typical American-style brunches of giant stacks of sugary pancakes, over-stuffed omelets, and the like, but I could definitely eat this spicy beef and injera combo every weekend. Don’t forget to order the black tea, which is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
November 8, 2019
Jerk chicken wings and beef patty at Jamaica Mi Hungry
225 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, Boston
Jamaica Mi Hungry is a delight. The ridiculous pun, the friendly and helpful staff, the fact that it’s a five-minute walk from my apartment, and (especially) the food. The Jamaican spot — which originated as a food truck and also operates a seasonal shop on Hampton Beach in New Hampshire — opened its doors a couple months ago, and I kept meaning to go, but I kept putting it off because sometimes I’m lazy like that.
I finally made the (very minimal) effort this week and stopped by for lunch. I ordered the jerk chicken wings and a beef patty, both staples of Jamaican street food. The exterior of the beef patty was golden and flaky, and the perfect vessel for the savory, tender beef inside. And the wings are some of the best I’ve eaten in Boston — or anywhere else for that matter. Indeed, I haven’t eaten chicken this good since the last time I visited the Caribbean. The skin was the right amount of crispy and smoky, and the fat beneath was rendered just enough so that it wasn’t tough or stodgy, but rather flavorful and nearly deliquescent. There was not a hint of dryness anywhere on these wings. I ordered them with rice and beans and mixed vegetables, and poured the smoky and spicy jerk sauce over both. It’s one of the best lunches I’ve had in recent memory. —Terrence B. Doyle
Pizza party at T&B Pizza
251 Washington St., Union Square, Somerville
I love a casual weeknight meal, and the new once-weekly pizza parties at T&B Pizza are just that — each week will have a different theme or focus; this week’s was Rockin’ Bourbon, with bar master Kevin Doyle serving takes on an Old Fashioned and Manhattans. There’s no set lineup for the pizza: Al taglio and Neapolitan pies fly out of the oven and onto a communal table, some loaded with multiple cheeses and hot peppers and others with cuts of steak and tangy sauces. Pace yourself and try a little bit of everything. —Dana Hatic
Yeah, yeah, I break the rules every week and sneak in multiple dishes. It’s happening again, but I will tie these two together under the umbrella of “excellent restaurants that closed but were thankfully reborn recently.”
First: Manoa — one of the Boston area’s first poke shops, and definitely the best — sadly closed at the beginning of the year, although it continued appearing at pop-up events and doing catering. Then, a miracle: It reopened its storefront in late September, although only for weekends. I think it’s even better than before.
This isn’t one of those Chipotle-style build-your-own-poke-bowl spots like the increasingly ubiquitous chains popping up around the area. There’s poke, yes, but it’s just one of several lovely potential components on fully loaded plates where you pick two proteins and also get kimchi cucumbers, greens, white rice, and macaroni salad. On this visit, I skipped poke; I needed to try the mochiko fried chicken Manoa fans speak so highly about. They were right. My second protein was a special for the day, a deeply satisfying chile salmon belly that I hope to see on the menu again soon. Don’t forget the POG — passionfruit orange guava juice.
Second: Tawakal Halal Cafe. The Somali restaurant’s story of rebirth is a bit longer than Manoa’s; its well-loved previous incarnation (one I regretfully never got a chance to visit) closed way back in 2011 before reopening just over a year ago, elsewhere in East Boston. In the past year, it’s picked up some beautiful mentions in local and national press, and with good reason. The homey, tiny space — family-run — is one of just a few spots for East African food in the Boston area, and as someone who hasn’t had a chance to try much Somali food before, it feels like an essential introduction to the cuisine.
The Globe’s Devra First praised the tawakal plate, likening it to “a Somali version of chilaquiles.” I too fell in love with the dish, finding the softened chapati strips reminiscent of the chewy, wide noodles of a Thai drunken noodles dish, extra al dente. Get the tawakal plate, but also get the sambusa (akin to an Indian samosa), and dot it with plenty of the house-made, mango-based hot sauce. Tie it all together with shaah, a sweet, spiced tea. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
November 1, 2019
Hot fried chicken sandwich, prepared “damn hot,” at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
112 19th Ave. S, Nashville
I was in Nashville for most of the week, which means I finally got to eat hot fried chicken in the land of its provenance. Lots of people have lots of opinions about which hot fried chicken joint is the best hot fried chicken joint, and if I lived in Nashville — or even if I had been visiting for more than a long weekend — I’d no doubt try them all. Alas, I only had enough time — and enough stomach — to try one example, and that was Hattie B’s on 19th Avenue. I opted for the hot fried chicken sandwich and had it prepared “damn hot,” which is slightly less hot than “shut the cluck up.” (I like hot things; I don’t like not enjoying my food.) It was hot, and I was grateful that I ordered the creamy coleslaw on the side.
Despite a dousing of hot sauce, the exterior of the chicken was somehow still crispy. The interior of the bird was delightfully juicy, and the bread was soft and springy and the perfect vessel for this spicy, messy treat. It all came topped with pickles (I ordered extra) and coleslaw. Pair it all with a sweet tea or, better yet, a local brew. I drank a kolsch from a brewery called, predictably, Yee-Haw, and it was one of the best kolsches I’ve had in recent memory.
Also worth the hype in Nashville: The meat and three at Dandgure’s Classic Southern Kitchen. I had the fried chicken with green beans, mac and cheese, and jalapeno cornbread — it was definitely the second best thing I ate this week. The menu varies day to day, and next time I’m there I hope I’ll get to try the fried catfish. —Terrence B. Doyle
C-momo at Himalayan Kitchen
40 Bow St., Union Square, Somerville
I could probably eat dumplings from any cuisine daily and be happy. I love them all — what’s better than meat wrapped in dough? — but momo are among my favorites, and Somerville (where I live) happily has an abundance of them.
I found myself right by Himalayan Kitchen (one of Union Square’s too many excellent dining options) at lunchtime the other day. The lunch combos are filling and fairly priced, but I was in a momo mood, as is frequently the case, and enjoyed the spicy c-momo, some naan, and a mango lassi. The momo successfully toed that line between heat and flavor, with some welcome sweetness coming through.
Himalayan Kitchen’s c-momo don’t rank as high on the spicy meter as the incredibly hot ones at Tasty Momo over in Magoun Square, but I enjoy both. I don’t need to set my mouth on fire every day. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
October 25, 2019
Cumin lamb hand-pulled noodles (#9) at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe
86 Bedford St., Downtown Crossing, Boston
This is a hand-pulled noodle blog now. Sorry/not sorry. The Eater Boston team stopped by Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe earlier this week for a post-meeting lunch, and I indulged my obsession yet again. Greater Boston is becoming a destination for biang biang noodles, but Gene’s is still the dopest of dope spots for the Shaanxi delicacy.
I got the #9, which comes topped with shredded carrots, bean sprouts, and cilantro. The noodles were mixed with cumin lamb and sat atop a pool of cumin-infused oil. The warm cumin oil and the rich, slightly chewy lamb paired perfectly with the fresh crunch of the carrots and bean sprouts and the grassy, floral cilantro. This is one of the city’s very best bites. Fair warning: It’s cash only, and it’s mostly a lunch spot. —Terrence B. Doyle
Maltagliati at Orfano
1381 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston
There are plenty of reasons to visit Orfano in Fenway. You could go for the martini cart and learn a thing or two about how the drink is prepared. You could go to bear witness to the child-sized pepper grinder, to admire the decor, or to load up on garlic bread and parmesan mousse. Or you could go for a fall-in-a-bowl pasta dish Tiffani Faison and co. are currently serving at the newest addition to the Big Heart Hospitality family. The dish itself looks like it belongs in nature, topped with small edible yellow flowers, and the maltagliati (a wide, flat noodle) hides beneath a pile of meaty hen-of-the-woods mushrooms mixed in with slivers of delicata squash, and it all sits in a bright orange puree that I’d be tempted to order as a drink on its own. —Dana Hatic
French onion soup gratinée at Rochambeau
900 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston
This is a tough one: I ate a lot of different dishes this week, and there were a fair amount of standouts. For starters, Terrence had turned in a draft of his Chinatown bakeries map late last week, and we didn’t have much photography on file that would work, so I spent a beautiful fall afternoon on Sunday eating my way through pretty much the entire map so I could get some photos. At some of the bakeries, I couldn’t resist getting more than one item. So, there are already a dozen or so baked goods I’m pondering from the weekend.
But then on Monday night, I visited Ittoku at its brand new Cambridge location. The menu was huge and full of small bites, so I covered quite a bit of territory there, from yakitori to okonomiyaki.
Terrence already covered our team lunch at Gene’s, so I can skip that, but the hand-pulled noodles are definitely on my “best Boston dishes of all time” shortlist.
And then last night, I made it to new Back Bay French spot Rochambeau, and we went a little overboard there; I’m still in a daze of overindulgence, and my body composition probably includes a not-insignificant percentage of cheesy French onion soup.
But this column is about picking one dish — and I think I break the rules pretty much every week, sorry — so I’m going to declare Rochambeau’s French onion soup to be my official dish of the week...
...with chicken skin yakitori from Ittoku in Porter Square, mango mousse cake from May’s Cake House in Chinatown, and those Gene’s noodles getting honorary mentions. I made the rules of the column, and I can break them!
Anyway, the soup: I love French onion soup and will eat it anywhere, in any weather. (Come chat with us in our Facebook group to tell me about your favorites, please!) The best, of course, is when the cheese melts far over the edges of the bowl, and you can bet I’m going to be picking it off and eating it with my hands, no matter how fancy the restaurant is. You can’t take me anywhere! Give me a classic New England pub serving onion soup in one of those dark brown bowls with bubbly, charred cheese oozing everywhere, and I am happy. Rochambeau, though decidedly fancier than a classic New England pub, has a solid amount of cheese oozing over the edges of its soup, as well as the right ratio of bread and a broth with plenty of depth, so it has definitely entered into my onion soup rotation. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
October 18, 2019
Proper sausage-egg-n-cheese sandwich at Cutty’s
284 Washington St., Brookline Village, Brookline
Cutty’s is probably most well-known for its “Roast Beef 1000” — the one-and-only flame-broiled food television host Guy Fieri loves it, after all — but whenever I find myself in Brookline Village I pop into the sandwich shop for a taste of the “proper” sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. The house-made sausage is slightly sweet but mostly savory; the egg is airy but still has a bite to it; the slice of American cheese is melty and gooey; an English muffin is the perfect vessel for all of it. I add truffle ketchup to mine for an added zing. I worked in Brookline Village for three years and ate far too many of these. Whenever I’m anywhere near the neighborhood these days, a Pavlovian response is triggered — I can’t continue my day without first devouring a “proper” sausage, egg, and cheese. An added bonus: Cutty’s serves coffee from Portland-based Tandem Coffee Roasters, which is exquisite. There are few better breakfast treats in Greater Boston, imho. —Terrence B. Doyle
Quesadilla (solo queso) at Taqueria el Barrio
1022 Commonwealth Ave., Boston (at the Brookline border near Boston University)
Not to bemoan a point made by several local outlets, but Taqueria el Barrio makes good food. And yes, the tacos are the star of the show, but the sleeper hit is actually the cheese quesadilla. The crispy tortilla — loaded with cheese, guacamole, onion, and salsa — becomes the perfect palette for Taqueria el Barrio’s four signature salsas; try them all, it’s worthwhile. —Dana Hatic
Pok Pok’s muu kham waan at Little Donkey (part of a one-off pop-up)
505 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge
I’ve been fairly useless this week on the restaurant front; like a proper cat lady, I’ve been mostly curled up at home with my brand new kittens, Sally and Pepe. (Virtual high five if you know why we chose those names!) I did emerge, however, for a spectacular pop-up at Little Donkey last night, featuring Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker. I’m a big fan of the Pok Pok cookbook and have followed Ricker’s work from afar, and the pop-up did not at all disappoint, coming in strong with lots of great flavors of Thailand. Hard to play favorites, but the muu kham waan (grilled pork neck) with iced mustard greens was a standout dish for me.
Given that this was a one-off pop-up and Pok Pok is on the other side of the country, it’s probably not fair that I chose this as my dish for the week given that you won’t be able to eat it locally. So, I’ll use this opportunity to remind you how good Little Donkey is in general. The menu is fusion-y to the extreme — who puts uni rangoons, king crab nachos, Mexican dan dan noodles (what?), and Istanbul-inpsired meat ravioli on one menu? Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer do, and it somehow works. Not just works, excels. I’m not sure many other restaurants would get away with a menu that bounces around the globe quite this much. It’s been a while since I’ve been there for a regular dinner, and a lot of the menu has changed, but the manti and the tuna poke with gochujang are always reliably delicious. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
October 11, 2019
The Big Tasty at Tasty Burger
1301 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston
There’s an In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda Boulevard that’s a three-minute drive from LAX, and it’s always my first stop whenever I visit Los Angeles. LA is my favorite city to eat my way through — whenever I’m there, I have to eat dumplings and barbecue in Koreatown, tacos in Boyle Heights, heart attack dogs on the streets leading to Dodger Stadium, and huaraches in Highland Park. I need to get Cuban coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Porto’s, and I need to eat at Night + Market Song. I also need to eat a burger from In-N-Out. The hype is real; it’s one of the best burgers on the planet.
You know what’s also one of the best burgers on the planet, and indeed might be even better than the burgers at In-N-Out Burger? The Big Tasty from Boston’s own Tasty Burger. I hit the Fenway spot last weekend and enjoyed one with some tots and a couple pints of Fiddlehead IPA. The patties were cooked to a perfect medium, but somehow the exterior was crispy — not burned, mind you — and swaddled by a generous slice of yellow American cheese, which had melted slightly on the flattop and turned slightly burned and lacy. The sauce was creamy and tangy, and the pickles added a welcomed crunch. Unlike most fast-food burgers, Tasty Burger’s version doesn’t leave an eater hungry 10 minutes after eating one.
I’ve eaten this burger a billion times; I will eat this burger a billion more times. We’re lucky to have a fast-food burger this good in the Hub. —Terrence B. Doyle
Tomato goat cheese pappardelle at Semolina Kitchen & Bar
572 Boston Ave., Medford
Not to feed into the idea that all we eat is noodles, but definitely visit Semolina Kitchen in Medford for noodles of note. It should come as no surprise that the restaurant serves delicious pasta, given its sibling and source is Dave’s Fresh Pasta of Somerville, but one of the pappardelle dishes on the dinner menu is truly spectacular. I’m a sucker for anything with goat cheese, and the globs served on this dish melt into a saucy coating to mellow out the pop of roasted cherry tomatoes. Together with garlic and basil, the whole dish is a comfort as the weather gets colder. —Dana Hatic
A5 wagyu at Umami
2372 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge
My evening at North Cambridge newcomer Umami is, frankly, a bit of a blur: Five people, something like 18 courses of omakase, four or five sakes, there may have been some beer...an epic feast with friends, and one in which I probably can’t accurately remember the ingredients for most of the dishes we ate as I was distracted by the sake and good conversation. That’s not to say that the food wasn’t memorable; it was. One standout in particular was the final course before dessert, a just-barely-torched bit of A5 wagyu on rice — a true pleasure for meat lovers.
The restaurant is brand new and is still working toward more of a grand opening, so early visitors should go with a bit of patience as the menu and service stabilize, which they surely will. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Umami ultimately turn out to be one of the best omakase options in the Boston area. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
October 4, 2019
Biang biang noodles at Noodles King in Longwood Galleria
400 Brookline Ave., Longwood, Boston
When I think about great meals, I don’t think about hospital food courts. (When I think about hospital food courts, I think about greasy fast-food burgers and bad coffee.) At least, I didn’t until I ate the hand-pulled biang biang noodles from Noodles King. Situated inside the Longwood Galleria, this noodle joint is slinging some of the best hand-pulled noodles in Boston. The noodles come served in a white plastic bowl and are topped with bean sprouts, baby bok choy, and red chile flakes. Beneath everything sits a pool of spicy red chile oil. The noodles and accoutrements beg to be tossed with the oil, and you should oblige. The bitterness of the bok choy and the fresh crisp of the bean sprouts are a brilliant foil to the chew of the noodles and the spice from the chile oil. I ate my noodles at one of the high tops adjacent the Noodles King kiosk because they are messy and standing upright and away from the bowl decreased my odds of staining my new sweatshirt. Eat these the next time you’re in Longwood. —Terrence B. Doyle
Curried vegetable pie at KO Pies at the Shipyard
256 Marginal St., East Boston
Far overdue for getting out there but I finally made it to KO Pies in East Boston and demolished a curried vegetable pie. It was a Wednesday, so the restaurant had a pop-up menu going and only a handful of pies available, and mine was a warm, flaky, perfectly spiced thing of beauty. There’s a cartoon out front detailing how to eat your pie, and I highly recommend following it — sure, you’ll be given a knife and fork (you can cut the pie in half if need be) but just pick it up, let the crust flake everywhere, and enjoy. —Dana Hatic
Seared scallop with nahm jim and caramelized duck at Chalawan
How often do you look at a menu and want to try every single dish on it? For me, not as often as I’d like. It happened this week, though, when we reported on the opening of Chalawan, a revamp of Pho House near Porter Square focusing on a broader, modern Southeast Asian menu rather than the mix of casual Vietnamese and Thai that Pho House had served. (The interior has been redone, too, and it looks quite nice.) I knew I had to get there right away.
Sure enough, it wasn’t just the best meal of the week, it was one of the best meals I’ve had all year, and I can’t wait to return to make more of a dent in the menu. It had some of the Thai flavors I’ve been eagerly searching for and devouring around Boston since my trip to Thailand earlier this year, but perhaps even more excitingly, the Chalawan menu delves into other Southeast Asian cuisines that are a bit harder to find around here — flavors of Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, and beyond. Every bite of the meal was excellent, but the best bite of the night was the seared scallop — they’re served individually, at $4 a pop — sitting in a pool of green nahm jim and topped with caramelized duck, scallions, ginger, and crispy shallots. Sour, salty, spicy, sweet; it was all there in a couple perfect bites. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
September 27, 2019
Banh mi at Banh Mi Ba Le
1052 Dorchester Ave., Savin Hill, Dorchester, Boston
Dorchester is home to a vibrant Vietnamese community. As such, Dorchester is also where you go when you want to eat Vietnamese food in Boston [especially in, but not limited to, the Fields Corner neighborhood]. The Eater Boston team took a research field trip to Dorchester’s Savin Hill and Upham’s Corner areas this week and got banh mi (and various other treats) from Banh Mi Ba Le. At the recommendation of one of the restaurant’s employees, I ordered the grilled beef banh mi. The bread — which is baked in-house — had a shatteringly-crisp exterior and a pillowy soft interior and was the perfect vehicle for the sweet, charred slices of beef and fresh vegetables. Get it made spicy with slices of jalapeno. It’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten in a very long time. My only regret is not washing it all down with a bottle of fresh passionfruit juice. —Terrence B. Doyle
Doubles at Singh’s Roti
692 Columbia Rd., Upham’s Corner, Dorchester, Boston
The doubles at Singh’s Roti are truly a miraculous thing. Two pieces of delicately fried dough come with a pile of spicy curried chickpeas topped with the restaurant’s signature sauce, a mild, sweet, and perfect complement to the chickpeas. The dough is a perfect vessel for shoveling the curry into your mouth, and it’s just chewy enough that you don’t have to wrestle with it to break a bite away. Seems like a simple dish, but it’s hands-down the most flavorful and satisfying thing I ate this week. It’s also something I’d eat every single day if given the chance. Too excessive? Maybe not... —Dana Hatic
Special curry platter at Punjabi Dhaba
225 Hampshire St., Inman Square, Cambridge
Well, the problem with going on team food crawls is that we have to fight over favorites, and Dana called dibs on writing about the doubles before I could! I’ll just say that as someone who normally doesn’t enjoy chickpeas very much, I loved the doubles and can’t wait to go back — and I want to buy a bottle of Singh’s house-made hot sauce, too.
In the interest of highlighting a different restaurant, I’ll give a shoutout to Punjabi Dhaba. Despite living fairly close to Inman for the better part of a decade, this was somehow my first time here (and definitely not my last). In the hustle and bustle of the lunch rush, I froze trying to read the long menu and just ordered one of the first things to catch my eye, the special curry platter, which turned out to be exactly what I wanted. For three meals, probably. The huge platter included a mega portion of rice, naan, a samosa, chutney, and two curries, one with chicken and one with vegetables, with each component equally satisfying. Despite an effort I’ll call admirable, I went home with most of it and look forward to digging into the leftovers today. And tomorrow. Pretty great deal for $10.95. I can also see myself grabbing a samosa and mango lassi to go when passing through the neighborhood. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
September 20, 2019
Hand-pulled noodles with cumin lamb at Home Taste
58 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown
Few things bring me more joy than biang biang noodles, which are typical of the Northwest Chinese province of Shaanxi. The noodles are hand-pulled, flat, and perfectly chewy. There are several restaurants making excellent versions of this style of hand-pulled noodle in and around Boston — Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe being the most well-known — and one of them is Home Taste in Watertown, along with its sibling in Arlington (1312 Massachusetts Ave.).
I got the hand-pulled noodles with cumin lamb on a recent trip, and they didn’t disappoint. The noodles were well-dressed by — but not sopping with — a cumin-spiked chili oil and accompanied by tender bits of lamb and vegetables. I ate the whole plate — which was probably the equivalent of eating an entire cup of flour — and a few pan-fried pork dumplings, too. I wish Home Taste had a liquor license, because a couple of ice cold lagers are the only things that could have made this meal better. —Terrence B. Doyle
Lumache with Bolognese sauce and gochujang at Pammy’s
928 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
I’ll be honest; I had a terrible week. I didn’t really want to eat much of anything, let alone explore brand new places that we might cover. It was all about comfort food at reliable standbys. (There were definitely some Newtowne Grille [1945 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, Cambridge] slices in the mix.) Enter Pammy’s, one of my current favorite spots. It’s beautiful, it’s friendly, and it serves one of my Boston-area-bucket-list dishes that I’d have to revisit several times if I ever planned to move away: the lumache Bolognese, hearty and a bit spicy from the gochujang added to the sauce. Eating the lumache and catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple months was exactly what I needed.
And I don’t want to break my own rules with this series and name more than one dish for the week...but I’ll just say that if you want to finish up at Pammy’s and walk just under a mile to Oleana (134 Hampshire St., Cambridge) and try to snag a bar seat for the sole purpose of eating the baked Alaska for dessert, I support that plan. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
September 13, 2019
Littlenecks in broth with pancetta and mushrooms at Neptune Oyster
63 Salem St., North End, Boston
Last weekend was the first weekend all summer that my fiancee and I were able to spend entirely together and not encumbered by a wedding or a child’s birthday party or a three-hour drive to a cookout featuring overcooked and previously frozen burger patties. We chose to spend part of it waiting in line for two hours outside of Neptune Oyster. No time is an ideal time to visit Neptune Oyster — there’s always a line out the door — but it was especially foolish of us to think we’d get in and out on a weekend during which the city was inundated by incoming freshman and their doting parents, whose tourism dollars demanded dozens and dozens of oysters. In the end it was worth the wait — it always is. We ate plenty, but the standout was a bowl of Duxbury littlenecks served in broth with pancetta and white beech mushrooms. The chew of the mushrooms and clams were almost indistinguishable, only one tasted of earth and the other of sea. The pancetta and broth added richness; parsley provided some needed brightness. I’ve eaten this dish before. I’ll eat this dish again. —Terrence B. Doyle
In a bountiful sea of produce, food, and beverage vendors at Union Square’s Saturday farmers market, turn down the alley near Bronwyn to find one particular vendor who sets up shop inside Field & Vine. Baked goods from Plum Delicious/Rae the Baker should not be missed, especially the incomprehensible pretzel croissant. Plop me down in front of any salty-sweet treat and I’ll be happy, but this one takes it to the next level with all the perfect things needed in a croissant: flaky outside, stretchy and doughy interior layers, and the perfect amount of salt. —Dana Hatic
Lobster bucatini at Orfano
1381 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston
Before I get into my chosen dish for the week, I have to take a sentence or two to heartily second Dana’s words. Rae the Baker is a baked goods genius, and I can’t get enough of her pretzel croissants and miso morning buns, among other items. Follow her on Instagram and keep an eye out for pop-up info, but in general, she’s inside Field & Vine on Saturday mornings when the farmers market is happening.
As for my dish of the week, I’ve barely gone out to eat over the past week or so; coming off of a food-filled vacation in Copenhagen and Malmö (ask me about all the pastries I devoured), I’ve been laying low and trying to cook healthy-ish food most days. I did make it over to the brand new Orfano, though, and had a blast. I love the juxtaposition of the classy decor with humorous touches — do yourself a favor and say yes when they ask if you want freshly ground pepper. The lobster bucatini was a standout dish, with generous chunks of lobster and a silky richness that was fully satisfying. I am in love with quite a few pasta dishes around Boston already, but I’m making room in my rotation for this one. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal