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.
March 6: Amazonian paiche and...the Papadia?
The Papadia at Papa John’s
533 Washington St., Brighton, Boston
I promise I’m not lying: The best thing I ate this week was from Papa John’s. Now, I want to be clear: I have no love for its former CEO, the odious Papa John Schnatter. The papa is allegedly a bad man. The Papadia, on the other hand, is quite tasty — or at least, it’s tasty in the same way a Hot Pocket is tasty at 2 a.m. after you’ve had no fewer than one hundred beers.
The Papadia is allegedly inspired by the piadina, which is a flatbread typical of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and especially the Adriatic and Adriatic-adjacent cities of Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna, and Rimini. The piadina is made with lard, and a good version of it should be slightly flaky. It is cooked on a griddle or a flat top, and folded over any number of ingredients, but especially prosciutto di Parma, squacquerone, and arugula. The Papadia is not flaky — it’s just a small Papa John’s pizza folded in half and stuffed with 37 pounds of processed deli meat. Which is to say, it’s delicious in a trashy way. I love piadina; I enjoyed the Papadia. Both things can be true. —Terrence B. Doyle
Paiche amazonico at Tambo 22
22 Adams St., Chelsea
Taranta — chef Jose Duarte’s Peruvian-meets-Italian restaurant in the North End — has always been on my “I’ve been meaning to go here forever” restaurant list. I missed out in its earlier days; as far as I can tell, it’s been open since at least 2005, when I wasn’t in Boston. And since then, well, you know how it goes. There are only so many days in the week and so, so many restaurants to try, and this job requires that I focus on newer ones most of the time, so alas, I still have not been there.
However, at an event that I attended way back in 2012, Duarte gave a presentation centered around paiche, a gigantic Amazonian freshwater fish that has been overfished in the wild but is now sustainably farmed. The presentation stood out in my mind — and it’s a fish he’s talked about a lot over the years — so to me, chef Duarte and paiche are inextricably linked.
I rushed over to Duarte’s new restaurant, Tambo 22, during its first week (maybe a little bit out of guilt that I’m at least 15 years overdue for a Taranta visit but also because it just sounded really good!) and obviously had to get the paiche, which is wrapped in a banana leaf and served with the Peruvian herb sacha culantro as well as plantain mash and hot relish. It was a standout dish; the simple preparation really let the fish itself shine. Paiche is firm and hearty, the kind of protein a meat lover who’s trying to turn pescatarian might love.
Paired with a guava gose from Ontario-based brewery Collective Arts, this really hit the spot. Honorary mention to the lomo saltado, especially the fries that came with it — they had a battered, almost bubbly exterior, and I couldn’t get enough of them. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
February 28, 2020: Chicken skins, papaya pad thai, and more
Htipiti at Krasi
48 Gloucester St., Back Bay, Boston
I don’t want for much, but one thing I definitely want for is a food cart in Boston Common slinging brown paper baggies full of fried chicken skins. I don’t even need a sauce for dipping — salt and pepper would do just fine. Fried chicken skins are the ultimate foodstuff. Don’t @ me. But because a fried chicken skin food cart will probably never be a thing (dear venture capitalists: give me a million dollars and I’ll personally make it happen), I’m always on the lookout for a good fried chicken skin on restaurant menus.
I found just that this week while dining with some Eater coworkers at Krasi in Back Bay. While everything we ate was excellent — especially the grilled lamb and the tableside tzatziki — the fried chicken skins with feta dip thoroughly blew my mind. The chicken skins were salty and crispy and also somehow sorta creamy (?!), and they were accompanied by a bowl of feta mixed with boukovo (dried red chiles). The orange wine was tasty; the white wine was tasty, too. I ate two fried chicken skins, but I could have eaten many more. Like, as many as would fit in a brown paper baggie. —Terrence B. Doyle
Green papaya pad thai at Mahaniyom
236 Washington St., Brookline Village
Lots of great eating this week — how can I choose what to highlight here? I’m seconding everything Terrence said about those fried chicken skins at Krasi (loved everything else there, too!), and I also want to give a shoutout to Somerville’s ever-wonderful Juliet; the current prix fixe menu, the Québécois-inspired Tracks North, is a stunner, and I — usually a hater of all things mayo and mayo-adjacent — can’t stop thinking about the incredible hollandaise foam, of all things, in the scallops-and-bacon first course.
But Terrence already covered Krasi (and you can check out our recent Inside the Dishes feature for a closer look at the menu), and much has been said about Juliet over the years (it was our 2016 restaurant of the year, after all), so I want to spend a couple paragraphs raving about the brand new Brookline Village Thai restaurant, Mahaniyom, that has already catapulted onto my short list of favorite new restaurants that I’m going to obsess over for the rest of the year and beyond.
I tried a few promising nibbles of things while I was shooting photos for our recent feature, but I was eager to return for an actual meal, and an opportunity quickly presented itself when an out-of-town coworker was in town this week. We shared several dishes (the fried shallot-topped Hat Yai-style fried chicken already has my heart), and the major standout was the green papaya pad thai, in which the dish’s usual rice noodles are replaced with strips of green papaya. Sure, noodle replacements get a bit of a laugh in Western “health” food — hello, zoodles — but the swap is remarkable here because the texture is just right and the flavor is enhanced. The dish also has the right hits of funk and heat, and it is now definitely on my Boston-area pad thai short list.
I find Mahaniyom to be a really exciting spot; it’s featuring a handful of Thai dishes that can’t otherwise be found in the Boston area, and it has a really fun cocktail program as well. Can’t wait to work my way through more of the menu. I hope you’ll all give it a try soon, and let me know what you think! —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
February 21, 2020: Steak frites
Steak frites at Grand Tour
314 Newbury St., Back Bay, Boston
I’ve just returned from eating my way through Barcelona and Bologna (hit me up for restaurant recommendations if you’re heading out that way; I’d love to share!), and I guess I’m still a bit in vacation mode because I wanted nothing more upon my return than an extravagant dinner of steak frites at Boston’s newest French-inspired spot, Grand Tour.
I’m already a fan of chef Michael Serpa’s work at his first restaurant, Select Oyster Bar, so I had a feeling Grand Tour would be equally exciting, and it truly was. (Also, news came out while I was away that he’s working on another new spot, and it’ll be focused on the Iberian Peninsula. There will of course be jamón ibérico. As I just ate my weight in jamón ibérico in Spain, I am thrilled.)
What is there to say about a perfect steak? When it’s done right, it’s done right. But the sides were exemplary as well: fairly thin-cut, skin-on fries, browned just the right amount, as well as a lightly dressed watercress salad that stood well as a foil to the richer parts of the dish. Note: There are two versions available, an eight-ounce bavette and 14-ounce ribeye. I went for the ribeye (pictured above) because, well, whatever the 2020 word for “YOLO” is.
Precede it with the butternut squash crudo, a light and intriguing dish that has the look of a seafood crudo but features thinly sliced squash instead. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
February 14, 2020: Falafel, ramen, and sashimi
Falafel at Sam’s Falafel and Shawarma
215 Highland Ave., Spring Hill, Somerville
Eater Boston previously called out Sam’s Falafel and Shawarma for its super takeout, and I’ll echo its quality and add that it’s a cozy spot to dine in as well. Everyone who comes in the door seems to be a regular, and the staff are supremely friendly and accommodating. The falafel plate comes loaded with more falafel than I typically consume in one sitting, but they’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Served with a side of fresh cucumber salad, pickled veg, and creamy hummus, the entire meal disappears real quick. Can’t recommend this place enough. —Dana Hatic, Guest Editor
Various treats at Hojoko
1271 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston
Let’s face it: Going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day is garbage. It’s exclusionary; it’s expensive; it makes everyone feel bad, even those who do manage to score that hard-to-get reservation. Instead of dealing with all that, my fiancée and I decided to treat ourselves the night before Valentine’s Day. We hit Hojoko, where we shared the spicy miso ramen (I order this every time I go to Hojoko, and I’ve probably already fawned over it on this site before), and the sashimi rice bowl.
The ramen was predictably excellent, and featured something it did not the last time we ate it: a chunk of corn tempura. It was shaped like a potato skin, only it wasn’t a potato skin at all — it was delicious, deep-fried corn. It was a truly unbelievable bite; I could have eaten 10 of them.
The sashimi rice bowl was packed with salmon, tuna, and yellowtail and was accented by creamy slices of tamago (Japanese omelet) and briny bits of tobiko (fish roe). I found myself eating more of this than the ramen. We washed it all down with several pints of Sapporo. Best non-Valentine’s Day Valentine’s Day ever. —Terrence B. Doyle
February 7, 2020: Japanese comfort food from a fast-casual chain located inside a supermarket
Chicken katsu curry at Go! Go! Curry at H Mart
581 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge
Aside from the moments I’m able to get to the Phoenix Landing to watch a Liverpool match, I hardly find myself hanging out in Central Square these days. Central Square was a mainstay of my social life (read: my drinking life) when I lived in nearby Allston, but it’s become less so since I moved to Roxbury. It’s nothing personal — it’s about proximity.
I miss hanging out in Central Square, and I especially miss eating at its many excellent restaurants and drinking at its many excellent bars. I also miss eating the devilishly indulgent chicken katsu curry from Go! Go! Curry inside H Mart. So when I found myself at H Mart last week shopping for fresh ramen noodles and various other groceries, I also found myself devouring a plate of chicken katsu curry.
The chicken katsu was crispy and golden and topped with a drizzle of sweet barbecue sauce. It sat atop a bed of rice and cabbage, which sat atop a reservoir of thick, dark, umami-rich curry. I ate every bite in about three minutes; I should have ordered the XL.
—Terrence B. Doyle
January 31, 2020: Italian-American seafood dishes and omakase
A variety of seafood dishes at Carmelina’s
307 Hanover St., North End, Boston
My fiancée and I were born exactly one year and one day apart from one another. We decided to celebrate the near-coincidence with a trip to Carmelina’s in the North End. Neither of us had been before, but we’d only ever heard great things from friends. We were both craving red sauce Italian-American cuisine, and that’s exactly what we got at Carmelina’s. Everything we ate was excellent — the garlicky and spicy shrimp, the frutti di mare, the calamari and mussels alla puttanesca. It was Naples, Italy, meets Cranston, Rhode Island (erring on the side of Cranston) with a list of excellent (and cheaply priced) wine. We drank a bottle of biodynamic red from Umbria and ate as much pasta and seafood as our mid-thirty-something bellies could take. 10/10, would birthday there again. —Terrence B. Doyle
Omakase at Cafe Sushi
1105 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge
Cafe Sushi has been around for decades and enjoyed a bit of time as one of the most under-the-radar industry favorites, but it really hasn’t been a secret in years: It’s one of the most reliably outstanding sushi spots in town, with prices that stay comfortably below O Ya levels but quality that’ll more than satisfy the most discerning sushi lovers.
My husband and I last ate there about two and a half years ago, our first night out after our wedding weekend. We kept it simple and ordered a la carte, and it was the best way to celebrate a quiet evening together after the most hectic weekend of our lives. Three years before that, we celebrated an anniversary with the omakase.
We’ve been eager to revisit Cafe Sushi and leave our fate in chef Seizi Imura’s hands for another round of omakase, and we finally did that this week. It was even better than I had remembered; I especially fell for the way wasabi and citrus played together in several items, such as the madai with wasabi oil, salt, and blood orange kosho and the shima aji with wasabi oil, mint, and orange.
The thing I love most about Cafe Sushi is that it’s not some solemn, stuffy temple of fine dining: It’s noisy. There’s neon signage. The napkins are paper and the chopsticks are disposable. Sure, you can drop some serious cash on some serious sushi and sake, but you’re going to have fun while doing so. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
January 10, 2020: Pho, cavatelli, and more
Chinatown is my favorite (and the city’s best) neighborhood to eat in. In fact, there are so many excellent options that making a dining decision can feel overwhelming. I usually opt for dumplings and Taiwan-style eggplant at Dumpling Cafe, but when I found myself in Chinatown for lunch (twice) this past week, I mixed things up, first with some pho from Pho Pasteur, and then with some pan-fried rice noodles and lamb from Ruckus. The pho, which I had served with shaved steak, was rich and nourishing (exactly what I needed on a raw winter afternoon); the pan-fried rice noodles with lamb were sweet and bright and accented by a deep umami flavor. I hadn’t been to Pho Pasteur in years, but I’m excited to go back. I’m equally excited to go back to Ruckus — and to eat whatever else owner Brian Moy is planning in Chinatown. —Terrence B. Doyle
Cavatelli with slow cooked broccoli and chicken sausage, tomato, fennel pollen, and parmesan at Coppa
253 Shawmut Ave., South End, Boston
Coppa is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, so I sat down with chef-owners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette this week for a retrospective story (stay tuned for that, coming soon.) Since I was already in the neighborhood, and it was a cold day that begged for a comforting bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, I returned for dinner. When we had spoken earlier in the day, both chefs pinpointed the cavatelli dish as one of their favorites over the years, and I’m so glad they did, because I don’t think it’s the one I would have ordered. (The mandilli with oxtail sugo, tagliatelle with pork sugo, or squid ink bucatini with ‘nduja called to me more, description-wise.)
They spoke so highly of the cavatelli, though, that I had to know what was special about it. No surprise, they were right. It’s the type of pasta dish you look at and say, “Ok. This is obviously going to be satisfying and enjoyable. Let’s dig in.” But then you take a bite and it’s somehow more than that. The texture, the sauce — perfect all around. And hey, broccoli haters, you can’t even tell it’s in there; it just lends itself to this rich, umami-packed sauce. Give it a try. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
January 3, 2020: Hot chicken and bagels
Chengdu dry hot chicken at Blossom Bar
295 Washington St., Brookline Village
For me, New Year’s Eve means devouring plates of takeout (usually Chinese, and usually Sichuan), drinking too many beers, and then lounging on my couch or some other comfortable couch with a few of my favorite people. There is no dropping $250 for the right to stand around in a crowded bar surrounded by drunk strangers; there is no dealing with Boston’s shoddy and unreliable public transportation in the bitter cold of a new year; there is no going out on amateur night.
This year, my fiancée and I ordered several of our favorite dishes from Blossom Bar in Brookline. String beans, dan dan noodles, and eggplant always hit the mark, but it’s the Chengdu dry hot chicken that is compulsory. It is lightly battered and fried and has a crispy exterior. It is adorned by capsicum, garlic, ginger, sun-dried chiles, and Sichuan peppercorn and is best served over a scoop of white rice and accompanied by a very cold lager. It’s some of the best chicken in Greater Boston. —Terrence B. Doyle
Bagels at Goldilox Bagels
186 Winthrop St., Medford
Boston’s bagel scene is...somewhat lacking. There are great bagels to be found, for sure; I’ve always been a Bagelsaurus fan, and there are a few other options here and there that do the trick. But overall, bagels are not really one of Boston’s highlights, so it’s extra exciting when a newcomer enters the scene and crushes it.
Back in summer 2018, we published a short news story about a forthcoming bagel shop called Goldilox, slated to open in Medford; I was intrigued. (Also: The lox pun in the name went over my head for many months. I am ashamed.) Through sort of random, non-Eater-related connections, I got my hands on a number of test bagels in the months that followed and fell for them, hard. The shop finally opened in September 2019, and the bagels live up to — or exceed — those early ones I tasted. Long lines of Medford residents agree.
I managed to sneak in around the holidays at a time when there was virtually no line — and even seating available — but even if there had been a line, I think these bagels are worth the wait. The rosemary and salt bagels are the play (unless you want the sweet and cinnamon-y “bear butter” or the cinnamon sugar cream cheese as a topping, in which case I’d recommend going with sesame or cinnamon raisin). Accompany your bagel with a chai from Boston Chai Party. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal