Welcome to The Best Things the Eater Boston Team Ate This Week, spring 2021 edition. On some Fridays, we share a restaurant dish or two that really hit the spot in the past week.
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June 17: Ramen and a “surprise bag” packed with steak, shumai, and more
Ramen from Zuru Zuru Ramen and Donburi; a whole bunch of stuff from Fishy Fish Market
Zuru Zuru, 74 Pleasant St., Malden; Fishy Fish Market, delivery around the Greater Boston area
Feeling nostalgic today: Facebook is telling me that I started full-time at Eater Boston eight years ago today after about a year of freelancing for the site. I think my very first story during my freelance run was an opening report on Amsterdam Falafelshop in Davis Square (RIP), but I can’t remember how I kicked things off once I became editor in 2013. Thanks for coming along with me on this ride, however long you’ve been an Eater reader, and I’ve really been enjoying getting to know many of you by your emails, posts in our Facebook group, etc. Big thanks to all the talented chefs, industry folks, small business owners, and all the others who have entrusted me to share your stories over the years, and big thanks also to all the associate editors, reporters, interns, and freelance writers and photographers who have contributed to the site. Here’s to the next however many years.
Anyway, on to this week’s food. Throughout most of the pandemic, I’ve avoided getting ramen as I figured it’s not one of the most ideal delivery/takeout options, but it turns out a lot of ramen spots have gotten good at optimizing it as much as possible for not being eaten immediately onsite. I got delivery from the recently opened Zuru Zuru in Malden (sibling to Crying Thaiger, also in Malden), and it arrived with the broth and nori packaged separately from the noodles and other ingredients, with clear reheating instructions. (There was also the option to get noodles to boil at home rather than ready to eat, but I took the easy way out, and the noodles were perfectly fine.) I got the spicy miso ramen with black garlic oil added to it, and it was an excellent pick-me-up on a stressful day. I’d go up to the next spicy level next time — Zuru Zuru offers four levels of spiciness, and I picked the second one, which had a pleasant tingle, but I want some more fire next time. Have you gone up to the highest level, Hell Spicy? I’d love to hear how it is.
The other business I want to highlight today is Fishy Fish Market; it’s a delivery service from Tim Maslow (Strip-T’s, Ribelle, Whaling in Oklahoma) and friends that includes tons of fresh seafood options, as well as an ever-changing array of prepared foods, with a focus on local ingredients. There’s no weekly commitment or anything; just sign up for the newsletters on the website and place an order by Tuesday for Friday delivery any week that you’d like. This past week, I ordered some fish as well as the $79 “surprise bag,” which was described as dinner for two, plus leftovers — chef’s choice of six to eight items and an off-menu treat. It was so much food; combined with the pound of monkfish we ordered, we got a couple full meals for two and a bunch of snacks out of it. (Tip: Spread Fishy Fish’s smoked bluefish pate on a Goldilox bagel.) Pork shumai, scallion pancakes, smoked tri-tip steak, Caesar salad, and lots more — all great. Sign up for that mailing list and place an order; you’ll love it. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
June 11: Baked Alaska and Cobb salad
Cobb salad and garlic fries at Branch Line
321 Arsenal St., Watertown
We’re going to a wedding in Asheville, North Carolina, next weekend, and I needed some normie clothes (mandated by the bride and groom; I’m not normally one for normie clothes) for the rehearsal dinner, so we found ourselves at the GAP outlet store in Watertown last weekend. After finding an acceptable pair of khaki shorts and the plainest polo shirt in the history of plain polo shirts, we made our way over to Branch Line for a late lunch. We sat indoors for the first time in 16 months, and it felt simultaneously momentous and ordinary and scary and fine. (If you feel comfortable returning to restaurants, get comfortable with tipping at least 25 percent. Also, don’t be a dink. No one likes a dink.) We started with some warm olives and garlic fries, which were crispy and salty and aromatic in a way we were not aware fries could be, and we drank lagers from Vermont brewery Zero Gravity. After inhaling the fries, we split the Cobb salad, which comes topped with tender, juicy chunks of Branch Line’s famous rotisserie chicken. It was an unbelievable lunch, and an excellent reintroduction to eating indoors. —Terrence Doyle
Baked Alaska and topik at Oleana
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge
For my second patio outing (see Celeste below for my first), I went to the ultra-romantic, magical, perfect patio at Oleana with my husband to celebrate our anniversary. (The restaurant is taking reservations two weeks in advance, so plan ahead and book as soon as your desired date becomes available — these reservations go fast.) I hadn’t been in quite some time, but the patio was just as lovely as I remembered, if not more so. The food was incredible, but I feel like I was only half focused on it as I was spending so much time staring at people and faces and plants. It still feels weird being out in the world in a semi-normal manner again!
We got the iconic baked Alaska, because how could we not, and of course it was excellent, but the surprising standout was the topik, one of the cold meze selections: stuffed potato hummus with spring onions, pine nuts, currants, tahini, and arugula. I wasn’t planning to order it because I’m frankly not much of a hummus fan, but the server spoke highly of it, so we gave it a try. I’m so glad we did — it was a smooth pillow of hummus packed with a variety of contrasting flavors, and the thinly sliced radish on the side was an added bonus. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
June 4: Kaisen don and pizza
Pizza from Venice Pizza
39 Savin Hill Ave., Dorchester, Boston
We tried a pepperoni pie from the reboot of Venice Pizza in Savin Hill this week, and let me tell you: It was excellent. The pizzas at Venice are pin-rolled, so they are almost uniformly flat from edge to edge, though the outer crust was bubbly and blistered in spots. As such, I’m tempted to classify Venice’s pizza as a New York/New Haven hybrid. The dough was rich and somewhat sweet — which probably has something to do with the fact that it is made with milk, and ferments for 48 hours — the cheese perfectly melty and salty, and the mini pepperonis curled up into cups and crispy at the edges. Which is all to say that it is decidedly different from the pizza co-owner Todd Winer is making at Pastoral, his Fort Point joint known for its wood-fired Neapolitan pies. And that’s totally fine. I haven’t been as excited about a new Boston pizzeria in many years. —Terrence Doyle
Kaisen don from Tora Japanese Restaurant
20B Tyler St., Chinatown, Boston
I’m finally getting a bit more settled into my new place and not ordering takeout or delivery every night, but there was some, of course! I was surprised to see one of my Chinatown favorites, Tora Japanese Restaurant, pop up on one of the delivery apps since I’m fairly far away, in terms of a typical delivery radius. But it was another hot night, and my I’m-too-sweaty-to-think go-to tends to be sushi or poke or whatever other raw fish dish I can get my hands on.
Tora specializes in kaisen don, essentially a selection of raw fish over rice. I ordered the Tokyo don — torched salmon belly, scallop, squid, and flying fish roe — and added salmon, because I can never get enough salmon. With a side of the goma cucumber (sliced cucumber in a toasted sesame dressing), it was the perfect meal for a hot almost-summer night. —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
May 28: Lots of Medford and Malden takeout
Everything from Neighborhood Kitchen; beef nehari and more from Zam Zam Restaurant; steak tips from Dom’s Sausage
Neighborhood Kitchen, 84 Spring St., Medford; Zam Zam Restaurant, 42 Riverside Ave., Medford; Dom’s Sausage, 10 Riverside Park, Malden
Another week, another obscene amount of takeout as we completed the final stages of our move and barely felt like cooking most nights. As usual, there were too many good meals to pick just one highlight, including some repeats of past favorites, so here’s the quick rundown on a few that were new to me:
- Neighborhood Kitchen: I got a lot of recommendations for this one — especially the chicken and waffles — and it’s thankfully an easy walk, because we’re going to be ordering from here all the time. How else are we supposed to try all the chicken and waffle combinations? I actually didn’t order the chicken and waffles this first time because it was lunchtime on a 90-degree day and I felt like something lighter. (Enter the salmon rolls and the plantains, pictured above. A great choice for lunch!) But my friends ordered chicken and waffles, mac and cheese, and fried chicken sandwiches and were kind enough to let me taste everything. I’m not sure when we’re updating our fried chicken map next, but this place is absolutely getting added to it! (Same goes for the mac and cheese.)
- Zam Zam Restaurant: Super solid Pakistani and Indian restaurant in Medford Square. We loved the beef nehari, lamb biryani, and til wala naan. This one’s also going in the regular rotation.
- Dom’s Sausage: I did actually cook one night! Turns out my new kitchen has a very sensitive smoke detector. Next time I get Dom’s steak tips — which were a big hit with the whole household — I’ll grill them outside instead of on a stovetop grill pan. Can’t wait to try the steak tip sub here; I’ve heard it’s a must-try. Since I was able to get the tips to come out great while juggling a stovetop full of meat and 15 minutes of a smoke detector shouting at me to evacuate, I can only imagine they’re even better when the pros grill them up.
—Rachel Leah Blumenthal
May 21: Peruvian on a patio and way too much takeout
After fourteen months, I finally ate a restaurant again (on the patio — not planning on going indoors for a while longer). I don’t expect I’ll be going to a ton of patios just yet; while I’m fully vaccinated, I still want to minimize my time around unmasked strangers, respect industry workers who haven’t had the opportunity to get fully vaccinated yet, etc., but I’m slowly venturing out to patios that feel sufficiently distanced and isolated from foot traffic. I reserved a spot on the intimate side patio at Peruvian gem Celeste, one of my favorite neighborhood spots. It felt appropriate for the confluence of events: We were celebrating my husband’s birthday, celebrating going out to a restaurant for the first time in so long, and saying goodbye to Somerville’s Union Square, which we’re leaving for Medford after the better part of a decade. It was also one of the first times we’ve gone anywhere without the baby, so walking down the street rather than driving across the city felt manageable. Baby steps.
As always, the food was flawless — particularly the ceviche (we loved the shrimp and mango version) and the lomo saltado — and the patio was lovely. And the drinks, too, hit the spot: You must try a spicy maracuya sour.
I’ve also continued to do way too much takeout and delivery in the past week; since we’re mid-move, everything’s a little crazy, and while I’m eager to get my new (bigger!) kitchen set up and start cooking, I’m also exhausted — and eager to sample all the restaurants in my new area.
We’re over on the eastern side of Medford, close to Malden, so there’s a lot I’m excited to eat over here. One of my favorite meals of the week was actually a frantic last-minute order. Given pandemic hours and such, it seems that a lot of places shut down early on Sundays (if open at all), so around 8:27 p.m. on Sunday night after a stressful day of moving, I was scanning the delivery apps for the first thing that was open and looked good. I landed on Saigon NV, which was entirely new to me, and since ordering closed in three minutes, I quickly picked the bún đặc biệt, basically a feast over vermicelli: grilled shrimp, grilled pork, egg roll, and deep-fried shrimp paste wrapped in bean curd skin, served with lettuce, basil, bean sprouts, and peanuts, with fish sauce. I absolutely loved it, and now I think I’m on a mission to try every bún đặc biệt in the city. (Which should I try next?) —Rachel Leah Blumenthal
May 7: So much raw seafood
I’ve been back from maternity leave a couple weeks now, getting back into the swing of things, and I figure it’s time to revive our weekly-ish roundup of the best things we ate. Since it’s been so many weeks since my last installment — in which I detailed the many foods I avoided during pregnancy that I couldn’t wait to eat again — I’m going to give shout-outs to a number of the best things I’ve eaten in these past four months, not just the past week, because what is time anymore? Also, I ate a lot of takeout and delivery during this time period. A lot.
I have managed to cover most of that list of foods I couldn’t wait to eat, from the torched salmon belly at Ebi Sushi (currently closed for renovations — counting down the days until it reopens) to the ceviche at Celeste (did you see the news about their upcoming new project in Cambridge?) to poke from Manoa. In fact, I’ve probably eaten my weight in raw seafood several times over.
I’ve also had a roast beef sandwich or five from Hot Box — and beef on weck from All Star Sandwich Bar — and quite a few to-go cocktails from some of my favorite neighborhood spots, like Casa B, Barra, and Backbar.
The past four months haven’t been all about raw fish and rare meat and booze, though. Other highlights include:
- More meatball subs than I care to admit from the best of the best, P & K Deli in Somerville
- A few great meals from the Cambridge location of Uyghur restaurant Silk Road; I’m particularly fond of the lamb-stuffed naan and the big plate chicken
- A really fantastic meal kit from the pop-up Mimi’s Chūka Diner; it included karaage chicken and gyoza that I managed to only slightly burn
- Pizza from the new location of Stoked in Cambridge (get the pepperoni with Mike’s Hot Honey)
- The legendary Pennypacker’s porchetta sandwich
- So many portions of the Isan from Hen Chicken Rice (crispy chicken with sticky rice) — this has been one of my pandemic takeout MVPs
- Various types of dumplings — and a particularly good mapo tofu — from the recently opened Dumpling Xuan in East Cambridge
Have a healthy and wonderful weekend, folks. I look forward to chatting with you in the aforementioned Facebook group — please feel free to come join us if you aren’t already a member!
—Rachel Leah Blumenthal