Welcome back to The Best Things the Eater Boston Team Ate This Week. This is a special edition covering the best things Eater Boston editor Rachel Leah Blumenthal ate during the past decade.
I’ll keep the nostalgia short so we can get right to the good stuff — the food — but today’s my final day at Eater Boston after nine years as editor and about a year of freelancing for the site before that. (Want my job? Apply now!) As such, I figured I’d briefly revive our occasional The Best Things the Eater Boston Team Ate This Week column for a special version highlighting a few of my favorite meals over the course of my time here.
First, a very quick trip down memory lane. I poked around some of Eater Boston’s 2012-2013 stories and maps to remember what was going on back when I started: a bar made of ice. A bit of a golden era of pop-ups, such as Whisk — the precursor to Jamaica Plain’s excellent Brassica. The closure of Upstairs on the Square, the most whimsically decorated Harvard Square icon. The debut of current standouts like Sarma, Giulia, and Sycamore.
The dining scene has certainly seen quite a few changes over the past decade (in particular, of course, over the past two and a half years). Food trucks were the big thing for a little while. Different neighborhoods took turns as the hottest new dining destination. One day in 2017, a server asked me if I had “experienced small-plate dining” — at a time when just about every restaurant was eschewing large plates. Through it all, Greater Boston has had a truly exciting food scene, and it’s been thrilling to eat my way through it.
Here are some of the most memorable things I’ve eaten at Boston-area restaurants in the past decade, listed in no particular order.
- Torched salmon belly at Ebi Sushi: Had it not been the middle of a global pandemic, necessitating tight hospital restrictions, this is what I would have had delivered to my hospital room after I gave birth. (Instead, it was the first thing I ate when we got home a few days later.) I will eat, and love, torched salmon belly at any restaurant that serves it, but something about Ebi’s version — a mainstay on its special menu — has always been the absolute winner for me. Made with a honey-lime marinade and topped with a dollop of chile oil and crunchy garlic, this little bit of torched fish lures me back to Ebi again and again.
- Everything at Uni: On the topic of sushi, a special-occasion blowout at Uni has been the highlight of my 2022 dining. The restaurant isn’t currently offering a traditional omakase, but diners can opt for a chef’s choice, family-style tasting menu that includes some of Uni’s cooked options as well as sushi. From start to finish, every dish of this meal was unbelievable; I wish I had the budget to end every special occasion with hot rock wagyu.
- Lumache at Pammy’s: It’s almost a shame that the lumache at Pammy’s — served with a gochujang-spiked Bolognese sauce — is so good, because it means I want to eat it every time I go, causing me to miss out on trying other dishes. The few other things I’ve managed to try are also excellent! But this dish is my go-to for both happy and sad occasions. It’s hearty, it’s a little spicy, it’s pure comfort food. I’ve started throwing gochujang into my pasta sauces at home, too, but it’s just not the same as spending time in this lovely Cambridge restaurant with top-notch hospitality.
- Ramen — and the marriage proposal that wasn’t — at Yume Wo Katare: This tiny Porter Square restaurant has been around long enough that you probably know the deal by now: It attracts long lines for its heaping bowls of pork-y, garlick-y ramen, but it’s really known for encouraging diners to stand up at the end of the meal and share their dreams and goals out loud. That’s if they finished their bowl, anyway. On one visit, I watched a young couple finish their bowls. The man got up to share his dreams and spoke at length of how wonderful things were going with his girlfriend; you could feel all the diners holding their breath, waiting for the appearance of a ring. “My dream is to spend the rest of my life with my incredible girlfriend,” he said. And sat down.
- Sourdough bread at La Saison: Sometimes you get a feeling about a place before you even eat there that it’s going to be special. Whether you can predict the taste from photos, or the owners’ backstory moves you, or some other factors, you just know. I felt that way heading to La Saison to interview the team and take photos for our opening feature on the bakery; after, arms full of bread and baked goods, I hurried to my husband’s workplace nearby to taste everything. One bite of the bread had us running around the place ripping off pieces for everyone to try. The textural balance was just right: crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. The flavor was on the subtle side for a sourdough: enough tanginess to assert itself as a true sourdough but mild enough to complement butter or jam or sandwich toppings. On another day, I walked five miles in the pouring rain to obtain a loaf.
- Ceviche, lomo saltado, and a maracuya sour at Celeste: I can still smell the lomo saltado sizzling in the pan as I shot photos for an opening feature before Celeste’s 2018 debut in Union Square. Meeting the team, experiencing the ambience, I knew this was going to be my type of place, and after it opened, my first meal — and second, and third, and 10th — confirmed that feeling. A lot of restaurants talk about being neighborhood spots; some achieve it. Celeste is the kind of neighborhood spot where you feel like you’ve been invited to a dinner party at your very hip neighbors’ house in their pristinely minimalist kitchen. The pisco is flowing, and the music will make you feel like dancing — but after you eat another helping of bright, acidic ceviche.
- Khao soi and sai ua at Dakzen: I try not to be that person who goes on vacation, comes back, and doesn’t shut up about the trip and somehow relates everything to it for years to come. I try, but I’ve failed miserably when it comes to my trip to Thailand a few years back. I probably eat Thai food more often than any other cuisine; I spent more time researching our Thai food map than probably any other map on this site. My husband and I decided to take the trip over a meal at Dakzen — a steaming bowl of spicy tom yum noodle soup, studded with fish balls and sweet barbecue pork — and we returned to Dakzen immediately upon coming home. The khao soi and sai ua are among the best around; one bite, and I’m back on the trip. I’m being the annoying person. I can’t help it. Go to Dakzen.
- Mussels and ice beer at the Publick House: I think I’m fudging the timeline a bit and my days living near and frequenting the Publick House were actually just a little before my time at Eater, but indulge me. During the Publick House era of my life, I was one of those inexperienced drinkers who would order the strongest beer on the menu because I thought that was the cool thing to do. Thus began my dangerous love of Aventinus Eisbock, a dessert-y 12% beast. Date night? Mussels in a beer-based broth with fries and the Eisbock. Friend in town? The same. One particular friend always had a way of convincing me to order a second Eisbock, thus making this my most memorable and also least memorable Boston meal over the years.
- Late-night slices, a Hoodsie, and an interesting beer at A4 Pizza: It’s been about seven years since the closure of A4 Pizza, the mini Somerville offshoot of Area Four, and I honestly still haven’t gotten over it. It opened in Union Square around the same time as when I moved to the neighborhood, and it was my spot. The wood-fired pizza was incredible, and if you stopped by late enough at night, there were half-priced slices. The staff was friendly, the dessert menu was just right (Hoodsie cups), and the beer list was always interesting. You can still get the fantastic pizza at Area Four in Cambridge, but the vibe at the Somerville spot was just perfect for a neighborhood hangout, and while Union Square keeps getting more and more great dining options, I’ll still mourn the loss of A4.
Thanks for reading all these years! I’m sure you’ll be in good hands with the next editor; might that be you? Here’s that job posting again. You can continue to keep up with Eater Boston on Facebook (page, group), Twitter, and Instagram, and sign up for the newsletter below. Reach out to the Eater Boston team via email here.