Wednesday, December 21, 2016
2016: Top Ten Favorite Restaurant Dishes
Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2016. I have already posted three Top Ten Wine lists and My Favorite Wine-Related Items. Now I want to move toward food, and showcase my Favorite Restaurant Dishes of the past year.
This list includes ten dishes which I not only enjoyed immensely, but which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious or something more unique, but all stand out for some particular reason, above the other dishes I have tasted this past year. These are the type of dishes I would order again and again, and which I would highly recommend.
This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable dishes I have experienced and/or posted about over the past year. It is also a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. But all of the items here have earned my strong recommendations and I hope you will enjoy them as well. This list is in alphabetical order, by name of the restaurant, and isn't in any order of preference. For more of my favorite restaurant dishes, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.
Campanelle with Chorizo Bolognese at Ciao! Pizza & Pasta (Chelsea)
For the second year in a row, this dish has made this list, because it is so absolutely compelling. It is hearty and delicious, with plenty of creaminess in the sauce, lots of spicy meat, and crunchy bits of chorizo. The house-made campanelle pasta is always cooked perfectly and is an excellent vehicle for the bolognese. Whenever I dine at Ciao, I almost always order this dish and it is consistently excellent. I should also note that everything at Ciao, from their other pasta dishes to their pizzas are also consistently excellent and any of those items could easily be on this list too.
Tonkotsu Ramen from OISA Ramen (Boston)
OISA Ramen does pop-ups at various locations and you need to check out one of their upcoming events. Chef Moe Kuroki makes a stellar bowl of Ramen. The plentiful pork belly melts in your mouth, like pork fat butter, and easily falls apart against the edge of a spoon. The broth is savory and complex, with an intense umami element, a salty edge and some heat from a peppery topping. The flavors are deep and balanced and it wasn't too salty in the least. It is like a bowl of liquid pig. The thin noodles have a nice bite to them, a good textural element. I could easily devour a second bowl of this compelling ramen, especially accompanied with an umami-rich Sake, like a Kimoto/Yamahai.
Lamb Carpaccio at Bistro du Midi (Boston)
Bistro du Midi is worthy of more attention that it receives and I've enjoyed a number of excellent meals there. The superb Lamb Carpaccio came with a cured egg yolk, castelvetrano olive, and rice crisps. The thinly sliced venison was silky smooth, with a nice, meaty flavor, and only a hint of a gamey taste (which was a nice addition). This is another dish which I could have enjoyed multiple dishes, chowing down all of that luscious lamb.
Hand Rolled Seaweed Pasta at Tasting Counter (Somerville)
At Tasting Counter, every dish is a work of art, carefully crafted, well-balanced, and delicious. Chef Peter Ungár is one of the top chefs in the Boston area and if you haven't dined here yet, you need to get here as soon as possible. This intriguing pasta dish was made with hen of the woods, sea urchin custard, anchovy, and bonito. It is a taste of the sea, full of umami and briny goodness, with a pleasing earthy element. Any of Chef Ungár's dishes could also end up on this list and I can't recommend Tasting Counter enough.
Neapolitan Wood-Fired Meatball Pizza at Posto (Somerville)
Posto has long produced some of the best pizza in the Boston area and on my last visit, I opted for the Meatball pizza, with beef, pork & veal, topped by mozzarella, oregano and garlic. It is a hearty-sized pizza, loaded with toppings including ample, thin slices of garlic. The thin, slightly charred crust is delicious, both soft and crisp, and the meatballs are moist and flavorful. And I love all of the garlic atop the pizza. With the chillier temperatures of the season, this is a perfect comfort food, filling your belly and warming your soul.
Lobster Risotto at Ostra (Boston)
During my first visit to Ostra, at a wine lunch, I was entranced with the Lobster Risotto, with heirloom squash puree, which was filled with lots of sweet lobster meat. The rice was cooked perfectly, just that right consistency, and the broth was delicious and flavorful. One of the best Risottos I've had in some time. I need to return to Ostra very soon.
Crab Grilled Cheese at Luke's Lobster (Boston)
Seafood and cheese is a divisive issue in the food world but I think the combination can work with the right ingredients. This Crab Grilled Cheese, with plenty of sweet Crab meat, melted Gruyere cheese, and organic white bread was an excellent comfort food. The thin slices of buttery bread were grilled and crispy while the Gruyere added some creaminess and a nutty touch to the sandwich. The texture of the crab meat worked well, and overall it was tasty and satisfying.
First House Pub (Winchester)
Though I haven't yet written my review of First House Pub, they are deserving of a shout-out for this dish. You receive a mound of crisp tater tots, smothered in melted cheese and bacon pieces. The cheese has been layered throughout the dish so almost all of the tater tots are covered. Too many dishes only place cheese atop the dish, leaving much of their dish cheeseless. That isn't the case here. This is top-notch comfort food as well as a nice accompaniment to an evening of drinking.
In a cast iron skillet, this S'Mores dish was delicious and decadent, a fine blend of melted marshmallows and chocolate, with plenty of graham crackers you could smear with the melted contents. It helped too that we enjoyed it outside, on a slightly chilly evening, with heaters going on the outside patio of the ArtBar.
Devil’s Food Chocolate Sea Salted Caramel Donut at Kane's Donuts (Saugus)
What a fantastic donut! This is a cake donut, with a firm texture and a tasty dark chocolate flavor. This donut also has a creamy frosting with a bright caramel flavor, enhanced by the crunchy salt sprinkled atop the donut. I love the combination of sweet and salty, especially with chocolate, and this donut succeeds well in presenting a hedonistic pleasure. Kane's makes plenty of excellent donuts and this is one of their best creations.
What were some of your favorite restaurant dishes of the past year?