Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2017. I have already posted my Top Ten Wine lists, Favorite Wine-Related Items, Favorite Spirits, Sake, Cocktails & Drink-Related Items, & Top Ten Favorite Restaurant Dishes, and now I want to address my Favorite Restaurants of the past year as well as my Top 50 Restaurants.
This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable restaurants I've experienced and/or posted about over the past year. You will even find a few Favorites from outside Massachusetts as I traveled a little bit this past year.
This 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. For more Restaurant reviews, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.
Top Restaurant Experience: Sorry Boston, but this year the winner is located in New York City. My good friend, Adam Japko, introduced me to Torishin, a Yakitori paradise, where we sat at the chef's counter, watching the culinary magic happen in front of us. They specialize in chicken, though their other dishes, from Rosy Seabass to Kumomoto Beef, were excellent as well. They serve every part of the chicken, and each skewer was a marvel. I never expected to love chicken arteries like I did. They also have an excellent Sake and Shochu list, enhancing your dining experience. Service was superb and this restaurant earns my highest recommendation. The memories of this dinner will always remain with me.
Favorite Japanese Restaurant: My dining experience at Pabu, a Japanese restaurant located in Boston's Millennium Tower, was close to being one of my top restaurant experiences of the past year. The Omakase consisted of nine courses of Nigiri Sushi and Seafood, and each course was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious, with incredibly fresh seafood. Some of the best sushi I've tasted. Their Sake list is voluminous, with plenty of great choices, including numerous ones you won't find at other local restaurants. Excellent service, a beautiful interior, and a menu of plenty of diversity. I very much want to return to explore more of their menu as I'm sure I'll find much to delight me and tantalize my palate.
Favorite Runner-Up Japanese Restaurant: While exploring the growing culinary scene in Quincy with Kerry Byrne, I was thoroughly impressed by Fuji at West of Chestnut, a Japanese restaurant which is part of an Asian restaurant group with other locations in cities like Boston and Somerville. The cuisine was creative and delicious, aesthetically pleasing and fun. The Fried Whole Fish with Black Bean Sauce was a sublime dish. Though their Sake list is small, they have some excellent options. They even had a very cool private dining area, which has Boston its own kitchen for small groups. Quincy has plenty of interesting restaurants, and Fuji is definitely one of the highlights.
Favorite Portuguese Restaurant: Though I don't get down to Fall River much, I really need to return to Terra Nostra, a killer Portuguese restaurant to which the good people of LGL Imports introduced me. From Chouriço a Bombeiro (flaming chorizo), to Cow's Leg Stew, from Lapas Grelhadas (grilled limpets), to Roasted Rabbit, the food was compelling, much of it excellent, hearty comfort food. They also have an extensive list of Portuguese wines, so many good choices at affordable prices. And the experience was enhanced by all the fine people who dined with me.
Favorite New Spanish Restaurant: Open for less than two months, Matadora is a Spanish Tapas restaurant located in the Hilton Boston/Woburn hotel and it has made a strong initial impression. With compelling dishes like Basque Street Corn to Flaming Chorizo, the tapas choices are strong, delicious and ample for the concept. Their wine list has plenty of interesting Spanish wines, including some Sherry, and their cocktails are creative and tasty. The restaurant has a cool and comfortable look, with a huge metal bull sculpture as a centerpiece. I'm looking forward to my next visit to explore more of the menu.
Favorite New Fast Casual Restaurant: I'm a huge fan of Committee, the Greek restaurant in the Fan Pier area, so I was excited when I learned they would be opening Gre.co, a Greek fast casual place specializing in Gyros and Loukoumades. I wasn't disappointed a single bit. Everything is fresh, from the meats which marinate for 24 hours, to the grilled pitas. I love their Lamb Gyro, which is packed with delicious fillings, and their crisp, hand-cut fries are topped by Feta! And the Loukoumades, Greek donuts are an addictive dessert, hot, soft and available with a variety of toppings, from chocolate to nuts. When I'm on Newbury Street, it's hard not to stop here.
Favorite New Chinese Restaurant: Hunan cuisine is not easy to find in the Boston area but the new Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, in Kendall Square, offers a number of traditional Hunan dishes, as well as some of their own takes on other Chinese dishes. I was enamored with dishes such as the succulent Mala Duck, Jimmy's Crab Bao and their take on General Tso's Chicken. Their more traditional dishes are also excellent, from the Sumiao Shang Gan to Grandma's Pork. They also have a good cocktail program, including several Baijiu cocktails which are very difficult to find in the local area. Check them out for lunch or dinner.
Favorite New Indian Restaurant: The Maya Indian Grill is a welcome addition to Wakefield, providing fresh, from scratch Indian cuisine, including regional dishes from Kashmiri, Punjabi, Bengali, Malabar, Goan and Madras. Their Lamb Samosas may be the best I've ever tasted and I was impressed with the layers of flavors in dishes like their Lamb Vindaloo and Chicken Lagan. And they make excellent Indian breads, which to a bread lover like me is so appealing. They have a lunch buffet and even offer delivery.
Favorite New Seafood Restaurant: It was exciting when the Burlington location of Island Creek Oyster Bar opened, making it even easier for me to visit this superb seafood restaurant. The Burlington location is aesthetically appealing, with special rooms for private groups, and the food & drink are as delicious as the Boston location. Wine director Laura Staley has created a unique and diverse wine list which well complements the cuisine. All of their food, from the Raw Bar to their Tuna Melt, is delicious and service is always impeccable. Seafood is such a healthy food, and everyone needs to eat more, so you all should be dining here.
Runner-Up Favorite New Seafood Restaurant: Another new seafood restaurant, Mooncusser Fish House, is offering some compelling choices. Their wine list is compelling, diverse and interesting, with plenty of classic wines, from Bordeaux to Barolo, while also celebrating less common wines, from Spanish Txakoli to Greek Moschofilero. Their cuisine is also interesting and delicious, with a killer Seafood Chowder. The restaurant is actually divided into two parts, a more casual eatery downstairs and a high-end location upstairs. I need to get back to check out more of their menu.
Favorite Restaurant with a Chef Change: As I mentioned earlier, I'm a huge fan of Committee and they had a chef change this year, hiring a new Chef de Cuisine, Theo Tsilipanos. Chef Theo is a native of the Greek city of Lamia, and even owned a restaurant there for about eight years. He has brought his own culinary skills and knowledge to Committee, making some changes to their menu, but they have been positive, maintaining the same level of quality and innovation as the prior chef. Changing one's chef can be risky but Committee had a win with the addition of Chef Theo and it remains a favorite spot.
Runner-Up Favorite Restaurant with a Chef Change: Chopps American Bar & Grill, located at the Burlington Marriott Hotel, also hired a new Executive Chef, Steve Zimei. Chef Steve began his culinary career working for Chef Daniel Bruce and eventually worked in a number of other local restaurants before returning to work for Chef Bruce at Chopps. Their food remains at a high level of quality, without an iota of diminishment. Some changes have obviously come to the menu but the new dishes are creative and delicious. My admiration for this restaurant continues.
Favorite New Unique Cuisine Restaurant: It appears to be a one-of-a-kind restaurant in Massachusetts, the only one dedicated to Moldovan cuisine. The Moldova Restaurant in Newton offers tasty and comforting Moldovan cuisine and also Moldovan wines. Though the names of the dishes sound unfamiliar, like Plăcinte la Tigaie and Mititei Moldovenesti, the food itself will bring to mind Eastern European favorites. I was quite taken with their cuisine, even their amazing Chicken Soup, and it was well complemented by their wines. This unique restaurant is something you need to experience and I'm sure you'll be a convert after your meal.
Favorite Pizza/Pasta Restaurant: Once again Ciao! Pizza & Pasta makes my Favorites list. Though I haven't dined there are often as usual, my experiences have remained consistent. Great food, from their wood-fired pizzas to their house-made pasta dishes. Prices are very reasonable considering the quality and quantity of food you receive. The owners, Edson Coimbra and Chef Marvin Posada, are the nicest and most genuine of people. I've brought many people here and everyone who has accompanied me has loved the place. If you haven't dined here yet, you need to make a New Year's resolution to immediately remedy that.
Favorite New York Lunch Restaurant: When I travel to New York City, I nearly always find a way to have lunch at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, though I've actually never had dinner there. Their Rotisserie Duck is amazing, so tender and flavorful with a crispy chive pancake. However, the rest of their menu is also excellent, such as their scrumptious steamed buns. They also have an interesting wine list and I'm never disappointed when I dine here. Plus, after lunch, I can walk across the street to their Milk Bar for a sweet treat.
Favorite Chicago Restaurants: On a short, whirlwind visit to Chicago, Adam Japko and I packed in plenty of restaurant visits and my top three includes QXY Dumplings, Slurping Turtle, and Motomaro. QXY Dumplings, located in Chinatown, specializes in dumplings, with about 40 different types, and they are all basically soup dumplings. Delicious comfort food and you can even watch the kitchen staff making the dumplings. Slurping Turtle is a ramen spot, but their Duck Fat Fried Chicken is a decadent wonder. This is another comfort food spot, which also has a large selection of Japanese whiskey. Motomaro is a high-end Japanese spot with a large and diverse menu, each dish delicious and creative. Plus, they have a nice Sake list as well as plenty of intriguing cocktails. Chicago is definitely a great food city.
The Passionate Foodie's Top 50 Restaurants
In addition to the Favorites listed above, I've compiled a list of my own Top 50 Restaurants, those Massachusetts places where I'm sure to always have a delicious meal, whether a casual breakfast or a high-end French dinner. These are the places I seem to recommend the most to others, including some places where I dine on a regular basis. Many of these places have been listed on prior Favorite Lists, some for multiple years, and are all worthy of recognition and recommendation. There are also some new Favorites, places I only recently encountered but which I know I will be returning frequently. Please note that this is not a list of the "Best" Boston-area restaurants, but my own personal favorites. There are plenty of other excellent restaurants in the area and just because a place is not on my list doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it.
Bistro du Midi
Myers & Chang
Select Oyster Bar
Taberna de Haro
Chopps American Bar & Grill
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Craigie on Main
Puritan & Co.
Sumiao Hunan Kitchen
Ciao! Pizza & Pasta
Tasty On The Hill
Fuji at West of Chestnut
Iron Town Diner
The Painted Burro
Taste of Siam
Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe
What were some of your favorite restaurants this year?