Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: Favorite Restaurants

What were some of my favorite restaurants of the past year?

Last week, I provided a General Summary for 2010 and now I want to touch on some more specific items, including my favorites in numerous categories. This post will concentrate on my Favorite Restaurants of the past year while future posts will discuss my other food, wine, sake, and spirit favorites.  This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable matters I have experienced and posted about over the past year.  All of the items here get my strongest recommendation.

Favorite Brunch, Traditional Fare: For more traditional brunch items, albeit with a French flair, then you must make the trek to AKA Bistro in Lincoln.  Homemade croissants, hearty omelettes, quiche, Croque Monsieur sandwiches and much more. Consistent quality, excellent service, and absolutely delicious food. This has been an excellent addition to the suburbs.

Brunch, Traditional Fare-Honorable Mention: Who doesn't love chicken and waffles? Tupelo, in Inman Square, began serving brunch this year and is doing very well.  My personal favorite is their fried chicken (such a cripsy and flavorful coating with moist meat) and Belgian waffles, but I always get a side of the Fried Grits too.  In addition, Tupelo is inexpensive, making this a great casual choice. 

Favorite Brunch, Non-Traditional Fare: For the second year in a row, this category is won by Myers & Chang in the South End. Their non-traditional, Dim Sum weekend brunch consists of many creative and tasty Asian small plates, for only $3-$6 each. There is something for everyone, and you won't go away hungry or unhappy.  You can even sit at the counter and watch them cook.

Favorite Donuts: The chain donut stores just cannot compete with some of the small, independent donut shops out there.  And my big find this year was Donut City in Lynn, a new shop with a wide selection of fresh, delicious donuts and baked goods. If they were any closer to me, I would be buying their donuts every day.  This tiny spot puts to shame places like Dunkin' Donuts and Honeydew Donuts.

Favorite Japanese Restaurant: Though it is pricey, you get your money's worth at Oishii in the South End. From fresh sushi (in a wide variety of choices) to creative maki, from delicate tempura to innovative entrees, you will be very satisfied with the selections.  Their sweet potato tempura is superb, as well as the largest I have ever seen!  Plus, they have a lengthy and interesting sake menu. Go to Oishii and splurge.

Favorite Chinatown Restaurant: Xiaolongbao aka Soup dumplings. Such a simple but compelling dish, pork dumplings with a savory broth that bursts into your mouth when you bite into the dumpling. One of the best versions can be found at the Gourmet Dumpling House, and as it is often busy, the secret is out.  But you must journey there for this addictive dish.  And at only $6.50 for 8 soup dumplings, they are a great value too.

Favorite Asian Buffet: Another winner for the second year in a row, the Taipei Tokyo Cafe in Woburn offers a Japanese/Chinese lunch buffet for about $10 which cannot be beat.  You'll find everything from sushi to dumplings, fried rice to scallion pancakes. They bring out small portions of each dish, which helps ensure the food stays fresh, and they continue to restock the dishes when they empty. As it remains under the radar, it is never overly crowded like some other Asian lunch buffets.  Plus, it is BYOB and they don't charge a corkage fee.

Favorite Suburban Restaurant: For the third year in a row, Bistro 5, in Medford, is my favorite suburban place. Chef Vittorio creates intriguing cuisine, with the freshest of ingredients, and the restaurant has an intriguing wine list. I always have an excellent dinner there and it gets my highest recommendation.  You don't expect a restaurant of this quality in its location, but it is well worth the short trip.

Favorite New Suburban Restaurant: I previously mentioned that AKA Bistro has one of my favorite brunches, but the rest of their food is top notch too.  Go for lunch or dinner, and find both fine French and Sashimi dishes. You must try their homemade Miso soup, and their Mussels are exceptional.  I have yet to eat anything I disliked, and they get my highest recommendation too.

Favorite North End Restaurant, High End: If you want to celebrate, then you must make reservations at Prezza, which has some of the best Italian food in the North End.  The food is hearty, extremely tasty, and very well made. I have greatly savored all of the meals I have had their this year, and look forward to many more in the future.  They also have a lengthy and interesting wine list, heavy on the Italian wines.  Plus, though their regular menu is pricey (yet well worth it), they run numerous inexpensive specials, making it affordable for almost  anyone.  Another restaurant with my highest recommendation.  

Favorite North End Restaurant, Moderate: There are plenty of options in the North End, so where should you dine? The best choices are usually off the usual tourist paths, and one such gem is Nebo, run by two sisters.  They use the best of ingredients, and serve a delicious menu of Italian specialties, including exceptional pizza. This is a place for an intimate date, or to take the entire family for a weekend feast.  Plus, they have an extensive gluten-free menu.

Favorite North End Restaurant, Fusion:  Fusion is sometimes considered a bad word, but if done well, it can excel. Chef Jose Duarte of Taranta knows the secret, having created a superb fusion of Italian and Peruvian cuisine, not two that you would normally consider working well together. Taranta's dishes seamlessly meld these two cuisines, creating wonderfully flavorful entrees. This is a innovative restaurant not to miss.  

Favorite Italian Restaurant Outside the North End: With Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette behind it, you just knew Coppa had lots of potential.  And it livesg up to that potential, providing some incredible, and very affordable, Italian food. All of the food costs $15 or less, and the menu changes frequently, depending on what is seasonal and available. You'll find some excellent snout to tail cooking here, and other intriguing items like their blood sausage pepperoni.  It is a small, intimate spot and has enhanced the already exciting culinary scene in the South End.

Favorite Italian Restaurant, Somerville: Boston is not the only place to get excellent Italian food. Pizzeria Posto, just off Davis Square, is getting better and better all the time.  With an top notch brunch, delicious pizzas and killer pasta, there is much to enjoy. Plus, it is reasonably priced, making it an even more compelling destination.  The menu changes seasonally and I have to emphasize again the superb quality of their pasta dishes. This is a restaurant that is going places.  

Favorite Suburban Steak House: Though I need to write an updated post for it, I want to give kudos to the Beacon Grille in Woburn, a high-end steakhouse which also gives all of its profits to a charitable foundation.  Their food, both at lunch and dinner, is very good, equal to the quality found at other comparable steakhouses.  And their prices are less expensive than some of the other similar restaurants. If you are in the suburbs, you definitely should check it out.

Favorite Unique Ethnic Restaurant: Nestled in a small shopping complex in Malden, you'll find Habesha, an Ethopian restaurant.  This was my first experience with Ethiopian food, and it was intriguing and delicious. Try the Minchet Aresh, made from ground beef with garlic and a berbere sauce, berbere being a mix of powdered chile pepper and spices. You don't use utensils, rather eating with injera, a type of sourdough flatbread made out of fermented teff flour. Give Habesha a try.

Favorite Fried Seafood: The North Shore has plenty of good fried seafood places, but the Clam Box in Ipswich earns my kudos.  The plates are plentiful, and the fried seafood is light and clean, without any gritty taste. Clams, scallops, lobster, shrimp, and so much more. It is a very popular place so get there early unless you don't mind waiting.  

Favorite Underappreciated Restaurant: Some excellent restaurants just don't seem to get sufficient credit or publicity. Though their high quality might be acknowledged, the restaurant name doesn't seem to come up often enough in restaurant discussions.  One such place is T.W. Food in Cambridge, an intimate spot with superb food and an excellent wine list. I have enjoyed a few top notch dinners there this year, including a recent Jura wines dinner. Yes, it is located a bit off the beaten path but it is well worth the trek.  You won't be disappointed in the least.

Favorite Desserterie: This was once again an easy choice and for the third year in a row, the award goes to Le Patissierlocated in the Troquet Restaurant in Boston. Pastry Chef Sarah Woodfine is extremelty, and her souffles especially pleased me.  Unfortunately, Sarah has left Le Patissier, moving out of state, so you can no longer find her culinary delights in Boston.  If you never had her desserts, you really missed out.

Favorite Pizza: This was a tough category as I enjoyed plenty of tasty pizzas this year, at places like Pizzeria Posto and Nebo.  But the winner was Coppa with their Blue Ribbon Pizza: mozzarella, tomato, braised oxtail, bone marrow, horseradish and the addition of blood sausage pepperoni.  A unique, savory taste, it stood out amidst plenty of other competing pizzas.

Favorite Comfort Food: Though I have not stopped by their storefront yet, I have tasted and enjoyed K.O. Catering and Pies' Aussie meat pie. The ground meat within the flaky crust is spiced well, and makes for fine comfort food. I do intend to make it to their store soon, and definitely want another meat pie, as well as to try some of their other Aussie foods. 

Favorite Chicken Dish: If you dine out, roast chicken is probably not your first choice for an entree. It just often doesn't seem special enough, and many of the roast chicken dishes you find fit that description.  But, Espalier has a Roasted Apple Street Farm Chicken dish which blew me away.  The chicken was cooked perfectly, incredibly moist with a delicious, crispy skin. It was better than almost any roast chicken dish I have had at home or elsewhere, and I would certainly order it again and again.

Favorite French Fries: Most sweet potato fries are just not appealing. They are often too limp and unsatisfying.  But, Clink, at the Liberty Hotel, has perfected their sweet potato fries, which are perfectly crisp on the outside, and fluffy and flavorful inside.  Very addictive, these should be the role model for all sweet potato fries.

Favorite Wine Dinner: This was another tough category, and in the end, I couldn't make a decision so there is a tie.  First, there was a phenomenal Sherry pairing dinner at Mooo, in their wine cellar. The food was superb, from butter poached lobster to some of the best scallops I have ever tasted.  Plus, the sherry pairings all worked very well.  The type of meal you savor in your memories for years to come. Second, there was the Vietti Wine Dinner at Prezza, with the wine maker Lucca Currado.  The food was phenomenal, such as the Rabbit Saltimboca and Goat Cheese Gnocchi.  And the Vietti wines were amazing, from the Arneis to the Barolo.  Most people are lucky if they have one such special dinner each year.  I was blessed to have two.

Favorite Non-Massachusetts Restaurants: I have taken several trips this year, both domestic and international, and one of those destinations had the hands down best food overall.  The winner is Spain!  Fresh seafood, tapas, gazpacho, angulas, and much, much more. This time, most of the food was paired with sherry, which did very well with the cuisine. If I had to recommend a single vacation destination, I would choose Spain.

What were some of your favorite restaurants this year?


Dale Cruse said...

Rich, this is a well thought out list & I'm personally pleased to note how many of these places I've dined at with you.

You mentioned a favorite new restaurant in the suburbs. Do you have a favorite new restaurant in the city to mention? There are certainly plenty of them & one that stands out in my mind is the Island Creek Oyster House. A varied menu & lots of seating are both notable to me.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks very much Dale. I have tried to limit my picks to those I reviewed. Thus, though I went to Island Creek once, I have not reviewed it yet, and still need to visit it again. They did have very good food, and I have continued to hear good things, so it sounds like a worthy choice. There are other new places I still need to get to, such as Bergamot and Journeyman.

Coppa said...

Thanks for the kind words! We're honored to be on your list in such good company. Happy New Year!