Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014: Favorite Restaurants & My Top 50

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

Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2014. I have already posted my Top Ten Wine lists, my Favorite Wine Related Items Favorite Spirits and Drink Related Items. Now, I want to concentrate on my Favorite Restaurants of the past year.

This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable restaurants I have 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.

Top Restaurant Experience: Though I have had some excellent dining experiences in the Boston area this past year, my top dining experience this year took place in Connecticut at Miya's Sushi, a sustainable sushi restaurant. From the best Tatsu-age I may have eaten to a Maki roll with Crickets, the cuisine delighted and intrigued me. Their infused Sakes are interesting and tasty, and they also make cocktails with Sake and beer. Chef Bun Lai is personable and humble, charitable and intelligent, and has a true passion for healthy and sustainable food. In addition, you'll find this restaurant very affordable. Miya's Sushi garners my highest recommendation, and I can't wait to return there for another wonderful experience.

Favorite Restaurant Comeback: After being closed for a few months due to a massive flood, AKA Bistro reopened, and there was much rejoicing. Located in Lincoln, AKA Bistro is one of my favorite suburban restaurants, offering excellent French bistro fare and Japanese cuisine. They have new items on their menu, such as the delectable Spicy Steamed Clams In A Jar. During Restaurant Week, they offered their own dining special, which was an excellent value. I'm so glad they have reopened and strongly urge all my readers to dine there.

Favorite New Restaurant: Chef Michael Scelfo now has his own restaurant, Alden & Harlow, in Harvard Square,, and it has garnered many well-deserved raves. Using a small plates concept, Scelfo has exercised his creativity to produce one tasty and intriguing dish after another, from Sikil Pak to Chicken Fried Rabbit. There is something for everyone, from vegetarians to carnivores, and the menu changes frequently, so there is always something new to try. They also have an excellent drinks program, from delicious cocktails to an excellent and diverse wine list. Highly recommended, you must check out this restaurant.

Favorite New Brookline Restaurant: Innovative and delicious, the cuisine at Ribelle, in Brookline, was impressive. The Sweetbreads, Coppa, Sage Brown Butter and Celery Root was sublime, simply amazing from the first bite to the last. It is the type of dish I would want to order every time I dined at Ribelle because it was so fantastic. The pasta dishes, from the Mafalde to the Agnolotti del Plin also were excellent, and I would love to try their pasta tasting menu. The combination of ingredients, flavors and textures of each dish worked very well together. To me, all of the dishes signified a chef that knew what he was doing, a creative soul who could bring great taste to life in unique new ways. Their wine list is also impressive, with a diverse selection of many intriguing wines.

Favorite New Inman Square Restaurant: At Puritan & Co., even their simple bread rolls are addictive. Again, there is plenty of creativity in their cuisine, though much still seems familiar. The Pan Seared Striped Bass was cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of sear to add a crunchy texture to the exterior. The Scallop Tartare, in lettuce cups, was simply prepared but impressed with its fresh, clean flavors. It too possesses a well constructed wine list which should delight any wine lover.

Favorite Mexican Restaurant: With two restaurants in Massachusetts, in Burlington and Chestnut Hill, Besito is leading the way with higher-end, authentic Mexican cuisine, that still remains very affordable. You can start with one of their many a tequilas, maybe in a margarita, or try some mezcal, I've eaten here numerous times, tried many different dishes, and everything has pleased me, from their Ceviche to their Salmon Manchamanteles. With most items costing under $20, anyone can enjoy this cuisine. And make sure to save room for dessert, as they are decadent treats.

Favorite Union Square Restaurant: The owners of T.W. Food opened a second spot, Bronwyn Restaurant, and the quality remains as high as their first restaurant, though the cuisine is much different. Bronwyn serves more German and Eastern Europeean cuisine, from killer Spatzale to house-made Pierogi. Their drinks program is interesting, with a cool wine list and an extensive beer selection. I'm looking forward to my next time dining here.

Favorite Suburban Restaurant: The Boston area doesn't have a monopoly on excellent restaurants. The Blue Ox ,in Lynn, is a great neighborhood spot with a talented chef. You'll find of delectable comfort food, from fried pickles to chicken wings, but also more elevated cuisine like Duck Breast and Grilled Swordfish. Their cocktail program is excellent, using many local spirits, and the wine list will also please. With its reasonable prices, and fun atmosphere, this is suburban restaurant you need to seek out.

Favorite Western Massachusetts Restaurant: Though I rarely dined out in the western part of the state, I did so a few months ago on my return from New York. Mostly by luck, I stumbled upon Alpamayo, a Peruvian restaurant in Lee, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and offerings there. It certainly seems like an authentic Peruvian spot, and I even enjoyed cuy, aka guinea pig. It was a relatively small spot, but definitely worth checking out, as all of the dishes we enjoyed were tasty, and reasonably priced.

Favorite Japanese Restaurant, Las Vegas: Hands down, my dining experience at Abriya Raku was one of the best Japanese meals I have experienced anywhere, and not just in Las Vegas. From a lengthy and exciting Sake list, with extremely low price mark-ups, to its fresh sushi and diverse Robata selections, this restaurant impresses and amazes. I even enjoyed their home-made Tofu! For years, it wasn't a well-known destination, but its popularity has grown so now the media talks about it frequently. All of its raves are more than well deserved. It is a highly recommended restaurant if you visit Las Vegas.

Favorite Chinese Restaurant, Las Vegas:: With hand-pulled noodles and soup dumplings, the Beijing Noodle No.9 offers plenty of compelling cuisine, including one of the best Kung Pao dishes I have ever tasted. It has a lengthy menu, with something to please all tastes, and you can even watch them pulling noodles in the front window. It is a bit pricey but the quality of their fare is high so you can understand the prices, especially for a restaurant within a casino. 

Favorite High-End Restaurant, Las Vegas:In Vegas, you have many options for high-end dining, though not all will necessarily please you. At Sage, in the Aria Hotel, I think you'll thoroughly enjoy your dining experience. Excellent service, cuisine, and wine, all combine to create a perfect evening. Two of the wines from this dinner ended up on my Top Ten lists this year. From the Roasted Veal Sweetbreads to the Bacon-Wrapped Iberico Pork Loin, the food thrilled my palate. It helped to be dining with some great friends, but even without them, the meal would still be rave worthy.

Most Anticipated Restaurant Opening: Chef Peter Ungár is a highly skilled chef, who I believe is one of the best in this area, and has remained beneath the radar for many diners in the Boston area. I have previously enjoyed a number of exceptional dinners at his Dining Alternative Chef's Table events. Next year, he plans to open his own restaurant, the Tasting Counter, a 20-seat experimental spot, “To bring you closer to the creation of fine natural food, served in harmony with fine natural wine.” I eagerly look forward to this opening, to experience more of Chef Ungár's cuisine, and hoping he garners more well-deserved attention.

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. This is not a list of the "Best" restaurants, but my own personal favorites and you can find my reviews of these spots on my blog.

Flatbread Company

The Beehive
Gourmet Dumpling House
Island Creek Oyster Bar
JM Curley
Myers & Chang

Alden & Harlow
Craigie on Main
Flat Patties
Puritan & Co.
T.W. Food


AKA Bistro

The Blue Ox

The Painted Burro

Fusion Taste
Taste of Siam
Three Amigos

Blue Ginger

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe
Taipei Tokyo

What were some of your favorite restaurants this year?

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