Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2018: Top Ten Restaurant Dishes

What were some of my favorite restaurant dishes of the past year?

Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2018. I have already posted three Top Wine lists and my Favorite Wine-Related Items. Now I want to move onto food and showcase my Top Ten 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. And I'll note that all of these restaurants are located in Massachusetts.

This is certainly not a complete list but it's 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 not in any order of preference, so all receive equal accolades. For more of my favorite restaurant dishes, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.

Ragu Bianco at Il Casale (Belmont)
At a San Felice wine dinner, I was thoroughly impressed with their Fusilli fatti in casa con ragù "bianco" di carne e salamino di cinghiale (Handmade fusilli with "white" meat ragù and diced wild boar salami). This "ragu bianco" is traditional mostly in northern Italy, including Tuscany, and it is made with cream rather than tomatoes. This was simply a perfect dish, with homemade pasta cooked just right, plenty of savory and tender meat, a touch of earthiness, and a cream sauce that added plenty of flavor. The sauce was neither cloying or overly heavy, and I could easily have devoured a couple more plates. It is rare to see a ragu bianco at local restaurants, and that really needs to change if this dish is an example of what can be created. The Chef even provided me a copy of the Recipe, and we've made it at home successfully.

Paté at Infused Kreyol (Malden)
Infused Kreyol serves Haitian and Dominican dishes and one of their Small Bites is the Paté, a flaky pastry filled with shredded chicken, ground beef, cod fish or veggie. I've tasted three of the four, excluding the veggie, and loved them! They are made fresh each day, and the pastry is light, flaky and buttery, exactly what you want it to be. The ample fillings have intense and tasty flavors, spiced well. And at only $2.50 each, they are a great value too. The Paté are kept near the register to it is easy to stop by and pick up a few to enjoy at home.

Shrimp Marsala at Island Creek Oyster Bar (Burlington)
This compelling dish is made with Casarecce pasta, roasted mushrooms, and Marsala cream. As I love a good Marsala sauce, I knew I had to try this dish and it was absolutely delicious, a rich dish which was well balanced, the key to the dish's success. The creamy Marsala sauce wasn't overly sweet and the pasta, cooked perfectly, and was an excellent vessel for the sauce. The plump shrimp, coated with the creamy Marsala, were exquisite and the roasted mushrooms added some earthiness and umami to the dish. It was comfort food, a hearty portion of Sicilian-inspired seafood.

Lamb Barbacoa Tacos at Committee (Boston)
To honor Cinco de Mayo, Committee created a special "Grexico" menu, fusing Greek and Mexican cuisines. My favorite dish of the evening were the Lamb Barbacoa Tacos, made with braised lamb, tzatziki, and Fix beer (a Greek beer) guajillo, atop grape leaf-corn tortillas. Grape leaves were crumbled into the mixture of the corn tortillas, providing its different color and texture. They were unique and delicious, such a delightful fusion of cuisines. Who would have thought such a combination could be so tasty? The lamb was moist and tender, just exquisitely prepared, and the entirety of the taco worked so well. I could easily see a Greek-Mexican Taco joint doing very well in the Boston area.

Timballo at Spiga (Needham)
This hearty dish is made with crespelle (kind of an Italian crepe), meat ragú, and locally sourced dried mozzarella. What an amazing dish, such excellent comfort food! It reminded me in some respects to a lasagna, though the crespelle is softer. The ragú contained plenty of flavorful meat in a superb red sauce, and there was lots and lots of gooey cheese. It is an amply portioned dish so bring your appetite. So much flavor in a superb dish, perfect for a chilly winter evening.

Chivito at La Bodega By Salts (Watertown)
Chivito, which literally means "small goat," is a popular sandwich in Uruguay, and generally is a steak sandwich with a variety of toppings. The Chivito al Pan is sliced beef tenderloin, country ham, bacon, and a fried egg. It is quite a large sandwich, and a bit messy to eat, but it was also quite tasty, with plenty of tender meats. The soft roll enhanced the sandwich, which is large enough to make its own meal. An excellent comfort food and I understand its popularity in Uruguay.

Teppanyaki Loco Moco by Momi Nonmi (Cambridge)
Speaking of comfort food, the Teppanyaki Loco Moco hits the spot. It is composed of a bed of rice, topped by a grilled grass-fed beef patty and a fried egg. Tableside, a sizzling gravy is then added to the dish. Wow, this would be the perfect hangover food! The rich and savory gravy was a superb addition to this dish, enhancing the flavor of the beef and egg. The yolk also added its own richness to the dish, and eating the gravy soaked rice was pure pleasure. I certainly didn't need or want a bun for this burger. You probably wouldn't expect to find a burger here, but you need to check it out as I bet you'll place it on your list as one of the best burger dishes in the Boston+ area.

Jhol Momos at Jay's Pizza (Malden)
Who would have suspected that your typical pizza, subs, and ice cream shop would also carry Nepalese Momos? Their Jhol Momo dish consists of 10 hot Momos in a cold broth. The dichotomy between the hot and cold was initially a little jarring, as it isn't a usual combination you find in many cuisines. However, after the initial trepidation, I found that the combination actually worked well. The momos themselves possessed a fairly thin dumpling wrapper that had just the right amount of consistency, and they were filled with an ample portion of a tasty pork and spice mixture. On their own, the momos make an excellent dumpling. Now, the cold broth was intriguing, with a strong and complex curry taste, and it added to the flavor of the momos. The broth seemed to have lowered the temperature of the momos, transforming the hot dumplings into a dish that worked well on a hot summer day.

Chicken & Waffles at Ledger Restaurant (Salem)
The Brunch menu at Ledger is compelling, from their Cinnamon Rolls (pictured at the very top of this article) to their Home-made Donuts. Their Chicken & Waffles entree includes buttermilk fried chicken, a corn waffle, green chile butter, hot honey, and a side of pickles. The fried chicken was superb, with a great, crisp and clean coating, moist chicken with an added sweetness from the honey. The waffle too was very good, with only a mild corn flavor, enhanced by a subtle spice from the green chile butter. One of the best Chicken & Waffles dishes I've enjoyed in some time, and it is highly recommended.

Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Congee at The Table At Season To Taste (Cambridge)
The Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Congee was made with wild boar sausage, Matsutake mushrooms, pine nuts, and Szechuan chili. Congee is basically an Asian-type of rice porridge, and there are many variations in the various Asian countries. This dish impressed me with its depth of flavor, varied textures, and it was perfect for a chilly fall evening. There was plenty of moist, tender wild boar, chunks of sweet potatoes, and crunchy pine nuts, There was a mild spiciness to the dish which built over time, and it was also an ample-sized dish. Pure comfort food and highly recommended.

What were some of your favorite restaurant dishes of the past year?

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