Tuesday, December 12, 2023

2023: My Top Three Favorite Restaurants & My New Favorites

What were some of my Favorite Restaurants of the past year?

As 2024 approaches, it's time once again to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor pleasant memories. It's the time for my Annual Year-End Favorite lists, from restaurants to wine. And I'm starting this year with my Top Three Favorite Restaurants & New Favorite Restaurants of 2023. These end-of-the-year lists should provide a comprehensive summary of my favorites, allowing my readers to more readily locate such gems, the best of my recommendations. 

This is certainly not a complete list but is more a sampling of memorable restaurants and food items I've experienced and/or posted about over the past year. This list is also in no particular order, and is purely a subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. However, all of the restaurants here earn my hearty recommendation and I hope you'll enjoy them as well. For more Restaurant reviews, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.


I'll begin with my Top Three Favorite Restaurants, the exceptional spots which are consistently excellent, offering great food and drink as well as top notch service. These are the three places which first come to my mind when I want a celebratory dinner, or just want a sublime dining experience. They receive my unqualified highest recommendation. 

I instituted this Top Three list last year, and two of the restaurants on this year's list are the same as last year. Unfortunately, Tasting Counter, which was on my list last year, closed this past summer. Hopefully, Chef Peter Ungár will open a new endeavor in the near future, as his culinary skills are superb, and the Boston restaurant scene is lesser without his talents. I know he has been considering his options, and I eagerly look forward to what he eventually decides to do. 

Thus, I needed to decide if there was another of my favorite restaurants which deserved to be elevated to my Top Three Favorites. In the end, after much consideration, I decided there was a restaurant worthy of such a spot on my list. Please note my Top Three Favorite restaurants are not in any specific order. 

This Greek restaurant is amazing, where nearly every innovative dish is exceptional. Their menu consists of a wide selection of small plates, perfect for sharing, and offers creative Greek cuisine, with roots in tradition but it's not afraid to experiment. Their Greek wine list, the largest in the country, is superb with so many delicious and interesting options. Service is excellent, and the servers are very knowledgeable of the food and wine. Krasi never disappoints.

Nightshade Noodle Bar (Lynn)
Offering inventive and delicious French/Vietnamese inspired-cuisine, with their own unique spin, this restaurant offers Tasting Menus, ranging from 7-21 courses. Their dishes are exceptional, bursting with flavor, and creatively composed. Plus, they have an excellent wine list and cocktail program. I like their homey vibe, service is always excellent, and they have an open kitchen, which I've always loved. I celebrated my Birthday there this summer and it was another amazing dining experience. Be adventurous with your palate and you'll be amply rewarded. 

A Tavola 
This is the new restaurant in my Top Three, an excellent Italian spot, which is small and intimate, with superb home-made pasta dishes. Much of the sourcing is from local farms, so the menu frequently changes depending on what is seasonal and available. Chef Joe Carli is very talented and personable, and his Compelling Italian Cuisine is as good as anything you'll find in the North End. Their wine list concentrates on Italian wines, and there are many good choices. You also should check out their event list, which includes fun and tasty wine dinners and cocktail classes, like the Fantasy Fine Wine Dinner event I attended this year. I've been dining there for years, it's consistently excellent, and continues to impress. I've often recommended it to others, and they too have loved their dining experiences. Kudos to Chef Carli and the entire team at A Tavola!

I want to now address those restaurants, which were new to me this year, and impressed me. These are definitely restaurants I want to dine at again, and which are worthy of a hearty recommendation. 

Evviva Trattoria (Stoneham & other locations)
Although it's a small casual chain, owned by a much larger company, Evviva Trattoria offers tasty Italian cuisine, including traditional dishes and some more innovative choices. I was especially pleased with their Montanara Style Pizza, a traditional "Fried Pizza," whose origins extend back to the mountains of Naple.  The crust is crunchy but light, with a nice, toasty flavor. It's one of the only places in the area to find this style of pizza.

Surf Seafood (Woburn & two NH locations)
New to the Woburn Village, Surf Seafood offers plenty of seafood options, some with an Asian flair, as well as Sushi. I've dined here several times, enjoying many different seafood dishes, such as the tasty Lobster Fries, almost like a seafood poutine, and their fresh Sushi. My favorite dish has been their Portuguese Seafood Stew, one of my favorite dishes of 2023. It's made with haddock, mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, chourico, an aromatic tomato broth, potatoes, and garlic. The broth is complex and intense, and utterly scrumptious. 

Greek restaurants seem to be hot right now, and I'm very glad that's the case. Kosmos, a higher-end Greek restaurant, is killing it! With an excellent culinary team, they are producing high quality and delicious Greek cuisine, from Pickled Octopus to Saganaki, Lamb Meatballs to Whipped Spicy Feta. I really loved the Manti Me Kima, Greek dumplings with a Bolognese stuffing, within a beef Mavrodaphne broth and truffle oil. Another excellent dish was a nightly special, Arancini, filled with Greek cheese and goat cheese, sitting atop atop fig jam made with loukaniko. Their Greek wine list is also diverse and interesting, with lots of great choices. 

Ithaki (Peabody)
Another Greek favorite was once a mainstay in Ipswich for about 25 years but then moved to Peabody, on Route 1. I unfortunately never dined there in Ipswich, but have very much enjoyed its presence in Peabody. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their Breakfast menu has plenty of the usual breakfast dishes, but some tasty Greek options such as the delicious Strapatsada, which is made with two scrambled eggs, braised tomato, feta, house cured pork, and tirokafteri. I also attended a Wine Dinner there, and the dishes were delicious and well-balanced. It also has a very good Greek wine list. People should drink more Greek wine. 

There are few local options for authentic Nepali cuisine and this new restaurant offers a diverse menu of excellent Nepali options, as well as some of their own creative dishes. I've been impressed with their dishes, which are delicious, filled with a nice depth of flavors. Many of their dishes may seem familiar, but with their own unique spice blends and flavors. They offer a variety of Momos, traditional dumplings, and for the adventurous, you can even order a whole goat's head. If you're seeking something different, then you really should check out Ailaa.

This all-you-can-eat restaurant offers one of the best Lunch values in the area. For only $21, you receive a full Hibachi lunch, as well as all-you-can-eat Sushi and Japanese appetizers. You order off a menu so each hot dish is delivered to you hot, and not lukewarm as you might find on many buffets. The food is tasty, including an excellent Tempura and a delicious Chicken Katsu. The Hibachi offers you a choice of steak, chicken, or calamari with fried rice and vegetables. For an extra charge, you could also order scallops or a lobster tail. Only $21! That's a great deal and I've brought multiple friends there who have all loved it. Dinner is only $35, and the menu is even larger. 

Il Ponte (Woburn)
A homey spot, this family owned restaurant serves delectable Italian cuisine, including home-made pasta and Napoletana Pizza. The menu has pleasant of traditional Italian selections, and each meal starts with warm bread with olive oil and garlic. I enjoyed the Tortellini alla Norcina. The tortellini were stuffed with beef, nd covered in a creamy truffle sauce, crumbled sausage and pecorino romano. The Veal alla Petroniana was another favorite, pan fried veal topped with prosciutto and Parmigiano. I eagerly look forward to dining there again. 

There are a few other new restaurants I've dined at this past year, but for which I haven't yet written reviews, but which are still worthy of recognition. They include Flip the Bird (multiple locations, fast-casual fried chicken sandwiches), The Emporio (Stoneham, casual Italian spot), and Teresa's Ristorante (Woburn, Italian cuisine). Reviews of these restaurants are likely to come in 2024.  

What were some of your Favorite Restaurants this year?

1 comment:

Joe C said...

Thank you for including us in this list Richard. My staff and I are honored to be a part of it.