Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mi Pueblito

By now, I’ve told most of my friends about the New Haven taco trucks and my search to find something similar in Boston. I’ve heard a few times that East Boston is the place to go for authentic Latin American food, so I decided to start with Mi Pueblito based on a good friend’s recommendation. Mi Pueblito is a Mexican / Salvadorean / Guatemalan restaurant not far from Logan airport. The menu includes a mix of each type of cuisine, and was so large I had trouble choosing. After reading through the different options: dinner plates with steak, venison, pork, and chicken, a raw bar with oysters, clams, and ceviche, and a la carte options like burritos, tacos, and pupusas, I took my friend's advice and sampled a few different items from the a la carte menu. 

I ordered the beef tongue taco, chicken taco, and pork and cheese pupusa. Both of the tacos were served in two corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, a side of lime, and a side of taco sauce. Both were good, but the chicken taco was my favorite; it was possibly the most well seasoned and juicy chicken taco I’ve ever had. They were just as authentic as the taco trucks, about the same price ($2 each) and the ingredients were much higher quality. 

The pork pupusa was also delicious; I felt like never having tried one before, I'd been missing out! It was a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and pork, served with a fermented cole slaw and a mild red sauce similar to a salsa or taco sauce. It reminded me a little of a quesadilla, but better.  


I really enjoyed the meal at Mi Pueblito and I’m excited to go back and try some of the other dishes, like the ceviche or a carne asada. I’m also hoping to try some of the other popular places in East Boston soon to compare!
See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Mi Pueblito Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Highland Creole


I’ve driven by Highland Creole in the Prospect Hill neighborhood of Somerville many times, but only recently tried them for dinner. I was expecting New Orleans style food like jambalaya and gumbo, but realized when I looked at the menu that it was an authentic Haitian restaurant. Never having tried Haitian food, I was excited at the chance to experience something completely different. This place did not disappoint!

We ordered the creole chicken, creole fried fish, beans and rice, and fried plantains for two people to share. When we asked our server about the portion size there was a little bit of a language barrier, but we were completely satisfied with the food and service. The meals each came with a salad, beans and rice, and plantains (we ordered one of each side, received brought two, and weren’t charged for either).  We ended up with plenty of leftovers, and our server packed everything carefully at our table including extra sides of sauce.  

The chicken dish included three drumsticks, which were falling off the bone tender. The fish was a white fish served whole with crispy skin. Both were topped with onions and a spicy creole sauce; they were delicious but almost identical in preparation, and I wished we’d ordered a different style of either just for the sake of variety. The sides were also very tasty. I’ve only ever had fried plantains in Jamaican restaurants where they’ve been served in thick slices, marinated in syrup, and incredibly sweet. These were unlike any I’ve had; they were sliced thin and looked almost like a potato chip. They were seasoned with a little bit of black pepper, tasted more savory than sweet, and complemented the dish perfectly.

Creole Chicken

Creole Fish

Beans and Rice

Not having tried Haitian food before I have nothing to compare it to, but I really enjoyed my meal. A quick yelp search indicated that Highland Creole is one of the only places in the area for this type of food, and people seemed to find it authentic and gave it high ratings.
Highland Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hei La Moon


Hei La Moon is a Cantonese restaurant located near South Station, just outside of Chinatown. They serve dim sum and dinner, although I’ve only tried them for dim sum – a traditional Chinese brunch, typically served family style, with many shared small dishes. I’ve also heard dim sum described as Chinese tapas. Severs come around with carts of food, you choose the dishes you want, and they stamp your bill which is totaled at the end and usually very cheap ($3-$4 per dish). The language barrier means you don’t always know exactly what you’re getting, but I enjoy this and think of it as part of the experience. I could however, see this as difficult for vegetarians or less adventurous eaters. 

I’ve never had dim sum outside of Boston, which I’ve heard doesn’t compare to NY or San Francisco, but Hei La Moon is by far the best I've had. The food is always fresh and high quality, and even when the line is out the door, I’ve never had to wait more than ten minutes for a table.  It does get crowded during peak hours, but the place is huge and they do their best to keep the line moving. They seat smaller parties together at large tables, and the carts go by quickly. I’ve had to flag down my favorite carts and have seen people get up from their tables and find specific carts, but I also see this as part of the experience. 

The options are standard dim sum fare including several types of dumplings (most with pork or shrimp), steamed and baked buns (pork, chicken, and shrimp), tofu rolls, shrimp rolls, chicken feet, rice wrapped in banana leaves,  crispy noodles, spare ribs, steamed greens, etc.  My favorites are the fried taro and shrimp dumplings, shrimp rolls, and pork buns. The pork buns are the best I’ve had, both the steamed and baked are light and fluffy, and stuffed with tons of roast pork.

Pork and Chive Dumpling
Fried Taro and Shrimp
Pork and Shrimp Dumpling


One of my friends introduced me to this place several years ago, and although I have tried others since, Hei La Moon has remained my favorite. I’ve brought several friends in over the years, and they’ve also agreed it’s the best in Boston. It’s a fun alternative to typical Sunday brunch, and the perfect meal after a Saturday night out!

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Hei la Moon on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taiwan Cafe


I decided to try Taiwan Café after reading the reviews on Yelp. The ratings were high, so I was expecting it to be good but this is the first new restaurant in a while that’s blown me away. It’s a tiny place on a side street in Chinatown without much else around, and is very easy to miss. When I walked in, I saw the door and windows were covered with awards and thought that was a great sign. I was so busy looking at these that I failed to notice the large sign that said cash only, which meant a run to the ATM later!

                The menu was large with a ton of options that looked good and when we finally decided, the server commented that we had chosen some of her favorites. We started with the Chilean sea bass soup, expecting it to be an appetizer-sized portion. What came out was a huge bowl and after eating two bowls each we took the rest to go, (I had another two bowls for dinner the next night). It was a clear broth, with large chunks of fish (obviously fresh, some had little bones), tofu, mustard greens, and egg whites (similar to egg drop or Italian wedding soup). 


                Next were the juicy dumplings, which were made to order and took fifteen minutes to prepare (we were warned in advance). They were filled with more soup then any I’ve had, and stuffed full of pork and crab meat. Wanting to have room for the remaining two courses, we ate only a couple of these and took the rest to go. They heated up really well in the microwave the next day, I used my quick steam method – place them in a bowl with a damp paper towel and cook for 45 seconds.  


                The third course was the beer-braised duck, which was so tender even the bones were falling apart. This was served chopped and still on the bone, in a sizzling bowl with the broth and vegetables. It came with a side of white rice, which was nice, a lot of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown charge extra for rice. 

                The final course was the braised pork, cooked in a rock sugar sauce, served with baby bok choy and buns. This was carved tableside, and the server explained that the pork and bok Choy was supposed to be stuffed inside the buns almost like an Asian style taco. 


                I left feeling completely stuffed, and didn’t even eat half of the food we ordered. I ate the leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day and still have some in my fridge! The total came to $58, which was food for six meals and two twenty ounce beers. There were so many things on the menu I’m excited to go back and try, and now that I know how  big the portions are I’m sure I could eat for ½ the price and still have leftovers.

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Taiwan Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Anna's Taqueria




Anna’s Taqueria is a chain of six fast food type Mexican restaurants in the Boston area. Although the service is quick and meats aren’t always cooked to order, they are fresh and the ingredients are high quality. I’ve always thought Anna’s was much better than any of the other most of the other local chains (Mexican). One of the complaints I have about the others is that regardless of what you order (taco, burrito, quesadilla) or the type of filling (beef, chicken, pork), the sauces and seasonings are the same and the food tastes generic. I like that Anna’s is different, and if I order a burrito with plain chicken vs. grilled chicken or chicken ranchero it actually tastes different.

I’ve always ordered burritos when I’ve gone to Anna’s, and those are so good I’ve never even looked at rest of the menu. However, I went for lunch today, noticed the tacos al pastor, and decided to try something new. Since trying the taco trucks in New Haven I’ve looked for similar tacos in Boston. Anna’s tacos al pastor are the closest I’ve found. They’re served on grilled corn tortillas (each taco comes with two), the pork is marinated and cooked with grilled onions, then topped with chopped red onion, cilantro, red and green sauces, and a side of fresh lime. They are not quite the same as the taco trucks, where the meat for each is cooked to order but the preparation is very similar and at $1.85 each they are almost as cheap.

Anna’s locations in Beacon Hill, Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline are not exactly convenient for me (they’re too far to walk and the parking situation isn’t great) but I make a point to go whenever I’m near one. I’ve even made a couple of special trips to Coolidge Corner when I wanted a really good burrito. The tacos al pastor are now just one more reason to make the drive. 
See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Anna's Taqueria (Brookline, Beacon St) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Product Review: Al Fresco Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage



My fridge often looks like a college student's or worse, with nothing other than Chinese takeout, a single beer, and half an onion. However, I try to keep a package of this chicken sausage at all times (I’ve seen it at several grocery stores including Shaw’s and Whole Foods). It’s one of the most versatile ingredients I’ve found, and I’ve used it in quite a few dishes (pasta, mac and cheese, omelets, etc.) Most recently I combined it with Trader Joe’s papardelle pasta and Alfredo sauce, and I think I found my new favorite variation.
I tried two different versions of a recipe two nights in a row using these three main ingredients. The first night, I mixed the alfredo with a few spoonfuls of pesto and tomato sauce, browned the sausage and some chopped pancetta in a skillet, then tossed it all with parpadelle pasta. It was good, but I would have preferred the sauce without the pesto.
                  The second night, I used a much simpler recipe: I tossed the alfredo, sausage, and parpadelle together with a little truffle salt and some shaved parmesan on top. It was delicious, cheap, and easy (except for the truffle salt, but a $30 container from William Sonoma has lasted about a year). The apple in the sausage added a hint of sweetness to the dish but wasn’t so strong that it overpowered the truffle. It was hard not eating the entire portion for dinner, but I did save half and it tasted great heated up for lunch the next day!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sound Bites


Sound Bites is a restaurant and bar in Somerville best known for their breakfast (although they do serve lunch and dinner).  It’s become famous with the locals for a few reasons:

1.       The amazing breakfast
2.       The rivalry with Ball Square Cafe (a similar breakfast spot next door)
3.       The comparison to a certain Seinfeld character rushing customers to order and then out the door as soon as they finish

After hearing about Sound Bites and Ball Square Café, I decided to eventually try both and compare. I started with Sound Bites because there was a free spot at the bar when both places had a line. As expected, the service was quick and the staff did their best to keep the line moving. The make your own coffee and drink stations helped and I thought these were a great idea. For a casual breakfast, I would prefer to make my own coffee exactly how I like it. There were plenty of options to choose from including different roasts, milks and creamers, sweeteners, and flavored syrups, and the drink station included several juices, soft drinks, bottled and ice water. Although service was quick, I didn’t feel rushed or like the server was annoyed when I ordered something not on the menu. 

There were several dishes I wanted to try, but the Best of Boston award for pancakes on display made my choice a little easier. There were quite a few options including whole-wheat and various fruit toppings. I asked for whole-wheat banana walnut, and learned that any of the options can be made whole-wheat at no additional charge. There was a charge for the real maple syrup, but at $1.50 it was well worth it and made the award-winning pancakes even better. They were some of the fluffiest I’ve had and were filled with just the right amount of bananas and walnuts. 

I also ordered a side of turkey sausage to go with my pancakes. I sometimes I find turkey and chicken sausage to be dry or bland compared to pork, but this was not the case. The sausage tasted fresh, and was well seasoned and tender. I didn’t come close to finishing my breakfast, but managed to try a couple bites of hash browns (grilled mashed potatoes) and grilled blueberry muffin. Both were delicious, and I added them to the list of things to try when I go back!



See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Sound Bites on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Product Review: Trader Joe's Wild Pacific Salmon (Cooked)




Whoever coined the phrase “Good, fast, cheap - pick two) obviously never shopped at Trader Joe’s! The meal I just prepared featuring the precooked, wild pacific salmon took ten minutes, cost about ten dollars (for 2-3 servings), tasted great, and came to only 400 calories per serving.

            Besides the salmon, the dish included instant basmati rice, frozen asparagus spears, and soy sauce and making it was this simple:

  1. Start defrosting the asparagus in the microwave for two minutes
  2. Heat up salmon in a frying pan on medium-high
  3. Remove asparagus and microwave instant rice for 90 seconds
  4. Chop asparagus
  5. Add asparagus and rice in the pan
  6. Toss with soy sauce and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes

The end result was a delicious and healthy salmon stir-fry. Like any frozen or instant food, it wasn’t as good as if it was fresh but it was pretty tasty. The salmon was slightly drier than I would have liked, but I didn’t follow the cooking instructions and can’t be sure if it was the salmon or if I overcooked it. If I had the time I would probably do everything fresh, but on a night after work and the gym when I’m too hungry to wait it’s a great meal!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oya



Oya is one of the best sushi restaurants (and restaurants in general) in Boston. The sushi is a more creative, gourmet style and while the menu notes that most items can be traditionally prepared, when they come topped with truffles, fois gras, caviar, and gold leaves I can’t imagine anyone would want to.

            Oya isn’t cheap but it’s worth it, and I try to make it in at least once a year. In my first few visits I had a choice of omakase (the chef’s tasting menu) or a ‘la carte, and selected all a ’la Carte options. The last couple of times, there was a third option, the grand tasting menu, which I tried. Some of the earlier yelp reviews of Oya complained that for the price they end up leaving hungry, even after ordering the omakase. The owners must have taken this to heart because the newer twenty course tasting menu is almost too much. Almost.

With so many courses I won’t describe the entire tasting menu, but some of my favorites that really stood out during my latest visit were:

Torched Hamachi with a spicy banana pepper mousse and truffle oil.
Fried kumoto oyster maki, topped with a sauce (almost like tartar) and squid ink foam.


Fois gras frozen and prepared as a cold powder  with a yuzu topping, served in one bite on a wooden spoon.

An Onsen Egg poached for twenty hours and served with a generous scoop of white sturgeon caviar on top and finished with gold flakes.


Seared petite strip loin of wagyu – this was the most tender and flavorful steak I’ve ever had. It was served with confit potato (thin strips of potato like a chip, but softer in the center) and all topped with truffle oil. 


Fois Gras and chocolate – this is one of Oya’s signatures, something I’ve ordered every time I’ve been, and the dish that has kept me coming back. It is a piece of fois gras seared, served on top of sushi rice, and topped with balsamic syrup and chocolate. It is always served with a sip of aged sake, which compliments it perfectly.  

During my last visit to Oya, I ordered dessert for the first time (the tres leches soaked Boston cream pie) and it was delicious. Boston has several restaurants claiming to have invented or serve the award winning Boston cream pie. I’ve never seen Oya mentioned specifically for this dessert but it’s one of the best I’ve had. It’s not a traditional preparation, but like the rest of the menu has more of a creative twist the most notable being the sesame seeds on top. It was unusual, it worked, and now I have another reason to keep going back!

O Ya on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lolita

Lolita is a restaurant and lounge in Copley Square with upscale Mexican food and drinks. It’s been one of my regular spots for cocktails since moving to Boston, but I only recently tried them for food. Both the drinks and atmosphere at Lolita are what brought me back several times, and what made me want to try them for dinner. Located on Dartmouth street right next to the Copley T stop, Lolita is sort of hidden with an unassuming door leading down into a basement below street level. Once you get inside it has a gothic feel with all red and black décor, dim lights, and lots of candles, couches, and decorations. 

Vodka cocktail with a hibiscus flower
When I saw the dinner menu, I was impressed by the creativity. Menu items included gourmet twists on traditional Mexican dishes such as duck tacos, lobster enchiladas, and guacamole with bacon. Although it was a tough decision, I opted for the ahi tuna tostada, duck tacos, pulled pork tacos, cornbread and brussel sprouts (for two of us to share). We started with an ahi tuna tostada appetizer, and this was my favorite dish of the meal. The tuna was cooked perfectly - pepper crusted and seared out the outside and rare on the inside. It was served with avocado and a spicy aioli on top of a crisp corn tortilla.

Tuna tostada
Next were the tacos and sides.  The duck tacos came with a mole sauce and the pulled pork with a Mexican style BBQ sauce. Both were good, but I preferred the pulled pork; the duck tacos were almost too rich and I had trouble finishing. The cornbread was baked in a skillet and served with a roasted garlic sauce; it was very good but I would have preferred it without the sauce, which was mostly butter. The brussel sprouts were roasted with bacon, onions, and Chile peppers – these were delicious and my second favorite dish of the night. 

Duck Tacos
Cornbread with roasted garlic sauce

Roasted brussel sprouts
                Overall, I enjoyed the meal at Lolita and will continue to go back now for food, drinks, and atmosphere. I've often found restaurants in the Newbury Street area to be overpriced for just average food. Lolita is certainly an exception; it is one of the best restaurants in the area and ranks in my top few for Mexican in Boston. 
See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar on Urbanspoon