Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Del Frisco's

Del Frisco’s is the newest upscale chain steakhouse to open in Boston. When I first tried them for drinks over the summer, I wasn’t sure if the crowd was a reflection on the food or the trendy waterfront location. I eventually tried them for dinner several times, and have decided this may be my favorite steakhouse in Boston. My most recent visit was to try the special power couple dinner with a foodie friend. The dinner for two includes choice of salad, a filet and crab cake, choice of side, and choice of dessert for each person. At $99, this is a great deal; steaks ordered a la carte at Del Frisco’s start at around $50. 

Although I think Del Frisco’s might be an exception, I tend to think of steak (at this level) as a commodity and judge a steakhouse based on the apps, sides, dessert, and wine list. My friend and I both agree that Del Frisco’s has the best blue cheese wedge salad we’ve ever had, and we were disappointed it wasn’t an option on the special menu. However, our server let us both substitute at no charge and it was just as good as we’d  remembered. The wedge is about a quarter of an iceberg lettuce head, topped with the best blue cheese dressing I’ve had, crumbled blue cheese, large pieces of chopped bacon, and sliced cherry tomatoes.


Although I like crab cakes, they aren’t something I typically order. I tried one because it was included on the special menu and it was also the best crab cake I’ve ever had. I love crab, but don’t like a lot of breading or the texture of a crab cake (with a lot breading) that’s been fried. This crab cake had hardly any breadcrumbs at all, and was more like a huge pile of warm, pan seared crab. It came with a hint of a slightly spicy sauce on the plate, which tasted great with the crab.


The filets were also delicious, although both were undercooked at first. My friend’s was worse than mine, and her portion of the meal ended up being comped (we were charged for my half, extra sauces, and wine). Based on my experience, this is standard for a restaurant of this caliber.  What surprised and impressed me was when the manager came over, gave us her card and cell phone number, and told us to text her anytime we come in so she can make sure our steaks are cooked perfectly.

          The steak and crab cake were so good that I finished them, and completely forgot about the dessert that was on its way. I was completely stuffed, but somehow managed to eat half of the banana bread pudding when it arrived.  It was served warm, with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce and like the crab cake, I was glad it was included because otherwise I never would have tried it.


          My latest experience at Del Frisco’s gave me an opportunity to try a few new menu items, and reaffirmed it as my favorite steakhouse. The food on the power couple menu (and the service when we ordered from it) was just as good as any meal I’ve had when paying full price. The original mix up with the steaks didn’t lower my opinion of Del Frisco’s; the manager’s response actually improved it.

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ole

Ole is a Mexican restaurant in Inman Square that serves a mix of tapas and full dinners. The ingredients are all fresh and made from scratch, and menu is creative and includes twists on classic Mexican dishes. I tried it for the first time over the weekend and ordered several items off the tapas menu. One appetizer, four tapas, and two sides were more than enough for two to share and experience a good portion of the menu. 

We started with the guacamole, which was prepared tableside. The ingredients were simple: avocado, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, salt, and once complete the guacamole tasted great. They seemed to use a little more lime juice than I’ve had at other places, and it really added to the flavor. The chips were also fresh, served warm, and not too oily.



The tapas and sides came next and included:
 

Sopes Ole: corn masa boats (like mini taco bowls) with black beans, plantains, braised pork, tomato salsa, cotija cheese, and pea tendrils. These were delicious and one of my favorites.

Tamal de mole negro: corn tamale stuffed with chicken, and topped with a black mole and pea tendrils. These were good, but I realized I’m not crazy about mole unless it’s mixed with another sauce (like BBQ).


Tacos de pescado: beer battered haddock in corn tortillas, topped with cabbage, cilantro pesto, spicy mayo, and black sesame seeds. These were another favorite, the fish was fried perfectly and I loved the flavor of the cilantro pesto.


Tacos al pastor: grilled marinated roast pork in corn tortillas, topped with orange pineapple salsa. This is one of my favorite Mexican dishes in general, and I ordered it whenever I see it on a menu. This was one of the better preparations I’ve tried.  


          Arroz Mexicana: this was described as baked rice with tomato sauce, onions, and garlic. I was expecting the rice to be creamy because of the sauce, but it was traditional Mexican rice cooked with just a little bit of sauce for flavor.

Frijoles churros: pinto beans simmered with bacon, poblanos, tomato, and pesto. These looked like Boston baked beans, and tasted great mixed in with the rice.


Each plate came with two pieces or portions big enough for two to share (and just have a taste). I enjoyed all of them, but my favorites were the two tacos and the sopes ole.  I would definitely like to go back and try some more tapas as well as the full dinner menu.

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Olé Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 25, 2012

L'Espalier Mardi Gras Dinner

L’Espalier is one of my favorite restaurants in Boston and the first restaurant I reviewed when I started this blog. The original review was more general and covered several visits and menus; this review is specific to the Mardi Gras Dinner I attended recently.

The dinner was held in a private dining room, which was decked out in the traditional colors of purple, green, and gold. The tables were decorated with colorful centerpieces, beads, and masks. There was a live jazz trio set up in the center of the room who played throughout the evening. The dinner included four courses plus hors d’oeurves and one cocktail, and while the overall experience was more festive and casual than any meal I’ve had at L’Espalier they maintained the standard of service and quality they’re known for.  



The dinner started with a trio of bite sized hors d’oeurves: a lobster beignet, hush puppy, and a corn fritter. They were all good but the hush puppy was my favorite; it sweet with a hint of cinnamon, while the other two were more savory. They were small enough to eat in one or two bites and left you wanting just a little more (it seemed by design).
         
          The first course was a New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp. These were baby shrimp in a spicy BBQ sauce, served over a thin slice of toasted bread and topped with mixed greens. Servers also came around with breadbaskets during this course, and options included homemade corn bread and a biscuit. Both were surprisingly light, and the biscuit tasted even better dipped in the BBQ.

Next was a craw fish etouffé with steamed jasmine rice. This came out in two stages: first, the servers brought over bowls of rice with a whole craw fish in the shell, and then came back to pour broth over the whole thing. The broth was spicy and filled with even more chunks of craw fish. I love craw fish but have only tried tails before, eating one whole reminded me more of lobster. This course was my favorite, and seemed like the most authentic New Orleans style dish. 

The final and main dinner course was Cochon de Lait, a whole roasted pig with cornbread and smoked oyster dressing. Frank McClelland himself came out to carve the pork in the center of the room. This course came with pork two ways, a slice from the whole roast and a slice of what tasted like a roulade or ballotine. Both were cooked perfectly, and were served with collard greens and a stuffed red pepper. 


          Dessert was a king cake, and possibly the largest slice of cake I’ve ever had. It was a cinnamon cake topped with a light icing and Mardi Gras colored sugars. It was extremely light and despite being full from the previous courses, I was able to eat about half my slice.

          Overall the dinner was delicious and a lot of fun. It was different from the usual L’Espalier experience and made me want to go back and try some of their other events.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Papagayo

Papagayo is a new Mexican restaurant that recently opened in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston’s waterfront. I walked in on a Thursday night around 9pm, and the bar was packed but there was surprisingly no wait for a table for two. 

 

Our server brought over complimentary chips and salsa right away, and they were so good we polished them off while deciding what to order. The chips were made fresh, the salsa definitely had a kick to it, and they both seemed to be unlimited. Another server brought us refills of both after noticing the empty plates while delivering our drinks. The drinks were also impressive, the house margarita was served in one of the biggest glasses I’ve ever seen and the mojito was deceptively strong despite the smaller (or more normal-sized glass). 

 

There were a couple of tableside options for appetizers (ceviche and guacamole), which I was curious to try but the grilled island creek oysters sounded too good not to order. Our server reaffirmed this decision when she commented that the dish was one of her favorites. The oysters were delicious, served warm and still in the shell, and topped with a jalapeño-chorizo butter that gave them a little spice but wasn’t overpowering.  


For entrees, we ordered two different types of tacos – the short rib and tacos al pastor. Both came disassembled on the plate, so you could build your own. The short rib tacos were served with soft flour tortillas, chopped onion, lime, cilantro, avocado relish, and a spicy BBQ sauce. These reminded me more of a traditional, authentic Mexican taco. The tacos al pastor came with large slices of grilled pork tenderloin, flour tortillas, pineapple salsa, cilantro cream sauce, and green salsa. These also came with refried beans, rice, and pico de gallo on the plate, and reminded me more of a tex-mex style dish. Both were excellent, but the short rib tacos were my favorite. 


 Overall, I enjoyed the food, drinks, and atmosphere at Papagayo. The location is relatively easy to get to (just a short walk from south station), which makes it more convenient than some of the other new places on the waterfront and I would definitely go back!

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Papagayo on Urbanspoon

Michael Jordan's Steakhouse

           I first tried Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in Grand Central Station close to ten years ago during my first trip to Manhattan. I ordered the garlic bread with Gorgonzola fondue as an appetizer, and the bone in rib eye for my entree, and they were so good that I went back for a second dinner during the same weekend trip. This was long before I considered myself a foodie, and my trips to NY were more about the shopping then the restaurants. Rather than try new places every time as I started to do more recently, for several years I went back to Michael Jordan’s every time I visited NY (sometimes more than once per trip). Eventually I learned about the Michelin Guide, and the focus of my trips to NY became completing the list of three, then two starred restaurants. I forgot about Michael Jordan’s until I heard about the newer location at Mohegan Sun.

          I grew up with family vacations to both Mohegan and Foxwoods, and when my friends and I turned twenty-one, I never had trouble finding anyone to go to a casino with me. However, until recently I had a hard time finding someone to go with me for dinner rather than gambling. I finally tried Michael Jordan’s at Mohegan this past fall and after all the years of building it up in my mind, it was just as good as I remembered.

          I ordered the fondue, which had always been my favorite, and it was exactly the same – thick slices of toasted garlic bread stacked on top of a plate of warm, melted Gorgonzola. It was delicious and not as heavy as traditional cheese fondue, leaving plenty of room for steak.

          Rib eye was always my favorite cut of beef, but having become slightly more health conscious I now order the petite filet when I eat at steakhouses. I was tempted to order the rib eye at Michael Jordan’s just for old times’ sake, but opted for the filet and it did not disappoint. It was cooked perfectly, and served with a side of truffled potato salad. I’m not normally a fan of potato salad as I don’t like mayonnaise, but this was more like warm, soft, diced potatoes with a truffle sauce and went really well with the filet. 


          After the steak and fondue, I was way too full to try dessert, but left completely satisfied with my meal and that Michael Jordan’s lived up to the expectations after so many years. 

Michael Jordan's Steakhouse - Mohegan Sun on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Island Creek Oyster


Island Creek Oyster is an oyster bar and seafood restaurant in the Hotel Commonwealth. They opened about two years ago in the same spot as another former seafood restaurant, and not being fond of the last place, I was reluctant to try Island Creek at first. However, after hearing several rave reviews and reading about their philosophy on their website (a collaboration of chefs, farmers, and diners) I decided to give it a shot. It did not disappoint, and I have been back several times since. I’ve tried a variety of different appetizers and oysters over a number of visits but I get the same entrée every time: the lobster roe noodles. I crave and dream about this dish on a regular basis, and anyone I’ve recommended it to has said the same thing.


During my most recent dinner at Island Creek, I was a bit disappointed to notice they had taken one of my favorite appetizers (the smoked trout) off of the menu. There were several others that looked good, and I ended up ordering a half dozen oysters to start. The selection changes daily and they offer a wide variety of east and west coast, but I chose mostly local east coast (Cape Cod, RI, etc.) and one Kumoto. They were all fresh and delicious, and the Kumoto was my favorite and the most expensive at $3.50 per oyster. 



Although tempted to order a new entrée, I opted for the lobster roe noodles. Consisting of roe infused fettuccine, chunks of braised short rib, grilled lobster, mushrooms, and cheese, it was just as good as I remembered. 


 
I usually order more substantial appetizers, but with just the oysters I had plenty of room to try dessert for the first time. I ordered the peppermint hot chocolate, but first asked the waiter if it was actually hot chocolate. He described it as more of a pudding, and when it came out it was served hot in a mug and the consistency was somewhere between hot chocolate and pudding. It was a rich dark chocolate with a lighter peppermint flavor and came with biscotti, chocolate chip cookies, heath bar, and marshmallows to dip. It was excellent, but after the noodles I was only able to finish half. 




My latest meal at Island Creek reaffirmed this as one of my new favorite places in Boston for seafood. The only negative I’ve found, is that it’s spot and seems to require reservations at least a few days in advance no matter the day or time.  


See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Island Creek Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 6, 2012

Highland Kitchen

Highland Kitchen is a southern style restaurant in Somerville that serves high-end comfort food with a creative twist. It’s a popular local spot, but still relatively easy to get into without a reservation. I walked in around 8pm on a Friday night, and although there was a 30-minute wait for a table for two we were able to find a spot at the bar within five minutes.

While looking at the menu I ordered a cocktail of vodka, homemade pink lemonade, and cucumber. It was light, refreshing and I liked the combination of the flavors, which was something I hadn’t tried before. 

            We started with two appetizers: the shrimp and grits and half a dozen oysters. The shrimp were grilled perfectly and the grits were creamy but not too heavy. This dish also came with mushrooms and crispy pork belly, and all of the flavors worked really well together. The oysters were a special from Buzzards Bay. They were very fresh, a little on the larger side, and tasted smooth with a salty finish. 


Next were the main courses, the jambalaya and lamb and pork meatballs (another special). The bartender warned me the jambalaya was spicy but not over the top, and he described it perfectly. It included the standard rice, shrimp, and sausage, but there were also chunks of duck confit, which gave it a unique flavor and tasted great. It was served with a piece of fresh made cornbread, which was also good and like the grits surprisingly light. The meatballs were unlike any I’ve had, and I really liked the flavor of the lamb. They were served over pasta, with greens, grated cheese, and a white wine sauce.



Despite being stuffed, we were so impressed by the rest of our meal that we had to try dessert. I was disappointed they were out of the special since the others were so good, but the bartender recommended the banana bread pudding and once again was spot on. It was served with warm caramel and vanilla ice cream, and the whole thing was delicious. 

Overall, the meal at Highland Kitchen was excellent. After trying this place for the first time, I made the very bold statement that it might be my favorite restaurant in Somerville. 

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu Nick's Famous Roast Beef on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Regal Beagle


In the past two days, I’ve made reservations at one of Boston’s most upscale restaurants for a Mardi – Gras celebration complete with live jazz, hush puppies and king cake, and eaten duck confit at a corner pub in Brookline. I’m not sure if this is more of the high-end comfort food trend where four star restaurants serve fried chicken and pub menus include items like pork belly, duck confit, and truffled everything or if it’s something I’ve only noticed since moving to the city. I suspect it’s a little of both’ comfort food is in, but much like finding the secret parking places and back alleys to avoid city traffic, you learn about the lesser known restaurants with excellent food at affordable prices. I feel like most of these spots are outside of Boston proper, and have started venturing into Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline to try them.

The corner pub in Brookline with the duck confit was the Regal Beagle, which I tried recently for brunch. I walked in around 2pm on a Saturday and the place was packed, but I was able to find a spot at the bar. The service was friendly and quick, I had decided on my order after looking at the menu on the window and it arrived within ten minutes of my sitting down. Although there were several options I would have liked to try, I went with the one that sounded the most creative: sweet potato waffles with duck confit, a fried egg, and a maple sriracha sauce.


This dish completely exceeded my expectations. Instead of a few pieces of duck confit, the waffles came with an entire leg. It was all topped with two fried eggs, which were still runny and when the yolk mixed with the other ingredients it created a sauce that brought all of the flavors together. The maple sriracha sauce reminded me of Thai sweet chili sauce and gave the dish a little kick, but was not overly spicy.

I had coffee with my brunch, but the drink menu included some interesting cocktails and craft beers I would have liked to try. I also got to see some of the other dishes come out while sitting at the bar, the burger and mac and cheese looked amazing, and I would definitely like to go back and try them.
Regal Beagle on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

B&G Oyster

I’ve always been a Barbara Lynch fan, and have tried all of her restaurants (some several times). After recently trying B&G Oyster in the South End for the second time, I decided my favorite might be a tossup between the two in the South End (Butcher Shop and B&G Oyster). They fall in the middle of the spectrum her restaurants, not quite as high end as Menton or Number 9 Park, but not as casual as Sportello. They are located on the same block on Tremont Street; both are small and have an atmosphere more like a wine bar, although they offer full menus. 

B&G has a handful of high top tables inside and out, and a bar surrounding the kitchen. During my most recent visit, I sat at the bar and watched the food being prepared. I’ve only ordered oysters and appetizers, but when I saw the entrees being prepared I made a mental note to try them again for dinner. All of the meals looked delicious and cooked perfectly.  

I started with a selection of oysters based on the bartender’s recommendation asking only for a mix of east and west coast. He explained that the selection changes twice a day with a different menu for lunch and dinner, and brought out a sample of the following along with a printed list of what was included:
  • Malagash, Malagash Basin, Nova Scotia
  • Umami, Narragansett Bay, RI
  • Gigamoto, Deep Bay, British Columbia
  • Deer creek, Puget Sound, WA
My knowledge of oysters is limited; I like them but have a hard time distinguishing between the different types and knowing what to order. I have learned that west coast oysters are typically smaller and have a smoother taste, so I expected to like those the best. I was surprised to find that my favorite ended up being the east coast, although they were all very good. 

I also tried the lobster beignets, which were served with a truffled celery root puree and topped with pickled fennel. These looked like little balls of fried dough, the outside tasted like almost like a doughnut and the inside reminded me of something similar to a crab cake. It was an unusual twist on the doughnut trend, but it worked. The components all came together really well, and the dish tasted great. 


Although I didn't get the full B&G experience, I left feeling extremely satisfied with my pre-dinner drinks and apps, and wondering why I don't venture into the south end more often!
See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu B & G Oysters on Urbanspoon