Helmand (1st. St., Kendall Square):
Excellent, savory, unusual food (admittedly, I'm a sucker for fruit with meat). The pumpkin dish, kaddo, is particularly good. Appetizers are uniformly excellent. Wonderful, fresh out of the oven nan with various codiments is complementary. Nice little wine list. Sounds great, right? But the downside is the Jeckyl and Hyde service. We've been three times (we live nearby): once the service was impeccable, a second time poor and the third, just plain bad. Also, button mushrooms and wilting lettuce served under hot food are turnoffs for me. It would be nice if they would also loose the coffee table near the entrance, which makes it very crowded when waiting for a table (otherwise the atmosphere is very nice). So close to being a favorite, but those lame mushrooms really ruin it for me...
Mr. Sushi (Harvard St., Brookline):
Recently transplanted from Seattle, which has excellent sushi, I've been a bit worried by all the reviews suggesting Boston is a sushi wasteland. As chance would have it, Mr. Sushi was our first Boston sushi adventure. Although we weren't blown away by anything, we definitely enjoyed our meal. The menu looked like it might have some interesting items, but we stuck with the old standard nigiri combo. Made me a little nervous that they also serve Korean (is this an East Coast thing?), not that I dont like Bi Bim Bop. Fresh fish (although they should loose the lame Kamaboko fake crab nigiri), medium-sized portions, and surprisingly inexpensive ($13-14/9 piece nigiri). The fried goyza was particularly good. OK atmosphere and fairly quick service. We'll still keep looking for that one special place, but with Mr. Sushi conveniently located across the street from the Coolidge Corner Theater, we'll likely be back again soon.