Restaurants & Bars 11

Trip report - long

chris | Aug 21, 2012 06:29 PM

Hello all - I thought I'd report back on my trip. I'm going to be extremely brief with all of's long as is and barely coherent. . If you care about details, feel free to ask followups and I'll check back.

Toro. Two dishes - uni bocadillo (rich, funky, delicious) and buffalo heart (a fairly light dish, quite good). Service was fine, I sat at the bar right by the entrance, it was packed on a Thursday night. Depends on how you eat, but obviously, tapas style is best enjoyed with a large group.

L'Espalier (lounge). Three course lounge menu - $20. Each course could be eaten in one bite, so don't go in expecting dinner. Flat out unacceptable issues with attitude, pacing, and one dish (escargot) had clearly been sitting under a heat lamp for an excessive amount of time. The biggest course - duo of lamb, one sausage, one loin (I think), with fig, fennel, and pearl onion - was delicious and bold. I still left irritated.

No. 9 Park. The highlight of the trip. Phenomenal service at the bar, great drinks, fun staff. I went with three appetizers - foie gras with fried green tomatoes, pork jowels with watermelon, and chilled Spanish octopus. If it had not been Restaurant Week in the coming days (they were booked), I would have returned in a heartbeat.

Bin 26. My legs were aching and it was the first place to catch my eye. Great wine list (I like that you can get pours in 100 ml, 250 ml, 500 ml), $1 oysters, and very nice saffron risotto balls - cheesy filling, mild lemon notes, quite good.

Craigie on Main. At about 5:25 I walked by (they open at 5:30) and there was a line of maybe 20 people - all for the bar, and based on what I was hearing from the kitchen, all ordered the burger. I didn't do a tasting menu (still full from the previous evening) and should have. Delicious. Pig tail (pain in the neck to eat), vichyssoise (tasty but with sweetbreads that were sitting in the soup and had lost their crispness - still good), swordfish (not my sorta entree, but I wanted to go light, this fit the bill - quite good), and sorbet.

Toscanini's - Burnt caramel ice cream. Delicious. I'm not a dessert guy, but I really enjoyed it.

Clio (bar). Outstanding drinks and food, the bartenders were absolutely slammed yet remained friendly and professional. That said, the level of work put into the drinks is baffling. The Esteban requires a cut up lime and jalapeno to be blowtorched, then muddled, then mixed with whatever the concoction was (mezcal and soda?), then put into a glass with ice made with various juices and liqueurs. The drink started incredibly spicy, but as the ice cubes melted it all mellowed - a brilliant kind of drink where each sip tastes different than the next. Tofu bahn mi and pork steam buns may have been the best food I had in Boston - huge, bold, delicious.

Regina's at Quincy Market. Many people get very passionate about pizza, so I am hesitant to say much beyond I threw half of my piece away. That said, LOTS of people seemed to be quite happy eating theirs. Quincy Market is kind of a nightmare for those, like me, who do not like crowds.

Island Creek Oyster Bar - Incredible oysters. Great drinks and service, I like that they offer "mocktails" if you want something a bit interesting without the booze. Lobster Roe Noodles were overwhelmed by the short ribs which isn't necessarily bad, as much as if if you served it next to $15 "short rib noodles" and eaten blindfolded, you probably wouldn't notice. That said, absolutely delicious - rich, buttery, great stuff. Catfish special of the day was interesting - sauteed, about 3/4 of it was light, almost like tilapia, and then 1/4 was definitely that weird funky catfish that would be better deep fried - still awesome.

The Hawthorne. I would need to go back to assess. I enjoyed my drink. There was some hard to describe weirdness not worth getting into.

East Coast Grill - I think this place can best be summed up by the "banana relleno." A banana, stuffed with absurdly spicy pork shoulder, then baked? You have sweet, you have savory, you have heat - it all comes together, it's a little odd, but it's indisputable. Big fan. Pork carnitas enchiladas and shrimp & grits entrees were excellent. The bloody mary bar looked like a giant pain in the neck honestly. I didn't make it to Cambridge Brewing Company, but they had a Pillsner on tap that was pretty good.

Drink. The thing about Drink is your time there depends 100% on your bartender's mood which is why it was a letdown. We had two. Our first was terrible - had we not been assigned a second bartender, I would have left. Our second bartender was unfriendly, but was at least willing to spend a minute (or 20 seconds) to make sure we had interesting drinks. We had steak tartare and fries as well - both amazing....great food from Lynch. Still though - it needs to be said - service issues here are a WAY more important problem than your typical place since there's no drink list. I would have loved to have been able to point to a drink on a list and avoid the awkward, borderline snotty, "conversation." Bottom line - I had the opportunity to go back the next day, I chose not to.

Erbaluce. The portions were generous. One dish came out cold (kudos to them for not using heat lamps?), everything else was fine. The highlight was a tomato salad. I totally see what they are doing - focus on delicious, in season, high quality ingredients, but the whole place seemed odd. The next day we were discussing dinner and I literally could not remember what I ate for my entree (not alcohol induced - honest). It was lamb. It was okay.

Union Oyster House. We had a half dozen oysters and the Sam Adams Colonial Ale, so I can't really comment on the food, beyond that both items were good and I left content.

Neptune - There was a line down the street when we arrived at 11:28. Everyone was seated, but by noon people another line had formed. You get a paper with the oysters of the day and brief descriptions - so you can gauge what you like or get a nice variety easily. Solid wine and beer list. Hamachi ceviche was ridiculously good, buttery, wonderful fish. Neptunes on Piggyback was incredible - variety of flavors, textures, temperature, just amazing. Hot Lobster Roll - a TON of lobster. Delicious.

Legal (Harborside). The bartender at No 9 strongly suggested I make it over here at an off hour, sit on the rooftop, and have a glass of wine. He was correct. Great wine list, reasonably priced, plus interesting Champagne options available by the glass. If it's a nice day and you are into wine, I'd strongly recommend this place. We had a tuna based sushi roll (great fish, covered in sickeningly sweet sauce) and edamame (which was edamame - fine).

Pigalle. Restaurant Week, they were slammed, they were beyond slammed, our waiter was having a rough night, a good number of people around us were either getting mad or already had steam coming out of their ears by the time we were seated because of how slow service was. Everyone working was clearly in the weeds. And then the food came... and everything was right with the world. Simply put - old school French food, no unnecessary frills, no goofiness, just great, classic food, a fair wine list (a bottle of French sparkling for $37), and delicious cocktails, among the best of the trip.

Boston Beer Works (airport). It's a bar in the airport. The food was about what you'd expect (honestly, slightly better than I expected) and the house beers were all decent. I would not want to take a growler home, but I was quite content having a pint waiting for my flight. We have a place in the midwest called Ram that this kind of reminded me of - decent food and beer, but just that. Great service though!

There you go! I'll get photos up at some point.

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