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Big Fish and Via Matta (longish)


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Restaurants & Bars

Big Fish and Via Matta (longish)

Purlie | Apr 1, 2003 08:16 AM

Two sides to the theatre district, such as it is--ate at both this weekend, both times late. Big Fish did not have the print-out single sheet list of translated specials that they had produced (to our joy) last time--maybe someone spilled soup on it--maybe someone took it home for future reference--so it was back to pointing at dishes going to other tables and a long discussion with the waitress, who not only remembered us from our last visit (guess you make an impression if you keep jumping up to follow other people's platters of food while pointing and gesticulating wildly) but remembered our whole order and wanted to serve us exactly the same dishes--couldn't believe we didn't want the conch and tofu this time....anyway, we got the last couple of pounds of shrimp out of the tank, one pound steamed, one pound fried with spicy salt--both great. We had two seabass, one with black bean sauce, one with ginger and scallion--I actually think the black bean sauce fish is getting even better here. People were surreptitiously spooning up the black bean stuff long after the bones were picked. We had the beef with ginger and scallion hot pot, the chinese watercress, that unbelievable crispy roasted duck--all excellent, and it's gotta be one of the greatest duck preparations in Boston--and also, a personal favorite, the steamed minced pork with salted fish, rich and strange and greasy and spicy and full of little crunchy bits of what? water chestnut? I used to get this years ago at the Lei Jing, before it went through changes, and I've missed it. As often happens, we felt we were providing some entertainment value to the staff, in return for all their help and guidance.

Via Matta was congenial, the place was hopping at 10:30 on a Saturday night, people eating real food, not just drinking. Chicken liver appetizer, as previously recommended on this board, was excellent, and their plate of salumi--prosciutto, mortadella, salami, served with pickled red onions and little toasts, was pleasant, though not exactly bowl-you-over--needed a more interesting relish, maybe, or a homemade sausage or something. I liked the brick-cooked chicken--very tasty, though I have to say after the first few delicious bites, I began to feel that I was, after all, eating chicken, and to think nostalgically about that duck, which somehow stays a fabulous thrill morsel after morsel--maybe it's that Chinese technique of cutting it up for you, so you don't realize you are sawing your way piece by piece through the whole breast....or maybe it's just the Chinese restaurant spirit of competition where other people may snag the most succulent pieces if you don't get there first.....anyway, that's a pointless cross-cultural comparison, and the brick-cooked chicken was fine--so was the lamb shank, though I think that if I went back, I would go with appetizers and pastas, which looked very nice going by. Desserts--the biscotti plate was okay, didn't overwhelm me at all--I heard good reports about the "Bonet." All in all, two very different but both pleasant after-the-show options, I suspect I will be back for more of both--but with the usual ratio of several trips to Chinatown for every dose of European elegance....

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