So I've splurged a bit more in the past three days than I have in the past few months (this time last year I would have simply titled this "dinner on Tuesday"). Anyhow, I hit Rialto for drinks, Green St. for drinks and a snack, Shanti in Dorchester for dinner and Zoe's in Somerville for lunch. Fortunately, I was well rewarded by all of the above.
Zoe's: I've been playing with their menu for a while now, and it doesn't come close to the splurge category, as the food is all quite cheap. One of my stand-bys has been the ma po tofu, which I get as "American spicy", which is two scoops of chillies, vs the 3 for "Chinese spicy." I'm quite comfortable with that, but sometimes I need something a little milder. I have since discovered the "bean starch noodle pork". These are glass noodles in a light, very mildly spicy sauce with ground pork. It's tasty, super-filling and you don't need rice with it. I've ordered it about five times in the last two months and it is remarkably consistent, the variation being the spice level, from just a tad too mild to a comfortable ten degrees below "American spicy." It reheats well and has the added bonus of one not having to order rice with it. I think it's about nine or ten bucks. I think Zoe's prices have increased slightly.
At Shanti I got a good meal and ordered one of their specials, which was billed as Chicken Lazeez. A google search revealed that this doesn't appear to be a particular dish per se, and the recipes that turned up were not especially consistent and not at all like what I ate. At Shanti, it was finely ground chicken, yogurt (I think the chicken was cooked in the yogurt), mint and spinach along with some of the normal Indian spices. It was pretty mild and just delicious. One of the trends I've noticed lately is that the specials seem to be relatively highly priced. This was a quite expensive chicken dish (for Shanti) at about $15. The price was disclosed right on the menu and I got it anyway and was still quite happy. This is one of the few times I would have preferred a portion larger by about a quarter, given that most of their chicken dishes are about $10-12 and this was, while not large, not quite large enough for leftovers, as many of their other dishes are.
I went to Rialto before Indiana Jones (see my Green St. comments for a tad more on that) and was impressed by the cocktail menu, which seems to be more ambitious, delicious and expensive at every visit. I had a Tennessee, (rye, lemon and something else), a Polaris, (gin, St. Germain, lime and perhaps a tad of one more thing), and a Red Lion, (gin, grand marnier, lemon and grenadine). After the Polaris the Red Lion had a very distinctive orange pekoe flavor and was good. I would recommend that order for an interesting experience. Total bill including a well-earned tip was about $50.00.
Indiana Jones left me with a strong desire to erase my mind and a walk to Green St and a few cocktails did the trick. I also got a plate of fried chicken livers, which are always delicious. Crispy and served in a sweet sauce with golden raisins (I think). The cocktail menu has expanded with some great new tipples. I started with an Avery's Arrack cocktail, which was served in a coupe, (a little smaller than a cocktail glass and, I believe, new to GS' glassware, but I think I've found that many of my favorite drinks have been served in those little things, leaving room for more drinks [silver lining, I keep saying to myself]). It had a unique flavor, was really "full", sweet and seemed to have a cool viscosity. I moved onto brandy scaffas, which were made with brandy, green chartreuse and maraschino liquor, and after of few of those, which were just wonderful and while I wished I remembered more about the making of them than just the ingredients, I had completely forgotten who Harrison Pinto and Shia Lepoulet were. Total bill with food and more drinks than I would care to post was about $50.