On a bid to explore the burbs (thanks to the recs on this board) I drug a crew out to try Hee Bin in Lawrence for Korean BBQ this weekend, and to Alia Ristorante in Winthrop.
My eating crew and I have been long devotees of Wu Chon in Union Square, but our last meal there was truly dismal, and we've been driven furthur afield. Korean BBQ of almost any quality is worth a half-hour trek in my book. Hee Bin was thus not a disappointment, but I will probably save myself the gas money next time and stay closer to home (food is on par with Koreana, minus the wait). The service was exceptionally friendly, the place was laid back and pleasant. We ordered the Bulgogi and the Hee Bin special Kalbi, which was cut off the bone, and a mid-level thickness. Both were tasty, if missing a little oomph. The bulgogi was not too sweet (which is a plus for me), but needed something more to really blow the tastebuds. More sesame, more green onion, more something. Ditto on the kalbi, except there was a nice amount of sesame oil in the marinade. The major disappointment was the panchon. The kimchi was limp and not at all spicy, the daikon kimchi had a little whiff of heat, but was overly sweet and also a little soggy in texture. The other options, broccoli salad, potato salad, etc., were fine, but bland.
On the plus side, the panchon was generously and promptly re-stocked, the lettuce was fresh and crisp, and as mentioned, the service especially gracious.
Alia Ristorante was a total joy, on hospitality alone Said makes the place worth returning to. I was a little surprised that there were so few Moroccan influences (aside from the slices of preserved lemon on my ossobuco). Most everything on the menu involved pasta. But there were some real highlights-- I ordered the calamari salad, described by Said as his pride and joy (and deservedly so). The calamari was tender, the spices were not overpowering, and cilantro and lime juice amounted to a crisp and lively finish. My dinner-mates ordered calamari "scampi-style" and a green salad. Both of which were fine, though less remarkable than my salad.
Dinners included ossobuco, eggplant rolatini (sp?), and the special of the evening, baked chicken with prosciutto, spinach, mushrooms, all over a bed of pasta. All were delicious, not at all fussy, and tasted home-cooked with a lot of love. As I said we will be back-- having only been open six months, they are just getting on their feet, and we are excited to see what treasures will keep spilling out of the kitchen.