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Restaurants & Bars 7

A tasty foray thru Boston...

gutreactions | Mar 2, 200804:19 PM

Just got back to New York from an eclectic winters tasting trip thru Boston and environs that I would like to share with fellow chowhounds...Home base was charming Beacon Hill...right after check-in a slice of the special steak & gorgonzola pizza from Upper Crust on Charles St. hit the spot...it was tasty, if the parlor itself was a bit unkempt...We made reservations at Figs, the early Todd English eatery nearby for that same evening...when we arrived that night much to our chagrin the restaurant had posted a sign on the front door saying they had to close due to unforseen circumstances...bummer (back to this incident later). Ended up discovering a lovely 'gastro-pub' around the corner though called '75 Chestnut' on Chestnut St. of course and it turned out to be a warm delight, cozy, friendly and inviting...and I could swear I felt the heat from the fireplace video showing on the flat screen along the bar. It was chilly outside. Good tavern fare too...we had a half-pound burger with the works and the fish & chips. Found out during our time there that it is the same ownership as touristy 'Cheers' on the Common...The next day our travels thru Boston brought us to Copely Square Mall where we tried one of Regina Pizza's new kiosks in the food court...had the mushroom slice...pizza was o.k. but I bet the original place is better...Also tried some cookies from Paradise, another vender (there was a line at this one so we felt encouraged)...turned out they were too greasy, coming right thru the bag. All the while we were biding time until our 5 p.m. reservation at the hot, fairly new O Ya Japanese Restaurant...it had been mentioned in the New York Times by head restaurant critic Frank Bruni...we found out it was located on East St., a block from the railroad and bus terminals on Atlantic. This became one of our 'gourmet' experiences...the chef-owner and his wife ( who are not Japanese by the way) were very friendly and accommodating...we sat in a corner of the long bar so we could watch the Japanese chefs perform...the kitchen in the rear was manned by the owner and an additional crew...there was some sort of fusion going on here just from the mix of people involved...our server explained that most items on the menu were 'small plates'. The first course: Clam Chowder...here, you say? Well, this bowl of devine liquid turned out to be the best clam chowder I can recall ever having! I concur with Mr. Bruni of the Times who had lauded it...went on to try the O Ya House Salad, with red and green cabbage, spiced walnuts, viet mint, lemon...another winner, fabulous mix of flavors coming thru...could not resist ordering the Sake Braised Short Ribs with dashi soy simmered potatoes. Wow! Another hit...then came the Petit Bone-In Pork Chop, yuan style, potato confit, apple onion daikon ponzu...roughly cut, a bit chewy, but loaded...I washed it all down with a Sapporo. We could have gone on but we cut it off there. Next time we'll try more of the sushi, perhaps splurge for the Wagyu beef. A few rubs: the whole 'small plate' concept as applied here...there are small plates and then there are excruciatingly small plates (the portion of short rib was frustratingly of the latter...and the price point was $24.) Be aware, if you graze your way thru the menu, the sakis etc., O Ya can become a costly meal. My palate isn't complaining though. Later that evening we returned to 75 Chestnut for a cocktail...and their fresh Bibb Salad, just to fill the void. The next day started with a romp thru bustling Quincy Market where whole bread loaves filled with chowder were selling like hot cakes...opted to go 'tourist' instead and visit Union Oyster House nearby...referred to as the oldest operating restaurant in the U.S...it that true? Anyway, it was a sight...we opted for their clam chowder, fish & chips and a side of 'Boston baked beans'...the meal came with a couple of hunks of corn bread...all was mediocre but he place with buzzing and full...the best way to approach the menu here is to play it safe: order clams on the half shell, oysters perhaps, or a lobster from their tank...nothing that requires too much effort in the kitchen (the baked beans deserve special scorn for $5.95). That evening we made up for it though...finally got back to Figs on Charles and it turned out to be one of our best meals...no, we did not order the pizza although these specimens certainly looked appealing served on baking pans...they melted over the pan sides like Dali's famous 'melting clocks'...instead we went for the Asparagus Frite, crispy asparagus, arugula and honey mustard aioli, and Pear Salad, with caramelized pear, watercress, warm goat cheese crema (deadly) and crushed pistachios for appetizers...both wonderful starters! Then came our pastas: Cauliflower Carbonara with giant fusille pasta, country ham and shaved Brussels sprouts, and Pappardelle with Braised Short Ribs, roasted pearl onions and pistachio gremolata...Terrific! (Finally got over my frustration at O Ya...got plenty of short rib meat here, short rib overload if you can believe it in an $18. bowl of pasta)...portions were very generous and our server could not have been more helpful and pleasant in this sometimes cramped space. As you recall we got shut out of Figs a couple of nights earlier...it's a busy spot but they remembered somehow, so when our bill came (prices in general are reasonable here) they had comped one of the pastas...Thank you so much!! See you again on our next visit. We returned once again to 75 Chestnut for a nightcap...they were in the midst of a special Audrey Hepburn night and many of the patrons had dressed accordingly...it was quite charming.
A special mention about Savenours, a compact and well edited market at the end of Charles St. near the train station...great gourmet-style offerings: meats, cheeses, game, produce, seasonings etc...we understand it was a favorite of Julia Child when she lived here...Thanks, Boston!!
Any chowhounds visited these spots? What do you think about my observations?

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