Boston

Eat at Jae's, Live Forever - Boston Sushi

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by Kitty Kaufman

jaes 4A long time ago, in the previous century before sushi was ubiquitous - although it was making headway piece by piece - I was introduced by my friend Liz to an up-and-comer named Jae who was doing Korean with sushi on Columbus Avenue in the South End. He then took it to the suburbs, similar but not matching, at the Atrium Mall in Newton where the crowd was nothing like Boston's. My friend Eddie, who was the Atrium store manager, would tell me about people who came without reservations and when they heard it was a 45-minute wait, were sad. But they waited, all right, yes, they did.

We had many meals at Jae's Atrium. It's where we learned how to drink as bartenders coached which wine went with everything. It's where we had our first bibimbap and kimchi. If we had colds we downed their radish, cabbage, cucumber, spinach, bean sprouts, scallions, garlic, chili peppers, seaweed, mushrooms and lotus root soup. My mother and I were there one Sunday at the bar eating sushi and just as she's asking for a fork, who walks in but Jae.

They're still rolling up fine fish on Columbus Ave. Julie and I are here for lunch. Everything is as we remember: artwork, aquarium, maybe Brazilian jazz, and bottles of Champagne along with smart, smart help. It's 90 degrees so we pass on the patio and eat ourselves silly inside by the window.

O Ya

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by Andrea Pyenson

o-ya-boston-sign.jpgI get more excited about a meal at O Ya, Boston’s spectacular little Japanese restaurant, than just about any restaurant I have ever visited – which is rare for me, because as much as I love food, I usually save most of my emotion, as well as the bulk of my appetite, for dessert. O Ya loosely translates to mean “gee whiz,” a Japanese expression of curiosity. It is also the expression heard over and over on a given evening as diners search, but fail, to find just the right words to describe what is happening in their mouths when they taste chef-owner Tim Cushman’s beautifully inventive flavor pairings.

O Ya opened about a year and a half ago with little fanfare and gradually became a sensation. In March, 2008 New York Times restaurant reviewer Frank Bruni named O Ya the best new restaurant in the country outside of New York. Since then, reservations have been booked about two months in advance. In its July issue, “Food & Wine” named chef-owner Tim Cushman a Best New Chef 2008. And the accolades continue to pile in. For the record, those of us who live here did not need the national media to tell us what a gem we had, hidden away on an unassuming side street between the city’s financial district and its Chinatown.

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Dorchester: 224 Boston Street

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by Kitty Kaufman

224 3Last year Boston Magazine named owner Kevin Tyo's 224 Boston Street: "Best Dorchester restaurant, neighborhood casual." Sadly, their website doesn't say when they opened. It's got to be 20 years and right from the start, the talk was good. It's your very own block party in the middle of the city three blocks off Mass Avenue and if it weren't so steamy, we'd be at one of those tables among the flowers on the patio.

You enter the red room with the bar to get to the green room with the chefs. It's an open kitchen that's noisy and friendly. The menu points traditional American: meatloaf, sirloin, mac 'n cheese, risotto, duck, pork chop, lamb along with salmon, cod cakes and scallops with sangría cold enough to induce brain freeze.

The big eater nearly always chooses pork chops on our food adventures. In her opinion, this one's tops and she easily meets her prediction: "I will eat it all." It's a hearty grilled double in a sweet apple glaze with asparagus. She opts for mashed potatoes that were cheerfully swapped for fried yucca. The chop's pink, moist and inspiringly, she finishes it with no trouble. I think she may have been dreaming of it all day or maybe it's the sangría.

Thelonious Monkfish

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by Kitty Kaufman

monkfish 1As I walk to where I'm meeting a friend in Cambridge at Thelonious Monkfish, I pass three places with sidewalk seating. I must sit outside today. I have café envy. Sadly, no one is sitting outside at the Monkfish tables. No one takes our order until I insist. This is so not what I expected.

It's a big menu. I understand wanting to have something for everyone. That said, we order one sushi deluxe and one sushi regular. Why is the regular $17 and the deluxe $20 aside from one shrimp? The fish is fresh and fine.

Monkfish Here's what we didn't have: mad monk noodles ("bring one to the edge of madness and creative genius"), soup, curry, stir-fry, duck, beef, pork, seafood, chicken, fried rice, vegetarian rolls, demi salads, donburi, party boats, fairy tale sushi ("what if your prince is actually a frog and not the other way around") or zensai, thankfully comment-free.

Taranta Italian-Peruvian Fusion in Boston

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by Kitty Kaufman

taranta duarteIt's 100 degrees. There's Dead concert traffic choking the five o'clock crawl. We cross five lanes from Faneuil Hall to the North End to find a bad, as in not good, DJ holding forth at the Hanover Street fountain. Oh, for some peace and wow-ing.

With apologies to the chef, Gilbert & Sullivan, we find Taranta rah-worthy. Chef José Duarte was born in Peru, and moved with his family to Venezuela where he attended Universidad Nueva Esparta in Caracas. After earning an MBA in food service operations, Duarte opened Taranta in 2000.

Melding Italian and Peruvian flavors is new to us. We check online and it turns out that cilantro, huacatay (black mint), yerba buena (mint), albahaca (basil), orégano, paico (epazote), muña (mint), chincho (an aromatic herb), and aji panca peppers (of which there are 200 varieties) give Peruvian dishes their distinctive, addicting flavors.

Meat at The Butcher Shop - Boston

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by Kitty Kaufman

butcher 3The Butcher Shop is a South End mecca for meat. It's part of Barbara Lynch's restaurant group that takes in B&G Oysters which is right across the street. This is a wine bar and a full-service butcher shop with beef, game, poultry, sausages and hot dogs along with prepared dishes from the kitchen. Butchers are hacking away and we see Monday is the day to stop in if you're a vendor. It's busy and so cold you could hang meat in here.

We're partial to places that cook better than we can and make things we never do and it is a long list. Why have out what you can make at home? The menu designates lunch by the month so today you can have antipasti, charcuterie, terrines, cheeses, and lots of Italian meats but no fish or salad so be meat happy.

TBS burger, with the onions but without the Cheddar, is good. . . and $18. As New York goes, so goes the nation, I guess. It's medium rare on a sesame seed bun with a pickle hat and a green salad, which isn't mentioned on the menu.

I'm grateful since something's got to duel the house-cured bacon or maybe I need to move in to this house. The bartender's cute asking: "Do you need ketchup?" and I say, "I better not." We laugh and we're hoping I'm right and I am: so rich when it's straight from the butcher.

Boston South End: Tremont 647

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by Kitty Kaufman

tremontpatio-diningWe wait all year for summer in New England. Sometimes I think we'd eat anything if you give it to us on a patio with a couple of drinks. No, but we can report it's cooling off for evening forays to places we missed earlier. Here's the plan: we're sitting out until it snows. Tonight, we're on the patio at Tremont 647 with 20 other lucky people and it doesn't get much better than this.

In another lifetime, I met owner Andy Husbands when he was putting together his hip New American space in 1996. And here he is, still holding the corner at West Brookline Street to the good fortune of his South End neighbors. It's prime for food and for people watching.

You have your usual Tremont characters thankfully hanging several doors down, dogs, a smooching couple, baseball caps, shorts on people who were never meant to wear them, more dogs and a ton of guys having a good ole time at the bar. I wish I could drink. When I walk back to see the grill, there's not a plate of anything resembling food on the bar, just glasses. Eat something already.

Lan and I open with Pimms cocktails. Our starters are two ice cold lobster tacos, the crispy shell kind and they're a special - sitting on a tiny mustard green salad - all for five bucks. (They do taco Tuesdays featuring six styles, of which this is not one, and more about this later.)

Scampo

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by Andrea Pyenson

libertyhotel.jpgI resisted checking out the Liberty Hotel when it opened last year in Boston’s former Charles Street Jail, despite rave reviews of its design and the hip scenes at its first restaurant, Clink, and the Alibi bar.

The idea of hanging out in the same place that had held many of the area’s most notorious criminals for as far back as I could remember (and then some) just gave me the creeps.

Then Scampo opened, with chef Lydia Shire in the kitchen, and my conviction started to waver. It’s not so much that I have to run to every new restaurant opened by all of the city’s ‘celebrity’ chefs. But Shire is one of my favorites.

I have been a devoted fan since she started cooking at the restaurant in the former Bostonian Hotel, more than 20 years ago, when I didn’t have a clue who was in the kitchen – just that I loved the food.

Still, I didn’t run to Scampo. I waited a few months. But I was pretty excited by the time I finally got there. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Rendezvous in Boston

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by Kitty Kaufman

rendezvousIt's six o'clock. Traffic is intense for no Red Sox game and the Grateful Dead boys several weeks gone. Every street is on hold as we split to Central Square's Mass Avenue and voilà: it's Rendezvous. We opt for the bar as we're greeted and seated in no time. This is some room: it's all skylights with yellow brickwork and the ceiling's a warm orange. Why is it looking familiar? Oh, now I remember. When they opened eight years ago, they took over a space that used to be . . . a Burger King. Pretty gutsy, Steve Johnson, creating fine dining where there was once less fine dining, with all due respect.

Here's a bar basket with lemons, limes and oranges that are missing peel. When he's making your cocktail, the bartender carves a fresh piece, just for you. Watching him assemble mojitos and martinis is affecting - he never stops shaking and measuring. As we watch, he puts together a Mamie Taylor, a tall drink with Scotch, ginger beer and lime. It's too hot to think about wine, let alone Scotch. What's wrong with us, I think, is too much yard time earlier. Cocktails galore yet I see him pour no beer or wine though he must have.

The Gallows - A South End Original

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by Kitty Kaufman

gallows-490x329"We're a loud and welcoming hangout in the South End with a menu that changes weekly." It's Saturday and we can confirm the fun's here all right, along with everyone in the neighborhood. There's something about the South End we don't find anywhere else. You feel at home even when your neighborhood is miles away. The places are intimate, tony, casual, hip, and where the sidewalks are wide, there's outdoor seating. I've often wished I lived here.

Lan is ordering a mimosa. I'm not known for my noontime drinking especially but look at this: Les Boone's Farm Sunshine Pink NV CA. I've had it before, not in this century, so I order a glass. Andrew's in charge at the bar and wisely pours a small amount into a cup which is, now, how I feel it always should be served. It's kind of grapefruity in a lemonade way. Its nose is à la college dorm room and half a cup is just enough. Unless, of course, you're channeling high school, in which case have the whole glass.

The Gallows other wines are seriously regular, really, and if you're not sure, the wine list confirms: "These are the drinks, homie." Anyone who tries Boone's Farm will notice they have red beer: an "inspired mix of Pabst, lime & tomato juice." It's not a Bloody Mary, it may be inspired and we take your word for it.

 

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