Boston

toro2 560x375Officially, it is Toro by Ken Oringer. He has Clio at the Eliot Hotel. He created Uni inside Clio in 2002. Toro opened in 2005, which was followed by La Verdad at Fenway in 2007. Coppa, in 2009, is nearby on Shawmut Ave. We're thrilled to score lunch. Add Toro to our short list of South End settings that becomes even more attractive at noon when there's no wait and the parking is easy. The patio fronts on Washington Street and of course, the outside tables are full.

Inside, we count six chefs in the open kitchen. As always, the bartenders are charming. Bar shelves to the ceiling are solid and lucky for you, the bar has no mirrors. Otherwise, you'll see yourself slumping on a bar seat and there's not a thing you can do about it because the seats have no backs. Seriously, guys, no backs?

We start with pan con tomate, Catalana rustic toast with fresh tomatoes, oil and garlic. For boquerones, marinated fresh anchovies with lemon, vinegar, chives and hot peppers, we favor the plain toast. There is something stunning about them. Fresh anchovies are nothing like the powerful version you get from a can or a tube of paste. Like canned tuna and sushi tuna - both good but very different. I've seen fresh ones at Whole Foods and next time I'll buy some because they're great with beer. I try never to look them in the eye.

Read more ...

escalamariThese guys are pros at brasserie: noisy, friendly, and day or night, busy. If you're upstairs at Boston's Hotel Commonwealth, nix room service and come on down when breakfast rolls at 7 with granola, fruit, oatmeal, bagel and lox, home fries, eggs any way and French toast with berries and bacon. Lunch takes over at 11:30. After 2:30, the raw bar is in full swing and if you're in the mood for salads, sandwiches, a burger, meat balls, mussels, or steak, it's all there smack in the middle of the afternoon.

Fried calamari appetizer is my personal taste test. Eastern Standard's is lightly breaded with a side of lemon aïoli, never messed with peppers, tomato sauce, garlic or peanuts. Of all the fried calamari I've had, this is five-star. It pairs with their Bibb salad and of course they're able to find perfect heads I rarely see in the best markets.

Dilusha is the best orderer. She chose Faroe Island salmon and there were dueling forks over the bean salad. In November, Julie started with mushroom soup that came with brioche croutons and lucky for me, two spoons. She complemented her moules provençal with Kiralyudvar Tokaji Furmint Sec (KEE-rye-oohd-var), a white Hungarian grape. Our waiter also poured tastes of Hirsch Grüner Veltliner that she loved. Other by the glasses: Cristalino Brut Cava, Wimmer Czerny Blanc de Noirs, Nicolas Cole Merlot-Cabernet, and Henri Milan Grenache-Syrah.

Read more ...

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.

Read more ...

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.

Read more ...

playmepianoThings we like about Chinatown: it's close, you can park on the street and there's always adventure. This is one of those days: not only do we park but there's a piano on the sidewalk under the arch at the entrance. The Celebrity Series of Boston's placed 75 of them in Boston and Cambridge with an invite: "Play Me, I'm Yours." In 2006 there were cows everywhere and today it's pianos. No one's paying any attention so we toy with creating our own adventure like putting on a show: some song and dance maybe. Maybe not.

Where should we go? Oh, let's relive the '90s; to be clear, not my nineties and not Julie's either. She has stories about fun times at New Shanghai in the last century and you can never have too many stories when they're about someone else. So New Shanghai it is. Seems like old times with tales of old flames and late nights going way back to when this was the only gig after nine. That was Boston. (It used to be Faneuil Hall had two places and there was the No Name on the Fish Pier. We loved a Mexican bar in Cambridge beside the Orson Welles where someone stole the cash eight of us laid down to pay the check one night.) New Shanghai is still very good.

Read more ...