Boston

area four 4It's inauguration Monday. Neither bison nor lobster's on our Cambridge menu but we're celebrating. The first place is "not doing lunch today," so around the corner we go to the second where I'm greeted, "Do you have a reservation?" It's 11:30 and if I'd brought a cannon we could set it off. Wisely, we move on next door to Area Four: bakery, bar and restaurant. Le bébé's eyes light up. Ours too.

It's busy. We opt for pulled pork and two pizzas. The pork sandwich comes piled high with arugula on a soft bun you scrunch to inhale with special sauce. Best of all, the pickles, peppers and pearl onion side is delivered in a cast iron frying pan that's all of two inches wide.

Damnath's thick-crusted carbonara arrives with onions, provolone, chunky bacon and eggs. Whoever said you could pile bacon on anything? I did. We don't know how they do it but this creamy, slurpy topping steals our hearts. The margherita, with plenty of sauce and for once, enough basil, is tomato tangy without a sniff of boredom. Other zippy pies rotate: puttanesca, pepperoni, pepper and sausage, bacon and clam, mushroom with fontina, gorgonzola with onion, and carnivore with pepperoni, sausage and bacon. More beer, please.

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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.

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seiyo sushi-barSeiyo Sushi & Wine Shop in Boston's South End on Washington Street has a patio where you can eat as well as watch ambulances shrieking their way to Boston City Hospital but all in a good way. Our eating adventures are mostly about food but sometimes it's not just food.

We're checking out this restaurant and wine purveyor housed together in a building called Minot Hall. It's been on our list of must-trys but the concept has me stumped. I look it up: the 1859 building was constructed as a social hall, according to Architect Week, and some years later became the Olympia Hotel and then a few other things before eventually turning into condos and retail not so long ago.

We have fear of winter in New England so we're wondering if this could be our last outside lunch. I'm hoping we're wrong because the day is perfect. Wait until you're seated. It's glorious to find this much outdoor seating with a tree awning in the middle of the city. You've passed Seiyo often on your way into the heart of the South End because we have. Its signage is so inconspicuous as to be nearly non-existent. We can't help mentioning it to our servers because we're surprised the place flew under our radar. They say they'll mention it to owner Steve Yung but we think he knows. Anyway, now the idea of somewhere to eat along with the chance to buy wine makes perfect sense.

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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.

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fairsteadintAndrew Foster and Steve Bowman dish contemporary American at Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline. It's a young vibe with a busy bar and communal tables so be ready to party. Why not? Even I have given up thinking I must get in my car to eat. It's not that I eat in the car. It just turns out favorite places or ones I want to try are elsewhere. So it's newsworthy that within walking distance of where I live, there are choices. Andy Warhol said it better: "I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.”

Julie and I start with sumac-cured salmon garnished with pomegranate. For the record, we never had fruit on our lox at home. This is more lox than I've ever had in one sitting, assuming you're out of cream cheese. It's a time when bread . . . Of course I should have asked our server, Scott. And yes, I'm well aware there's not a chance in the world Nathan Mhrvold, the modernist chef, will be inviting me to a 50-course, lab-prepared whimsical meal anytime soon.

Julie's having what she calls a medium-bodied Malbec with her wilted kale salad that has shallots, apple and pecorino I can smell across the table. (Wilted kale is so big our Whole Foods has a waiting list.) When it comes to salads, we're curious how far inventive chefs will go beyond mesclun. At home, we make lunch a lot with arugula, croutons, Boston lettuce and avocado. You impress, chef Jason Albus, when you do us one better.

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