Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: il Casale in Belmont

il Casale BelmontEarlier this month we went to Belmont to visit a friend and have dinner at il Casale in downtown Belmont, MA – a suburb just outside of Boston. The restaurant is part of a small restaurant group that also runs a restaurant by the same name in Lexington as well as Dante’s in Cambridge, MA.

Despite the high ceilings and large dining room, the restaurant exudes a cozy rustic vibe that is in line with the service which isn’t quite fine dining but professional and friendly; clearly this is a neighborhood favorite.  Main plates and pastas are reasonably priced – ranging in the mid $20s and pastas are all available as half portions. Upon taking our seats at a high table near the bar we were greeted by a knowledgeable waiter who took our drink order and brought us warm, homemade bread.  To compliment the bread which smelled heavenly, I ordered the burrata cheese which was heavily seasoned with pepper, oregano and candied pistachios.

il Casale Belmont

Burrata Cheese $12

The cheese was cool and creamy as one would expect and the pepper and oregano added a nice flavor, but my favorite was the crunch of the candied pistachios which alongside the drizzle of olive oil went very nicely with our warm bread. Needless to say nothing was left when our server cleared the plates.

Following my starter I had high expectations and looked forward to the special of the night which I ordered.  The homemade Mafalade came with a seasoned roasted pork shoulder ragu in olive oil sauce with peas and carrots.  The colors and aroma of this plate created were equaled by their flavor, I’m happy to say.

homemade malfade pasta

Malfade pasta with pork ragu $28

My fellow diners ordered the gnocchi and grilled cod and they echoed my sentiments about their meals.  The pastas were certainly generous portions, and I ended up bringing about a third of my meal home for left overs, which makes me think unless you are really hungry an appetizer and half portion of il Casale’s pasta is more than enough – making it an even more affordable dining option.

With warmer temperatures now gracing Boston, you can also enjoy dining al fresco at il Casale’s patio, but reservations are strongly recommended no matter when you come to dine since this place seems to be a favorite for locals.

il Casale opens daily at 4:30 PM at 50 Leonard Street in Belmont, MA
Il Casale on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Brunch at Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar South BostonMichael Conlon and Eric Aulenback who opened Lincoln to much fanfare in 2012 opened Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar on Broadway in Southie in January 2015, and this past weekend Sergio and I joined a group of friends to try their Sunday brunch. While Loco’s dinner menu serves a variety of tacos, ceviche, grilled fish, and fresh guacamole, the brunch menu adds some really delicious breakfast options worth trying and certainly unique to the neighborhood it calls home.

The brunch menu is divided into Desayuno – breakfast items; Tortas – sandwiches; and Tacos ranging from $9-$15.  We indulged in a couple of different homemade guacamole orders including one with pineapple ($12) and whipped ($12), while both were fresh, I preferred the chunkier texture of the pineapple guacamole.

Loco Brunch Southie

Omelet Con Tasso $12

Sergio opted for Loco’s Omelet Con Tasso which had cajun ham, oyster mushrooms, onions, goat cheese and was topped with pico de gallo and a side of warm tortillas. His breakfast was delicious and full of flavor, providing a nice spin on a traditional American breakfast.

Burrito de Chorizo $12

Burrito de Chorizo $12

I opted for the Burrito de Chorizo, which had two eggs over easy, potatoes, chorizo, cheese and hot sauce.  As with Sergio’s choice, my breakfast was incredibly flavorful. The runny egg and cheese combined nicely with the heartier ingredients in the burrito and paired well with the spicy Bloody Mary I ordered.

Budin de Pan $13

Budin de Pan $13

Lastly we indulged by ordering the Budin de Pan (Locos take on French Toast). This plate rocked my world and is something I will order when we next visit (because we will be back).  Two pieces of soft white bread are served crispy on the outside with cinnamon and vanilla custard, creamy cheese, fresh berries and dulce de leche, which is what you see atop this pile of decadence.

Loco Taqueria and Oyster Bar serves brunch starting at 10AM on Saturday and Sunday.  Reservations are strongly recommended.
Loco Taqueria and Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Serafina Boston

Serafina Boston, a self described modern Italian cuisine restaurant, opened in the space formerly occupied by Radius on the edge of the financial district.  The Serafina restaurant chain currently operates more than two dozen locations globally, but this marks the first location in New England so I was curious to visit the new restaurant. The muted colors and open space looked carefully thought out but the open dining space and bar only proved to make the space incredibly loud.  Our waitress practically had to shout to be heard.

The menu is moderately priced with an entire page dedicated to pizzas, that range from $13 – $25 and main plates and pastas ranging from $14-$32 with most dining options ranging from $17 – $22.

Serafina Restaurant Review

Serafina Boston Charred Octopus $16

Dinner was a bit inconsistent with our appetizer and dessert being the most memorable.  Above is a photograph of the appetizer Sergio and I shared, Charred Octopus.  The Octopus was very flavorful and not too chewy and was something I would likely order and recommend to others visiting Serafina Boston.

Restaurant review of Serafina Boston

Serafina Boston Gnocchi Di Mamma $19

Sergio’s dinner was unfortunately not as appealing.  The Gnocchi Di Mamma which he asked to have with a Bolognese sauce was disappointing.  The Gnocchi wasn’t as soft as hoped and the sauce was overly sweet. The sauce was so dissatisfying, I’d actually strongly recommend substituting the sauce for something else if it comes with your meal.

restaurant review Serafina Boston

Serafina Boston Veal Scaloppine $27

Fortunately, my meal was more appetizing.  I enjoyed the Veal Scaloppine, but it was not particularly memorable and if I come back I would probably focus on Serafina’s long list of pizzas, hoping for better luck and finding something as satisfying as our appetizer or dessert which I will slightly obsess over now.

restaurant review serafina boston

Serafina Boston Focaccia Nutella $16

The meal started on a high point with the Charred Octopus and it concluded on a similar note thanks to the incredibly decadent dessert, Focaccia Nutella, which sandwiches thinly sliced strawberries with a healthy spread of Nutella and capped by a thin foccaccia-like bread that is sprinkled with powdered sugar and sliced much like a pizza pie.

I’ll give Serafina Boston a pass for the mezza mezza dining experience since they have only been open for a month.  For anyone hosting events it is worth noting that the restaurant features nice private dining and function space on the lower level. Serafina Boston is located at 10 High Street in downtown Boston.

Serafina on Urbanspoon

 

Restaurant review: Amber India (Yerba Buena – SF)

restaurant review, san francisco, indianOn a recent business trip to California, I found myself with a spare evening before flying home so I decided to try an Indian restaurant between Mission and Market Streets called Amber India.  Large glass windows allowed me to look into a sleek dining room and comfortable lounge so I opted to check it out; preferring the bar over the larger dining room so I could people watch while eating.  The people watching proved to be a bust; nobody that interesting despite the bustling lounge but my seat was very comfortable and the service was excellent.

Amber India San Francisco, Yerba Buena

Amber India Yerba Buena Tandoori Chicken and Onion Chilli Kulcha

Apparently Amber India has five different locations but this is the only one in San Francisco and as near as I can tell it opened back in 2011.  It is conveniently located next to the Four Seasons Hotel in a small promenade that is home to several other restaurants as well.  There is a separate bar menu comprised of shared appetizers, but you can order from the main menu that ranges between $16-$19 for vegetarian dishes and $23 – $30 for most of their other plates.

San Francisco, SOMA restaurant

Amber India Yerba Buena Tandori Chicken for $21.95

I chose the Tandoori Chicken ($21.95) which comes out hissing and steaming on a black iron skillet.  The smell of the meat, seasoning and onions instantly set my mouth watering.  The party seated next to me actually paused when the plate was served – such was the noise and heady aroma.  I also chose to order their Onion Chilli Kulcha ($7.00); Naan bread stuffed with onions and chilli.  This was delicious and the perfect accompaniment to the sauces served with dinner.

I really liked everything about my dining experience at Amber India.  The staff was prompt and friendly – answering all my questions about their menu.  The food was really delicious – rich with flavor and beautiful in appearance.  My only disappointment was after my visit I read a few reviews that made me realize if I’m fortunate enough to return I should try their signature plate, Butter Chicken.

Amber India is located SOMA at 25 Yerba Buena Lane 415-777-0500

  Amber India on Urbanspoon

Metropolis Cafe gets a makeover

Aquitaine GroupNearly fifteen years ago Metropolis Cafe opened in the South End on Tremont Street.  The quaint neighborhood restaurant has been a favorite place to grab brunch on the weekends and dinner in the evenings.

If you’ve not visited Metropolis Cafe recently you may want to make a point to stop by.  Last fall the restaurant underwent a makeover and the space looks great. A larger white marble bar top and new bar stools are welcome updates as are the new lighting fixtures and color scheme that significantly brightens the restaurant without losing that cozy feel.  Alongside the physical changes some tweaks have also been made to the menu and Chef William “Billy” Nurse, continues to crank out consistently delicious meals from what might be the smallest kitchen in the South End.

Restaurant review Cinquecento

CinquecentoIt has been quite awhile since I last wrote a restaurant review of The Aquitaine Group’s Cinquecento, but earlier this month Sergio and I grabbed dinner at the bar and we had such a good time I wanted to write about it.

Cinquecento has been successful since first opening in 2012. It probably helps that they have ample free parking, a nice patio (for the warmer months) and is easily accessible from the Mass Pike and I-93.  However, that only gets you so far if you don’t have good staff and a talented kitchen – fortunately they have it all.

Italian Restaurant bostonThe menu is exclusively Italian as you might imagine with antipasti, soups and salads ranging in price from $10-$17; homemade pastas $22-$29; fish & meat plates $26-$38. On our recent visit we started dinner with the Burrata con Pistachio ($13.75) as well as the Steak Tartar ($15.75). The Burrata was cool and creamy and paired nicely with the soft figs, creating a surprisingly nice combination of sweet and creamy textures and flavors.

Cinquecento BostonHowever, I was most surprised by the Steak Tartar that was recommended.  The cubed steak was savory and would make for a great option if you want to come in for a snack.  The plate would pair equally well with wine or beer.

Italian restaurant BostonFor dinner Sergio ordered one of his favorite plates, the house made Gnocchi ($24.50) which is shown above, and I splurged, ordering the Aragosta Arrosto ($38.50) shown below.  I had thought I was ordering the lobster and pasta in a fra diavolo sauce but the Aragosta Arrosto was more flavorful than spicy with only a hint of pepper.  Those looking for more heat to the sauce should probably make such a request when ordering.  Having said that, the dinner exceeded my expectations. There was plenty of lobster from the tail and it was cooked perfectly. The pairing of the rich sauce, lobster meat and homemade pasta was so good that Sergio repeatedly poached food from my plate when I wasn’t looking.

Italian restaurant BostonIf you would like to try Cinquecento, I highly recommend making reservations for dinner on weekends. On weekdays you can usually get seats easily enough as a walk in at the bar or in the dining room.  Cinquecento is located at 500 Harrison Avenue in the South End.
Cinquecento on Urbanspoon

¡Hola! Barcelona Wine (South End)

South End restaurantLast night one of the South End’s most eagerly anticipated restaurants had a soft opening.  Upon entering Barcelona South End, patrons will see a large (26-seat) horseshoe shaped white marble bar that opens to the kitchen behind it.  The sterile modern decor of its predecessor is gone – replaced by dark wood ceilings and floors that contrast with the white marble bar and subway tile along the back wall.

The tapas menu will offer plenty of temptations at an affordable price with most items ranging $6-$10.  If you want more than tapas their menu has Paella, Meat & Fish and Mixed Grilled options ranging from $19 – $25.  The cocktail menu and wine list are equally inviting, which makes me think this will become a favorite watering hole for locals looking for a place where they can catch up with friends and nibble on a few bites during the week.

The bar staff was knowledgeable and clearly excited to be open for business, reinforcing an already friendly atmosphere.  The food we tried was quite good but sadly our photos didn’t do the food justice enough so I promise to go back for a more thorough sampling.  Look for Barcelona to open in the coming days.

Barcelona – 525 Tremont Street – (617) 266 2600