My trip to New York City last month brought me to the Financial District; an area of the city I’m not familiar with so after doing a quick search online I found a pub called O’Hara’s that had scores of rave reviews and was near by.
Upon entering O’Hara’s you’ll note the hundreds (if not thousands) of patches from police departments. It gives the place a certain charm and paid tribute to those men and women who spend their careers serving and protecting others. I liked O’Hara’s the minute I walked in the door. The bartender, Paul, had an easy going personality and maintained conversations with everyone at the bar without ever seeming to rush anyone or leave any patrons waiting.
The food is mostly of the comfort variety. I was tempted to try the Shepherd’s Pie which Paul said was delicious but huge, so I opted for one of their many burgers on the menu. I ended up ordering the Bronx Burger which comes with mushrooms, sauteed onions and American cheese as well as a generous pile of French fries all for $12.50 (pretty damn cheap by NYC standards).
The food, beer and service all lived up to the hype in those reviews, I’m happy to say. If you are looking for a classic pub and the corresponding grub this is a place to check out. O’Hara’s Pub is located at 120 Cedar Street and serves food much later than most of the surrounding bars and restaurants. If you do stop by tell Paul the guy from Boston says “Hello”.
This was my first visit to the two-story French restaurant overlooking the Boston Public Garden. Truthfully, I prefer the decor of its predecessor, Excelsior, but the food and service here could not be faulted. Zagat describes Bistro du Midi as serving “classic” Provençal cuisine enlivened with “modern presentation”. I’m not exactly sure what that means but the food certainly was beautifully presented as you can see from the first courses served: Deconstructed Soft Shell Crab – $17; Tuna Tartare – $16; Beef Tartare $15; and Grilled Octopus $18, which I devoured.
I really enjoyed the sea bass filet ($32) shown below, which happened to be one of the special dinners prepared by the kitchen that night. The fish was beautifully presented with half the plate pristine and the other dusted with herbs and spices over a filet that was cooked perfectly and very flavorful.Although I rarely get dessert, Bistro du Midi is known for their souffle, which takes 25 minutes to prepare so is encouraged to be ordered ahead of time. The four of us ended up ordering two different souffles ($12 each) as well as their chocolate beignet, lavender crème for $9. The souffle’s were consumed so quickly you may not have realized they were even served but for the evidence of the empty ramekins. The beignets were sufficiently decadent but it was the aromatic and flavorful lavender crème that I enjoyed the most about the dessert.
Dinner which included an appetizer, dinner and dessert along with a glass of wine worked out to approximately $75 / person with tip. This isn’t the sort of place that I can go to regularly, but if you enjoy French cuisine and are looking for an option in the Back Bay to splurge, I’d suggest it for your consideration.
Bistro du Midi is in the Heritage on the Green Building at 272 Boylston Street.
Dos Caminos is a Mexican restaurant with four locations in Manhattan. Last month I met my brother for dinner at Dos Caminos Midtown on a warm summer night. We picked the restaurant for three reasons: it was close to where we were staying; it has a large outdoor patio; and my brother suggested it (I never question him when he recommends Mexican).
The patio provides great people watching and we settled in by ordering cold beers and guacamole, which comes with a huge basket of chips and three salsas: mild, medium (which is fairly smoky), and hot. The menu is divided into sections including: Guacamole ($5-$14), Ceviche ($12-$18), Starters ($10-$13), Tacos ($16-$36) and House Specialties ($18-$26).
Guacamole with chips and salsa for two $14
I found our server both attentive and helpful when navigating the menu. He made excellent suggestions and left us to enjoy our meal together. My brother ordered the Dos Caminos Chopped Salad with grilled steak. While it looked good and he said he enjoyed the salad, I’m fairly certain his favorite part of his meal was the side of sweet plantains he ordered. They were served soft, warm and sweet. I ended up helping myself to a few of them for the sake of this review.
Chopped salad with steak $19.50
After some serious consideration I opted to get the herb-roasted chicken breast served with plenty of rice and beans. The chicken was prepared with its skin and the herbs add a bit of fragrance to the plate when it is first served. The additional side of rice and beans is a bit of overkill but it didn’t stop me from overeating and giving it my best shot to try and finish all of it.
Herb roasted chicken breast $22
While this isn’t the best Mexican I’ve had – it was perfect for an evening outside and anyone looking for casual dining outdoors in this part of town should check it out. Dos Caminos is located on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 50th Street.
Carbone is a tiny unpretentious Italian restaurant located on a relatively quiet (is anyplace quiet in NYC) street in Hell’s Kitchen. This restaurant should not be confused with the swanky restaurant by the same name in Greenwich Village.
Carbone came to my attention while I was searching for places nearby and the 3.7 rating on Zomato seemed to make this a solid choice. Upon entering I was greeted by the owner who only goes by Alessandro and a friendly host who ushered me out to their tiny private back patio. Unfortunately dodgy weather brought me back inside to avoid rain, but the cozy vibe of the place made for a great first impression. This space is probably only 12′ at its widest point and the exposed brick wall gives the impression of a back alley (think Lady and the Tramp).
Roallatine Di Melenzane $13
I ordered a glass of the Montepulicano, which was suggested by the waiter and proved to be much to my liking, followed by the Rollatine Di Melenzane. The eggplant rolls came with the mozzarella cheese still melting on to the plate. This proved to be my favorite part of the meal. The thinly sliced eggplant were overstuffed with ricotta cheese and the tomato sauce was sweet and delicious. I used the bread to get most of the excess sauce and ricotta that oozed out when I cut the pieces to eat.
Pizza Italiano $16
With approximately one quarter of Carbone’s dinner menu dedicated to pizza, I opted to skip the main dishes and pastas and order the Pizza Italiano which is topped with cheese, arugula, fresh tomatoes and prosciutto. When served the cheese and prosciutto smelled wonderful but ultimately it disappointed because I thought the crust lacked flavor. Based on the rollatine and the many positive reviews of this restaurant I wonder if I made a mistake and should have ordered a pasta. One thing I do know is that Tavola, which is located around the corner is the better choice for pizza. However, the cozy vibe and very reasonable price point makes this a place worth considering; just be sure to stick to the pastas.
Carbone’s is located at 331 W. 38th Street between 8th & 9th Ave.
Troquet is a cozy two-story restaurant overlooking the Boston Common in the Theater District. The restaurant, which first opened in 2001, prides itself on their wine list and the modern French food that accompanies it (and in precisely that order). The menu is set up with wine suggestions from a numbered list by the bottle and glass that you can order for every entree.
Troquet is worth visiting if you’ve never been or if it has been a while since your last visit. My preference is to go earlier in the week before the mad rush of the theater crowds hit in full force, which means on a Tuesday or Wednesday since the restaurant is closed on Mondays.
Troquet’s marinated beet salad with herbs, hazelnuts, and creamy Bucheron goat cheese for $14 was how I started my dinner but a camera failure on my part prevents me from sharing the starter which was flavorful, textured and refreshing. My dining companion skipped a starter and ordered the Black Sea Bass which comes presented in a large plate / bowl with saffron gnocchi, fava beans and New England shellfish bouillabaisse.
Black Sea Bass at Troquet Boston $38
For my main dish I ordered the Roasted Chicken, which came served on a bed of ditali pasta, cippolini onions, chanterelle mushrooms, asparagus and a Madiera jus that was so deliciously flavorful that no trace of the food was left when our server came to take away our plates.
Roasted Chicken at Troquet Boston $29
Troquet can be tricky to get a table on the weekends so reservations are strongly recommended. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 5-10:30 p.m.
In 2003 Barbara Lynch opened B&G Oysters in what previously had been a casual creperie, which I loved called Le Gamin – referred to by residents as Le Gay Man. While I loved Le Gay Man, it is hard to begrudge Barbara Lynch for opening B&G Oysters. Its impressive that a dozen years later B&G Oysters remains the best option for seafood in this neighborhood. Simply put, nobody comes even close and on a recent visit I was reminded all over again how much I like this tiny restaurant with the chic back patio. Upon entering I was greeted by the friendly host, Randy, who talked up the menu when I asked for his favorite selections and then I was well taken care of at the bar by my attentive server, Mark.
B&G Oysters entrees (which are exclusively seafood) range in price from $26 to whatever the market bears for one of the best (and most expensive) lobster rolls in Boston. Before I start a meal here I always order fresh oysters so on this visit I asked for a half dozen bivalves from both the East and West Coast. I don’t pretend to be an aficionado on oysters so I explained what I wanted and Mark accommodated me perfectly with his selection. By the time I was done, my beer was half gone and I felt like I could taste the ocean on my lips – what a perfect start for dinner in Boston on a warm summer night.
I followed the oysters with the East Coast Halibut that is baked in parchment with a saffron broth that includes fennel, cherry tomatoes and green olives with plenty of fresh herbs. The plate was served steaming – I had just watched the chef snip open the parchment after pulling it from the oven – and the presentation was only matched by the aroma. The halibut was cooked to perfection, nicely bathed in the buttery, saffron broth, that I repeatedly dipped with my French bread. If you love Mediterranean cuisine like me, this is heaven on a plate.
B&G Oysters – 550 Tremont Street – South End Boston
In a city obsessed with seafood, Barbara Lynch’s B&G Oysters remains the uncontested best seafood restaurant (and one of only a handful) in the South End.
Earlier 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.
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.
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