Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: Bond at Langham Hotel

Photo Source: Langham Hotel Boston

Photo Source: Langham Hotel Boston

Bond Restaurant and Bar at the Langham Hotel in Boston is an elegant space that once was the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Bond Restaurant Lounge Boston First impressions count and Bond clearly took this into account when they designed the restaurant and bar.  We found the staff and service first rate from start to finish and enjoyed spending the evening at the bar. The menu at Bond is divided into three sections: “Start” range from $6-$15 and include items like Marinated Artichokes and Black Angus Sliders; “Share” plates range from $12-$16 and include things like Spring Arancini and Semolina Fried Oysters; and dinner plates called “Main” range from $25-$34 and include Swordfish and Steak Frites.

We started by ordering a bottle of 2013 Rose Belleruche.  This turned out to be our most satisfying order, because while the menu is interesting, nothing lived up to its tempting description. We first ordered the special, Fried Crab Sliders $18. They had a lovely presentation but it didn’t have much flavor.  Unfair as it might be to say, I couldn’t help but think how much better the Row 34 $4 Fried Shrimp Slider tasted.

Crab Sliders at Bond RestaurantWe continued with another seafood option ordering the Tuna Tataki $16. This proved more interesting. I liked using the puffed sesame rice cakes to scoop up the tuna and seaweed, but nearly every restaurant in Boston has something similar to this plate and Bond’s version of this staple menu item was not particularly memorable or inventive – albeit pretty.Bond Restaurant Lounge BostonLastly we ordered the duck flatbread $15. This proved so disappointing that we actually left about a third of it untouched. The flatbread would have been far better if the chef had left off the sweet hoison sauce that gave a funky aftertaste and took away from the flavor of the duck, pickled onions and cheese.  Bond Bar and Restaurant BostonThe lesson I took from this visit was it is better to stick with a good bottle of wine.  If you’ve not been to Bond, it is worth visiting; just skip the solids and focus on their very stocked bar. The space is beautiful and the staff very capable.  Bond is located in the Langham Hotel in Boston’s Post Office Square.
Bond on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Adolfo’s Laguna Beach

Adolfo's Laguna BeachBoston has frightfully few very good, cheap Mexican restaurants, but Southern California seems to have one on every corner so the fact that Adolfo’s has been around serving the Laguna Beach community since 1985 has to be a testament of some kind.

This tiny little restaurant has parking around back which is good since it is on PCH in Laguna Beach between Thalia and Anita Street and street parking is scarce. There is no table service so walk up, place your order and take a seat in one of the booths or outside on their sunny patio to enjoy the meal.  My fish tostada, tortilla chips, side of fresh guacamole and beer was less than $15 and was as filling as it was delicious. Laguna AdolfosThis isn’t fine dining and this isn’t the cleanest place I’ve ever walked into but it was the perfect place to grab a bite after spending some time at West Beach in Laguna and one of the best cheap eats I’ve had in a while. I wouldn’t go out of my way to grab a meal at Adolfo’s but I’d be hard pressed to walk by it and look forward to returning on our next trip to Laguna Beach. I’ll leave the more fancy options for others to try.

Adolfo’s is open from 10:00 am – 11:00 pm daily and can be found at 998 S. Coast Highway or you can call (949) 497-2023.

Restaurant review: The Compass

The Compass is a craft beer bar and restaurant in Carlsbad, California. The friendly bartender explained to me that they want to cater to the local hipster community; I refrained from rolling my eyes when he said this so seriously and reminded myself I was in Southern California.

The Compass Carlsbad CAThe Compass is really quite nice inside and the menu is very reasonably priced; divided into snacks and shared plates ranging from $5-$12; salads, sandwiches and main dishes $10-$16 and desserts $9-$12.  The menu included some interesting items like the portabella fries which we tried and very much liked.  It was my favorite thing I ordered. The mushroom was crispy and salty on the outside and warm and meaty on the inside, making it a perfect pairing with my Scrimshaw Pilsner.Portabello friesFor dinner I ordered The Compass Burger ($11) – I figured an item named after the restaurant should probably be a good choice.   The presentation is impressive with the burger cut and half placed on its side so it can sandwich a pickle wrapped in bacon.  However, the presentation was probably the best part of the over cooked burger.

The Compass BurgerSergio is a sucker for mac and cheese and I feel like he fared better with his dinner. Served in a  cast iron pan with braised beef short rib ($16) the presentation was equally enticing and while I think the both of us would have enjoyed more cheese the crispy breadcrumbs atop the pasta and soft, flavorful braised short ribs provided ample flavor and texture.Macaroni and CheeseOverall, the dinner was very nice and the wait staff was knowledgeable about their extensive menu of beers and food.  It wasn’t until later in the night that the fun started to sour and we left after a couple of patrons continued to feel the need to repeatedly (and rather randomly) shout obscenities so loud it would make everyone in the bar stop and stare. After we requested the bar staff to speak to the intoxicated patrons and nothing was done we decided to leave.

The Compass in Carlsbad, CA is located at 300 Carlsbad Village Drive and is open daily.  For more information visit thecompasscarlsbad.com.

Restaurant review: Claires on Cedros

Claire's on CedrosA couple weeks ago the entire family packed up and headed to Southern California to visit my brother, sister-in-law and niece. We spent the first night in Solana Beach, California and the next morning we converged on Claires on Cedros to have breakfast together.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it was the best breakfast I’ve had in recent memory.  This cute restaurant that was obviously at one time a tiny ranch house has a cute front yard and a much larger back patio where we were able to sit outside and enjoy our meal together.

Claires on Cedros in Solana BeachClaires breakfast menu is too extensive to do justice and unfortunately the online menu doesn’t include all their pastries which you notice both by scent and sight when you first walk into the cute restaurant. I couldn’t help but start breakfast with this homemade cherry scone ($3.50) that came with cherry jam and butter. It was served warm and was delicious.

I also ordered the Caprese Frittata ($10.95) that came with homemade ricotta, provolone, both oven roasted and fresh tomatoes, topped with arugula salad served with fresh pesto and drizzle of basil oil. I devoured the over sized breakfast plate, loving every bite.omelet at claires on cedrosSergio seemed to enjoy his eggs and french toast breakfast as did the rest of my family.  If I lived in Solana Beach, CA I’m pretty sure this would be one of my go-to breakfast options.

Claire’s is open daily and located at 246 N. Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, California.  For more information about Claire’s visit their website at clairesoncedros.com.

Restaurant review: Fig and Olive 5th Avenue

Fig and Olive NYCFig & Olive has six locations (3 in Manhattan alone). The restaurant’s menu is inspired by cuisine from the Riviera and coastal regions of the South of France, Italy and Spain.   When you first enter the 5th Avenue location you notice beautifully packaged olive oils available for purchase next to a long, white marble bar that seemed more like something out of Southern California than NYC.  The upstairs dining room has large, beautiful potted olive trees and rosemary plants. The name and first impression gave everyone high hopes for dinner and while I enjoyed my meal, I was the only one to leave satisfied, which makes me wonder about the consistency of the kitchen.

Fig and Olive 5th Avenue New YorkOur server was very attentive and brought over a sampling of olive oils and thinly sliced focaccia bread after we had ordered a bottle of some delicious full bodied, Italian red wine. I started with the Fig & Olive Salad for $19 that was plated with romaine lettuce figs, sliced apples, manchego, sweet gorgonzola, tomato, walnuts and dressed with a lip smacking fig balsamic and olive oil (of course). I thought the salad was one of the best I’ve had in recent memory and could eat this every night.

Fig and Olive 5th Avenue NYCA second bottle of the same wine was ordered and arrived as our main dishes were served.  I had opted for the Fig & Olive Chicken Tajine for $27 which included side plates that contained couscous with cilantro, toasted almond and harissa.  The chicken and the sauce accompanying the main dish was incredibly flavorful and enhanced by the wine selection (much thanks to my colleague who selected it).

I think the reason I may have enjoyed my meal so much more than my colleagues was the fact that I intentionally ordered items the waiter recommended. One of my colleagues thought the meat she ordered lacked flavor; another who had pasta described it as ‘goopy’ and thought it overcooked.  My only disappointment with the dinner was the fact that my colleagues didn’t feel the same as I did about my meal.

Fig & Olive Midtown on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Row 34

In late November 2013, the Island Creek Oyster House team opened Row 34 in Fort Point Channel.  The  website describes the restaurant as  “a working man’s oyster bar”.  I have no idea what that means, but I don’t care because I loved everything about the restaurant. Executive Chef and part owner, Jeremy Sewall, is fast becoming my favorite chef in Boston. Row 34 seems like a smaller, more hip version of ICOH.

Boston seafood restaurant

Photo from Row 34 Facebook Page

The dinner menu has a couple of turf options but this place is really all about the raw bar and seafood and it is here where Chef Sewall and his team really shine. We started our dinner trying their shrimp sliders that are $4 each and worth every penny. The lightly battered and fried shrimp are served with a chipotle sauce and sweet pickles sandwiched by a toasted bun that is light and buttery. Hashtag this #Delicious. Row 34 Boston

We also tried the mussels ($10) served in a very garlicky, white wine broth that we initially dipped our grilled bread and later sipped with our oversized soup spoons after all the mussels were consumed.Row 34 Boston

For dinner Sergio tried the Maine crab cake ($24) that came served with a shaved fennel salad. I tried the crab cake but I preferred the pan roasted striped bass ($28) I ordered. It was served atop marinated cucumber, yogurt and fennel. The thick cut of fish was cooked perfectly and the cucumber and yogurt added a creamy flavor that paired especially nicely with the salty, grilled exterior.pan roasted striped bass

After such a savory meal we opted to try one of Row 34’s tempting desserts and for those of you who love candy bars you *must* try Chef Sewall’s chocolate peanut candy bar with salted toffee ($6). Think of the best Snickers bar you’ve ever tasted then multiply that by ten times better and that is how I’d describe this dessert that I know I’m still dreaming about. I might just come back in for this and a coffee.Row 34 Candy Bar Dessert

Just like it’s sister restaurant, ICOH, in Kenmore, this place is packed every night so I highly recommend making reservations. Give Row 34 a try if you’ve yet to dine here. I think you’ll love it. I know I did.

Row 34 is located 383 Congress Street in Fort Point Channel.

Row 34 on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Ivy Bar NYC

ivy nyc logoThe Ivy Bar & Grill in Hell’s Kitchen opened about a year ago and based on the steady flow of 20 and 30 somethings who streamed in off of 8th Avenue, it remains a popular place to meet friends for a drink or to grab a bite. The place was absolutely packed when I arrived at 7:30 on a Wednesday evening and it proved difficult to hold a conversation over the roar of voices that seemed to press in around me from all sides. However, I liked the look of this long gastro pub, helpful staff and menu that was reasonably priced.

Ivy NYC entranceThe menu is divided into four categories, with roughly half the options categorized as appetizers ranging in price from $6 – $16; a few salads $10 – $11; sandwiches and burgers $11 – $15; and entrees $14 – $26.  I had initially been drawn to the Udon Noodles plate but one look from my waitress when I inquired about the choice gave me no doubt that I’d be better served if I focused on the sandwiches and burgers section so I opted for the Grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich served with avocado, lettuce, tomato, sriracha mayo and salsa verde for $14.

IVY NYCIf you are planning to spend time in Hell’s Kitchen and want a casual place to grab drinks or have a bite, this seems like a solid option and a place I’m sure I shall return.  Have you been here? Let me know what you think of Ivy Bar in Hell’s Kitchen.

The Ivy is located on Eighth Avenue between 55th and 56th street at 944 8th Avenue and is open from 11:30 AM – 4:30 AM seven days a week. Ivy Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon