Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Kava Neo Taverna in South End is a must try

Kava Neo Taverna South End BostonKava Neo Taverna is a tiny Greek restaurant that opened barely two months ago to the day on a quiet corner in the South End. I first started writing about the new restaurant late last year and eagerly awaited their spring opening.  In my opinion, no other restaurant opening in recent memory has so consistently heralded so much praise from so many and if you only read the first few sentences of this review, I’d like you to know you should go and check it out. The space is cutely decorated, includes a tiny outdoor patio and knowledgeable staff that are friendly and helpful if you are unfamiliar with Greek cuisine.

Most of Kava’s menu is small plates that are so delicious you will want to try a few. Their current menu has nearly twenty small plates you can have on your own or share that range from $6 – $16. On our recent visit we tried several small plates (all in the name of research) for this post.

Feta Psiti Kava Restaurant

Feta Psiti – $10

The Feta Psiti is served warm with feta wrapped in phlylo that is liberally sprinkled with sesame seeds and then bathed in honey; it is sweet and light to the bite. I found myself using my fork to ladle more honey over the phlyo and warm feta before eating it. Barely a sesame seed was left on the plate.

spanakopita kava restaurant

Spanakopita – $9

Following the sweet psiti we were served Spanikopita. I love this traditional Greek dish and this too was delicious and surprisingly large, despite the fact that we consumed it so quickly.  Our dish was served at room temperature and although I’ve usually had this served warm, on such a warm summer evening it was a welcome surprise.

Octopodi Kava Restaurant

Octapodi – $16

The grilled octopus turned out to be my favorite small plate of the evening. Sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil the slightly smokey flavor of the grill combined with the seasonings perfectly. I will absolutely order this again.

Roka Salad Kava Restaurant

Roka Salad – $11

Before sharing our main plate, we ordered one of the four salads on Kava’s menu. The roka salad shown above comes dressed in a lemon vinaigrette with arugula watermelon and walnuts. It was light, refreshing and perfect for a summer evening dinner.

mousaka kava restaurant

Mousaka – $20

Kava also has five entrees ranging from $20 – $32, including a mixed grill of lamb, chicken and sausage; lamb chops (of course); grilled sea bass; beef short rib; and mousaka (shown above). The mousaka is served in a large, colorful bowl hot from the oven. This was the best mousaka I have had in recent memory and will be a staple for me later this year when the weather gets colder.

With so many mediocre restaurants openings lately, Kava bucks the trend and is a most welcome addition, but the tiny tavern takes no reservations and can be tough to get a table. Should you go and find there is a long way, give them your number and head over to Boston Chops to grab a drink at their bar. You can relax comfortably while you plan on what you want to order and wait for them to text you that your table is ready.

Kava Neo Taverna is open 7 days a week until 11PM and located on the corner of Shawmut Ave and Union Park in the South End at 315 Shawmut Ave.

Michael C reviews South End restaurant S.R.V.

South End restarantItalian eateries may be a dime a dozen, but SRV, the new South End addition, is a welcome departure from the beaten path of red-and-white checkered tables and chianti bottle candleholders, says my culture and lifestyle correspondent, Michael C.

Oh great, another Italian restaurant in Boston! As if Cinquecento, La Motta’s and Stella, to name just three in the South End alone, aren’t enough. I always say that we need another Italian joint as much as we need another Greek one, complete with Ionian columns, the ubiquitous Greek Key on the wall and a statue of Hercules slaying the Hydra. In other words, we don’t.

Let me take that back. I’ll qualify my statement and clarify that, well, it depends on what kind of Italian we’re dealing with. Italian food has become such a broad and loose term it almost means nothing. There is, after all, a difference between chicken parm drenched in marinara and the authentic Italian fare (Venetian to be precise) offered at the Serene Republic of Venice, or SRV for brevity.

The food – dinner may start with decently-portioned – and priced – cicchetti (Italian for tapas or meze) that don’t leave you feeling ripped off at the palate or the pocket. These are creative, interesting and esthetically satisfying dishes, albeit on a menu peppered a little too liberally with esoteric Italian culinary terminology – you know, for the mandatory element of pomposity. After all, why bother dining out if you can just tell what every dish is comprised of without third party consultation, right? At SRV, the redeemer of this affectation is its purpose, namely to stimulate conversation between you and your server (in my experience, a very stylish, graceful and impeccably attentive young lady). The much-publicized fact that they mill their own flour is a nice touch that can actually be tasted in the outstanding pastas – this isn’t your college cafeteria spaghetti and whatever, I promise.

The ambience – the décor is more than just passable. It’s chic with the right amount of quirk. I liked the exposed brick (typically a little overdone these days), dotted with ceramic planters, although I would hang twice as many. I loved the pendant lights, seemingly made of repurposed crystal decanters and pitchers and was enamored with the tile-hardwood combo floor in the bar area, in my mind channeling the designer Paola Navone. I must say, however, that the color scheme left me longing for more. The velvet upholstery on the banquettes could have been forest green, rather than that ubiquitous steak house burgundy. But hey, you can’t have it all, can you. Overall, I liked it – a lot.

The bonus – even if I hadn’t enjoyed the food and space as much as I did, I’ll admit right now that a lot would have been forgiven on account of one specific feature that is really (and I mean really) up there in my books, namely the restaurant’s flawless acoustics. It was a full house, yet the place never felt loud. It was perfectly conducive to civilized conversation and the music, though unmistakably present, never intrusive or distracting. What a novel idea – rejoice! Now you can actually enjoy dinner and hold a conversation without screaming at the top of your lungs, as you have to at another South End hotspot with the worst acoustics ever – which of course will remain nameless🙂

SRV – 569 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA 02118
Telephone: 617-536-9500
www.srvboston.com

Michael CAbout the author:  A former banker, Michael C offsets the sobriety of his professional life with his passion for design, music, the arts and anything beautiful.

© Michael Constantinides 2016 – all rights reserved

Breakfast at The Friendly Toast, Back Bay

Friendly Toast Back Bay BostonIn mid January The Friendly Toast opened their third location in the Back Bay. The Friendly Toast opened a second location in Kendall Square a few years back not long after the original owners sold both locations to Eric Goodwin and Scott Pulver in October 2013. At the time, the new owners said they planned to open new restaurants in other locations under the Friendly Toast name.  The Friendly Toast Back Bay is the first of these other locations to open.

Located on Stanhope Street, the restaurant opens early on the weekends at 8AM and weekdays at 7AM. The kitschy decor associated with The Friendly Toast is in full effect here with formica tables packed close together and barely a square foot of empty wall space.

Friendly Toast Back Bay Huevos Rancheros $11.50

Friendly Toast Back Bay Huevos Rancheros $11.50

The menu includes a lot of decadent treats from the “Sweet Stuff” section of their menu like, Coconut Cakes made with shredded coconut and chocolate chips drizzled with coconut sauce and topped with crushed pecans; and the Caribbean Waffles that is topped with caramelized bananas and crushed pecans. Healthier options are available in their “Fit and Friendly” section of the menu but this isn’t really the place to come for healthy eating.

Sergio and I focused on some more traditional options for breakfast. My order of Huevos Rancheros (shown above) came with two poached eggs buried under a small mountain of melted cheddar, avocado and fresh salsa and resting on thick anadama bread.

The Friendly Toast Back Bay Breakfast Sandwich $10.00

Friendly Toast Back Bay Breakfast Sandwich $10.00

Sergio surprised me by forgoing his usual French Toast and getting a breakfast sandwich, which unfortunately didn’t photograph very well.  Both breakfasts were best described as mezza mezza. Based on my experience, I would suggest The Friendly Toast is probably best for those with families looking for large portions and good price points. For me, the one time visit is sufficient to check it off the list, but I do wish the location much luck and future success.

Note that the early opening time and affordable price points makes this a favorite destination for families.

The Friendly Toast
35 Stanhope Street in the Back Bay
(617)456-7849

Restaurant review: SRV Boston in the South End

SRV Boston is located 569 Columbus Avenue in the South End

SRV Boston is located 569 Columbus Avenue in the South End

SRV Boston recently opened in the South End and while I normally hold off on visiting new restaurants, a friend organized a dinner there so Sergio and I joined them and in short, I’m really glad we went. SRV Boston is the third restaurant from the Coda Group that also owns and operates The Salty Pig, Coda Kitchen & Bar and Canary Square.

The restaurant is larger than I expected and with a sizable private patio, in good weather I would guess the restaurant can comfortably seat 200+.  The restaurant is mostly open so you can see from one end to the other and it is nicely designed with exposed brick and other architectural details that kept my eyes wandering, while we waited for the rest of our party and our drinks to arrive.

Although SRV Boston encourages you to order small plates and share, we were having none of it.  If you feel the same I would strongly recommend you focus on the “Grani” options on the menu, which are more substantial.  Items on the menu ranged from $8 – $28 with the majority of items ranging from $15-$20.

SRV Boston

The staff was very sweet and brought our table these snacks to nibble on while we waited for our meal. Unfortunately I missed what this is called on the menu, but the crostini were served with cod and some greens.  Once the plates started coming there seemed to be no end in sight. For those who may go to SRV, try the Pasta e Fasoi (which as near as I can tell is the same thing as Pasta e Fagioli). The heaping bowl is the perfect starter and warmed me up in a hurry.

SRV Boston

SRV Boston: Pasta e Fasoi $14.00

Following the soup I was looking forward to my main dish, Buckwheat Bigoli, served in a rich, duck ragu, sofrito and sage (shown below). Friends also ordered the Squid Ink Risotto, Risotto al Tartufo and Spaghetti alla Busara. Although I didn’t try what my friends were eating, there seemed to be universal agreement; everyone enjoyed their meal.

SRV Boston

SRV Boston: Buckwheat Bigoli $16.00

I was impressed by SRV. Despite the fact that this neighborhood already has plenty of Italian restaurants, this may be one you might want to put on your radar. SRV has a great bar if you want to check it out to get a good look at the space.  If you go for dinner, I would encourage making a reservation as the space was completely full fairly early in the evening when I went on a weeknight.

SRV Boston is located at 569 Columbus Ave in the South End
Reservations Recommended

Restaurant review: O’Hara’s Pub WTC

O'Hara's Pub NYC Guinness

Source: 3.bp.blogspot.com

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.

O'Hara's Pub NYC iiThe 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”.

Restaurant review: Bistro du Midi

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.  Bistro du Midi restaurantZagat 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.

Bistro du Midi AppetizersGrilled Octopus

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.Sea BassAlthough 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.

Bistro du Midi dessertDinner 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.

Restaurant review: Dos Caminos Midtown

mexican restaurant in NYCDos 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

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.

Dos Caminos NYC

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.

Dos Caminos, NYC

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.