Category Archives: Restaurant Review

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

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

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


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.

Restaurant review: Carbone in Hell’s Kitchen

Carbone Ristorante Hells Kitchen MenuCarbone 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

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

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.