Tag Archives: Restaurant Review

Review of Godfrey Hotel’s Ruka Restobar

Godfrey HotelLast year I raved about Ruka Boston in my restaurant review, but Sergio was not able to join me so when we found ourselves at the Godfrey Hotel’s second anniversary party recently, it was an easy decision to see if we could get a table at Ruka. This restaurant is part of the COJE Restaurant Group, which also owns and manages, Yvonne’s and Lolita. The over-the top design aesthetic and embellishments that are a hallmark of their other restaurants is on display here with pan-Asian themes running throughout this space that offers a fusion of Peruvian, Japanese and Chinese cuisine.

We were lucky to have a table open in a cozy corner just as we walked in and were promptly seated with a great view of the dining room and bar but away from the bustling aisles that are filled with runners either bringing out or collecting plates. The small plates menu of Japanese-Peruvian cuisine referred to as nikkei really makes their menu unique in Boston so on this visit I opted to order some of my favorite plates from our last visit and try a few new plates.

Ruka Boston, Godfrey Hotel BostonSince Sergio and I were only ordering from the small plates menu the food came out quickly, which was good because by the time we sat down we were famished. First to come out was one of my favorite dishes from my previous visit, the plancha broccoli is served warm with curry, peanuts and topped with broccoli stem fritters. The plate was equally satisfying a second time around. The salty plate is what I would describe as a crowd pleaser and probably one I will continue to order on future visits.

Plancha Broccoli – $14

Our servers also brought out at the same time the Dan Dan  Noodles shown below. I had not tried this on my previous visit and it was something that caught Sergio’s eye. The plate is one of the larger portions and includes mushrooms, Chinese broccoli and peanuts over a bed of thin Chinese Dan Dan noodles.  While I didn’t find any of the plates we ordered particularly spicy, this did have a bit of a kick, which I believe may have been from the chili oil.

Godfrey Hotel restauarnt

Dan Dan Noodles $13

Slightly more spicy and a pleasant surprise was the Lima Style Calamari. I rarely order calamari but it is a favorite dish of Sergio’s so I wasn’t particularly surprised when he ordered it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Ruka’s take on this classic Italian plate. “Lima Style” comes with a lot of garlic butter, red onions and chilies. If you don’t want the extra kick it is easy to pick around the chilies. This was the surprise plate of the night for me. I had little interest in it when served and found myself going back to it again and again.

Lima Style Calamari $14

Our final plate of the evening was also the most filling – the Chao Shou Pork Wontons. Served in chile oil, black vinegar, cilantro and topped with crispy sweet potato crisps, it was as delicious and satisfying as I recalled from my previous visit. Although this proved to be one of the more troubling plates for me to snag one of the slippery wontons with my chop sticks.

Chao Shou Pork Wontons $17

Consistently providing good service and creating plates that satisfy can be a real challenge for many restaurants but on my return visit to Ruka I was impressed by the attentive (but not obtrusive) service, consistency in the plates that I tried for a second time as well as the two plates I tried for the first time on this visit.

I will be back again to try more plates, and I’d recommend you check out Ruka in Downtown Crossing if you’ve never been.

Ruka Boston
505 Washington Street (DTX)
(617) 266-0102 || rukarestobar.com

Restaurant review: Brunch at Bar Mezzana

Bar Mezzana, Ink Block

Photo from Bar Mezzana Photo credit: Brian Samuels Photography

Last spring I shared a glowing restaurant review of dinner at the much lauded Bar Mezzana at the Ink Block. If interested, you can check out that review here, but it wasn’t until last month that Sergio and I managed to get around to trying the restaurant’s brunch.

The brunch menu at Bar Mezzana has more lunch options than breakfast with a handful of pastas, a double-patty burger and other items that are sure to satisfy those who come hungry and looking for a meal. However, don’t fret if you’re like me and looking for breakfast options because there are more than a handful of choices that range from savory to sweet as you can see from my photos below.

south end dining, south end brunch

Soft scrambled egg, boursin cheese and lox crostini –  $13

I gravitated to the scrambled egg with boursin cheese and lox on a crostini, that is listed as an appetizer but is more than satisfying (especially because I knew I’d get a few bites of Sergio’s French Toast – see below). The eggs were extra creamy and the dill topping the plate added that extra something that elevated the entire dish and made it go from good to great.

South End dining, South End brunch

Frittata – $13

My friend Paul ordered the house frittata with fennel, potato and goat cheese. The plate was garnished with parsley and what appeared to be some sort of shaved vegetable. I have to admit the presentation lacked the appeal of my plate but he seemed to enjoy the meal and there was nothing on his plate when our very nice waitress, Jessica, came to clear the table.

South End dinner, South End brunch

Challah bread French Toast with all the trimmings – $12

Fear not if savory isn’t your thing and if you wake up craving something sweeter because Bar Mezzana has a few options but none seemed quite as tempting as their French toast which comes topped with whipped cream, walnuts, cinnamon and quince – along with a healthy amount of real maple syrup. If I were the owner of the restaurant I would also add this as a dessert for two on their dinner menu because this is perfectly satisfying and larger than it appears in this photo.

Overall, brunch was excellent. Service was very helpful without being intrusive and the food was nicely presented and even better to eat. I’d encourage you to try Bar Mezzana’s brunch, but caution you to make reservations so you don’t have to wait. Brunch is served weekly each Sunday from 10:30 AM to 2:00 PM.

BosGuy Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Wicked Awesome.

Bar Mezzana
360 Harrison Avenue  ||  (617) 530-1770
www.barmezzana.com

I’ve fallen in love with Aquitaine’s Michelin Burger

South End dining, hamburger

Michelin Burger is $16.95. Photo provided by Aquitaine Boston

Last weekend Sergio and I went to grab a bite at Aquitaine’s bar. I was eyeing the burger on their menu but at the suggestion of the bartender I tried their new “Michelin Burger” (shown above), which wasn’t officially part of the menu.

I ended up devouring the burger and enjoyed it so much that I asked the bartender to send me a photo if Aquitaine ended up adding it to their menu. Apparently several other patrons liked the burger too, because earlier this week I received a note from the restaurant group thanking me for coming in and letting me know that starting this weekend the burger would be added to their brunch and lunch menu as well as to their bar menu, effective this Monday.

The “Michelin Burger” is made with dry aged ground beef, topped with caramelized onions, Vermont cheddar and truffle mayonaisse and served on a toasted onion roll. I opted to have my burger cooked medium rare but however you like it – I’m sure you’ll walk away both full and satisfied. This is definitely one of the best burgers in town and a must try for anyone who enjoys a hamburger.

Much thanks to the bartender at Aquitaine for going the extra mile, forwarding my comments and contact information so I could get this photo. Now that dry January is over, I’ll come back and try it with a cold beer.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Aquitaine Boston
529 Tremont Street  || (617) 424-8577
aquitaineboston.com

Restaurant review: Ruka Boston

Godfrey HotelWhat happens when you combine Peruvian, Japanese and Chinese cuisine? You end up with a unique dining option in Downtown Crossing called Ruka.

The chic restaurant in Boston’s trendy Godfrey Hotel, has been a hot spot ever since it opened in early December last year. Ruka definitely has it’s own vibe. The overly embellished Asian-inspired decor is too polished to be confused with a Chinatown restaurant and the energy still evident when we left around 11:30 on a Tuesday night is not characteristic of a typical restaurant in Boston and is a testament to how much this part of Boston has changed with more residents now calling Downtown Crossing home than I can ever remember.

The small plates menu is heavily influenced by Japanese-Peruvian cuisine referred to as nikkei; as well as Chinese cuisine and some wonderful sushi options. If I have a complaint about Ruka it would be that the menu can be confusing and there is no telling which options are so small you’re better off skipping (like the blackened octopus – shown below).

BLACKENED OCTOPUS $13

While I thoroughly enjoyed the blackened octopus served with harissa mayo, sesame bbq and  ginger slaw, it was so small that the restaurant should either consider doubling the portion or removing it from the menu IMHO.

Fortunately, what followed were reasonable portions for sharing. The Chao Shou Pork wontons served in chile oil, black vinegar, cilantro and topped with crispy sweet potato crisps was both delicious and satisfying. Although picking up the slippery wontons with chop sticks proved to be too difficult for me, and I eventually succumbed to using a fork for this plate.

CHAO SHOU PORK WONTONS $17

At the same time that we received the octopus and wontons our very capable server brought over the plancha broccoli served with a curry and spicy peanuts (which btw were not spicy at all) and topped with broccoli stem fritters that added a nice texture to a satisfying plate.

PLANCHA BROCCOLI $14

Our final plate was the Acevichado, which according to their menu is described as  their daily cerviche served with leche de tigre, pickled cucumber and sweet potato. This was one of the most satisfying plates both in presentation and taste and went remarkably well with the Sauvignon Blanc I had ordered with dinner.

ceviche

ACEVICHADO $20

If you’ve been to Ruka Boston, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the space and the food you tried. If you’ve not visited this unique restaurant, check it out and then get back to me with your thoughts.

I really enjoyed myself and will definitely be back again to try more plates.

Ruka Boston
505 Washington Street (DTX)
(617) 266-0102 || rukarestobar.com

BosGuy reviews Mr. Bartley’s

Harvard SquareMr. Bartley’s is at its core a burger joint, despite the fact that their menu includes sandwiches, salads, etc… This casual dining restaurant in Harvard Square with a decor best described as kitsch, has been serving burgers since 1960 (that’s nearly 60 years).  They crank out too many 7 ounce burgers to count and they do it with a speed and consistency that few restaurants can match.

Harvard SquareUpon entering the casual dining restaurant, you’re likely to hear orders being shouted by the cooks. The names of their burgers show a sense of humor I can’t help but appreciate; some of my favorite burger names include: Mike Pence (way right & way wrong); Caitlyn Jenner (you go girl); Legalize It (now tax the hell out of it); Kim Jong-Un (even crazier than Trump); and Viagra (rise to the occasion).

I ended up ordering the Gay Marriage (they can’t be worse @ it) burger which includes a 7 ounce patty with mozzarella, peppers, jalapenos,  black olives and a pickle along with a ridiculously large pile of onion rings, that I was barely able to put a dent into. The burger was cooked to perfection, and I really liked the combination of flavors. If the “Gay Marriage” burger doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry with 25+ burgers, Mr. Bartley’s will have something you’ll like.

harvard square

Mr. Bartley’s, Gay Marriage (they can’t be worse @ it) burger $15.95

Was this the best burger I’ve ever had? Maybe not, but it is damn good, and I would eat this again and again if I lived or worked in Harvard Square. Couple the fact that they make a really good burger with a great vibe and have been doing this since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President and you have what we call an “institution”. If you’ve never been, definitely put this place on your list to try.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Mr. Bartley’s
1246 Massachusetts Ave. || Harvard Square
mrbartley.com

BosGuy reviews 224 Boston Street Restaurant

224 Boston Restaurant, Dorchester diningI was sad when I heard that the building housing the popular Dorchester neighborhood restaurant, 224 Boston (a.k.a. 224) was up for sale. I assumed 224, which has been serving meals since the 1980s would close, but rumor has it that the longtime owner, Kevin Tyo, found a buyer who wants to continue with business as usual when they take over the property next month.

Venture out of downtown and enjoy a n’hood gem like 224

Saturday night I decided to head over and grab dinner at 224. Chalk it up to nostalgia. Even though it has been several years since last visiting, everything looks the same, 80s music plays nonstop, unpretentious patrons from the neighborhood crowd this tiny restaurant and small bar. Sitting at the bar I was greeted by a friendly bartender who had no idea how to pronounce an “R”, moments later I heard the woman next to me describe her meal as, “Wicked”. The gentrification of the South End means that wicked is no longer used in the traditional Boston sense like this woman used it to express her satisfaction with her dinner. That combined with the thick Boston accents surrounding me made me realize how much Boston has changed and how much I miss places like 224, which use to be far more common in the South End (anyone remember Pho Republique, Geoffrey’s, Le Gamin, Claremont Cafe, etc…)

dorchester dining

224’s Fork & Knife Caesar is $9 and large enough to share

Prices at 224 remain reasonable with main plates ranging from $19-$24. The full menu is large with plenty of starters, salads, sandwiches and flatbreads (which by the way are even more affordable). I started with a big glass of a California Cabernet and the “Fork and Knife Caesar”, which is topped with fried anchovies  and an anchovy-laden dressing, that I thoroughly enjoyed and devoured despite being large enough to share.

dorchester dining

224’s Prosciutto and Fig Flatbread is $12 and large enough to be a meal

When I was looking over the menu, the friendly bartender told me he really likes the Prosciutto and Fig Flatbread. Since I had been eyeing it, I figured I would try it. I’ll be candid, Stella’s braised short rib and fig flatbread remains my favorite, but 224 serves a satisfying flatbread and at roughly 30% less it shows how affordable dining can be if you venture out of the downtown neighborhoods.

224 is not fine dining and there are similar plates in other restaurants that may be better, like the fig flatbread, but the charm of this place cannot be topped and the comfort food that has been coming out of their kitchen for nearly 40 years impressive. If I lived closer to 224 I would be there several times a week. If you’ve never been or if it has been several years, do yourself a favor and go visit this Dorchester gem. They are open for dinner 7-days a week.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

224 Boston Street Restaurant
224 Boston Street (Dorchester)
(508) 265-1217

Restaurant review Aquitaine Boston

French, FranceFew restaurants have been operating in the South End as long as Aquitaine, which briefly closed in the winter of 2016 to remodel the 20 year old space. If you have not visited since they reopened, make it a point to stop by.

The most notable changes include a private dining section in the space formerly occupied by the tiny wine bar, moving the redesigned 11-seat pewter bar to the left of the newly monogrammed floor entrance and replacing the black and burgundy color scheme with French oak paneling and brass antique lighting. The redesign also modernized Aquitaine’s kitchen, which I am happy to say continues to crank-out good French cuisine.

south end dining

Brussels Sprouts Lyonnaise

Sergio started his meal with escargot but sadly the dim lighting which adds to the dining experience makes it a challenge to photograph using an iPhone (despite however much Apple claims how wonderful their camera is) so sadly no photo of Sergio’s starter. However, I started with the Brussels Sprouts Lyonnaise ($15) which also includes kale, a poached egg and a warm bacon vinaigrette. The key to this dish is the poached egg which was perfectly cooked so the yolk coated the greens and complemented the salty flavoring of the vinaigrette.

south end restaurant, aquitaine group

Parisian Gnocchi Fricassee

On this most recent visit Sergio ordered the Parisian Gnocchi Fricassee ($26), which includes braised rabbit, summer squash and tomatoes.  The gnocchi was soft and absorbed much of the flavors imparted by the rabbit and broth. Sergio gave the plate mixed reviews, which I think was partly due to the rabbit which I don’t think he is 100% comfortable eating. Sergio prefers white meat so I give him bonus points for venturing outside his typical dining preferences (it is a testament to how much he loves gnocchi).

south end dining, aquitaine restaurant group

Pan Roasted Duck Breast

I opted for Aquitaine’s Pan Roasted Rohen Duck Breast ($30) which is served over swiss chard and a bigarade sauce (a brown sauce flavored with the juice and grated rind of oranges) and sprinkled with pistachios. This is a very hearty meal and one perfectly suited for the fall months. The duck was prepared perfectly, enhancing the rich flavors from my first plate, creating a savory one-two punch.

Profiteroles

We opted to splurge and order profiteroles for dessert, which are served as a trio coated with a healthy dollop of thick chocolate and filled with a creamy vanilla ice cream. While I sipped what remained of my wine, Sergio thoroughly enjoyed this dessert, which he split with a friend who joined us for dinner.

Aquitaine remains a solid dining option in a neighborhood that has more than its share of restaurants. Twenty-plus years later the service at Aquitaine remains consistently excellent and the food continues to tempt. Aquitaine is open seven days a week for dinner. Lunch is offered Monday – Friday and brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday.

BosGuy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars, Good.

Aquitaine Boston
529 Tremont Street  || (617) 424-8577
aquitaineboston.com