Tag Archives: Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: 111 East

boston restaurant, boston dining111 East is located in the Seaport and opened earlier this summer. Although you may not be familiar this Asian hot pot / street food inspired bistro, you’ve probably heard of its sister restaurant Lola 42, which is easily my favorite dining option in the Seaport.

Unlike many restaurants in the Seaport, the restaurant doesn’t feel cavernous and for those who have a modern design aesthetic – the interior will appeal. According to the website, the interior juxtaposes more traditional Asian design with an urban edge. Below are images of the bar and the main dining room.Boston dining

111 East menu is affordable with starters and sandwiches ranging from just a few dollars to $15; build your own noodle and rice bowls ranging from the teens to low $20s; Entrees from teens to $52 (only a couple options are at the top of this price range); and of course their Hot Pot menu which starts in the low $20s but can increase based on your taste and extravagance.

We started our dinner with Steamed Buns – Pork Belly and Fried Chicken. Although both were delicious, I was partial to the Pork Belly (shown below) that came with hoisin sauce and crsipy shallots.  The Fried Chicken was good but I prefer the soft buns with the sweet pork belly  and encourage you to try it.

Although 111 East is the Seaport’s only hotpot restaurant, it was too warm for us to contemplate ordering it so I chose the Flank Steak with garlic broccoli and waterchestnut in a spicy mango sauce that wasn’t really all that hot but was very flavorful. The greatest challenge I faced eating the steak was trying to cut it with a chopstick and knife until our attentive waiter brought me a fork. The steak (shown below) was really excellent – I would definitely recommend.

Since we skipped the hotpot, we decided to try a build your own rice bowl. We both love curry so Sergio selected a chicken bowl with steamed rice, yellow curry and an assortment of vegetables. Sadly, this was the one disappointing plate we ordered. The curry had little flavor and was quite bland. It was as if what little flavor the curry had seemed to dissipate the minute you consumed it.

Despite the disappointing curry, everything else was really quite excellent. The space has a cool vibe, the service was attentive without being obtrusive and the menu was appealing. If you’re looking for a place to try out for a date or with friends, I would recommend trying 111 East and after dinner enjoy a nice walk along the waterfront just one block away or grab a nightcap at their bar.

BosGuy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars, Good.

111 East
11 Fan Pier ||  (617) 443-4111
111eastseaport.com

Restaurant review: Black Lamb Boston (brunch)

SergioBlack Lamb Boston opened in the space formerly occupied by Stephi’s on Tremont and is now serving brunch on both Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10:00 AM.

The “new kid on the block” status combined with the reputation of culinary couple Heather and Colin Lynch ensures that Black Lamb will be hard to get a seat most evenings, but when we visited for an early Saturday brunch we had the space almost entirely to ourselves. The biggest differences to the space are the color scheme, artwork and converting the private dining room in the back into a cool little raw bar and dining space.

Stephi’s private dining room has been converted into a cozy raw bar

The brunch menu is a tad limited (especially if you love to have a lot of egg-options) but it does have some very interesting items and we wasted no time ordering something savory and something sweet.

We started with the Potato Rosti, which has a consistency of a latke and is served with  smoked salmon, sour cream and dill piled atop. It was really delicious and something I would definitely have again.

Black Lamb Boston

Potato Rosti – $14

The French Toast served with strawberries and whipped cream photographs nicely but wasn’t served with enough maple syrup so initially it tasted a bit dry but we rectified that quickly, asking for a bit more syrup which the brioche soaked up nicely.  This is definitely a good option for anyone who likes something sweet in the morning.

Black Lamb Boston

French Toast – $15

The only glitch in the dining experience was the timing of breakfast items which was a surprise considering there were so few tables at that time of the morning. However, to the restaurant’s credit they rectified the situation quickly and one can chalk this up  to being part of the team’s learning curve.

BosGuy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars, Good.

Black Lamb
571 Tremont Street ||  (617) 982-6330
www.blacklambsouthend.com

 

Revisiting Uni Boston’s late night ramen menu

Boston dining, late night dining in bostonBack in 2013 my friend Zoe and I checked out Uni’s late night ramen menu. I wrote about the experience in my post Late night didning at Uni.  

At the time, Uni was a small subterranean annex in the lauded French restaurant, Clio, serving sashimi, sushi & unique Asian street food. In 2016 Ken Oringer expanded Uni after closing Clio and the late night dining moved to the main dining room. Each Friday and Saturday, starting at 10:30, you can try Uni’s version of cheap eats in the form of delicious ramen. Calling this as a  cheap eats is a bit of a misnomer at $16 for a bowl, but if you consider the location, quality and cost of dining at Uni normally this is pretty darn cheap.

Boston dining late night

Uni Boston’s late night chicken ramen bowl is large and delicious

In the five years since my last visit, the menu has remained fairly consistent. Prices have gone up about 50% but from the crowd at Uni this past Friday, it doesn’t seem to have deterred many from coming into the beautiful restaurant. The service is (as one would expect) superb, and I can’t help but love their hand written cardboard menus at this chic restaurant in the Back Bay. Check it out with friends or go there solo like I did and enjoy the fantastic people watching while slurping your slightly spicy and 100% delicious steaming bowl of ramen.

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

Uni Boston
370 Commonwealth Avenue ||  (617) 536-7200
uni-boston.com

Restaurant review: Southern Proper

Southern Proper opened this March in a new space on Harrison Avenue in the South End. The space is filled with large pine beams meant to be reminiscent of tobacco barns in North Carolina; the source of inspiration for Chef Jason Cheek.

Earlier this year EaterBoston shared beautiful photos of the space which has a ceiling filled with upside down hanging table lamps and eclectic furnishings. Although the look isn’t one I can relate to – I appreciate the thought and effort that went into making the space uniquely their own.

Southern Proper’s menu is divided into several sections including: Snacks which range in price from $5-$16 and include items like Deviled Eggs, Hushpuppies and BBQ Bone Marrow; Farmhouse which range from $12-$16 and include options like Grilled Corn on the Cob and Charred Broccoli & Kale Salad; Meats & Chicken, which are actually two separate sections but self explanatory, ranging in price from  $9 – $34; Seaside with three options ranging from $21-$25; and finally sides which are all $7 and include items like Mac & Cheese, Buttermilk Biscuits and Crispy Corn Bread.

south end dining

Southern Proper’s Broccoli & Kale Salad $14

Sergio and I were lucky enough to get two bar chairs at the end of the long, wrap around bar, which gave us a great view of the space and provided ample people watching. We started our dinner with drinks followed by the Broccoli & Kale Salad, which was delicious but I don’t think it had any kale. The grilled corn and citrus-dressing was excellent and a great first plate.

Southern Proper’s Pulled Pork ( $14)

The next two plates that came out (which Sergio and I shared) included the half order (which by the way is HUGE) of pulled pork served with pickles, pickled onions and cole slaw (shown above) and the Mac & Cheese (shown below).

Of the two plates, I preferred the pulled pork, which the Improper Bostonian raved about and EaterBoston described as “the version to beat” in Boston. The Velveeta used in the Mac & Cheese wasn’t Sergio’s favorite but I enjoyed when accompanied with the pulled pork, but in hindsight, everything probably would go well with Southern Proper’s pulled pork.

Southern Proper’s Mac & Cheese $7

I’m happy to see a Southern cuisine restaurant opening to provide more variety to the neigbhorhood, but the menu options and vibe isn’t really my scene. Having said that, I wish Southern Proper much success.

BosGuy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars, Good.

Southern Proper
600 Harrison Avenue ||  (857) 233-2421
www.southernproperboston.com

Anoush’ella restaurant review

affordable south end dining

Photo Credit: Boston Showcase Company

Last September the South End welcomed Anoush’ella; a family owned and operated Eastern Mediterranean restaurant that serves Armenian and Lebanese cuisine. The casual dining restaurant is a welcome change to the $30+ a plate restaurants that dominate the South End and as you can see from above the space is well designed and very comfortable.

Most of the menu focuses on flatbreads, wraps and bowls, which you order at the counter (everyone is very patient and is happy to explain the menu). Once you’ve ordered find a seat at the bar, communal table or individual tables in the back.

south end dining, armenian cuisine in bostonShakShuka ($9.75) and Walnut Harissa ($3.50) 

While the restaurant is very popular for lunch and dinner and has a brisk take out business, I have have started visiting Anoush’ella for breakfast on Saturday mornings. With the average price point for breakfast, lunch and dinner ~$15, you can afford to visit repeatedly if you like.

Above is what has become my “go to” breakfast: Shakshuka which is diced tomatoes, onion, olives and red pepper with za’atar (a blend of oregano, basil & thyme), cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic cloves, topped with cilantro, two poached eggs and labne (Greek yogurt). I also get a side of the Walnut Harrissa which is made with red peppers and adds a bit of heat. The pita bread is made fresh to order, and I use it to scoop the food. They also have sweeter options for those who may prefer something a tad less savory including: Nutella chocolate with strawberry, banana, cinnamon, honey and granola as well as some more traditional Armenian options like Kenefe, which is made with crushed filo dough and cheese wrapped with sesame seeds and served with orange blossom syrup.

Anoush’ella is open seven days a week. Monday through Friday 11AM – 9:30PM and Saturday and Sunday 10AM – 9:30PM and serves beer and wine.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Anoush’ella
35 West Newton Street  || (857) 265-3195
www.anoushella.com

Restaurant review: Milkweed in Mission Hill

People line up for a table at Milkweed for breakfast on weekends

A few weeks ago I met up with my friend Joe for breakfast in his neighborhood, Mission Hill. This tiny Boston neighborhood (less than a square mile) is not on a lot of people’s radar but its proximity to downtown makes it easy to get to.

In recent years, Mission Hill has seen gentrification change the landscape of the neighborhood and Milkweed which opened at the end of August in 2017 is a shining example of that gentrification (meant in the best possible context). Located in the former space of a neighborhood grocer, this bright and friendly restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

mission hill restaurantWhile I cannot comment on their lunch or dinner menu, I think Milkweed may have the most interesting breakfast menu I’ve seen in recent memory including everything from shakshuka to lucky charm pancakes (but more on that later). As one might expect the menu prices are very affordable with breakfast plates ranging from $6 – $14 (a quick look at their dinner menu shows main plates ranging from $16 – $22).

For breakfast Joe opted for the rather decadent “lucky charm pancakes”, which cost only $8 and was served as a stack sprinkled with extra lucky charms and powdered sugar. Although the photo doesn’t show it, the lucky charms are incorporated into the pancake batter. I cannot imagine the sugar high one has if they were to eat the entire stack. Joe put a pretty good dent into the pancakes but didn’t quite finish the plate.

Milkweed cafe, Mission Hill dining, Mission Hill restaurantsI opted for something a tad healthier after our friendly waitress, Holly, explained that along with their shakshuka plate, the “Power Bowl” is a signature breakfast plate. The power bowl which is $13 is a melange of ingredients including quinoa, greens, two sunny side up eggs, roasted sweet potato and beets, avocado, candied pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, chick peas, and dressed with an avocado-lime vinaigrette. What this picture doesn’t do justice is how much food is included, but I “powered” through and ate most of it and leaving quite full.

Milkweed is owned by David Cawley and Ben Johnson and it has a beer and wine license. They are open seven days a week. Breakfast is served from 8AM – 2PM on weekends and holidays – reservations are not accepted for breakfast.

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Milkweed
1508 Tremont Street  ||  (617) 516-8913
www.eatatmilkweed.com

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

Restaurant review: Spoke Wine Bar

Located less than a five minute walk from the heart of Davis Square, Spoke Wine Bar first opened in 2013 but closed in 2016 before reopening under new management this spring with Eric Frier (Toro, Coppa, Ribelle) and Daniel Rodriguez (Uni, Clio) in the kitchen.

The restaurant serves “New American small plates”, and when I visited in August the menu was divided into three categories small, cold and hot with prices ranging from $5 – $23. My friend and I opted to sit at the bar which runs nearly the entire length of the restaurant and we were served by a friendly bartender who’s name unfortunately I never caught otherwise I’d be sure to give him a shout out for the excellent service we received.

We ordered four plates: one small, one cold and two hot plates to share, starting with smoked butter bean dip with sourdough bread ($8, shown above left) and the burrata served on a kohlrabi pesto with green strawberries and hazelnut ($15, shown above right).  The smoked bean dip was really delicious with the thickly sliced sourdough but the burrata plate was disappointing. When we cut into the cheese it failed to ooze into the bowl and neither of us enjoyed the flavor of the cabbage-pesto. To our server’s credit when he realized we didn’t care for the plate he immediately took it back and offered to deduct it from our tab.

Quinoa RisottoFortunately, our two hot plates were very satisfying, starting with the quinoa risotto ($16) shown above with summer vegetables and a ricotta salata. I was really surprised by how much I liked this plate and think the creative combination of flavors and complementing textures made this an excellent choice. Following the risotto the striped bass ($23) with mushrooms, kholrabi and big, leafy mustard greens, which added a dramatic pop of color along with flavor was another personal favorite.

spoke wine bar, davis square diningAlthough we were both satisfied after the three plates we dined on we were easily influenced to take a look at their dessert menu and quickly selected the rum crémeux ($10). It seems like crémeux are on many restaurant dessert menus, but for those unfamiliar with the name, think of a dense, creamy mousse almost the consistency of a pudding. This chocolate dessert was a decadent end to a delicious dinner and despite being small, was a great plate to share.

Spoke Wine Bar, Somerville dining, davis square
I really enjoyed my dinner at Spoke Winebar. The staff was friendly and more than competent, the menu was very creative and the space comfortable and pleasing to visit. Even though one of the plates wasn’t to our liking, I feel like I need to give bonus points to the staff for the way they responded. When a restaurant takes risks by combining different ingredients and flavors you have to respect the kitchen’s creativity. If we had a similar reaction to several plates, my opinion would probably change but everything else was so pleasing it is hard to fault the restaurant, considering how creative their entire menu is.

I wish the new ownership much success at Spoke Wine Bar and if you were to find yourself in Davis Square would certainly recommend this as an option. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday).

BosGuy Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Awesome.

Spoke Wine Bar
89 Holland Street (Davis Square)
(508) 718-9463

Restaurant review: Lulu’s Allston

Source: Lulu’s Allston Facebook Page

Recently I visited the Allston/Brighton neighborhoods of Boston to spend an evening with my friend Evan. Allston is a vibrant neighborhood that many students and 20-somethings call home. Tourists who visit Boston are unlikely to venture into Allston/Brighton but it is an easy T or Uber ride, and I was glad my friend had invited me to have dinner in his neighborhood.

Lulu’s is located on Cambridge Street in Allston and is a fairly large space with a decent size bar and a recently opened back patio. Televisions hang around the the restaurant, which both Evan and I noticed preoccupied the attention of most of the 20-something patrons who come to this place for its comfort food and reasonable prices. The menu is filled with classic American food served in large portions that are not in the least calorie conscious – dieters stay away.

Lulu's Allston

Lulu’s Pretzels $4 || Lulu’s Cajun Tots $4

We started our dinner with orders of their Pretzels and Cajun Tots, which came out very warm served in tiny tin pales.  The munchkin shaped pretzels were served with sides of cheese and mustard.  I’m not sure what made the Tots Cajun since I didn’t taste any spices but I love tater tots so I was not disappointed. They were crispy on the outside and steamy warm and fluffy on the inside.

Our sever was vigilant about refilling our drinks, which if you are a beer drinker Lulu’s has a lot of options (about 50 is what I counted) but note they don’t have a full liquor license, rather they have a cordials liquor license. This article in the Boston Metro explains what that means. That being said it didn’t prevent Evan from enjoying his Manhattan and me from having scoffing down two lagers.

Lulu’s “Miss PIggy” Burger burger is $15

Lulu’s serves several burgers and Evan opted for the largest on the menu. The Miss Piggy Burger (as it is called) is served on texas toast, topped with pasta salad, pulled pork, bacon, bbq sauce, red onions and  served with a side of fries that are drizzled with honey mustard and sprinkled with scallions. The order is so large that it is served on a metal tray. I only swiped a few fries so I cannot comment on the burger but it looked like a heart attack on a bun. Evan ate almost everything so I assume it was very good.

Lulu’s Short Rib and Mac & Cheese $14

I opted for something equally unhealthy albeit slightly smaller, Short Rib Mac & Cheese, after our waiter suggested it was one of their most popular plates and one that the place is probably best known for serving. I enjoyed the meal but would probably try something different if I were to return to Lulu’s. The short rib was slightly dry and the cheese had pooled at the bottom of the plate rather than coating the pasta. My critique aside – in full disclosure – it didn’t stop me from eating nearly everything on my plate.

Which brings me to my overall evaluation, which I would characterize as a solid neighborhood restaurant. It knows its clientele and caters to them with affordable price points, typical American food and plenty of cold beer on tap. Lulu’s Allston is open 7-days a week, serving lunch and dinner and brunch on the weekends.

BosGuy Rating: 3 out of 5 stars, Good.

Lulu’s Allston
421 Cambridge Street in Allston  || (617) 787-1117
lulusallston.com