Tag Archives: Restaurant Review

Taste-Vin in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

dining, restaurant review, brazil diningEach year Sergio and I travel to Belo Horizonte (B.H.), Brazil. Despite the fact that you may never have heard of his hometown, it has roughly the same population of Chicago – America’s third largest city.

We take advantage of the great dining when we visit B.H. and this year we visited a restaurant in the Lourdes neighborhood that has been operating since 1988 called Taste-Vin. The quaint French restaurant has a cozy feeling. The decor includes friendly messages like a “Recipe for Happiness”, walls lined with wine bottles and small dining rooms that are sectioned off by a central bar that serves to divide the space but still let patrons look from one dining room to another.

Chef Rodrigo Fonseca

Chef Rodrigo Fonseca who also owns Taste-Vin came out to greet us and share his personal recommendations

The menu at Taste-Vin is surprisingly large with Entrées, Soufflés (perhaps what they are best known for serving), Seafood, Duck and Rabbit, Meat and of course Desserts. Because we got a late start to our dinner (10:30PM on a Monday) we decided to skip ordering an entree and doubled down by ordering one of the twelve soufflés to share and the filet mignon. Before we talk about the food we ordered think about the fragrances that filled these rooms as countless soufflés are being served at nearly every table; like the one shown below.

Spinach Souffle

Taste-Vin Spinach Souffle – $18

The filet mignon, served as two 5 oz medallions, is ideal for sharing so we asked to have each medallion served on separate plates. Below is a photo of my plate as it was served – cooked medium rare as requested. The combination of the wine, filet (with a bouquet of eight herbs served to the side) and soufflé was so aromatic that I was salivating like Pavlov’s dogs after hearing the chime of a bell.

taste-vin-belo-horizonte-filet-mignon-au-pauvre

Shown above is one of the two 5 oz grilled filet mignon medallions is $22

The soufflé was so light and full of flavor. I immediately understood why every table had ordered one to share. The Gruyere soufflé we had ordered also had the added benefit of absorbing some of the au poivre vert sauce.

Upon arriving at the table the waitstaff plated the soufflé, adding some additional drama to what normally concludes with plates being served. taste-vin-belo-horizonte-gruyere-souffle-and-filetpng

Although I mentioned that we skipped an entrée because of the late start to our dinner, neither of us were in a rush to leave what turned out to be an excellent meal so with very little urging from Sergio we also ordered the Moelleux Au Chocolat which is best described by sharing this 5 second video. 

Should you ever get to Belo Horizonte, you may want to give this restaurant a try. Taste-Vin ranks as the second most popular restaurant out of a possible 8,310 places to try listed on Trip Advisor.

Taste-Vin Restaurant – Belo Horizonte

Restaurant review: Marliave

marliave-boston

Photo Credit: downtownboston.org

If you’ve lived in Boston long enough you’ve probably dined at Marliave. The restaurant is located down Bosworth Street – a nondescript street between Downtown Crossing and the Granary Burial Grounds. Marliave has been operating since it first opened in 1885, and is named after the original owner, Henry Marliave, a French immigrant from Paris.

Tracey, Life Food Wine, restaurant review

Life Food Wine blogger and BFF Tracey modeling Marliave’s cocktail menu

I recently joined my friend and fellow blogger from Life Food Wine to visit the restaurant. While the space could seriously use some renovations, I can appreciate how regulars may like the eccentric layout and idiosyncrasies of the space. While we both really loved the cocktail menu, we ended up (as we normally do) enjoying a lovely bottle of wine to accompany our meal.

Diners familiar with the establishment will recognize the menu since little has changed; perhaps a sign that the restaurant knows what their clientele like. The two page menu is divided into what I think of as starters or lighter fare: raw bar, appetizers and eggs, that range in price from just a few dollars for raw bar which are priced individually to $18 with most in the $10-$12 range.  The second page of the menu has the main dishes and sides which include: pastas, meat, fish and sandwiches. These range from $15-$36 with most options in the low $20 range, making the Marliave an excellent value when you consider the quality of the food and service that has remained fairly consistent over the years.

marliave-beat-salad

Marliave’s tower of roasted beets $12

We started our dinner with a very fall inspired plate of roasted beets that were topped with arugula and stacked high with goat cheese that was slathered on almost like a frosting between three layers of beets.

The salad was beautifully assembled and presented with spiced walnuts and drops of aged balsamic and lemon vinaigrette.

marliave-serving-tray

Serving trays add a sense of drama to the service at Marliave

After clearing the salad, our skilled server brought over our main plates in what can only be described as an impressive presentation (yet again) with our dinners served to us like royalty in these serving trays. Want to impress a date? Take them to a restaurant where their meal is presented with a serving tray. I had to prevent myself from saying “Voila!” when our server lifted the lids.

marliave-salmon

Marliave’s wild salmon $30

Tracey opted for the chicken under a brick which was served with a mushroom risotto for $26. Since I don’t like to have bricks with my dinner I opted after much deliberation for the wild salmon. The filet was cooked exactly as I requested and served with a medley of vegetables and a garlic aioli.

My latest visit to the Marliave was a nice change to my regular dining routine and reminded me that the restaurant continues to provide excellent service and a solid dining experience making it a great option for a date, night out with friends or an evening with colleagues.

Marliave
10 Bosworth Street
(617) 422-0004
www.marliave.com

Jody Adams new restaurant: Porto Boston

Jody AdamsJody Adams opened Porto Boston this summer in the Back Bay. Due to its unique location it may be the best restaurant you are guaranteed to always get a table last minute. The restaurant’s address is 780 Boylston Street but it isn’t on Boylston St. It is actually located next to Saks Fifth Avenue across from Shaws, in a space that was not previously a restaurant – go figure.

I joined my friend Tracey who writes the Life Food Wine blog to check out Adams’ newest dining establishment. We had the bar entirely to ourselves until we were ready to leave at which point one of Boston’s best chefs, Ken Oringer, and his wife walked in the door. What can I say? I keep good company.

Photo Source: Porto Facebook Page

Photo Source: Porto Facebook Page

The restaurant has an open kitchen and several bars along with an outdoor, covered patio that has lounge furniture. We opted to sit at the long bar just to the right of entrance and enjoyed the undivided attention of a very helpful bartender who walked us through their menu which is almost entirely comprised of fresh seafood that changes frequently.

Most of the items offered are smaller plates and intended to be shared. I’ll be honest that this is generally a turn off for me, but I enjoyed the items we ordered and would certainly return based on how much I enjoyed what I ate.

porto-boston-olive-bread

Porto’s Olive Bread $3

Tracey and I started with two small plates: an olive bread ($3) that was served warm and looked like a funky pretzel as well as the raw hamachi ($16).  I’ve yet to meet a bread that I don’t like and I would recommend this for those of you who are not carb-phobic because it was nice to have alongside our other plates, but clearly the better of the two plates was the hamachi which rivals (if not is better than Ostra’s in the Theater District).  The Hamchi had a bit of a kick, that I believe was partly due to the use of paprika and a few other seasonings that we both really enjoyed but couldn’t place; definitely give it a try.

porto-boston-hamachi

Porto’s Hamachi $16

Dinner concluded with the Grilled Swordfish which was highly praised by our bartender and I’m happy to say lived up to the hype. Cooked to perfection, it sat atop sauce, grilled onions and green tomatoes (although I’m still convinced what was on my plate were figs – regardless of what the menu said). I should point out that we enjoyed a bottle of their Cote Mas Rose but if you are not partial to Rose wines,  Porto has an impressive wine list for you to peruse.

porto-boston-swordfish

Porto’s Swordfish $31

While Porto may not be for everyone, this is a restaurant you may want to put on your radar if you’re looking for an upscale, relaxing seafood restaurant.  Back Bay has very few such places, which I’m sure is one of the reasons Jody Adams wisely chose this slightly off the beaten path location. I wish Porto much success.

*Special thanks to my friend Tracey for sharing her photos.

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