You can’t spend a day in Boston without seeing that the city is going through a major food revival. Chefs are taking Boston classics in wild new directions and highlighting lesser-known local seafood, like black sea bass. There’s a wave of Greek restaurants, including one from a chef with James Beard accolades. Chinatown is booming.
On a recent trip, I ate my way through as many of the city’s newest spots as I could. Here are the six things that delighted me the most:
Greek Yogurt with Baklava Crisps at Saloniki Greek: Chef Jody Adams opened this Fenway-adjacent restaurant in March as a tribute to the classic Greek sandwich house, and it’s the real deal. Adams and her partners traveled to Thessaloniki, the Greek port city that inspired the restaurant’s name, to do research. The payoff—for us, anyhow—is her take on a Greek sandwich, a thin pita filled with elements of your choice, such as spicy whipped feta, bright tomatoes, juicy pork, and zucchini fritters. And don’t overlook the short dessert menu: Jody’s team makes ice cream–thick Greek yogurt fresh each day and tops it with a homemade lemon curd, honey, or fig jam. The pro/glutton’s move is to order a little pack of baklava crisps to crumble on top.
Crispy Tater Cubes at Yvonne’s: Although Yvonne’s is a new addition to downtown Boston, it practically oozes history. Owners Chris Jamison, Mark Malatesta, and David Ortiz (yes, that David Ortiz) took over a space that used to house a historic supper club and reimagined it as a modern take on the men’s clubs where the city’s power brokers made deals over oysters and flank steak. The stuffiness and exclusivity are gone, but a three-year renovation went to great lengths to preserve and polish the space’s history. The library bar—which still has its original portraits of bigwigs like JFK—literally glows. It’s one of the most Instagram-ready restaurants I’ve ever seen. As for the eating: All plates are meant to be shared, from the Baked Oysters Savannah filled with a lobster porcini cream to a made-for-two Grilled Beef Matambre topped with chimichurri sauce. But I can guarantee that you won’t want to share the crispy tater cubes, which require two days to make and are showered with pickled egg, Gouda, and curried aioli right before they arrive at your table.
Octopus a la Plancha at Townsman: Chef Matt Jennings’s dishes are a happy marriage of New England ingredients and freewheeling cooking, all infused with a sophisticated sense of fun. Take the bread service: Why serve a basket of bread and ramekin of butter when you can serve rounds of Boston brown bread with togarashi-topped maple-honey butter that’s cleverly layered into the top quarter-inch of a maple syrup can? And why not serve brussels sprouts with pork fat croutons, or pair grilled octopus with mole and fried plantains? That’s the kind of thinking that lands you on Esquire’s 2015 best restaurants list.
Asian Cheesy Corn at UNI: We almost passed on this dish. Overwhelmed by the three-part menu (cold plates, hot plates, and sushi), my partner in eating crime and I were focusing on the more seafood-forward foods for which executive chef Ken Oringer is known. At the last minute, with a Hey, we’re only here for a night attitude, we tacked on the corn. A cascade of smoked hamachi tartare, toro, and seared scallops later (we ordered more than 12 plates), our cheesy corn arrived and our minds were kind of blown. The warm corn—tossed with spicy vinaigrette and cotija cheese and served with shrimp crackers for scooping—is a simple but perfect example of what Oringer does best: mixing international flavors together to create surprising and wildly addictive dishes.
Brunch at Alden & Harlow: This cozy drinking den in Harvard Square is known for its cocktails, but I think the best time to go is actually brunch. The food is fresh and fun (“ubiquitous” kale salad, root vegetable hash, pickled corn pancakes), the space less crowded, and the cocktails still off the hook. Opt for whatever veggie-heavy drink it has on the rotating cocktail menu (right now, it’s the Drop the Beet with bourbon and pickled beets).
Profiteroles at The Colonnade Hotel’s Brasserie Jo: You need the fortitude of our founding fathers to get through this six-inch-tall dessert. It punches all the right buttons—sweet, chocolaty, slightly savory—including one you might not realize you have: being in control of the amount of rich chocolate sauce that tops it. Servers will pour until you say uncle. Why not see how far they’ll go?
© 2016 AFAR Media