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Boston - Biba

b
Barbara H. Jan 3, 1998 05:26 PM

I'm headed to Boston and have reservations for brunch at Biba's. Worth it? Would other places be better or as good? I would also be happy to get other recommendations of all types. Thanks.

  1. j
    jonathan gold Jan 4, 1998 01:52 PM

    Biba is one of the two or three hardest
    rocking restaurants in the country
    right now, and unlike most of the
    other places where the cooking is at
    this level--Jean-Georges, Chez Panisse,
    the French Laundry--it is relaxed,
    world-leaning, and actually kind of
    fun--a real chowhoundy place.
    (Sometimes there are even arepas!)

    If you are at all disposed to eat
    organ meats, you will be amply
    rewarded for suspending your squeamishness
    for a couple of hours--chefs Lydia Shire and
    Susan Regis do amazing things with the
    squirrely bits. There's an intelligent,
    wide-ranging wine list, too, which is rare
    in Boston.

    If you have another meal to spare for modern
    American cooking, check out the East Coast
    Grill in Cambridge--Chris Schlesinger is
    always doing something interesting, and
    he incorporates the structures of Asian
    and Caribbean street food into his cooking
    like nobody else in America.

    1. j
      Jim Leff Jan 4, 1998 10:36 AM

      Barbara, I don't know Biba's, sorry!

      One fun, if unchowhoundy, place in boston is UVA (1418

      Commonwealth Ave in Brighton). The food's good--but B-Flat--but the wine's an amazing deal: it's priced 10% above the owner's wholesale cost...i.e. well below retail, and for older vintages (that were bought long ago) WELL below retail.

      A lot of people like Legal Seafood (esp. for clam chowder and swordfish kebab), though I haven't gone.

      I'm surprised Gary didn't mention the Elephant Walk in Union Square, Somerville for French/Cambodian (it's the preeminent Cambodian in the country).

      I also hear good things (haven't been myself) about Giacoma's, a tiny Sicilain seafood place on Hanover in the North End. No reservations, so expect to wait.

      I usually eat lots of Thai in Boston, it's far better than NY (where the restaurateurs get together and discuss techniques to dilute the cooking to please gringos). I haven't been in a while, and I don't remember EXACTLY where my places are. next time I'm up there I've got to do a major update to my business card collection...

      13 Replies
      1. re: Jim Leff
        g
        Gary Cheong Jan 5, 1998 12:46 AM

        Darn, I knew I had forgotten something ! Yes, the
        Elephant Walk should make my list too -- both of them,
        in Sommerville and in Brookline (this one's a little
        more convenient to get to).

        Legal Seafood -- I heard both good and bad comments.
        Unless, of course, the great Jasper White personally
        cooks your meal.

        1. re: Gary Cheong
          j
          Jim Leff Jan 5, 1998 12:32 PM

          Gary, I was slightly afraid to recommend Legal Seafood, since two of the people who recommended it also recommended the ODIOUS No-Name Restaurant. But also some reliable people touted it, so I figured maybe it was ok. Has anyone here actually BEEN there?

          CIAO

          1. re: Jim Leff
            g
            Gary Cheong Jan 5, 1998 01:27 PM

            I have not been to Legal Seafood since Jasper White
            took over as Corp. Exec- Chef, so I don't know what
            the food is like now. I guess it depends on how all
            the branches are able to execute his changes to the
            menu. My guess is that one will find the food just
            OK,and not expect any culinary fireworks.

            1. re: Gary Cheong
              f
              Felix Khalatnikov Jan 7, 1998 09:47 AM

              Although I haven't been to Biba for about two years,
              the last time I was there I found it to be a
              pretentious sham. Yes, the food was good, but no
              better; and for $30 an entree, I do expect excellent at
              the least.

              When I feel like spending that much money on eats, I
              always go to the Blue Room in Kendall Square,
              Cambridge. It started out as an American grill with
              Caribean influences, but now it's just straight forward
              American with strong, but subtle flavors.

              For less money, and wonderful food just pass Biba and
              keep going down Boylston St. until you get to
              Chinatown. Just about any restaurant is good, and many
              are tremendous. Ginza is highly recommended. This is
              the Japanese place in Chinatown that all the waiters
              and waitresses I've known would go to after getting off
              work at one a.m.

              1. re: Felix Khalatnikov
                g
                Gary Cheong Jan 7, 1998 02:17 PM

                Like I said, there is no middle ground of opinions on
                Biba. Yes, eating there is expensive. And yes, there
                are times that I feel the dishes I ordered did not
                quite work. However, I am always curious to see what
                Lydia and Susan come up with next. I look forward to
                them experimenting, and have been rewarded with many
                home runs in my 6 years of eating there.

            2. re: Jim Leff
              j
              Jean Parquette Sep 3, 1998 11:47 AM

              Yah, I have, and it was awful. But we did eat
              downstairs... Biba can't be recommended enough -- it is
              top-notch, and fun. East Coast Grill is lots of fun
              too, heaped plates, barbecue flames, reasonably priced,
              while Biba is horrifically expensive, except as I
              remember the brunch on Sunday wasn't bad.

              1. re: Jean Parquette
                j
                Jean Parquette Sep 3, 1998 11:49 AM

                AND, too bad Jasper White closed down Jasper's, because
                it was even up with Biba as my choice...

          2. re: Jim Leff
            m
            margaret Jun 18, 1998 02:37 PM

            i don't remember clam chowder at Legal but their fish
            chowder (made with beer) is absolutely to die for.

            1. re: Jim Leff
              a
              Al Dente Nov 21, 1999 06:41 PM

              I've been to Giacomo's in the North End of Boston. The menue is limited to one kind of pasta and about 5 sauces. There are also a few specials. We had clams and marinara sauce and it was great. It's well worth the wait.

              1. re: Al Dente
                j
                Jim Leff Nov 21, 1999 07:49 PM

                Sr. Dente--

                have you tried the cannolis at Modern Pastry Shop yet?

                o h m y g o d

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  a
                  Adam Nov 22, 1999 10:20 AM

                  Hi Jim,

                  I agree about Modern Pastry's cannoli, and their sign is certainly worth the trip. I usually prefer the cannoli at Maria's, which is located along the expressway next to Pace's grocery store. The ricotta filling is less lumpy compared to Modern, which isn't much of a difference (especially coming from one who doesn't know how the filling is made). But it's hard to beat the best cannoli I've ever had, which was at Termini Brothers in South Philadelphia, near Pat's King of Steak. That was the best ever, by far.

                  Best,
                  Adam

                  1. re: Adam
                    j
                    Jim Leff Nov 22, 1999 11:57 AM

                    my impulse was to say that a cannoli simply cannot be better than the ones made at Modern. But my concept of Boston has totally changed since my last visit there (see link below for the story), when I discovered Modern Pastry and the North End in general. I'm so mesmerized that I'd believe that ANYTHING is possible up there

                    Let's meet on the Pennsylvania message board to discuss Termini Brothers, ok?

                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      a
                      Adam Nov 24, 1999 05:16 PM

                      Hi Jim,

                      I went to Maria's today for a cannoli. On retrospect I'd say that Modern's has more lumpy ricotta filling, but I don't know which is more authentic. Maria's filling is slightly more soupy. And a key benefit on a day like today was that Modern had a line out the door, while Maria's had no line.

                      -Adam

            2. g
              Gary Cheong Jan 4, 1998 01:34 AM

              Whenever I'm in Boston, I try to have one meal at
              Biba. Not knowing your taste in food,I can't tell you
              if it's worth it or not. Lydia Shire's cooking is
              very adventurous and sometimes she really pushes the
              envelope. She experiments a lot and hits many home
              runs. You either love her food or hate it. I count
              myself in the former category.

              Other recommendations :

              1. Sonsie -- on Newbury St. (near Gloucester St., I
              think). Great for brunch. Quite a hot spot for the
              last few years, but with very good food.

              2. Clio -- at the new Elliot Hotel in the Back Bay area

              3. Pignoli -- sister restaurant of Biba, on the street
              behind it. Lydia's take on Italian influenced food --
              don't expect the typical Italian fare.

              4. Salamander -- in Cambridge. Call for directions,
              some cab drivers can't find it.

              5. Tremont 647 -- at that address in the South End
              neighborhood. Quite a happening place. Also great
              for brunch.

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