Boston - Biba
- 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.
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
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...
re: Jim Leff
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.
re: Jim Leff
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.
re: Gary Cheong
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
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.
re: Felix Khalatnikov
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.
re: Jim Leff
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.
re: Jim Leff
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.
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?
re: Jim Leff
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.
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
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.