- Tom Stebbins
I few nights ago, my girlfriend came up from NYC. She works at Food Arts magazine and always seems to know more about the Boston Cuisine Scene than I do.
When she lived in Boston, one of our favorite places was Salamander in Cambridge. This funky middle eastern fusion joint used to be a gem of Boston---one of the few expensive restaurants with innovation all over menu and a unique feel. We also liked the general mission of the place: organic and local. I myself worked in the building for a time and would sometimes splurge on a $7 gourmet sandwich, like their Roast beef, smoked cheddar and santa fe dressing with green goddess greens...these sandwiches make Cosi overpriced ripoffs look like 3-day leftover Subway...
Unfortunately, Salamander has since closed, leaving me wondering where to go for a special occasion. Jo, my girlfriend, discovered that the capped chef of Salamander, often featured in local restaurant write-ups, has opened a new place in Boston: Barcode. And she insisted that I slay the remainder of my checking account and take her there.
The restaurant is located a block from Hynes Convention on the Green Line and is easy to miss. The name is not as it sounds, but instead is what it is, a barcode. No name, just a UPC bar code on a unassuming black sign hanging outside a dingy-looking brick building. We thought the name gag was a bit pretentous, but expensive restaurants kind of hafta be.
The restaurant is broken in two: a bar/lounge and a dining area. I know chowhounds don't care much about decor, but there was one notable treat: as you walk from the bar down a few steps to the dining room, you have an excellent view of the kitchen and there is even a little balcony installed so that your can hover a few feet above the chefs and take in the smells of each dish as it hits the grill.
The food was spectacular. While the chef seeems to have abandoned the organic/local credo (possibly the reason for the demise of Salamander), the food has not suffered.
We started with the smoked salmon rolls with citrus-soy sauce ($10). We expected a spring-roll like dish, but instead were presented with smoked salmon sushi. The smoke added a nice twist to the dish and we quickly devoured the rolls. Tho, I was not here for sushi, however innovative.
The salad was one of the high points of the meal. Grilled endive and radiccio, with roasted beets and greens. I don't know what it was dressed with, but it was fabulous. I'll never think about beets the same way again and may have to try my hand at grilling an endive sometime.
I had chicken, she had pork. Both priced $20-$25, so it ain't cheap! So many things were happening with these dished that I cannot recall either very clearly right now. But I do remember that the Blackened Pork was out of this world...possibly the best I've had...and both dishes were true masterworks of flavor integration. My girl agreed. A food magazine critic, she gave in and admitted that the food was just as good if not better than most anythin she gets in NYC...and she gets the good stuff. Trust me.
I have written much, so I leave you with this. If you are looking to splurge on dinin, make Barcode your next destination.
P.S. Sorry this is a bit pricy for Chowhound, but it's too new for ZAGAT and, well, I had to tell somebody.
Hey tom thanks for the review and please don't tell Zagat, lets keep it amongst ourselves okay? oh, and its not the price that designates Chowhound foods - its the ROI - return on investment. And Chowhound ROI is all on the tongue! Is it $5.00 but tastes like 2cents and raw costs are about $2.00? it ain't chowhound chow. Is it $5.00 , raw costs of $2.00 but has invaluable preparation and love behind it? its delicious -then it's chowhound fare. A 20 - 25 entree is more than worth it if the quality of ingredients and preparation make it delicious!
Actually, I would venture to say that most people on this site would pay through the nose for food at the expense of other possible monetary allocations if they have the money and a particular restaurant is uniquely fabulous enough.
Well, put, Rebecca.
I know Tom meant no insult, so the following tirade is not addressed toward him. I'm just gonna rant in general (so don't take it personally, Tom!)
The standard attitude toward restaurants has long been that there are 1. expensive places and 2. little holes-in-walls for those who can't afford the expensive places. This site is helping to eliminate those artificial levels, and I think we've all done a great job. Many of the same people who bubble with enthusiasm on these boards over egg creams and pizza chime in with similarly passionate savvy about far fancier fare (including some of the most expensive restaurants around).
But there are still a LOT of people who take one glance at a discussion of, say, tacos and conclude "Oh, ok...cheap eats". They are positively amnesic re: all the extremely erudite discussion of some of the priciest eats in the world. They miss the foie gras because it's interspersed with (eek!) pork rinds.
I even hate the term "cheap" in application to food. It's so condescending. Thank goodness attitudes are changing, but I can hardly wait for the day when this silly, snobby distinction is dead and everyone realizes that delicious is delicious; that a variety of great experiences can be had for a variety of price ranges. Great banana milkshakes can be as delicious (and as edibly valid) as great champagne, and both are worth pursuing to the ends of the earth (and the limits of our budgets). That's what we chowhounds do. Strip away the hype and b.s. and Zagat and conventional wisdom and try to find the really really GOOD stuff, so every bite counts, whether eating in a diner or at a four star swanketeria.
Until everyone understands this, there will be those who will take one look at us and sniffily brand (and marginalize) us as bottom-feeders.
But we're winning (there's a wind blowin'....)!
re: Jim Leff
> They miss the foie gras
And well they should!!
I am not a vegetarian. I love steak. I love McDs. I might even have a bit of leather on my sneakers, although I try to avoid it. But one should really draw the line at foie gras. It is an ABOMINATION, and should be outlawed posthaste.
It is one thing to kill an animal for food. And it is another thing to kill it for items of questionable value, such as leather or fur. But it is an entirely different matter altogether to subject it to months and years of TORTURE in the process.
Foie gras -- and VEAL -- are created by triggering some kind of chemical reaction in an animal in pain or stress. In foie gras it is from overfeeding the animal until the pain triggers adrenaline secretion; in veal it is from underfeeding the animal so that it stays permanently sickly or "tender".
Scientists are working on ways to trigger these chemical reactions through more humane means. But they're not there yet. For the time being, be aware that any piece of veal, or mouthful of foie gras, that you might otherwise find delectable, came from an animal living a horrid, horrid life of pain.
Again, I am a meat-eater and a moderate, and would rarely speak out on an animal rights issue. So please don't flame back at me. But I beg all chowhounds of conscience to think twice before ever ordering a piece of veal or any foie gras again.
Have a STEAK. Or even those PORK RINDS Jim mentioned. At least the animal died quickly....
One more chime-in on the Bar Code thread. Stan Frankethaler, the chef/owner, is one of America's best at reconciling Eastern food concepts with Western ingredients and techniques, with flair, respect for culture, and some other valid qualities too. He's not the Bar Code chef, though; it's one of his former sous chefs. But Frankenthaler is re-opening Salamander this fall at Trinity Place in Downtown Boston. Yum. If you liked Bar Code, I'm guesing the new place will blow you away
Well, we hit up Barcode once again, this time with Tom's folks. I loved the pork chop so much last time and was ready to order it again (my logic: if it ain't broke don't fix it). We flipped open the menu and to my dismay it was completely different - impressive - but I wanted that pork! Let me preface by saying that our meal at Barcode last time was absolutely, without a doubt, orgasmic. This t ime Barcode disappointed.
We started off with the beef on sugarcane skewers sitting on a bed of bok choy, peppers, carrots and papaya in a wonderful exciting SPICY marinade (~$10). This was joyous, a must try, and the highlight of the meal. We also started off with the grilled flat bread with assorted topped vegetables such as eggplant and carrots. This was yummy. Tom's mother and I split the tomato, portabello, goat cheese salad - eh - I would have been psyched about it if I had made it at home but for $12 it should have wowed me. I had the halibut ($22). Not good. It was in a vinegar something which was way too strong. Tom had the pork; his father the tuna; mother the veal and family friend the steak. I tried bites of all and was satisfied but that is not a fair assesment because one bite of anything is usually good. I think that the test of a dish is whether bite after bite you can't wait to fill your fork up once again
and oooh and ahhh after each trip it makes to your mouth. That was the case with my pork chop last time! This was not the scenario with my halibut this time. This was also not the case for the new pork chop that Tom ordered. So, all and all, Barcode did not live up to my expectations. Yes, I am biased considering the meal I had last time on my visit, but then again, is it too much to expect the same...
The SO and I went to Barcode about a month ago. It was pretty as hell and ultra-trendy but for thirty bucks a person I was thoroughly disappointed.
We started with cocktails. The SO asked for a Negroni, which they didn't know how to make, but they delivered a credible rendition after he talked them through it. I had a whiskey sour--I ordered it with bourbon, but it came with scotch. The bar mix was bright yellow and sweet enough to kill a diabetic at twenty paces.
The very best thing we ate at Barcode were the complimentary olive rolls. They were incredible: crusty, chewy, and filled with quality olives.
For entrees the boyfriend chose tuna while I opted for a timbale of whole grains surrounded by seasonal vegetables. The tuna was delicious. The timbale was a little disappointing. The ingredients were top-notch, but I got a grain of sand in one of my shitake mushrooms. The sauce was tasty enough, but way too salty.
All in all, I wouldn't rush back.