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Dec 26, 2006 03:03 PM

Week of catching up on restaurants

My husband and I do love Boston and the Boston dining scene. So much so that we occasionally take a week of vacation right here in town. We spend the week catching up on restaurants.

This is a week when we will try recently opened places. (Providing they are not a "scene" or a food factory, do not play obnoxious music, and do not have a chef or owner with a nasty reputation among our friends in the business.)

It's a week when we'll make use of all the notes we've made from Chowhound about places we've never tried but should - for example Prezza and Grotto.

It's a week for special treats and visits to old favorites that have fallen out of our regular rotation. We were at Al Forno in Providence on Saturday and spent Christmas Eve at Pigalle. Both were outstanding and have set a high bar for the rest of the week.

Naturally, we are watching the Boston Board for new ideas. We seldom make reservations, we prefer to eat at a bar and we are open to all types of chow adventures.

Does anyone else do this? If so, how often and what were your favorite finds. We are planning to write an article on the topic so all input is very welcome.

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  1. Some places I really enjoyed, most for the first time in 2006, included:

    Cafe Apollonia -- Albanian in Roslindale. Unusual, pretty, bargain priced.

    Ashmont Grill and dbar -- two new neighborhood bars in Dot with excellent food.

    Zafferano -- fine Campanian food in Eastie.

    Rincon Limeno -- excellent Peruvian in Eastie.

    Taqueria El Rancho Grande -- tiny, dumpy storefront with very fresh-tasting, super-cheap Mexican in Eastie.

    Jasmine Bistro -- Brighton storefront with an interesting mix of Hungarian (my favorite here), French, Baluchistani, and Middle Eastern. Not my first time, but a rediscovery after a hiatus of 10 years or so.

    Brookline Family Restaurant -- a casual Brookline Village Turkish place with amazing food.

    Rendezvous in Central Square -- a worthy pan-Med/New American newcomer; excellent service, wines, bartending, too. The bar is designed more for dining than drinking (low-profile bartop and chairs, a very nice idea).

    La Brace -- a new North End storefront with a fine combination of Italian chophouse specialities, seafood, and pastas, a relative bargain for the level of the food, though the service could be more polished.

    Ten Tables -- tiny JP New American with extraordinary food at a bargain prices; not new to me, but a new chef this year. One of the best fining-dining deals in the city.

    La Pupusa Guanaca -- tiny Salvadoran counter-service place in JP, super-cheap and tasty, all about the pupusas.

    Zon's -- casual, funky JP place, good comfort food, another familiar place rediscovered this year. I prefer eating in the bar, though it's tiny.

    O Cantinho -- superb Portuguese in East Cambridge, expanded into a full-service restaurant from its bakery origins: kind of the reincarnation of the original, now-closed Atasca.

    Pho Viet -- my new favorite banh mi spot, in the Allston Super 88 food court.

    Viva Mi Arepa -- excellent, casual counter-service Venezuelan in West Roxbury, superb arepas and empanadas.

    Masona Grill -- a bit of the South End transplanted to West Roxbury, lovely New American with occasional South American accents in a pleasant setting.

    Alas, one of my favorite bar-dining experiences, Caffe Umbra in the South End, is closing forever on Dec 30th. Get there for a last shot at their fine combination of rustic Italian and French if you can.

    1. I agree with MC on the Ashmont Grill and Family Restaurant, both of which I tried for the first time this year (and went back to in both cases), and Cafe Apollonia and Zon's, which I tried last year.

      A few others that I tried this year for the first time that made a good impression:

      Las Palmas de Cuba, Hanover -- worth the trip from Boston, this Cuban/Mexican restaurant is a fantastic spot that was started by, among others, a former manager of El Sarape in Braintree.

      Salem Wood Cafe, Malden -- a great alternative to New Bridge Cafe for steak tips.

      Rabia's, Boston (North End) -- one of the best Italian restaurants I have been to in recent memory, Rabia's has a mix of Italian dishes as well as other Mediterranean entrees.

      Pho 2000, Dorchester -- perhaps the best Vietnamese restaurant in Boston, though nearby Pho So 1 and Pho Hoa are also outstanding.

      Potbellies Kitchen, South Boston -- a funky little dining spot that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a west side neighborhood that I once would never venture into a couple of decades ago, this place is run by a couple that really cares about what they are doing.

      1. Will add to the excellent and extensive list above:

        Indonesian at either Spice King (near BU) or Jakarta Corner (Super 88 food court in Allston).

        Anh Hong for Vietnamese fish or beef 7 ways.

        Lucky House Seafood in Chinatown for Cantonese.

        Cafe D in JP for very affordable but excellent Californian/Mediterrenean food. Moroccan lamb is outstanding.

        You might find this list handy too:

        1. I also agree with MC's posting regarding Cafe Apollonia. The owner/chef is 26 years old and does a great job with the food.

          I loved Masona! A unique, warm bistro and felt I was not in West Roxbury. Cusine is excellent; and I enjoy the soft played Argentinian music in the background.

          Eastern Standard and Avila I also enjoyed: service, ambiance, menu choices.

          James Gate in JP and Pho Republique in the South End

          Atasca and Icarus