Weekend eats: Baraka Cafe, Crema, Cafe Mami, Blue Ribbon BBQ, Toraya
Some old favorites and some "new to you" discoveries this weekend.
Baraka Cafe - the chow was as good, and the pacing as slow as ever. The lentil soup special was spicy and aromatic, the outstanding Moroccan spiced chicken special was made even more interesting since I've recently been cooking out of Claudia Roden's "Arabesque" at home. Old reliables (M'Katef, Karentika, Zaitoun, and especially the Cherbat) were as understated and elegant as ever.
Crema - how is it possible for an English muffin with butter and jam to be so transcendent here?! I'd been staying away for fear of hoardes of Harvard kids stressing me out, but even up until 10 a.m., there were still some empty seats. Now that the Spotted Apron closed, Crema's pain aux raisins is my favorite in town, with lots of surprisingly deep flavor and a manageable size. Great drip coffee as always.
Cafe Mami - another golden oldie for me. It had been way too long since my last chicken teriyaki don. The flavor of their homemade teriyaki sauce is so good, I'd eat it on corn flakes.
Blue Ribbon BBQ - had a terrific burnt ends sandwich here, incredibly tender meat in a tangy, smokey, not-too-sweet BBQ sauce. Baked beans had the best texture and the second best flavor I've had in Boston (behind the sweet and actually quite spicy rendition at Formaggio on weekends). Collard greens were fine.
Toraya - flawless through and through, but the Banzai roll (with in-season soft shell crab) was on another level entirely. Also very good was the shiitake mushroom nigiri.
I have been craving Toraya for several weeks.... we always get the soft shell crab roll - I get the end pieces with the claws and legs bursting out, my wife eats the inside portions that don't gross her out. Nothing like a little deliberate self-delusion for great food.
Was Toraya busy when you went? We usually go on Fri or Sat nights (always packed with a wait), but a few weeks ago we went on a Wed night. I thought the place had closed down because there was nobody inside (looking in from our car). They were open and we were the only customers there from 8-8:30pm. A couple came in at 8:30, and another one came in just when we were leaving.
I just hope business stays busy for them as I'd be really sad if they go out of business due to lack of customers.
I tend to avoid Harvard Square too, but I had an errand to run today and I popped into Crema. That english muffin is seriously awesome. Next time, I'm going to get it just with butter, no jam and take an extra home to make a killer egg sandwich. Thanks for reminding me I wanted to try this place.