Top 3 Meals of 2008?
Just curious to hear about favorite individual meals of 2008 at Boston-area restaurants. Actually, they don't have to be full meals--could be apps, desserts, etc.
Mine are probably (in order, more or less):
1) beef gulyas, Jasmine Bistro, Brighton (cubed beef and sliced potatoes in a bell pepper paprika sauce that pretty much knocked my socks off with its great blend of spices)
2) risotto fiorentina, Vecchia Roma, Newton (a delicious mix of creamy arborio rice, chicken, spinach, and parmesan cheese in a wine sauce)
3) falafel sandwich, Reef Cafe, Allston (tasty falafel balls mixed with pickles, tomatoes, yellow peppers, and tahini sauce, all inside a pita wrap)
I neglected to mention the thunder noodles at Mango II in Tewksbury and the Madeiran steak at Estoril in Fall River mainly because they are a bit outside of the area (especially Estoril). And a guilty pleasure was definitely the juicy, fatty, messy burger I had at Cappy's Tavern in Readville. It may have been the meal that put the biggest smile on my face over the past 12 months, but it's not exactly a Chow-ish place (or maybe it is!).
Funny, before I read your post the first one that popped into my head was also a Reef Cafe meal:
1. Stuffed cabbage (stuffed with lamb, in a tangy tomato sauce, served with the usual outstanding sides, including Reef's perfect toum garlic paste) at Reef- these are heavenly light, about the size of a cigar. I can't bring myself to order anything else there, now.
2. The mushroom/polenta appetizer at VeeVee in JP - crispy squares of polenta in a mushroom bolognese, with just the right amount of parmesan dusting. A great combination of textures and layers of savory goodness.
3. Our meal at Angela's in East Boston, which was back in February so I can't recall exactly which mole we got. I'll just have to leave it at that, but it did make an impression and I'm sorry we haven't yet made it back...
Ooh ooh, I'll play:
1) Gran Gusto - stracciatella and speck appetizer, tartufata pizza (basically a margherita with black truffles baked in and shaved fresh on top), homamde tagliatelle with a simply extravagant sauce of butter, parmiggiano, garlic, and truffles.
2) Craigie on Main's vegetarian tasting meal with "ringside seating" - course after course of sublime, innovative vegetarian dishes; not a single pasta dish all evening . Lovely, high-value wines, outstanding cocktails, and a riveting view into the kitchen helped make this one of the nicest dinners in recent memory.
3) First time to O Ya - repeat trips have never quite measured up to the excitement of our first trip there, but wow, that first meal was unlike anything else I've ever had in the city. Subtle, unexpected, innovative, absolutely delicious.
1. 9 course tasting menu at Clio in January. Course after course of innovative deliciousness.
2. Chile verde at Ixtapa in Lexington. No kidding, this is just fabulous and we discovered it this year. I've probably eaten it 7 or 8 times at this point and it is consistently great.
3. Omakase at O Ya. It was our first time there as well, and the entire experience was unique and exciting. We weren't in love with every morsel that came our way, but the ones that were great were really, really great. Will go back when not too hungry and order our favorites plus some new things to try. Probably wouldn't do the omakase again, but it was a good call for the first time out.
Great question! Only three is tough:
1. Last degustation of summer vegetables at the old L'Espalier, in the Front Room by the fireplace full of candles. So sorry to see that old space go, especially having seen the new space.
2. Moroccan salad, beef brisket couscous with squash, zucchini and carrots, and braised lamb shanks with pignoli, caramelized onions and caramelized prunes at Oran Cafe. Also the widest gap between expectations on walking in (the room sure doesn't look like much) and what arrived at table.
3. Omakase at o ya, a fairly modest one by their standards (12 small courses, ~$100/head); highlights included: raw Kumamoto oyster with watermelon pearls and cucumber mignonette; salmon tataki with hand-torched baby tomato, smoked salt, and onion aioli; kushiyaki of Wagyu (Kyushu Kagoshima) strip loin with roasted minced onion and yuzu kosho; Okinawan-style braised pork with beans, kimchee, and soy maple; and foie gras in chocolate/balsamic sauce topped with raisin and cocoa pulp served with a shot of aged sake. About two dozen well-paced little bites of satori.
If I had room for more, I might mention the first hot dog with everything I had at Speed's after Greg changed the brand of frankfurter, but that was as much about relief as joy.
Six course tasting menu at Craigie on Main on Christmas eve
O Ya in April for my birthday
Most any of the many evenings I've been at Eastern Standard.
Two of my favorite meals this year, though were in Toronto at Spledido, and Scaramouche, but obviously they wouldn't be on the list of top three Boston meals.
1) Oleana- 5 course tasting menu, very impressive. great spice combination's. Excellent service and wine pairings. Highlights were all the small apps, Falafel on crispy pita with creamy beet sauce, and a special of braised pork served with tzatziki- An unexpected combo that was probably the best single dish I ate of 2008.
2) Neptune Oyster- Hamachi app, oysters, fried clams, great wine. always consistently great seafood.
3) Jo Jo Taipei- All of the dumplings, breads, pancakes, bean vermicelli with ground pork, flounder, and many more I have yet to try
I know I should probably think this through more before responding but the three that instantly come to mind are.... ....
1) The shrimp & grits at Hungry Mother. A brown buttery, decadent and delicious course.
And it wasn't a fluke, cause I've had it twice and it was amazing each time :)
2) The grilled garlic bread at Scampo.
So simple, dripping with buttery, olive oily goodness.
Had this 2x too!
3) The spaghetti bolognese at Scampo.
Hearty, flavorful, slightly smoky sauce served atop perfectly al dente spaghetti. Again, simple and delicious.
1. Red wine braised short ribs with roasted garlic mashed at Mistral. We started with the foie gras app - pan seared with confit of duck in brioche. I would have kissed the chef's feet, even if he was wearing those gross Crocs that were covered in day-old food scraps and kitchen scum. That's how good it was.
2. Lobster roll at the Raw Bar at Pomponessett, down on the Cape. Not exactly Boston area but well worth the trip in the summer.
3. First trip to Toro - grilled corn with aged cheese was the highlight. The wait was not a highlight, but the Sangria helped take the edge off.
Only been here since September, but trying to make the rounds! Favorites were:
1) Oleana - Just so unique and the flavors are amazing. Also had a great wine recommendation that made the meal. Been 2x but the first was the very best.
2) Radius - Really liked the 4 course tasting menu. Again, great flavors. Might have overshadowed the "pureness" of the meat dishes, but I loved it.
3) Julien Bar at the Langham near my work - those salty/spicy cashews! Oh my goodness I loved them. Now closed...I wonder if they have them at the new Bond Lounge?
1. TW Food tasting menu last February. Extremely interesting to experience a winter meal made entirely of ingredients that are actually seasonal around here in winter: they did some wonderful things with root vegetables.
2. Hungry Mother. Beef tongue canapes -- hardly a meal, but most memorably delicious.
3. Craigie on Main. A parade of apps and cocktails at the bar during their first week open.
I guess I had a pretty good food year...
Great question. This has been a great eating year for me and it was also my first year on chowhound which definitely helped. It's difficult for me to pick my top three so I will limit myself even more by making those three breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
Breakfast/Brunch: Sunday brunch at Orinoco in Brookline- stewed meats, beans, arepas and a stellar cup of coffee (in fact, I would go just for the coffee). Next time I will walk though. I was full for the rest of the day.
Lunch: carnitas burrito with guacamole and hot sauce from El Pelon (tear)
Dinner: Chefs whim at Salts- excellent food, elegantly prepared and warm and attentive service.
Goals for 2009: Cheese plates instead of dessert.