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And the best dish I've had so far in 2009 is...

...the tortellini soup I got to try last night at Alia Ristorante in Winthrop. We had a number of items there last night and they were all excellent to outstanding, but that homemade tortellini soup was spectacular. It was basically a roasted garlic soup with a tomato base and fresh tortellinis. Can't say enough about it.

The veal orvieto was pretty amazing as well...

Alia Ristorante
495 Shirley St, Winthrop, MA 02152

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  1. That sounds yum! My favorite dish so far in 2009 was the Spagetti Alla Carbonara at Bina. It was so good, I'm still thinking about it months later.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PorkTerrine

      i will second this dish. and i dream of the pig butter.

    2. For me so far in 2009 it was the Chengdu spicy lamb at the sichuan gourmet. I can't seem to get this dish off my mind. I will have to go back soon.

      1. The sour & spicy cabbage at Fuloon.

        When my daughter ate some, she said, "This is the first time I've had this taste in my mouth since China."

        1. Dwenjang Chigae with seafood and tofu at Min Sok...I always get the seafood jigaes, or soon dubo, but I had a horrible cold and sore throat, and the Dwenjang (fermented soybean paste) is supposed to have health-giving properties...Anyway, it's my new favorite. Still hot, but with a big wallop of umami, kind of like a farm-house style miso-vegatable soup combined with the basic searing heat of a bubbling, spicy jigae. Served in a hot stone pot instead of over a sterno burner, and much thicker...

          2 Replies
          1. re: galleygirl

            We ate at Min Sok the other day and were quite disappointed. I asked the waiter if I could have my spicy tuna sushi w/crunch (aka tempura flakes) as they have other sushi on the menu with them and he said he would have to ask the sushi chef. Unbelievably, the chef didn't know how to do it. Also, we tried their shabu shabu which did not come with ponzu. The wait staff didn't even know what ponzu was. The restaurant is billed as Japanese-Korean but it's really Korean. So we also tried the kalbi bento. That was ok but overall the quality of the food and service was very poor. There are much better Korean restaurants out there.

            1. re: robertlf

              Yes, I always go with the Korean specialties there; except for a bento box here and there, it's definitely a Korean place. However, I have always had excellent, helpful service there; sorry to hear about your experience.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Another really good one: the pressed ribeye sandwich with horseradish aioli and pickled onions at Audubon Circle. (However, the green salad on the side, usually excellent, was bad, tasting too much of lemon juice and salt.)


            2. Crispy pork with basil at S&I

              2 Replies
              1. re: Luther

                Love that dish! It's essentially Thai basil chicharron. The literal translation is "three-layer pork": skin, fat, meat. Beautiful. Had it in 2008.


                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Yeah, they do the 3-layer thing rather well, as opposed to dok bua, where you get these totally obliterated hard chunks of overfried meat. But what I think really makes the dish is the bits of basil and peppers- there's just the right amount to season the rice underneath. It's all very harmonious with the white rice, spicy, and oily, like Chinese twice-cooked pork.

              2. Alia is just great, everything I've ordered there was outstanding. Said is just outgoing and very accommodating, plus it's BYO. The best thing I've had in '09, a mahi fish taco in So. CA.

                1. For me, the 2009 front runner is unquestionably one of the courses from a phenomenal recent tasting menu at Salts, which pretty much single-handedly restored my faith in tasting menus after several years of meh experiences.

                  Tough to narrow it down to any specific one, but I'll go with "Earl Grey tea smoked ocean trout with winter radish, English cucumber, Bergamot, and crisp pumpernickel bread." Clean, delicate, and impossibly well-integrated.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: finlero

                    Wow, was there really Bergamot in it, or just the oils from the tea?

                    1. re: galleygirl

                      To be honest, I don't know for sure. Bremer does a lot of work with various oils and extracts (the truffle oil infused caviar is also ridiculously good), so that would be my guess. But fresh Bergamot would be well in keeping with Salts' MO; certainly wouldn't surprise me.

                    2. re: finlero

                      Such a fine restaurant. Was back there not too long ago, had the duck for two, which is kind of like getting the chicken at Hamersley's, but still. I ate the leftovers like Peking duck with bao bing and scallions and hoisin for four lunches in a row afterward. Wicked.

                      Incredible starters and desserts, too, such subtlety and refinement in that French/New American context. They're really a local treasure.


                    3. The potato leek soup at Green Street: rich, velvety, flavoricious.

                      1. Arepas at Viva mi Arepa in West Roxbury. Absolutely delicious, not to mention filling and cheap!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bostonbroad

                          probably not my favorite thing this year, but their empanadas- beef, chicken, cheese, whatever are awesome.

                        2. The octopus with smoked paprika and hearts of palm at Craigie on Main.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Parsnipity

                            Three-way tie:

                            Craigie on Main, braised pig tails
                            O Ya, Hamachi with thai basil, shallot and mignonette
                            Kayem grilled dog at Sully's - yeah!

                            1. re: Parsnipity

                              Absolutely agree with you here.. This is the best dish in boston.

                            2. While I wasn't expecting it, the best thing I've had at a restaurant this year (so far) was a soup at Jasper White's Summer Shack on Saturday.

                              It was bowl of sweet corn and spring pea soup. Sweet pureed corn in half the bowl with pureed spring peas in the other half, with seared tiny rock shrimp in a circle on top and a drizzle of what I think was a basil puree in another circle. The spring peas were great; the sweet pureed corn was fabulous, totally complimented by the slightly salty, tiny seared rock shrimp.

                              The entree I had (monkfish scaloppini with tomato coulis and more spring peas with a very simple but tasty sauce) was also very good, but the soup was definitely better.

                              I know the Summer Shack often gets boo'd here, but I had a great meal (and my friend got the pan-roasted lobster which, as usual, was also stellar).

                              1. It has to be the appetizer at El Potro in union Square in Somerville that consists of fried pork chunks and fried yucca...simple yet delicious!

                                1. Lobster Pizza at Scampo - fabulously tasty and rich!

                                  1. The tortellini Emiliani at Benatti. Filled with veal, pork, prosciutto, parmesan, spiced with nutmeg, in a parmesan cream sauce.

                                    I'm glad I ate most of it before the server used Windex on the table next to us and the meal was functionally over. The food is so delicious, I want them to succeed, but missing details like that are no help.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: dulce de leche

                                      Absolute best 2009 was the Mushroom Risotto at Benatti last weekend. From what I heard and saw, they don't seem to be up for sale as was recently gossiped about. Full tables, chef in attendance, talking about recent wine additions... I hope they suceed!

                                      1. re: dulce de leche

                                        We've removed some posts about unpleasant odors in restaurants. That can certainly ruin a fine meal. The thing about odors is that they may be noticeable tonight, but not tomorrow night, or may be beyond the restaurant's control. We'd prefer to keep our focus on the quality of the food. Thanks.

                                      2. It might be the truffled goat cheese arancini I had at Gargoyle's last night.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: heathermb

                                          Oh, that was so good...I was going to mention that too.

                                          1. re: MaineRed

                                            These are no longer on the menu, as of last Saturday (4/18). I am sad. :-(

                                        2. This is a tough one, but I am going to have to say that the Suckling Pig (I believe it's a Friday special) at Scampo may be my favorite this year.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: kristinayee

                                            ditto the baby pig at Scampo. Runner up locally wouid be the seafood pancake at Korea Garden in Allston. Best dish outside Boston so far this year would be the pig feet ravioli w/ fennel pollen and orange zest at Vetri (Philadelphia), and their foie gras pastrami w/ fruit mostarda.

                                            1. re: barleywino

                                              The great thing about the pig is that it seems to be prepared differently on different nights depending upon what's seasonally available for ingredients. Just fantastic.


                                              1. re: kristinayee

                                                they've changed their menu, the "charcoaled" salmon belly appetizer w/ horseradish panna cotta is outstanding

                                          2. Roast duck at Wai Wai.
                                            And at 9.25 for half a duck, that makes it even better in the midst of a bad recession!

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: nasilemak

                                              I think Wai wai's chicken is alo extraordinary. The combination chicken duck rice plate is about $6. (on oxford near beach)

                                              1. re: nasilemak

                                                You gotta love the total "Hole in the Wall" almost literally, location too.

                                              2. The gnocchi at Bina. Meyer lemon, chorizo wafers, lobster, clams. Heavenly.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: SpicyTea

                                                  Mine's a tie right now, between the gnocchi at Bina and the confit half-duck at Butcher Shop. But it's hard to narrow down.

                                                2. Swordfish chop @ Abe and Louie's/ OMG, so good.

                                                  1. ....sadly not a Boston dish. The jerk chicken @ Peppa's in BX was incredible. I ate two larges, one for lunch and another for dinner. Best dish in Boston would be Paella @ Toro.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: ChickenBrocandZiti

                                                      There's a Peppa's in the Bronx now? Or you mean BK?

                                                    2. Swordfish on the dinner menu at Sportello.

                                                      1. hamachi pastrami at uni

                                                        1. Well I've not been in Boston much this year, but I'll jump right in with one dish I had in 617 that was simply outstanding...

                                                          Tres Leche cake at Green Street

                                                          Now if I'm allowed to include dishes from here in Thailand as well... will be a long list.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: teaTomE

                                                            Gosh! I still need to get my hands on some tres leches. I posted about it a few weeks ago and I still havent satisfied my craving. Green Street it is.

                                                          2. Don't know if it was the absolute best, but I had the humongus pork chop at East Coast Grill last night. Spit roasted and finished on the grill. Perfectly pink and juicy. Served with a fresh guacamole.

                                                            1. Two at opposite ends of the spectrum:

                                                              Bina - gnocchi: so impossibly rich and yet fluffy
                                                              Guru the Caterer - chicken masala (among many others)

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                You know, I've been pondering what I would post to this thread since it started, and I have to say, I think it might be the Chicken Vindaloo we picked up from Guru the Caterer. That place is incredible.

                                                                1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                                                                  The masala was chosen because I couldn't remember the names of the other equally wonderful dishes. We've driven there 3x in the past 2 weeks from the South End just to eat there (`25 mins).

                                                                  1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                    The best thing I have had in the Boston area so far this year is either the Spicy Pork Neck and Potato soup(garnished with mint and lots of perilla seeds) at Roppongi(if that is the name of the sushi/kfc place next to old Marty's location) or the braised pork belly with pickled vegetables at Gourmet Dumpling House.

                                                                    The best things so far outside of Boston would be General Tso Sweetbreads at Bistro Christophe Truffert in Montreal or the Beet and Gorgonzola stuffed Arancini at Terroir in NYC.

                                                                    1. re: Wursthof

                                                                      The sweetbreads Bistro Christophe Truffert in Montreal sound amazing. Have you discussed that on the Montreal Board and if not, would you please do so.


                                                              2. I have two:

                                                                The Gnocchi at Bina

                                                                and the Brown Stewed Chicken at Flames II I had last week for lunch, probably the best version I have tried outside of my mothers kitchen.

                                                                1. I've been waiting for it, but by far the best dish this year has been the Salad of Hiramasa Sashimi (with pine nut-mango salsa, avocado, whitefish roe, shiso) at Craigie on Main.

                                                                  This place has, as others have noted, everything down to an art form. The charcuterie is served with traditional accompaniments such as pickled red onions and fleur de sel, the cheese plate with an apricot puree and honey in the comb. Bartending is stellar and the vibe is comfortable and unpretentious. Really wow.

                                                                  1. the steak with ramps, fingerling potatoes, and soy butter at Hungry Mother (had it 4/21). I'm usually not a steak person but this one really grabbed my attention.

                                                                    1. I may have a new one--just got back from Haddad's in Brant Rock (Marshfield), and the crab cakes pretty much blew me away. No filler, fresh, tasty meat, and a bargain at $5.95 each (they were good-sized).

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                        Technically I may have discovered this at the end of 2008, but the dish that most surprised and delighted me this year is the bacon wrapped chicken thighs at the Russo's prepared food counter.

                                                                        Think perfectly prepared Chinese soup dumplings, smokiness, and moist chicken. The dish is filled with a warm greasy goodness, like the soup dumplings ought to. The meat is perfectly cooked and moist. And the bacon finishes off the preparation with a nice salty smoky near-crunch.

                                                                        Unfortunately the last time I tried to get it, they were sold-out for the day so get there early.

                                                                      2. Not a new dish but I can't get enough of the rock shrimp tempura with chili flakes at Uni had it again this week and it was delightful.