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Seeking recommendation for a solo foodie tonight in Boston

So ....tonight I am bachelor-ing it in boston!!! No restaurant out of reach, but must be solo-friendly. I looked at O-Ya and Oishi - but they seem (at least to my humble self) somewhat over-the top. I prefer more down-to earth meals but ...exceptionally done.

Any recs?

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  1. Can you include some details re: neighborhood and type of cuisine? In meanwhile here is a link to a recent Boston Globe article on solo dining in Boston:

    5 Replies
    1. re: PaulB

      Thanks for the link. I am open to any good food/drink -and anywhere within reasonable taxicab distance of downtown Boston would be great. Right now someone recommended dining at Dali - and that is a good one. Any others?

      1. re: cornFusion

        Can't even picture a bar at Dali and seems kind of out of the way when you really don't have to do that. The other bars mentioned are all good. Also in the North End, Lucca has a good bar, Spire in the Nine Zero hotel downtown, Davio's by the Park Plaza. Hamersley's and Aquitaine in the south end have small bars and Coda on Columbus Ave. for more casual, behind the Prudential.

        1. re: Joanie

          There is a bar to the right as you enter Dali but it is a mob scene if the restaurant is crowded and not terribly comfortable and I always think Dali is better with more people to order more things to share and taste . When my Husband is out of toen I have often made my way over to Central Sq to Rendezvous to be a solo at the bar. Excellent cocktails and a delicious green market menu But if I could snag a seat at the bar at O Ya for my one night in Boston there is no way i would walk away from that

          1. re: capeanne

            *love* the bar and food at Rendezvous. Friendly, delicious, comforting. Great rec

        2. re: cornFusion

          I see you've made your (nice) choices, but for the good of the board: I used to stop by Dali regularly by myself for dinner at the bar when they opened at 5:30, and enjoyed myself most every time. They knew me, knew my likes and dislikes, and often introduced me to new wines/spirits I liked a lot. After a year or so, I'd memorized the menu and stopped going.

      2. Prezza has a great bar and is very solo friendly. My choice would be the paella, but it's hard to go wrong with any dish there. Neptune Oyster is also a good spot, nice bar, great fried clams, oysters of course, or maybe a lobster roll.

        1. If it were me at the high end, Craigie on Main (Cambridge) for the tasting menu and the low end Rincon Limeno (East Boston) for ceviche and the fried seafood platter. I haven't been to either but drool from the descriptions here. For places I've been recently, Shiki (Coolidge Corner) and Grotto (Boston).

          1. If dining alone I usually require a nice bar to eat at....

            O Ya would be on my list for sure, it's over the top but friendly and comfortable, though there's no real interaction with the chefs behind the counter.
            No. 9 Park, Uni, both high end and have great bars to sit at as well, and they do have friendly staff you can talk to if you wish. Toro could be a good option, Craigie on Main, ESK, Neptune, Butcher Shop, Franklin

            1. I have taken more than my share of solo business trips and, therefore, solo dinners. Personally, sometimes I am in the mood for fine dining but more often than not, I use the opportunity to enjoy something that my regular dining companions might not. So off I might go in search of something really spicy, or involving less-familiar ingredients, or just plain far outside the usual range of American tastes. So this is not a specific recommendation, but more of a question - which appeals more to you, a meal that is excellent in every way (plenty of options have already been suggested) or the kind of meal that you would not get to enjoy with your usual dining companion(s)?

              1 Reply
              1. re: PinchOfSalt

                My "usual dining companions" are all over the culinary map - as am I, and totally uninhibited as far as gourmandism is concerned.... so I am actually open to anything. My research on some of the recommendations give me pause - especially if there are some negatives spouted. So i am quite hesitant to go, for example, to Craigie on Main. Mind you if the food was outstanding and the service so-so, I can overlook it. However, I am one who believes that you go out (and not cook a superb meal for yourself) for the "total experience" - so if the service is not ignorable, the fun could be ruined.

              2. Thaks for all the postings. Sigh. Can't make up my mind - but based on the number of times O-Ya was mentioned, I guess I will have to go try their bar. What would the dishes be, and what would your drink recommendations be?

                Of course, I may change my mind again at 4PM based on other inputs.

                1. Depends upon what you want to eat! I often eat at the bar at Turner Fisheries in the Westin Hotel. They serve their whole menu there... GREAT fish, and excellent wines by the glass.

                  The other place that came immediately to mind was Hamersley's Bistro. The food is SO good, and the welcome so warm, whether you are one or a group.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ChefJune

                    ChefJune - I used to just ADORE Turner Fisheries ... and used to go there regularly. Not sure exactly why I have not gone there in 10 years or so. LOved their oyster bar. Took several serious dates there! Thanks for the suggestion.

                  2. So ... at 4:25, I am at the crossroads of Turner Fisheries, O-Ya, and Rendezvous. Leaning to Rendezvous (it sounds more fun).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cornFusion

                      For sheer food experience, I would vote O Ya. I think there have been a few recent posts about specific dishes there.

                      1. re: cornFusion

                        O Ya is pretty punishingly expensive, but it's one of the more interesting dinners in town if you go in for elaborate, delicate neo-Japanese. It's one of those places where I close my eyes a lot to focus on every little nuance of the one or two bites per dish.

                        Rendezvous is one solid little locavore bistro with excellent bartending, interesting, well-priced wines, and very consistent New American food. Kind of unsung, always satisfying to me. A very good value, I think.

                        I like Turner okay, but it's kind of a big, cold, modern-looking upscale seafood place, and carries a hefty hotel-restaurant premium.


                      2. I vote for Garden at the Cellar, Oleana, Troquet, Rendezvous or Upstairs at the Square.

                        1. Thank you one and all for your recommendations... so here is my FINAL plan....
                          1. Stop at the bar at O-Ya. If lucky enough to get a seat (or if there is a sign there that says "Reserved for CornFusion" .. hahaha... I will happily stay there ... for a while (since people seem to come out of there and go someplace else).
                          2. If what everyone else says is true, I leave a bit wobbly but happy and go to Rendezvous where I have a drink and a bit more to eat. If that is good... I stay until it is time for me to go home ..otherwise....
                          3. A stop over at Turner Fisheries for oysters and possibly a chardonnay...

                          hows that for a plan???

                          Thanks again to all - I hope that I will have good things to report....

                          And a good evening to all!

                          1. In return for your kindness in sharing your thoughts and recommendations, I felt that I shouold report back on my dining adventures. Some good, some not so good - but ain't that life?

                            1. My first stop was O-Ya. Walking in, i felt that i was walking in to a japanese tea garden. Bamboo and flowers and water. I was in a great mood. The restaurant was almost empyty, with 3 at the bar. I asked to be seated at the bar, and after a wait for the "maitre'd" to answer a phone call (which arrived after I arrived), I was asked to wait while the reservations were consulted and another wait for the owner to come out and ensure that there was in fact an available seat - I was seated at the "sushi bar" (which isn't quite a sushi bar but a food preparation area). The waiter came over (quite pleasant) and informed me that the portions were small and that a dinner would consist of x dollars and y number (i think he said 10 to 12 but not quite sure) of dishes, but that there is a tasting menu of 18 dishes "chef's choice" for $189 (again I may be off slightly on this number since I was not really paying attention to someone who was more interested in quoting me prices than bringing a glass of water). I suddenly had the notion that the prices were far more important to these people than anything else. However, thanks to you - I had been warned - and I let it pass. I was indeed looking forward to a good evening and prices (and recitation of same) were not going to affect my attitude. I looked at the couple eating next to me - one dish served at a time - while one of the "sushi chefs" was blowtorching something (an act he continued to perform on almost all the food he was preparing). Looked like torched regular sushi to me. Interesting idea, i thought to myself - "wok hay sushi without he wok". Most of the items on the menu were what I would be able to obtain at any of my favorite sushi bars - but cooked - and priced at about 4 times the price. I ordered a white beer - japanese import - and it was fantaastic. I closed my eyes and mentally thanked MC Slim JB for the idea). Another round through the menu and my mind focused on items that might not be available elsewhere. Recently, oysters called "kumamoto" have been rather flat. There were two preparations fo kumamoto available - fried and raw. I asked to see one. The chef tole me it was an oyster. I told him that I knew what it was - may i please see it? Out came a true kumamoto. Deep shell. Gorgeous! Hadn't seen anything like it in about 15 years. The other item which caught my attention was "Faberge egg" (which immediately instigated visions of Per Se). I ordered oysters on the half shell and an egg. In the meantime, the couple next to me had happily downed several orders of un-neo-whatever-sushi. Another cook was burning sesame oil on a burner and the smoke was filling my lungs. That oil was later poured over some more fish and topped with some sort of soy-based sauce. My oysters arrived - beautifully presented in a char-siu steamer filled with cracked ice and topped with finely cubed cucumber and what appeared to be tiny slivers of scallion. I savored the toppings - tart and salty - and then chewed on the oyster for a long time.... it was good. Some other people came in but the place wass essentially half empty until i left about an hour later. Now - the egg - definitely not in Per Se style. Soft poached until the heat just touches the yolk and veils it. Topped with caviar, and then some more of the soy sauce concoction. Apparently the caviar was supposed to remain on top of the egg through the presentation - but it had its own plans and the chef gently re-scooped the fallen pieces and replaced them on top. You eat this in one shot with a spoon. Another closed eye session. I decided that I would move on to Rendezvous - the food and presentation were ok, but I was not sure that I would part with any more money for a "just ok evening". The oysters were definitely worth it (it seems no one else can get real kumamotos anymore). But the "elaborate, delicate neo-Japanese" (or what i would term as that certain sensuousness/spirituality which accompanies exceptional food) went missing in the loud latino beat and cooking smells that accosted my other senses. As i stepped out, I noticed that the flowers on the wall in their bamboo containers were all fake.

                            2. Rendezvous was a 15 minute walk from the T at Kendall. It was hot. I was soaked by the time i got there - to smiles and a welcome that made me revert to my original attitude. The bartender greeted me with a glass of cold water. I was grateful for the fact that he didn't tell me how expensive the place really was. I had previously made up my mind (while researching the restaurant) to try the cucumber martini - sans mint. No problem there. The mint was omitted and the drink was fabulous. The abrtender even (jokingly) hinted that it may have been better without the mint - however, I bow to his expertise and apologize for my ignorance. In any case, it was made as requested. And it was great. The charcuterie plate was awesome. Wish I could have explored much more, but it was almost time to get the bus back to NH by then. I would definitely come here again - with dining companions if not alone. The friendliness of the patrons at the bar was also exceptional - lots of chatter.

                            Thanks again for your help in making my evening a great one.

                            41 Replies
                            1. re: cornFusion

                              Two questions. How much was this egg and did you really get off at Kendall to go to Rendezvous? It should have been Central and it sucks that you had to arrive soaked when it would have been a 2 min walk.

                              1. re: Joanie

                                The egg was $39 (one chicken egg and approximately a quarter tsp of caviar). The directions on the rendezvous site said "Kendall" so i followed those directions ... perhaps someone who is a regular at rendezvous should let them know to change it. I did enjoy the walk though because I am terrible at geography and my memory of places is generally marked with nearby restaurants - so walking by toscanini's was very enlightening - and ensures that I will remember how to get back to rendezvous!

                                1. re: cornFusion

                                  Hmm, I just saw this under the 'map' section of their web site:

                                  Public transportation: The restaurant is located one block south of the Central Square Red Line T stop. When exiting the T station, walk towards MIT and you will find us on the right hand side of Massachusetts Avenue between Pearl and Brookline streets. The main intersection in Central Square (Prospect and Mass Ave) is also home to stops for the No. 1 bus and the No. 91 bus.

                                  1. re: Joanie

                                    I am getting old and senile......
                                    Thanks for the correction - my mistook ....

                                    1. re: cornFusion

                                      I didn't want to sound like a nitpicker but was all ready to contact their web site if they made such a major error. Who wants to walk any extra in 90 degree humidity from one nice restaurant to another?

                                      1. re: Joanie

                                        Joanie, I apologize for the confusion. Sorry to have caused the distraction. But as soon as you posted your note above, I went to their web site and noticed that it was my miastake. Somehow, I mis-remembered and thought it was the kendall stop that i had to get off at. Again, my apologies for this thread.

                              2. re: cornFusion

                                Funny review of O Ya. I did not have the same experience, in fact the staff there never discussed prices with me before unless I asked. Also, fwiw, each time I've gone I've had "omakase" with a specified amount (closer to $100, though once when on expense we did the pricier one, which I think just includes wagyu). Though I also noted the aromas of smoking sesame, the torch, and so on, I let them slip as the overall experience was something else. I assure you nothing I've ever eaten there was less than exquisite despite those smells, and the fish has been superior to virtually any other I've had in this area (with Uni a notable exception). Finally, I think when you dine omakase style you no longer think about the price per plate (though the price for that egg seems crazy!) And your comment about the flowers is hilarious, I never noticed that, lol.

                                I will have to try Rendezvous as well, though on that note I also walked past it recently just after having gotten off at the Central Sq. stop

                                1. re: cornFusion

                                  I was the one who ordered the smoky-oil salmon prep while you were there, it was indeed a bit smokier than usual. Sorry you decided not to sample some of their other dishes (which, once you taste them, are not at all what one would find in a more traditional sushi place, unless you are a regular at places like Sushi of Gari). It is true that they were out of a couple items like kinmedai, which they said was because of the Japanese holiday Oban which meant they were unable to get their full shipment from Japan. if you are looking for spirituality instead of interesting/creative food, that is not the place to go.

                                  1. re: barleywino

                                    I cannot remember who was where .... so .. if you don't mind - where were you sitting? Were you the other man/woman sitting alone? As far as spirituality goes - I believe that in the best of restaurants (and somehow coincidentally, they seem to have extreme prices) - there is something intangible which makes your soul sing. And you are right - there is none of it at O-Ya.

                                    1. re: cornFusion

                                      I was sitting at the end of the bar next to the couple. Have to disagree on O-Ya though, if you try some more dishes I think you'll find some that stir your palate, if not your soul (music and plastic flowers notwithstanding)

                                      1. re: cornFusion

                                        "I believe that in the best of restaurants (and somehow coincidentally, they seem to have extreme prices) - there is something intangible which makes your soul sing."


                                        1. re: Alcachofa

                                          Perhaps, .... but there are other places I will go to .... perhaps to Oishi next time..... care to join me?

                                          1. re: Alcachofa

                                            What do you consider rubbish? That the best of restaurants have extreme prices, or that food can make your soul sing?

                                            1. re: pollystyrene

                                              or perhaps that is is ok to pay handsomely for perfection but only to sheepishly accept less than perfection?

                                              1. re: pollystyrene

                                                Neither. Maybe I misunderstood, but I meant that a place does NOT have to be expensive to provide food which can make your soul sing.

                                                1. re: Alcachofa

                                                  Which is exactly how I understood your "rubbish" comment.

                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                    ....and i wholeheartedly agree....my apoligies for causing misunderstanding here. Pulling foot out of mouth as I type this - and no i do not consider myself a foot foodie!
                                                    More apologies to the innumerable places I have eaten at where prices had nothing to do with the food, and where soul-singing in fact occurred.

                                            2. re: cornFusion

                                              Thanks barleywino - I figured it out when I looked at your profile (the spam fried rice..). I am very happy you like the place - don't get me wrong - but i think the place is really for people who can overllook blatant failures (like not sending back an obviously overcooked dish)and pay extreme - nay, punishing - prices for very little. Perhaps you are a regular there and get treated well. However, I for one would much rather eat well at a place which meets all of my foodie and related requirements (such as Rendezvous) than to go back to O-Ya. I have bragging rights (with people who care about such) now - but other than that - thanks, but no thanks.

                                              1. re: cornFusion

                                                Were your oysters overcooked? or the egg? and who said anything about overlooking blatant failures? If you are referring to the smoking oil, then perhaps you are not familiar with the classic "new style" sashimi dish pioneered by Nobu Matsuhisa in Los Angeles over 20 years ago, which calls for drizzling smoking sesame oil over sashimi. The chef at O-Ya was an early collaborator with Nobu and this dish reflects that culinary tradition. It sounds like you were more dissatisfied with non-food related issues than the food itself. It doesnt sound like you were treated any worse than any other customer, regular or not. Best of luck with Rendezvous, Oishii etc. By the way, it's not a "char siu" steamer, it's a "dimsum" steamer...

                                                1. re: cornFusion

                                                  For the record - the OP was NOT casting blame on anyone other than the chef at the restaurant. The OP expects to obtain perfection when paying the price of perfection. Nothing less. So when someone says that his dish was "indeed a bit smokier than usual" - it implied imperfection to the OP. The OP apologizes for any confusion the language may have caused, and wishes this item closed.

                                                  1. re: cornFusion

                                                    Sorry for the misunderstanding-- my comment about smokiness referred to the smoke coming out of the food prep area, not the dish itself, which was as good as always. As I stated in an earlier post which was deleted, I would agree with you that food can be transcendent (as would most people here, or they wouldn't be here). Sorry that your experience that evening did not live up to your expectations, and wishing you better luck in your future excursions, whether there or elsewhere.

                                            3. re: cornFusion

                                              Both Legal Seafood and Neptune oyster regularly have "real" Kumamoto's. They are my favorite.

                                              Glad you enjoyed Rendezvous. I agree the bar scene there is very friendly and low-key.

                                              1. re: yumyum

                                                Must be a recent thing then. Thanks for the pointer - will have to try Neptune's some day soon.

                                                1. re: yumyum

                                                  Neptune has carried kumamotos for the longest time - since they opened, from what I recall. They don't tend to have them in late summer and fall, though, as I think they are out of season.

                                                  1. re: lisa13

                                                    When i last went to Neptune (about a year and a half ago, they did have kumamotos - but not the kind i like. Theirs were much flatter. I expect deep cups (which have the shape of, say, coffee cups) for kumamotos.

                                                    1. re: cornFusion

                                                      a nice looking shell is no substitute for a great oyster inside the shell...I would go for Totten Virginicas or Tomales bay oysters over Kumamotos any day (ymmv)

                                                        1. re: barleywino

                                                          Hate to nitpick but Tomales Bay produces a few different varieties of oyster, Kumamoto is one of them.

                                                          1. re: T.Clark

                                                            the TOmales Bay oysters i had were nothing like the kumamoto's one sees here, they were huge, plump, creamy, almost like egg yolks, or burrata (but made of oyster of course)...please post here if you see some around here, thanks!

                                                        2. re: cornFusion

                                                          I've never had that experience at Neptune - not contradicting you, just never had this problem.

                                                          I've never heard of nor seen a "flat" kumamoto. I wonder if they were mixed up with another pacific type?


                                                          1. re: lisa13

                                                            Since Neptune is open for lunch and it is within walking distance ... I will go have lunch there next week and report back - if they have them.

                                                            1. re: cornFusion


                                                              I hope you are not disappointed.

                                                      1. re: yumyum

                                                        Uni, Uni Uni! Haha, they have Kumamotos most of the time too, and I also love them ; so very different from the East Coast oysters. They do some lovely creations with them too (add some uni and caviar!).

                                                        Not in reply to you Yumyum, but I am still often surprised at the lack of mention Uni gets on this board, I think it competes directly with O Ya and the prices seem (this is not based on an actual comparison) a lot lower. I love that place...have not returned since Chris Chung also made it back.

                                                        1. re: Zatan

                                                          I certainly will have to check out Uni at the next opportunity (may be 5 years from now though) ... :)

                                                          1. re: Zatan

                                                            hmm, last time I was at Uni, the costs definitely added up (especially for fish flown in from Japan, or items like pico rocco)...portions are also quite small even by O-Ya standards in my experience...both great places though

                                                            1. re: Zatan

                                                              I prefer Uni to Oya by a slight margin; especially with Chris back. Both restautants are sourcing their fish from all over the world and Chris buys some things from the same vendors as Masa in NY..in the Tokyo Tsukiji Market. Generally excellent quality and variety at both places.

                                                              I just like the more intimate feel at Uni. Oya is stronger in their cooked food. The braised pork dish is fantastic.

                                                              BTW, Chris was doing some private catering and that's agreat way to go. Not sure if he's still doing much now that he's back at Uni


                                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                                Agree on all counts here, based on my experiences at Uni under Chris's prior tenure. It lost a big step when he left; I haven't been back since his return, but am really glad to hear he's back.


                                                            2. re: yumyum

                                                              Went to Neptune for lunch today - and had 6 of their kumamotos. Sorry - but I would not have been able to identify them as kumamotos if I just looked at them unshucked (maybe except for one which had a rather deep shell). Even shucked, thery were rather shallow - indistinguishable from, say Neptunes, by their depth. So IMHO O-Ya still has the correctly termed oysters. Kumamotos are supposed to be identified by their deep cup-like shells - and despite what someone else says on these boards, a cross-breed may taste good as an oyster goes and maybe qualified legally to be called a kumamoto, but I prefer true kumamotos - and i expect them to be the original deep-cupped variety.

                                                              1. re: cornFusion

                                                                Did they specify where the Kumamotos were from?

                                                                I had a single deep shell and quite small Kumamoto at Clio years ago with, If I remember correctly, a ponzu granita that was the single best oyster I've ever had.

                                                                Deep cups are the result of intentionally chipping the shells. The more you chip the deeper the well. It's a very time consuming maintanence ritual for the grower and I could see skimping on the chipping in the name of reduced labor costs and increased turn around time.

                                                                The oyster species may be correctly identified, just poorly farmed.

                                                                1. re: T.Clark

                                                                  They were from somewhere in WA (if i remember correctly, Willapa). I had my first Kumamoto in Seattle in the early 70's and the shape of that oyster was memorable to say the least. I believe that many places have tried to duplicate this particular oyster - and thus the profusion of Kumamotos - including morphs from such places as Tomales Bay in CA. Perhaps I should just move this thread discussing Kumamotos to another place......

                                                                2. re: cornFusion

                                                                  After a long hard search all over the net.... i found an excellent albeit unlabeled picture of what I think is a typical kumamoto... here on chowhound! Check out the article also.... http://www.chow.com/stories/10713

                                                            3. Thanks for the very detailed report!

                                                              That intro spiel at O Ya focusing on costs is very odd, certainly something I've never gotten (though I haven't been back in a few months). I wonder if the recession has made even well-to-do patrons a little sensitive to sticker-shock, so the restaurant has decided it's better to be frank up front. Sounds like they're overdoing it a bit.

                                                              Not surprised to hear it's mostly empty on a Monday night. In any event, I've been much happier with my meals there, but I've always gone a more extensive selection, 8 or 10 small courses. Maybe that yields a higher hit rate, mitigates the occasional dish that's just very good and not wowing.

                                                              Unfortunate about directions to Rendezvous. After all, the restaurant's name is Rendezvous in Central Square. Hospitality, good bartending, and consistency seem to be their hallmarks; I just love that place, never hesitate to recommend it.


                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                it seems the error on the directions to Rendezvous was mine. No problem - the evening was outstanding!

                                                                The dishes at O-Ya were very good - I agree. The wow's on my part were specifically limited to the basic ingredients (kumamotos and caviar). No wows for technique, presentation, etc. So even if i gave the food a solid A, the other aspects of dining out could barely rate a B- in my book. So I would personally find it hard to recommend O-Ya as being one of the best spots in Boston.

                                                                As a comparison, the ambiance, the service, the food, the background music were all in the A to A- range (again my own personal assessment based on what i observed and ate and drank) at Rendezvous. Thus the highest recommendation for Rendezvous.

                                                                Thanks for the closed eye thing... that was good!

                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                  actually it was not at all empty that night, by the time I left (around 6:15pm) it was probably 3/4 full...which would explain why the maitre'd had to check the reservation book (as they did for me) before letting walk-ins have a seat