Survived my course in Boston due to some great food! - Reviews (long)
First off wanted to give a big THANKS to the Boston hounds who helped make my trip to Boston (for an intense 3 day course) so much easier to enjoy with all the good food.
I arrived a day early for my course and was enjoying my shopping when I came upon a branch of Pizzeria Regina in a food court. Remembering various discussions, I caved and grabbed a slice to snack on. Nothing super exciting, the crust had a nice chew and the roasted peppers and spinach topping were enjoyable enough but gets wet quite quickly in the center. Didn't eat too much of it since I had dinner at Island Creek.
Island Creek Oyster Bar - dinner
The room was quite busy when I arrived for my reservations at 6pm. Not full yet but definitely buzzing. The hostess was very gracious and helped relieve me of my multiple shopping parcels given that I had walked over from shopping on Newbury St to work up an appetite. I was seated promptly and my server Chris was wonderful and attentive through the night. The meal started with a basket of semolina flour white bread that they served with honey cayenne butter. I love a restaurant that brings warm bread and properly softened butter, so I was off to a great start. The bread was nice and fluffy and the butter gave it a nice sweetness with just a hint of warmth from the cayenne.
Assorted oysters - All nice and fresh with only one oyster having a bit of shell in it. I'm not much for condiments aside from a splash of lemon so I can't tell you if any of the accompaniments were any good.
Oyster slider - It came with pickled onions and a lime aioli on a brioche roll. The onions gave the entire slider some nice acidity compared to the briny oyster which was nicely fried, not too greasy feelings. A very nice couple of bites.
Buttermilk biscuit with rosemary honey butter - Did I mention I'm a sucker for nice baked goods so when I saw a buttermilk biscuit on the menu, had to give it a try as well. I was not prepared for the size of this monster! It's a pretty sized carb and would be perfect for sharing. It was nice and crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside and warm from the oven. The butter gave it a nice sweet and savoury with the honey and rosemary.
Ramps with romesco sauce - At the time, ramps were still on the menu so I decided to give it a try. Overall, wasn't particularly impressed as they were stringy and tough to chew. Definitely the weakest dish of the evening.
Lobster roe noodles with braised short rib, grilled lobster, maitake mushrooms and pecorino – Based on recs and the description, I had to try it. It sounded just over the top decadent. Overall, it was just ok for me. I found it a bit too much with the short rib AND the lobster tail on top. The lobster tail was just a hair on the tough side and personally, I think they could do without the short rib which I think detracts from the lobster flavour.
By this time, I was stuffed and had to pass on dessert even though I was intrigued. Overall, a very enjoyable evening with great service, in a comfortable atmosphere with good food. With 2 glasses of wine, the tab came to a little over $100.
Sportello – lunch
It was conveniently located within walking distance of my course at the Convention Center and with only an hour, I opted for the takeout counter.
Eggplant, roasted pepper, tapenade and mozzarella on foccacia – Nice flavours from the roasting of the veggies with the right amount of saltiness from the tapenade. The eggplant was good retaining some of its texture instead of being excessively mushy. The only downside was that it was quite greasy.
Blackberry macaron with blackberry jam filling – The macaron had a nice jammy blackberry filling that wasn’t just sugary sweet. The macaron had a nice crisp shell and the tender interior with the nice feet from baking. It was a bit larger than the usual French one biters.
Myers and Chang – dinner
I settled on Myers and Chang as I was missing Asian food in general. I didn’t have a reservation and just turned up on a Friday evening. I was informed there might be a wait but I lucked out and managed to get a seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen in about 10 minutes squeezed between 2 couples. To celebrate surviving the first day of the course, I ordered the Sake Sangria which was mango and passionfruit for the evening. The mango and passionfruit were nicely present but unfortunately the ending wine note left a bitter taste in the mouth.
Green papaya slaw - It was an enjoyable dish with great roasted peanut flavor and spiciness but I found it lacking that fishy salty oomph you get with a nice splash of fish sauce.
Grilled razor clams – Served with grapefruit and avocado, this dish was delightful in the mouth with the chewiness from the clams contrasting with the creamy avocado and the tart grapefruit. It was light and fresh tasting, the only downside being the difficulty in getting all the parts into your mouth at the same time.
Vietnamese shrimp cake on bibb lettuce and pickled pineapple – With nice fresh chunks of shrimp, carrot shreds and cilantro, it was a nice light and tasty shrimp cake, although for some reason, I had imagined more of a similarity to a Thai preparation with the shrimp being pounded into a paste.
Tea smoked pork spare ribs – Sometimes I shouldn’t read Chowhound so much since I end up ordering way too much. But thank goodness for ordering these. There was a good balance of fat and meat unlike some ribs which end up with too much fat and leave a very greasy feeling in the mouth. The meat itself was tender and falling off the bone when you bit into it with a great salty, smoky and sweet taste at the same time.
Mama Chang’s pork and chive dumplings – I love dumplings and personally, I think pork and chive is the best combination for a filling. The skin of these came out not too thin and breaking easily but not too thick and stodgy either which was a good sign. However, I found the filling was quite heavy feeling for a pan fried pot sticker.
Wok charred udon noodles – My seat neighbours turned out to be just as enthusiastic about food as me so I had partners happy to share my food and happy to let me sample theirs. This dish was delicious and well prepared. All the ingredients complemented each other with the only component missing being that mysterious wok hei I associated with anything that says wok prepared.
Tiger eye– My notes and memory elude me on this preparation they had of beef.
Overall, service was efficient for a busy evening and I had a great time in the lively atmosphere, with great seat mates. For all my food, the bill came to less than $70 and I had enough to share with another person.
Flour Bakery – lunch
This place was busy over lunch hour on a Saturday with office lots of families. The line up moved along quickly but during the prime hour of 12-1, you still ended up waiting about 10 minutes for them to prep the food. Not that I minded waiting, it was something that didn’t require me to think during that time. You order at the counter and then wait, you can do take away or eat in. Given how busy it was, I opted for take away to find a quieter less busy locale to enjoy my lunch.
Roasted lamb with tomato chutney and goat cheese – Herbed goat cheese on whole wheat bread baked in house sandwiched slices of medium rare lamb topped with a tomato chutney. Yummo! You get that nice tangy creaminess from the goat cheese, nice crusty bread and not very gamey lamb and it’s a fabulous lunch on the go.
Cornmeal lime cookie – It sounded intriguing so why not! The cookie was nicely moist with a nice fine crumb, intense lime flavor from lime zest and the cornmeal gave it a nice chew to the whole thing.
Home made oreo cookie – Oh wow, this was a bit too sweet for me. I don’t go for super sweet things so I only managed to take a couple bites. The filling is nice and soft and gooey but makes eating it a challenge since the cookies slide around. The chocolate cookies were nice and chocolatey with a good crunch to them.
The next day, I returned again for lunch.
Roasted chicken with jicama, avocado and mixed greens of whole wheat bread - It was another really good sandwich which I thoroughly enjoyed. The chicken was lightly spiced with something faintly Indian leaning, with the creamy avocado and crunchy jicama, it disappeared quickly.
O-ya – dinner
I girlfriend of mine had eaten here a couple months earlier and raved about it. And given that she’s not a super adventurous sushi girl, for her to rave, I had to try. I did the omakase since there were too many things on the menu that I wanted to try. I won’t go into detail since that would be 17 different bites but I’ll highlight my favourite 2 and least favourite 2. Overall, service was excellent, very attentive and prompt. The servers were all able to discuss the dishes and were kind enough to highlight on the menu which dish I was eating. The room itself is quite intimate feeling, definitely what I thought was a well designed room. The only downside is having to go downstairs for the bathrooms. It was busy and full the entire time I was there and I enjoyed sitting at the bar where I could watch all the chefs preparing the intricate dishes. It wasn't a cheap meal though, with a bottle of water and the sake tasting, the bill came in at $250. Was it worth it? I thought so, the food wasn't plain traditional sushi and sashimi, I thought it was inventive and creative and worth paying a little extra to try.
Favourites – Chilled Maine lobster salad with avocado, creamy yuzu dressing, peppercress and cucumber gelee. This was a perfectly cooked lobster with that nice crunch/snap, served with a dressing that gave it a hint of citrus and creamy avocado to contrast with the lobster. It was refreshing, light and just a perfect bite for me.
Foie gras with balsamic chocolate kabayaki, Claudio corallo raisin cocoa pulp, served with a sip of aged sake. This was actually the last dish of the set and what an ending it was. The foie was a bite of melty goodness, not being overly sweet or acidic from the balsamic and chocolate dipping, with the rice giving it a nice chewy texture along with the seaweed wrapper that you chew through at the end. With the aged sake, it just was a fantastic combination and a great way to end a fantastic meal
Least favourites – Sake braised wagyu beef short ribs served with dashi soy simmered potatoes. It was kind of a waste of wagyu beef really as it could have been any kind of beef really. It was a pretty subtle bite though, with fried shredded daikon and ginger on top and saltiness contributed from the dashi soy combination. The potatoes were nice , they weren’t over simmered so they did retain their texture and shape.
Bluefin maguro with soy braised garlic and micro greens. This bite was very meh for me. I think the tuna just got lost from being blow torched in this particular instance, such a waste.
Prezza – dinner
I hadn’t made reservations for my final dinner as I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel after spending 3 straight days ramming my brain full of calculations. I settled on Prezza over fancier places as I wanted to just unwind instead of being all formal. It was about a half hour walk over from the Seaport area and it helped work up an appetite too. I arrived around 6 and the bar area was filled with baseball fans, looks like they were just from around the neighbourhood, watching the game and getting a bite to eat at the same time. Very promising. I was seated right away as the dining room was still not overly busy. It did get busier through the evening but service was still fabulous as always. Very attentive without hovering.
On the table – olives and foccacia bread, pretty standard mix of black and green olives and some nice foccacia to take the edge off while I perused the menu.
Saffron arancini with lobster, hazelnut and fava beans – The arancini came out crispy and not greasy at all and when you cut it in half, they weren’t overly creamy which worked out well as the sauce was creamy enough to compensate. The lobster pieces were super buttery tasting and the hazelnuts added a nice woodsy earthiness to the entire dish. Delicious!
Grilled squid and octopus with white beans – The dish came out and you could see it had a nice char and you could instantly smell the smokiness. The beans gave the dish a creamy sandiness while tomatoes added some acid to balance everything out. The squid was tender and I loved all the little tentacle bits, I think they’re the best part. As for the octopus, I’m beginning to realize, it just might not be my thing. The texture was kind of soft and squidgy is the best way I can describe it. Squid had a nice spring that octopus just doesn’t. Oh well, it was still tasty and I polished it all off.
Ravioli with egg – There is something comforting about the scent of brown butter and sage, like the smell of baked bread. Cutting into the ravioli, the egg yolk runs all over and makes its own sauce with the brown butter and sage. This dish needs something to mop up all that saucy goodness and good thing I left a bit of foccacia to do the job. This is what great Italian food should be like. Simple and absolutely licking-the-plate good.
Overall, it was a fabulous eating trip, the course, well....I survived, probably only because I kept looking forward to my next meal. :o) Till my next visit, which is hopefully soon!
Thank you for this! Great report. You have inspired me to write more. And go to to some of these places, too.
Nice report and you did well in the places you chose with good balanced reviews. It reminds me that we are doing so much better in our restaurant scene. Prezza just had a fire for those thinking of going.
Thanks for such a detailed, elaborate report! If you return, remember that the only Pizzeria Regina worth it's Pecorino Romano is the original in the North End; the others are a poor quasi-corporate ripoff (even the "real" one is hit-or-miss, but the chain Reginas are just that - a corporate chain).
No, I haven't. "Way back when" (sometime in the early-mid nineties), I felt that the Burlington Mall outpost (not part of the food court, but it's own actual restaurant in the mall) occasionally "came close". I, quite frankly, haven't had any good pizza, save for Umberto's tray/quasi-Sicilian slices, in many moons (Although I don't pursue pizza often these days - I've been on the solo-dining-tip for a little minute, so "family style" eating and "shared plates" items have been at a premium in the past year or so; pizza usually comes at lunchtime from a "slices" type of place).
bda, want to join the line of those thanking you for this detailed report. the details make it VERY valuable in advising others (and ourselves, as I too now want to go [return, for me, after one 'just o.k.' dinner there]) So glad you enjoyed yourself (and had enough of an appetitie to try so many things!) Those Prezza dishes remind me of Olive's in its heyday and I hope they're still on the menu when they reopen! thx again.
great report bdachow!
I just wanted to mention on thing, about ICOB. I went there about 2 weeks ago, and I happened to mention to my dinner companion that the lobster roe noodles were a signature dish, but I had not tried them because I don't care for shortrib. The waitress overheard me and said they would be happy to make it without the shortrib and double up on the lobster. So I had to try it this way. Sad to say, this is a mistake. the dish is kind of rich and misses something to cut through the flabbiness of all that butter and lobster. It just didn't work that way. It was worth a try, and I thought it was nice of ICOB to serve it to me that way, but definitely not a repeater.
I finally got my pictures off my phone, just in case you wanted to see what the dishes looked like. This is from Island Creek.
Salmon tataki - torched tomato, smoked salt, onion aioli
Warm Eel - thai basil, kabayahi, fresh kyoto sansho
Fried Kumamoto oyster - yuzu kosho aioli, squid ink bubbles
Homemade La Ratte Fingerling potato chip - black oregon truffle
Wild Santa Barbara Spot Prawn - garlic butter, white soy, preserved yuzu
Bluefin maguro - soy braised garlic, micro greens
Kyoto style Morel Mushrooms - garlic, soy
Shima Aji & Santa Barbara Sea Urchin - ceviche vinaigrette; cilantro
Scottish Salmon - spicy sesame ponzu, yuzu kosho, scallion oil
Bluefin Tuna tataki - smoky pickled onion, truffle oil
Chilled Maine lobster salad - avocado, creamy yuzu dressing, peppercress, cucumber gelee
Grilled chanterelle & Shiitake mushroom sashimi - rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth, soy
Sake braised short ribs - dashi soy simmered potatoes
Foie gras - balsamic chocolate kabayaki, claudio corallo raisin cocoa pulp