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Aug 17, 2012 07:23 AM

36 Hours in Boston - Report

I just returned from a trip to Boston and I thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth of opinions. I had three meals, two lunches and a dinner. I went to Pho Pasteur, Eastern Market and Trattoria Toscana.

Pho Pasteur: Having been in MT for the last 18 months any Vietnamese is awesome. It is probably my favorite food. I just happened on it while walking through Ctown and went for a bun tiht heo nuong. It was ok. The grilled pork had no char and some kind of sauce on it that I wasn't accustomed to so compared to the last 18 months it was great, but what I was used to in Northern VA a bit lacking.

Trattoria Toscana: I was staying nearby and found this place on CH. I was pretty disappointed. If I wasn't so tired of walking I probably woulda split when she told me they don't make their pastas fresh. I ordered the antipasto board with three meats and three cheese, it was ok. I found the cheeses a bit generic, a gorgonzola, a pecorino (which was way too young) and a parm. Then I ordered the risotto with porcinis. The waitress came out and warned me that it was with dried mushrooms. I thought the risotto was good if only a bit under seasoned. When I asked for some parmagiana cheese they brought me a side dish with finely grated cheese in it which looked like Kraft. They have the good parm in the back, they should grate it table side. Staff was great, super friendly and efficient.

Eastern Standard: I went for lunch. I had half a dozen Moon Shore (?) oysters and half dozen clams. Then I had the gouda mac and cheese. The oysters were so good that I almost teared up and I regretted ordering the clams then I ate the clams and they were so good that I wished that I had gotten more clams. The mac and cheese was a recommendation from the waitress. It was very good. It had a lot of lovely pancetta in it. Good flavor, but a couple very burned spots on the cheese on top. I enjoyed it very much.

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  1. "Eastern Market" - do you mean Eastern Standard, in Kenmore Square?

    3 Replies
      1. re: sekelmaan

        No problem! Just wanted to clarify. You can edit your original post to correct that.

        Sorry you were disappointed at Trattoria Toscana - I've always enjoyed my dinners there. However, I'm not sure why you would have to be "warned" that the risotto was made with dried porcinis. They're pretty standard in that recipe, even when fresh ones are used as well, and you can't really get a good rich mushroom flavor without them.

        1. re: Allstonian

          Ok. That is good to know. I actually have not had that many risotto's so the dish is something for me to learn more about.

    1. Did you go to Trattoria Toscana on Jersey Street in the Fenway neighborhood or Toscano on Charles Street in Beacon Hill? Unfortunately they are often confused.


      4 Replies
        1. re: sekelmaan

          There was no confusion by your description that it was jersey street. But even so, there is no confusion by people who have been to ristorante Toscano on Charles.

          1. re: libertywharf

            So the one on Charles is the good one and I got confused when I was researching?

            1. re: sekelmaan

              No, you went to the one that many of us love. The one on Charles is okay but not great.

      1. sek, just fyi,i believe that porcini are 'always' used in their dried form. They have much more flavor than fresh. Shiitakes and chanterelles also make a lovely risotto (my particular favs over porcini.)

        The Jersey St. Toscano is the one that gets tons of raves on CH; the Charles St one is much more debated. (Fwiw, we finally had one dinner at the one you visited and thought it fine but not worth a return.But seeing the number of raves it consistently gets on CH, we will likely go again.)

        sorry about Pho Pasteur. You prob saw how tz2 and others laud the Dorchester and Lowell spots, so hope you get there next trip.

        thx so much for the report.

        2 Replies
        1. re: opinionatedchef

          Dried porcini have more flavor than fresh?! I'm speechless.

          1. re: scotty27

            They do, especially in a preparation like risotto. This is not a particularly shocking thing.

            However, porcini are definitely NOT "always" used in their dried form. It's just that if you're lucky enough to have fresh porcini, you want to fry or grill them.

        2. I really don't want to bash a CH favorite, but I am curious if my expectations are too high for the wealth of Italian restaurants in the Boston area. I am really looking forward to excellent pasta and to me that is home made and fresh pasta. Is it something people aren't doing in the area?

          3 Replies
          1. re: sekelmaan

            The pasta isn't the star of the show at Toscana. The first things I think of from that menu are the lamb shanks and the pork chops and the cricken-liver crostini. So it doesn't particularly matter to me if the pasta isn't homemade, because I often don't even order pasta there.

            1. re: sekelmaan

              I don't know every Italian restaurant by a long shot but I believe the La Summa and Trattoria de Monica make their own pasta and I think La Morra also does. You can buy quite good homemade pasta for making at home at Dave's, Al Capone, and I think at Di Pasquale as well. Basta Pasta in Cambridge used to advertise that their pasta was homemade but I haven't been there in a while. Always best to call and check with a place. Even the most devoted CH'er is often not up to date.

              1. re: teezeetoo

                Ok. Both good things to know. I did not delve deeply enough into my search for TT. If they make a rockin' lamb shank though, that will definitely get me back there.

                Thanks for the list TZ.

            2. Thanks for the follow-up! I'm always disappointed when visitors get lots of good advice here but then don't report their experiences afterward.

              I love Trattoria Tosacana, but it is a humble little place, a true trattoria. I think the raves tend to inspire visions of loftier, more refined cuisine than it can meet. I think it's excellent of its kind, but satisfaction is intimately tied to expectation.

              I often hear of a preference for fresh pasta over dried in all cases, and I think this is an odd, probably American idiosyncrasy. Some pasta dishes are better with dried than fresh; also, shape matters. Marcella Hazan, one of my favorite Italian cookbook authors, makes a good case for the virtues of dried (which I've posted before):

              "The exceptional firmness, the compact body, the grainier texture of factory-made pasta makes it the first choice when a sauce is based on olive oil, such as must seafood sauces and the great variety of light vegetable sauces. That is not to say, however, that you must pass up all butter-based sauces. Boxed, dry pasta can establish a most enjoyable liaison with some of them, but the result will be different, weightier, more substantial.

              When you use factory-made pasta, your choice of sauce will be affected by the shape. Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, is usually the best vehicle for an olive-oil-based seafood sauce. Many tomato sauces, particularly when made with butter, work better with thicker spaghetti, in some cases with the hollow strands known as bucatini or perciatelli. Meat sauces or other chunky sauces nest best in larger hollow tubes such as rigatoni and penne, or in the cupped shape of conchiglie [shells]. Fusilli are marvelous with a dense, creamy sauce, such as sausages and cream sauce, which clings to all its twists and curls.

              Factory-made pasta carries sauce firmly and boldly; homemade pasta absorbs it deeply. Good, fresh pasta made at home has a gossamer touch on the palate, it feels light and buoyant in the mouth. Most olive oil sauces obliterate its fine texture, making it slick, and strong flavors deaden it. Its most pleasing match is with subtly constituted sauces, be they with seafood, meat, or vegetable, generally based on butter and often enriched by cream or milk."


              1 Reply
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                That is very interesting. I will have to do more exploration on my own once I get back to the NE and start eating a LOT more Italian food. Thank you very much for sharing.