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Trip report - long

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chris Aug 21, 2012 06:29 PM

Hello all - I thought I'd report back on my trip. I'm going to be extremely brief with all of this...it's long as is and barely coherent. . If you care about details, feel free to ask followups and I'll check back.

Toro. Two dishes - uni bocadillo (rich, funky, delicious) and buffalo heart (a fairly light dish, quite good). Service was fine, I sat at the bar right by the entrance, it was packed on a Thursday night. Depends on how you eat, but obviously, tapas style is best enjoyed with a large group.

L'Espalier (lounge). Three course lounge menu - $20. Each course could be eaten in one bite, so don't go in expecting dinner. Flat out unacceptable issues with attitude, pacing, and one dish (escargot) had clearly been sitting under a heat lamp for an excessive amount of time. The biggest course - duo of lamb, one sausage, one loin (I think), with fig, fennel, and pearl onion - was delicious and bold. I still left irritated.

No. 9 Park. The highlight of the trip. Phenomenal service at the bar, great drinks, fun staff. I went with three appetizers - foie gras with fried green tomatoes, pork jowels with watermelon, and chilled Spanish octopus. If it had not been Restaurant Week in the coming days (they were booked), I would have returned in a heartbeat.

Bin 26. My legs were aching and it was the first place to catch my eye. Great wine list (I like that you can get pours in 100 ml, 250 ml, 500 ml), $1 oysters, and very nice saffron risotto balls - cheesy filling, mild lemon notes, quite good.

Craigie on Main. At about 5:25 I walked by (they open at 5:30) and there was a line of maybe 20 people - all for the bar, and based on what I was hearing from the kitchen, all ordered the burger. I didn't do a tasting menu (still full from the previous evening) and should have. Delicious. Pig tail (pain in the neck to eat), vichyssoise (tasty but with sweetbreads that were sitting in the soup and had lost their crispness - still good), swordfish (not my sorta entree, but I wanted to go light, this fit the bill - quite good), and sorbet.

Toscanini's - Burnt caramel ice cream. Delicious. I'm not a dessert guy, but I really enjoyed it.

Clio (bar). Outstanding drinks and food, the bartenders were absolutely slammed yet remained friendly and professional. That said, the level of work put into the drinks is baffling. The Esteban requires a cut up lime and jalapeno to be blowtorched, then muddled, then mixed with whatever the concoction was (mezcal and soda?), then put into a glass with ice made with various juices and liqueurs. The drink started incredibly spicy, but as the ice cubes melted it all mellowed - a brilliant kind of drink where each sip tastes different than the next. Tofu bahn mi and pork steam buns may have been the best food I had in Boston - huge, bold, delicious.

Regina's at Quincy Market. Many people get very passionate about pizza, so I am hesitant to say much beyond I threw half of my piece away. That said, LOTS of people seemed to be quite happy eating theirs. Quincy Market is kind of a nightmare for those, like me, who do not like crowds.

Island Creek Oyster Bar - Incredible oysters. Great drinks and service, I like that they offer "mocktails" if you want something a bit interesting without the booze. Lobster Roe Noodles were overwhelmed by the short ribs which isn't necessarily bad, as much as if if you served it next to $15 "short rib noodles" and eaten blindfolded, you probably wouldn't notice. That said, absolutely delicious - rich, buttery, great stuff. Catfish special of the day was interesting - sauteed, about 3/4 of it was light, almost like tilapia, and then 1/4 was definitely that weird funky catfish that would be better deep fried - still awesome.

The Hawthorne. I would need to go back to assess. I enjoyed my drink. There was some hard to describe weirdness not worth getting into.

East Coast Grill - I think this place can best be summed up by the "banana relleno." A banana, stuffed with absurdly spicy pork shoulder, then baked? You have sweet, you have savory, you have heat - it all comes together, it's a little odd, but it's indisputable. Big fan. Pork carnitas enchiladas and shrimp & grits entrees were excellent. The bloody mary bar looked like a giant pain in the neck honestly. I didn't make it to Cambridge Brewing Company, but they had a Pillsner on tap that was pretty good.

Drink. The thing about Drink is your time there depends 100% on your bartender's mood which is why it was a letdown. We had two. Our first was terrible - had we not been assigned a second bartender, I would have left. Our second bartender was unfriendly, but was at least willing to spend a minute (or 20 seconds) to make sure we had interesting drinks. We had steak tartare and fries as well - both amazing....great food from Lynch. Still though - it needs to be said - service issues here are a WAY more important problem than your typical place since there's no drink list. I would have loved to have been able to point to a drink on a list and avoid the awkward, borderline snotty, "conversation." Bottom line - I had the opportunity to go back the next day, I chose not to.

Erbaluce. The portions were generous. One dish came out cold (kudos to them for not using heat lamps?), everything else was fine. The highlight was a tomato salad. I totally see what they are doing - focus on delicious, in season, high quality ingredients, but the whole place seemed odd. The next day we were discussing dinner and I literally could not remember what I ate for my entree (not alcohol induced - honest). It was lamb. It was okay.

Union Oyster House. We had a half dozen oysters and the Sam Adams Colonial Ale, so I can't really comment on the food, beyond that both items were good and I left content.

Neptune - There was a line down the street when we arrived at 11:28. Everyone was seated, but by noon people another line had formed. You get a paper with the oysters of the day and brief descriptions - so you can gauge what you like or get a nice variety easily. Solid wine and beer list. Hamachi ceviche was ridiculously good, buttery, wonderful fish. Neptunes on Piggyback was incredible - variety of flavors, textures, temperature, just amazing. Hot Lobster Roll - a TON of lobster. Delicious.

Legal (Harborside). The bartender at No 9 strongly suggested I make it over here at an off hour, sit on the rooftop, and have a glass of wine. He was correct. Great wine list, reasonably priced, plus interesting Champagne options available by the glass. If it's a nice day and you are into wine, I'd strongly recommend this place. We had a tuna based sushi roll (great fish, covered in sickeningly sweet sauce) and edamame (which was edamame - fine).

Pigalle. Restaurant Week, they were slammed, they were beyond slammed, our waiter was having a rough night, a good number of people around us were either getting mad or already had steam coming out of their ears by the time we were seated because of how slow service was. Everyone working was clearly in the weeds. And then the food came... and everything was right with the world. Simply put - old school French food, no unnecessary frills, no goofiness, just great, classic food, a fair wine list (a bottle of French sparkling for $37), and delicious cocktails, among the best of the trip.

Boston Beer Works (airport). It's a bar in the airport. The food was about what you'd expect (honestly, slightly better than I expected) and the house beers were all decent. I would not want to take a growler home, but I was quite content having a pint waiting for my flight. We have a place in the midwest called Ram that this kind of reminded me of - decent food and beer, but just that. Great service though!

There you go! I'll get photos up at some point.

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    purple bot Aug 21, 2012 07:19 PM

    Great report, thanks! One thing I will say though: when people rave about Regina's pizza (as I do myself) they are referring to the original one, in the North End. All the other outlets of the "chain" are fair to poor, as you experienced. All in all though, sounds like you had a pretty good round of drinking and eating, with more hits than misses.

    3 Replies
    1. re: purple bot
      c
      chris Aug 21, 2012 07:57 PM

      Yeah - in Chicago we have Pizzeria Uno which is not to be confused with the chain Uno Chicago Grill, even though it's "the same."

      I definitely enjoyed myself, ate too much, and look forward to returning!

      1. re: chris
        t
        teezeetoo Aug 22, 2012 07:51 AM

        thanks - we love hearing back from posters. sounds like you thoroughly enjoyed eating your way across Boston and Cambridge. Lots more to try when you return.

        1. re: chris
          jgg13 Aug 22, 2012 01:39 PM

          Also don't forget that the Uno chain is originally from Boston - which further makes the point as to how different they are. Pizzeria Uno (the real one) isn't my favorite in chicago, but it is a completely different animal than the chain (even before they rebranded to "chicago grill")

      2. j
        joth68 Aug 22, 2012 09:20 AM

        Great report!

        I'm curious to hear more about $1 dollar oysters at Bin 26. Was it a special they were running? What time of day did you go in? I ask because the menu online lists them at $3.

        2 Replies
        1. re: joth68
          c
          chris Aug 22, 2012 09:58 AM

          Good call - I should have mentioned it was a special. Not listed on a menu, but they had a sign posted outside - it was an afternoon deal, 2 to 5 pm or 3 to 6, maybe - post lunch/pre dinner thing.

          1. re: chris
            j
            joth68 Aug 23, 2012 11:28 AM

            Ok I not so accidently took a stroll by yesterday and the deal was indeed 2-5 pm. Will keep in mind for the next afternoon I have off.

        2. k
          kimfair1 Aug 22, 2012 01:34 PM

          Sorry to hear about the non-descript weirdness at The Hawthorne. Definitely give them another chance next time you're in town. I'm not surprised at your reaction at Drink, I find that the place is just too busy to adequately do the whole "discuss your tastes with your bartender" thing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kimfair1
            jgg13 Aug 22, 2012 01:41 PM

            Not to mention 99% of the time the customer ends up with one of the same half dozen drinks the bartender is making for just about everyone.

            I've heard people counter by saying "Well, that's because they don't really know what the customer likes until they get to know them!". Great, I get that - but why go through the charade of the whole conversation thing? The last time I was there you could see that almost everyone who mentioned liking X got drink A, liking Y got drink B, etc.

            1. re: jgg13
              c
              chris Aug 22, 2012 04:09 PM

              To expand slightly....

              The first bartender asked what we like and what we don't, went no further, didn't ask any followups (seemed annoyed at our presence)....I said I like bourbon and my wife said she likes reposado tequilas. Our first drinks were, I kid you not, a bourbon old fashioned and a tequila old fashioned. Sugar, bitters, spirit. At least they didn't top them off with Sprite I guess?

              All that said, it was around 4:30 on a Sunday and we had to wait close to have an hour for a seat.

          2. Pia Aug 23, 2012 02:10 PM

            Excellent report! I feel the same way about Drink -- I really don't want to have that conversation every time, especially with a zillion other people trying to get the bartender's attention. I think you've inspired me to finally try Pigalle, which has been somewhere on the list for a long time. Thanks for coming back and letting us know how your trip turned out!

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