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Sep 12, 2012 04:40 AM

10 Under the Radar Boston restaurants

Per an article on - interesting that most of them are on the chowhound radar...

They are:

Carlo's in Allston
Bistro du Midi
Central Kitchen
East by Northeast
The Salty Pig
Tu y Yo

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  1. I would like to make one point about Salts -

    The article states: "In 2004, co-owners Gabriel Bremer and Analia Verolo took over this cozy Cambridge restaurant. In 2007, Bremer was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs. In 2012, he continues to offer innovative preparations of local, seasonal ingredients, ornately plated with fresh herbs and flowers. And then there’s the signature whole roast duck for two, glazed in lavender honey. Just down the road is Craigie on Main, chef Tony Maws’s much-talked-about restaurant. (Maws was a 2005 Food & Wine best new chef — lotta talent on Main Street.) Salts ought to be talked about more often. Focused on food and hospitality, doing very little in the way of promotion, Bremer and Verolo run a charming establishment year after year."

    Perhaps, but perhaps the problem is a lack of attention to detail - I went on the Salts website to see whether it is worth it to spend the cash to dine there - it is not cheap - and they still have a sample spring menu on the website.

    14 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      That sample spring menu has been there for at least a couple of years, I'm pretty sure.

      1. re: jgg13

        That's really their loss - I am looking for a place for my anniversary, and I would seriously consider them, only I am not going to go in totally blind (I don't plan on ordering the duck).

        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          I've had the same issue when I've considered them for this or that. Most of the yelp reviews seem to focus on the duck, so ....

          1. re: jgg13

            I just had the duck last week. It was nice, but no different than I could make at home. Skin wasn't crispy.

            Desserts were, across the board, pretty and lovely and delicious. I can't remember much except something with berry sauce poured over custard and cotton candy.

            1. re: enhF94

              The place is good, and he can cook, but it's totally overpriced and not worth it. It's quite stuffy as well. I view it as well-done Boston fine dining from 2005. I'd love to see them reboot into something a bit more casual and of the moment.

              Yeah, and definitely redo the website.

      2. re: Bob Dobalina

        Howdy from Santa Fe, y'all. Someone forwarded me the article, and I was curious what the CH community thought.

        Yes, the cardinal sin of Not Updating the Website, but FWIW the wife and I still try to get back to Salts whenever we're back in Boston, it's one of our favorite restaurants anywhere. Ironically, I think the "signature" duck is a near-total waste of a credit card swipe (it effectively has utterly nothing to do with the rest of the menu), but I have never, ever had any other dish there that fell short of amazing.

        Salts is kind of a mirror image of Craigie. Craigie, while delicious, tends to be fairly rustic, really masculine, and pretty in-your-face. Salts is much more subtle and demure, a combination of prodigious, modern cooking technique (a lot of Adria references in Bremer's recipes) and a lot less bragadoccio and macho swagger than across the street. And as enhF94 mentions, it's one of the few places where the desserts are actually worth the calories (the lemon souffle cake has been a longtime favorite of mine).

        I think the pricey wine list is decent, but not stellar, but I have only great things to say about the non-duck chow.

        1. re: finlero

          Agreed on all points, particularly that the non-duck bites I stole from DCs were good, and the lemon souffle cake is an old-school dessert done right.

          More on the yuzu custard thing: the blueberry sauce was full of flavor, and yet texturally loose and watery, not syrupy like boiled blueberry coulis. In a really good way.

          Finlero: send us some chiles when you come back, eh? Or something from Jambo Cafe?

          1. re: enhF94

            Jambo and green chile are miiiiine, all mine. But I do pine for a good lobster roll, or any lobster roll for that matter.

          2. re: finlero

            Hey finlero - thanks for the good word. What sort of non-duck things might I get at Salts?

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Actually, the very best dish I've ever had is the ballotine of chicken, it's just supernaturally tender and flavorful. The sashimi treatments are phenomenal too, subtle and just about perfect. And every soup I've had has been stellar, often made using vegetables from their own farm up in Vermont; given the farm harvest thing, this is probably the best time of year to go. OK, now I'm hungry and jealous.

              1. re: finlero

                lemme help you out:

                1. I suggested Salts to my friends specifically so I could order the chicken ballotine (having not noticed that the online menu is so old), and it's not on the menu, at least for now.
                2. christmas-style anything. green chile sandwiches. fry bread.

            2. re: finlero

              One question that I've had - it has always come across as more a place to go as a couple, and not a small group(say 4-5 people), is that right? I'm often trying to figure out a new place for both situations and have never been sure which bin to put Salts in.

              1. re: jgg13

                The room is quite small, and it definitely has a romantic feel about it. I've routinely seen small groups in there, but I think the space is probably more germane for the two-top set.

              2. re: finlero

                I agree re: the wine list being too pricey. I think I remember there was almost nothing under $50 and I didn't feel like anything was really spectacular or unique on it. Personally, I liked Salts but didn't love it, hence we haven't been back. I felt like they were reaching just a touch too high.

                I thought the duck was very good but not spectacular. Definitely lack of crisp to the skin and I think it would've benefitted from more of the lavender honey in the description. I remember the beet salad being pretty to look at and delicious. I remember well seared fish (halibut? Scallops?) and a tasty soup. But I also remember the overuse of butter and salt. The gnocchi in particular was just way too rich as were the sauces. It all went into that territory where flavors get blunted and you feel awful after a meal (and I say this as someone who on my last trip to Chez Dumonet in Paris followed up a deck of card size Foie Gras app with Duck confit and duck fat potatoes and felt fantastic).

            3. I would say Tuy y Yo is barely a blip on the CH radar anymore. And when it was, it was often ripped. In the spirit of recent "why change" discussion, I personally would love to see the conversation resurrected. The menu is broad-ranging with a number of interesting dishes including a brunch menu that makes going out for brunch seem worthwhile. I haven't been there in years but am keen on another look. I know some other trusted palates on this bored are still embajadors of the place.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Nab

                Tu Y Yo could be SO GOOD if they only seasoned properly by using MORE SALT. (not yelling at you, just disappointed at his academically-correct, but bland, food)

                Unless the problem is my whitey palate. In which case I'd respect that... as I walk past to DooWee & Rice.

                1. re: enhF94

                  Very much agreed. Their food is unique, authentic... and very bland. The last time I went, I asked what the server's favorite dish was, and they recommended the frog's legs in green mole. It was a fascinating dish, in that it was a vibrant green, but utterly bland -- no flavor. I kept thinking, "Gee, for one-tenth the cost of this meal, I could have an al pastor taco at Anna's, with ten times the flavor."

                  The famous grasshopper tacos are simply grilled masa with flavorless crunchy bits.

                  I want to like Tu Y Yo so much, but it's so blah.

                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                    Yeah! I was so happy to try those two dishes. Until I tried those two dishes. Grasshopper legs stuck in my teeth for two days.

                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      exactly our experience when we went there.

                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        when they first opened, they were much more authentic and the food was quite spicy. I loved it. They also made their own chipotles in adobo. Then they started getting more publicity, the crowds came, and in my opinion, the spices and chiles got dumbed down. We asked why and were told, "Americans like it less spicy." Went back once about 5 years ago and it was the same blandness. Haven't been back since.

                  2. I'm trying to understand what "under the radar" means in this context? I love the Salty Pig, and it's always crowded when I go there. Carlo's always is packed when I walk by on a Friday or Saturday night, with a line out the door. So whose radar are we talking about?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mwk

                      My read was "no publicist."

                      Certainly Tupelo, Salts, Lumiere, Central Kitchen are well respected by friends who, at least, think of themselves as food people (though I've only been to two of them).

                      1. re: enhF94

                        if "no publicist" means no current website, that also applies to central kitchen. they were for a while erratically open for lunch....a really welcome addition to the central square lunch options....and then just weren't. I'd love to see their current menus and would go there now and then...but it's a small place, and I want some idea of what i'd find to eat there. otherwise, I'll go to rendezvous for monday tapas

                        1. re: Madrid

                          Central Kitchen has a website:

                          It is however quite possibly the worst website i have ever seen, starting with the URL...

                          1. re: ac106

                            yeah, I know, but the last few times I checked, no menu came up. Maybe i used the wrong browser? I did just check and I got a menu. Does anyone know if it is current?

                            I think the url enormous refers to the enormous room bar/lounge upstairs, which used to be marked only with an elephant pictograph on the door.

                            I did enjoy their lunch, when they did it, before shopping at the farmers market.

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