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Hit Wicket scores a century

Spent the afternoon at Hit Wicket today, so I wanted to contribute a report. I wasn't expecting much (stupid Y**p) but I left very happy, and frankly, eager to return.

They've been soft-opened for a few days, and tonight is the grand opening "with the mayor!" The (presumably) owners were present, so we talked the mystery that is Cricket. They seemed friend-level nice.

It also turns out that once I learned that Cricket was created by bored shepherds (i.e. bored 14 year old boys deciding that anything cool, rare or lucky should be worth points), it's much easier to understand. There are sweet laminated explanations of cricket on the table baskets, even explaining who the good teams are. Australia is apparently very good, and India.

A menu is now up at http://hitwicketbar.com so there's that.

Based entirely on recommendations from waitstaff, we ordered:

plantain chips "tossed in chili spice mix" - these were cut about two mm thick and fried crunchy. Properly salted on the light side. I liked the crunch and they stayed crunchy even after cooling. Not greasy at all, even after fully cooled. The chili-spice mix was pretty subtle, not a flaw for plantains in my book. I'm not sure it's automatic, but we were given three sauces to go with: a ketchup that seemed spiced up, a green jalapeno sauce, and an orange habanero sauce. I only tried the jalapeño sauce, and it seemed notably hotter than most jalepeños to me, and fresh-herby if perhaps underseasoned. I don't like ketchup or pain, so I would have enjoyed a mayo-based sauce - like Sriracha mayo.

Aussie Meat Pie with Pea Mash: This was serious and solid and satisfying, the star of the meal - the ground lamb was definitely de-felled, so not muttony at all, and the crust was beautifully, impressively tender. I forgot to ask if the crust was homemade, but if it is, someone has good skills (and maybe, we can hope, bold enough to work with lard?). Perfectly seasoned - comforting, satisfying, not over-rich. The pie is about 5 inches across, so I was quite satisfied. I don't think I'm exaggerating to put it in the top 5 meat pies I've eaten.

Bangers and Mash, but a variation with indian-style potatoes: this was well put together, a nice combination of sweet sausage with spiced potatoes, both holding up well to the other. I'd have browned the sausages more. Some brown gravy there, too. It's just a pile on the plate, but bangers and mash isn't really a fine dining dish, so fine with me.

Lankan Chocolate Marie Biscuit Pudding: this definitely falls into the "as easy to make at home as it is to order" category, but I liked it just fine. It took a nudge from the waitstaff to talk me out of lamingtons (finally, lamingtons** in Boston!!) Still cold from the fridge so the chocolate top was solid, a nice textural contrast to the moisture-absorbing biscuits. I have no idea what makes it (I assume Sri-) Lankan and it was awkwardly plated with drippy custard drizzled underneath and sliced strawberries, but the flavor was on.

*I know about myself that when I come across a family-owned new place that doesn't suck, I tend to identify with them, want them to do well, and maybe overlook flaws. I tried to account for this, but use a grain of salt. I know there's at least one cricket league around here, but these guys will need more than cricketers to thrive. Fortunately, though, the food's serious.

**I know KO pies have lamingtons too, and I like KO a lot, but their lamingtons are really unpleasantly dry.

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  1. Thanks for the review. As a resident of Inman Square and a fan of locally owned places, I'd love to see Hit Wicket succeed. Glad to hear that your plantain chips were good. We stopped in for a beer and a snack a day or two after the place soft opened, and they seemed to still be working out some kinks.

    Our plantain chips came out overly salted and more than a few of them were stuck together in clumps of three or four -- creating a bit of a fried gooey mess that stood out a bit given the small portion size (a reasonable portion size for the price -- don't get me wrong). Hopefully this clumping issue is one of the things they've worked out since opening.

    We loved the habanero sauce... which is insanely hot (and I'm a huge fan of heat). Most places wouldn't have the guts to serve something that hot (because I think the typical American palate doesn't skew that hot), so I give them kudos for that. (Our bartender did recommend mixing the habanero sauce with the ketchup to tone down the heat a bit -- which was a good recommendation.)

    Beer selection isn't huge, but good to see some local options from Jack's Abbey and Casco Bay alongside the standards Sam Adams and Harpoon.

    Question: How did the aussie meat pie stack up against KO Pies?

    4 Replies
    1. re: huuvola

      Whoa, yeah. My plantain chips did not have those problems at all - if anything, they were seasoned more lightly than I prefer (but I like heavy seasoning). The clumping didn't happen at all, thankfully, but that would have been a problem for me.

      Wicket's meat pie is wider and shorter than KO, and the meat was more thoroughly defelled. Wicket is much more meat-intensive - a higher ratio of meat relative to both crust and vegetables than KO. I preferred Wicket, and I do like KO.

      As I went to bed last night I was thinking about the mildness of the ground lamb combined with the tenderness of the crust and I wondered briefly if it was a frozen pie. The top and bottom crusts were clearly attached together with a fork, which suggests homemade, but could suggest a machine trying to look homemade. I'll definitely ask next time.

      Agreed, kudos on the habañero even if I'm not that guy.

      1. re: huuvola

        Revisiting this thread because I recently revisited Hit Wicket. They've definitely improved since my early visit. We were just in for a snack, so we ordered the plantain chips and sundried lentil crisps. Both were great. Well seasoned, looked/tasted great, larger portion (vs. our 1st visit), and the side sauces were served up in individual ramekins.

        Also, their beer selection has gotten quite a bit better. They've got a great range of New Zealand beers (Moa, primarily) that you won't find in many other places. Well worth checking out.

        1. re: huuvola

          Nice followup. How busy did they seem to be?

          1. re: enhF94

            I can't speak for huuvoia but I've been there a handful of times, all for major boston sporting events (ie pats thursday night football and some sox playoff games). it's been getting increasingly crowded but still plenty of room - both at the bar and in the main room. For my own tastes, for a sporting event it has been Just Right in that I don't want to be sitting by myself but I don't like crowded sports bars (e.g. parlor).

      2. Thank you very much for the review. Being a huge WI Cricket fan myself I was hoping to see a review and happy it seems to be positive.

        I plan on stopping by next week to catch some Tri Nations series cricket.

        1. I was quite curious about this place. I have no interest in the sport, but just as I learned to enjoy the nuances of soccer (sorry, football) I am interested in finding out more. I am always interested in food from all over the world however and gladly met a friend for a few drinks and snacks tonight. I wish the place well, however I found some rookie mistakes going on that I hope can be fixed.

          First off, as already mentioned, the beer, wine and cocktails are not the most adventurous. Having additional Indian beers to Kingfisher (Golden Eagle Lager in large Kirin style format and Old Monk 10000) is nice but not worth the trip (I suppose if you grew up with Golden Eagle, this might be a huge development though). The rest of the beer and wine list seem to have been written by a sales rep, especially focused on a newer brewery from Utah that just happens to be partially owned by Reebok CEO's son that is suddenly everywhere in Boston. A few of the cocktails and mocktails sounded refreshing plus the one with date chutney and potato puri is intriguing if discovered too late to order.

          The prospect of food from all over the world kept me interested. The Masala peanuts were a great bar snack. Cocktail rice cakes were cold and slimy upon hitting the table, but the 3 chutneys that accompanied were good. The 'Fries French" as they are called also come with 3 excellent sauces including the previously mentioned blistering habanero. But the prices for the sides are per person though the menu does not say this. My friend had to go suddenly and he wanted to pay at least his portion so we got the check to do the math. I have no problem paying $8 for a fresh cut side of fries. But if the menu says $4, then I do have an issue.

          The space was nice enough, clean and well air conditioned, but they are more of a restaurant then bar, at least in terms of floor plan. Big tvs playing cricket plus the sox game. I will try again as Trini food excites me and they have roti. But the way the menu is laid out (things in this category get 1 side, but say double wicket and it is 2 sides etc..) plus the pricing issue dampen my excitement.

          5 Replies
          1. re: coolaugustmoon

            yeah, went back today and will try to report tomorrow - but in response to the menu layout thing in your last paragraph, apparently the portions in the combos are smaller. The waitstaff made sure to mention it quickly, but it's not noted on the menu at all - unclear at best, but also unfocused and confusing.

            1. re: coolaugustmoon

              Wasatch opened in 86 and Squatters a few years after that. New to our area, but hardly new or even "newer" in the craft beer world.

              1. re: LStaff

                Perhaps not a new brewery. But they have larger corporate ownership now. Plus the fact that a very wealthy local bought a chunk of said brewery coinciding with its appearance on nearly every new menu makes me think. I have seen sales reps pushing it hard, plus its appearance on newer "higher end" yet still ethnic restaurants tells me they are spending $ to get in the door places. No different then bud and coors do when they buy a part of a craft micro.

                1. re: coolaugustmoon

                  Seems as if you have a problem with this. Get used to it, the "pure craftbeer water" is about to get murky. ;-)

                  As a reluctant consumer of Boston area's overpriced craftbeer I am glad to see Squatters beers on the shelf competing on quality AND price.

                  1. re: LStaff

                    Agreed. It just rubs me the wrong way when the sales reps hand is so obvious on a menu.

            2. OK, went back again and can follow up this report.

              Plating: unsurprisingly for a new restaurant, plating varies widely with who's in the kitchen. "The chef" was in the kitchen on the second visit, and plating improved a lot. Specifically, way, way more peas under the lamb pie, and presentation was showed more attention to details.

              Pie crust: talked to the chef himself, who said the crust was brisee using shortening and cream, both of which help explain the tenderness of the crust (although skilled hands are still necessary).

              Pie filling: it's almost entirely ground lamb and sauce; veggie bits can be found, but you gotta look for them.

              I also tried the "Sri Lankan Bunny Chow" (again, recommended by waitstaff) with garbanzo masala, and enjoyed it even though I'm not a garbanzo fan. It was nicely seasoned. The bread bowl was a little dry, but I was happy it was whole wheat.

              I also tried the masala pappad, which are six hand-size pieces of fried-or-order pappadum with brunoise raw vegetables and spices sprinkled over top, with a raita sauce. It tasted fresh and I was glad it didn't cost more than $3.

              3 Replies
              1. re: enhF94

                On the menu it is called - South African Bunny Chow!

                1. re: SRK12

                  Right, South African, not Sri Lankan. Thanks! I was thinking about the (tasty, homestyle) Lankan biscuit pudding when I wrote it.

                2. re: enhF94

                  *fried-TO-order, not fried-or-order

                3. Went tonight with some friends and had a grand time. Chef was in the kitchen, and came out several times to walk the room, greet folks, and check on their meals. I had the Aussie lamb pie, which is HUGE, incredibly delicious, and perched atop a generous mound of gently smashed green peas. The whole thing was delightful. Others at the table quite enjoyed the roti wraps and the sliders combo. The Jamaican jerk chicken wings were blazing hot and flavorful, like true jerk. Worth the burn. The lamb sausage app was like little pigs in blankets, but tastier (MrLit didn't like it, as he felt it was too greasy). I was pretty happy with the beer options, as I could get an Old Peculiar (bottle), and Cisco's Red (draft).

                  We'll definitely be back.