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Chowhound red herrings

I can't remember the name of a similar thread - the one that discussed places that chowhounds have recommended, only to find that the place is not worthy of the praise.

I am going to call myself out on a couple of places that I have recommended in the past:

Pescatore, Somerville:

When this place started out, it was a great addition, a consistently very good Italian place with underrated seafood. Take-out pizza was also excellent. Lately, the pizza has been average at best, seemingly lacking in the quality of ingredients, quantity of ingredients and there has been an uptick in price. Last night, we dined in and things just were not up to snuff. Two orders of arancini were served on a napkin to soak up the grease and were cold on the inside, the little bits of cheese in the center were whole and unmelted. Sent a second order back for fixing and they were warmer, but overall, it had (to me) a pre-packaged sort of taste - the arancini were too perfectly round and similar in appearance to be house-made, which is disappointing. The seafood amalfi, which I have had on several occasions, was ... ok ... the fusilli was fine, a decent amount of seafood (one lobster claw, one big scallop, three shrimp) but the sauce was very bland and at $22, not a good value for what it once was. Wife's papardelle with mushrooms was ... ok ... both entrees needed salt. There were some pluses - they accommodated us with friends and two young kids in tow on a Saturday at last minute, shots of Limoncello at the end - but overall, just not worthy of the high praise I once heaped on it.

Erbaluce, Boston:

I want to like the chef and I want to like his food, but my last visit was flawed, although I could see the chef clearly supervising in the kitchen. First, appetizer of razor clams was gritty. For dinner, I had a fish (mormora) which was explained as cooked with the skin AND scales on - scales are cooked and take on a crunchy, popcorn-like texture. Ok, sounds great - like eating the shells on salt-and-pepper shrimp - I'm in - except a good number of the scales were not cooked properly, and so were inedible. The ones that were properly cooked were very crunchy, which was a little unusual - not entirely to my taste - not sure having a mouthful of crunch along with fish was a good concept to begin with, but there was clearly part of the fish were the technique was not executed properly. Finally, dessert was a roasted peach cobbler sort of thing that was....ok...but just bland, lacking the sweetness you would expect from in-season fruit (this was back in the summer). Wife's meal was great - the well-regarded panna cotta well received - housemade pasta was excellent. But look, this is a place that does not deign to put up ANY menu on its website and the decor and the room is stark - consequently it claims that these ancillary items are not necessarily because the focus is on stellar cuisine, but it's just not to that level - and friends who we try to convince to go - notice this. We'll go back (although not as often if they would just post a menu - it's not that hard and it's a little bit of arrogance that causes this, which is disappointing, because I find the chef to be very likable.) So all in all, I will hesitate to recommend Erbaluce.

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  1. Vinny's at Night- great idea, want to love the buffet, seems like the ultimate underground chowhound find. The times I've been, the stuff on the buffet is kind of greasy and lukewarm, not seasoned correctly, and tastes like the food at an off-Broadway rendition of Tony & Tina's Wedding from 1993.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Parsnipity

      Vinny's has gone downhill since the Globe review and the expansion. The table used to be my favorite thing to eat in Boston. Same thing with Pescatore - never as good since the expansion to the back patio. Not a valid correlation, but I wonder.

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        Vinny's stopped serving the warm antipasto table early this year. I think the groupon attempt hurt them.

        1. re: treb

          whatever did it, they are hurt.

          1. re: Madrid

            I had never been until this year and have gone a few times since then. I'm not raving, but it's been perfectly good for what it is. Maybe I missed the glory days; no antipasto table when I've been there. I was interested in going back to try the rabbit dish.

    2. Oh- Bob- if I remember correctly you were thinking of "Chowhound Bum Steers."

      1 Reply
      1. re: Parsnipity

        Bum steers - that's it! Though mine is more of a downhill alert. Bum steers was about those places that were never good to begin with, is my memory.

      2. Bummer about Erbaluce.

        Our office moved the other day and I look right at the place out my window.

        I've never been. Will probably try it at some point but will avoid unscaled fish...

        1. I had great meals at both Via Matta and Russell House in the past, however both those places had fallen way off on my last visits.

          I also had a few very inconsistent meals at Bergamot and am now hesitant to recommend it, though I'll try it again at some point.

          1. I'm likely the only local Chowhounder to have experienced excellent cocktails but subpar and inconsistent food at Eastern Standard.

            4 Replies
            1. re: C. Hamster

              Hmm, I don't know. I've eaten at Eastern Standard quite a bit over the past 7 - 8 years and while I've found the food to be pretty consistently cooked for the most part, they have a serious salt problem. I've had completely unsalted food and nearly inedible salty food there. Not really acceptable at those prices in my opinion. I did see that they have a new chef, not sure if that will changes things at all.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                I can't take it as far as your "subpar and inconsistent," but I certainly find Eastern Standard dull, corporate and not-worth-revisiting.

                1. re: enhF94

                  man, i thought i was the only one. thx,e.

                  also, completely agree w/ others re:via matta, pescatore,vinny's.

                2. re: C. Hamster

                  "Inconsistent?" Very much so. "Subpar?" Not always, in my experience. (Which I guess defines "inconsistent." Is it really possible for a place to be both?) I've had some very good dishes there. And I've had utter crap. I recall a seared foie gras that was grainy like tapioca... Ugh.

                3. I guess not a downhill report, but enough of an off night that it would be hard for me to ever return... I've mentioned this before, but the one time I went to Strip T's, I got the tofu and eggplant banh mi (I love tofu, eggplant, and bah mi) and it was one of the most unappetizing things I've ever been served in a restaurant. Just greasy and bland and hard to get down even. They were out of the proper rolls, so the griddled wheat bread was definitely part of the problem. But probably they should've just taken it off the menu at that point. Because now I can't bring myself to go back. Definitely one of the most intensely disappointing restaurant experiences of my life (I've had worse meals, but never such a difference between expectation and actual experience).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: maillard

                    When done well, it's one of the best sandwiches I've had, full of flavor. Sorry you had a poor experience with it.

                    1. re: maillard

                      Thats really too bad, i would give it another chance, maybe for lunch, its tough to rate a place on one visit.

                      Though I went to Neptune several times over the years for lunch and thought it was ok, maybe overpriced and the one time I went for dinner they were such assholes I have not returned, so vote with your dollar.

                      Without the rolls they should have 86'd the Bahn Mi.

                    2. Pescatores slide into mediocrity has been so very sad to witness. Though I never loved eating in the dining room, they were our go-to pizza for years. And then something happened, and now it isn't. I really miss the pizza of my memories.
                      The one time I ordered the arancini in house, I was sorely disappointed. Far too much coating, no where near enough rice, and the cheese was missing in action. But at least it was warm!

                      Bring back the original Italiano Pizza!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: smtucker

                        Where are you going now? We've been hitting up Pini's, which is better than Pescatore right now and about half the price.

                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          Our quest is not yet finished. We have not found the perfect replacement.

                          Pini's is always on the list. We have tried the Beacon Street Whole Food version, and it can be quite good, or not. Their first pizza guy headed to the Arlington store and the replacements don't get what a balanced pizza should be.

                          Some nights it just seems better and tastier to make our pizza at home.

                          1. re: smtucker

                            I participated in this 2008 pizza get-together (and got in trouble for taking pictures, lesson learned) and I find the results still hold up well enough. Apropos of little, La Cascia recently gave their storefront a makeover.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477021

                            plus City Slicker, which I still adore but some find oily.

                            1. re: enhF94

                              Have you considered trying Bocelli's eat in pizza. Reasonable thin crust, lots of topping choices, decent execution are the good points. I think the sauce is cooked, not a huge fan of their cheese (mix?), and they can be somewhat stingy on the toppings. But on balance its a good mix for sit-down pizza with a full bar and Pini's cheese/sauce isn't great, but crust probably a bit more consistent. They also have some above average appetizers and have offered things like full belly fried clams, but for that Moulton's is very close by. For pasta and Italian American seafood, I would tend to go to Nappi or Abbondanza but those are a lot futher.

                      2. Agreed on Erbaluce! i went there based on a recommendation from this board and was underwhelmed. Dishes sounded like they were imaginative, but the dishes were just... meh? A solid meal but for the price I wouldn't go running back. (It was over a year ago, so i can't report on exactly what we ordered)

                        1. Bondir Cambridge - recent, one-time only ($300 for two including wine and tip) dinner was underwhelming across the board:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/751765

                          1. So I'm not completely sure I get the theme here, but I'm assuming its about places that seemed great initially and then deflated? For me, over time that would be the Blue Room. Used to really enjoy it but over the years it began to feel like it had no "identity" and was mailing it in by the numbers. That's different from places I never liked, which I assume is for a different post.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: teezeetoo

                              You have my intent for the thread - should have called it chowhound faded glory.

                              Agree with you on the Blue Room.

                              1. re: teezeetoo

                                I totally agree on Blue Room's decline

                                I apologize for tossing out Eastern Standard if this is a fading thread . It was meh for me since inception

                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                  Agree on Blue Room. Have been many times and the last few have just been consistently bleh. The two lowlights: service that didn't seem to understand, "No, we're not in a rush to make a movie," and two $11 side salads that contained nothing but tough and some rotting lettuce.

                                  1. re: teezeetoo

                                    The Blue Room decline is unfortunate. I suspect a major cause is Nick Zappia no longer spends much time there. The opening of Central Bottle may be the reason.

                                  2. Wondering whether the TOTAL lack of response to the "recent Hammersleys Bistro experience " thread bodes ill for that venue for all but tourists?

                                    I for one have not eaten there in close to 20 years.

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: hyde

                                      We had an outstanding meal at Hammersley's about a week ago. Perfectly crisp confit duck leg on salad, exquisitely sauced halibut (although I'd have liked more clams), pear and fig croustade. DCs had pheasant and beef tenderloin that came with an extraordinary hunk of macaroni and blue cheese. The chocolate-coffee pot de creme was a dessert highlight.

                                      1. re: hyde

                                        I love Hamersley's Bistro and always have a wonderful meal there.

                                        It's a gem in fact when my husband and I take a vacation where we spend a week in Boston dining out, we always include Hamersley's to set the bar and have a good basis for comparison.

                                        The duck confit is always outstanding and I have to force myself to choose something other than that luscious roast chicken.

                                        Penny
                                        http://www.bostonzest.com/

                                        1. re: hyde

                                          Went to HB just a few weeks ago, taking out of town friends. Had a great meal with no issues at all and this was on a Sunday night with Gordon not working the line so imho there is no change in quality at Hammersley's. Oh and service is consistently great too.

                                          1. re: Northender

                                            We went to HB for brunch a couple of weeks ago and were surprised to see Gordon working the line. I had a perfect roasted pumpkin, sage and goat cheese omelet and my husband had a very good brunch burger. Service was lovely and unobtrusive as always. We've had consistently excellent experiences here.

                                            1. re: bear

                                              i missed that thread? have never had anything but wonderful service and food at hammersley's.

                                              love the fact that gordon still works the line and never tried to build an empire only to dilute the brand.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                Exactly. Hamersley's has been our anniversary restaurant for the last fifteen years or so and we've never had an off night. It's nice to see a chef who's established like Gordon still working the line daily, and even brunch.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  I tried to find it but couldn't. Does anyone have a link?

                                                    1. re: bear

                                                      Thanks Bear, I didn't see that at all or I would have replied.

                                                      1. re: BostonZest

                                                        glad to hear it . i was just surprised there were 0 replies.

                                            2. re: hyde

                                              Had an outstanding meal there last year, taking out a colleague from Austria. He was duly impressed and liked the wine list as well.

                                            3. I may be the only hound to dislike Oleana. In the two times I have gone the food was just fine and the service was beyond horrible. One of the times we had 45 minutes between when the first entree was put on the table and the last entree was set on the table. The board loves that place and I don't get it...

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Tzonis

                                                I'm not a fan of Oleana, but my family loves it. Both times I've eaten there I've gotten burned my my main course and dessert. The descriptions for the main courses weren't clear or left out key ingredients/preparations, and the desserts seemed way over priced. And those are the most uncomfortable seats. Though I did love the fried mussels mezze. I wouldn't mind going back just for them and a glass of wine. I do love Sofra and look forward to trying Sarma.

                                                1. re: viperlush

                                                  The meze in my opinion are much better than the main courses.To the point that I haven't had a main course there in years, and have never had a meze disappointment. We have also never met any disdain or disapproval when dropping by for just a few meze and drinks.

                                                  1. re: Madrid

                                                    This must have been my problem as well. Eaten there twice, loved the mezze, but hated both the mains, and the dessert (baked Alaska the first time, don't remember the second). I guess I'll give it another chance and stick to mezze and skip the mains and dessert.

                                                    1. re: kimfair1

                                                      Get the almond cremolata with the chocolate panini. Everyone talks about the baked Alaska, but this dessert is my wife's favorite.

                                                      1. re: kimfair1

                                                        For us it was the baked Alaska and a black walnut cake special. Didn't like either and felt that neither were worth the money.

                                                    2. re: viperlush

                                                      I looove Sofra and I like Sarma a lot. I actually really like Oleana too, but have found that they're into that trend of adding salt to desserts. I had the passionfruit caramel baked Alaska, and it was way too salty for me. Bummer.

                                                  2. Are razor clams ever not gritty? I've had them a few times at a few different places (including Erbaluce), and they were always gritty. I've started to wonder if it's just impossible to get all of the sand out of them.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: CportJ

                                                      not something i order often, but have had them grit-free at both clio and esk.

                                                      1. re: CportJ

                                                        Grit-free for a spec'l at Toro couple of weeks ago.

                                                        1. re: Taralli

                                                          The last time I had razor clams was also at Toro about a year ago and they were delicious and grit free.

                                                        2. re: CportJ

                                                          The two times I ordered them they were pretty gritty. ICOB and I can't remember the other place in Boston. Off my list of dishes to order.

                                                          1. re: viperlush

                                                            Only tried them once - at ICOB - and they were almost inedible due to the grit - off my list as well.

                                                            1. re: rlh

                                                              Had a nice rendition at Summer Shack 6 months or more ago. They definitely should not be gritty and are generally meatier than other clams.

                                                              My first razor clam was caught by me in the marshes of nantucket when I was 6 or so - the fact that I could catch it digging by hand should have tipped me off, but instead I got to enjoy my first bout of food poisoning ever.

                                                              The fact that I am still eating them just goes to prove that I'm not that smart.

                                                          2. re: CportJ

                                                            i've had them non gitty at ICOB, and gritty (sent them back) at Myers+Chang. In MA they are all supplied by IslCreekOysters and they are only harvested around the full moon when the tide is out far enough to expose their beds. a team goes through and sprinkles salt in the holes and the clams think it's salt water so they rise up their sandy holes to be exposed (and grabbed!). why chefs don't know how to clean them is beyond me. such a nice product.

                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                              I've had great ones at Neptune, shelled and marinated then put back into the shell... Grit free

                                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                It sounds like they are a bit hit-or-miss. Do you just soak them in saltwater with corn meal like other clams, or is there some other trick to cleaning them?

                                                                Thanks for the fascinating explanation of the harvesting! I've dug lots of clams and always wondered how anyone could possibly dig a razor clam without destroying the clam, given the more fragile shell. Maybe I will compare tide charts and moon phases and give it a shot next summer.

                                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                  I've seen folks dig them (sans salt) just using a sort of funky long-tined fork like this:

                                                                  http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1075/5...

                                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                    I've got one of those, or something similar. Maybe I just don't have a delicate hand with it. Digging soft shell clams is not nearly as much fun in my book as hard shell clams, which are probably the easiest bivalves to harvest.

                                                                    1. re: CportJ

                                                                      I can imagine it takes some technique to avoid totally destroying the poor critter. Think it's time to get some lessons from an old timer... count me in to give it a whirl, I've only ever dug hard shell clams myself.

                                                                      The place I saw them digging for them years ago was at a particularly deep and mucky spot at low tide in Deluxebury (Duxbury).

                                                              2. For me, there are a few:

                                                                Myers & Chang: I've just never had a good meal here. I know people love and recommend it, but somehow everything "reads" well on the menu and doesn't taste good on the plate (in my own experience...I do know people love it...).

                                                                Island Creek Oyster Bar: It's astoundingly popular, but I've rarely had a hot meal here--usually lukewarm and oily.

                                                                Tupelo: Dined here but once and had a seriously mediocre meal that featured watered down Tabasco sauce.

                                                                Honorable mention: East Coast Grill. Some Hounds love it, but for me, it's a case of menu looking great, but....tasting not so great.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                  Swank,

                                                                  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! for the mention of Myers and Chang and ECG. I missed them on my list and second them both.

                                                                  1. re: Swankalicious

                                                                    I'm so disappointed to hear that about Tupelo! We're there every couple of weeks, often with friends in tow, and no one's found their any of food to be less than stellar, except for one friend who didn't love the bourbon flavour in the bourbon pecan pie.

                                                                    I would strongly urge you to give it another shot. It's a lovely, warm place and I reckon their food really does shine.