Boston/Cambridge Trip report
Boston Trip Report (Food and Beer)
For reference, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Part one: Food
Oleana: One prominent person in the know said that Chef Sortun has an amazing hand with spices, and that was abundantly obvious at this meal. Almost none of the dishes was quite as expected (in a good way), and the creativity and execution was both top notch and yielded as many “wows” as any meal as I've had in a long time. This at a price point of $60 pp makes it an amazing value.
Row 34: Awesome meal of raw oysters and clams, the smoked fish plate and a lobster roll. All were outstanding. Each person tried one of every raw oyster and clam (a dozen total) and that was a terrific way to go. Impeccably fresh and nearly always perfectly shucked. The smoked fish plate is 21 pp but we shared one portion among three people and that was the perfect amount as a light appetizer. The smoked scallop was the highlight for all of us. The lobster roll was similarly delicious with house made potato chips that were exemplary. The draft beer list is pretty good though it has strong West Coast tendencies which I wasn't as excited about since I live there.
Island Creek: Shellfish tower was delicious, as were the fried oyster sliders and the lobster roe pasta with braised short ribs. Both Row 34 and Island Creek came to around $90 pp including a modest amount of alcohol, and I'd say they are well worth the splurge once in a while.
Very good to good:
Pho Basil (Mass Ave): For the price, really good food. Had one lunch and one dinner. The Vietnamese dishes were executed really well. Pho Diet was above average even by rather lofty San Jose standards. If I worked in the area this would likely be my go-to lunch spot.
Alden and Harlow: two meals, including one of the vaunted burger. The best thing I had was actually the aperatif of the housemade bitters. The burger is deservedly lauded. The roasted beef neck was good but not great. The texture was a bit dry and the accompaniments didn't seem to meld so well. The smoked chocolate bread pudding was intriguing, but as others have noted the salt ice cream is terrific and really makes this dish, but there's not quite enough of it. I'd also prefer if it was served on the side so it didn't turn into a melted puddle within a minute. But the chef has a clear point of view and if I lived there, I'd work my way through the menu.
Myers + Chang: A number of very nice dishes (hakka eggplant in particular, more-or-less “3-cup” style) but the execution and creativity wasn't quite on point overall. It's a fun place with a group and I like how the dishes aren't necessarily the most obvious choices from the various cuisines, but equivalent dishes cooked at a good, traditional Vietnamese/Taiwanese/Thai/whatever restaurant will be better executed at half the price. Coming from the SF Bay Area, I'm not sure I'd go back. If you're coming from someplace with fewer Asian food options, it could definitely be worth a stop.
Salty Pig: A fun neighborhood spot. The charcuterie was good but not great. The pizza looked tasty. They always had one beer from the excellent Maine Beer Co. on draft each time I visited.
Picco: An interesting style of pizza. The crust was a bit more bready than most modern high end pizzas. Cooked nicely and had a nice slight crispiness to it. Some have claimed it's the best pizza in Boston. Maybe it's a personal preference/stylistic issue but I hope for Boston's sake this isn't true. There are easily two dozen better places in the Bay Area, at least to my taste.
Toscanini's: The salted caramel was delicious, but the pistachio tasted mostly of almond (pistachio?) extract which was really disappointing.
Part two: Beer
Revelation of the trip was Maine Beer Company. Mo, Lunch IPA and Another One IPA are all outstanding beers. Peeper was really good while Zoe wasn't quite to my taste but well made. I did see bottles in a number of shops, but some were quite old (4 months) and I doubt they'd be any good. Drunk fresh, however, they're awesome.
Meadhall had the best tap selection. Lots of interesting stuff there. Doesn't hurt that they have around 100 handles.
Lord Hobo was also very good but I was less intrigued by their choices.
Overall, lots of good eats during my trip, in part thanks to the many posts here on CH.