About Dena Raffa

Within this past year, I've had some time to think. I had a good job at a great company and was unfortunately laid off last March. A blessing in disguise some would say. I've yet to agree with them because I still remain unemployed... and somewhat unhappy. I've had time to think, to dream, and to try to figure my life out. I'm 26 years old and disappointed that THIS is where I am in my life, when I'd thought I'd be so much further. With this time I discovered my love for food, for going out to restaurants, enjoying a glass of wine. I'm past the point in my life where I want to go to bars & get wasted; I'd much rather put those $60 towards a fantastic meal at a new restaurant, when I'm actually coherant enough to appreciate my surroundings & the people I'm with. I joined OpenTable, and for (almost) every reservation you make you receive 100 points. At 10,000 points you're awarded a $100 gift card to any of the restaurants that OpenTable supports. Now I have a real incentive to dine out.. I'm just working my way towards a $100! I started the blog for fun, to document where it is that I go & what it is that I eat. I'd like to be able to recommend a restaurant off the top of my head & tell you what it is that I loved about it. My memory isn't the best, so this blog will act as storage for my thoughts, comments, and photos, documenting my dining experiences.

“Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers” Annual Benefit

On Saturday October 13th WGBH hosted the “Helpings Hands: Monkey Helpers” Food Festivale, sponsored by a dozen Boston restaurants including MistralSorellinaMooo, Teatro, and L’Andana. This non-profit organization raises and trains capuchin monkeys to provide daily in-home assistance to the mobility impaired. While it costs nearly $40,000 to train and prepare each monkey, they are placed with their recipients free of charge thanks to generous donors and annual fund-raising events. Throughout the process of establishing a healthy relationship between monkey and human, Helpings Hands provides participants with mentoring and supervision so they can monitor the monkey’s behavior, nutrition, and interaction with their human.

Saturday’s event began with a short film documenting 3 recipients and their stories. Home videos showed their daily lives and need for a Helping Hands monkey helper, while personal interviews with the filmmakers allowed viewers to see how the relationship and bond with their monkeys not only provides each human with assistance but also hope and companionship. It was truly uplifting and a great display of how the donations were changing and improving lives.

After the film guests were able to enjoy the evening with live music, a silent auction, raffle prizes, a Grey Goose bar, and treats & small bites from favorite Boston restaurants. Columbus Hospitality Group was represented in full force with each restaurant offering 5-star quality tastings.


L’Andana was among the first tables I stopped at and featured one of my favorite ingredients, fresh figs! Placed on a crostini with a soft cheese, this was a very popular table and my favorite of the evening.

Moving down the line, Mooo’s table featured an army Beef Sirloin Sliders with Mooo Sauce & caramelized onions on a homemade roll. A great representation of Mooo’s quality of beef served over on 15 Beacon Street.

My next visit was to Sorellina which had perfect bite sized Parfait of Hudson Valley foie gras on a toasted brioche and topped with a Concord grape. A small bite packed with major flavor!

Mistral by far offered the most rich and impressive plate: Duck Confit with Wild Mushroom Cous Cous “Risotto”, Parmesan & White Truffle Oil. Serving an almost full appetizer portion, I went back for seconds even though I was stuffed to the brim!

Teatro provided a sweeter option with Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and fresh berries.

Other vendors included Rialto, Trade, Basho, Eastern Standard, Masa, The Catered Affair, Zocalo, Market, Green Mountain, Konditor Meister, Harpoon and Grey Goose. Uber also offered complimentary transportation to and from the event that evening, providing a convenient and safe way for guests to get home.

For more information about Helping Hands or ways to donate to the organization please visit their website: http://www.monkeyhelpers.org/

L’Andana

© Studio Nouveau 2010

© Studio Nouveau 2010

Bread: This is easily one of the best breads I’ve ever received at the beginning of a meal. Seasoned, thick slices, perfectly soft with a bit of crunch on the crust, served with a side of EVOO and some kind of tomato paste? Thank goodness there was only 1 piece per person because I could have gone for seconds… or thirds.

Menu: Primi, Pasta, Al Forno, Wood Grilled, Contorni. L’Andana also offers a prix-fixe 3-course menu for $45 (Sunday-Friday) which is a great deal considering the prices on the regular menu. The list of Primi is filled with salads, soup, seafood, and a few surprises (see below), the Pastas provide ½ and full portions, and the famous Wood Grilled section offers a few fish options but mainly different cuts of meat.

Food/Presentation:
Four Cheese Fonduta, roasted garlic & sopressata
Before I go any further I’ll let you know that I work for the restaurant group that L’Andana is a part of (Columbus Hospitality Group), so this review may be a bit biased but it will also be truthful! This evening one of my co-workers was serving and he made it a point to come by and suggest a few dishes, one being this Fonduta which we couldn’t pass up. Essentially a creative cheese fondue, this app was served with chunks of bread for dipping in the warm cheese. Each bite was almost like a pizza sans tomato sauce. Perfect to split among the four of us!

Mussels, steamed out of the shell, tomato & basil crema
I don’t believe I’ve ever had a mussel appetizer where the mussels were out of the shell, which is really quite helpful! The broth was so flavorful I made people dip their leftover Fonduta bread in it. The bread it came with added a deep smoky flavor to the dish. A must try if you enjoy mussels.

Filet Mignon, 8oz center-cut tenderloin, salt baked potato, roasted garlic butter, vin cotta, grilled romaine with gorgonzola (with additional side of Squash Risotto)
My steak was perfectly cooked medium rare and was accompanied by a baked potato and romaine with a bit of somewhat melted gorgonzola. The meat was fantastic and I liked this different side of greens (rather than broccoli or asparagus, both of which you could have gotten as a side).
I couldn’t not try the Squash Risotto which I ordered as a side (and could have easily passed as an app). Topped with a chunk of squash, pumpkin seeds, and sage, this dish was creamy, rich & flavorful. The squash had a surprising sweet component which I loved.

Service: Our server was great, friendly and quite helpful; when my friend Sarah wanted to order the ½ Tortellini as her meal our waitress mentioned that the ½ portion only came with 4 tortellini, so she went with the full. Each course came out in a timely manner, with a nice break in between to digest the apps and prepare for the entrées! We were (un)foruntely too full to order dessert so our server brought out chocolate truffles with the check.

Restroom: 3 automatic sinks, stone counter top  tiled walls and floor, thick L’Andana drying napkins, and a touch of bright orange on the stall doors. I love when even the bathroom has character and style.


Overall: Located in Burlington MA, L’Andana is small town restaurant with big Boston quality food & flavor. Part of Chef Jaime Mammano’s Columbus Hospitality Group (including Teatro, Mooo, Sorellina, and Mistral), L’Andana lives up to the high expectations set by his other popular Boston restaurants. The rustic décor has elements I’ve seen in both Mistral and Sorellina, a consistency which I appreciate. On a Saturday night the bar and lounge area was packed, as was the 210 person dining room. L’Andana won’t disappoint, especially is your looking for a great steak and/or pasta meal. Based on the prices I’ll be heading back for a special occasion 🙂

The Perfect Bite: This is nearly impossible to decide. Out of the dishes I actually ordered (I tried both Matt & Sarah’s pastas which were excellent) I’ll say… the Risotto with a piece of the sweetened squash!

http://landanagrill.com/

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston or find me on Twitter and Instagram!

 

 

The Abbey

The Abbey in Washington Square was recently voted Boston Magazine’s “Best Neighborhood Restaurant – Brookline” in their Best of Boston issue. My friends and I needed to find out why…!

Bread: Three slices of soft doughy bread were brought with a side of hummus and EVOO. We were asked if we wanted bread while we waited for our appetizers which I appreciated; not everyone wants bread (surprisingly) and asking before automatically bringing it over avoids wasting unwanted food. I’m not sure that was their point, but I like that this simple question can help minimize food waste!

Menu: Small Plates, Apps, Entrees, Sides. This contemporary American menu is limited but innovative and still offers a variety of options. I wanted at least 2 items from each category! Good thing my friends are into sharing…

Food/Presentation:
Lobster & Sweet Corn Dumplings with lemon buerre
I wanted this app from the moment I looked at the menu online but the server sealed the deal when she mentioned they’re a must try. Perfect for me and my 2 friends, three dumplings were served in a pool of lemon buerre (butter sauce). Each dumpling was stuffed full of lobster and a few corn kernels. Besides the tiny piece of lobster shell I found in my dumpling (well, found in my mouth unfortunately), these were a great start to the meal!

Lamb Lollipops with goat cheese brulee, mint oil, aged balsamic
Drizzled with mint oil, these 2 lamb pops were covering the goat cheese brulee which I almost missed! The lamb was tender and easy to cut off of the bone. This app was good but I’m not sure the 2 lollipops were worth $13.

Pear, Arugula, Caramelized Onion Lasagna with cauliflower puree
The three of us were eyeing this dish but thankfully Ariane went with the Proscuitto, Arugula, Truffle Oil Flatbread so we were able to try more than one entrée. The lasagna sat in a bed of creamy and smooth cauliflower puree. Every other bite you could taste the sweet pear component which made this dish really special. Great portion size and appropriately priced at $17.

Service: The Abbey unfortunately doesn’t take reservations, I’m assuming due to their small size and heightened popularity, but they do allow you to call ahead 15-30 minutes to put your name on the list. Thank goodness we did b/c at 7pm on a Tuesday there were no open tables. We ended up only waiting about 10-15 minutes which wasn’t bad. Once seated we were given enough time with the menu to order right away, and all the food came out within a reasonable time. Our server was friendly and informative.

Restroom: There are 2 unisex restrooms; the one I used had light yellow walls with white accents. It was clean, and I don’t recall any decorations besides the bright blue soap dispenser.

Overall: The Abbey is the definition of a cozy neighborhood gem. The bar seats about 13 and there are 10 tables including 2 high tops and more outdoor seating. The Abbey serves both lunch and dinner with some overlapping menu items. The bar offers local, domestic, and international beers as well as original cocktails, an extensive scotch list, and plenty of wine. The dinner menu is somewhat limited but I didn’t mind since what they offer sounds so amazing. On my next visit I’ll be diving into the Zucchini & Fennel Bisque and/or the Bison Bolognese.

The Perfect Bite: Lasagna with cauliflower puree … a must try!

http://www.abbeyrestaurant.com/

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

 

Tartufo

courtesy of Tartufo website

courtesy of Tartufo website

Bread: Small warm slices of white bread were served with a side of cold packaged butter. I dislike the butter situation but the bread was good, and butter is butter so I can’t really complain.

Menu: Zuppe e Insalate, Antipasti, Pasta, Risotto, Entrees, Contorni. Each section was pretty extensive, offering classic dishes, an array of pasta types, and chicken, beef & veal entrees. I peeked at the menu that day but should have studied longer! There was a lot to choose from and I just couldn’t figure out what app and pasta combination to order.

Food/Presentation:
Tuna Tartar Avocado: sashimi tuna, avocado, arugula, sesame oil, soy sauce dressing
A pile of tuna covered a salad of arugula and avocado, and was topped with a breadstick. I liked that they gave you the components of an actual salad but the soy sauce was extremely overpowering in this dish. I finished it because the tuna was good but the flavoring was all wrong.

Lobster Tagliatelle al Picante: homemade tagliatelle pasta, half lobster, garlic, plum tomatoes, basil, red crushed pepper
It was between this and my favorite pasta dish (bolognese) but I’m glad I took a chance and tried something different. The mound of homemade tagliatelle was mixed with tomatoes, basil, and ½ of a lobster tail. My only complaint about the meal is that the lobster was still in the shell and it was a bit of a struggle to get it out. Other than that, the pasta was excellent with a small kick in the sauce, and there was a perfect amount of lobster.

Service: Our server was great, everything came in a timely manner, and he checked on us often. When I asked if they served ½ portions of pasta the waiter looked at me like I was crazy… I guess he hasn’t eaten in Boston recently b/c that seems to be a possibility almost everywhere I go!

Restroom: A one room women’s room; clean, with a granite countertop and mouthwash!

Overall: Walking into Tartofu you enter a square dining room with a long bar to the right slightly separate from the main area. We were sat at a low table behind the bar stools, up against the windows looking out into Newton Center. We really enjoyed our meals (minus the over soy-sauced tartar); both of our pasta entrees were excellent (Matt got the Fusilli Pesto) and there are many more I’d like to try. The pastas range from $15 to $29, with the more expensive dishes containing the most seafood. Prices are moderate, depending on what you’re ordering; salads and appetizers go from $9 to $16 while entrees are $19 to $35. Overall, if you’re looking for a good Italian meal Tartufo will satisfy!

Fusilli al Pesto

Fusilli al Pesto

The Perfect Bite: Tagliatelle, plum tomatoes, chunk of lobster tail.

http://tartuforestaurant.com/

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

dante

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, click here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

My fourth of five RW dinners was last night at dante in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge.

Bread: A small metal bowl came with 6 slices of white bread and a bottle of EVOO. The bread itself was pretty good but a few pieces were a bit too airy and I didn’t love the crust.

Menu: Dante’s Restaurant Week menu had a variety of options. From looking at the online menu it seemed as though you could choose between a salad and pasta for the 1st course, then choose a fish or meat for your 2nd course. However our server informed us that if we were craving pasta we’d be able to start with a salad and choose a pasta dish as an entrée. This threw me for a loop at first but I ultimately went with my original decision. Click below to see dante’s full restaurant week dinner menu:
http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/dante/

Food/Presentation:
Semplice: simple greens, gorgonzola, grilled peach, almonds, red wine vinaigrette
This salad came topped with shaved almonds, peach chunks on the side along with 2 crostini with a smear of gorgonzola cheese. The lettuce was barely dressed and I wish the cheese was actually crumbled over the salad. The peaches were also not grilled as much as I had hoped. Not a terrible salad, but definitely a bit disappointing.


Lombo: stuffed pork loin “involtini”, smoked prosciutto, sage, polenta
The pork came rolled and stuffed with prosciutto in a bed of polenta and topped with apple slices. When I think of prosciutto I imagine thinly sliced and slightly salty meat. Whatever was curled up in the pork loin tasted more like overly salted ham, which I dislike. I ate most of it but eventually picked out and discarded the “prosciutto” pieces. The apples were a nice touch but the polenta wasn’t up to par with others I’ve had recently (see Henrietta’s Table). While I do enjoy creamy polenta this lacked flavor and texture.

Torta: chocolate hazelnut mousse cake, spiked chocolate sauce, anglaise, caramelized hazelnuts
This chocolate hazelnut cake was topped with chocolate sauce and caramelized hazelnuts. Once I cut into it I saw that it was layered: cake, mousse, cake, mousse. It was moist, decadent, and chocolately!

Service: We were originally seated at a table outside with a beautiful view of the Charles River. It was perfect for the 15 minutes we were out there, but swarms of tiny bugs soon took over our table so we asked to be moved inside. Not only did the wait staff try to thwart off the gnats with a pan of rosemary oil (apparently that delicious smell is suppose to repel them?!), but we also received a complimentary Arancini dish once we were seated indoors. The bugs were by no means the fault of the restaurant but they made it a point to give us a little something extra for the trouble.

Overall: We had a fun night surrounded by good friends, great wine, and a nice dim & relaxed atmosphere, but overall I think we were a bit disappointed with the food. The 2 true Italian dishes I tried (Arancini and my friend’s Chitarra Carbonara entrée) were really excellent. I’m glad I tried the pork, which was good minus the salty pig product, but if and when I return to dante I’ll probably stick to the pastas!

Chitarra Carbonara

Chitarra Carbonara

The Perfect Bite: Arancini drizzled with truffle honey.

www.restaurantdante.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston or find me on Twitter and Instagram!

 

No. 9 Park

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, click here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

 

My third of five RW dinners was last night at Barbara Lynch’s prestigious and original Boston restaurant, No. 9 Park.

Bread: We were each served a small white roll with a round dish of softened butter. It was room temperature, soft, and chewy. We ate them well before the appetizers and were then brought another roll to have with our entrees (which was perfect b/c I needed something to mop up the pasta sauce!).

Menu: No. 9 offers 3 options for the 1st and 2nd course and 4 options for dessert. This is probably one of the most limited menus during Restaurant Week as some places provide at least 4 items per course and others the whole menu! But you won’t experience this quality of food just anywhere. Click below to see No. 9 Park’s full restaurant week dinner menu:
http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/no-9-park/

Food/Presentation:
Scottish Salmon Tartare: almond soubise, shaved vegetables, dill
I’ve never had tartare quite like this before. It was extremely flavorful, delicate, and almost smooth. I ate it with a fork but kind of wanted to spread it on a crostini! This however needed no vehicle or anything to accompany it; it was pretty perfect as is.

Handmade Ricotta Gnudi: summer vegetables, pistachio pesto, Pecorino-Romano
I typically don’t love gnudi (or gnocci which is very similar) but I knew Barbara wouldn’t disappoint, and the pistachio pesto sounded great. My friend who is a cook at No. 9 suggested I order the Hake or Pork Shoulder but I’m so glad I went with my gut (after all, I’m a pasta kinda girl)! Surrounded by green beans, roasted tomatoes & shaved Pecorino-Romano, this ricotta gnudi was incredible and basically melted in my mouth.

Cocoa Financier: bananas, malted caramel, ganache
This linear dessert plate came with dense chocolate cake, caramelized bananas, a piece of brittle, and a dollop of chocolate ganache topped with sea salt. The cake itself wasn’t bad, the bananas were tasty, and the ganache was out of this world.

Bathroom: The restroom had 2 stalls with cherry wood doors. The sink and counter were sleek and squeaky clean! Minimalism seems to be a theme among most of Barbara’s restaurants… from the bathrooms to the table tops!

Service: When dining at a restaurant of this caliber you expect the service to be top notch, and it was. Our server was actually friends with my friend Benno (who was cooking that night) and on behalf of Benno brought my mother & I an amazing complimentary mid-course paired with a Chardonnay-type of wine, which may have been the highlight of our evening! Turns out the server is from our home town and we know the same people… it was nice to connect with him and have a real conversation. Lynch’s restaurants are known for their incredible wine program and he was very well versed on the varieties they served.

Overall: No. 9 Park is quaint, quiet, and not as pretentious as I was expecting. Yes it’s a fine dining restaurant but it didn’t feel stuffy or too high-end. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that I was surrounded by Restaurant Week diners and not their typical clientele (and we were seated in the bar area, not the actual “dining room”). Either way we had a great evening and the food was excellent; portions were on the smaller side but when I’m having 3 courses I don’t need or want large portions of anything. There’s a stylish bar and a small lounge/waiting area up against the windows looking out onto Park St. and the Boston Common. I’m not sure I could afford No. 9 Park on a random evening, but it will be 1st on my list for Winter Restaurant Week, that’s for sure!

The Perfect Bite: Mid-course of a Cavatelli type pasta with sage sauce, lobster meat & caviar. Unreal!

www.no9park.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

Henrietta’s Table

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, click here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

My second of five RW dinners was last night at Henrietta’s Table in the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square.

Bread: Three types of bread were served with a circle of butter, 2 of which were dry but the cranberry walnut slices were excellent.

Menu: Henrietta’s Table offered their full menu for Restaurant Week which included a side, and you could even choose a starter from the Specials menu (for an additional $10 you could choose a Special entrée as well). The menu differed slightly from the RW menu I found online, but this is typical for restaurants that use fresh & local ingredients. Click below to get an idea of what Henrietta’s Table is offering:
http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/henriettas-table-at-charles-hotel/

Food/Presentation:
Heirloom Tomatoes with Arugula Pesto & Balsamic Reduction
It was between this Special Starter and another special, Tomato & Summer Vegetable Soup. I love tomatoes and as summer is inevitably winding down I decided to take advantage while this fruit is still in season and you can eat it fresh & raw. A light and tasty way to start the meal!

Swordfish with Herbed Polenta and Peppers & Onions
A small rectangular piece of swordfish was served over the herbed polenta and topped with sautéed peppers & onions. Before ordering I asked our server how the polenta was prepared (I prefer a creamy polenta over a polenta cake) and she described it perfectly as being stiff enough to hold up the fish but still soft enough to have that gritty texture. It was really excellent, a different preparation of polenta that I’ve never had and truly enjoyed.

Campfire Taza Chocolate S’mores Skillet
I was really intrigued by the Warm Blueberry Upside Down Cake but earlier in the evening I saw the S’mores Skillet walking by and just couldn’t resist! Served in a warm cast iron skillet with a mound of melting chocolate, toasted marshmallow, 2 cinnamon graham crackers, and scoop of vanilla ice cream, this dessert was heaven. My only issue is that after devouring evening you see in the photo I was left with a large piece of chocolate that didn’t quite melt; some may see this as a perk but I’m not a fan of just a plain chunk of chocolate.

Service: This service on this particular evening was a little spotty; I had to ask for bread which I hate doing, it took quite a while for our waitress to even approach our table, and the courses were served rather swiftly, which I don’t mind but I felt like we were being rushed at times. 

Overall: Henrietta’s Table is a great spot to try for Restaurant Week as it offers its full menu and then some. Along with our 3 courses we were also able to choose a side dish; I went with the Spicy Squash & Zucchini while Matt had the Mashed Potatoes – both were excellent. The sangria however (consisting of Pinot Grigio, Bacardi Rum, Creme de Cassis, sparkling wine, cranberry juice, fresh squeezed orange juice, sugar, mixed berries) tasted like a fruity alcoholic drink gone wrong – way too sweet, extremely disappointing. We sat outside on their patio (on a perfect summer evening) so I didn’t fully experience the dining room. We did walk through the restaurant and it’s quite casual, you almost feel as though you’re having dinner at someone’s kitchen table. A relaxed and rustic setting for a low-key date night or a family dinner.

Spicy Squash & Zucchini, Mashed Potatoes

Spicy Squash & Zucchini, Mashed Potatoes

Sangria

Sangria

The Perfect Bite: Graham cracker dipped in melted chocolate with a scoop of toasted marshmallow.

http://www.henriettastable.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston
Or follow me on Instagram and Twitter! Search ThePerfectBiteBoston…

 

Bambara

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, you can find the full list here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

 

My first of 4 RW dinners was last night at Bambara in Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge.

Bread: Four rustic rolls were served with softened salted butter. The couple we dined with arrived before us and received the bread before we sat; my roll was a little hard and not warm, but perhaps it was when it was served? It was still good and I of course ate the entire thing.

Menu: It seemed as though Bambara was offering their full menu for Restaurant Week as there were many options for each course. For the 1st course you could choose between the Salad and Appetizer section which complicated my decision making, in a good way. See Bambara’s full Restaurant Week menu here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/bambara-at-hotel-marlowe/

Food/Presentation:
Spicy Tuna Tartare: avocado puree, waffled potato crisps
A square of tuna came topped with a dollop of avocado puree and a bowl full of salty waffle chips. The “spicy” component came from the sliver of red (maybe sriracha) sauce in the center. The chips were unfortunately too thin to pick up the tuna on their own and kept breaking! Otherwise this was a great start to the meal.

Summer Vegetable Fricassee: heirloom tomatoes, Verrill Farm sweet corn, local mild chilies, roasted zucchini, baby leeks, crispy polenta, herbs
This dish was so scrumptious! The “crispy polenta” was actually warm and soft underneath all of the vegetables, almost like a potato cake. The corn was crisp and fresh, and leeks were so flavorful, and the sauce has a great consistency without being too creamy. Great veggie entrée!

Bread Pudding: caramelized bananas, creme anglaise, caramel
This was not your typical bread pudding. I was initially slightly disappointed at the sight of it, but after one bite I immediately changed my mind. The dessert was more of a pound cake/banana bread type, topped with sugary banana slices and drizzled with caramel. I wouldn’t call it bread pudding, but whatever it was, it was delicious.

Bathroom: This restroom wasn’t part of Bambara, as the restaurant is in the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge. The restroom is in the hotel’s lobby and therefore did not reflect the character or style of Bambara. However I did love the shutter stall doors and automatic soap dispenser and sinks.

Service: Our server was present when he needed to be and helped my friend choose the Salmon which was the “Catch of the Week” over the Pan Roasted Cod. Our water glasses were filled regularly and he checked on us throughout the meal. 

Overall: Restaurant Week wise, I recommend Bambara based on the wide variety of options and excellent quality of food. The portions were appropriate for a 3-course meal; some may say the desserts were small but after a full app & entrée I was delighted by the medium slice of banana “bread pudding” and multiple-bite sized Caramel Date Cake. Another plus, we parked in the Cambridge Side Galleria for $3.99! You won’t find that pricing in a Boston lot/garage.

The Perfect Bite: Soft polenta, crisp corn, baby leek… and any other veggie I can fit on the fork!

www.bambara-cambridge.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

 

Cafeteria Boston

 

Bread: No bread was served.

Menu: Well rounded offerings of contemporary American cuisine: Starters, Big Salads, Pizzas, Sandwiches, Burgers, Entrees, Plate du Jour, Sides. Each section has plenty to choose from and the prices are quite reasonable, with the most expensive item being the Scallop entrée at $26.

Food/Presentation:
Tacos – your choice of mahi-mahi, chicken or steak, pickled cabbage, radish, spicy crema, salsa verde
The tacos are in the Starters section and come 4 to a plate, meant to share as an appetizer. I knew I’d be picking at my mom’s parmesan fries that came with her turkey burger, so 4 fish tacos was a perfect dinner for me. The mahi-mahi was thankfully grilled (not fried like typical fish tacos) and came with a dusting of chipotle powder perhaps? There was a small kick to it but maybe that was the spicy crema. These were really great, for an app to share or as an entrée!

Bathroom: There are 2 unisex single rooms stalls complete with a bowl sink (which I love), a pretty flower display, and automatic hand dryers.

Service: Our server was personable, friendly, and complimented my headband which automatically gives her points 🙂 She suggested the Sparkling Sangria, which my mother & I ordered a jar of, and mentioned the Mahi-Mahi Tacos were a customer favorite. I was already planning on ordering the fish tacos based on a friend’s recommendation and our server’s comment sealed the deal for me. Both of her suggestions were spot on! 

Overall: Cafeteria is my go-to spot on Newbury Street and one of my top 3 Back Bay favorites when looking for reasonable prices and great food. The menu is extensive with a little something for everyone. Starters, Big Salads, Sandwiches, and Burgers range from $8-$16, while Pizzas and Entrees run $11-$26. We ordered a jar of the Sparkling Sangria for $18 which held about 3-4 glasses. They have other creative cocktails and a decent wine and beer selection. The interior is at “Garden Level” which is fancy for the basement (however they have stairs that lead to a 1st floor level which I’ve never seen). This was about my 5th time at Cafeteria and I’ve never been disappointed. I highly suggest you stop by, especially while you can enjoy their patio seating.

The Perfect Bite: Mahi-Mahi Tacos, spicy crema, pickled cabbage… should have added avocado!

http://www.cafeteriaboston.com/

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

 

Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar

Being a sister to The Franklin in the South End and Tasty Burger, I knew Citizen Public House wouldn’t disappoint. With daily specials, a whiskey list that goes on for days,  creative cocktails and raw bar items, this upscale bar/tavern has a little something for everyone’s palate.

Bread: We ordered a couple of appetizers so I think this was the reason we were not served bread. I noticed the bread basket when walking back from the restroom and it appeared to be small slices of white bread with butter; didn’t look like we missed out on anything that great.

Menu: Plenty to choose from with: Snacks (all $5), Shellfish, Clams/Oysters, Salads, Starters, and Mains. They also provided a Specials sheets with a salad, 2 entrées, and a few oysters. I would have been satisfied having a bunch of snacks and starters, but we decided to split 2 apps and each get an entrée.

July 25th specials

July 25th specials

Food/Presentation:
Grilled Apricot & Arugula Salad – chevre and crispy chickpeas
This special salad was light & refreshing, perfect for al fresco summer dining! There were enough apricots and chickpeas to go around, I just wish the cheese was more evenly distributed.

Hand-Made Burrata – duck prosciutto, fig & pepper relish
For me it’s hard to go wrong with burrata, especially when it’s paired with these accompaniments. The bread had a crunchy crust and was soft on the inside; the fig & pepper relish has a consistency of ground up dried fig which I loved; I’ve had creamier burrata but this was still a great starter!

Fresh Tuna Burger – soy-mustard glaze, pickled ginger, brioche bun, coleslaw, grilled red onion
The tuna burger was served rare and came on a perfectly rounded brioche bun. Both Alana and I both ordered the tuna burger and both appeared to be missing the soy-mustard glaze. Perhaps it was applied prior to cooking the burger, rather than added as a condiment? Either way, the bun/burger was dry which is a big no-no for me with any type of sandwich situation. I added the coleslaw and onions to each bite but had to ask for Dijon mustard to make up for the lack of “soy-mustard glaze” which I barely tasted.

Bathroom: There are 3 private restrooms labeled “His”, “WC, “Hers”. Each has black & white paisley wallpaper with a bold accent of a red framed mirror. Doesn’t necessarily coincide with the tavern style restaurant but I appreciated the alternative statement!

Service: Our server was cheery, friendly, and able to suggest the most popular cocktails when we were indecisive about the many tempting options. We noticed that all of the female hostesses, waitresses etc were all wearing the same bright pink lipstick. Not sure if that was part of the uniform…?

Overall: I didn’t spend much time inside since we sat on the patio, but Citizen Public House appears to be dressed as a sophisticated tavern; the interior is somewhat dark, complete with a large bar and banquette seating. Each cocktail we tried was excellent; my Mai Tai was served over crushed ice and was certainly strong, but in a tasty way 🙂 Citizen is also known for their extensive whiskey list, if you’re into that kind of thing. The food was good and while the entrees didn’t thrill me I’d definitely go back for their Starters, Snacks and cocktails. I’m not sure how popular this is but Citizen also offers a pig roast – complete with a “whole roasted suckling pig” – that serves 10 or more people and is complete with raw bar apps and sides. Not something you see everyday!

Mai Tai

Mai Tai

The Perfect Bite: Crunchy bread, fig relish, duck prosciutto, burrata.

http://www.citizenpub.com/

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston