Ostra

Screenshot 2014-01-16 20.19.47For a city on the water, there aren’t enough seafood restaurants in Boston that are worth bragging about. Neptune Oyster, obviously. Island Creek Oyster Bar, of course. Union Oyster House, sure. Are you sensing a trend? It was time for a change, for someone to really make a new statement in the seafood world. Enter Ostra!

Part of the Columbus Hospitality Group, Ostra joins Mistral, Sorellina, Mooo…, Teatro, and Burlington’s L’Andana as the newest addition to Chef Jamie Mammano’s impressive resume. Following in the footsteps of his previous restaurants – excluding the casual TeatroOstra is an upscale, fine-dining establishment, with top-notch service, a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere, serving high quality food with sky-high prices to match.

Fingerling potato and onion ciabatta bread was served with a side of softened butter sitting in a shallow pool of EVOO. Slightly warm, pre-cut and easy to tear; we were not disappointed when they brought us another loaf after we devoured the first.

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I started by splitting a “salad”: Crisp Snow Pea, Sunchoke, Watermelon Radish, Sunflower Sprouts, Bianco Sardo Champagne Vinaigrette. I put salad in quotes because there’s no actual lettuce or greens. This is strictly a plate of crunchy lightly dressed vegetables, which was a welcomed change to a typical leafy salad appetizer.
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Compliments of the chef, we received a mid-course tasting of Ricotta Gnocchetti, Maine Lobster, Beech Mushrooms, and Truffle. This dish now appears on the menu, and I highly recommend it! With what I’m assuming is house made pasta and large chunks of lobster, you can’t go wrong.
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For the main course I ordered the Grilled King Salmon, Heirloom Squash Velouté, Market Vegetable Rôtí. I don’t think I’ve ever seen salmon served in two thin pieces, rather than a single filet. Doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s a decent portion, which this was. Squash puree and grilled vegetables to accompany, my favorite!
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The Perfect Bite of the evening was hands down the Baked Apple: crumble, cider caramel, brown butter ice cream. This presentation was the most impressive: a thick slice of baked apple sits among the crumble and caramel on the bottom of the plate and is topped with a waffle shaped pie crust-like piece. Finish with a dollop of brown butter ice cream and an intricate design of crispy apple skin… and voilà! We ordered 1 for the 4 of us. Big mistake!
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Ostra is completely stunning; from the lounge (soon to feature nightly live piano music) with its high-backed chairs and booths, to the sleek bar, the fish on ice display, the jellyfish-like chandeliers… everything about Ostra is completely elegant. Even the bathroom is crisp and pristine. The service is of course of fine-dining standards, as are the prices. This was a special occasion meal for me and my family, and I’d go back for another one in a heartbeat.
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http://www.ostraboston.com

Capital Grill

I’ve never been to a steak house for Restaurant Week, and have never dined at Capital Grill in general, so was really looking forward to this meal. Hitting up a steak house – or any fine-dining, high-priced restaurant – is my new game plan for Boston’s Restaurant Week, as this is the best way to get your bang for the ($38.13) buck.

Capital Grill‘s Restaurant Week menu has a few options per course, and offers its steak house classics. While the salmon did sound excellent I couldn’t not have steak during my first Capital Grill experience. Below is the Summer 2013 Restaurant Week menu and the dishes I chose.

APPETIZER
Caesar Salad
Clam Chowder
Fields Greens with Shallot Champagne
This salad was simple, light and delicious. The greens were perfectly dressed with the shallot champagne vinaigrette. The dish really only consisted of greens, carrots, and tomatoes, but it left an impact! I’d order this again in a heartbeat.
IMG_5679ENTRÉE
Breast of Chicken Confit
Bone-In Dry Aged Sirloin Steak 14oz
Seared Citrus Glazed Salmon
Parmesan and Herb Marinated Tournedos
Filet Mignon 8oz
At non-steak houses I always order steak medium rare and they typically come out looking more like medium. Here I ordered my filet medium, knowing that it would come out perfectly pink and juicy on the inside, which it did. My friend ordered her filet medium rare and she got just that, with the inside of the steak mainly pink with areas of rare red meat. The filet was not only cooked perfectly but was well seasoned and better than I expected.
IMG_5680Capital Grill offers a choice of 2 sides to accompany your main course: Sam’s Mashed Potatoes, and French Green Beans with Shallots and Heirloom Tomatoes. I was intending on ordering the green beans but the waiter said he’d bring us a side of each for the table to share. Can’t argue there! I’m glad I had a chance to taste the mashed potatoes because they were excellent; smooth and creamy with a few chunks of potato skin in the mix.
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DESSERT
Classic Crème Brûlée
Strawberries Capital Grill
Handcrafted Ice Cream
Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake
This was kind of a no brainier for me. I don’t frequent steak houses often but hear they typically make a mean chocolate cake. The flourless chocolate espresso cake was dense, and smooth like fudge.  Paired well with the whipped cream and raspberries.
IMG_5683I have to also mention the bread basket. The dark brown pumpernickel-looking slices were incredible, warm and soft with a few specks of raisins. I didn’t try the rolls but the cracker bread was also top notch. The bread was served with softened salted butter.
IMG_0002This was my only Restaurant Week reservation this season but I was 1 for 1, with a successful meal at Capital Grill! I didn’t inspect the regular menu but would highly suggest heading here for Restaurant Week.

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

 

Forum

 

My first Restaurant Week Lunch experience! Forum was chosen because of their outdoor seating, their presence on OpenTable, and the menu looked delicious!

Bread
: None was served during lunch.

Menu: This was my first Restaurant Week Lunch, and the menu looked excellent with 3 options in the first course, 4 in the second, and 2 for dessert. I opted for the Light Lunch for $15.12 and ordered an appetizer and entrée.

Food/Presentation:
Fish Tacos – local cod, red cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle aioli
Three fish tacos were served in soft tortillas in a taco holder. I guess it’s my fault for not asking, but I assumed the fish would be grilled and not fried. After getting passed that initial disappointed I did end up enjoying this course, especially the chipotle aioli, yum. Not the best fish tacos I’ve ever had but certainly not bad at all.

Flatbread – roasted garlic, butternut squash, ricotta, fontina, basil
Sounds amazing right? Well it would have been had I been in the kitchen. I’ve made a butternut squash flatbread 5 times better than this mess (granted I was following a recipe, but still). The squash seemed to be haphazardly thrown onto the dough, as was the random shreds of basil. The cheese was also a bit overwhelming; the ratio of squash to cheese was way off for me. Maybe it’s my OCD kicking in, but I like flatbreads to be even with each piece consisting of all ingredients. Sub-par 2nd course.

Bathroom: Really nice, with a pretty flower display (I have a thing for branches in arrangements). Two stalls, two sinks, large wide mirror.

Service: I found myself looking around for our server every now and then, wondering where our 2nd course was, and why it was taking so long to bring the bill. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so critical; I tend to have a “hurry up and go” attitude and need to learn to relax every now & then!

Overall: A bit of a disappointment overall. I’m glad I went for Restaurant Week, otherwise I wouldn’t have been happy paying the regular prices for the dishes I ordered: the fish tacos are normally $13 and the flatbread around $15. Salads and Sandwiches run $12-$16 for lunch, and dinner Pastas and Entrées range $26-$38 – kind of steep. Their menu items sound incredible, but then again so did my flatbread. I sat outdoors but the interior had a contemporary yet elegant vibe. Cocktails are a normal city price ($10-$12) so I’d consider returning to sit at their long rectangular bar, which is equip with at least 8 TVs on either side and comfy stools.

The Perfect Bite: Honestly, nothing about this meal was perfect. The fish tacos weren’t bad, I just wish they weren’t fried…

http://forumboston.com

For more photos visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

The Salty Pig

Now I’m probably the last person who would be excited to try an eatery that specialized in pig meat, but one look at the menu from The Salty Pig and I was intrigued. The sandwiches of course drew me in, as did the not-your-average pizzas (Fig Pizza: red wine fig jam, apple, goat cheese, truffle oil – are you kidding me?!). Located at 130 Dartmouth Street near Neiman Marcus in the Back Bay, The Salty Pig is a casual and hip new spot with a lot of character.

Bread: Four thin slices of white bread were served wrapped in a recycled menu in a tin. A red square dish of EVOO was brought for dipping, but I prefer butter with non-substantial bread.

Menu: For a Starter you can pick your own pig part/meat, cheese and spread. They also offer salads From the Garden, Main Plates, and Pizza. The online menu shows a “Sammich” section that I was really looking forward to but apparently sandwiches are now only available during lunch. 

Food/Presentation:
Prosciutto Galloni (traditional 1 year aged ham), Pecorino di Pienza Morchiato, Fig Jam
I don’t love pig meat but felt we needed to try a pairing with the cheese and spreads, so I went the safe route with prosciutto and had the waiter determine which cheese would be best. All meats/pairings are served on a wooden board with pickles, toasted crostini, and Dijon mustard. The fig jam addition was a must. I’m really glad we tried this. Maybe next time I’ll be more adventurous with the… Pork Pate? Or the Saucisson Sec (salt & pepper dry cured pork).

Smoked Cauliflower: wild rice, pistachio puree, golden raisins, mushroom
At first glance I didn’t even give this dish a second thought, until the waiter claimed it as the best meal on the menu. I wasn’t set on another particular option so I trusted him and boy was he right! The photo may look unappetizing, but it was one of the most delicious and flavorful entrees I’ve had in a long time. Each bite had a different texture and taste; salty, sweet, smoky, creamy. Really excellent meal!

Bathroom: They have 2 unisex stalls/rooms, and the one I used had comic strip wallpaper. I guess everyone needs a little reading material when takin’ care of business! I always appreciate something different.

Service: Our waiter knew what cheese to pair with our prosciutto and accurately described each entrée we had a question about. He checked on us regularly and refilled my iced-tea on cue.

Overall: What a great new place! They have a few seating options with high tops, low tables, and a bar. Decorated chalk board-beams lead up to high ceilings which makes this establishment feel a bit larger than it is. The Salty Pig has a clear voice & character; below is a customer journal/guest book that the check is presented in. I sure did let them know that I highly recommend this place! I’m 100% going back for lunch – now do I get the Chicken & Apple Panino or the Smoked Turkey & Avocado?

The Perfect Bite: Each and every single bite of the smoked cauliflower dish.

http://thesaltypig.com/

Via Matta

I’ve been to Via Matta once or twice before, quite some time ago. I knew it was classy and had great food but just couldn’t remember much else about it, or more importantly, what I had ordered. Thanks to Groupon/BuyWithMe/whatever coupon Erin & I purchased, we essentially received $50 off our meal which was a great start.

tabletop

tabletop

Bread: It didn’t come to our table until moments after our appetizers were served. I was starving and pretty annoyed, but the bread runner apologized repeatedly. Luckily it was delicious; great, hearty, fresh bread served with a side plate of EVOO.

bread

bread

Menu: Quite an extensive menu with 18 Antipasti options and 16 dinner options between Pasta and Secondi Piatti. I casually skimmed the online menu in the days leading up to dinner and noticed they had a Bolognese dish. I honestly hoped that my favorite meal wouldn’t appear on the menu come dinner night b/c I become weak in the knees at the sight of “bolognese” and never want to order anything else! I desperately wanted to try the Agnolotti with Maine crab, avocado, and cherry tomatoes and was stressing every second up until I had to make my decision…

Food/Presentation:
Warm Shrimp with spicy watermelon, pancetta, avocado and basil
I normally do not enjoy shrimp but there have been a couple of shrimp dishes in the past that have changed my mind, and I can now add this app to the list! The watermelon had just a bit of spice, I love avocados in/on/with anything, and basil is my favorite herb. Really tasty and refreshing.

apps

apps

Crispy Meatballs with spicy tomato-basil sauce
I’m really picky when it comes to meatballs since I grew up eating Gram and Dad’s homemade ones. But I have no complaints here; crispy outside, soft on the inside.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
At first sight it appeared perfect: massive amounts of meat with a nice tomato sauce. Don’t get me wrong, the dish was really great and I just about finished the whole damn thing, but the noodles were too soft for my liking. I prefer an al dente pasta and this seemed almost like an egg noodle. Other than that, I really did enjoy it.

bolognese

bolognese

Bathroom: The restroom has a few stalls, 2 sinks, with clean and shiny walls and countertops. The giant tissues boxes threw me for a loop b/c I assumed they were in fact tissues and spent more time than I would have liked searching for the paper towels! Quite tricky…

bathroom

bathroom

Service: It took way too long to get our drinks and the bread came after the apps which is a big no-no. But after actually speaking with our waitress she was really helpful when we were deciding what dishes to order. Another gentlemen helped us later in the evening when Erin asked if she could order ½ of a dessert (just the cherry gelato) to go. We had a laugh with the guy since it was a bit of an odd request. But he was hilarious and more than accommodating, and even provided her with a real spoon so she could eat it in the car!

Overall: The food was really excellent. Matt & Rany devoured their meals (they both got the homemade Chitarra with rabbit, morels, asparagus and parm). I would consider Via Matta more of an upscale/fine dining experience, with entrees ranging from $18-$34 and apps running $10-$18. I recommend it and would not hesitate to go back, esp. if someone else is paying! 😉

salt & pepper

salt & pepper

The Perfect Bite: I have honestly been dreaming of what could have been had I ordered the Agnolotti. I love each and every component of that dish but the damn Bolognese won me over again. It was great, but I just wasn’t crazy about the noodle consistency. So believe it or not, I’ll go with: shrimp, spicy watermelon, avocado.

www.viamattarestaurant.com

UPDATE:
I went back to try the Agnolotti dish and oh my goodness… one of my favorite meals in all of Boston! I could have used a couple more actual pieces of Agnolotti, but the stuffed ricotta/avocado mix was smooth and creamy as can be, the crab was sprinkled throughout the dish and there was something about that tomato sauce that was unreal. Loved it!

agnolotti

agnolotti

5 Napkin Burger

view from the bar

view from the bar

I adore burgers and haven’t been blown away by one in quite some time. I’ve been told I need to visit R.F O’Sullivan’s in Somerville as well as Mr. Bartley’s in Cambridge, but I live in Brighton and don’t cross the river too often. So thank goodness for 5 Napkin Burger, a must-eat for burger lovers, located on Huntington Ave (with access via the street and the Prudential Center).

Bread: We were not served bread, which at a burger place is fine by me. I had plenty of other delicious options to fill my stomach with.

Menu: Starters (ranging from soup to salads to wings to deep-fried pickles!), Sushi Maki Rolls, Burgers, Salads, Entrees, Sides, Shakes. I had a burger mentality coming into dinner so my eyes went right to the beef.

Food/Presentation:
Stack of Cornmeal Crusted Onion Rings: blue cheese dressing & 5N sauce
I’m not one to order onion rings (I was eating with 3 boys) but I’m glad I got to taste them! Really fantastic, especially in the 5N sauce (which I believe is a chipotle aioli).

onion rings

onion rings

Sushi Special: spicy tuna, avocado, king crab salad, torched scallop, sriracha chili sauce, eel sauce, cilantro
Burgers and sushi? Why not! 2 of my favorite things come together and I was very pleased. This special was excellent, so light and fresh. There are a couple other sushi options I would like to try (Southwest Roll), although it is a tad pricey, ranging from $10.95-$15.95. If they all come with 8 pieces it’s perfect to split with a friend!

sushi special

sushi special

Original 5 Napkin Burger: 10 oz. fresh ground chuck, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli, soft white roll
Simple and scrumptious. The cheese melting technique was ideal, covering the top as well as the sides of the burger. I spread a bit of the rosemary aioli on the top bun then discarded the rest (it’s really just flavored mayo, let’s be honest). We all ordered the burgers to be done differently (well done, medium, medium rare) and each came out cooked perfection. Definitely a success.

5 Napkin Burger

5 Napkin Burger

Espresso Brownie Sunday: vanilla ice cream, espresso caramel, whipped cream & salted peanut
I could have had a giant bowl of the whipped cream, espresso caramel & salted peanuts and I would have been a happy girl. Vanilla ice cream is a waste of my time, and brownie sundaes aren’t my first choice, but this was really good.

i deleted the good pic by accident..

i deleted the good pic by accident..

Banana Bread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
This was the dessert special and I wasn’t super impressed mainly b/c it was too rich. I do love banana bread but the frosting was unnecessary for me.

Bathroom: Spacious, sleek, clean, 5 stalls, with a full length mirror. I like how the stalls were somewhat separate from the sinks.

bathroom

bathroom

Wait Staff: I forget her name but the (single) boys were smitten. She was super cute and friendly, and totally sold us on the sushi and dessert special. She did a great job, however we ordered the sushi and onion rings as an app and our burgers were brought by food runners directly after the rings, before we even saw the sushi. Not a huge deal – we had the sushi with our burgers which actually was a nice balance – but apps should be delivered before the entrée, always.

decor

decor

 Overall: I consider myself a burger fanatic and I highly suggest 5 Napkin Burger, for burgers or sushi! Everything was honestly superb; my only issue is I wish there were more options. They have a great burger variety (beef, veggie, ‘inside out’, turkey, tuna, lamb) but I wish there were more interesting toppings, for instance: spicy mustard, avocado, relish, hummus etc. The Special Burger had a salsa topping which they should take inspiration from.
The bar was spacious with enough TVs to catch a game. The walls were adorned with over-sized chalk boards and bottles that looked like they should hold some kind of magic potion.

chalk board

chalk board

The Perfect Bite: 5 Napkin Burger smeared with a little bit of ketchup. The rosemary aioli was decent, but I would have preferred the 5N sauce.

http://www.5napkinburger.com

Max Brenner

"the bald man" | Passion Fruit Mojito

"the bald man" | Passion Fruit Mojito

Max Brenner might as well be referred to as the Willy Wonka of the Back Bay. One step inside this new restaurant and you’d swear they were pumping cocoa powder through the air ducts. The hostess mentioned this was not the case – the aroma was in fact coming from the chocolate shop in front of the dining area. Full of gourmet chocolate sweets & treats as well as chocolate infused lotions & soaps, I was like a kid in a candy store (literally). But alas, real food awaits and we were led through the circular room to our table. “Chocolate by the Bald Man” was everywhere you turned, in candy dispensers surrounding the diners, in the center of the room in glass containers, inticing you every step of the way.

center of the restaurant

center of the restaurant

Bread: I was so excited to be surrounded by chocolate that I just now noticed that we didn’t receive bread!! Weird, I always notice when food is missing…

Menu: We were presented with 2 menus, one being the dinner & drinks menu and the other a dessert/dessert drinks menu, both of which are overwhelming in a good why. “First Food Then Chocolate” as their slogan goes… the dinner menu consisted of sections such as: Rise & Shine, Slider Bar, Things to Dip, Crispy & Delicious, Food on a Stick, Max’s Pizzas, Tossed Around, For Your Hands, With a Knife and Fork, Entertaining Side Dishes. I was in a sandwich kind of mood, had 3 in mind, and our waiter encouraged me towards the tuna salad sandwich.

Food/Presentation:
The Unforgettable Spicy Tuna Salad Sandwich – tomato, lettuce, pickled jalapenos, crushed bbq chips brushed with cilantro & avocado mayo
My sandwich was cut in half and separated on a wooden slab by cocoa & chili powder dusted waffle fries, chipotle aioli, and dill pickles. I was very pleased to see there were only 5 or so fries in the small glass. The brioche bun of the sandwich was soft and buttery, the tuna was well dressed (not too much mayo), but it wasn’t as spicy as I was expecting. I also didn’t notice the BBQ chips – I think they were mixed in with the tuna salad rather than placed on top as a condiment. I nitpick, but it was definitely delicious!

tuna salad sandwich

tuna salad sandwich

Milk Chocolate Apple Caramel Crisp – oatmeal streusel, toffee ice cream, pure melted cinnamon chocolate
Straight from the laboratory! Served on a graph paper glass dish with a small cup of toffee ice cream, a beaker of extra toffee sauce, and a cast iron pot of warm apple crisp. The crisp itself was more of a hard crust which was tasty, but the apples themselves weren’t great (too mushy for my liking). If you dig, there’s a chocolate surprising underneath the apples which added an extra richness.

dessert

dessert

Bathroom: Lights! Lights would be good here! The bathroom was so dark I couldn’t even take a picture (I use my ancient iPhone 3G without a flash). Small, with three stalls, and matching floor & wall patterned tiles. The mirror told me “You Look Extremely Good Today” (written on the bottom) and I wasn’t about to argue.

Wait Staff: Shayne was fantastic. He was excited this was our first time in the restaurant and made it clear that he would be available and willing to follow through with any request we had (including charging my cell phone in a back room so that I could take pictures of my entrée!). Genuine and very accommodating!

Overall: A fun and interesting new addition to Boylston Street! Prices aren’t outrageous, multiple food options are available, atmosphere is quirky and delicious (in sight & smell). A great spot for just dessert (Chocolate Surprise Tiramisu is next), hot chocolate on a chilly day (the options are endless & amazing), or a post-dinner coffee (Baileys cappuccino).
We received our check in a tin expressing “Money For Life, Chocolate For The Soul”. Inside I was expecting some type of after-dinner mint/chocolate, but to no avail! Why have a decorative tin with only the bill inside? A bit disappointing, considering we were surrounded by dozens of little chocolate treats.

check tin

check tin

The Perfect Bite: A bite of the Tuna Salad Sandwich with a smear of chipotle aioli. Next time I’ll add slices of avocado!

http://www.maxbrenner.com

Lolita

Located on Dartmouth Street in Paparazzi’s old location, it’s easy to pass right by Lolita’s small and modest entrance. However once you walk inside you are undoubtedly in Back Bay’s newest and trendiest Mexican ‘cocina & tequila bar’. The long main bar is constantly 2-3 people deep and the back lounge/bar – fit with sofas, chairs, and stools – tends to fill up as the night goes on. I had been twice before for drinks and apps and was excited to dive into their extensive menu.

Bread:  In replacement of the bread basket we were of course served chips with 4 different salsas – 3 served together on a square plate and the other brought in a bottle. I wish we had been warned about the queso-looking dip in the center – it was not a typical cheese queso as it was insanely hot! My mouth was on fire longer than I would have liked, but I was pleased with the variety of accompaniments.

chips & salsas

chips & salsas

Menu: Primero, Tacos, Sopa & Ensalada, Quesadillas, Tres Ceviches, Enchiladas, Vertical Nachos, Principal, Sancho (sides), Guacamole. Quite the selections to choose from! I basically wanted something from almost every section. I knew we’d be ordering guacamole, so I bypassed my craving for the Tortilla Soup and just ordered the Pulled Pork Tacos.

Food/Presentation: We were first brought an aperitif: a small steaming bowl of grapefruit pieces, topped with tequila and 4 tiny spoons. I had a taste but it was taken away before we could enjoy the whole thing!

aperitif

aperitif

Fresco Guacamole: fresh avocado, tomato, serrano chile, diced onion & cilantro
It’s very rare for me to taste a guac that I don’t like. Needless to say this bowl was gone in minutes. Next time I’ll have to try the “Especial Guac” filled with jumbo lump crab, Atlantic lobster, and garlic-wine butter drizzle!

guacamole

guacamole

Pulled Pork Tacos: seared crispy with salsa verde
Three soft shelled tacos were served filled with pork and grilled red peppers. The meal was great but I was expecting “pulled pork” as the menu stated, and as you can see from the photo these were pieces/chunks of pork which is very different. Slightly disappointed…

pulled pork taco

pulled pork taco

Bananarama: crisp fried banana-caramel cheesecake burritos with deep chocolate ice cream, butterscotch sauce, and pecan brittle
We so did not need dessert, but in the spirit of Ariane’s birthday we had no choice 🙂 I didn’t exactly get a sense of “cheesecake” in this dessert, but these burritos were right up my alley. Crispy and FULL of banana, I could have had this all to myself.

desserts

desserts

Buenas Notes: warm deep chocolate-espresso bread pudding with coffee ice cream, brown sugar caramel, and hot fudge sauce
The “bread pudding” had more of a brownie texture but it was still incredible, especially with that coffee ice cream. Heavy and filling, thank goodness there were 4 of us!

Sour Apple Cotton Candy with Cherry Pop-Rocks
Like we needed more sweets! In my previous Lolita experiences I remember eyeing the cotton candy I’d seen making it’s way from table to table. At first I thought it was a dessert option but I quickly learned it was complimentary – Lolita’s version of an after-dinner mint, served before we were given the check. I was delighted but noticed that many other tables left this large portion to go to waste.

cotton candy

cotton candy

Bathroom: In keeping with the dark, red, gothic theme, the bathroom has printed wallpaper, 3 individual black sinks, black shutter doors on each of the 5 stalls. Pardon my photo of the toilet, but how can you NOT take a picture of that crazy paisley print? A bit small for this constantly crowded establishment (the stalls are directly behind the sinks), but the full length mirror and the facecloth ‘napkins’ adds points.

bathroom sink, mirrors

bathroom sink, mirrors

fancy toilet

fancy toilet

Wait Staff: When we arrived we were told the wait was 30-45mins. When we checked back in 45 mins later we were told we were going to have to wait another 45 mins. My friend explained to them “No thank you. You told us that 45 mins ago!” so they tippity-tapped their fancy Reservations App on their iPad and assured us it would only be another 25 mins. Ugh, they’re lucky they can provide delicious sangria to keep me company.
Our waiter was “pissy” to start off the night, not making eye contact and acting like he didn’t give a damn. We were about to write him off but he later apologized for his mood and started acting more playful/friendly – we ended the night adoring him!

Overall: Trendy. Dark. Swanky. Gothic. Or if you’re Ariane you refer to it as a “vampire den”. Whatever you want to call it, you’re not going to Lolita for a quiet casual evening. The place is constantly packed so make a reservation if you plan on eating (only allowed if you have a party of 6 or more – annoying). I’m not a tequila fan so I avoided the 7 margarita options, but the Rojo Sangria is excellent (although one of the cheaper cocktails at $9). There’s plenty of food I still want to try so I’ll be back in the future, although it strikes me more as a winter spot considering there’s no windows or sunlight of any kind!

back lounge/bar area

back lounge/bar area

The Perfect Bite: The guac was excellent but I think (almost) every guacamole is amazing. My entrée was good but the menu lied to me making me believe I’d be served PULLED pork… so I’ll have to say the Bananarama dessert.

www.lolitaboston.com

Rustic Kitchen

I found Rustic Kitchen on OpenTable.com when looking for a 7pm reservation on the Saturday night before Valentine’s Day. I had never heard of this restaurant so I checked out the website and learned that not only do they have an impressive menu, but they film a live cooking show in a studio in the restaurant – very cool. Located in Back Bay’s Park Square, I originally thought it was associated with the Park Plaza Hotel which led me to believe this was more of an upscale establishment. Upon entering I realized it’s actually attached to the Radisson, which is a notch or two below the Park Plaza’s status. This made no difference, I was still excited for the evening ahead!

Bread: 4 slices were served on a square plated with olives and a white bean dip. The bread was soft and doughy, not bad. The bean dip was a little too watery for my liking, lacking texture/substance.

bread

bread

Menu: The options were endless: Italian and Seafood Starters, Pizza, Salads, Rustic Comfort Classics, Hand Crafted Pasta, Fresh From the Docks, Rustic Italian Steakhouse. I was of course eyeing the Tagliatelle Bolognese and after the waiter confirmed it was exceptional I just had to order it. This special occasion called for an appetizer as well, so I went with the Tuna Tartar.

tuna tartar

tuna tartar

Food/Presentation:
Tuna Tartar with spicy chile sauce, avocado & pistachio crackers:
The tuna app came in a massive mound with the 2 crackers sticking out of the middle, linked together by circles of thinly sliced red onion. This was unlike any tuna tartar I’ve had in the past. First of all, it was huge and could have easily fed 2-3 people; second, the consistency was mushier than I’m used to. Most tartars consist of finely cubed pieces of raw tuna but this one had all different shapes and sizes which made for an odd texture. I did appreciate the chunks of avocado though!

Tagliatelle Bolognese with an authentic creamy meat sauce served over rich egg noodle with grated Grana Padano cheese:
The pasta came in one of the coolest bowls I’ve ever seen. Not only did it have a place holder for my fork, but also a small circular indentation in place of a spoon, to use for twirling the noodles around the fork – brilliant! I wish I could say the same for the entrée. It was good, but the pasta was too thin and over cooked for my liking. I have no complaints about the meat or sauce, it’s just that I’ve have many a Bolognese in my day and I have high expectations. It’s my favorite dish of all time, after all! 🙂

bolognese

bolognese

Mango Sorbet with chocolate chip biscotti:
Topped with berries and 2 biscottis – and our waiter had already brought us 2 additional biscottis for Matt’s coffee (slash Dena’s enjoyment). The sorbet was refreshing and the biscotti was thin, crunchy, and paired perfectly when dipped in Matt’s coffee!

mango sorbet

mango sorbet

Bathroom: Located outside (down the hall) of the actual restaurant. Since it’s shared with the Radisson patrons there wasn’t much décor etc to connect it with Rustic Kitchen, but it was clean, modern, and had plenty of space.

bathroom

bathroom

Wait Staff: Gustavo was fantastic! One of the best waiters I’ve ever had. I honestly felt like a VIP. At the beginning of our night we were looking over the wine list and Gustavo immediately offered to bring us a tasting of two wine types that we knew we enjoyed (Malbec, Merlot). Usually I take a shot in the dark (not much of a wine connoisseur) but with his help we were able to choose a bottle we knew we’d love. He was just as helpful the rest of the evening, being honest with his recommendations of certain dishes/drinks. If it wasn’t creepy I would have given him a hug on the way out.

Kaikin Malbec

Kaikin Malbec

Overall: The décor was quite “rustic” with stone columns and brick walls, and the overall atmosphere was quite casual. The lighting was interesting – above each booth looked like an upside down lily. Gustavo absolutely made the night! The prices matched the portions (above average prices = large amount of food), but the dishes themselves were average. I’d give it another shot and return for the Cooking Show, no doubt about it.

lighting

lighting

The Perfect Bite/Sip: Biscotti dipped in coffee. Also, my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Martini. I don’t handle straight liquor very well, but this literally tasted like a liquid chocolate strawberry (which is one of my favorite foods). And judge me if you like, but dipping the biscotti in my martini wasn’t too shabby either.

chocolate strawberry martini

chocolate strawberry martini

www.rustickitchen.biz