Blue Dragon

After being thoroughly impressed with my meal at Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger in Wellesley, I’ve been dying to get to his Boston based restaurant Blue Dragon. While both of Chef Tsai’s locations boast East-West tapas style menus, I found Blue Ginger to be more of a casual yet sophisticated environment, and Blue Dragon had more of a comfortable neighborhood  -joint atmosphere. I personally preferred Dragon’s decor, covered in wood and warm earth tones. We also dined early on a snowy Saturday night, which added to the cozy feel.

Matt and I were joined by our two friends for dinner, and we did the tapas menu right! We ordered from just about all 7 menu sections (Snacks, Dim Sum, Veggies, Plates, Rice + Noodles, Platters, Dessert), and were pleasantly stuffed at the end of the meal.

DRINKS
Let’s start with a mocktail, shall we? This one is a take on their Hurricane cocktail, which typically comes with Mt. Gay Black Barrel, passion fruit, bitters, and citrus. Mine was perfectly delicious without the alcohol.

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VEGGIES

Wok-Charred Cauliflower with Thai Chile Harissa
Grilled vegetables with a flavorful dipping sauce? I don’t really care what it is, I’m in. This wasn’t my favorite dish – mainly because we tried incredible plates, and how mind-blowing can cauliflower really be? – BUT it was good and a nice start to the marathon meal.
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DIM SUM

Pork and Scallion Wontons
These wontons were stuffed full of slightly spicy pork and still managed to be light. Granted I only had 1.5 pieces, but I could have easily had all 6 to myself.
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Mushroom and Garlic Chive Potstickers (left)
Braised Short Rib and Chinese Celery Potstickers (right)
I’ll eat some mushrooms in some dishes, but they still aren’t a favorite of mine. I definitely preferred the short rib version of this appetizer.

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PLATES
Indonesian Curried Lamb Shepherd’s Pie
Mmm, shepherd’s pie. What a lovely surprise to see that it was topped with both white and sweet potatoes! Covering the ground curried lamb, the potatoes were whipped and smooth. Comfort food at its best.
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Red Roast Pork Tail with Mango Sticky Rice
Now I know what you’re thinking, because we were thinking it too: a) what the hell did we order, b) something dirty. Luckily the waiter came by and told us what to do with this… thing. It comes on a soft bone and we were instructed to shred the meat off the bone, mix it around with the sauce on top, and eat it with the rice. Once we did that it looked more like edible meat and was actually quite tasty. The pork tail has a lot of flavorful fat so you really have to shred, mix, and combine all components well.
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Duck Confit Rillettes with Scallion Pancakes
At this point there were so many plates on the table that I don’t think I focused on this dish as much as I should have. I grabbed a crispy scallion pancake, topped it with some frisée, a mandarin orange, and a spoonful of duck. This dish was a bit out-shined by the shepherd’s pie and mini burgers…
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Teriyaki Bison Mini Burgers with Smoked Gouda, Caramelized Onions & Shiitakes
I’m a sucker for burgers, and who doesn’t love a mini-burger? These little guys were stacked with flavor, a favorite of mine for sure. We weren’t sure what the sauce was exactly, but it was amazing, tasted great on the burger and as a fry dip. We cleared the plate then kept the remaining sauce to put on whatever we could.
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Vietnamese Chicken Wings with Spicy Caramel Glaze
Chicken wings aren’t my thing, so I didn’t try these, but the general consensus was that they were worth the order.
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RICE + NOODLES

Dan Dan Noodles 
I was craving noodles, and to mix it with ground lamb? It’s a Asian bolognese! This dish had a nice kick to it all well. Definitely one of the top 2 dishes of the night for me.
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Kimchee Fried Rice with Lobster
Unfortunately the fried egg had to be removed before we mixed up all these goodies (pregnancy problems), but everyone else was able to enjoy that part. Fried rice with lobster sounds so appealing, but this wasn’t a table favorite. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was the last plate of the night and we were all pretty stuffed (this was the only dish we didn’t lick clean). Each one of us also had a few bites that tasted a bit too fishy for our liking. It may not have been a crowd pleaser, but I certainly had no problem taking home the leftovers 🙂 
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DESSERT
The Cookie: Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Served Warm and Topped with Ice Cream and Soy Caramel Sauce
The largest chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever seen was served warm in a hot skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream and a soy caramel sauce. Parts of the cookie center weren’t fully baked, leaving a cookie dough consistency which I think was part of the point. Chocolate chip cookies aren’t on the top of my cookie list, and I typically say vanilla ice cream is a waste of time… but this dessert is a must try!

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The bathrooms were awesome and kept with the “lodge-y” theme and feel of the restaurant. There are 3 private bathrooms (men, women, unisex) which I love. The unisex one has a 1-way mirror over the sink that looks into the kitchen!
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I don’t repeat restaurants often but I hope to go back to Blue Dragon sometime this winter. If not for the incredible food, then for the great cozy atmosphere and friendly wait staff. It’s a bit off the beaten path in the Fort Point area, not directly surrounded by much activity. Perfect for a cold winter night. I hear it’s typically quite crowded, and they don’t take reservations so you may have to wait for a table. But trust me, it will be worth it.

The Perfect Bite: Between the Dan Dan Lamb Noodles and the Lamb Shepherd’s Pie.

http://www.ming.com/blue-dragon.htm

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Boston Local Food Festival

The 2nd Annual Boston Local Food Festival took place on Saturday October 1st at the Fort Point Channel on what turned out to be a beautiful fall day. As part of an initiative by the SBN (Sustainable Business Network) Local Food Committee, this food fest featured dozens of businesses from the Boston area, each offering tastings of fresh and local fair. The event was free and while some booths were dishing out small complimentary tastings, most booths had a list of larger samplings from $1-$5. There were food trucks, savory bites, food demonstrations, sweet pastries, fruit preserves, farmer’s market produce and more! Below are some hi-lights of my Saturday afternoon.

My first taste of the day was this lobster taco from the Newburyport Crab Cake Company. A soft tortilla topped with warm lobster, cole slaw, and spicy aioli. Might have been the best thing I ate all day!


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This pulled pork sandwich is from the famous Redbones out of Somerville MA. Their food truck was on of the many present on Saturday along with Grilled Cheese Nation and The Dining Car.


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Sofra Bakery had sweet & savory pastry items like Shanklish Fatayer, Cornmeal Apple Snacking Cake, and  Butternut Squash Tart. I opted for the Pumpkin Jam Tart which was to die for.

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The longest line I saw was at the Calendar Islands booth where people were anxiously waiting to try their Maine lobster cakes. Unfortunately I was full by this point, but thankfully had gotten my lobster fix earlier in the day.

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One of the items I regret passing up is the sunshine watermelon from the Rockville Market Farm from Starksboro VT. Along with fruit and butternut squash soup, RMF brought a mini farmer’s market and was selling organic veggies, pastured meats, and organic eggs.

For a look at my full photo album from the Local Food Festival, please visit “The Perfect Bite, Boston” on Facebook.

http://bostonlocalfoodfestival.com/

Papagayo

This was my first visit to Papagayo which came highly recommended from my friend Dave who frequents there often. For someone like me who lives in Brighton and works in Back Bay, the location isn’t the easiest to get to via public transit, but there are plenty of metered parking spots if you’re going with a DD. The restaurant is large, spacious, and has a long bar backed by 100s of tequilas!

Bread:  Chips & salsa of course! The chips were oiled and salted to perfection and the salsa had just enough spice.

chips, salsa, guac
chips, salsa, guac

Menu: I’ve never taken a Spanish class a day in my life so please don’t think I’m undermining you with the subtitles: Antojitos (apps), Taquizas (tacos), Platos Fuertes (popular dishes), Ensaladas Y Sopas (salads & soups), Especiales de la Casa (house specials), Tortas Y Burgezas (sandwich served on house baked bread with chili dusted fries). Obviously we were ordering guacamole as an appetizer, so I tried to stick to a smaller entrée by ordering a taco salad (too bad I wasn’t aware of the large portion size!).

Food/Presentation:
Table Side Guacamole – hand hacked haas avocado
The great thing about table side guacamole is that it’s fresh, home-made, and customizable! The guac maker asked how spicy we wanted it (mild, medium, or hot) and you can add carrots and celery for $1 extra.

guac cart

guac cart

Tostada Grande – choice of chicken tinga or muchaka with black beans, tomato, jack & cheddar cheeses
I went with the muchaka and was pleasantly surprised that it was in a pulled beef style rather than ground beef. The meat came topped with the salad components in a giant crispy tortilla shell. The salad was great, the meat being my favorite part, but it was way too big for me to finish. My only disappointment is that I had to add sliced avocado (shouldn’t that have been included in the first place?).

tostada grande

tostada grande

Margarita Snow Cones
If you’re a tequila fan I recommend this adult dessert. They’re a perfect little size and the flavors change daily. Featured below: pineapple, prickly pear, watermelon, and mango .. served with 4 tiny spoons!

adult snow cones

adult snow cones

Bathroom: Besides the trash can overflowing with dirty paper towels, the restroom was sleek and clean. I liked the dark wood paneling and the lighting on the mirrors. The full length mirror was a plus but there were only 2 stalls which caused for congestion and lines.

bathroom

bathroom

Wait Staff: I absolutely loved our waitress. She was joking around with us all night, the food service was in a timely fashion, and she encouraged us to get the signature margarita snow cones (which sounded like a great idea at the time but unfortunately helped lead to my demise). Being a new establishment, the manager came over to see how our evening was going and we had no complaints!

Overall: I tried to be a big girl and drink tequila like a real man, but let’s just say I will not be joining their Tequila Club (join the club, drink 100 different tequilas in 1 year and receive a dinner for 10!). The food was great and reasonably priced. The drinks I had were excellent, although I think I had one too many (red sangria, strawberry orange margarita, Patron XO Espresso martini – terrible combo). I was expecting it to be more crowded on a Saturday night (the manager said the bar is usually 3 people deep). A casual and growingly popular alternative for a Mexican restaurant!

sangria

sangria

 
The Perfect Bite: Muchaka, avocado, salad, crispy tortilla shell!
 
 
 
 
 
margarita

margarita

 

el lechero

el lechero

 

Sportello

spicy tomato soup

spicy tomato soup

Barbara Lynch’s take on a modern Italian diner is located on Congress Street in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood above her bar, Drink. Serving lunch & dinner, this casual atmosphere provides mostly table top seating with a few surrounding tables. Lining the back wall are fresh dried pastas for sale, along with olive oil & house made chocolate bars. To the left is a bakery counter complete with items ranging from fresh bread to breakfast pastries to cupcakes & cookies. If you need a caffeine fix you can choose from their list of coffees, espresso, & lattes.

Two friends & I sat at the corner of the counter top on round stools facing the window, looking out onto Congress Street.

Bread: The waiter started us with a few slices of bread, accompanied by a small bowl of whipped ricotta cheese, apple & pear chutney, drizzled with oil olive & sea salt. The bread itself wasn’t much to brag about but I did appreciate that the light spread was something other than butter.

Menu: Presented as a laminated place mat on which your meal is served, the dinner menu is separated into four categories: appetizers, pastas, entrees, and desserts. Now, when I dine out, there are a few items that I just can’t resist: tomato soup, any pasta with a bolognese sauce, and polenta. (Un)fortunately for me, this menu had all three. I started with the spicy tomato soup served with caraway grilled cheese, and it’s a very rare occasion that I deny a bolognese.

Presentation: Soup is served in a bowl with crostini laid across the top. I find some tomato soups can be too oily but this version was just right. It was creamy without being too heavy, and the grilled cheese was tasty & perfect for dipping. The tagliatelle bolognese was fantastic, topped with grated cheese & a leaf of fried basil. I had no trouble finishing my plate as the serving was generous but didn’t leave me leaving uncomfortably full. My only criticism is that I personally have a love for sauce and this dish just didn’t have enough. It was full of meat which is a plus, but if I could I would have added more of a sauce to go along with it. The tagliatelle however was a light pasta, cooked to perfection.

Bathroom: A tiny one stall bathroom with white & brown tiled walls. Despite the lack of room, a sleek sink design & automatic flusher gave this extra points!

Wait Staff: Our waiter was pleasant & very knowledgeable about the menu and wine list. At one point the floor manager/host approached us and asked how we enjoyed the evening and what brought us to Sportello. I appreciated this and told him I had been wanting to try a Barbara Lynch restaurant and that this was my first Lynch experience. I was planning on making it two in one night, but didn’t have time to make it downstairs to Drink.

Overall: I wouldn’t recommend Sportello if you’re looking for an intimate date night or have a large party as the tables are limited and eating at a counter top with more than 4 people can cause for broken conversations. My two friends & I had a great time, we enjoyed our meals but were unfortunately too full to indulge in dessert. I’ll have to return and look further into that bakery case.

The Perfect Bite: While the meat was tender & plentiful, the bolgnese didn’t provide enough sauce to make it “perfect”. Dipping the crunchy, cheesy crostini into the bowl of tomato soup was too good to be true, I just wish I had more grilled cheese to clean the bowl with!

www.sportelloboston.com