Hamersley’s Bistro

Bread: The bread basket had 3 varieties, wheat slices, rustic rolls, and a small onion loaf. I only tried a piece of wheat with a smear of the softened butter, and it was a bit plain. Would have been much better toasted! Matt wasn’t a huge fan of either of the other kinds as well. A bit disappointing, but I do appreciate the variety.
IMG_5200IMG_5201 Menu: Small Plates, Appetizers, Vegetarian, Entrees, Sides, Desserts. My eyes went right to the soup in the Vegetarian section, which offered appetizer sized plates. I eat meat and fish but again I was drawn to the vegetarian entree. I saw “artichoke” and couldn’t look away! There were quite a few fish dishes that looked amazing (such as the Skillet-Cooked Arctic Char with orange, radish, and red currant salad, quinoa and aged sherry vinegar), and 1 option each among popular meats (chicken, pork, lamb, beef).

Hamersley's Bistro menu

Hamersley’s Bistro menu

Food / Presentation:
Spring Dug Parsnip Soup with Crème Fraîche and Basl-Pistachio Pesto
I love soup! Especially purees. Among the smooth but slightly grainy consistency, the pistachios added a subtle crunch which I enjoyed. When delivered, the server instructed me to stir all of the components together to bring out the intended flavor. A good start to the meal.
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Roasted Artichoke and Ricotta Crêpes with Spring Vegetables, French Lentils and Parmesan-Chive Sauce
Two savory crêpes, stuffed with ricotta cheese and a few artichokes, were divided by lentils and surrounded by cut carrots, peppers, asparagus and peas. The dish could have use more artichokes in my opinion, but either way this was a light and satisfying vegetarian entrée.
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Service: Our server was really great. We didn’t have too many questions about the menu but you could just tell they are well trained to know their stuff. Specials were memorized, crumb scraper cleaned our tabletop after entrees were cleared, and each course was delivered at appropriate times. She was also friendly and quit personable which is always a plus.
Bathroom: A single individual bathroom, one for women, one for men, one handicap. The women’s room was clean, mostly white with a emerald green door. And a lovely piece of art above the toilet 😉
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Overall: The menu has a nice variety, including multiple veggie, fish and meat entrees. The dining room is sophisticated and just casual, with wood accents, high ceilings, and simple chandeliers. Hamersley’s Bistro has been in the Boston restaurant scene for 20+ years and is constantly being reviewed as one of the top restaurants in Boston.  I think because of it’s longevity it tends to attract an older crowd, people who have been fans for years and years (I’d say the average age this Friday night was 50+). If you’re in the mood for a lively and energetic atmosphere this may not be the first restaurant I’d suggest, but if you’re looking for solid service, a menu filled with fresh & local ingredients, and food that won’t disappoint then Hamersley’s Bistro is the way to go. It is and always will be a Boston classic!
The Perfect Bite: Crêpe, ricotta, artichoke, peas, lentils.

Strip T’s

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This past year I have been slowly hearing more and more great things about Strip T’s in Watertown. It all started in 1986 as a sirloin strip sandwich concept, which is where the somewhat provocative name came from. With its friendly staff, affordable prices and quality food, Strip T’s quickly become a favorite neighborhood sandwich shop. Years later the owner’s son Tim Maslow joined the business and expanded the restaurant’s offerings to include dinner as well as lunch. Both menus have a wide range of meal styles ranging from a Fried Cauliflower to a Lamb Shoulder Sandwich for lunch, and a classic Fish & Chips to a Glazed Veal Breast for dinner. The sides and condiments also really intrigue me: carrot jam, barley, hay yogurt, kimchi squash, fried japanese sweet potato wedges, their famous Moxie sauce, and the list goes on.
IMG_4319On this particular Saturday afternoon my husband and I arrived around 12:30 and as there were no available tables, we sat at the counter with a view of the dining area and bar. There were definitely a few sandwiches that sparked my interest but the one at the top of my list was the Fried Cauliflower with Provolone and Broccoli Rabe. The sandwich came open-faced, provolone melted onto the bread topped with cauliflower florets, chopped broccoli rabe and sliced peppers. In my first attempt to tackle this monster I lifted a 1/2 and took a bite, but that clearly resulted in vegetables falling everywhere. I eventually asked for a steak knife and cut each 1/2 into 3 small pieces, which made it much easier to handle. This may be a veggie sandwich but it’s hearty, flavorful and filling. The Fried Cauliflower is definitely one of the best sandwiches I’ve had, and will join my top 3 among the Roast Beef 1000 at Cutty’s, and the Tuna, Avocado, Cheddar Panini at Temptations.
IMG_4328Matt and I also ordered a side of the Fried Japanese Sweet Potato Wedges. I typically don’t care for steak fries / wedges, but these were not fries. The outside had a slight crisp but the inside was all soft and creamy sweet potato. Most were plump and thick but there were a few extra thin fried potato skin pieces that were just as tasty. Some sort of house aioli was served on the side.
IMG_4323On top of Matt’s roast beef sandwich he also ordered the Wicked Small Caesar, which is a lie in size but truth in it’s $3 price. This is different than a traditional Caesar salad with creamy anchovy dressing, but I tried a bite and liked the lighter approach.
IMG_4321Strip T’s also serves wine and beer, a variety of sodas, sparkling juices, and coffee / tea / espresso. I opted for a cappuccino as I had yet to consume my 1 cup of caffeine for the day.
IMG_4330I highly recommend Strip T’s for lunch, and I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing about their dinner once I experience it. We left full and more than satisfied. I was really impressed with my sandwich and everything else I ate that afternoon. Matt’s Roast Beef Sandwich with Cucumber, Horseradish and Moxie sauce was no joke. Next up I think I’ll try the NYC’s Pho Real Sandwich with grilled chicken, thai basil, bean sprouts, and avocado.

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Aquitaine vs Gaslight: Brunch

Brunch is arguably one of the best meals of the day; you have multiple options of eggs, waffles, omelets, french toast, fruit, sandwiches, and more. And unlike breakfast, brunch allows a socially acceptable alcoholic beverage to be consumed before 12 noon. Win!

I’ve recently been on a brunch kick and visited Gaslight and Aquitaine within a week of each other. These sister restaurants are part of The Aquitaine Group, along with Metropolis CafeUnion Bar & Grill, and the most recent addition Cinquecento.
What Gaslight and Aquitaine have that is unique to Boston brunches is a $9.95 Prix Fixe menu (also offered at Union Bar & Grill). Each offer slightly different options but the outcome is the same: a delicious and filling meal for under $10, which is hard to find anywhere, never mind in the city.

GASLIGHT Prix Fixe Brunch
All day Saturday; 10:00 – 11:00 am Sunday
INCLUDES:
Glass of fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juice; coffee or tea; Julia Child’s Spiced Shortbread with raspberry jam
Choice of one of the following:
  • Vanilla French Toast with Blueberry Compote
  • Omelette Lyonnaise with Gruyere Cheese, Potatoes and Caramelized Onions
  • Scrambled Eggs & Cantal Cheese served over toasted brioche

If none of the prix fixe offerings interest you there’s always the option to order from the regular brunch menu, which has items ranging from $7.75 for an omelet to $15.75 for steak & eggs. I arrived at Gaslight intending to participate in the prix fixe but just couldn’t resist the Truffled Scrambled Egg Tartin with roasted asparagus off of the regular brunch menu. I also opted for a cappuccino and a Bellini instead of the coffee / tea and juice which is included in the $9.95, oops! 🙂 No worries though, as this dish alone was $8.50 and really excellent. The sauce was a little heavy for me but it was easy to scrape to the side. The toast was slightly softened by the eggs (which I like) and still had a bit of crunch on the edges. I love my eggs scrambled and am a fan of asparagus, so this was a perfect meal for me! I would go back to Gaslight and probably order the exact same thing.

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AQUITAINE Prix Fixe Brunch
Saturday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm; Sunday 10:00 am – 11:00 am
INCLUDES:
Warm house-made cinnamon buns; glass of fresh orange or grapefruit juice; bottomless coffee; brunch potatoes, seven grain toast
Choice of one of the following:
  • Omelette Alsacienne with Mushrooms, Leeks, and Boursin Cheese
  • Omelette Basquaise with Ham, Gruyere and Parsley
  • Omelette a La Greque with Spinach and Feta Cheese
  • Omelette De La Maison with Bacon, Tomatoes, and Gruyere Cheese
  • Three Eggs Scrambled with American Cheese
  • Eggs Piperade with Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes, and Ham

Again, I was intending to partake in the prix fixe menu but the Benedict Provencal with Avocado, Tomato, Hollandaise & Fines Herbes, and Brunch Potatoes was really speaking to me! Poached eggs aren’t my favorite but I can tolerate them, and this whole dish was so good that I didn’t once wish they were my typical scrambled. The Benedict Provencal was $9.95, and as I ordered a Bellini and no juice, the only thing I really missed out on from the prix fixe was the cinnamon bun. Lucky for me my parents ordered the Spinach & Feta Omelette and I was able to taste their cinnamon bun which was really tasty! Even though I missed out on a few added bonuses I was still happy and more than satisfied with my brunch choice. The eggs were poached perfectly, the tomatoes were fresh, and the potatoes were well seasoned and slightly crispy. Next time I’m going for the Croque Magret: Duck Confit and Gruyere Parisian Pressed Sandwich with Tarragon Mustard, Watercress and Pommes Frites – oh yeah!

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Mooo….

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When my good friends from the Columbus Hospitality Group asked me to come in and try Mooo‘s new Sunday Brunch I absolutely could not resist. I have only been to Mooo once, and it was for dinner about 5 years ago. I can’t remember what I ordered but I know I left impressed and more than satisfied. As Mooo is located in the XV Beacon Hotel, it is open 7 days a week and offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. The brunch menu has been recently revamped and I was one of the first to try the new offerings.

Let begin with cocktails! The drink menu features 3 signature concoctions as well as a variety of Bloody Mary’s. I’m a huge Bloody Mary fan but wanted to try something outside my comfort zone and went with the Honey-Bee: Hendrick’s, house-made thyme honey syrup, and St. Germaine. Luckily my husband ordered a Bloody Mary that I was able to taste, however he went with the classic version. I personally would have tried the Bloody Caprese with an addition of fresh mozzarella. I’ve never had cheese in a drink before but I’m not one to turn down mozz.

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cocktail list

cocktail list

The menu is broken down into sections: Juice Bar, Appetizers, Eggs, Specialties, Steak & Eggs, Sandwiches, With Maple Syrup, Sides. If it wasn’t for my cocktail I would have ordered the Lean & Green Monster Smoothie. I was thinking of making that my appetizer but instead we ordered the Kobe Dumplings, a Mooo signature dish. Four steamed dumplings stuffed with Kobe beef sat in a salty soy broth. Every part of this dish just about melted in your mouth! Next time you’re at Mooo I suggest trying the Kobe beef in any fashion it’s offered.
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In place of a standard bread basket we were served warm Cinnamon Rolls. I don’t think there are enough words to describe how incredible these were! Doughy, soft, topped with crystallized sugar, lightly swirled with cinnamon, this may have been the best part of the meal. I tried unbelievably hard to only have one but ended up putting down a second at the end of the meal. I just couldn’t resist…
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Whenever I go out for brunch I always want to order a sweet meal like Belgian Waffles, but always end up ordering a savory egg dish. This time was no different as I picked an item from the Specialities section, the Poached Eggs & Salmon complete with savory bread pudding, dill crab hollandaise sauce, and roasted tomatoes. The eggs were perfectly done, soft and fluffy on the outside and runny on the inside. There was a large amount of salmon under the eggs which topped the eggy bread pudding.

Poached Eggs & Salmon

Poached Eggs & Salmon

Matt ordered the Egg White Frittata which came with goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, and basil. This would have been my second choice, and I probably would have ordered it had he chosen something different. The creamy goat cheese melted into the thin omelet-like frittata. I wasn’t able to steal a bite but Matt cleaned his plate which can only mean one thing 🙂

Egg White Frittata

Egg White Frittata

Overall Matt & I really enjoyed the brunch experience. Our server was great and checked in on us at just the right times. He even placed a warmer over Matt’s dish since Matt was in the bathroom when our meals arrived. The menu had a nice variety of options, the high-backed chairs made for a comfortable meal, and the live mood music in the background was a perfect touch. Next time you’re planning brunch I suggesting making a reservation at Mooo. Order the Bloody Mary Flight and tell me how it is!

www.mooorestaurant.com
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Blue Ginger

Bread: Three varieties of bread came with a small side of butter. The flat cracker sesame bread and potato-like bread didn’t need any butter as they had their own unique flavor, but I did spread a little on the slice of plain white.
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Menu: The structure of the menu is simple, offering Appetizers and Entrees. There’s also a note at the bottom of the page about the Chef’s Tasting Menu, but I didn’t inquire as I had a hard enough time with the options in front of me. The prices are definitely steeper than I’m used to but I knew this going into dinner, as Chef Ming Tsai is one of the best in MA, is nationally known, and has appeared on The Food Network numerous times. This is the kind of meal you don’t mind paying $40+ for because you know you won’t be disappointed, and it will probably be one of  the best versions of whatever it is you’re ordering. That being said, I was torn between 3 dishes and opted for one of the signature dishes which has been on the menu for over 10 years.

Food/Presentation:
Tempura Sole-Avocado Roulade with Black Garlic Aioli and Ponzu Vegetables
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this appetizer, but our server did a great job of describing how it was prepared. Three sushi roll-like pieces topped the vegetables and were surrounded by small dollops of black garlic aioli. The typical “rice” section of this roll was actually the sole which encompassed the avocado and carrots. The outside may have been deep fried but it didn’t make the dish heavy or greasy. Definitely a great way to start the meal!

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Garlic-Black Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice: Pea Tendril Salad with Tamari-Ginger Vinaigrette
For my entree I was deciding between this and the other signature dish which a friend recommended, the Sake-Miso Marinated Sablefish (a.k.a. Butterfish). I think either choice would have been a good one, but I’m really glad I chose the lobster. The shell of the body was stuffed with spinach and rice, and the plate was covered with big pieces of lobster tail, more rice, a few mushrooms, tomatoes, and incredible flavor! A fantastic lobster dish without the typical mess and work that comes with de-shelling.
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Peanut Butter Creameuax: chocolate sorbet, pomegranate jelly, black sesame cocoa shortbread
The dessert menu looked to good to pass up, so my cousin & I split this take on PB&J (one of my favorite combinations). The chocolate sorbet had a strong flavor, the jelly was amazing, and the peanut butter component had a smooth mousse consistency. Great way to end the meal!
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Restroom: The women’s room has 2 private stalls with wooden shutter doors (my favorite), a nice granite countertop, and warm and comfortable hues. I wouldn’t mind basing my home bathroom off of this design!

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Service: Our server was well informed and shared with us the signature and popular dishes as we had never been to Blue Ginger before. When deciding on appetizers he made a helpful suggestion; we were thinking of ordering the Tempura Sole-Avocado Roulade and the Shiitake-Leek Springrolls but he pointed out that they were somewhat of a similar appetizer, so we went with the Caesar instead. We were taking our time with the first course and he was great about not rushing us. When our entrees were ready and we still had some salad left on the plate he asked if we wanted to delay the second course until we were done with the first. We said it was fine to bring the entrees over, but it was nice of him to ask and make sure we were ready!

Overall: Blue Ginger is Ming Tsai’s first restaurant, opening in 1998 and serving East meets West cuisine. A recent 2008 renovation added private dining rooms as well as a modern lounge featuring an Asian style tapas menu. The casual and chic dining room is set up with free standing tables and banquettes. Based on the high prices I thought the dining area would be a bit stuffy but I was happy to see it was more of a comfortable atmosphere. The service was great and the food was really excellent, just be prepared to spend! Appetizers run from $10-$17 and entrees range from $22 for a tofu dish to $41 for lobster or the signature sabelfish, most plates being $30+. Blue Ginger has an impressive beer, wine, and cocktail menu as well. I went with the Polly-Tini: Ketel One, lychee puree, and pink grapefruit. The menu of course has Asian influences but offers standard items like scallops, halibut, beef, lamb etc. I highly recommend whether you’re in the Wellesley area or not, Blue Ginger is a must try.
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The Perfect Bite: Lobster, fried rice, and all the goodies!
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http://www.ming.com/blue-ginger.htm
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Toro

Bread: Small slices of white bread, with no accompaniment. At first I was upset, but after ordering the tuna tartare realized it can be utilized for future dishes!
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Menu: Pinchos, which are snack size; Tapas Frias, more bar snacks but slightly larger than the Pinchos; Jamones y Charcuteria, cheese & meats; For Two, larger dishes like fish plates and paella; Tapas Calientes, hot tapas, app size for 1 or 2 to share.
This was my first time at Toro and I didn’t know where to start! I’ve had tapas before but there were so many options, including some exotic dishes like Uni (sea urchin),  tuna belly, veal sweetbreads, smoked beef tongue, roasted bone marrow, and so on. They offer some veggie selections as well as more mainstream bites like mini burgers, tuna tartare, short ribs etc., but I was determined to be adventurous and try at lease one item that scared me.

Food/Presentation:
Atun Tartare – coconut milk, lime, mint, cilantro, and grilled toast
This tuna tartare was a great size for the two of us. The tuna was diced up small and it had a great refreshing flavor. The mint was a nice touch! They only supplied 4 pieces of grilled bread but we hadn’t touched the ‘bread basket’ so I quickly dove into that. It was also great just on the fork!
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Uni Bocadillo – pressed uni sandwich with miso butter and pickled mustard seeds
I announced on Instagram earlier in the day that I was excited to try Toro for the first time and my friend, The Rooftop Gourmet, commented that he highly suggested the Uni sandwich. I knew uni was something creepy and it was confirmed by our waitress that it is in fact sea urchin. She also recommended the dish so Shannon and I went for it! It was definitely rich as she said, and the miso butter had a strong flavor. I don’t know that I would ever try uni on it’s own, but if you’re looking to try something adventurous I would suggest this Uni Bocadillo. It reminded me of pâté, in the sense that it was a very different, strong & rich flavor.
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Panza de Cerdo – crispy pork belly with roasted pumpkin, chestnuts, chantenay carrots and kimchi vegetables
Typically when I’m eating any kind of meat I avoid the fatty pieces, but in ordering pork belly we essentially ordered fat! The top layer was perfectly crispy and crunchy which countered the chewy fatty belly. The roasted pumpkin puree was the most flavorful pumpkin anything I think I’ve ever had. This wasn’t the easiest dish to share since it was tough to cut the fatty parts in half, but we were eventually able to shred it apart and enjoy!
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Empanada de Pollo y Papas – housemade chicken & potato empanada with tomatillo salsa y alioli
I love empanadas but am always hesitant to order them in restaurants. I’m not trying to be ‘too cool for school’, but on my honeymoon in Costa Rica my husband and I went on an ATV excursion and as part of the tour you stop at this shack-like bar at the top of a mountain. Inside were 2 women serving up the most fresh and authentic Costa Rican cuisine you can get. At the suggestion of our tour guide we ordered 1 bean empanada and 1 cheese empanada. The food was simple but so incredible. Ever since, no other empanada has compared. Toro‘s version was great though and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from ordering it!

Toro's Empanadas

Toro’s Empanadas

Costa Rica mountain top

Costa Rica mountain top

Rancho Shadday

Rancho Shadday

The owners, making the best bean & cheese expands I'll ever have

The owners, making the simplest/best bean & cheese empanadas I’ll ever have


Restroom
: Deep red walls, warm lighting, bull-fighting posters… the private-room uni-sex restrooms had themed decor which I alway love. Extra points for the Xlerator hand dryer!
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restroom wall

restroom wall

Service: Our waitress was informative and helped me pick out a dry white wine when I didn’t recognize any on the list. She made great suggestions, like the uni sandwich. All of our food came out in a steady series with good timing, which is always a challenge at tapas restaurants; you don’t want all of the dishes at once but you also don’t want to have a long wait in between receiving the plates. Toro did a great job with this.

Overall: Shannon and I had a really great time at Toro! It’s lively and incredibly busy on a Saturday night, and ever other night I hear. There are tables, high tops and bar seating. Because it is so popular and not that big of a restaurant you don’t have much personal space and the tables (at least the one we were at) are small. None of this bothered me though; it’s a fun atmosphere, the food was awesome, and the service was on par. If you haven’t been I highly recommend it. They don’t take reservations and there’s often a long wait so be prepared!

The Perfect Bite: Cripsy pork belly with roasted pumpkin puree.

toro-restaurant.com
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Cinquecento

courtesy of Cinquecento

courtesy of Cinquecento

Cinquecento is the Aquitaine Group’s newest addition in the South End, replacing Rocca‘s old spot at 500 Harrison Avenue. The space has a whole new look with wooden floors and tables, brown hues, pillars of wine, dark leather booths, and creative lighting. Walking up the illuminated staircase to the space shuttle-like hostess stand we were already excited…

courtesy of Cinquecento

courtesy of Cinquecento

courtesy of Cinquecento

courtesy of Cinquecento


Bread
: Slices of soft, fresh Italian bread was brought to our table in a cloth wrapped basket. I dipped a piece in the EVOO that was poured at the table, and sprinkled a bit of salt from the small wooden bowl. Great bread, and would be perfect for mopping up pasta sauce!

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Menu: Antipasti, Zuppa e Insalate, Salumi, Paste, Pesce e Carne, Piatta del Giorno, Contorni. Each menu item is listed in Italian with English descriptions. There were a few apps I wanted to try and couldn’t decide between a pasta or fish for my entree. Luckily my friends wanted to split some starters so I was able to try a few items.

Food/Presentation:
Bruschetta con Burrata e Speck – Burrata, Speck & Pignoli-Currant Marmellata
This may be one of my biggest pet peeves… Based on the Bruschetta description any diner would assume this appetizer would come with a few pieces of bread. I can’t understand how any restaurant can justify selling 1 slice of bread (with toppings) for $6.75. Plates like this should be adjusted based on the number of people in the party. Or reduce the size of the bread/ingredients and give us 2 freakin’ slices on the plate at least! I love burrata, which is why I wanted to try this app, but overall I don’t think it’s worth it (especially if you’re not dining alone!).
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Ricotta Fresca – Warm Ricotta, Olive Oil, Grilled Bread
This was the best of the 2 apps we tried. The ricotta was warm and drizzled with EVOO, perfect for spreading on the grilled bread. The cheese/bread ratio was off but thankfully we had enough in the bread basket.
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Branzino con Scarola Brasata e Funghi – Sea Bass, Braised Escarole & Wild Mushrooms
I asked to replace the mushrooms with brussels sprouts, and the waitress was honest with me and said the amount of mushrooms in this dish is so small that I wouldn’t receive many brussels sprouts. Instead they gave me a full side of Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta for $2 (rather than the $5.75 it is listed for). The sea bass was great and the sauce it was soaking in was excellent, you could have dipped just about anything in there. The brussels sprouts were also a good choice, with tiny chunks of pancetta and seasoned with some lemon.
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Service: Our waitress was great but the timing at the beginning was a bit off. Our appetizer order was taken and the plates were delivered before the bread. We also had not ordered our entrees yet so we still had our menus which made for a cluttered table. Once the bread arrived I was even more overwhelmed but eventually our waitress came over and apologized for not being on top of things. Everything else was cleared and delivered in a timely manner so the slight misstep wasn’t a huge deal.

Restroom: The women’s room has 4 stalls with white titled walls and dark brown wooden doors. A white ceramic trough sink sits underneath 2 large mirrors. There’s also a full length mirror which I always appreciate.
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Overall: My girlfriends and I really enjoyed our evening at Cinquecento. We all started with the Minuetto cocktail (Grey Goose Vodka, Elderflower Liqueur, Grapefruit Cordial, Lemon & Prosecco) which was a hit. We split the 2 appetizers and agreed the Ricotta stole the show. Among my entree, the Veal & Prosciutto Saltimbocca, and the Sogliola al Cartoccio (Fluke in Parchment), the majority preferred the latter but everything I tasted was really good. I didn’t love the Grilled Calamari that Angela got with the Endive Salad as her entree, but that’s more of a texture issue for me then the taste of the actual dish.
Prices aren’t cheap but they’re also not too outrageous; Antipasti, Soups and Salads ranges from $6.50 – $13.50, while the Pastas and Entrees are between $14.25 – $28.50 with the Rib Eye taking the top dollar spot. We all agreed we need to return to try different dishes, my choice being the Gnocchi al Sugo di Cinghiale (Gnocchi with Wild Boar, Golden Raisins, Pignoli & Pecorino).

The Perfect Bite: Warm ricotta spread on grilled bread with a sprinkle of salt.

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http://www.cinquecentoboston.com

For more food photos from the evening visit my Facebook Page, Twitter feed, or follow me on Instagram (@theperfectbiteboston)!

Abby Lane

 I was excited to learn that Jason Santos was expanding throughout Boston with Abby Lane. I’ve been the sister restaurant Blue Inc. a few times and love their creative cocktails, seasonal fare, and bar bites. After viewing Abby Lane‘s online menu and seeing the options of pizzas, sandwiches, meat, and seafood, I knew it would be a great spot to take my parents and husband.  Located in the Theater District, it’s an easy walk from the Ritz-Carlton parking garage as well as the Boston Common lot, perfect for out of town (and in town) theater-goers.

Bread: White rolls were brought out in a metal basket with a small scoop of butter in a glass bowl. There’s no easy way to say that the bread was extremely disappointing. Somewhat dry, not particularly warm or doughy, something you’d expect from a fast food pizza joint. At Jason Santos’s Blue Inc. they serve amazing pretzel rolls with a mustard butter – to die for! Not sure how he missed the bread mark at Abby Lane. Luckily the food improved from here…
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Menu: Appetizers & Small Plates, Soups & Salads, Individual Pizzas, Burgers & Sandwiches, Main Entrees, On The Side. At first glance I was impressed with the options and variety, but as I studied further nothing really caught my eye as innovative or that intriguing. I usually like ordering 2 plates, whether it’s soup & salad, app & salad, app & ½ pasta etc. A few apps looked good but the salad selection is really generic: House, Wedge, Caesar, Greek. Nothing creative about it! There are some entrees I could have ordered (Pork Tenderloin, Salmon, Ahi Tuna) but as the pizza section was the most interesting I couldn’t resist.

Food/Presentation:
Pizza Sicilian – prosciutto, mission figs, goat cheese, fresh arugula
And even though the menu didn’t state it, my pizza came with caramelized onions, which didn’t mix well with the other ingredients but I like onions so wasn’t complaining. This pizza was a good individual size with 6 slices. Toppings were plentiful and they did not skimp on the figs whatsoever. Based on the taste and size of this pizza I definitely recommend this section of the menu; all of the options look great (Margherita, Buffalo, Bianco, Calamari!).
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Restroom: The ladies room has 5 stalls, white tiled walls, and a crisp & clean granite counter-top with 2 automatic sinks. A large wicker bin acted as a trash barrel.
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Service: The service was great; our waitress was friendly, informative, and attentive with refills. Only Matt ordered a first and second course, but each came out on time without overlapping.

Overall: Abby Lane is a nice addition to the Theater District with its Contemporary American cuisine, close proximity to multiple theaters, and casual & modern atmosphere. With 2 stories there is plenty of seating, each level complete with a bar, banquettes &  free-standing tables, and large windows for people watching on Tremont Street. Prices are reasonable with Apps & Small Plates topping out at $15, Pizzas at $12, and Sandwiches reaching $17 (thanks to the lobster roll). Entrees are $16 – $28 with the Grilled 8oz. Filet Mignon taking the top price.

The Perfect Bite: Pizza Sicilian with all of the toppings (minus the caramelized onion mistake).


www.abbylaneboston.com

courtesy of the Abby Lane website

courtesy of the Abby Lane website

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page, follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram!
www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston
www.twitter.com/PerfectBiteBos
Instagram – @theperfectbiteboston

The Paramount

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Bread: Five slices of soft focaccia type bread was brought for the 5 of us, served with a dipping sauce that we determined was a thinner type of hummus. Great way to start the meal.
bread

Menu: Appetizers, Salads, Beacon Hill Grill (burgers & sandwiches), Entrees (pastas, fried chicken, noodles, and tacos), Paramount Classics (fish, steaks, chicken), Side Dishes. Each section had plenty to choose from and I was eyeing a few dishes from each category. The Salmon Burger, Black Bean Burger, Sweet BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos… they’ll all have to wait for my next few visits. They also offered a few specials which included a soup, salad and a couple of entrees.

Food/Presentation:
BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad: black beans, sweet corn, tortilla strips, sliced avocado, jack cheese, tomatoes, ranch dressing
This salad is a perfect dinner size serving, with a mound of chopped BBQ chicken and plenty of toppings. I substituted the ranch dressing for lime-avocado vinaigrette which was a great move. Lots of flavor and a perfect combination of extras!
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Restroom: A one room/stall restroom with minimal space to decorate. The brick wall added a bit of character.
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Overall: This was my first time at The Paramount in Beacon Hill and I was pleasantly surprised. They have a great variety of menu items at decent prices, with entrees topping out at $20. The food is mainly American cuisine with a few Mexican influences of “made to order” guacamole and tacos, and Asian inspirations seen in teriyaki glazed items and the random Pad Thai entrée. There’s enough on the menu to please everyone’s palate and wallets. I’m dying to return for their cafeteria-style brunch. I hear it’s one of the best in the city!

The Perfect Bite: A giant forkful of BBQ chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, and tortilla strips dipped in the lime-avocado vinaigrette.

http://www.paramountboston.com

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

 

Not Your Average Joe’s


On Monday November 12th I was invited to a VIP tasting at the Medford location of Not Your Average Joe’s where they were introducing their fall/winter menu. I’ve been to the Westborough location multiple times and have always had a great meal, so I was really looking forward to the evening. If you’re not familiar with the restaurant, Not Your Average Joe’s offers what I’d call upscale bar food. They use fresh ingredients and every menu item is made from scratch so you’re able to add or omit specific ingredients in order to adjust dishes to your liking. Joe’s prides themselves on quality food at a great price – you won’t ever see a menu item over $20! (however some specials which include prime items like lobster may stretch a tad over…)

Executive Chef of the Medford location, Gene Mendes, prepared the following dishes for us…

Poached Pear and Blue Cheese Flatbread
red wine poached pears, grilled hill blue cheese, candied pecans and craisins
This flatbread certainly has enough sweet components that balance out the strong and savory blue cheese. The pears were a good consistency (not too mushy) and there was a bit of each ingredient on every piece which is important. I sure did help myself to 2 pieces!

Short Rib Pretzel Bites
red wine braised short ribs over pretzel bread with spicy mustard and crispy onion strings
This appetizer – my favorite dish of the evening – was inspired by trips to NYC, most likely by the street vendors you see on every block. A small mound of short ribs was piled on the soft pretzel bread and topped with onion strings and a drizzle of spicy mustard. I adore all mustard – except yellow – and this one was really excellent; spicy without being over powering. I of course went back for round two…

Meat Lovers Pizza
mello’s spicy linguica, zoe’s cured salami and italian sausage, with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella
I enjoy Italian meats in small doses so this pizza isn’t exactly up my alley but I enjoyed the small slice I tasted. It had a thin crust base with a doughy end, and small pieces of each meat throughout.

Poached Pear Spinach Salad
red wine poached pears, great hill blue cheese, candied pecans, craisins, baby spinach and crispy onion
strings with warm maple vinaigrette
This dish is the salad version of the flatbread mentioned above. Served with warm maple vinaigrette, this sweet salad is perfect for the winter months. These ingredients go great together but I could have done without the onion strings.

Pear Spinach Salad - full portion

Pear Spinach Salad – full portion

Pear Spinach Salad - tasting

Pear Spinach Salad – tasting


Farmer’s Market Chicken Carbonara

grilled chicken breast with fettuccine tossed in a light white wine cream sauce with country bacon, grilled fresh corn, grape tomatoes, asparagus, and grilled red onions
I typically don’t love Carbonara as it tends to be heavy, rich, and filling. This version however was light but still quite flavorful. I loved the vegetable addition of corn and asparagus!

Carbonara - full portion

Carbonara – full portion

Carbonara - tasting

Carbonara – tasting


Smokehouse Jambalaya

andouille sausage, tasso ham, mello’s spicy linguica, shredded chicken, shrimp, veggies and rice simmered in a cajun-spiced tomato broth (gluten free!)
I don’t know that I’ve ever had Jambalaya and I’m not sure I’d ever order it but this dish was pretty good. It’s hard to go wrong with rice, chicken and veggies, and there was just enough spice to give it a solid kick without being overly spicy.

Jambalaya - full portion

Jambalaya – full portion

Jambalaya - tasting

Jambalaya – tasting


Vietnamese Salmon
curry spices, rice noodles, sugar snap peas, fresh herbs, chopped peanuts in a lime-infused chili broth (gluten free!)
This Vietnamese inspired entrée displayed a generous portion of salmon atop a bowl of rice noodles surrounded by peanuts, snap peas, and plenty of dill. The noodles were slippery and required slurping (things got messy); the salmon was cooked well and I really loved the crunchy peanut component.

Salmon - full portion

Salmon – full portion

Salmon - tasting

Salmon – tasting