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

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

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.
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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.

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.

Trade

I’m a big fan of Jody Adams’ Rialto located in Harvard Square. I’ve been twice and each time have had unforgettable meals. When I heard about the beginning stages of Trade I could not contain my excitment, espcially because this concept would be more casual and affordable than the sophisticated and elegant Rialto. It took a few months since Trade’s debut, but I finally made my way to the Waterfront…

Bread: We were not served bread. Which I found strange and disappointing.

Menu: Small (tapas plates), Soups & Salads, Flatbreads, Plates (entrees), A Little Extra (sides). The smaller shareable plates offer a far share of seafood, the 4 flatbreads all sounded appetizing, and the entrées feature at least one pasta, fish, chicken, burger, and steak. I saw a variety of options from each section so my friend and I decided to share the following…

Food/Presentation:
Local Burrata with almonds, dates and balsamic
Two large pieces of burrata were served next to 3 long crostini and topped with chopped almonds. Date spread was smeared on the plate for dipping. I enjoyed the textures and flavors of this Small Plate; the cheese was soft and creamy on the inside as burrata should be, the bread was crunchy & drizzled with oil, and the dates added a subtle sweet component.

Tomato and Roasted Fennel Soup with curried yogurt, honey and Asiago
The soup was drizzled with honey & yogurt (and some unfamiliar leaves); an Asiago cheese stick was placed across the bowl for dipping. I’m usually a fan of anything with tomatoes (especially soup) and this dish was no different. I missed the fennel flavor but enjoyed the slight curry taste.

Lamb Sausage Flatbread with eggplant, Manchego, peppers and garlic yogurt
An oblong thin crust flatbread was served on a wooden board, topped with eggplant spread, roasted peppers, shaved Manchego, mint leaves, and garlic yogurt drizzle. I failed to mention the lamb sausage for a reason as it was more of ground lamb and somewhat sparse throughout the pizza. While this was tasty I was underwhelmed and disappointed in the small amounts of lamb. I expect a lot from Chef Adams, and she never fails to impress me! I was just hoping for more with this flatbread.

Taza Chocolate Budino with sea salt, rosemary and hazelnut wafer
A small ramekin came filled with chocolate “pudding” and topped with sea salt and a single rosemary leaf. The hazelnut wafer was a great contrast to the sweet chocolate and strong salt presence. The pudding was dense, thick, filling, and delicious.

Bathroom: One of my favorite bathrooms in the city, mainly because of the three private stalls! I love the raised square sinks and the bright blue stall doors against the mainly all white restroom.

Service: Our waitress seemed uninterested at first, almost annoyed. We were undecided on drinks and dinner so we asked a few questions about cocktail ingredients and food portion sizes. While she was able to answer the questions, we were somehow more confused after hearing her answers. The burrata and soup came out together and before we were finished the flatbread was brought to the table. Since we were sharing everything it wasn’t a big deal, I was just expecting to have the flatbread after the 1st course. While our server seemed hurried at times, we never felt rushed. Overall an ok service experience.

courtesy of Trade website

courtesy of Trade website

Overall: My first impression of Trade is a great one: I enjoy the open bar/lounge area fit with free standing high tops & banquettes and plenty of standing/mingling space. The dangling bulb lighting gives the illusion of a starry night, while larger domed lighting fixtures decorate the dining room. Exposed ceiling piping gives it an industrial feel, and the wooden tables & chairs with accent primary colors add a modern tone. I enjoyed the food and wouldn’t hesitate to go back and try another flatbread and any one of the entrees. My work at Trade is not complete; there’s more food to try and more cocktails to taste!

Rum Trade and Study Abroad

Rum Trade and Study Abroad

The Perfect Bite: Oiled crostini, date spread, creamy buratta. There’s no cheese like it!

www.trade-boston.com

postcard presented w the check

postcard presented w the check

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