Alta Strada

 The last stop on my Chef Schlow list is Alta Strada in Wellesley MA. I tried Radius for Restaurant Week a few years ago, Via Matta is one of my favorite (expensive) Italian spots, Tico is perfect for cocktails & small plates, and my recent trip to Happy’s wasn’t bad (although I think it needs work). Out of all of Schlow’s concepts I think Alta Strada fits me perfectly.

Bread: A think slice of bread that could have served at least four people was brought to our table as EVOO was poured into a shallow dish. It tasted fresh and I would have eaten the entire piece but we had quite a bit of food on the table already. Our Antipasti were served first and we were then asked if we wanted bread, which I thought was smart b/c not everyone wants that much food.

Menu: The Antipasti Table (where you can select 1 for $6, 3 for $15, or 5 for $24 – all served at room temperature) Primi, Salads, Pizza, Pasta, Secondi. I was having a hard time deciding; I wanted to try some Antipasti, but a few of the Primi selections looked amazing (Lobster & Watermelon with English Cucumber, Basil & Citrus), and the fact that they offered ½ portions of pasta didn’t help! Not to mention the Famous Chopped Salad with Matteo’s Secret Dressing also sounded excellent.

Food/Presentation:
Roasted Cauliflower, Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins
I feel like people are quick to dismiss cauliflower, and sure it’s bland on its own, but it’s very rarely prepared that way. This Antipasto had a nutty flavor from the pine nuts and a sweet component from the golden raisins. Light & tasty. I’m looking forward to the leftovers 🙂

Homemade Ricotta with Crostini
A generous portion of ricotta was topped with red pepper flakes, black pepper & EVOO and served with 2 oil-brushed and toasted crostini. After the crostini was gone I spread the ricotta on the fresh bread which was even better! Really can’t go wrong with ricotta.

Spicy Green Beans with Prosciutto
I only had a few bites but these were as good as green beans can be. Nice and crispy, and plenty of small bits of prosciutto at the bottom.

Spicy Chitarra with Lobster, Shrimp, Tomato and Basil
It was between this ½ portion and the Famous Chopped Salad with its not-so-secret dressing of lemon and cayenne pepper, but I’m really glad I chose this dish. Chitarra pasta is typically cut with guitar-like chords creating long stringy pasta which held this thin spicy sauce well. This dish had a bit of a kick but wasn’t too spicy (perfect for me), and there were a few pieces each of the lobster and shrimp.

Bathroom: Both the men’s and women’s restroom were labeled with an “M” and “W” on a motorcycle headlight. I expected the inside to have more character but it was pretty plain with 2 stalls and one bold red wall.

Service: Gina was trying to decide between the Tagliatelle with Summer Corn, Mushrooms and Pancetta, and the Raviolis. She ordered the tagliatelle but the server also brought out a small portion of the Mushroom Filled Lune pasta dish for us to try! I’m generally not a mushroom fan but I can’t deny that some varieties have an amazing flavor. If you happen to like mushrooms you’d love this pasta dish.
Besides that lovely surprise, our server was really great. As we were 1st time diners he described the entire menu to us, explaining certain dishes and the names/types of the pasta offered. The manager checked in on us as well which you don’t always see.

Mushroom filled Lune

Mushroom filled Lune

Overall: So I’ve completed the Michael Schlow list and I can honestly now say that my overall favorite is Alta Strada! While Happy’s may be considered the most casual of the 5 restaurants, Alta Strada is the most comfortable, consistent, and the menu is right up my ally. The food is top notch with perfect portions, and the atmosphere is sophisticated casual and modern with an open dining room complete with brick walls, earth tones with pops of red and lime green, and chalk boards hung above a long bar. The typically 20 minute ride from Boston took me an hour with rush hour traffic but it was totally worth the drive.
And if you live/work in the area think about visiting the Alta Strada Market on the basement level which sells lunch items and to-go containers of almost everything they have on the menu!

courtesy of Alta Strada website

courtesy of Alta Strada website

The Perfect Bite: Chitarra pasta with a forkful of lobster meat.

http://www.altastradarestaurant.com

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

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Legal Harborside

Legal Harborside sure does have a lot of hype surrounding it, and it should with its vast views of Boston Harbor and 3 expansive floors (1st fl-casual restaurant and raw bar; 2nd fl-fine dining; 3rd fl-roof deck and sushi bar). I’ve heard of celebrities and Patriot players frequenting the 3rd floor and just about every 20-something I know has had a cocktail at this new waterfront hot spot. With a revitalized dinner menu and beautiful patio space, it was about time I give this Legal establishment a try!

1st floor, view from our table

1st floor, view from our table

1st fl, showing the circular bar

1st fl, showing the circular bar

Bread: Typical Legal’s rolls (forgot to snap a pic!), served hot with packets of butter. Sure the whole Legal Harborside menu concept is different, but there’s no reason to change these simple yet delicious rolls!

Menu: On the Half Shell, Plates to Share, Starters, Chowders & Salads, Ode to Inman Square, Pasta & Sandwiches, Wood Burning Grill. As you can see there are many options to choose from and I couldn’t decide if I was in the mood for a lighter salad or more of a hearty meal like the fish (or braised short rib) tacos. Being we were at a seafood restaurant I went with the Crabmeat Salad as my entrée.

Food/Presentation:
Bruschetta (served on toasted crostini):
First off, I’m not sure why they even call it Bruschetta. Good thing there’s the disclaimer of “served on toasted crostini” or else there may be some unhappy campers.

Grilled Corn, Chipotle Cream, Cilantro
Fresh corn with a bit of a kick from the chipotle cream, really good. I would have loved to pour this onto a salad with some avocado and chopped tomatoes!
Whipped Gorgonzola & Fig Jam
As the description said “fig jam” I was pleasantly surprised to see whole figs on the crostini. I adore figs so I enjoyed this one but could have used a bit more whipped gorgonzola.

Crabmeat Salad: avocado, tomato, cucumber, egg, whole grain mustard dressing
A generous portion of crabmeat was piled onto ½ of an avocado, surrounded by tomato wedges, cucumber slices, and hard boiled egg. It would have been more salad-like if they chopped all of the items and placed the crabmeat on top, but that’s just me being picky (and lazy). The dressing was excellent, and the veggies appeared to be fresh… I just always forget that I don’t love crabmeat (unless it’s in sushi). This meal wasn’t bad, but I kind of wish I went with the fish tacos.

Bathroom: There are about 8 private 1-room restrooms, each indicated with a sign to be either a Men’s or Women’s room. I can only image that each one has a full toilet so I’m not sure why they aren’t unisex; the only reason I’m being critical is b/c there was a line of about 4 women waiting for a restroom while there were at least 2 “Men’s” rooms open. The one I used had cream colored tiled walls, and automatic sinks & hand dryers.

Service: I wasn’t thrilled when our entrees arrived while Matt was still finishing up his mussels. Let us enjoy our appetizers! Our waiter Scott did a great job though, warning us that a) the bruschetta wasn’t actually bruschetta and b) the Crabmeat Salad (and Swordfish Salad that my parents ordered) weren’t your typical Salads as they weren’t served with any greens – maybe they need to rethink the titles on their menu.

Overall: I’ve always thought the food at Legal Seafoods was good, but nothing ever really impressed me. I was anxious to try Legal Harborside as this location offered a brand new menu. Once again I walked away feeling as though I had a good meal, but I wasn’t overly excited about the cuisine. I only tried a couple of items so I can’t generalize, and I will note that my parents and Matt really enjoyed their Swordfish and Tuna. While I personally didn’t love the food, the atmosphere and location however cannot be beat. At 6pm on a Wednesday the place was packed; almost every table was taken and the bar was completely full. Each of the 3 floors offers outdoor space with incredible views of the harbor that you can’t find anywhere else.
After dinner we went to the 3rd floor for a drink (after waiting in a 15 minute line!) where there is a large bar, long high tops, and comfy couches where you can sip cocktails and snack on sushi. This is clearly the place to be and I’m looking forward to going back to the 3rd floor as soon as possible.

3rd fl bar (mirror reflecting view of harbor)

3rd fl bar (mirror reflecting view of harbor)

The Perfect Bite: This time it’s the perfect sip of the Yumberry Sangria.

http://www.legalseafoods.com/restaurants/boston-legal-harborside

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