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Boston restaurants
Our favorite restaurants are marked with a star (*)
Fine Dining
*Isabella Stewart Gardner's Museum Cafe Appetizers: $6 Entrees: $12-14
280 The Fenway / Boston MA 02115 / 617-566-1088
Review date: April 2006
One of the best places in Boston for a nice sit-down lunch. This little museum cafe is a hidden gem with innovative dishes and lovely terrace in the summer. The menu is seasonal and changes regularly. Parsnip soup with smoked scallops and polenta cakes with mushroom sauce were outrageously good on our last visit. Chicken pot pie was very good, but not mind blowing. Bread pudding was the only miss (too sweet and too dense).
Om Appetizers: $10-18 Entrees: $24-34
57 John F. Kennedy St. / Harvard Square / Cambridge, MA / 617-576-2800
Review date: February 2006
Last night's visit to OM left me with one impression – pretentious mediocrity in Boston restaurants has reached a new level. Only half of one dish (the grilled cheese that came with the soup) actually tasted good. The rest was poorly conceived and executed.
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*North Street Grill Appetizers: $7-12 Entrees: $16-20
229 North Street / Boston / 617-720-2010
Review date: September 2005
Next time you are in the North End, do yourself a favor - walk past the cheesy patios and flower baskets and go to the North Street Grill. Michael Scelfo serves some unbelievably delicious and creative food in this remodeled neighborhood bar and grill. Tuna tartar appetizer and rib eye entrée are not to be missed. And it's your duty as a North Street diner to try their fries. They are one of the most extraordinary things that ever came out of a deep-fryer -- an exalted tribute to deliciousness of potatoes.
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Scutra Appetizers: $7-9 Entrees: $20-23
92 Summer Street / Arlington, MA 02474 / 781-316-1816
Review date: July 2005
A delicious mix of comforting and creative dishes comes out of this little restaurant's kitchen. The highlights of this wonderful meal were pistachio halibut and percorino encrusted swordfish. Risottos are wonderful too, but the meat entrees don't seem to be nearly as strong as fish. Very pleasant atmosphere and friendly service make this a perfect choice for a relaxing dinner. With appetizers in the $7-9 range and entrees in the low $20s, this was a real bargain.
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*Ten Tables Appetizers: $5-9 Entrees: $15-20
597 Center St / Jamaica Plain, MA / 617-524-8810
Review date: March 2005
This tiny candle-lit restaurant serves delicious French bistro fare at surprisingly reasonable prices. The charcuterie plate appetizer had me day dreaming for days about creamy pork rillettes and home-made sausages. All entrees were great, but the seafood ones stood out in particular. Sweet scallops practically melted in the mouth and the oven roasted trout was crisped ever so gently as to not tear its fine skin. Crème brûlée for dessert was commendable and bread pudding simply yummy. Instead of overpriced and overpowering cabernet and chardonnay, the wine list offers food-friendly Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and other good value wines from around the world. Best days to go are Tuesday for the 4-course tasting menu with wine ($35), and Wednesday when you can choose any three courses from the regular menu for $25. Reservations are a must at least a few days in advance.
Le Soir Appetizers: $11-17 Entrees: $22-27
Tasting menu (Sunday - Thursday only): $65 ($85 with wine)
51 Lincoln St / Newton Highlands, MA / (617) 965-3100
Review date: December 2004
Le Soir feels like a small town restaurant in France. Its atmosphere can be called "New American", but its food is firmly rooted in French traditions - leaning towards classic cuisine, with some modern touches. It offers a very pleasant experience if not a particularly good value. Most of the food is excellent, but some dishes leave you wondering what went wrong in the kitchen. Mark Allen's signature monkfish was worth the trip. Other savory dishes were also solid, but desserts were very weak.
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*Lumiere Appetizers: $8-16 Entrées: $24-34
1293 Washington St. / West Newton / 617-244-9199
Review date: October 2002
Lumiere is a culinary heaven where even the simplest ingredients sing. The restaurant is a husband and wife operation, Michael and Jill Leviton. I started my meal with the chef's signature dish of seared scallops with wild mushrooms, potato mousseline, truffle vinaigrette and foie gras butter. In spite of the complexity of this dish, all the ingredients came together to create a beautiful and harmonious whole. Jason had a mushroom and crab soup. The liquid was silky, but light. The freshness of the crab juxtaposed the earthiness of mushrooms. We could not leave even the smallest drop of this delicious creation in the bowl and mopped it all up with excellent French rolls. The main courses were equally as impressive. I had a sage roasted chicken breast with butternut squash, chanterelles, potatoes, bacon, and caramelized onions. The meat was very tender and juicy and the skin crisp and full of flavor. Together with all the root vegetables and mushrooms this was the perfect comfort food on a cold and rainy day. Jason's filet mignon with aged balsamic vinegar sauce could be cut with a fork and melted in the mouth. The balsamic vinegar added a touch of sweetness. We were not crazy about the fries that came with this dish, but the roasted garlic creamed spinach was excellent.
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*Grotto 4 course tasting menu with wine: $60 Entrées: $15-22
37 Bowdoin Street / Beacon Hill, Boston / 617-227-3434
Review date: October 2003
Grotto is a little gem of a restaurant, tucked into the basement of a townhouse of a Back Bay residential neighborhood. The decor is relaxed and romantic, the music is jazzy, the food is intense and delicious, the wine is excellent, and the prices will make you smile. Make sure to order their tasting menu with wine. You'll try their best dishes and their best wines for a fraction of their a la carte price.
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*Casablanca Appetizers: $7-9 Entrées: $19-23
40 Brattle St. / Harvard Square / Cambridge, MA / 617-876-0999
Review date: February 2003
Who knew to look in Harvard Square for creative and affordable cuisine? I was under the impression that one must pay at least $50/person for a good and creative three course meal in Boston. Casablanca proved me wrong. You can savor wonderful dishes inspired by the flavors of Mediterranean in the company of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman for as little as $35 for three courses. The highlights of the meal were a grape and fennel tart appetizer and an unbelievably juicy and tender skirt steak entrée. The wine list is affordable and has some good choices by the glass (particularly from Spain). Casablanca is the kind of place I want to return to again and again not only for a special occasion, but also for those days when I am in desperate need of great food, wine, and conversation.
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*Sel de la Terre Wednesday wine dinners: $35 (4 courses + wine)
255 State St / Boston, MA / (617) 720-1300
Review date: August 2003
Every Wednesday, Sel de la Terre hosts wine dinners centered on a particular French wine theme. The dinner consists of 4 courses each accompanied by a glass of wine and an introduction to the wine by the sommelier. At the wine dinner, the guests sit at communal tables so it's a great place to meet other food and wine lovers and exchange tasting opinions. Chef Geoff Gardner creates mouth-watering dishes rooted in regional French cuisine and bakes some of the best rustic breads in Boston. We had to use all our will power not to fill up on the bread; saving room for dinner was worth the effort. The first course, chunky tuna tartar, was light and refreshing and was paired with a bright Bonny Doon Riesling from California. The citrus salad and a dry Taltarni Sauvignon Blanc from Australia presented a wonderful contrast to the silky and flavorful poached chicken sausage. The duck fricassee was a robust duck stew with a rich tomato, sweet pepper, and olive sauce topped with perfectly cooked duck breast. The bold and full-bodied "Cuvee Alexandre" Merlot from Chile was a stunning match to the duck and the best one of the night. Beaulieu Vineyard Zinfandel from California was big and strong enough to stand up to the Roquefort on the cheese plate. At $35/person for food and wine, it's a great deal.
Craigie Street Bistro Appetizers: $9-19 Entrées: $19-31
5 Craigie Circle / Cambridge (near Harvard Sq.) / 617-497-5511
Review date: April 2003
This Parisian style bistro offers the best-priced French wine list that I have seen in Boston. Our waiter did a great job helping us choose the right wine for our meal. We got a $37 bottle of an excellent red from Burgundy (2000 Sorine Chassagne-Montrachet), which was a steal since it retails at $20. Unfortunately, the food was too inconsistent for the price. The appetizer of grilled sardines, young green beans and potato salad was wonderful, but the rabbit terrine was dry and its accompaniments were uninteresting. The entrée of chicken thigh confit and roasted chicken breast was superb. The confit was meltingly tender, and the breast was juicy. The entrée of skate wing left much to be desired. It was fried in corn meal and extremely dry. Nothing on the dessert menu jumped out at us, so we got creme caramel. It was rich and creamy and tasted good, but was not worth the calories. For every good dish, there was a bad one. Our dinner for two came to $160. There are plenty of other restaurants at this price range with more consistent cuisine. Craigie Street does offer a 3-course $30 prix fixe menu that it worth a try, but it's only available on weekdays and after 9 pm on weekends.
*Tuscan Grill Appetizers: $7-9 Entrées: $16-20
361 Moody St / Waltham, MA 02453 / (781) 891-5486
Review date: March 2003
The tables in this pretty Northern Italian restaurant might be too close together, and it might be a tad noisy on a busy night, but the food more than compensates for these slight inconveniences. The highlights of our wonderful dinner were beef short rib and fig cannelloni, and braised beef cheeks with lentils and savoy cabbage. Tuscan grill must specialize in tough cuts of meat turned into culinary delights. The meat fell apart at the slightest touch of the fork and melted in the mouth, its texture so delicate, and flavor so intense. Add to that a bottle of Barbera d'Alba bursting with juicy fruit and you have one unforgettable meal. Next time you are in the mood for creative Italian fare, there is no need to head to North end, battle for parking, pay outrageous prices, and deal with rude waiters. Instead, go to Tuscan grill in Waltham were deliciousness rules, and every entrée is under $20.
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*Dali Entrées: $19-24 Tapas: $4-7
415 Washington St. / Somerville, MA / 617-661-3254
Review date: February 2004
Dali is not just a Spanish restaurant - it's an experience. They don't take reservations, and the wait can be 1-2 hours long on weekends unless you come early (5:30pm), but it's all worth it. Inside those wood doors, you'll find a gallimaufry of decorations that create an eclectic, deliciously seductive world of Dali lit up with candles. The tapas are great! Our favorite one is the duckling in berry sauce. One of the best entrees is rabbit that they serve in a sweet and sour sauce, but I think it is now served as a tapa. Sangria and wines are fantastic!
Cuchi-Cuchi Tapas: $8-12
795 Main St. / Cambridge, MA / 617-864-2929
Review date: July 2003
Cuchi-Cuchi is a great place to have a drink and dessert, and check out sexy and sometimes absurd wait staff outfits. Unlike Dali, its older sister restaurant, Cuchi-Cuchi branches out beyond Spanish cuisine, and serves tapas (appetizer size dishes) from all over the world. Unfortunately, the food pales in comparison with Dali. Blood orange martini and Banana French toast dessert are not to be missed, but none of the tapas were particularly memorable.
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Evoo Entrées: $17-26
118 Beacon St. / Somerville, MA / 617-661-3866
Review date: November 1999
It all depends on what you order. One time we got beef tenderloin with mushrooms and it was the best steak we ever had. The other time, we had duck and goose and it was the worst dish we ever had. It was awfully burnt, as if they forgot it in the broiler. Our opinion of Evoo fell even further when the cream for coffee was sour, but the waitress apologized and replaced it. Maybe they were just having a bad day. The wine list is great. This is where we first tried Benton Lane Pinot Noir from Oregon. It is still my favorite red wine. The service has been consistently wonderful and decor is very cozy and contemporary with cool funky lamps.
Chez Henri Cuban Sandwich: $12 Entrées: $20-28
1 Shepard St. / Cambridge, MA / 617-354-8980
Review date: January 2004
The only dish I tried at Chez Henri was the magnificent Cuban Sandwich, but it was good enough to write about. The deliciously tender pork with melted cheese, pickles, and mayo were pressed together between two soft pieces of bread and grilled to light crispness. It was a perfect kind of sandwich that stayed together to the last bite, and didn't fall apart in my hands. You can only order it at the bar. But now that Cambridge bars are smoke free, I find a bar at Chez Henri to be a comfortable place for a casual dinner. Desserts are tempting, but don't waste your money. They are very expensive and look better than they taste.
La Morra 4-course dinner: $35 Appetizers/Pasta: $7-10 Entrees: $17-25
48 Boylston St. / Brookline, MA / 617-739-0007
Review date: January 2004
We went to La Morra when they just opened, and the front of the house was in complete confusion, but Northern Italian food was delicious. Ask to be seated in the quieter upstairs dining room, when you make a reservation. The $35 four-course menu is a great deal. Sausage with lentils was mouthwatering. The lentils were perfectly cooked -- soft but not mushy. The red wine risotto was done al dente and had a deep meaty flavor. Fork tender lamb stew was served with creamy polenta and silky poached egg -- excellent on a cold winter night. Apple crostata and chocolate bodino (a dessert between mousse and pudding) were both good, but not the best of their kind. The wine list was well chosen and had great bottles at all price levels. The $28 Barbera d'Asti was light bodied and full of red current fruit. I hope la Morra works out the front of the house issues soon, to make the overall experience match the high standards of their food.
Perdix Appetizers: $7-11 Entrees: $19-23
560 Tremont Street / South End, Boston / 617-338-8070
Review date: February 2004
Perdix serves creative New American cuisine. It's not always consistent, but some dishes really shine, particularly fish. Unfortunately, I don't think we could survive another dinner there due to unbearable noise level. We had to yell to hear each other. After the appetizers, I thought the night would be a total loss. The risotto balls stuffed with duck confit were too hard on the outside and dry throughout. The duck was mixed in with the rice and its flavor got lost. Steak tartar started out zesty and delicious, but when the egg yolk served with it ran out, the dish was too salty and briny due to the large amount of capers. The entrees were a pleasant surprise. The pork chop was juicy, tender, and very nicely browned. Vanilla sweet potatoes and prunes made it into great comfort food on a cold day. The roasted striped bass was the best fish dish I'd had in a long time. The fish was crisp on the outside, but very moist inside. Asparagus sauce, and mustard celery root puree provided a creamy base, and asparagus spears and almonds provided a contrasting crunch. This was one of the night's specials, but the 3 fish dishes on the menu looked excellent too. By the time we were done with our entrees we both had a headache and decided not to stay for dessert.
Blue Room Entrées: $18-26 Sunday brunch: $21
One Kendall Square / Cambridge, MA / 617-494-9034
Review date: February 2004
The best Sunday brunch in Boston, and it's only $19. The food is eclectic American with southern and Indian flare. Lamb, salmon, fried plantains, and grits are great! I never had grits that tasted good before going to Blue Room. Desserts are too yummy to resist seconds. The orange cheesecake and caramelized apple tart really stood out. Exposed red brick and classic black and white photographs create a very pleasant decor. Make sure you get there 5-10 minutes earlier than your reservation for Sunday brunch so that you have your choice of tables and will not have to sit next to a never ending buffet line. Great food, service, decor, and live jazz piano - this is the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. If you go for dinner, tuna steak is a great entree. The lamb was very tender, but the sauce needed more body. The appetizer of onion tart lacked both flavor and texture. We think that Blue Room is a much better choice for brunch.
Oleana Entrées: $17-24
134 Hampshire St. / Cambridge, MA / 617-661-0505
Review date: March 2001
The look of Oleana from outside is very inviting so we decided to try it. We had a reservation for 6pm and were 10 minutes late. We were greeted with "You have to leave by 8 because of another reservation" which did not make us feel too welcome. The interior is very pretty, but a bit crowded. The waiter was snobby, not knowledgeable, and completely inattentive. In fact, he only seemed to become concerned about our meal when he was looking over my shoulder as I was writing tip. I was not overly generous since the service was so poor, and then he got extremely worried and asked if everything was ok. The appetizer of bean walnut pate and caramelized pear tart dessert were excellent. The entrees were so-so for lack of flavor. For this kind of money, you can go to Salts and have better food with 10 times better service and hospitality.
*Mamma Maria Entrées: $20-30 Cuisine: Italian
Three North Square / North End, Boston, Ma / 617-523-0077
Review date: May 2002
This is definitely a place for a special occasion. Mamma Maria is a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful neighborhood. When you make a reservation, ask to sit upstairs if possible by the window. The view is gorgeous. The food is no less wonderful than the atmosphere. Their fresh baked bread is crusty on the outside and chewy inside and comes with three dipping sauces: pesto, hummus, and fruit sauce. We got beef, pork, and chicken terrine with house mustards for appetizer. It was ok, but a bit dry. The entrees were fantastic. Jason got halibut with parsnip puree, greens and herb oil, and I had veal osso buco with risotto. Both dishes just melted in your mouth. We shared a peach tart for dessert that was a perfect ending to a very memorable meal. The wine list is completely Italian, and very nice. Service was impeccable. Even though Mamma Maria is on the expensive side, it's worth every penny.
Appetizers: $12-15 Pastas (appetizer size): $14-16 Entrées: $30-40 Cuisine: Italian
504 Main St. / Waltham / 781-894-4280
Review date: November 2002
The atmosphere at Campania was perfect for a romantic dinner - candles, fresh flowers, exposed brick walls, the fire blazing in the brick oven. The service was friendly and attentive. The food ranged from good to excellent, but was never creative enough for $200 bill for 2 people. Many dishes featured luxurious ingredients such as Dover sole, beef tenderloin, truffle oil. Unfortunately the combinations of ingredients in some dishes lacked balance and harmony of flavor. The appetizer of mozzarella and tomatoes wrapped in prosciutto and seared to a crisp was wonderfully intense, but overpowered marinated and beautifully grilled paper thin eggplant served with it. The shrimp appetizer was succulent and delicious. The pasta course was impeccable. Each bite of the tender potato gnocchi was bursting with the flavors of wild mushrooms and truffle oil. The beef and veal tortelloni with vodka cream sauce had a beautiful balance between veal and cream flavors...
Blue Ginger Entrées: $20-30
583 Washington St. / Wellesley, MA / 781-283-5790
Review date: November 2003
Since the chef and owner Ming Tsai has a TV show and won an Emmy, you have to make reservations a month in advance. I don't know if this food is worth waiting for that long. The only dish that we had here that was truly superb was sake-miso marinated Chilean sea bass. I had mahi-mahi on another occasion and it was pretty good, but the side dish of sticky rice was disappointing. The flourless chocolate cake dessert is incredible. Fortunately, Ming Tsai published a great cookbook called "East Meets West." Now I can make all these great dishes at home without a month in advance reservation or a huge price tag.
Orinoco Appetizers: $5-7 Entrees: $12-16
477 Shawmut Avenue | Boston, MA 02118 | (617) 369-7075
Review date: April 2006
This tiny Venezuelan place does not take reservations and does not have a bar, so come early or be prepared to wait -- they are very popular. The food is overall solid and well-priced, but nothing to write home about. Arepas (grilled corn pocket sandwiches) are tasteless, but make a good vehicle for outstanding cilantro-lime sauce. The squash soup with plantains was excellent. Salad with bacon wrapped dates and chicken with fruits and nuts in “polvorosa” dough (unfortunately not as flaky or buttery as the menu suggested) were both good and worth trying. Seared tuna was served rare as requested, but it was in a desperate need of salt, and did not go well with its sauce -- the only real disappointment of the meal. Chocolate cake and flan were average. All in all, I'd rather go to Casa de Pedro.
*O'Cantinho Entrees: $8 - 14 Cuisine: Portuguese
1128 Cambridge Street / Inman Square, Cambridge, MA / (617) 354-3443
Review date: February 2005
I used to think that getting a good dinner in Cambridge for $6 was impossible. Well, I was wrong. Chicken giblets with piri-piri sauce and fried potatoes at O'Cantinho are just such meal. These tender morsels covered in intensely garlicky, red-wine gravy are the ultimate comfort food. The giblets are actually an appetizer ($4), but the portions at O'Cantinho are so generous that you can easily turn this dish into a meal by adding a side of their crispy potatoes ($2). Another great appetizer was a homey potato kale soup. The sardines were tasty even though they were from a can. The side of tender black-eyed peas dressed with tangy vinaigrette, parsley, and onions pleasantly reminded me of a summer cook out. The cod cakes were the only disappointing dish of the night. They tasted eggy, like a thin omelette with pureed salt cod. We couldn't finish all the food we got for $20. Inman square residents are lucky to have such a gem in their neighborhood.
Elephant Walk Appetizers: $7-11 Entrees: $17-26 Cuisine: Cambodian and French
2067 Mass Ave / Cambridge, MA / 617-492-6900
Review date: January 2005
I am a sucker for tasting menus, and Elephant Walk offers them on weekdays. You can get 4 courses for $20, which is a great deal compared to their regular prices. The portions are scaled down to let you taste 4 dishes without getting a stomach ache. The spring rolls were crispy and bursting with juices, but the accompanying sprouts were limp and brown. The ground pork in coconut milk was pleasant if a tad monotonous. It felt like it needed something green to balance the sweet curry. The chicken soup and the grouper with tomato broth could use a boost of flavor. We asked for our food medium spiced, but it was too mild even for our American palates. Overall, it was a lackluster experience.
Casa de Pedro Appetizers: $5-8 Entrees: $12-20 Cuisine: Venezuelan
52 Main St. / Watertown, MA / 617-923-8025
Review date: January 2005
There are at least two reasons to go to this colorful Venezuelan restaurant: roast chicken and coconut flan. Both of those dishes are some of the best specimens of their kind. The chicken begs to be eaten with your hands just so that you can lick your fingers. The flan is the only dessert on the menu and comes in 3 flavors: plain, coconut, and chocolate. Coconut was my favorite -- dense with a bitter-sweet pool of caramel. The other dishes we tried had some flaws. Shredded beef with vegetables was too salty, and shrimp ceviche was just cooked shrimp with salsa - not bad, but kind of boring. I would definitely go back, but stick to the chicken and flan.
*Tanjore Entrées: $9-13 Cuisine: Indian
18 Eliot St / Harvard sq, Cambridge, MA / (617) 868-1900
Review date: April 2004
I was not a big fan of Indian food until we went to Tanjore. It was love at first site and now its our most visited restaurant. Absolutely everything we have tried here was delicious. One dish that we have never left this restaurant without is dosa. Dosas are paper thin crisp crepes with different savory fillings. Many cuisines have a dish of stuffed thin fried dough; and we think that the Indian version was quite lovely. The lamb dishes are fantastic, especially lamb saagwala (with spinach sauce) and Sali Boti (lamb with apricots). Oh, and you have to try their mango lassi (yogurt drink). Professional service, and casual, but pleasant atmosphere make every trip to Tanjore into a wonderful experience.
*Cafe Baraka Entrées: $9-16 Cuisine: Northen African
80 1/2 Pearl St. (near Central Square) / Cambridge, MA / 617-868-3951
Review date: June 2004
Baraka is one of those tiny, affordable, and outrageously yummy ethnic restaurants that makes me happy to live in Boston. Don't let the modest exterior and décor fool you; the Northern African cuisine is in the hands of a real master. The highlights of our meal were little appetizers like smoked eggplant, cheese plate with figs, and chick pea custard, the warm flat bread, and the stunning lamb chop entree. Service was friendly, but slow, so this is a place to eat, relax, and enjoy life.
*Floating Rock Entrées: $9-12 Cuisine: Cambodian
144 Shirley Ave. / Revere, MA / 781-286-2554
Review date: April 2003
We stepped into the tiny room whose only decor consisted of a poster on one of the walls. While the atmosphere was nothing to write home about, the food was simply sublime, and even Jason agreed that the effort of coming to Revere was worth it. The squid salad was full of refreshing herbs, peanuts, and perfectly tender squid rings. The seafood soup was comfort food at it's best - a huge bowl of clear broth, thin noodles, plump shrimp, and miraculously tender squid steaming with the aroma of lemongrass. When we took a bite of Tiger's Tears salad we realized that no traffic could ever prevent us from coming back to Floating Rock. It was a salad of tender slices of beef, red and green peppers, whole mint and basil leaves, finely sliced lemon grass, and roasted ground rice. The contrast of textures and flavors was irresistible - tender and crunchy, rich and refreshing. Although we asked all our dishes to be made mild, they were still pleasantly spicy for our taste. The yummy pineapple shake with coconut milk eased off some of the heat and complimented all the dishes.
*Cafe St. Petersburg Entrées: $12-16 Cuisine: Russian
236 Washington St. / Brookline, MA / 617-277-7100
Review date: November 2003
This tiny cozy restaurant serves authentic, delicious and creative Russian cuisine. The hospitality, food, music, and decor brings up many childhood memories since I am from Moscow. The best part of their fare is appetizers (zakuski) and soups. We really enjoyed their meat zakuski for two. The borsch (beet soup) is fabulous. It comes in a little pot with a pirozhok on the side (stuffed pastry) and is big enough for an entree. Jason had blini (crepes) with salmon and they were excellent. If you are going to get an entree, get sturgeon tsar. It's the only one that is truly outstanding. The other entrees are just ok. But most of the time when we come here, we make a meal of several appetizers and soups or blini. Oh, I forgot the best part -- house cranberry vodka. Also, on friday and saturday night, there is live piano music. Reservations are a must.
Cafe Levonya Entrées: $7-14 Cuisine: Russian
795 Mass Ave. / Arlington / 781-646-9734
Review date: January 2003
Levonya is a great place for yummy, leisurely, inexpensive meals. The cuisine is Russian, Ukrainian, and Armenian. The menu is short, but very interesting, and offers the kind of dishes people from the ex Soviet Union make at home. It's hearty and satisfying. The hot borsch with beef is fantastic. It is accompanied by great pumpernickel bread, and is a meal in itself. The herring appetizer is delicious and not overly salty. The sour cherry vareniki (pierogies) are a real treat. They are juicy, sweet and tart. The lamb kebabs are tender and well seasoned. They are served in a wrap with herbs, and delicious roasted vegetable sauce on the side. Make sure to ask if you don't want your lamb well done. We did not ask and it was overdone for our taste since we like lamb medium rare. The service can be a bit on the slow side, but always friendly. The orange walls, candle lamps and Guy Buffet paintings make for a cozy place to relax in the end of the day and enjoy good food and company.
*The Helmand Entrées: $9-16 Cuisine: Afghan
143 1st St. / Kendall sq, Cambridge, MA / 617-492-4646
Review date: January 2004
Helmand is an awesome Afghan restaurant, with great food, service, decor, and prices - you don't get that often in Boston. Their pumpkin appetizer is amazing. Even Jason, who does not like pumpkin, liked this dish. It's a piece of sweet pumpkin that melts in your mouth, topped with beef sauce and yogurt. Another fantastic dish is roast leg of lamb with mushrooms. This was such a flavorful creation, that I could not help eating half of it from Jason's plate. Yellow walls, subdued lighting, fire place, and painted hutches that hold pottery create a lovely atmosphere. Perfect place for a date or dinner with friends when you want to relax, talk and enjoy great food. Now that the secret of Helmand is out, reservations are a must.
*Oishii Sushi a la carte: $30-40 per person for a good meal Cuisine: Japanese
612 Hammond St / Chestnut Hill, MA / (617) 277-7888
Review date: April 2003
Even Jason, the west coast sushi snob, liked Oishii. This tiny sushi bar with 10 seats serves the best sushi in Boston. The fish quality is outstanding. There are many creative rolls, but this place really shines with sashimi and nigiri. Baby hamachi (yellowtail) was to die for. Oishii does not take reservations, so be prepared for a long wait. Coming on weekdays or really early is a very good idea.
Kotobukiya Sushi combos: $8-10 Cuisine: Japanese
1815 Mass Ave. / Porter sq, Cambridge, MA / (617) 354-6914
Review date: March 2004
When you have a craving for good sushi and you are low on cash, this place is your friend. Kotobukiya is a small sushi bar in Porter Exchange Mall. It's one of many Japanese places of this "Little Tokyo." You can get one of their combos, or sushi by the piece. It's only $1/piece. Seaweed salad, green tea and miso soup make this a perfect meal every time. Service is fast and friendly.
Mr. Sushi Dinner: $16-22 Cuisine: Japanese
691 Mass Ave / Arlington, MA 02476 / (781) 643-4173
329 Harvard St / Brookline,MA 02446 / (617) 731-1122
Review date: February 2003
Great sushi - some of the freshest, most delicious nigiri I've ever had (yellowtail, eel, salmon, mackerel were superb). Very nice rolls -- cooked salmon with avocado was my favorite. Very simple, but pleasant atmosphere. The prices are appropriate for what you get. The service was great one time I was there, and a bit slow the second time, but nothing to complain about. It is more expensive than Kotobukiya, but a step up in quality of food and decor. (Note: I have only been to the restaurant in Arlington)
Fugakyu Dinner: $20-30 Cuisine: Japanese
1280 Beacon St / Brookline,MA 02446 / (617) 738-1268

Review date: December 2003
You must try their spicy tuna roll! It is a delectable creation of ground raw tuna mixed with delicately spiced mayo and wrapped in rice with a little piece of tempura. I've never had a better roll. The chirashi deluxe was big enough for two of us to share. The only fish that does not shine here is eel. It was not as good as in Mr. Sushi. Tempura dishes are wonderfully prepared. They have private booths with glass doors that make you forget that you are in a huge restaurant. Unfortunately ventilation can be a bit of a problem if you close the doors. Gets awfully busy on friday and saturday nights, so either call for reservation or come before 6:30. This place is not cheap, but is worth the splurge.
Viet's cafe Dinner: $7-18 Cuisine: Vietnamese
303 Broadway / Arlington, MA 02474 / (781) 641-2388

Review date: April 2002
Everyone raved about this place on boston.com, so we decided to try it. The decor was very simple but pleasant, but unfortunately I can't say the same about food. The only good thing was the jasmine tea. Deep fried spring rolls that we got for appetizer were a bit on the dry side. For entrees we got the shrimp spring rolls that you put together yourself, and pho (beef noodle soup). The waiter first brought out the shrimp and dry rice paper, but no water to dip the rice paper into to make it possible to make rolls. The shrimp were seasoned very nicely, but overcooked, and by the time the water came for rice paper, they got cold. The beef and noodle soup was well flavored, and came with cilantro and scallions, but was nothing special. Couple of pieces of rare beef tasted great, but the rest of the beef (brisket, tripe, and tendon) were nothing to write home about.
Carambola Lunch entrées: $7-10 Dinner entrées: $10-18 Cuisine: Cambodian
663 Main St / Waltham, MA 02451 / (781) 899-2244

Review date: September 2003
What a wonderful place. I am fortunate enough to work in Waltham and can come here for lunch a good bit. Carambola is a sister restaurant of Elephant Walk, but they only serve Cambodian (no French). Spring rolls appetizer (especially the one with mushrooms) is just heavenly. It comes with lettuce, sprouts, mint and basil leaves that you wrap around a spring roll before dipping it into sauce. Most of the dishes I've had here were all wonderful -- shrimp dish, noodles with chicken, catfish with coconut milk, and Loc lac. Loc lac is my favorite lunch entree. Who knew that beef with lemon grass and lime sauce could taste this good. Unfortunately, when I got it here for dinner once, it was overcooked. Overall the dinning experience was much better here for lunch than for dinner. You get the same exact dishes at half the price and the quality tends to be better. Unfortunately, they are only opened for lunch on weekdays. If you get their lunch box, for only $2.75 on top of your entree price, you can get 2 spring rolls and a drink. Try some of their funky drinks. I had carrot juice with a touch of ginger and it was delicious! The dark and white chocolate cake with raspberry sauce was great too. Decor is not fancy, but pleasant. Color washed walls, cute lamps, and plants by the windows create a pretty dinning room. Service is very efficient, helpful, and professional. You can't help but smile after a lunch at Carambola :)
Tanjierino Dinner entrées: $20-30 Cuisine: Moroccan
83 Main St. / Charlestown / (617) 242-6009
Review date: February 2001
The best part about this place was the decor - dark, sensuous, and romantic. The worst part about this place was the food and the service. Our waitress told us that most of the dishes are new since they were changing their menu, so they did not have a printed copy of all the options available. It was quite hard to remember 10-12 dishes she told us about, and she was not too patient in explaining them. Water arrived almost at the same time as the entrees, in spite of several inquiries. The presentation of the food was artsy and pretentious, and the taste was mediocre at best. Chicken bastilla (fillo dough with chicken and nuts) was dry and not flavorful, the duck was neither juicy not tender. The Chilean sea bass was not bad, but came with random stuff that made it look fancy but was not worth eating, like steamed zucchini. The only dish that was good was lamb with dried fruits, nuts and couscous. Feeling like we still needed something yummy after this tasteless meal, we ordered dessert. The figs with ice-cream were wonderful, but the chocolate souffle was a so-so chocolate cake (for $10 it was ridiculous). It was still a nice evening because we spent it with our friends. If I lived nearby, I might have considered coming here just for dessert of figs with ice-cream and to sit and talk in a beautiful atmosphere. But I'd never bother coming here for food.
China Pearl Dim Sum Lunch: $10-15 Cuisine: Chinese
9 Tyler St. / Chinatown, Boston / 617-426-4338
Review date: March 2002
Excellent dim sum! We've only been here for lunch because that's the only time they serve dim sun. They don't take reservations and the wait can be up to 30 minutes, but the food is worth it. Imagine being in a huge room with flashy decor, tons of noise, and big round tables (if you have a small party you will have to sit with someone else at the table). The first time, I thought that's not exactly my idea of a nice dining experience. But when the waitresses bring over the carts with steamed and fried dumplings, you forget all about the surroundings because you are in dumpling heaven. These small adorable appetizers are made with very thin dough and stuffed with veggies, pork, shrimp, lobster, and fish. Sometimes steamed, sometimes fried, and always yummy.
Addis Red Sea Entrées: $8-12 Cuisine: Ethiopian
544 Tremont St / Boston,MA 02116 / (617) 426-8727
Review date: May 2002
Addis Red Sea is an exotic experience. You sit around a basket table on low stools and eat with your hands. The food ranges from spicy to mild and most of it comes in the form of a stew made from meats or vegetables. It is served on a big round bread with extra bread on the side to pick up the food. I am not sure why it's called bread because it is very flimsy and thin and does not have a crust. It resembled a spongy crêpe more than bread, and did not have any flavor (not even salt). The fact that it was served cold did not help. We got sambusa (pastries filled with ground beef) for appetizer. They were quite tasty though a bit dry and could benefit from a dipping sauce. For entree, we ordered one of the combos which came with a lamb dish, a chicken dish, chickpea paste, lentils, and mixed vegetable stew. The lamb was pretty good, though not comparable to lamb at Tanjore or Helmand. The chicken dish was pretty good but too spicy for me. Since I am not a big fan of spicy food, I would not be a good judge of its quality. The vegetable stew was very flavorful and yummy. The other vegetable dishes were just inedible. The lentils were cold and had absolutely no flavor (not even salt). The chickpea paste was very dry and not flavorful. Overall, this was a pretty mediocre dining experience.
Casual Dining, Cafes, and Bakeries
Za Salads: $6-8 Pizzas: $6-11
138 Mass Ave. / Arlington, MA / 781-316-2334
Review date: February 2005
Za stands for PizZA. It's a new swanky place in Arlington. The only items on the menu are pizzas and salads, but this is not your usual Caesar salad and pepperoni pizza. Many salads skip the lettuce, featuring more interesting vegetables like beets and avocados, and pizza toppings include potatoes, pears, and goat cheese. The pizzas are about 10" in diameter and are big enough to serve one hungry person. We tried two of their specialty pizzas: one with portabella mushrooms, red peppers, and goat cheese, and another with pears, cranberries, and gorgonzola. They were both good, but somehow neither added up to more than the sum of its parts. The crust was good - medium thickness and a little crisp on the bottom. The ingredients were fresh, but everything looked and sounded better than it tasted.
Strip-T's Appetizers: $4-8 Entrees: $9-15
93 School St. / Watertown, MA / 617-923-4330
Review date: February 2005
Don't get too excited - this place is named after steak. It's a cute little joint in Watertown that serves home cooked American food with occasional creative touches. Most dishes hover around $10 and some include an excellent Caesar salad. The fries are beer-battered and very good. The rest is so-so. Fish can be overcooked, mussels sandy, and bread mushy. Most dishes taste like a decent diner fare, but not more than that.
*Petsi Pies Whole Pies: $10-16 Slice of Pie: $3
285 Beacon St. / Somerville / 617-661-7437
Review date: April 2004
Petsi Pies is a little bakery where you can get the best pies and tarts in Boston. Petsi's crust is perfect -- buttery, tender and flaky. The fillings change daily based on the baker's whim. Savory offerings include a rustic roasted veggie goat cheese tart, a mouthwatering spinach sausage tart, and a zesty tomato olive feta tart. Sweet pies include cherry, pecan, sweet potato, apple, and many others. The cherry pie is the best I've ever had. If you come for breakfast, you can indulge in Petsi's wonderful muffins and scones with fresh brewed coffee and a variety of interesting teas.
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John Harvard's Entrées: $9-17
33 Dunster St. / Harvard sq, Cambridge, MA / (617) 868-3585
Review date: January 2002
Great beer, and great food when done right. Their steaks, fries, fish & chips, pot pie, any many other dishes are excellent, unusually flavorful, and carefully prepared for a brewpub. However, it's a large, busy place, and on a few occasions the food came overdone, underdone, or overseasoned. If that happens, you can ask your waiter to replace it. They are usually very gracious about it. Still, it's some of the best food you'll ever find in a brewpub. They don't take reservations for parties less than 6, so on weekends you might have to wait 20-45 minutes. It also gets loud unless you come early.
Emma's Pizzeria A Pie for 2 people: $14-18
40 Hampshire St. / Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA / 617-864-8534
Review date: May 2004
Great pizza with very creative toppings. Our favorite pie has bacon, potatoes, cranberries and cilantro. It sounds like a strange combination, but tastes great. You can't get pizza with toppings by the slice (unless you want just cheese or pepperoni), so you have to get a whole pie and split it. Fortunately, they can put different toppings on two halves of your pizza, so you don't have to agree on which topping to get. They also serve salads and sandwiches.
City Girl Café Lunch or Dinner: $6-10
204 Hampshire St. / Inman Square, Cambridge, MA / 617-864-2809
Review date: November 2003
Great lunch place. Their Italian sandwiches are fresh and flavorful and served on excellent baguette. You can ask for yours grilled. The lasagna and soups change daily, but are always a treat.
Iggy's Pastries: ~$2 Sandwiches: ~$6
205 Arlington St # 4 / Watertown,MA 02472 / (617)924-0949
Review date: June 2004
Some of the best baked goods in Boston. You probably saw their breads and pastries in supermarkets and cafes, but they are not nearly as fresh and delicious as directly from their bakery. Iggy's is easy to miss if you are driving since there are no big signs, and it's located next to a brick supplier, which does not make for picturesque dining. This is not a problem, since they do not have a place for you to sit except for a one small table outside in the summer. But you can bring their baked goodies and sandwiches home, or take them on a picnic. The pecan sticky buns are to die for! Torpedoes -- the long buns filled with prosciutto, veggies and melted cheese -- are delicious.
Blue Ribbon Barbecue Lunch or Dinner: $6-10
1375 Washington St. / West Newton, MA / 617-332-2583
908 Massachusetts Ave. / Arlington, MA / 781-648-7427
Review date: December 2003
Boston is not known for it's BBQ, but Blue Ribbon is pretty darn good. The slow cooked brisket cubes, called "Burnt ends," are fantastic, as is the North Carolina pulled pork. Among side dishes, the baked beans and "champ" (mashed potatoes and collard greens mixture) are particularly good. The ribs have good flavor, but they are not fall-off-the-bone type that I love. Blue Ribbon is mostly a carry out place, but there are about 10 bar stools at the counter where you can roll up your sleeves and enjoy the messy, addictive food.
1369 Baked Goods: $1-2 Desserts: $3-4
1369 Cambridge St / Cambridge,MA 02139 / (617) 576-1369
Review date: March 2004
This is the most cosy cafe we know in Boston. Great place to come for breakfast when you can get their freshly baked muffins. Peach granola and cranberry walnut are my favorites. They also have a great selection of coffes and teas that you can get hot or iced. Desserts are nothing to write home about, though cookies are good. There is no better place to go on a rainy day to relax, talk and read.
High Rise Café Sandwiches: $7-10
208 Concord Ave. / Huron Village, Cambridge, MA / 617-876-8766
Review date: January 2003
Excellent breads, baked goods, sandwiches and soups. Sandwiches are very large; one is enough for two moderate appetites. Service is sometimes snobby. On weekends during lunch time, it's sometimes hard to get a table since they are very popular. They also sell wines and cassis (black current liquor) that is hard to find elsewhere. However, they don't serve the wines they sell.
*Domenic's Sandwiches: $7-8
987 Main St / Waltham, MA 02451 / (781) 899-3817
Review date: May 2004
This small Italian bakery makes the best sandwiches in Boston. The ciabatta bread is incredible. If you work anywhere near Waltham, you must visit Domenic's. There are only 3 tables at this bakery, so get your sandwich and head over to Prospect Hill Park for a picnic.
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Sepal Sandwiches and Entrées: $7-14
17 Nichols Ave. / Watertown / 617-924-5753
Review date: March 2004
Sepal is a family-run restaurant serving Middle Eastern, vegetarian and vegan friendly cuisine. We loved their falafel sandwich. Its multitude of textures and flavor was wonderful. The falafel patties were crispy on the outside and moist inside (not at all the dry flavorless stuff I remembered from other places). The hummus was tangy and not too thick, the pickled turnips were zesty and crunchy. All this wrapped up in a soft pita with letuce and tomatoes -- really yummy. Stuffed grape leaves had nice complexity of flavor with an interesting earthy dimension contributed by brown rice stuffing. Baba ganoush eggplant dip was smoky and creamy, but needed some salt. After I added a pinch, it was delicious and the flavors became more pronounced. In spite of Sepal's inconspicuous location on a quiet Watertown side street, it's worth a trip for a casual dinner.
Deluxe Town Diner Pancakes: $4-6 Dinner entrées: $8-14
627 Mount Auburn St / Watertown, MA 02472 / (617) 926-8400
Review date: May 2003
This is no ordinary diner. The line for the amazing pancakes stretches out of the door and around the corner each weekend morning. They offer plain, buckwheat and sweet potato stacks. You can add blueberries or pecans to any kind you choose. Sweet potato pancakes with pecans are a must! The tea list is very impressive. What other diner serves jasmine, lemon ginger and green tea? No tea bags here -- each pot is expertly brewed with loose tealeaves. We were so inspired by breakfast that we decided to try the diner for dinner. Unfortunately, the dinner experience was mediocre.
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Cafe Paradiso Lunch: $6-10
1 Eliot St. / Harvard sq, Cambridge, MA / (617) 868-3240
Review date: November 2001
Really yummy warm sandwiches on focaccia bread with ingredients like asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, cheeses and meats. Desserts looked great too, but we have not tried them yet.
Naked Fish Lunch entrées: $10-12
Dinner entrées: $14-20
Check out their website for all locations, phone numbers, and directions
Review date: February 2004
Naked Fish is a chain, but unlike Legal Sea Foods it does good fish. Unfortunately, the quality can be inconsistent. The fish dishes are quite interesting, but the fish can be sometimes overcooked. One of their better dishes is the rare grilled tuna over a salad of roasted veggies. It's always a safe bet when I am forced to go to Naked Fish for a business lunch.
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