I met some friends during Restaurant week at this charming, intimate restaurant on Hanover street that combines southern Italain cooking with Peruvian cuisine. Owner chef Jose Duarte and Mario Nocero work together to create some wonderful ethnic dishes.And during restaurant week a lot to sample. We began our dining adventure with Pisco sours , a traditional Peruvian drink that was authentic and so good. It set the tone for the evening. Appetizers included a delicioous tamale stuffed wiht duck confit and a bowl of PEI mussels with sicilian marsala balsamic roasted shallots and pancetta abruzzesa. The main courses included braised lambshank over mushroom quinoa risoto and three of us ordered the Taranta's signature pork chop double thick served over a saute of giant Peruvian corn and a sugar risoto glaze. It was the largelst pork chop I ever saw, and needless to say, one would have sufficed for three of us. Cooked to perfection, we each took half home for another taste the next day. The quality continues with dessert and included a tiramasu and a melt in your mouth cannnoli filled with Aquava ricotta. The resstaurant takes its name from the Tarantella that translates into an uncontrollable urge to dance...in this case, a visit to Taranta demands an uncontrollable urge to eat. You must go. It's a true dining experience. The one drawback is no valet parking, but there is validated parking ($!) at a city garage a block and one half away.
Taranta, 210 Hanover St, Boston
Make way for another popular South End restaurant, this one specializing in authentic Venezuelan fare. The tiny storefront Shawmut Avenue space (seats 20) is the dream come true of owner Andres Branger, whose 5-month-old eatery is always busy. (They take no reservations, and there's often a wait.) The Venezuelan-born Branger and his partner Carlos Rodriguez have created a menu inspired by the small, casual, rustic eating spots found along the Venezuelan roadside. Their "taguarita" has mismatched old chairs, a vintage tin ceiling, straw masks and old photos on the wall. Family recipes blend the delicate cuisine and flavor of the Andes and the Caribbean.
To start, try some "arepas", the palm-sized pillowy cornmeal breads.Other choices include the "reina pepiade" filled with cool avocado chicken salad or the "pernil arepa," juicy chunks of sherry- and herb-marinated pork. A popular salad favorite is the "palmito," hearts of palm topped with crumbles of Cabrates blue cheese in a zingy vinaigrette with bacon-wrapped dates. Rodgriguez has a secret 10-spice rub he uses on his tuna and chicken. The citrus-marinated raw fish "ceviche" seems to be one of the most popular entrees. Leave room for the side dishes -- fired potato-like yucca, or seasoned rice and black beans. Finish your Venezuelan soiree with either a delicious home-made flan or molten chocolate cake made with real Venezuelan chocolate. Wine and beer only. The one drawback: parking is at a premium. But drive around until you find a spot. It's a happening place.
477 Shawmut Avenue, Boston
Guest reviewer: Waldo Fielding
It is always easy to regard an Irish pub as a great place to meet friends, where the drinks are plentiful, and the atmosphere is noisy, the laughter is loud, and the customers content. All of the above is true of O'Leary's, but there is one outstanding difference -- and that is the kitchen. Not only are there the traditional Irish dishes, but Chef Marc turns out eclectic choices that attract the most discerning gourmand. His ability to offer daily specials is the reason that customers return time and again for an attractive and satisfying lunch and/or dinner. None of the above detracts from the bar and its servers -- Lisa, JP, Ed, Diedre -- and in the afternoon you will meet the genial owner, Aengus O'Leary, who in an instant will satisfy both your thirst and your palate. Try it -- and like most of their regulars -- you'll know that once is not enough.
1010 Beacon St., Brookline
Chef Ken Oringer is at it again, with successful restaurants like Clio, Uni and Tori, he's now set his sights on Mexican cuisine and" La Verdad" on Lansdowne Street in the Fenway area is his latest venture. Hand-made tortillas and tacos are available in 14 flavors!
You can be sure it won't be your typical Mexican fare. There's a full bar, and lots of tequila. The 65-seat dining area does include a taqueria up front where Sox fans can hop in for a fast bite, before or after the game.
La Verdad, 1 Lansdowne St., Boston
The Williams Brothers are making some noise in the North End these days. After managing Mama Maria's for over 20 years, they have transformed the former "Il Baccio" space on the upper end of Hanover Street into an upscale restaurant that offers elegance and charm mixed with traditional Northern Italian cuisine. As you enter the street level space, you're struck by the very "untrattoria-like" look . . . a lengthy, rich mahogany bar that fills almost 3/4 of one wall, marble floor, white tablecloths, dramatic lighting -- a very sophisticated decor. For those who want a more casual atmosphere, they have the lower level that offers much less formal dining. No newcomers to making diners feel welcome, the Williams boys have made a wise choice in their man in the kitchen, Chef Frank Santonastaso, who has come up with a varied and delectable menu. On our first visit, we began our dining experience sampling the seared sliced tuna, the melt-in-your-mouth lasagna de funghi, with warm potato and wild mushroom, as well as the Prince Edward mussels simmered in white wine with mustard, garlic and herbs. That set the tone. On the list of entrees, the winner at our table seemed to be the seared sushi tuna, although I particularly enjoyed my seared beef tenderloin with risotto de funghi. The taste combinations were excellent.
A fully stocked bar, (many North End eateries serve only wine and beer) under the tender care of Ted Kennedy (formerly at Ambrosia) is a major asset -- make sure you try his killer martini. Lucca's is definitely upscale and with the combined experience of the Williams brothers and Ted Kennedy (no relation, by the way) they have moved the seemingly restaurant-saturated North End eateries up a major notch. One drawback (soon to be remedied) -- there is no valet parking. Validated parking is available at the nearby Haymarket Garage. They're open for dinner nightly from 5 p.m. An extensive bar menu is served till 12:15 every night, cocktails till one.
226 Hanover Street, Boston
The Red Fez
Guest Reviewer: Chef Argold, Brookline
The hot new spot is the Red Fez located on bombed-out Washington Street about a block and a half from Holy Cross Cathedral. The decor is quite attractive and comfy. Architecturally they did well, leaving the warm sand-blasted brick walls with new hardwood and marble floors and soft lighting. The Red Fez is a fun place. Take your No.1 and a few friends and you'll have a great time. It is not where you go to celebrate the grand promotion or your in-laws 50th anniversary. It's for good food and fun. Focus on an assortment of their Middle Eastern appetizers with their wonderful flat-bread dipped in herbed olive oil. The hummus, tabbouleh, spicy lamb meatballs, spinach and cheese Sanbusak, and the red mullet -- all great and fun to share. For entrees we liked Kefta skewers of minced lamb and beef served with a cumin-yogurt sauce and grilled Vidalia onions; also char-grilled skewers of chicken served with a stack of grilled vegetables and a tahini sauce. Save room for dessert. We shared a delightfully fruity Strawberry Napoleon in a fresh citrus-sauce and a rich but deliciously chilled chocolate tart. Their coffee is Turkish and the Moroccan mint tea is worth lingering over. Moderately priced, comfortably rehabbed -- a fun place with good food.
The Red Fez
1222 Washington St, Boston
Lydia Shire's former Pignoli restaurant has undergone a name and ownership change. The newest gourmet entry in that burgeoning area is the work of two-thirds of the Radius team, Chef Michael Schlow and Christopher Myers. The menu still remains classic Italian, with antipasti (Pappa al Pomodoro, spicy calamari), and five different pasta dishes, including a garlicky delicious Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. The "secondi dishes feature, crispy "pollo" and pan roasted halibut with sweet and sour peppers. Everyone, wait staff and diners, seems to be happy. An all-Italian wine list accompanies your meal. The restaurant has become very popular, and at dinnertime, the noise level gets a little crazy, but maybe that's the way it should be in a restaurant whose name translated means "crazy way."
79 Park Plaza, Boston
La Casa de Pedro
Watertown Square is a happening place these days with a growing legion of ethnic restaurants that are popping up all over Main and Mount Auburn Streets. Hole-in-the-wall, funky, fun places. This tiny spot (17 tables) features South American, Venezuelan cuisine, and is actually run by a man called Pedro. The menu features traditional fare such as yucca, sausage, plantains, arepas, ceviche and empanadas. The large portions are not pricey. The wait staff is just happy you're there and ready to serve you their home-made sangria that will put you in a happy mood. No full bar. Plenty of parking in the rear. They serve lunch Tues.-Fri., Dinner Tues.-Sat. 5:30-9 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.
La Casa de Pedro
52 Main Street
As a movie buff, I expected to see Rick and Lisa at Rick's Café, the fictionalized hangout in the film "Casablanca." Although Bogart and Bergman were nowhere to be found, this newest dining jewel in the heart of Charlestown's Main Street conjured up romantic memories of Morocco with its authentic food and decor lovingly created by the husband wife team of Heike and Samad Noamad. Both of them bring special strengths to the enterprise . . . she, serving as hostess and decorator (she actually imported authentic Moroccan furniture from her mother-in-law's house in Casablanca). Moroccan fabric, art, and handcrafted items abound in the main dining room and bar and in the nook where our party dined, seated on comfortable, colorful couches.
Not only is the decor authentic, but the food prepared by chef Samad was definitely Moroccan-inspired. For appetizers we began with "harissa tuna tartar," spicy yellow fin tuna, adorned with mango salad and lemon and cilantro vinaigrette. The tasty "tagra," Moroccan spiced crab cakes, also set us up for the entrees that included a special lamb shank where " the meat fell off the bone." We also tasted another lamb dish, "Lamb Kadra," spiced rack of lamb, with fennel mash, haricots verts and cilantro-roasted potatoes. If you fancy duck, make sure you try the "Canard au Tassirgal," pan-crisped duck breast, glazed prunes, baby turnips with chive couscous.. Make sure you leave room to linger over the variety of desserts. Our palates relished the home-made sorbet assortment and the melt-in-your-mouth crème de caramel. A cup of strong coffee kept the Moroccan mood intact as, satisfied and satiated, we headed out into the fog-shrouded night hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of Rick and Lisa.
83 Main St., Charlestown
Betty's Wok and Noodle Diner (New Review!)
Next time you're going to Symphony Hall or the Huntington Theatre, stop in at one of the few good eateries in the area, a funky retro restaurant that offers Asian fusion with Cuban and Asian influences. For appetizers, try the golden shrimp rangoon -- a light pastry shell filled with cream cheese and shrimp. We also tried their version of fried onion rings, a heaping platter with a curried flavor. There are chicken and beef dishes, along with rice or noodles. Soup is prepared with your choice of seven different sauces, including Cantonese, Hoisin, a dark, rich velvety sweet, Cuban Chipolte -- citrus, spicy with hints of orange and chili, to Thai-kiki, a sweet and sour sauce. The dishes come with stir-fry vegetables and your choice of jasmine or brown rice. The vegetables, rice and sauce make for a hearty repast. The portions are huge, healthy and hearty. You might want to share, or plan to take home some of the goodies. Beer and wine and specialty drinks are offered. Service is friendly, and best of all, you won't have to take out a second mortgage. And since my wife's name is Betty, it's gotta be good -- she's already addicted, and can't wait to return. It's a much-needed dining addition to the Symphony section of the city.
250 Huntington Ave., Boston
One of the more popular South End eateries features Southwestern-style goodies with original high-end creations that should please the palate of most New Englanders with a hankering for the spicy and tangy taste of the Southwest. To get in the proper mood, start off with the house-made fresh fruit juice margarita which will prepare you for tangy dishes to come, including chilled avocado soup, red-chile-rubbed steak and green-chile empanada. The crispy chicken with apricot pinon mole comes with smoky peach salsa. Delicious! Southwestern-style pork chop, chile glazed with roasted corn and stone fruit salsa, is another of my favorites, and check out the roasted salmon with chipolte and horseradish crust (hot). Cool down your palate with the home-made fruit sorbet selections, including passion fruit and mango. It's a little bit of Santa Fe in Boston's South End.
438 Tremont St., Boston
Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
Reviewed by Rene - "Boston's Gal About Town"
Chinatown has one restaurant after another, but this is a savory find! Here you'll find some of the best fresh seafood (Chinese-style) from lobster, scallops, and crab to tanks of ocean-fresh fish, prepared in tasty, different ways with ginger scallion, salted, spicy, steamed, or with black bean sauce. There are delicious poultry dishes, and a variety of outstanding vegetable dishes -- pea pod stems, baby bok choy, and steamed Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce. There are so many tempting noodle selections from which to choose, along with one of my husband's all-time favorites, chicken corn soup. This place is not only frequented by the Asian community, which makes it so very interesting, but it's also a favorite hangout for many of Boston's top chefs who leave their upscale pricey spots and come to relax for their after-hours meal. Jumbo stays open late: Sun. -Wed. 11a.m. -1 a.m., Thurs.-Sat. 11a.m. - 3 a.m. Hosts Cathy and Ken Leung are there to warmly greet you. Try it. You'll be back for more and more and more. Let's hear from you. Write to me at Rene@bostonman.com.
Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
7 Hudson Street, Boston
Reviewed by Rene - "Boston's Gal About Town"
A bountiful beauty sits at the brink of Beacon Hill on Cambridge Street at the corner of Hancock. This sophisticated white tablecloth gem has one dynamite sushi bar offering sushi and sashimi as well as an array of Thai and Chinese delicacies. As you enter there is a welcoming wine and sake bar and two dining rooms. Begin with such delicious appetizers as tuna tataki, sliced seared tuna with daikon radish and ponzu sauce, tasty beef banana rolls with a honey all spice glaze, and many different variations of traditional dumplings. Entrees are served as individual dinners as opposed to the Chinatown family style. Choose from lemon chicken katsu, lightly breaded cutlets served on a bed of garlic sautéed green beans, or scrumptious pan-seared lemon grass salmon fillet with mango salsa and sweet potato mash. My favorite: Thai Green Curry with pan sautéed Tiger shrimps seasoned with crispy basil leaves. Side dishes can be sweet potato fries with fresh lime or Japanese seaweed salad and of course, there is steamed white or seasoned Japanese sushi rice. Noodle dishes are interesting as well. Yang Chow fried rice, satay & curry beef chow foon and their delicious pad thai. Along with the many lovely beverages, there is green tea and for dessert a melt-in-your-mouth red bean ice cream, and coconut or mango fruit custard. Make sure you don't miss out on their wonderful chocolate shortcake with caramelized bananas and ice cream. The family that owns this marvelous place hails from Toronto, and the restaurant is personally watched over by the charming Sharon Lee. Open 7 days a week 11:30 a.m. -11 p.m. Saturday 12 -11 and Sun 12 - 10:30. The Sushi Bar is closed between 2:30 -5:30 p.m. every day.
156 Cambridge St., Boston
Although this restaurant has been a fixture in the Allston area for a number of years, I recently tried it for the first time and I now know why it is a neighborhood favorite and why it has lasted for such a long time. There's a friendly atmosphere, well-prepared, authentic Brazilian food, and reasonable prices. (We were on our way to Scullers in the Guest Quarters Suite -- about 5 minutes away -- and for future reference, this convenient Allston location on Cambridge Street is a perfect spot to dine before or after showtime at Scullers.) With some nice wine and hearty appetizers, including some delicious fried yucca, we feasted on "frango com quiabo," a Brazilian gumbo of chicken stewed with potatoes and okra, and we also enjoyed the mixed grill, flavorful and ample. We even had time for a dessert, a delicious flan "puddin" -- silky custard pudding with caramel. On weekends, there's an extra treat: a live guitarist to serenade you with some nice samba rhythms. Open for lunch and dinner. I'll admit there are other are authentic Brazilian restaurants in the area, but even though it was late in my personal discovery, Cafe Brazil is one of the best!
421 Cambridge Street, Allston
CK Sau has recently moved his operation (formerly in Chinatown) to the suburbs -- a storefront setting on busy Washington Street in Wellesley. And the transformation is good news for those who want to taste authentic Chinese dishes without venturing into the heart of the city. The decor, with softly tinted walls, wood floors, and white tablecloths, enhances the pleasant atmosphere. The extensive menu has the usual traditional dishes from many of the various Chinese regions -- Scallion pancakes, Peking ravioli, hot and sour soup, General Gat's chicken, plus some more adventuresome dishes, including sea scallops with black pepper sauce. Peking duck, attractively presented with slices of moist duck, crisp skin, thin crepes, lettuce leaves and hoisin sauce, makes for a tasty appetizer. The serving is ample enough for three or four to savor. Pea pod stems with garlic or bok choy with mushrooms complemented by an oyster sauce lead the Chinese vegetable parade. CK Sau has transferred most of his in-town specialties, clearly marked on the menu, and the word is out that now Chinese food aficionados have an exciting new suburban venue with fine offerings to please their palates.
15 Washington St.(Rte 16), Wellesley
Blue Ginger has become the dining
destination for folks way beyond the Wellesley border. Opposite the Wellesley
Inn, chef /owner Ming Tsai has come up with one of the best restaurants in
the Greater Boston area. He has taken traditional east and west -oriented
flavors and given them a new twist.The menu changes weekly and your only
problem will be that you can't taste it all. I particularly liked the Shitake
and Leek Spring Rolls with 3-Chile dipping sauce, and the Shrimp Tempura "Cocktail" with
Mango salsa for appetizers. And how about this for a creative combo? Indonesian
Curry Pasta with Panko-Crusted Chicken Breast or Braised short ribs with
Orzo Pasta and Baby Bok Choy. I devoured it all and was more than pleased.
This is ethnic food of exceptional gourmet quality. Get over to the "Ginger".
. . not your ordinary Chinese restaurant. Your taste buds will have themselves
583 Washington St., Wellesley
Lala Rokh Adding to the success of Azita's,
her popular South End operation, chef and co-owner Azita Bina-Seibel, along
with her brother, has taken over what was a traditional romantic dining experience, "Another
Season," in the heart of historic Beacon Hill. The name alone, based
on Irishman Thomas Moore's poem about a young Persian woman sent to marry
a prince she has never met, sets the romantic tone. Decorated with some exotic
family art and artifacts, Lala Rokh has made Persian cuisine a dining experience.
Romantic and refreshingly different.
97 Mt. Vernon St., Boston