The 50 Best Restaurants 2009
11. Craigie on Main
Low: Globe ***; Herald ***
Tony Maws shuttered the old subterranean Craigie Street Bistrot last fall so that he could take over a bigger, brighter space with an added bar, near MIT. This new Craigie is allowing Maws to do more of what he does so well: producing made-from-scratch (down to the butchering) French fare with occasional Asian accents, using only farm-fresh and seasonal ingredients. To wit: crispy fried Maine clams with baby potatoes and preserved lemon; octopus à la poêle; cod cheek tempura; and a host of excellent pig dishes, from sausages to pork jowl "croutons."
ORDER THIS: Vermont organic suckling pig.
EDITOR’S NOTE: *Most of the available reviews of L’Espalier and Craigie on Main pertain to their former locations. Those scores, properly weighted, were included in our rankings. Both restaurants still have the same chefs and have preserved much of their old menus, and our visits to their current locations confirmed their high standings. **Herald critic Mat Schaffer switched from star ratings to letter grades in 2005.
Low: Globe *** Our score: 4
The restaurant’s name is pretentiously Frenchified (the word, describing American Bordeaux-style blends, properly rhymes with "heritage"), but so what? Chef Daniel Bruce is an undersung local hero, turning out vino-enhanced dishes on a menu organized around wine. A brilliant notion if ever there was one.
ORDER THIS: Prosciutto-wrapped venison loin.
Low: Zagat: Food 26 (out of 30), Décor 22, Service 26 Our score: 4.25
Forgoing the glad-handing glitzy chef routine, Gabriel Bremer instead quietly cooks beautiful food using peak ingredients, like the heirloom potatoes he folds into gnocchi served alongside truffle-poached sturgeon.
ORDER THIS: The boneless whole roast duck for two.
Low: Boston 3.75
Like salmon toro? Here you’ll find it draped over perfectly seasoned rice, or drizzled with chives, truffle oil, yuzu wasabi, tempura oba, and a flash of gold leaf. We find the variety to be a bit excessive, but there’s one thing we never question: the consistently high quality of the raw materials.
ORDER THIS: Sashimi in ponzu sauce.
15. Ten Tables
Low: Globe ** 1/2 Our score: 4.25
The neighborhood eatery that every neighborhood craves, with entrées like swordfish and chorizo "cassoulet" all for $25 or less.
ORDER THIS: The four-course vegetarian tasting menu, which is satisfying even for avowed carnivores.
16. Neptune Oyster
Low: Globe ***; Herald ***
Our score: 4
Would that every North Ender reached these heights: the freshest fish, with just enough zingy touches (caramelized eggplant, cucumber crème fraîche) to keep things interesting.
ORDER THIS: The oysters, of course.
Low: Chowhound *** Our score: 3.5
Icarus was South End before South End was cool, and 30 years on, it’s still serving fine New American fare.
ORDER THIS: The appetizer of simple polenta with braised mushrooms.
Low: Globe ** 1/2 Our score: 4
Thanks to his stint in San Francisco, Michael Leviton’s food reflects the best of California cuisine: immaculately sourced ingredients, cooked with a light hand to let them shine.
ORDER THIS: Fried egg with leeks, bacon, and sauce ravigote.
Low: Globe ** 1/2 Our score: 3.75
Low: Phoenix ** Our score: 3.75
Hailing from the same family as Mistral and L’Andana (which placed #36), Sorellina serves highly polished Italian food for the power-broker set, plus some of the tastiest desserts around.
ORDER THIS: Lemon ricotta gnocchi with rabbit ragu.