The 50 Best Restaurants
A funny thing often happens at Neptune. You’ll jump through all the requisite hoops to get seated — leaving your cell-phone number, checking your phone obsessively, then racing back from wherever you’ve been biding your time (ahem, drinking) to claim your spot — and then some jerk will inevitably try to slip onto a barstool unnoticed. Thank heaven the staffers are vigilant, and will politely boot him. Because you’ve waited patiently for those hot fried clams, that butter-drizzled lobster roll, that flaky grilled whole branzino. You deserve that scallop ceviche. So forget it, Mr. Sly: These glimmering oysters, crab claws, and littlenecks are ours. >> Order This: Oysters; any fish special listed on the wall. >> Great For: Standout wine list.
63 Salem St., Boston, 617-742-3474, neptuneoyster.com.
No. 9 Park
Every now and then, grownups need to be romanced. They need to feel giddy, and special, and starry-eyed. And there’s no surer path to that feeling than a date at No. 9. A flight of mini martinis will set you in the right direction; seared foie gras with Seckel pears will help you stay the course. By the time you polish off dessert — chocolate pavé with pumpkin and chicory sound all right? — the two of you will be necking like teens after prom. >> Order This: The three-course prix fixe, plus a few selections from the incredible cheese cart. >> Great For: Date night, business engagement, creative cocktails, standout wine list.
9 Park St., Boston, 617-742-9991, no9park.com.
Sitting at the chef’s counter, you should be mesmerized by what they serve. Us? We’re fascinated by what they toss. As the prep cook shaves an exquisite black truffle, stray bits fly left and right. The door opens, there’s a gust, and flecks of gold leaf flutter off the nigiri and into the air. Corners of the prettiest toro we’ve seen are thrown aside as the chefs create uniform slices of fish. We’re seriously tempted to eat off the floor. But there’s no need: With discards that gorgeous, just imagine what’s coming on your plate. >> Order This: Yuzu-cured arctic char; kanpachi baby hamachi sashimi; seared diver scallop and foie gras. >> Great For: Date night, business engagment.
9 East St., Boston, 617-654-9900, oyarestaurantboston.com.
The hard part is finding your way into this barely marked sushi destination. The rest is easy. We head straight for the specialty rolls. The star of this sea is the toro-truffle maki, made with shrimp tempura, fatty tuna, white truffle (!), and sturgeon caviar (!!). Landlubbers will delight in Kobe beef rolls with sweet pear, and quail eggs prepared on a robata grill. It’s not cheap, but attentive service and thoughtful freebies (an amuse-bouche of edamame mousse on a recent night) sweeten the deal. >> Order This: Sakura-smoked hamachi sashimi. >> Great For: Business engagement, group gathering.
1166 Washington St., Boston, 617-482-8868, oishiiboston.com.
If it were up to us, we’d craft our entire meal here out of the first courses; they’re just that satisfying. Chef-owner Ana Sortun’s elegant take on falafel is a must, as is the whipped feta with hot peppers, and the spoon-tender, tamarind-glazed beef with eggplant in the Sultan’s Delight. Also excellent are entrées such as the flattened chicken bursting with za’atar spice, and the clever trout “spanakopita” — especially when paired with uncommon selections from the noteworthy wine list (how about a Spanish Txakolina or a Cinsault blend from Lebanon?). >> Order This: Sultan’s Delight, spinach falafel. >> Great For: Date night, vegetarian dining, standout wine list.
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505, oleanarestaurant.com.