The 50 Best Restaurants 2012: A Closer Look

For six of the restaurants on our 2012 list, we go a step further by showing you what makes them outstanding. Check out all of our 50 Best Restaurants 2012 coverage.

By Leah Mennies (ed) | Boston Magazine |


Each bite from Tim Cushman’s elaborate contemporary-Japanese menu—every painstakingly calibrated micro sea bean or watermelon pearl that garnishes the fresh slices of sashimi and nigiri—warrants a moment of silent appreciation. So, then: Shhhh.

Order the $175-per-person omakase, and your meal might look a little something like this (one plate at a time, of course).

closer look at o yaAll photos by Bruce Peterson / Styling by Kara Butterfield

a closer look at o ya 1. Kumamoto oyster with watermelon pearls and cucumber mignonette
a closer look at o ya 2. Hamachi with spicy banana-pepper mousse
a closer look at o ya 3. Wild Ivory King salmon with lemongrass-curry sauce, toasted garlic, and sesame
a closer look at o ya 4. Warm eel with Thai basil, kabayaki, and fresh Kyoto sansho
a closer look at o ya 5. Kinmedai with ume vinaigrette and shiso
a closer look at o ya 6. “Legs and Eggs,” petite Maine lobster legs with white-sturgeon caviar and tomalley aioli
a closer look at o ya 7. Squid with uni butter, uni powder, micro sea beans, and shiso
a closer look at o ya 8. Wild bluefin tuna with “Republic of Georgia” herb sauce
a closer look at o ya 9. Salmon with Vietnamese dashi caramel and spicy rau ram salsa
a closer look at o ya 10. Shima aji and Santa Barbara sea urchin with ceviche vinaigrette and cilantro
a closer look at o ya 11. Sea bass with spicy cucumber vinaigrette, avocado, benitade, and cilantro
a closer look at o ya 12. Tasmanian ocean trout with smoked salmon roe, wasabi vinaigrette, and cucumber bloom
a closer look at o ya 13. Shiso-leaf tempura with grilled lobster, charred tomato,and ponzu aioli
a closer look at o ya 14. Mushroom sashimi with rosemary-garlic oil, sesame froth, and homemade soy sauce
a closer look at o ya 15. Seared petite Wagyu strip loin with bone-marrow chawanmushi and toasted-garlic sake-soy sauce
a closer look at o ya 16. Miso-marinated Delice de Bourgogne cheese (paired with Harpoon Rye IPA)
a closer look at o ya 17. Foie-gras nigiri with balsamic-chocolate kabayaki, raisin-cocoa pulp, and a sip of eight-year-aged sake
a closer look at o ya 18. Chocolates (three varieties): Salted hojicha caramel; pomegranate, rosewater, and elderflower; and yuzu kosho, gianduja, and sesame brittle

Kendall Square

Chef Jason Bond specializes in high-style fare with a dose of quirk—much of it owing to the unusual ingredients he sources. Here’s a look at some of the oddities that have appeared on the menu.

closer look at bondir

Just of Few of Jason Bond’s Favorite Things

a closer look at bondir 1. Bronze fennel seed
a closer look at bondir 2. Romanesco broccoli
a closer look at bondir 3. Cascade hops
a closer look at bondir 4. Entoloma mushrooms
a closer look at bondir 5. East Indian lemongrass
a closer look at bondir 6. Birch root
a closer look at bondir 7. Mexican sour gherkins
a closer look at bondir 8. Husk cherries
a closer look at bondir 9. Cherry bark
a closer look at bondir 10. Autumn olives
a closer look at bondir 11. Lemon-basil flowers
a closer look at bondir 12. Crickets
a closer look at bondir 13. Heirloom purple carrot
a closer look at bondir 14. Kombu
a closer look at bondir 15. Chicken mushrooms
a closer look at bondir 16. Waldoboro Green Neck turnip


There are endless examples of this restaurant’s creativity and sophistication, perhaps none as simple as “carrot, several ways.” The dish, which occasionally appears on the vegetarian prix fixe, arrives overflowing with fall’s bounty in every imaginable preparation—from a flat carrot ribbon to cool carrot-yogurt ice cream to a crisp carrot–yuzu kosho slaw.

closer look at journeyman

Journeyman’s Tasting of Carrots

a closer look at journeyman 1. Greek yogurt foam
a closer look at journeyman 2. Shredded carrot—yuzu kosho slaw
a closer look at journeyman 3. Roasted Minicor carrots
a closer look at journeyman 4. Hazelnut terrine
a closer look at journeyman 5. Carrot—Greek yogurt ice cream
a closer look at journeyman 6. Roasted Thumbelina carrots
a closer look at journeyman 7. Carrot ribbon
a closer look at journeyman 8. Nasturtium sauce

Back Bay

Fromager extraordinaire Louis Risoli has overseen L’Espalier’s storied cheese cart for more than three decades, and being guided through his 30 or so hand-selected offerings remains one of this city’s decadent pleasures. You can enjoy them off the custom-crafted $6,000 cart, of course, but also during the Cheese Tuesday tastings that are held in the restaurant’s salon.

closer look at l'espalier

Louis Risoli Selects Five Great New England Cheeses

adas honor at lespalier 1. Ada’s Honor: A tangy goat’s milk from Ruggles Hill Creamery in Hardwick
coupole at l'espalier 2. Coupole: A creamy, dense goat’s milk from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery in Websterville, Vermont
lake's edge at l'espalier 3. Lake’s Edge: A soft, ash-rubbed goat’s milk from Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury, Vermont
harbison at l'espalier 4. Harbison: A tree-bark-wrapped herbal cow’s milk from Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont
timberdoodle at l'espalier 5. Timberdoodle: A semisoft, raw cow’s milk from Woodcock Farm in Weston, Vermont

Back Bay

It’s not enough here to serve the butteriest seared foie gras, earthiest escargot, and most tender buttermilk-braised chicken. A variety of molecular powders and extracts keep the dishes as texturally and visually intriguing as they are delicious.

a closer look at clio

A Peek Into Clio’s Toolkit

closer look at clio 1. Aguni Sea Salt: An obscure Japanese finishing salt, used rather than fleur de sel on meats like Wagyu beef.
closer look at clio 2. Honey Powder: Melted, stretched, and pulled like sugar for a striking garnish.
closer look at clio 3. Chicory Granules: Infuses stocks, sauces, and flavored sodas.
closer look at clio 4. Agar-Agar: A seaweed-derived substance ideal for sheetlike “noodles.”
closer look at clio 5. Menthol Crystals: Reinforces and intensifies fresh mint flavors.
closer look at clio 6. Pectin: Used for chewy gummies, jellies, and pâté de fruit.
closer look at clio 7. Carrageenan Iota: Helps to mold and set custards.
a closer look at clio 8. Licorice Extract Sticks: Ground down to flavor licorice-roasted duck and other meat-based sauces.
closer look at clio 9. Low-Acyl Gellan Gum: Used to create gels.


Kenmore Square

This brasserie simply excels at everything, from expert charcuterie to porky mac ’n’ cheese to, best of all, agenda-setting cocktails produced in astonishing consistency and volume.

closer look at eastern standard

By the Numbers


The number of cocktails (at least) that an Eastern Standard bartender will have shaken and stirred by the conclusion of a busy Friday-night shift.


The number of cocktails that a new bartender at ES will have memorized after two weeks of training.


The number, on average, of whiskey smashes, ES’s top-selling cocktail, sold on average per night.


The number of whiskey smashes that ES will have sold since opening in the next eight or so months.


The max amount of time in minutes, on average, it takes an ES bartender to produce an order of craft cocktails.


Number of minutes in prep drills performed by ES bartenders to test their skills.


* Eastern Standard: By the Numbers has expanded content for the web that did not appear in print. All information courtesy of Eastern Standard bar director Jackson Cannon.



Check out all of our coverage for 50 Best Restaurants 2012.

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