The 50 Best Restaurants 2012

Our annual list of Boston’s top restaurants. Check out all of our 50 Best Restaurants 2012 coverage.

By Leah Mennies | Boston Magazine |

Oishii boston 50 best restaurants 2012At Oishii in South End, hamachi comes to the table smoking. (Photo by Anthony Tieuli)

OISHII
South End

WHY IT’S GREAT:
This dark, gilded restaurant was designed for a glitzy night out, with impeccable sushi and sashimi preparations injected with a dose of dazzle: Wagyu served in a sizzling rock, hamachi that comes to the table smoking (pictured above), and slices of fish served in a neon-lit ice cube.

WHAT TO ORDER:
Broiled edamame; Japanese-yam-tempura maki.

INSIDER TIP:
The lunchtime-only “Kaiseki” special is a spectacular deal, offering a platter of close to a dozen preparations for a mere $20.

Oishii, 1166 Washington St., Boston, 617-482-8868, oishiiboston.com.

 

OLEANA
Inman Square

WHY IT’S GREAT:
Falafel and hummus aren’t often associated with fine dining, but in the hands of chef Ana Sortun, they become something both sophisticated and sublime. And since Sortun’s husband is Siena Farms’ Chris Kurth, she has access to some of the best produce around.

WHAT TO ORDER:
Tamarind-glazed beef with puréed eggplant and pine nuts; trout spanakopita.

INSIDER TIP:
Combine small plates like crisp fattoush and whipped feta for a tapas-style feast.

Oleana, 134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505, oleanarestaurant.com.

 

RIALTO
Harvard Square

WHY IT’S GREAT:
Jody Adams never tires of Italy, and neither do we, since she’s always showcasing a different region on her menu. She’s also skilled when it comes to New England–style classics like smoky grilled clams with andouille, and Gruyère-topped fisherman’s stew.

WHAT TO ORDER:
Slow-roasted Long Island duck; any of the pastas.

INSIDER TIP:
The restaurant’s new bar menu features adventurous plates like sausage-stuffed pig trotter and lardo with bagna cauda.

Rialto, One Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-5050, rialto-restaurant.com.

 

Russell House Tavern boston 50 best restaurants 2012Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square. (Photo by Bob O’Connor)

RUSSELL HOUSE TAVERN
Harvard Square

WHY IT’S GREAT:
In the two and a half years since it opened, Russell House has evolved into the dining hub of Harvard Square. Now the rest of the city is catching on, thanks to the casual yet edgy plates (lamb-belly toast, smoked pig-tail pierogi) and excellent craft cocktails.

WHAT TO ORDER:
Melted cambozola cheese with mushrooms and caramelized onions; fried pig-head cake with maple aioli; braised-beef-tongue meatballs.

INSIDER TIP:
Ask for the “secret” burger, an off-menu creation with weekly changing toppings like marmalade and sriracha butter.

Russell House Tavern, 14 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, 617-500-3055, russellhousecambridge.com.

 

SALTS
Central Square

WHY IT’S GREAT:
Gabriel Bremer’s bistro is the epitome of approachable luxury. The service is fawning without being pretentious, and the technically advanced dishes—slow-poached eggs on farro risotto, gazpacho with olive-oil powder—wow without confounding.

WHAT TO ORDER:
Atlantic halibut; roast duck for two.

INSIDER TIP:
The tasting menu showcases the more avant-garde side of Bremer’s bistro cooking.

Salts, 798 Main St., Cambridge, 617-876-8444, saltsrestaurant.com.

  • RJ Berryman

    You left off one of the best restaurants in Watertown – The Red Lentil. Absolutely some of the best food you’ll ever eat!!

  • Jenny

    So glad to see that Tres Gatos made the list- such a great spot in JP! The one restaurant missing: Tupelo in Inman Square. At this point, we get it…. Hungry Mother is the king of southern food in Boston. However, Tupelo gives them a run for their money!

  • Janice

    Someone really ought to check out Phat Cats Bistro in Amesbury. I’ve eaten at several of the places on this list, since I lived in the South End for several years. Paul Eastman & Christina Johnson, owners of Phat Cats, chef and baker respectively, are really right up there!

  • Jake Johnson

    This looks like some good food. I will have to come try some of this one day. I have been looking for some good restaurants ma. Thanks for sharing.

  • Alvin Payne

    Good to catch a glimpse of the best restaurants newburyport ma. Happy eating!

  • Recipe Girl

    Hi! Whoa these restos are definitely an inspiration. Hope one day mine would land in this list too! Anyway, I’m actually a chef in our local community, and our restaurant just recently branched out. Problem is, I’m having a hard time managing inventories and recipes! Can you guys give me an advice on this? Thank you in advance!

  • Ian

    Having eaten at Journeyman I can recommend it to any adventurous eater. Their food engages, the eye first, then the mind through palate making it an exceptionally engaging experience. The only place I’ll try things I know I don’t like and be surprised that by some miraculous preparation, I do.

  • Michael Richards

    The clam chowder at Neptune Oyster is THE worst I’ve had in the U.S. period, never mind New England. It tasted like it came out of a can. It’s really watery (which chowder by definition should never be), herby (yuck), and barely even white. It doesn’t really even taste like chowder at all to be honest. They really need to learn the basics of New England chowder regardless of the price (which by the way is ridiculously expensive as are most things at this incredibly over-rated restaurant).