Top New Restaurants in Boston 2016: The List
Our annual list of where to eat right now, from bistros to barbecue joints.
From South End indie-Indian fusion to hipster Jewish deli in Kendall, presenting our road-tested, thoroughly vetted, highly subjective guide to the 25 new tables most deserving of reserving right now.
Craving even more? Dig into the rest of our 2016 Top New Restaurants feature.
Edited by Jolyon Helterman
Photographs by Nina Gallant
With additional reporting by Elizabeth Bomze, Jacqueline Cain, and Brittany Jasnoff
25. Brassica Kitchen + Café
3710 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-477-4519, brassicakitchen.com.
When Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta burst onto the scene in 2013 with their North End pop-up, Whisk, even jaded food snobs were wowed by the fresh energy they brought to the chef’s-tasting genre. Brassica Kitchen + Café, Keane and Kruta’s long-sought permanent home, so far lacks that sparkle. It’s partly the whiplash of a high/low menu that bounces from excellent fried chicken to out-there seaweed tagliatelle to head-scratchingly straightforward duck à l’orange. Maybe it’s a sophomore slump. Maybe they’re simply stretched thin serving daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And yet. If you’d seen these guys play a few seasons back, you’d be sneaking them in as a wildcard, too.
Scouting Notes: See above.
24. Home Taste
58 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, 617-923-0227, hometastema.com.
After a long run on Cantonese-lite, our collective appetite for Chinese food has been trending west—particularly when it comes to noodles. Ying and Kai Chen’s Home Taste is the latest local outpost to peddle Xi’an- and Shaanxi-style gems like chewy, ragged hand-pulled noodles stir-fried with slices of wok-smoky cumin lamb; slippery “cold skin” ribbons punctuated with spongy wheat-gluten cubes bathed in a glowing-red-chili-oil vinaigrette; and tangles of bouncy strands topped with ragu-like pork and fried-bean-paste sauce.
Scouting Notes: Oppressive décor; stick with takeout or delivery.
23. The Smoke Shop
One Kendall Sq., Cambridge, 617-577-7427, thesmokeshopbbq.com.
Frankly, the oak-and-cherry-wood-smoked meats at this stylish new ’cue joint haven’t hit their stride. A ribbon-decorated vet of the competition-barbecue circuit, Andy Husbands has to be wringing his hands over brisket texture that toggles between all-but-rendered, fat-laced perfection and chalky desiccation. The good news: The menu packs enough stunners to keep fans coming in. The fried chicken is solid, the southern sides are masterful, and a roster of “New Style City Q” sandwiches includes brisket dressed with Korean-style vinaigrette, kimchi, and gochujang ranch. Meaning, we’re rooting for a textural turnaround in the fourth quarter.
Scouting Notes: Brown-booze depth to make bourbon snobs weep.
22. Kava Neo-Taverna
315 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-356-1100, kavaneotaverna.com.
With our starting Greek quarterback (Brendan Pelley’s shuttered pop-up, Pelekasis) indefinitely benched, we’ve tried subbing in a host of first-string hopefuls from an almost comically deep roster of new Hellenic contenders. Our current favorite: this cozy Shawmut Avenue taverna, where we’ve taken to drowning our sorrows in a glass or two of minerally assyrtiko in between bites of straightforward yet reliably satisfying small plates (mezedakia) and entrées. Highlights include crispy, honey-soaked psiti (salty baked-feta bites) and smoky, grill-charred, oregano-perfumed sea bass drizzled with olive oil and a bracing squeeze of lemon.
Scouting Notes: Noise-phobes beware. Extra points for framed photos of Greek celebs.
21. Gita at Wink & Nod
3 Appleton St., Boston, 617-482-0117, winkandnod.com.
Gita Kantrow’s Nepali–New England cooking would be a welcome addition to any city’s dining scene, but feels particularly inspired in Boston, where we’ve long been stuck in a tikka masala rut. Most impressively, the self-taught Nepal (by way of Lincoln) native makes fusion fare feel sharp and fun, not gimmicky. Masala fries marry crisp spuds with farmer’s cheese and spicy chutney, while butter chicken comes glossed with a gorgeously spiced sauce as luxe as its name suggests. Kudos to Wink & Nod for another solid pick. We’ll be rooting for her.
Scouting Notes: Perfect basmati: leggy, graceful grains. Cocktail program is bush league. Front-of-house is friendly but fumbles.
20. Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
318 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-730-8100, gankoramen.com.
It’s hidden in the middle of the musty Coolidge Corner Arcade building. It offers only three regular menu items, plus a sesame cucumber salad. But trust us: Ganko Ittetsu will make your (ahem) super-bowl dreams a reality. Chef Ken Iwaoka’s devotion to Sapporo-style ramen—wherein ingredients get caramelized in the wok before hitting the bowl—shows in every spoonful of umami-rich broth, in every creamy five-minute egg. Whether you opt for the shoyu, the miso, or the spicy tan tan, you’ll want to request a splash of black-garlic oil, which adds a pungent allium kick.
Scouting Notes: Five-yard penalty for beer and cider only. Extra points for Berkshire pork sourcing.
69 Kilmarnock St., Boston, 617-421-4470, tapestry.restaurant.
As Fenway-side Boylston morphs into Specialists Row—offering focused culinary explorations of Southeast Asian, izakaya, and more—undecided diners get the shaft. If only there were some safe haven, hidden a few steps off the main drag, where ecumenical foodies could embrace their fusion-curious tendencies. Here wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas would mingle openly with Peruvian roasted potatoes. Sichuan bouillabaisse would canoodle with vadouvan-spiced cauliflower pierogies. To pull it off, you’d want chef-owners with serious pedigree (i.e., Meghann Ward and Kevin Walsh, from Coppa and Clio, respectively). Plus an inconspicuous name to keep purists from peeking in. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Tapestry.
Scouting Notes: The confusing dual-concept gambit, the casual Expo Kitchen versus the more-formal Club Room, feels like fertile ground for offside fouls.
18. Branch Line
321 Arsenal St., Watertown, 617-420-1900, branchlinearsenal.com.
More-delicate palates have decried Branch Line’s heavy hand with smoke. Poor dears. For the rest of us, the live-fire-themed Watertown restaurant—from hospitality kingpins Andrew Holden and Garrett Harker—hits all the right notes. The thick-plumed fog perfumes everything it touches, from crisp-skinned branzino to mahogany-brown rotisserie chicken. But for serious char-heads, the holy grail is a smoldering lovely known as garlic grilled squid, which arrives at the table doused in a smoky condiment made by plunging hot embers from the wood-fired grill into olive oil. In other words: what every one of those obscure sour beers was born to wash down.
Scouting Notes: Two points for patio-side bocce court. Minus one for being closed on Sunday, our usual bocce day.