The kung pao’s decent enough, but you’re here for the incendiary Sichuan—meat, fish, veggies, noodles, and more-adventurous morsels (duck tongue, pig kidney) that get wok-charred, deep-fried, braised, steamed, and/or boiled in cornstarch-"velveted" swaths, then lavished in glistening puddles of neon-orange chili oil. The punishment comes in waves: serious Scoville heat ("la") followed by a lip-numbing sensation ("ma"). Order the mala dry pot and you can choose your own adventure, Fire + Ice–style, from the refrigerated case. Then brace yourself. 58 Beach St., Boston, MA 02111, 5spiceshouseboston.com.
The team behind Concord’s 80 Thoreau has splashed into Boston with dishes that combine gorgeous local catch and seasonal accompaniments in an elegant space. The rotating menu (smoked-scallop terrine, grilled tuna with chestnut spaetzle) hasn’t shown us a dud yet, and perceptive staffers excel at helping select wines from the intriguing list. 304 Stuart St., Boston, MA 02116, mooncusserfishhouse.com.
The window displays at this Newbury Street boutique are sexy enough to make the most straitlaced Yankee blush. From sheer black chiffon nighties to exquisite embroidered lace-up corsets, the imported European lingerie here is welcome change from the mass-produced unmentionable found elsewhere. The staff is discreet but helpful, offering advice when asked and leaving shoppers to browse in peace when not. So what if the steep price tags can send the heart racing? So does the lingerie, which is why Belle de Jour is just as often filled with men sheepishly selecting lace peignoirs for their sweethearts as it is with women looking for embroidered bra and panty sets for themselves. 164 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Loaf on the couches, chitchat with owner Jodi Malone, or mosey through the well-stocked stacks. This place feels like home, complete with a cat stunning in the front window. And the prices penciled in the front of the books are tough to beat. It's sweet relief from the sour pretension so often found in used bookshops. 1309 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA .
Sweet tooths won't be able to resist the convention-defying ingredients in Aliya Wali's artistic confections, among them goat cheese, edible flowers, plum wine, Hawaiian sea salt, and cardamom. 83 Pembroke St., Boston, MA 2118, .
A good muffin is a delicate thing. All you want is a little sweetness, not too much butter, and lots of fruit. Your delicate morning palate winces at anything so heavy as pound cake, but you want your muffins to have some substance. Carberry's delivers with flavors that range from the exotic (Lime Poppy Seed, Chocolate Orange, Raspberry) to the homey (Blueberry, Banana Nut, Cranberry Nut). 187 Elm St., Somerville, MA .
Where else can you get Peking duck without calling ahead? 1006 Beacon St., Brookline, MA .
The only people unhappy with the Sevens are those standing in line when a regular patron walks by them and through the door. Some of the regulars should have their mail delivered here. 77 Charles St., Boston, MA .
Executive chef Joseph Ribas reinstituted the century-old tradition this year. 60 School St., Boston, MA .
Everything from rumaki to taco dogs, daily from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., but never on Sunday. Boston, MA
An excellent Eastern interpretation, served outside during the summer months. 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA .
For giving the lie to Attorney General James Shannon's charge that members of Keverian's staff had tried to thwart the two-year investigation into alleged corruption in the Speaker's office.