Best Restaurants in Boston 2012

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

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,

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 andwhipped feta for a tapas-style feast. Oleana, 134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505,

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,

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


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,

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,