25 Best New Restaurants in Boston 2015: The List
1071 Cambridge St., Cambridge,
Could the student have surpassed the master? Chef Dan Bazzinotti makes a compelling argument at BISq, the Inman Square offshoot of Somerville’s Bergamot. No longer under the tutelage of his mentor, Keith Pooler, Bazzinotti takes a deep dive into his offal virtuosity, displaying an expertise with charcuterie and small bites that are as much résumé as repast. To wit: “N’awlins” barbecue shrimp toast, a dim-sum-by-way-of-Big-Easy amalgam that pays homage to the chef’s first culinary gig, at Brennan’s, in New Orleans. Or the salmon tiradito, with cubes of purple potato and chili aji amarillo, a dish influenced by his wife’s Peruvian heritage. Each inventive, thoughtfully composed small plate (we suggest the soy-and-ginger-soaked king-oyster mushroom carpaccio) is perfectly complemented by general manager Anne Thompson’s intriguing collection of vinos, easily navigable with the help of BISq’s crack staff of oenophiles.
7 Moulton St., Charlestown,
The line between good eating and better imbibing is, thankfully, blurring, and no place better exemplifies that ambiguity than John Paine and Michael Cooney’s Charlestown hang. Here you can pair a barrel-aged blonde with crisp maple-glazed pork belly or mussels bathed in a beer-and-tasso-ham broth—each churned out of an impressive 700-degree Le Panyol wood-burning oven. Or sip on a tulip glass brimming with Berliner Weisse, a perfect complement to one of Paine’s pillowy, char-blistered pies (the sweet butter-and-sugar corn with salty ’nduja still haunts our dreams). Not a fan of the suds? How about a bottle of bubbly from the Languedoc, or some funky Normandy cider to savor alongside an expertly prepared tuna crudo? In today’s quaffing climate, you can have it all. Man, are we spoiled.
The Backroom at Moody’s
468 Moody St., Waltham,
For years, Joshua Smith’s house-cured, smoked, and otherwise coddled meats at Moody’s Delicatessen have been landing on the charcuterie boards of top restaurants around town. With the opening of his dim and dapper wine-bar refuge next door, Smith is finally able to explore the full spectrum of his talents, which he polished in the posh kitchens of the Four Seasons. Flatbreads—like his deconstructed Reuben loaded with pastrami, Swiss, and sauerkraut—are cranked out of a wood-fired copper oven. A red-sauce-soaked iron skillet delivers “Never the Same” Wagyu meatballs, hefty and handbuilt from a blend of high quality scraps. And whole, slow-smoked rotisserie chicken, served with spaetzle and a pour-over of balsamic, bears finely crisped skin that gives way to a meltingly tender bird. Fancy? No, just
Select Oyster Bar
50 Gloucester St., Boston,
Like Neptune Oyster, where chef Michael Serpa toiled for years, Select is a tiny fish in a heavily trafficked pond. Off tourist-friendly Newbury Street, diners descend into a tiny, borderline-twee space decorated in a nautical mélange of Jacques Cousteau and Steve Zissou. Since reservations are limited to parties of six or more during peak hours, wait times can be endless—a cruel depravation considering Serpa’s skills with all manner of raw fruits de mer. Armed with some of the East Coast’s most pristine seafood, Serpa breathes new life into crudos, ceviche, and tartares: paper-thin slices of halibut are garnished with pickled pumpkin and espelette, and hamachi is laced with a snappy dressing of ginger and Warren pear. Entrées such as Serpa’s thick Gloucester swordfish steak stippled with rose harissa and cucumber raita are informed by the same clean, never-mundane conception and execution. The only challenge? Making it through the door to experience them.
124 Broadway, Somerville,
When he first opened his East Somerville restaurant, Daniel Bojorquez was like a culinary Icarus, drawn to the flames of his elaborate, custom-designed Blue Barn wood-fired oven and overwhelming his menu with misplaced ambition. Was it French? Pan Latino? Korean? The recent addition of Ribelle alum Dan Amighi as the inaugural chef de cuisine has had a stabilizing influence. Amighi has refined the menu and drawn on La Brasa’s greatest strength, namely the piquant flavors of Bojorquez’s Mexican homeland. Beets are now destination-worthy, thanks to crunchy quinoa and a sauce made from maple syrup and chile de árbol. Pork loin is carved tableside and dressed with ancho chimichurri and an incendiary au jus. Even the humble chicken wing gets the royal Mexican treatment, with a nuanced, 12-ingredient Oaxacan mole. Most restaurants need a little time to get their bearings, but it’s almost unheard of for one to quickly reassess and reinvent itself, and immediately become one of the city’s best.
1271 Boylston St., Boston,
At Tim and Nancy Cushman’s rollicking izakaya in the Fenway, there’s only one rule: If it’s too loud, you’re too old. That mentality extends beyond the garage-rock soundtrack—which they’ll never, ever turn down—to an interior that feels as much Big Trouble in Little China as Pee-wee’s Playhouse, with plastic pink flamingos, street art, and vintage Asian movie memorabilia. What about the food, you say? Executive chef Hart Lowry goes punk, using his flawless Japanese techniques to create the most irreverent drunk food around. Sushi rolls are stuffed with foie gras “Spam”; a “weed” salad combines briny nori and cucumber; and a robata (grilled) program incorporates everything from whole prawns to traditional yakitori. If O Ya’s formal omakase service was the Cushmans’ Dylan-esque acoustic phase, Hojoko is where they go electric.
73 Ames St., Cambridge,
What was once the city’s most forward-thinking pop-up has become a vanguard brick-and-mortar in Kendall Square. Led by husband-and-wife team Tse Wei Lim and Diana Kudajarova, Study has ambitions that are both appetizing and artistic. Yes, you’ll find some of the painstaking molecular gastronomy they’ve implemented at their first restaurant, Journeyman—but here the dishes are more substantial and satisfying. Case in point: a dollop of foie gras sprinkled with dehydrated parsnip powder for a saturated umami explosion. More important, Lim and Kudajarova have found their hospitality footing, stepping out from behind the line to serve guests themselves—whether it’s whisking away place settings or wheeling around the pleasantly pungent cheese cart. It’s a personal touch that adds earnestness to an already enticing arsenal.
Banyan Bar + Refuge
553 Tremont St., Boston,
To transform Hamersley’s Bistro’s buttoned-down brasserie into one of Boston’s buzziest restaurants, the Gallows Group gave chef Phillip Tang free rein. In turn, the former East by Northeast chef spiced up his largely Chinese repertoire with Japanese, Thai, and even eastern Russian elements. The result is a series of pitch-perfect riffs: The lobster roll is upgraded with honey-miso butter and pickled sea beans; Korean fried chicken swaps the typical sticky glaze for a dried-lime chimichurri and a side of Kewpie-mayo potato salad; and a New York strip is reborn as a massive, shareable DIY platter served with scallion pancakes, ssamjang, and kimchi butter. With its beer slushies and tamarind-infused spirits; Tang’s progressive menu; and owner Rebecca Roth Gullo’s organic, living space, Banyan has officially vanquished the specter of its celebrated predecessor.
One Shepard St., Cambridge,
At first blush, nothing about this very Cantabrigian newcomer—created by Rene Becker, of Hi-Rise Bread Company, and James Beard Award winner Susan Regis, of UpStairs on the Square—reads flashy or ostentatious. Its French-by-way-of-New-England spirit is built on earthy fare and primal cuts of meat cooked over an open hearth. But when Regis combines her technical precision with just the right amount of whimsy, her reinvented classics are unmatched. Take the fra diavolo. You’ve seen it before, but never like this, with a house-made, beet-stained cappellacci tossed with smoky red sauce, candy-striped beets, and generous hunks of lobster. The tomato salad’s fat heirloom slices gain an unexpected crunch from house-popped heritage corn. A whisper-light, smooth ricotta is imbued with chamomile and honey, an alluring combination that somehow works well outside the teapot. The beautiful fare, not to mention the pragmatic pegboard visible from the open kitchen, makes us feel like we’ve stumbled into a Julia Child dinner party, complete with tables heaped with hearty, soul-nourishing plates.
14 Tyler St., Somerville,
To get to Tasting Counter, ticket-holding guests slip through an unassuming side entrance of the Aeronaut Brewing building, in Union Square. Once there, chef Peter Ungár and chef de cuisine Marcos Sanchez—both adorned in tall toques and crisp chef’s whites—shepherd up to 20 guests through nine exhilarating courses: briny urchin-and-kelp custard served in a chiseled eggshell; dry-aged sirloin cap shingled over red curry sauce and burdock-root purée; and a sublime sous vide duck breast marinated in miso and dashi, easily the best piece of fowl we had all year. Considering the slew of spontaneous freebies (duck-liver macarons), generous wine and beer pairings, and personal-chef-like service, Tasting Counter’s price tag (starting at $165 per person) seems like a bargain. And Ungár isn’t finished revolutionizing the tasting menu format. Next year, the chef plans to fully customize his lineups for repeat customers, so they’ll never see the same thing twice. Welcome to fine dining’s new frontier—personalized yet exquisitely prepared, and endlessly surprising.
Check out all of our Best New Restaurants 2015 coverage.