50 Northern Ave., Boston,
Committee hails from the same crew behind the fist-pumping nightclub Bijou, so it should come as no surprise that it attracts some of the same cologne-drenched clientele. Add to the mix a dose of throbbing international house music, and this Seaport spot can feel as subtle as an EDM banger. Yet beverage director Peter Szigeti’s cocktail program, with its flair for ornamentation (candied bacon!) and aromatic mists, is magnificent. And the modern eastern Mediterranean meze menu, developed by Greek chef Diane Kochilas, is executed by Committee’s kitchen with energy and verve. Hits like roasted red pepper stuffed with garlicky, chili-flecked feta, and lahmajun—a pizza-esque disk topped with lamb and charred tomato—take the more-is-more approach to layering vibrant spices, all with killer results. Surprised? Join the club.
468 Commonwealth Ave., Boston,
For biotech maven turned restaurateur Samuel Gosselin, Josephine is much more than a passion project. It’s personal. That’s evident in the tables he helped carve from slabs of Claro walnut and Big Leaf maple; in artist John Gonnella’s painting of Gosselin’s mother, the eponymous matriarch of the space; and, most important, in his hospitality—a presence far warmer than the faux flames in the campy digital fireplace. Michelin-starred chef Stefano Quaresima maintains that same scrupulousness in the kitchen, turning bistro fare into Gallic works of art. The only dilemma: how to choose between star dishes like mussels steamed in lemongrass-scented red curry and merguez-stuffed squid over saffron taglioni. Fret not: Gosselin will be there in his bespoke suit to guide you toward the right selection, and chances are he’ll come bearing an amuse-bouche or two.
105 Union St., Newton Centre,
In a sea of small plates, Comedor’s shareable fare stands out from the pack. Credit that feat to husband-and-wife team Jakob and Fernanda White, who weave the flavors of their homelands (hers Chile, his the good old U.S.A.) into plates as bright and beguiling as the space’s Day-Glo, kaleidoscopic murals designed by the Couto Brothers. Here, flaky empanada shells enrobe bay scallops and gooey rivulets of fontina; spicy-sweet chicken wings get a sprinkle of pistachios and a palate-cooling dab of whipped avocado; and papas fritas get the five-star treatment with fried Kennebecs and Yukon Golds dusted in cotija and merken, Chile’s signature spice blend. Outside might be a stodgy stretch of Newton Centre, but inside is a vibrant respite suggesting bolder things to come.
24 Commonwealth Ave., Concord,
Never has the farm-to-table boast felt so fresh. In fact, at owner Kristin Canty’s rustic debut in Concord, it’s practically a religion. Chef Charlie Foster, an alum of Daniel Boulud’s New York empire, helms an oft-changing nouveau New England menu using meat sourced straight from the Farm at Woods Hill, the restaurant’s 260-acre sister property in New Hampshire. From a punchy fluke-and-kohlrabi crudo to the baked-to-order epi baguette served with whipped butter and maple pork fat, everything is caught, raised, and harvested from local farms and waters. Nowhere does that ethos slip, not in sommelier Andrew Rich’s biodynamic-heavy wine list; not in the microbrewed Vermont kombucha on draft; and not in pastry whiz Douglas Phillips’s delicate mousses, tarts, and sorbets.
381 Summer St., Somerville,
Joe Cassinelli resurrected the formerly seedy Rosebud Diner by reupholstering the booths in deep, rich, tufted red leather, installing dark wood flooring, and painting the walls black. Voilà! The Davis Square spot has gone insanely upscale. Now a 140-seat behemoth, Rosebud Kitchen employs the skills of chef John Delpha to tackle the sweeping terrain known as “Americana.” That means the jambalaya of the Louisiana Gulf Coast; the milkshakes and griddled cheese-burgers of Rosebud’s greasy-spoon roots; and the St. Louis ribs and bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers of the competitive–barbecue circuit. But Delpha really shines when he wanders farther afield, such as with his lusty, Sichuan-inflected dry-fried green beans and barbecued hog’s head lacquered in gochujang—a hedonistic exclamation point on a menu that offers something for everyone.
One Bow St., Cambridge,
This Hokkaido-based chain excels at Japanese comfort foods like crispy chicken karaage, luscious gyoza, and tender takayaki. But let’s be honest, at Santouka it’s really about the ramen. Embodying the old bromide that if you focus on one thing, you can perfect it, Santouka runs a staunch in-house certification program that requires each of its chefs to stage under its ramen masters abroad. The result is a silky shio tonkotsu ramen—laden with buoyant noodles, pickled plum, and succulent char-siu pork cheek—that’s damn near perfect.
100 Hanover St., Boston,
At destinations like L.A.’s Grand Central Market and Gotham West Market, in New York, “food court” means savvy chefs hawking everything from Chemex-steeped cold brew to mackerel sashimi to hand-pulled Shanghainese noodles. This summer, Boston joined that growing movement with the opening of the Boston Public Market, a year-round, all-local farmers’ market that also serves as a rich and varied food hall. Nosh on some of Matt Baumann’s smoked–haddock tacos, the fish serving as a toothsome juxtaposition to the crunchy lime-cumin slaw. Dive into one of Red’s Best’s fresh-from-the-boat yellow-fin tuna rolls shrouded in Maine-sourced seaweed. Then brace yourself for Jasper Hill Farm’s raclette, a bubbling sheaf of Alpha Tolman scraped onto steamed fingerling potatoes. With almost 40 highly curated kiosks, BPM offers unique dining options every day of the week.
179 Massachusetts Ave., Boston,
At the Back Bay sibling of Chinatown’s Dumpling Café, servers wield platters of the same garlicky pea-pod stems and cleaved ginger-scallion lobsters. But here they hustle to the rhythm of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, a nod to nearby Berklee. And that isn’t the only difference between Peter Wang’s two eateries. The Palace’s flurry of chefs cinch xiao long baos behind a fabulous glassed-in dumpling station, while patrons—spared the typical sardine-can-like dimensions—have plenty of elbow room to spread out and blithely slurp down bowls of fiery Sichuan flounder fillets. Even better, the restaurant stays open until 3 a.m. for post-post-post–symphony munchies. That means masterful salt-and-pepper shrimp and golden duck buns until the fat lady sings.
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100 Arlington St., Boston,
This high-concept art gallery meets fine-dining restaurant feels like a Reagan-era flashback. Everything in the glitzy marbled space is for sale, from T-shirts to the $90,000 purple chandelier hanging over the circular foyer bar—a preferred watering hole for bougie tipplers. Yet the food sings. Greed is good, but gluttony is better, and chef Rachel Klein’s marvelous, globe-spanning menu has earned the adulation of well-heeled tastes. Among her communal roasts, Green Circle chickens are fattened from the fancy scraps of high-end restaurants like Per Se. Main courses such as pork loin with Chinese sausage and Tokyo turnips are artfully presented. And Klein’s pierogies with corn and pickled watermelon rind are exemplars of the form.
650 E. Kendall St., Cambridge,
With all the hype surrounding Café ArtScience, Cambridge thought it was getting an up-to-the-minute, if icy, food lab with some boozy, tech-bent interludes in between. And sure, it got that. But it also got the most expert French food Boston has seen in years, thanks to Eastern Standard alum Patrick Campbell, whose immaculate menu features a beautifully flavored foie-gras terrine and the best roast chicken since Hamersley’s closed its doors. A stripped-down lunch service harbors one of the city’s great under-the-radar burgers—tallow-basted ground chuck and Old Bay aioli are involved—and a minor gastronomic revelation (drumroll: a Greek salad…with pommes frites). And oh, those elaborate beverages. Like he did at Clio, cocktail savant Todd Maul proves that centrifuge-driven concoctions aren’t just parlor tricks.
11 Fan Pier Blvd., Boston,
Even if you’re skeptical of Mario Batali’s Crocs and larger-than-life persona, you can’t deny that he has a knack for building a proficient, well-oiled machine. Babbo is flush with attentive servers and kitchen staffers adroit in the canon of modern Italian classics. Just as soon as you take a sip from a stiff Negroni, your ramekin of chili-spiked Sungolds and marinated tuna appears alongside the complimentary basket of crackly bread. Begin sampling from a menagerie of local cheeses, such as Wolf Meadow’s tangy caciotta, and the twirl of the area’s sunniest carbonara is already hitting the table. But perhaps the biggest surprise here is the value, with most pizzas and pastas clocking in under $15. There’s a reason why the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality empire is, well, an empire. And it’s not the Molto Mario–approved souvenirs lining the foyer.
660 Cambridge St., Cambridge,
Well versed in 18th- and 19th-century New England cookbooks, Loyal Nine chef Marc Sheehan is taking the admirable yet frightening first step toward reviving a once-proud regional cuisine that had been reduced to chowder and baked beans. His brand of “East Coast Revival,” an homage to Boston’s rich culinary history, is bringing so much more than hoary historical food. Pastry chef Adam Ross’s use of heirloom grains is resulting in some of the richest-flavored bread in Boston. Sheehan’s championing of long-ignored herbs and pickles dovetails seamlessly with today’s house-made mania. And some of those weirder-sounding options, like fried soldier beans, smoked mackerel, and soused mullet on lush Boston brown bread, are improbably addictive.
30 Massachusetts Ave., Boston,
Tucked into a Back Bay basement and decorated with a baffling mix of Beijing opera masks, stray Christmas decorations, and a mural of staid Victorian brownstones, Chef Chang’s looks like a mash-up of a London tearoom and the Chinese restaurant in A Christmas Story. Sure, it serves takeout standards like General Gao’s, but if you ordered that, you’d be missing out on owner John Chang’s expertly rendered dishes from the Xinjiang and Shaanxi provinces: bites of Bashu-flavored fried chicken with green capsicum chilies, and a show-stopping whole fish braised in black-bean gravy studded with star anise. Who knows, maybe there is some logic to the Christmas lights after all, since it’s impossible not to feel like you’re on holiday (at least from the norm) at this tiny slip of a restaurant.
15 Third Ave., Burlington,
’Burbs, say hello to the swankiest of steakhouses. With high-end touches like Carrara-marble countertops, enormous Oriental rugs, Parisian flea-market finds, and even an Andy Warhol room, the Bancroft feels like a Gatsby-era chophouse of yore. Chef Mario Capone’s dry-aged rib-eyes and bone-in filets only add to the occasion-dining attitude, with haute accoutrements like smoked black salt, hot Roquefort butter, and charred avocado. For a real treat, take a turn on the steel catwalk and peruse the glassed-in, 3,000-bottle wine mezzanine stocked with rare vintages of Margaux and trophy pinots from the West Coast. Because hey, if you’re going to spring for a hulking Tomahawk chop, why settle for a glass of merlot? We’ll take ours with a bottled Hub Punch and a sidecar of Coravin-dispensed Amarone.
669A Centre St., Jamaica Plain,
A Jamaica Plain fixture renowned for its Sunday brunch, Centre Street Café has been transformed by the Tres Gatos team into the type of neighborhood spot that draws regulars every day of the week. The petite space is as comforting as cashmere, with service that is vigilant, never cloying. Not sure about that Greek xinomavro on the wine menu? You can sample a splash before committing to a half carafe. Pair it with excellent starters or a range of hand-rolled and extruded pastas from chef Brian Rae (who trained under Rialto’s Jody Adams), all of which easily compete with the Ribelles and Giulias of the proverbial block. And about those Benedicts and Belgian waffles: With upgrades like house-made doughnuts, buttery drop biscuits, and a pancetta-and-peperonata breakfast sandwich, there are now even more reasons to join the weekend faithful winding down Centre Street.
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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.
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
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.
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.
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