Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grezzo-A Raw Restaurant Review

Many years ago, the Palateers remember breaking bread with passing raw vegans. We found ourselves on the topic of roasted meats, mutton in fact, and the sad truth was these poor souls were in desperate need of some protein. While they lacked luster, the poor vegans were eager to return to their chopped carrot salad. Their pitiful portion of raw carrot salad (which encompassed their entire dinner, and possibly entire diet) is a far cry from what you will find at Grezzo.

Tucked away behind Mike's Pastry, and side by side with the legendary Italian cuisine of the North End, you will find the odd man out at Grezzo. While the atmosphere was urban modern hip with comfortable red chairs, the raw vegan experience is certainly out of the ordinary in this part of town. 

Palateer One to Palateer Two: “What is raw vegan?” 

Palateer Two replies: “Let's check Wikipedia. It says here that 'Raw veganism is a diet which combines veganism and raw foodism. It excludes all food of animal origin, and all food cooked above 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit). A raw vegan diet includes raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and nut pastes, grain and legume sprouts, seeds, plant oils, sea vegetables, herbs, and fresh juices.'” 

Palateer One to Palateer Two: “Wow, that's interesting! But what does it taste like?” 

And that was the query we wondered as we gazed at what appeared to be the most eccentric looking menu we had ever encountered. We looked at such odd entrees as the star anise crusted papaya steak and such appetizers as the house pickled ginger and lotus root salad. Fortunately, the service at Grezzo is extremely friendly and informative, and our ignorance of raw veganism was greeted with lengthy and interesting explanations. Needless to say, we thought ordering a salad would be redundant.

For an appetizer, we selected the Grezzo Sliders ($11). Now friends, remember, nothing here has actually been cooked above 48 degrees Celsius, so when our sliders arrived in burger-esque form, we were at a loss of words of what to expect. We found ourselves blowing on each bite. The sliders were wonderfully scrumptious – kind of like a cold falafel sandwich (with bread replaced by two tomato slices). The patty was a mix of pureed nuts, seeds and vegetables, topped with a freshly made pickle and a slice of avocado and a tangy nut based sauce. The only downside were the “potato chips”, which were actually dehydrated uncooked vinegar soaked potato slices. It tasted like it sounds. Raw.

Even a carnivore would enjoy these sliders
Since we were in the North End, we figured we would try the Native Tomato Ravioli ($19). It was uninspiring – sliced tomatoes with an olive filling. With expectations of real ravioli, we felt a little let down. We also dined on the Lobster Thermidor ($22). We're still trying to figure out that name. Despite its lack of any lobster connection, we did enjoy this conglomeration of flavor. Every bite was unique, from sweetness (papaya and blackberry base) up through tangy (mustard seed cashew cheese) and onto plain old bland (dehydrated cabbage leaves). It was so different, we had to respect it.

Disheartening Ravioli
No lobster, but a flava explosion
For its uniqueness Grezzo has stolen the Palateer Seal of Approval; however, when it came to dessert, we must confessed that we skipped the Apple pave a' la mode and headed to Mike's Pastry for a chocolate cannoli. 

69 Prince St 
Boston, MA 02113
(857) 362-7288

Friday, April 24, 2009

Blue Fin--Ono, Yaki Tomago!

Who would have guessed that Porter Exchange is the hot spot for Japanese fare in Boston?  In a space reminiscent of your local mall, you will find a jumble of Japanese restaurants clumped side by side.  You will even discover an authentic bubble tea stand and a Tokyo style snack shop (where you can buy your sweet ginger dried squid).    

Blue Fin certainly stands out amongst the many stalls, because it is an actual restaurant. Quickly getting a table amongst the simple décor, it was difficult to catch and maintain the waitress’s attention.  This got annoying especially later in the meal when we desired extra ginger, wasabi and other Japanese accompaniments.    

Despite the inattentive service, the food was fresh and satisfying.  The miso soup was just like mom’s.  Thick and salty, with bits of swimming seaweed and tofu was the perfect way to prime our palate. The warm sake also lit our stomach with a fiery glow.   

Miso Happy...

Kampai! 乾杯!
The Sashimi Regular, a platter of whatever the chef felt like giving us, was the perfect amount for the Palateers and their guest.  The mixture of tuna, red snapper, squid, mackerel, egg, crab, clam and salmon all appeared fresh and clean.  Drenched in soy sauce and wasabi, each bite was a flavor party unto itself.    

Nothing Smells Fishy Here
All reasonably priced, you can eat very well without killing the wallet.  Unlike many restaurants, the simple and delicious food will make you feel refreshed and energized, an excellent way to jumpstart your evening.

1815 Massachusetts Ave # 1 
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 497-8022

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dave’s Fresh Pasta--Fighting for Lunch at Dave's

The jumbles of people were pushing and squirming to get to the front of the line.  It was only 5pm, but Dave’s Fresh Pasta was a rocking with people.  The Palateers had to shove down an old man in order to make an order.  We stared up at the imposing chalkboard menu, somewhat daunted by the number of sandwich choices.  Should we go wrap, maybe an ensalada or should we stick with one of Dave’s specials?  The moving mass of hungry souls behind us was restless, and we did not have much time.  A rumor spread that they were almost out of foccacia bread, and there was noticeable increase in the anxiety level.  We locked eyes with a passing sandwicheer and placed our order of a Brazilian Hangover Cure and a Smoked Turkey with sundried tomato pesto.   

We began meandering through Dave’s.  We poked around in the fresh pasta section, sampling a chunk of gouda and a spoon of tangy aioli sauce.  We traversed through the waiting throngs, and sampled a crisp pinot grigio, followed by a light red.  The free pickings were many, and the Palateers almost completely filled their empty bellies on cheese samples.    

A long time passed, and finally we heard them shout out “the Palateers”.  Sitting outside on one of those clear sunny warm spring days, that help us forget the cruel New England winters, we ravenously consumed our massive sandwiches. Oh, my… Words could not explain the degree of deliciousness.  The Brazilian on Foccacia was a warm welcoming bliss.  The hot ham melting in between the cheese.  Accented by crunchy dill pickle slices and tangy hot peppers, spread with a spicy aioli spread was like being cradled in the arms of the sandwich god himself.   

The Smoked Turkey with caramelized onions and greens was a heaping mouthful of freshness.  Sweet tomatoes mingled with fresh pesto, basking on top of warm turkey, between two crunchy slices of Foccacia.

Just as we finished, an exodus of frustrated people exited Dave’s.  We overheard the awful truth—Dave’s had run out of bread.  We felt pity for the hungry mob, but not enough to give us indigestion. Needless to say, the Palateers will go out of their way, any day, to Davis Square to visit Dave’s Fresh Pasta, but we always plan to come early and to bring our boxing gloves.   

note: No old men were harmed in the writing of this review.

Olde Fashion Pop!
81 Holland St 
Somerville, MA 02144 
(617) 623-0867

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Great Boston Bagel Hunt—Episode 3--Au Bon Pain (ABP)

Both Palateers thrive on ABP, so it is no surprise that we both thoroughly approve of their bagels. One of the Palateers especially enjoys how ABP gets a little adventurous with their selection. The ABP bagel is certainly not considered your classic bagel. I mean, a slice of asiago cheese on a jalapeno bagel without a hole is not the type your New York cousin Steve would bring back by the baker’s dozen. We would even say that such a move is pushing it out of a bagel category, and into the roll and bread section. But they call it a bagel, so we still ate it with cream cheese.

As is typical, one Palateer went sweet while the other went salty. For the sweet, we shared a honey grain with honey pecan cream cheese. It was certainly a welcome morning treat, but even we had to admit it bordered on pastry territory. The Jalapeno bagel (the one with a slab of cheese on top) with sun dried tomato cream cheese was good as well. Although untraditional in their bagel and cream cheese combinations, ABP thinks outside the box, and we respect them for that. Although not the best Bagel in Boston, ABP does a fine job amongst the chains in Boston.

Pictures will come later, as we accidently ate the bagels before taking the snaps

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pho Basil

The Palateers were not inspired to any great degree by this Vietnamese and Thai restaurant, but it did fill our bellies and we were happy for it. The tom yum soup (3.50) was spicy and hot, and hit the sour spot in the back of our throat. The service was quick and maybe a little clumsy (they gave us one more thai iced tea (2.95) than we ordered, which didn’t stop us from slurping it down). We were especially impressed by the Goi (5.95), a sweet and vinegar heavy cabbage salad with strips of chicken. Our main course was a big old disappointment with much to be desired. Basically, it was a lump of tasteless bean sprouts with a few nondescript tofu chunks and snow peas (8.95). But we blame ourselves for ordering anything but Pho in a restaurant called Pho Basil. If you happen to come, look at what your neighbors ordered and if it looks tasty, then order the same thing. For the price, fast service, modern atmosphere and delightful salad, we recommend Pho Basil.

A lump of bean sprouts...blah
Thai Ice Tea me
Tom Yummers Soup

Pho Basil
177A Mass Avenue
Boston, Ma.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Palateers in Print!!

Hello all,

The Palateers blog has been featured in print! Thats right, the illustrious Lombok Times has decided to feature and reprint the Palateer's Gili Deli review. If you happen to be in Lombok, Indonesia, I encourage you to purchase and hoard as many copies of the Lombok Times as is fiscally possible.  This is a once in a life time opportunity to own a piece of history.

Thank you again Lombok Times for showcasing our work!   

Monday, April 13, 2009

Great Boston Bagel Hunt Episode 2--I’ll Finagle your bagel!

We were pleased to find that, at the very least; a decent bagel exists in Boston. Although fast foodinized and a chain, Finagle does a good job with a bagel. Not the end all be all of the Great Boston Bagel Hunt, but a decent start. The Palateers generally disapprove of the mechanization of the bagel and dining experience, but we had to admit that Finagle’s nifty Bagel Saw Mill was pretty cool to watch. Order a bagel and observe as a fast moving conveyor belt leads the bagel to the guillotine of culinary cooking and shoots it cleanly into the awaiting open hands of eager cream cheese spreaders.

Our onion bagel was of ordinary size and selectively chosen from a fresh baking sheet. It was adorned with a manageable slather of flavorful lox spread ($2.99). The bagel was crispy on the outside, doughy inside. The honey grain bagel was chewy and sweet, chock full of wholesome fiber. Stuffed with vegetable cream cheese, the bagel was energizing and a good substitute for a cup of coffee. Overall, the bagels were good and receive a firm endorsement from the Palateers.

We were less than enthusiastic about the bagel sandwiches. The roast beef sandwich ($5.99) was not very memorable but the bagel was still good. This led the Palateers to conclude that simple is better at Finagle, and a bagel for breakfast, was just as good as a bagel for lunch (even on the same day).


Friday, April 10, 2009

Asgard--Viking Chairs and Shepard's Pie

Long ago in the old country, when potatoes were plentiful and beer flowed from never ending spigots, the druids and other such ancient races would gather in throngs at establishments that we think were a lot like Asgard. This restaurant is cavernous. It's like a monastery, and we were expecting at any moment to be served by Trappist Monks. Big honking Viking thrones, large wooden beams and stain glass mirrors further enhanced the feeling.

A bit monkish

Odin's LazyBoy
The menu is meat heavy and classic Irish, so vegetarians be warned that options are limited. This was an inconvenience because the Palateers decided to eat only veg this meal. However, we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. The french four onion soup, was a steaming crock of hot broth and liquefied cheese with a massive chunk of crouton in the middle—perfect for a rainy day pick me up.

Goobly, Gobly cheesy
The homemade veggie burger had a very nutty consistently, and despite the indistinct slab of gouda, was satisfying, especially with the thick sliced french fries. The tomato mozzarella sandwich, a pretty straightforward dish, and was also given the thumbs up.

A pickle to dream about

Kinda think?
Probably best for a night of burgers and beer (they have an enormous and diverse beer selection), Asgard definitely steals the seal of approval for its unique and oversized setting. Relive your monastery fantasies at Asgard with the company of lots of good friends and a Shepard’s pie.

Asgard Irish Pub and Restaurant
350 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 577-9100

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Café Dilara Pizza--Where the kings and queens of East Cambridge feast!

Café Dilara is like home…that is if you live in East Cambridge. It is a representation of East Cambridge—a little dumpy, full of variety and across from two liquor stores, but without a doubt delicious.   

An excellent accompaniment and two liquor stores to choose from!
The Palateers, though thoroughly enjoying their Dilara experience, would not recommend going out of your way to seek out this yellow walled local establishment.  However, if you find yourself walking to Inman Square from the Galleria, and feel desperate from hunger, then indulge yourself with a Dilara treat.   

Best for takeout or delivery, you won’t be terribly impressed by the small interior if you do decide to dine in, but you will be filled to the brim with gooey cheese and doughy substances.  Before ordering, you may want to consider some of their daily specials.  The two slice and coke special ($3.80) could only be matched if it were still 1998.   

You will be impressed by Dilara’s extensive menu, which ranges from a gazillion types of frozen yogurt to a bijillion types of pizza. All perfect for sharing with your Home Skillet Biscuit.            

We (the royal one) ate ravenously.  Starting with a chicken caesar wrap ($6.50), the thing was humongous and we then learned the secret of Dilara: massive portions for a cheap price.     

The small veggie lovers calzone (9.95) could feed a donkey, and there is nothing more satisfying then gorging on vegetables enveloped in gujunga amounts of cheese. The Cambridge Special (advertised as ‘The store finest creation’ small for $9.95) was an indistinguishable mush of topping.  It wasn’t bad.      
A cheese and topping supernova
Prepare to eat the leftovers for the next month or eat all at once, and then hibernate the winter away. Café Dilara ---where the kings and queens of East Cambridge feast!

Cafe Dilara
645 Cambridge St., 
Cambridge, MA

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Great Boston Bagel Hunt Begins-- Episode 1 Bruegger’s Bagels

Who among you does not enjoy a good breakfast? Whether it be omelets, pancakes or waffles, a calorie-filled indulgent morning is part of the quintessential American experience. However, there is one staple of the American breakfast, which shines above the rest. The bagel has inspired poets, fed generations of the downtrodden and is eaten by the super rich. It is the most egalitarian of breakfast foods and also the most diverse. The combination upon combination of bagel and topping selection can match the desired craving of any hungry denizen. The Palateers love the noble bagel, in all its variety and form. It is the ultimate in comfort food, which brings hungry childhood tears of joy to our eyes.

I Dream a Bagel
After years of living in Boston and whether it is by our failure or that of the city, we have been unable to find a truly delicious bagel. Ones criterion for the perfect bagel is certainly subjective; however, each among us can remember amazing bagel moments. The Palateers reminisce about the perfect everything bagel—crispy on the outside but warm and soft in the middle and large enough that it needs to two hands to hold--so filled with scallion cream cheese that globs of it dripped down our fingers. We want that bagel experience in Boston, and we have decided to search every bagel baking establishment in Boston until we either find it or need to discontinue the search because of bagel related health issues.

Therefore, let the Great Boston Bagel Hunt Begin.

Episode 1— When did Bruegger lose his bagels?
The movement for the fast foodization of the American diet has no sympathy for its victims. Bagels have fallen to the onslaught and Bruegger’s Bagels is one of the aggressors.

Just to be clear, Bruegger’s Bagels has embarrassingly small bagels. Some say it’s not the size but quality of the bite; however, when it comes to bagels, size is often at the forefront of our mind. Somewhere, in the pursuit of profits, Brueggers miniaturized its main asset, while keeping the price the same!

In terms of the taste of the bagel (we had an everything and a plain)…well…it was not something to rave about, so we won’t. Mediocre small bagels have no place in the hearts of the Palateers. Now, we have heard tell tale that Bruegger’s rosemary olive oil bagel is exceptional. We will give our followers the benefit of the doubt, and welcome all comments on Brueggers’ experiences both good and bad.

We also found fault with the surly slow service. Surly service at a bagel shop is ok (heck, it’s the morning and people just want to wrap themselves in bagel bliss), but when they are slow and surly, we have problems. Chop chop there Brueggers! You have four guys manning the counter, you think the schmear guy can handle the complexity of pouring my cup of coffee as well!

Episode 1 was a mark of aversion, but we remain hopeful that the perfect Boston bagel is still out there. If you have suggestions about good bagel places in Boston, please feel free to comment.

Also check out the cartoon history of the bagel here.

Bruegger’s Bagels
Anywhere America because it’s a big honking chain

Friday, April 3, 2009

La Voile—Restaurant Week Fun

The back-story of La Voile captured our imagination. Eighteen months ago, a little restaurant in Cannes, France decided to pack up everything (tables, chairs and wait staff) and sail to the new world to set up shop. New York was a bit crowded but Newbury street was just right. It was during restaurant week, that the Palateers decided to take La Voile for a sail.

Our experience was mixed. La Voile teetered between the infamous Mark of Aversion and angelic Seal of Approval. Upon entering, we felt rushed by the pushy wait staff—whose first question was not “How do you do this evening?” but “Choose a water!” (statement declared and emphasized), which left us a bit baffled and confused leading to the purchase of a $6 bottle of water. Overall the service was very French, but not very Backbay. When we finally regained our bearings, we were able to enjoy the quaint ambiance of the little French bistro. The sailing motif was intriguing and the intimate atmosphere was appealing.

Appetizers were also hit and miss. The risotto tasted like an out of the box Mac n’ Cheese, certainly nothing to rave about. However, the terrine, a type of faux foie gras, a chicken liver pate served with sweet pickles and toasted bread, was creamy and rich to the point of over indulgence (in a good way).

The entrées followed the same theme as the others. The pan seared salmon lacked a certain “je ne sais quoi”, even when combined with tomato sauce and the cleverly created eggplant caviar, but the veal stew was something to dream about. Melt in your mouth chunks of flavor infused veal, bathing in a tub of thick wine sauce, served over basmati rice, yes, do order this.

Veal Stew
We left the fate of restaurant, in the desserts’ hands. We are pleased to say that La Voile earned its Palateer Seal of Approval because of its luscious chocolate mousse and it’s Crème Brulee.

Crème Brulee
A world away from the old country,La Voile is more than welcome to make Boston its new home.

La Voile
261 Newbury St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 587-4200 Reserve Now

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Baraka Cafe--Lemonade that knows no equal

Tucked away off the hustle and bustle of central square, in a very residential part of Cambridge, you will find a literal hole in the wall. Baraka Café has room for no more than 25 people, but if you can find a seat, it is a sure treat.   

If you are craving homemade Algerian (like mom used to make) then look no further.  The quaint ambiance, delicious food and mind-blowing lemonade, will make you a fan for life.    

Before sitting down, no matter if you are one person, start with a pitcher of lemonade.  Baraka Café doesn’t serve alcohol, but who needs it, when you have fresh squeezed lemons, swimming with dry rose petals and hints of north African spice.  Dearie me, if either Palateer is ever rendered unconscious from an accident, hook up their IV with this stuff. It will definitely jolt them back to life.     
Try the Karentika for a starter—a block of warm chickpea custard, which will change your view that chickpeas are only good for hummus. The Bedenjal Mechoui, an eggplant salsa  heavy on the olive oil was an excellent compliment.  All of which was served with fresh flat bread, which did not last long on the table.      
Melfouf la Kasbah
The Melfouf la Kasbah was like a trip along the Barbary coast. Sample an array of roasted kabob style meats and sausages, served on a bed of thin French fries, add in a salad to boot, for $11.95, I doubt you will find a superior meal. The Melkha is a vegetarians delight, an eggplant shell over stuffed with spinach, cheese and olives dancing in a bowl of couscous     
Get there early, to avoid the long wait in line and try to make reservations because for the price and quality of the food, Baraka can not be beat.
80 Pearl St 
Cambridge, MA 02139 
(617) 868-3951