Thursday, December 31, 2009

J's Tomadachi Sushi--Post holiday lunch

We were feeling overloaded by the holidays. Too much cream, too much meat, and too many chocolate covered pretzels. Despite having gorged on two times our weight of heavy, rich food, we still needed to have lunch. Not feeling terribly much like a salad, there was only one alternative (as far as we were concerned) – Japanese sushi.

Pretty recently, J's Tomadachi Sushi opened on Mass Ave, and we were curious to see what they offered. What better occasion than the weekend after Christmas?

The restaurant had a simple décor, with a bamboo screen, Japanese paintings set against the wall, and funky green hanging lights scattered around. Our waitress was sweet and demure, but we were surprised that she didn't offer us tea when we sat down, as is ordinarily the custom.

Simple Decor
We were pretty blasé in our food orders (possibly because our stomachs couldn't handle anything more exotic), and we have resolved to be more adventurous with future sushi choices. We decided to go with an array of combo plates that all came with miso soup, salad covered in a spicy thousand islandesque dressing, and a small mound of rice. The most interesting was the Veggie Combo ($9.95). It included 6 cucumber avocado rolls and a big veggie roll. We're not quite sure what was in the big veggie roll, but we enjoyed it.

Veggie Combo
The other two combos were the Maki Combo ($9.95) and the Cali Combo ($9.95) – all sushi bar standards, which is not to say they weren't fresh, delicious, and filling for our tender tummies. The Maki Combo came with a California roll, tuna roll, and salmon roll, and the Cali Combo included the same, except instead of rolls, it came with Ngiri.

Maki Combo
Cali Combo
We enjoyed the oblong plates and the descending order college name rolls with Harvard as the most expensive and Berkley as the cheapest.

J's Tomodachi Sushi
201 Massachusetts Ave
Boston, MA 02115-3043
(617) 236-1464
Boston Restaurant Review

Monday, December 21, 2009

No Name—Fishy chowder and very inedible broiled fish

We were enticed to venture here one cold pre-blizzard evening because of an avid follower’s recommendation. And also the fact that it’s been around since 1917. We have a strong sentimentality for aged restaurants; we believe that like a fine wine, restaurants improve with time. So we went to check out the deal with this potential unnamed jewel.

Little did we know than this diamond in the rough would indeed be just a lump of coal. A note about location: it is way the heck out of the way. The only line that even comes close is the Silver Line (and who takes the Silver Line, anyway?) We walked through the cold from South Station through the blustery night to get there.

The inside décor hadn’t changed since the 1980s, but we excused this lack of evolution to the aged wisdom of the years. Clearly, people came here for the food, or so we assumed. Most of the other restaurant patrons seemed to have never seen a cooked lobster in their lives. We heard a cacophony of languages ranging from Korean to German to Midwestern, all ooing and aahing over the childlike lobster bibs and instructional place mats about how to de-claw said crustacean. We could only imagine what it’s like in the summer, especially since we had prime seating that looked out over Boston Harbor. We were impressed by this, as well as the jovial, friendly waitstaff.

We started with a cup of the famous seafood chowder ($3.95). A delectable uncreamy, potato-less stew of scrod, haddock, and other unknown fish. It was wonderfully thick with fish, the way a chowder should be. However, it was very un-chowderesque in its lack of cream, spice and richness. It was just a hearty fish stew.

A Thick Fish Stew
We should preface: the waitress warned us that fried platters were always better than broiled; however, we believe that the opposite is true. It just takes more skill to get broiled seafood right. The broiled seafood platter ($17.95) was mediocre, expensive and mostly inedible. The swordfish was overcooked to the point that it tasted like tuna out of a can. The three scallops and three shrimp were mighty chewy, almost to the point of rubber bands. The scrod and salmon were cooked correctly, but lacked flavor and were uninspiring. It came with frozen boiled veggies and a heap of rice pilaf. We DO NOT recommend anything broiled at No Name.

Luckily, we also ordered the fried scallops ($14.95). No Name should stick to its roots, and just serve fried food. The scallops were like dollops of heavenly morsels that melted in our mouths. It came with three sides: French fries, cole slaw, and tartar sauce. More tartar sauce than any human should consume in a meal.

Dollops of sweet scallops
Although the scallops and chowder were good, you could find just as good chowder at Atlantic Cafe and fried seafood can be done by pretty much any pub in Boston.

No Name Restaurant
15 Fish Pier St W
Boston, MA 02210

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Central Kitchen--Casual and homey, with a dash of class

Casual and homey, with a dash of class. That’s what we Palateers thought of Central Kitchen in Central Square, Cambridge. Central Kitchen always seemed alluring, especially when we would gaze in from the cold street and see smiling people merrily drinking glasses of wine and laughing about jokes in which we wished we could be included :(

But then one night, we went to Central Kitchen, and we were those smiling people making the jokes :)

How the tables have turned. We love wine bars because we once had dreams of opening one. There is something magical about wine, overpriced food and bar stools. It’s like a recipe for restaurant success. Boston doesn’t have as many wine bars as other metropolitan areas, ie. our cousins down to the south. But the few wine bars Boston has seem to be of quality; no exception for Central Kitchen. The blending of unique meal options, quality wines, and a relaxing atmosphere is a Palateer likeability elixir.

On the atmosphere, we especially noticed and felt appropriate the wine bottle light fixtures above our table and the large wooden mantle above the bar. The menu was diverse and eclectic, and we were even more impressed to learn that it changes with the seasons or the whims and muses of the chef.

Of course, we started off our meal with wine. Our pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon and loveable sangria were served with crusty bread and a mysterious side spread. We made bets about whether it was butter or hummus. One Palateer has lasting bad memories of eating a whole slice of butter before realizing it wasn’t cheese. It turned out to be hummus, or a light chickpea spread. Either way, it was all consumed.

Our appetizer was a rabbit sausage ($7). It tasted like sausage, which means delicious. The sausage came with a Greek yogurt style sauce, which helped balance the spicy green peppers and sweet roasted red peppers.

Whats up doc?
Our second appetizer was a warm salad with duck confit ($12). The salad was a treasure hunt, or better put, an egg hunt. As one Palateer asked, “What type of cheese is this?” And then remarked, “It’s not cheese, it’s an egg!” Besides the poached egg, we also discovered on our hunt a walnut dressing, golden raisins and little chunks of bacon interwoven within the duck confit and lettuce.

Thats not cheese!
The main course was a saucy Ragout filled with large tomato halves, chunks of zucchini, Parmesan slivers and surprisingly flavor filled soaked celery ($21). In the middle sat a big ol’ hunk of polenta which helped to absorb all the linger juices.

A Plunk of Polenta
Although a bit on the expensive side, Central Kitchen lived up to the allure and is worth more than one visit from the cold.

Central Kitchen
567 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA‎
(617) 491-5599‎

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cafe Kiraz—Has lots of Pizzazz

Are you a sandwich snob? Are you high brow about your hoagie? Are you snooty about your submarine? Are you petulant and particular about your panini? Well, my high class hero aficionado, enter Cafe Kiraz.

For long long years, we believed that the only true sandwich shop in Cambridge was All Star Sandwich Bar. But now, a rival emerges from the Southwest. Who will win this epic battle? And who will be smeared like mustard over the hard rough crust of defeat?

We will let you, dear Reader, decide for yourself.

As for us, we are glad to know that we have two choices for sandwiches in Cambridge. Cafe Kiraz may be full of pizazz, but it ain't got much in terms of seating or interior design. But who cares, because you are there for the sandwich. And my, there are so many sandwiches.

As opposed to All Star Sandwich Bar, which gives you a small list to choose from, Cafe Kiraz goes for the unlimited options. Perhaps this is something that we come to expect in our culture. With our thousands of iphone apps and watch instantly movies on NetFlix, a decision can only be reached through the recommendations of others. That's why, as we stared googly-eyed at the massive menu, a passing stranger was the one who made the decision for us.

A split-second decision yielded us the fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich ($6.50) on focaccia. A classic example of getting what you ask for. No more, no less. All fresh ingredients on soft flavorful bread, nothing to complain about.

Fresh and wholesome
Until you taste a grilled sandwich and realize what you're missing. The grilled chicken, provolone sandwich ($7.25) was a melt-in-your-mouth lullaby. The type of sandwich you only meet once in a lifetime. Caramelized onions added a subtle sweetness, which contrasted favorably with the tanginess of the sun-dried tomato paste and mesclun salad mix. Our one recommendation is to always, repeat always, order the grilled sandwich when you go to a sandwich shop.

Order Grilled...Always Grilled
On a final note, we've heard a rumor that the blended frozen yogurt rivals that of any in Boston, and is a must-have. Anyone who has tried it, we'd love to hear what you think.

Cafe Kiraz
119 Hampshire Street
Cambridge, MA 02139-1505
(617) 868-2233

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Tavern in the Square--Lots of TVs and Physics Defying French Fries

You could get lost in the Tavern in the Square. Like a distracted child in a toy store, we wandered aimlessly confused by the plethora of televisions all competing with different sporting events for the luxury of our eyeballs. We were like, wow man, there a lot of TVs in here, and we decided that all these televisions were very fitting, considering that the Tavern is an American Bar. What is more American than huge televisions, gargantuan sized nachos and beer, yes, lots of beer? We accept this stereotype like a proud boy scout getting his merit badge. We don't need no stinking Foie Gras!

Tavern is a big place and reminded us of its half blooded cousin down the street. It was cavernous but despite its size, it always seems to be full of people. One could write this off to the weekday play time that eager excited adults attend to forget about grownup life (ie Trivia night, karaoke night), yet there is something that draws us back again. Good feng shui? Decent food? A bit of both maybe.

The food at the Tavern ranges from traditional favorites (burgers and such) to the more exotic (risotto fritters) to the more eclectic (fried pickles for appetizers and fried snickers for dessert). So many options, we ruminated, so we ordered beers and took our sweet time. Tavern's got a decent beer selection with lots of stuff on tap. On the excellent recommendation of our waitress we ordered a dead Guy and a Mayflower porter, good beers for pondering over the long menu.

Good Brews
The salads were all very intriguing. We felt the best dish ordered was the marinated feta and avocado salad (9.99). A large heaping pile of greens, strewn with an assembly of white beans, fresh avocado and chunks of feta. The best part were the pistacios which added a nice crunch and the tangy mustard citrus dressing. It was so good, it was actually the second time our guest reviewer (you know who you are) had ordered it.

So good, we ordered it twice
The reuben sandwich and side salad ($10.99) was a disappointment. As John Stewart would say, Tavern, could you meet me at camera three? When you advertise a Reuben to be 'piled high', you better put your corned beef where your mouth is. Some of us have been to Carnegie deli and have expectations.... Not only was it a dismal serving of meat, but the whole blasted sandwich was soggy and mushy. The only redeeming part was the side salad, which was surprisingly large and diverse.

Soggy and dissappointing
Our last entree was the Chicken and Pear sandwich with waffle fries (10.99). A more eclectic sandwich with its slabs of roasted pear, thick chicken breast, melted brie cheese, herb mayonnaise, all on a crunchy french roll. The sandwich hit the spot, but what truly titillated us were the waffle fries. Why are waffle fries so good? We decided because they defy the laws of french fry physics, duh.

Waffle Fries......
A good fun scene and a nice place to bring a lot of friends or casual date, just stopping in to have a beer is a enough sometimes.

Tavern In the Square‎
720 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA‎ - (617) 868-8800‎
Cambridge Restaurant Review

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tides--With Keno and large servings everyone wins

Lets just say one evening you are in the Nahant, that small sliver of almost island that curves off of Revere. Where do the locals go for a good time? They go to Tides. Tides is the IT place (and possibly the only place) in the Nahant. There are good reasons to go--moderate priced decent food that comes in huge servings, plus unlimited amounts of keno (or until your money runs out).

We recommend going right at dusk, this way you can sit at one of the booths or outside tables that look out on the ocean, and at the Keno televisions. Order yourself a black and tan and talk with the guys at the bar about them Sox. When you feel the muse of hunger, don't hold back and get the antacids ready.

The menu is long but there were some things that jumped out at us. The buffalo chicken sandwich ($8.50), advertised as 'better than any other', was pretty darn good. As expected, it was a spicy fried chicken breast on a warm bulky roll enhanced by creamy blue cheese sauce. As we don't often order this item, we can not definitively talk about its supremacy. The veggie side was a nice alternative to the usual french fries.

The fish sandwich ($8.50) was also tasty. A normal sized filet of fried haddock, the mirror image of the buffalo chicken sandwich, sans chicken. Oh yea, the onion rings were awesome.

If you are looking for something a bit healthier, flip to the back of the menu for the Margherita pizza ($11). You should go with the whole wheat crust. The small pizza was freshly prepared and provided enough leftovers for another meal.

If you are wicked hungry, then the steak tips ($14) is the current you want to follow. These juicy tips are all the more enhanced with Tide's NEW marinade. But what ever you do, you have to order it with the french fries and special honey mustard sauce.

Enjoy Tides and if you win big at Keno, you should treat your friends to dessert.

Tides Restaurants & Pub
2 Wilson Road
Nahant, MA 01908-1017
(781) 593-7500

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Moody's Falafel Palace--Stomach satisfying hot fresh falafels

New York might have Mamoun's falafel, but Cambridge has Moody's Falafel Palace. Right off the intersection of Mass Ave and Prospect Street, is this local institution that dishes out some of the best and cheapest falafels in Boston. Of all the Middle Eastern restaurants we have been, Moody's does it the best we have seen.

Moody's sacrifices service and seating for delicious food. The Palateers had to fight for the right to sit at the limited counter space. We didn't even try to sit at their one table. We also had to wait in the impossible long line and watch out for cutters. The entire time we were eating, there was always a constant flow of people that kept the wait nice and long.

But it was worth it because even though the food is super cheap, you still feel like you are eating well. From their falafel, shwarma, chicken and hummus sandwiches to their full out platters, you won't be displeased with what you order.

One Palateer had the falafel platter ($5.50), a plate heaped with sliced cucumber and tomato salad, dripping in olive oil formed the base of this feast. On top were four bulging stomach satisfying hot fresh falafels, yummers.

Falafel Platter
The other Palateer, always indecisive, wanted to try a bit of everything, so ordered the vegetarian platter ($5.99). How the plate held all its contents was beyond us. Baba ganoush sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, smooth and rich hummus, the aforementioned cucumber salad, a tasty tabouli salad and two falafels. It was glorious. Both platters were served with fresh warm pita bread and tangy tahini sauce.

Vegetarian Platter (half eaten)
Afterward, we considered ordering foul, but we were already full. Come hungry and come often, because this is how Middle Eastern food was meant to be.

Moody's Falafel Place
25 Central Square
Cambridge, MA 02139-3310
(617) 864-0827