Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tupelo--A little taste of the south

One of the Palateers visited Tupelo this past summer, and raved about the Southern hospitality. So they dragged the other one over for a taste of some Southern flavors.

First thing we realized about Tupelo is it is a popping place – as in 40 minutes to an hour wait on a Saturday night. And no reservations. Forewarning for any late evening diner. This speaks volumes about the quality of the cuisine, and how fast word spreads, as it opened this past summer.

Inside had a cozy decor, with murals of hot New Orleans nights, multitudes of Elvis drawings, and water served in jars. The back room is perfect for waiting, as we initially did, until we fortunately caught two seats at the bar. People were everywhere: servers, customers waiting for tables glass of wine in hand, and the cooks in plain view at the back. We have a theory that if you order a bottle of wine, they seat you in 5 minutes. We saw it happen.

Going early is important as we found out the hard way. 6pm on a Tuesday would probably have been a little better than 8pm on a Saturday. We were sad to learn that they ran out of the complimentary corn bread and two of the entrees – including one we wanted, the catfish. These facts dampened our spirits until the food arrived.

Tupelo only serves wine and beer, but has a good variety of different beers, including Duvel and some type of chocolate stout. And, as any good Southern restaurant should have, root beer in a bottle. We were sitting at the bar, so we didn't get the full waitstaff experience. The bartender seemed nice but extremely busy.

The food was mighty scrumptious, and came with three types of hot sauce. Our first entree was the BBQ'd half chicken ($16). This slow roasted, extremely filling chicken fell right off the bone and was finger-lickin' good. The shredded maple autumn squash complimented the chicken well and was sweet and chewy. Served with a load of dressing and a few greens. The advertised sweet onion pickle was unnoticeable.

Finger lickin good
Our second dish was a Cajun gumbo ($12). This big mixing bowl was filled with pulled chicken, rice, green peppers, onions, and our personal favorites, Andouille sausage and okra. The first bite helped clean out the sinuses, and we didn't look back after that until we saw bottom.

If we ever find ourselves stranded in Mississippi or Louisiana, our expectations our high after Tupelo.

1193 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 868-0004
Cambridge Restaurant Review

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ashmont Grill—The Sequel

Let it be known that the Palateers always stay true to our promises. We hadn't forgotten our delicious brunch back in May 2009 at the Ashmont Grill or our vow to return. As can be deduced from the last review, we were not to be disappointed. The more one visits a particular place in ones lifetime, the more one learns and appreciates it. The same stands true for restaurants.

On our second visit, we enjoyed the lovely small subtleties of Ashmont's ambiance—particularly the chicken themed paintings on the wall. Also, just as it is the go-to spot for brunch, it is also the prime evening lounge destination for local residents (They even had dancing on New Years!).

But of course, what stole our attention was the food. Be prepared, we ordered more than we usually do. For a salad, we had the spinach, goat cheese and beet salad special. It was delicious, though it isn't very hard to mess up. This particular salad seems to be all the rage these days, however, Ashmont distinguished itself by the subtle substitution of hazelnuts instead of the typical walnuts.

Main Courses:
The pan roasted cod ($19) was creative and inspiring, but not that filling. The perfectly roasted fish was on a celery puree that had the consistency of hummus, but the potent zing of celery. It was served with a side of roasted fennel. To give it a dash of color, two slices of blood oranges were laid to rest on top.

Creative, but not that filling
If the fish didn't fill us up, then the bacon cheeseburger ($12) finished the job. This grass fed burger was far and away one of the best burgers we've had in Boston. Ashmont gets extra bonus points for the locally raised beef.

The Crest de Gallo pasta ($16) was twisted funky shaped pasta. Somehow, the strangely shaped pasta tasted better. The pasta was mixed with butternut squash, caramelized onions, pine nuts and finally, a dash of fresh sage, making it the ultimate in flavorful comfort food.

That is some Funky Shaped Pasta
Two other table favorites were the herb roasted half chicken ($19) and the lamb tagine ($17). The lamb was a bit too spicy, but that was the only complaint.

A Wee Bit Spicy
Now for the best part, dessert. Where could we possibly begin? We were already stuffed from the main course, but we pushed forward, and how could we not when tempted with these choices.

The exploding chocolate cake ($7) was about as good as you will find at Finale, but at half the price.

Gooey Delicious Finale Rival
Our mouths were watering by the very site of the the sticky toffee pudding ($7) served with a palmful of fresh whipped cream.

Mouth Watering
If our second visit was as good as the first, it might necessitate a third.

Oh yea, we had hot dogs again.

Ashmont Grill
555 Talbot Ave
Dorchester Ctr, MA 02124
(617) 825-4300
Boston Restaurant Review

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cactus Club—Feliz Año Nuevo!

¡Feliz año nuevo al Cactus Club! That's right – we spent New Years at the Cactus Club, and it was popping. Our new years resolutions freshly minted, we were determined to start off 2010 in true Palateer fashion.

Cactus Club is a voluminous restaurant, which has both an anteroom bar and a backroom restaurant. It's preferable for raucous groups of friends, as was befitting for New Years. The Palateers were smushed in the back at a little table, which did much harm to our self-esteem, but gave us ample ability for people watching and eavesdropping. And man, were there some interesting characters. Besides the litany of drunken Bostonians, there was the awkwardly placed couple who ordered way too much fried food, and a salacious group of women who probably shouldn't have each started the new year off with the $20 margarita bowl (typically meant for three).

We kick started our celebration by indulging in two decadent margaritas. Upon recommendation of our server, we chose to forgo the typical strawberry frozen margarita for an explosion of blackberries ($6.50). For those connoisseurs who demand a bit more class than your run of the mill house tequila, we recommend the Horni Margarita ($8), which uses cointreau and Sauza Hornitos. For only a small price increase, you will distinguish the difference.

We had to restrain ourselves from over-indulging on the bottomless chips and surprisingly chunky salsa. It tasted homemade, which is strange because most salsas at Mexican restaurants seem to be swillish in consistency. It is always a cruel temptation when they put those chips out as your belly aches for food and fills with margarita. We did fulfill one resolution that night of eating healthier by ordering El Vegetariano ($8) (the vegetarian for you non Spanish speakers), a bright green spinach tortilla crammed with greens, feta cheese, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, jicama and Dijon Balsamic vinaigrette. The vinaigrette leaked out of the tortilla as we gobbled it down. Able to choose from a variety of sides, we of course went for the sweet potato fries. And they were gooood.

The Temptation of the Tortilla Chips!

The Vegetarian
We also ordered the spectacle of fajitas. For it is a spectacle – its a show when that sizzling platter emerges from the kitchen, heads turn, noses uplifted: “What is that scent? What is that sizzling in the pan?” Yes, for all attention-seekers, the fajitas are the Paris Hilton of entrees at Mexican restaurants. We went for the veggie option ($12), which was a grand mound of sizzling zucchinis, squash, tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, and portabella mushrooms. But make sure you bring your own fajitas because it only comes with three.

The Attention Hog
A New Years feast it was, and as Auld Lang Syne rang in our ears, we knew 2010 would be a delicious new year.

939 Bolyston St.
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 236-0200
Boston Restaurant Review