Boston Restaurant Bonanza

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Sarma of Somerville

 

Sarma

Sarma is in Somerville; a sleepy suburban area of Boston and you could quite easily walk past it and never know it is there. Once you have been however, you’ll never forget the evocative and complex tastes and smells, which whisk you straight back to a spice market in the Mediterranean.

The menu at Sarma is one of small plates, so you get to taste lots of different dishes. There are also dishes brought round during dinner (soft shell crab and fried chicken, two exemplary examples brought round during our meal and these seem to change with the season).

We ordered eight dishes to start between four, and that finished us off. Dare I say it, but Brussels Sprout Bravas with chorizo was a highlight, as was black orzo paella with squid and octopus. The Greek yogurt biscuits with jalapeno-whipped feta, smoked ham and honey was a cacophony of taste but a little unbalanced on the spice side for me. Likewise the sweet potato latke with jalapeno labne, rhubarb, lime and scallion (spring onion), which could have done with a touch more spice.

The cocktails were a great addition to the meal, with it being difficult to pair a wine to such a mix of different flavour profiles. Mr. B had an Oaxacan Divorce with Mezcal, Citrus, Tea and Vermouth and I took favour to the Illyrian King’s Cocktail, which contained grilled lemon vodka, Greek mountain tea and salers.

All in all a great variety of tastes and an explosion of flavour from this hidden gem.

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No cream or butter

Erbaluce

Located in central Boston and hidden in a side street, Erbaluce is as understated outside as it is inside. It’s almost like walking into someone’s living room and in fact the service feels just as warm. The focus of the restaurant is Northern Italian food using local produce, high quality ingredients and a distinct lack of butter and cream. You might think this is an odd thing to mention as butter and cream is more characteristically French, however in America, Italian food is generally swimming in it.

We started our meal with some amazing homemade breadsticks, sourdough bread and white bean dip. The dip tasted so creamy and luxurious that we assumed it had butter or cream but it was just white beans and olive oil. This sounds simple but the dish was delicious and I asked for the recipe so will be trying it out in a few days.

For starters we shared some San Daniele Prosciutto, which was complimented with black cherries. My Italian husband said he preferred this to the usual melon, for me, whilst I liked the idea, the cherries where not as sweet and I would have preferred more of a sweet salt contrast.

For main, Mr. B had one of the specials as his Primi, which was Tagliatelle with Rabbit. He loved the fresh pasta and the rabbit, although would have preferred a more sauce-based ragu. I had an original carbonara, which is a no cream dish. Real carbonara is a mix of egg yolk, Parmesan, Pecorino and Pancetta. This one had a special twist of a duck yolk and boar pancetta and was absolutely lip smacking delicious.

For main we had the wild boar chop, which was expensive and not well done, i.e. the fat hadn’t been rendered properly. At $45 for that one dish, it was a disappointing end to a great and authentic meal. The lavender meringue and chocolate truffles as part of the house free desert made up for it however.

All in all, a great restaurant, especially by Boston Italian American standards.

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Guest star: Iveshu

The Liquid Art House

This is a bar/lounge, with a beautiful open space and some really interesting artwork on the wall (all for sale of course). There are two menus available for brunch, a small plates menu with eclectic dishes from around the world (including momo’s and gyoza’s) and a brunch menu with more typical dishes like French toast and eggs benedict. The best dishes by far where in the small tasters, although there was a large variation in quality from one to the other. The Chinese sausage bun and egg yolk ravioli were the most interesting and well executed but the food in general wasn’t overwhelming. The cocktails were great, personal favourite was the yuzu Bellini, and so I suspect that I will be frequenting this more for the bar than brunch.

All in all, great space and bar, if you get really hungry the go for the small bites.

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Del Posto (NYC restaurant review)

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This is one of the best meals I have had in the USA and I would actually put it in my top 10 globally, so I thought it was a good review to start off with.

This was for a meal at which my family and my better halves would meet for the first time and so needed to be special, thus needless to say; I did a lot of research into the restaurant style, chef’s and customer reviews before booking. The restaurant did not fail at any level. Service, food taste and execution, wine list (if a little heady) and atmosphere were all exemplary, with some outstanding and all time favourite dishes to add to my foodie repertoire.

We were a group of nine and thus had to opt for a tasting menu. We opted for the 5-course menu, within this the diner picks an antipasto, a main course and a desert and the table shares two pasta dishes.

Pre the antipasto dish arriving the waiter bought over some tasters from the chef, three each to be precise. The best was a chickpea fritter with truffle, known as a Panelle in Italian and originally from Sicily. It sounds like a simple dish, but the execution was outstanding given how difficult it is to create a fried product and still retain the delicate hint of truffle. This dish was so good; a request was put in immediately for me to attempt this at home.

Next was the individually selected antipasto, which for me was the Truffled Beef Tartare with crunchy Salsify Crisps. (See photo). Again a delicious dish, which was perfectly, executed, with meat, which melted in the mouth, a delicate hand with the truffle and a nice textural addition with the salsify crisps. I could have eaten this dish twice over and certainly had food envy from those that had chosen the sashimi platter, which whilst also beautiful (see photo), didn’t quite have the same impact.

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Next were the two pastas, which for the table we choose lobster Pansoti (ravioli) and Orecchiette with Lamb Neck Ragu. I thought this would be a really filling part of the meal, but it was portioned well, with first 3 ravioli each and then a spoonful of the ragu. I love lobster and so for me this was the star pasta dish, but for the other side of the family who are Italian, the ragu was said to be better than their mothers (shhhhhhhh…). We asked the chef for the recipe, so I could be a good Italian wife and cook it when I go home, but they wouldn’t part with it and suggested we wait for the recipe book to come out in a few months (the only disappointing part of the meal), the ragu we were told had been cooked for seven hours, it was succulent and juicy, with a depth beyond any ragu I have ever tasted.

For my secondi I choose the Poached Lobster, as I wanted to keep some room for desert. The lobster was a small light dish, combined with artichoke, hazelnut, basil and tangerine. It was a beautifully light main, delicately put together.

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For desert we were treated to the butterscotch semi freddo, the brown butter panna cotta and the melanzane e cioccolato, all amazing. Who would have known that sheep’s milk cheese and chocolate, eggplant, chocolate and balsamic vinegar all on crispy pastry would go together. Sounds crazy but it works. The best however was yet to come. The petit fours were amazing, including champagne vinegar caramels in an edible wrapper, a decadent extra virgin olive oil gelato lollipop topped with chocolate and toasted breadcrumbs and a classic bomboloni, a light Italian doughnut filled with vanilla cream.

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All in all, this restaurant is the ultimate expression of Italian indulgence and refinement. Buonissimo!