Thursday, August 23, 2012

Climbing All the Way Upstairs (on the Square)

The second stop on my Restaurant Week journey was Upstairs on the Square (, located right in Harvard Square.  Susan Regis, who has been named the "Best Chef in Boston" twice by the Improper Bostonian and recognized as "America's Best Chef - Northeast" by the James Beard Foundation in 1998, serves as the Executive Chef.  

The restaurant is divided into two separate dining rooms:  the Soirée Room and the Monday Club Bar, with the former being the slightly fancier of the two.  Both have a very whimsical feel as if after climbing that mountain of stairs, you've somehow arrived in Wonderland.  

Both dining rooms offer their own Restaurant Week Menu, although the Soirée Room costs a little more at $43.12 for the three courses.  We decided to go with this option.  

We were already starving by the time our reservation arrived, so were happy when they brought the bread around.  They also kick started our palates with a beautiful Amuse Bouche (a tiny bite of food meant to literally "amuse the mouth") of thinly sliced zucchini topped with smoked salmon and jalapeños.  It was the perfect little bite to get me excited for the meal.  

For my first course, I opted for the Corn Velouté, which is a kind of sauce/soup.  Right in the middle was an irresistible scallop, perfectly seared and seasoned.  I started out with the velouté, which was creamy and sweet and smooth.  Then I took a bite of the scallop with the soup.  Mouth fireworks!  At the end, my sister and I both lamented that it wasn't socially acceptable to lick the bowls clean.  

A gorgeous bowl of Corn Velouté surrounding a Diver Scallop

Unfortunately, the only disappointment of the night happened in between the first and second courses, at which point we had to wait for what seemed like an eternity to get our entrees.  Luckily, I had some excellent company, so the only part of me that was truly upset was my stomach.  

When my Canard au Cerises (duck) finally reached me it was a little bit on the chilly side, but it was pretty tasty looking, so I didn't let it damper the experience too much.  It was served two ways: a seared breast and confit leg, both over a cherry glaze and some greens.  

Canard au Cerises

The breast was tender, but the skin could definitely have had a little bit more crunch.  The leg, on the other hand, was super crispy.  The cherry sweetened thing up nicely.

Up to this point, my meals had achieved the perfect combination of salty and sweet, but now it was time to give in wholeheartedly to the sugary side of things.  And what better way to finish a (relatively) classic French dinner than some Chocolate Mousse?

The mousse was so creamy and rich it came close to being pudding, but its airy weightlessness kept it firmly in mousse territory.  A sweet cherry sauce lined the glass in which the mousse was served, adding depth to its already wonderful chocolately goodness.  For the second time that night, we restrained ourselves from lapping the remainders up with our tongues.  I did my best with a spoon:

I left feeling perfectly contented, and of course, full.  I also had a pressing urge to use the restroom, as the servers never left my water glass less than half full.  If only my duck had come out hot, this dinner would have come close to my idea of perfect.  I'm sure I'll be giving them another chance to get it right soon enough though.  

Are you enjoying any restaurants this week?  Let me know where you're eating and what you think, and maybe I'll stop in too!  If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments, feel free to email me at!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Expanding my Diameter at Radius

I know it's been a while, but I'm back!  I recently switched positions at my company, so I will no longer be able to "eat America."  Instead, I'll continue profiling the wonderful meals I enjoy right here in Boston.  And what better time to pick up than Summer Restaurant Week!

I started off at Radius (, a swanky restaurant downtown.

The dimly lit, circular dining room has cream colored walls, which are offset with primarily red decor.  It has a very modern, though not impersonal, ambiance.

A wide, winding marble staircase leads to their impressive wine cellar and (less impressive) restrooms.  Hundreds of bottles of wines can be seen through an open, foot-thick vault.  A card-key operated glass door protects them, so I'm assuming the vault is just for show.  Who knows though?  They did have some REALLY expensive wines on that list ($4500 bottle anyone?).

Their Restaurant Week Menu was pretty limited, only offering two or three dishes as options for each of the three courses for the $33.12 inclusive price.  They did offer more choices, but these came with (often hefty) supplemental charges.

For the first course, my boyfriend and I split the Red Oak Leaf Salad and an order of Foie Gras.  The Foie Gras had a $16 supplemental charge, but we couldn't pass it up.  It was served with several pieces of brioche, which made for a super-rich combo.  For me, rich is always a good thing.  I loved every bite, but for my heart's sake, I was happy that I was only having half an order.

The salad was pleasant, though nothing special.  It was supposed to have feta, "confit cherry tomatoes," and be dressed with a cucumber vinaigrette, but it looked like plain greens and tomatoes to me.  Perhaps the subtlety escaped me.  It did make for a refreshing follow-up to the foie gras though.

For my second course, I went with the Roasted Skate Wing.  For anyone that doesn't know (I didn't), a skate is like a sting ray.  I'm going to skip the biology lesson, but if you are really that interested in the differences, you can get more information here.

It was roasted in brown butter, and served with dandelion greens, peas, and preserved orange.  I was a little wary, considering I had never eaten skate wing before, but I figured Radius was probably a safe a place as any to try something new.  It was great!  It did not have an overwhelmingly "fishy" flavor.  When eating all the components together, everything was well balanced.  However, if I did get too many dandelion greens in one bite, it got bitter.  I also wasn't a huge fan of the preserved orange.  I didn't mind it at first, but as the meal progressed, it was all I could taste.  I ended up fishing (no pun intended) out the remaining orange pieces to avoid overpowering the nice taste of the roasted skate.

The dessert was my favorite part of the meal.  I had the Lemon Mousse, which was served in a little tartlet along with some blackberry sorbet and some black olive caramel (it tasted as interesting as it sounds!).  The mousse was light, and along with the sorbet, very refreshing.  The black olive flavor was very present in the caramel, adding a nice earthiness to the dish, but it was never overpowering.  I could taste it when I would first put a bite in my mouth, but it would fade as all the other bright flavors came rushing in.

The service was great, and all in all, I had a wonderful meal.  My waistline is the only thing that was disappointed.  For now though, Radius will remain a Restaurant Week restaurant for me, as it's just slightly outside of my price range with its regularly priced $38 entrees.

Are you enjoying any restaurants this week?  Let me know where you're eating and what you think, and maybe I'll stop in too!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Boston Restaurant Week: Lineage

Sorry for the hiatus, but what a better time to pick up the reviews than Boston Restaurant Week! A few nights ago I started the week out strong (but slightly salty!) at Lineage in Brookline.

It is a small restaurant in Coolidge Corner. The interior has a high end, yet rustic feel, with white tableclothed tables set on wooden floors and a wood burning stove behind the bar.

We started out with some wine (I loved my glass of 24 Knots Pinot Noir, 2009), and some sea salt topped rolls, which were freshly plucked from the stove behind the bar. The butter was served in a small white cube at a perfect temperature, so it could be easily spread on the soft bread.

For my appetizer, I got a mushroom and parsnip soup topped with brioche croutons. The soup was super tasty, and I can happily say that I could distinguish the flavor of the mushrooms in the puree. The croutons were quite overpowering, and when taken with a spoonful of soup, were all you could taste: like pieces of buttered popcorn. I found it off putting, but I ate it all anyway.

I also tried their salad special. It was delicately dressed, with only a few accompaniments: candied almonds and pickled rhubarb. While the rhubarb was incredibly sour, it complemented the almonds and lightly dressed greens well.

For my entree I got the ricotta gnocchi served with green beans. They were light and fluffy, but were pretty boring as far as flavors go. The star of the show was definitely the duck confit. It literally fell off the bone. The meat was so flavorful, but I was disappointed with its counterparts: cannelloni beans over a shallot puree. The beans were hard and flavorless, as was the puree, and there was very little color in either this dish or the gnocchi.

As much as I loved the duck at the start, the tender meat's flavor became increasingly salty with every bite. I wanted to love it, but the salt took over. I was relieved I had the gnocchi dish to calm things down in between bites.

For dessert, we finished off with chocolate mousse, topped with almonds and served with a biscuit. It was rich, and the velvety chocolate paired well with my pinot. I was stuffed from the rest of my meal, but I was able to get about half of the little ramekin down with pleasure.

It wasn't a flawless meal, but it certainly had its merits. I would definitely get the soup again, and I'd be happy to give the duck a second chance if it found some new companions and went on a low sodium diet. There was plenty left on the menu that I'd like to try, so I'm sure I'll be back.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Side Dish Steals the Show at Fiorella's

The other night I was treated to an intriguing dinner at Fiorella's in Newton, MA (

It's a pretty popular spot.  Despite heading there on a Tuesday night, we still had an hour wait.  They have a somewhat inconveniently located bar, situated in between their two dining areas.  We grabbed a bottle of wine to help pass the time, but hardly found enough of it to get a glass down.  We either were moving out of the way for the wait staff, or getting nudged by other inpatient customers the whole time.

When we finally got to our seats, we were served a basket of their fresh bread: thin pieces spiced with garlic and herbs and served with their bright marinara sauce.

To start out, we split an order of arancini, a fried ball of risotto stuffed with mozzarella cheese and served with marinara.  Risotto and cheese... two of my favorite things combined into one.  Despite my certainty that this could not possibly disappoint, it did.  The fried outside completely overtook the milder flavors contained within.  Even when I got a bite composed entirely of the inside, it didn't taste like anything.  In fact, I felt like I was eating fried white rice.  It had no texture, and very little taste.  

Luckily, the entrees were still to come.  I had ordered one of their specials of the night:  Chicken in a demi-glace accompanied by a stuffed acorn squash.  It is very unfortunate that this is not one of their regular menu items.

The tender chicken was settled in a mushroom demi-glace that was overpowered by the roasted red peppers that also rested in the sauce.  However, the real star was the stuffed squash.

It was cooked similarly to a twice baked potato.  The insides of the acorn squash were scooped out and mixed with ricotta and Parmesan cheese, as well as mushrooms, onions, and dried cranberries.  It was then put back into the shell of the squash, topped with pieces of toast and then baked.

It was a vibrant dish, full of flavor and texture.  The croutons on the the top were crisp from the oven, but had absorbed some of the juice from the mixture, so the bottom side was moist with gooey goodness.  The blended squash and cheese were complimented nicely by the added chew of the vegetables and berries.  Every bite was interesting.  Even when I had had more than my fill, I just kept stuffing my face.

My only complaint is that I did not see the connection between the chicken and the squash.  Although the flavors were great in each, there did not seem to be any reason why they were sharing a plate.  The squash could have been it's own dish, instead of taking second place to the chicken.  All in all though, this dish was a success... a nice recovery from that deceiving arancini.

It is reasonably priced, and overall we had a positive experience.  I'm sure we'll be making our way back at some point.  

And there's good news.  They have an express version of their restaurant in Brighton and Belmont (  Maybe the stuffed acorn squash can make its way there....

Monday, June 27, 2011

Satisfying the Senses at Five

I know it's been a while...  in fact it's been so long that I've been back to St. Louis twice to visit this stunning bistro.

First a little background.  Five Bistro ( is a relatively new restaurant located on The Hill  in St. Louis, MO.  They only have a sample menu online because it changes daily at the restaurant.  Chef Anthony Devoti serves beautifully fresh farm-to-table food.

His goal is to bring in each of the five senses for his diners.

Five is on the slightly rundown, but surprisingly charming Hill.  Inside, it has a smooth, jazzy feel.  Giant canvases painted by Tamara De Lempicka tie in the 1930's feel.

People don't go for the look of the place, though.  I'm sure you can guess what sense they're trying to satisfy.

Our memorable meal began with an amuse bouche of crostini topped with veal, ham, brie, and a white cheddar sauce.  I was extremely disappointed that I only got one bite... I even asked our waiter if I could get it as an appetizer.

We decided to start with a Tagliatelle Bolognese, which was composed of braised pork sausage from a local farm, braised tomato, black pepper, butter, parmigiano-reggiano and Italian parsley.  Immediately I was hit with scent of the strong Italian cheese.  With each bite I first got the flavor of the parsley, which was then followed by taste of the sausage.  My only complaint is that I was sharing it, and the portion was a little too small to split.

For my entree, I went with the Thyme Rubbed Half Chicken (also from a local farm).  It was accompanied by a housemade black pepper potato gnocchi, wild local morel mushroom, caramelized onion, hickory smoked bacon, local arugula and pan jus.

Together, the dish was wonderful.  The bacon gave it an awesome saltiness, which was perfectly balanced by the sweeter gnocchi and onions.  In contrast to the strong flavors present in the dish, the arugula brought a surprising but welcomed softness.

On the downside, the gnocchi could have been a little fluffier.  I was also disappointed in the lack of mushrooms on the plate.  The earthiness of the morels could have tamed the smokiness of the bacon.  I could hardly find any.

Despite being sufficiently stuffed by this point, I decided I had to try one of their desserts to truly finish off the meal. I could choose from a sorbet, pastry, or chocolate tasting.

I went with the pastry, a vanilla goat cheese custard sandwiched between two sugar cookies, drizzled with honey.  It was one of the most interesting desserts I've ever eaten.  I first tasted the honey, followed by the smoothness of the custard, and finally came to the sweetness and soft chew of the cookie.

I was sickeningly full, but happy to be so.

Usually I aim to try new restaurants when I return to a city, but I knew upon leaving Five that I would be back....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not Just Burgers at the Boston Burger Company

If you are on a diet or care about your heart in any way, you probably should not eat here... but if you love your burgers it just might be worth it.

The Boston Burger Company ( in Somerville, MA has a crazy array of burgers with pretty much any combination of toppings you can imagine.  They have everything from the Alpine Burger (mushrooms sauteed in a garlic parmesan butter with swiss cheese) to the Artery Clogger (a deep fried, beer battered burger topped with bacon, american cheese, and BBQ sauce).  And just in case you're not the beef type, you can substitute any of their burgers with either a turkey or veggie burger.

They also have some interesting appetizer items (Mac & Cheese Bites anyone?), a collection of eight different sauces to pair with their Boneless Wings, some great chicken sandwich options, and an amazing Fries menu (twelve different kinds).

I went with The Buffalo, a chicken sandwich (you can get it grilled or cutlet style) with lettuce, tomato, crumbled blue cheese and their "special" buffalo sauce.  Just to make sure it was truly unhealthy, I added american cheese and got blue cheese dressing on the side.

I got it cutlet style, so I shouldn't have been surprised that it was dripping in grease.  Once I took a bite though, all my girlish weight worries went out the window.  Their buffalo sauce was creamy, and while there was a good amount poured on my sandwich, it wasn't smothered in the stuff.  Although my extra toppings certainly didn't hurt, there would have been plenty of flavor with just the crumbled blue cheese and buffalo sauce.

I was eating with two burger loving boys, but I gobbled this down before they had made it through their first half.

Luckily we also got their BBC Sweet Potato Fries, which were served with a sugar-cinnamon sauce.  This sauce transformed them into a dessert.  Unfortunately, I was so full at this point I could only indulge in a few.

Next time I will definitely be saving room for either their Pizza Fries or the Buffalo Cheese Fries.

The boys loved their burgers, for which I'm very glad.  Hopefully that means we'll be going back soon.  I will happily clog my arteries a little more to taste their special buffalo sauce again...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Filling up at the Gibbet Hill Grill

The Gibbet Hill Grill ( in Groton, MA is situated next to a beautifully open field, which compliments its country farm feel perfectly.  They grow their own produce on site, and the rest of their ingredients are seasonal and locally grown.   

I've been here several times and have never had a bad experience.  This time was no exception. 

While I usually get the Roasted Free-Range Chicken Breast, I decided to swtich things up and go for their Pan-Roasted Duck Breast.  Although it is usually served with braised endive, white bean puree, and a kumquat chutney, I substituted in sides of Mushrooms and their (awesome) Mac & Cheese. 

The duck was moist and tender.  There was a rather thick layer of fat under the skin.  I tried a bite or two with it, but didn't think it added any real value to the flavor or texture (it was really chewy), so I cut it off.  It was more succulent without it. 

The mushrooms are a mixture of shiitake, portobello, and oyster.  Despite not coming with it, their earthy taste paired perfectly with the duck.

Good news... I found a macaroni and cheese that I enjoyed!  It is baked with cheddar and chives.  Between my duck and mushrooms, I was already plenty full, but I couldn't stop coming back to this wonderfully rich dish. 

My boyfriend, Matt, got the Prime Rib and added on their Blue Cheese Compound Butter.  If you're a steak fan, you have to try this combo.  The blue cheese butter is downright delicious.  You could smother anything in it and it would taste amazing. 

As one of his sides, Matt also got their Onion Rings.  Whether we're ordering take out or dining at a formal restaurant, if they are on the menu, he'll get them.  We both agreed that Gibbet Hill's might be the best we've ever had.  The onion is perfectly balanced with the thickness of the batter, which is crunchy and well seasoned.

Finally, we finished off with my favorite dessert:  Carrot Cake.  Gibbet Hill's moist version sits in a bed of caramel and comes with a pecan cream cheese frosting.  I had absolutely no room in my stomach for dessert, but I ate the whole thing. 

If you're heading north (it's about an hour away from Boston) and you're hungry, stop here.  You will get a beautiful meal.