Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Boston Restaurant Week - Uni Sashimi Bar at Clio Restaurant

Sunday we went to Uni Sashimi Bar at Clio Restaurant. They're both projects of Ken Oringer -- who's responsible for Toro (our restaurant week winner so far). Clio is a French restaurant, and Uni is the sashimi bar in a little alcove of the restaurant. There were two tables and we sat at the bar (just 6 seats). It's the only place on our list that's not in the South End (it's in Back Bay) and is a fairly high end, upscale place.

First Course:

Poke with sweet onions, sesame, seaweek & pickled mung bean
Fluke sashimi with jalapeno vinagrette, blood orange, and Thai basil

Second Course:


The rice was cooked in plum wine and maybe some soy (it was red and sweet and maybe a little sour) and consisted of two kinds of rice, white and forbidden rice. On top was pickled daikon, pickled burdock root, fermented seaweed, pickled ginger, and one more thing I couldn't identify. Although I was worried about tiny, tiny portions at a place like this, the fish -- yellowtail, salmon, tuna -- was 9 pieces total.

Third Course:

Coconut tapioca with passionfruit, pineapple & guava sorbet
Japanese Yuzu Curd with coffee croquant & whole milk ice cream

Another winner. The fluke sashimi was awesome -- the jalapeno vinagrette was a nice touch. The chirashi was excellent (loved the rice). And while the yuzu curd was great, Sean managed to form some sort of emotional bond with the 5 spoonfuls of coconut tapioca and the 1 spoonful of guava sorbet. He was ready to order a trough full. As you might expect from a place like that, $33 of food wasn't exactly belly busting. You probably need to spend about twice that amount to get really full at a high end sushi place.

Other notes:

Outside of some fast-food sushi, this is the first time I've seen a restaurant with a non-Japanese sushi chef.

Sunday at 6:30pm is a much better time to go to dinner than a weekday at 8pm. No waiting. Excellent service.

They gave us a $20 gift card to use on a non-restaurant week return visit. Pretty cool. I suppose they're trying to drum up business. While the Uni side was fairly full, the Clio side (not participating in restaurant week) was entirely empty. And while both sides are expensive, they seem to offer some pretty cool weekday deals. I think we'll make it back (the Clio menu has some of the yummy-looking items that we saw on the chef's Iron Chef America episode).

[Updated 11:45 AM] And that's it for restaurant week. We had one more reservation for tonight. But a bad review and a bad report from someone we know, and we just canceled. I declare Toro our restaurant week winner.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boston Restaurant Week - Sibling Rivalry

Sean and I have actually been to Sibling Rivalry before, and we went on Thursday with friends, so this report will probably be a little shorter, less thorough, than the others. The concept for Sibling Rivalry is that there are two chefs -- brothers -- and each prepares a dish based upon one ingredient. So there's two shellfish dish options, two lamb dish options, etc.

8pm is evidently a tough time for a reservation. We waited 25 minute for a table. And we didn't get out of there until 10:20pm, but it was a far superior experience than at the Butcher Shop: there was a lot more food, we spent a significantly longer amount of time actually eating, the seats were way more comfortable, and the bread came right away. And the basket of bread includes slices of corn bread (I love corn bread).

I had tuna and pork wontons, rack of lamb, and blueberry & apple crisp. The wontons were good, but really the best dumplings are always the ones you make yourself or the ones you get at a real dumpling place like Din Tai Fung. The dessert was fine. The lamb, however, was excellent. I was initially thinking that after all that meat at Toro and the Butcher Shop, I should get fish. That's loser thinking. After I was done with the lamb, I really wanted to pick it up and gnaw on the bones; they were so tender and yummy. And it came with some sort of mashed potato thing that was fluffy and delicious.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Boston Restaurant Week - The Butcher Shop

Wednesday night was the Butcher Shop. A wine bar / actual butcher shop, it's a tiny place with maybe 20 seats at tables and another 10 seats at the bar. A butcher block table is set up in the back where a few (maybe 10) people can stand and have a drink and a snack while waiting for a table. And against the back wall is a set of glass refrigerated cases where you can see the meat, sausages and sides available to take home. The place is supposedly a favorite of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen.

Where Toro was down-to-earth and unpretentious, the Butcher Shop is the exact opposite. It's not just that it was d-bag central in there; a surprising number of people seemed to have no idea how to behave in public. (Seriously, random person. Are you really going to sit on the butcher block table that people are eating off of like you're in your kitchen at home? Seriously?) And the prices on the regular menu, while not astronomical -- and, yes, that's totally a scientific assessment ;) -- were fairly silly when you could see right in the refrigerated case how much less you'd pay if you took it home. And, then, 1.) you wouldn't be standing around for 20 minutes waiting for a table even though you have a reservation, and 2.) you wouldn't have to hang out with the kind of people who go to the Butcher Shop. For example, the duck hot dog was $16 on the menu (and it's just the hot dog with a bun and a few chips), but I could have bought the hot dog itself for $3. In terms of value, portions were not particular big either. A 20-something dollar entree of meat is just that -- sides are extra. Of course, really none of this (the people, the wait, the money, the portions) was unexpected to me. But what about the food?

This was their restaurant week menu:

Duck Consomme or
Endive Salad

Pork Shoulder or
Skirt Steak

Chocolate Mousse or
Lemon Curd

Since it was the two of use, we got everything on the special menu. The soup, the salad, and the desserts were all fine. The pork shoulder was quite good. The only really excellent thing was the skirt steak. Perfectly medium-rare. The jus was perfect, the crust was perfect (crusty but not at all burnt, so yummy), and finally the delicious center was perfect (juicy, tender, buttery). I didn't know skirt steak could taste like that.

So, not spectacular but quite good. Would I go back? I'm definitely never eating there again (although I'm still a little intrigued by the duck hot dogs). It was not worth the regular prices. Value is, of course, subjective. So what if I were X times richer than I am? Still no because there's still something I haven't commented on: the waiting and the service.

We had reservations at 8pm. When we arrived, the host says that they're not quite ready and puts us at the butcher's block to wait and for drinks. Later, he says that some guests are taking longer than expected and offers us seats at the bar -- which we take. We sit at around 8:20pm. Our appetizers arrive at 8:45pm. It took 45 minutes to get any food -- even bread. The bread, by the way, comes with some fancy honey that Sean quite liked. Our entrees arrive somewhere around 9:20pm. The dessert arrived at 9:45pm. We managed to get out of there at 10pm.

Now, one might think of a lot of reasons for such slow service: 1.) giant influx of people, 2.) not enough waitstaff, 3.) mean or lazy waitstaff. But none of these are what actually happened. As far as I can tell, the Butcher Shop is just completely inefficiently run -- disorganized and possibly incompetent. As I listed before, there's about 30 seats in the whole place (not 30 tables, 30 seats). To serve those 30 people, there was a bartender, 2 waiters, 1 host, and one other person whose exact job was unclear but also added up checks, took drink orders, etc. There was 1 service person for every 6 people in the restaurant. If you include the people who were waiting and got drinks or snacks, there's still 1 service person for every 8 people. You'd think that place that size should be able to get by with half the number of workers. And it wasn't that the people working were sitting around doing nothing -- they were constantly doing stuff and talking about how they can clear a table for new people. But somehow, in some way I cannot fathom, they were incapable of handling everything. Seats went open for 10 minutes or more because no one could get around to cleaning it up or seating new customers. People with reservations had to wait for a seat because 'guests were taking longer than expected' probably because those guests had to wait to be served. And, you might think that maybe the kitchen was the hold up, but most of the menu requires little more than pouring wine and slicing pate, so that's seems fairly improbable too. You would expect a lot of things at a place like the Butcher Shop: the people, the prices, the portions, and hopefully really good meat. But this ineffectualness in the service, the overall dining experience was shocking and completely baffling.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Boston Restaurant Week - Toro

Sunday was the beginning of Restaurant Week in Boston. Actually two weeks, participating restaurants offer prix fixe menus ($33.10 per person for dinners). We live in near a bunch of restaurants which we've never gone to for fear that they would be a big waste of money, so we made five reservations. Sunday night was Toro, a Spanish tapas place. (Toro has a famous chef owner, Ken Oringer. And, coincidentally, we saw his episode of Iron Chef America the day before.)

The restaurant is actually fairly small -- 55 seats -- and was not d-bag-y (as I feared). It's actually more lively and homey. And the service was great. More importantly, on to the food we ate:


Corazon a la Plancha - grass-fed beef heart with romesco
Cabeza - pig-head terrine with carrots

Okay, let me just go ahead and spoil the ending for you: it was fantastic. Everything. Every little bit. And when we went home and looked at the regular menu prices, it was all fairly reasonable. We're going back (you would be extremely lucky to come with us). Anyway, the cabeza was basically a pate made from pig's head with little tiny shavings of extremely sweet carrots. The beef heart came sliced thin and piled on top of toast smeared with romesco sauce. It was like the best roast beef you ever had, the extremely smooth texture probably the only sign that it was heart.


Boquerones - white anchoives in vinegar and olive oil

I haven't really liked anchoives in the past; they're very oily and fishy. But even though nothing in this dish disguised those basic properties, they were somehow really great anyway. Also, that was some yummy olive oil.

Pulpos - octopus

So soft but not mushy.

Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija. La Especialidad de la Casa - grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese

These just had chunks of butter coating it. You'd think that'd be gross and too rich. I was undeterred.

Asado de Huesos - roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade

Oh my. As Sean (his first time eating marrow) said: meat butter. Salty, flavorful and flavored, fat. It's awesome. I expect that someday soon, we'll pop in for a drink and this. The oxtail marmalade was really oxtail on toast -- I'm not sure where the 'marmalade' comes in.

Vientre de Cerdo - crispy pork belly, Burgundy snails, fava beans and smoked maple crumble

The very last thing I ate. It was great, but I wasn't that into the fava beans and maple crumble.


Churros con Chocolate - airy crisp fried pastry with chili infused chocolate

Best churros we'd ever had.

Okay, probably not a lot there for any vegetarians to work with. Sorry. To summarize, by far, the best tapas I've ever had. A few more random thoughts: Now I admit that I have a high tolerance for fatty/oily foods. I've eaten lardo. Usually after tapas, you feel greasy. Even though there was oil and fat and butter in everything, I didn't feel that way at all. And though I was worried there'd be tiny portions, we were both satisfactorily full after the meal.


Monday, March 15, 2010


Waiting at the train station this morning. My train is delayed
naturally. There's a couple inches of water on tracks. How very


Sunday, March 07, 2010

That Was Random

Warning: this post has some bad language.

I got a text message very early this morning. It's from a phone number I don't recognize, and the reverse phone lookup just says that it's a cell in Hammond, IN (although, I guess the cell itself could be anywhere). Actually, this person texted me before -- twice on New Year's Day with 'happy new year.' Today's message:

"im drunk ! how r u - my nipples are hard as fuck!"

I assume they think I'm someone else.

A few other mysteries (aside from, who is this person?): Is this a booty-text? Did I just accidentally cock-block someone by having a similar phone number? What does that last bit of the text mean? Is that supposed to be a sexual come-on?


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I Live in Boston, But I Don't Take the T

One of the nice things about Boston is the subway system, the "T." It means that Boston is one of the few places in the U.S. where one can get along without a car. In fact, Sean and I do not have a car. But since we moved to the South End, I've been on the T less than once a month. Partly this is because we live near the commuter rail station and I take commuter rail to get to work. The other thing is that we live in the most convenient location in Boston. I live in the neighborhood with the fancy restaurants. A 15 minute walk north puts me in the neighborhood with the fancy shopping. A few blocks up my street is Chinatown (with the giant Chinese grocery store). Keep on going and I'll pass downtown and hit the river (not a bad run on a nice day). I guess that helps make up for the 3 hour per day commute.