Finally. I arrived back in London this weekend. It’s been four weeks since I saw my beloved flat, and the rainy London weather is a welcome change from the freezing days and nights in Boston, where I spent last week. I ate out a lot.
From best experience to worst, here’s the roundup:
Neptune Oyster. Boston is full of little oyster bars, which tend to be a size just large enough to accommodate a bar and maybe four or five tables. The buzz and intimacy are the Boston equivalent of a cozy bistro. I’d wanted to eat at B&G Oysters, which is owned by chef Barbara Lynch, whose New American place, No. 9 Park, I really enjoyed last December. But B&G was fully booked, so Neptune Oyster’s no-reservations policy was my best hope for a quality clam chowder and lobster roll. The place was full on a cold Tuesday night, which could’ve been disastrous as there’s no place to stand while you wait for a table to clear, but my friends and I snagged the last available table. Dishes weren’t cheap — clam chowdah was $11, and a lobster roll was $25 — but both were great examples of their kind and well worth the price tag. The only miss that evening was a Special of the Day, a lobster “stroganoff” for $38. Which goes to show you that when you’re at an oyster bar, stick with the classics. (Read this post at Skillet Doux – whose photo I used above – for a full rundown on what made the lobster roll so genius).
Second-favorite resto meal in Boston last week was at Myers & Chang, which was a bigger but toned-down-in-flavor version of David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York. The atmosphere is young and trendy, and most plates are small, so you’re meant to order two or three per person. About a third of the menu offerings were just well-executed versions of straight-up Chinese (for example, the dan dan noodles ($8) were of the classic Americanized variety – more akin to cold peanut noodles than to the fiery goodness we know in London). The majority of menu items were more creative – like the fried chicken and waffles ($21), a dish that in its classic form makes you think “only in America.” The Myers & Chang version included not only a fragrant, crispy fried chicken but also waffles infused with ginger. It was clever but still delish. Braised short-rib tacos ($8 for two) and pork belly buns ($9 for three) rounded out my favorites of the evening, with the sweet potato fritters ($9) getting the lowest score for my not being able to see or taste the advertised Chinese sausage. It’s a fun place to go with a group.
L’Espalier is apparently the formal French Place-to-Be these days in Boston. With every year that I live in London, I grow increasingly tough on French restaurants in America. L’Espalier was no exception. Generic luxury green-and-beige color scheme? Check. Lots of suited-up servers? Location in a big luxury chain hotel? Check check. Jon and I were there to catch up with old friends, so it was OK that there were no fireworks from the food. Ultimately, I was most envious of a nearby table that had ordered an outrageously-large foie gras sauce-topped burger. Our prix fixe menu items were ho-hum, and unbelievably, our server didn’t offer us the wine list. We had to ask for it. C’etait bizarre.
Needing a dim sum fix, I dragged my parents to China Pearl, which got rave reviews on Yelp and Urbanspoon. The place is huge and dingy, but it was certainly busy on a Sunday afternoon (which was the typical day and time to have dim sum when I was growing up). There were lots of carts going around, but oddly the only dish I thought was stellar was the shin-ju-kun, pork and bamboo wrapped in a tofu skin. All the prawn dishes (har gau, cheung fun) tasted mealy, assuming you could even find the prawns buried under all that rice wrapper, and the loh boh gau (turnip cake) was heavy and gluey. Sigh. What a disappointment. On the (minor) plus side, the resto offers validated parking at the garage around the corner on Beach Street. It’s America, after all. You have to take the car.
Brasserie Jo is located in the hotel where I stayed and around the corner from where I was working. It was therefore inevitable I’d eat there at least once. Let’s just say that my hanger steak tasted bitterly of char, and the frites were served lukewarm. The amber lighting and small-tiled floors are gorgeous, but otherwise, this brasserie was a bummer.
And the absolute bottom of the barrel for food was the Legal Sea Foods inside the Prudential Center mall. OK, yes, this is what I got for eating in a mall. But it’s Sunday night and I’ve just checked into my hotel. It’s cold and dark outside, and I’m craving clam chowder (which happened a lot while in Boston – go figure). So I figured the Legal Sea Foods would be fine. But it wasn’t. The chowder was all cream and starch, and the menu items were all a lot more expensive than I had expected (i.e., $25 and up for mains). Too much for a chain restaurant in a mall. When did LSF get so pricey? At least they had free refills of soda and lots of ice (ahh, America!).
In addition to the above, I ate a few good lunches at the burrito cart inside Back Bay station (skip the pork, though; it’s tough and horrible), enjoyed the waffle fries at the Brownstone, loved the thin-crust and tangy sauce at Upper Crust Pizzeria, and failed to see what the fuss was about re: the “healthy” burgers served at B. Good.
It’s nice to be back in London. And back to my regularly-scheduled London restaurant posts.
Neptune Oyster, 3 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113; +1 (617) 742-3474; closest T station: Haymarket
Myers & Chang, 1145 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118; +1 (617) 542-5200; closest T station: Back Bay (15 minute walk)
L’Espalier, 774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199, +1 (617) 262-3023; closest T station: Prudential or Copley
China Pearl, 9 Tyler Street, Boston, MA 02111, +1 (617) 426-4338; closest T station: Chinatown
Brasserie Jo, 120 Huntington Ave (part of the Colonnade Hotel); Boston, MA 02116; +1 (617) 425-3240; closest T station: Prudential
Legal Sea Foods, 800 Boylston Street (inside the Prudential Center mall), Boston, MA 02199; +1 617 266-6800; closest T station: Prudential
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