Archive for October, 2012
Location: Watertown, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
This place is an enigma. A beautiful enigma. It’s also one of the most unique dining experiences you will have around Boston.
How do you manage to order at a restaurant that can be described by the following attributes?
- The name is Strip T’s, and the spot is located in a homely corner of Watertown.
- For 25 years, they were a friendly neighborhood shop serving a lunch menu of salads, sandwiches, and soups. Think Greek Salads, Po’Boys, etc.
- Recently the owner’s son returned from his gig as Chef de Cuisine at the one-and-only David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar in NYC to take over the menu.
- The dinner has been revamped and includes an incredibly eclectic array of upscale Asian influences, down-home Amuuurican fare, and New England favorites. Now think things like haute burgers, fried chicken, banh mi, oxtail, maitake mushrooms, etc.
- An emphasis is now placed on locally-sourced ingredients – think chalkboard list of suppliers, fish caught by spear (seriously), farms incorporated into menu item descriptions.
As someone who usually makes a beeline to a singular menu item that sings straight to my foie-gras clogged heart, I was more stumped with my selection at Strip T’s than anywhere else in recent memory.
I mean – do I go with the traditional grub like a burger, thinking that the son added a little Momofuku magic dust to a classic dish?
Or, do I swing East, thinking that our new chef wields a Shun well and shuns the old Strip T’s food in favor of inventive Asian cooking?
Or, do I try something zany and not particularly in line with either of these lines of thinking – like smoked trout with corn, 5 minute egg, rye, and chanterelles; or creole boudin “etouffee” with shrimp, scallops, and root vegetables?
Really – it all sounded good.
- First: Grilled romaine with succulent braised oxtail, perfectly poached egg, and a zingy chili ‘vin’ (which is apparently a cool way to say dressing). This dish really had a little bit of all the flavors and textures I most appreciate: meaty, smoky, charred, rich, spicy, complex, juicy, and crispy. Best dish of the night.
- Second: After much, much agonizing I settled on the creole boudin, which was an incredibly tender sausage stuffed with creole rice and split down the center with plump little scallops and shrimp perched atop. The sausage wonder was swimming in a light stew with finely julienned root veggies, and man did it all have a nice flavorful “kick” to it. In the end, I loved this deconstructed slice of Nawlins.
- Second (part deux): No, I did not gluttonously eat two mains. My dining chum ordered the much more dainty and Eastern-influenced roasted tautag, which was a spear-caught mild white fish in a bowl with kohlrabi “noodles,” lightly fried clams, eggplant and pistachio. Though a much different mouth-feel (yes I’m a fouchebag) than the boudin, it was sophisticated and well-executed (yes I watch too much Food Network).
- Third: We were treated to some sort of special ice cream with coconut cake and sweet cream topped with cacao nibs. Felt nice and cooling on my tongue after the whirlwind of flavors hitting my buds all night.
And you know, now that I mention it, there was a veritable whirlwind of flavors being served up at Strip T’s. Chef Tim appears to have the rare ability to magically transport his diners through the rustbelt, the deep south, and the Asian subcontinent while still weaving in a lil’ bit of Watertown, MA.
Is this the beginning of a new trend in the restaurant biz? Has the pop-up been replaced by the all-out takeover? Will our local Greek gyro joints, college pizza shops, and fried-rice-slinging Chinese buffets be reinvented by inspired chefs who add a bit of their own influence while staying true to the roots of the kitchen space they have now inhabited?
What should we call it? Burgers and macquisitions? Muncher capital? Perma Pop-Ups? Private Chef-quity?
People can take their conversations, work, school, families and friends with them anywhere these days – the food truck revolution makes it easier than ever to take your meals with you anywhere too.
Last night on the greenway, a ring of mobile eateries encircled thousands of gastro-enthusiasts hungry for tacos, sliders, and all manner of portable munchies. I was one of those enthusiasts.
You’ll hear all kinds of analysis from food writers in the area, but here’s my take of the action along with a few “NTF Awards” for best of the best.
14 Trucks – 7 from Bawston, 7 from New Yawk. Serving from late morning to 9PM at Dewey Square on the Greenway. T-shirts sold as shwag. Mobile diners voted for NYC or BOS by dropping some cash into a bucket for each town. Cash donations went to Food Banks from each respective city – classy.
The Grub Gallery:
The NTF Food Truck Throwdown Awards:
- Best Overall Food – Mei Mei Food Truck
As the night went on, it became clear that the longest lines were not necessarily indicative of the best grub. Mei Mei had a more modest queue but was slinging some incredible eats. We kept coming back to Mei Mei for more as the night went on…and when we thought they had run out of goods – they unveiled a ‘secret’ late night menu. They reeled us in with their signature “Double Awesome Sandwich” which was an amazing scallion pancake wrapped around cheddar cheese, an Asian-leaning pesto, and slow poached then fried eggs. We came back for frickin’ awesome stir-fried noodles with beef, amaranth, and ginger and fried Chinese crullers. Baller inventive Chinese cuisine.
- Longest Line – Wafels & Dinges
This NYC favorite was serving up Belgian wafels served a thousand different ways. Need I say more? Though we did not brave the line to enjoy one of their European Pancakes, they definitely deserve some props for exposing nearly 10,000 Americans to what a real wafel should taste like.
- Best Taco – Staff Meal
Tacos are a popular food truck item. So it says something to be serving up the best. Compared to Big D’s Grub (an NYC truck serving up Asian-Latin fusion fare), Staff Meal packed more flavor into their Mexican pancakes with a chorizo and wild mushroom offering.
- Coolest Truck – The Munchie Mobile
A bright purple truck with glowing green eyes? How could you miss it?
- Best Fusion Dish – Bon Me Hot Dog
Food Trucks are about fusion. We saw all kinds of influences weaved together throughout the night – Latin-Asian, Asian-American, Latin-American…a true testament to global citizens of the world. Bon Me was handing out hot dogs slathered with spicy mayo, carrots, daikon, and cilantro. Topped with sriracha, I was pleased. Good thing these guys are opening a brick and mortar location in Kendall this January!
- Most Underwhelming Food – Bian Dang
These guys were the first to run out of food which made my tummy mad. When they surprised us with a steamed pork bun after announcing all the supplies were spent – it came up real short.
- Friendliest Staff – Mei Mei Again!
Serving countless members of the general public from a cramped truck can crush the spirit of even the most well-intentioned food service professional. Mei Mei held it together with ease.
Who Won? Boston or New York?
Who cares? This event brought together so much goodness it doesn’t matter. It hit all the key values of the Gen Y’er: lots of choice and diversity, local “sustainable” cooking, supporting small business, a social purpose component, reasonable prices, and good food. This event was a good way to support the Food Trucks of Boston and the Big Apple while showing many a good time on a Saturday night. My only hope is that the mobile eating trend continues and that there will be more such events in the years to come.
Once a homely fishing town and a well-kept secret, this city has in recent years been outed as a real Foodie destination. So yeah, I’ve been there a few times.
This snapshot points you to a gathering of my flava faves and a couple poseurs to stay away from.
First, the Faves:
- Street & Company | www.streetandcompany.net | Upscale Contemporary American Seafood
- Duckfat | www.duckfat.com/ | Fries Cooked in Duck Fat, Vanilla Shakes with Crème Anglaise | Read My Review
- Portland Lobster Company | www.portlandlobstercompany.com | Awesome Lobster Roll, Best Steamers in Town, Local Beer, and Live Music on the Docks
- Micucci Grocery | www.micucci.com | New England’s Best Slice of Pizza | Read My Review
- Bard Coffee | www.bardcoffee.com | Solid Roastery and Café
- Shipyard Brewery | www.shipyard.com | Tour the Brewery, Drink Lots of Beer Samples
- Standard Baking Company | www.forestreet.biz/en/Other-Restaurants | Baller Croissant, Killer Breads, and Amazing Pastries
- The Front Room | www.thefrontroomrestaurant.com | Portland’s Best Brunch
- The Porthole | portholemaine.com/| The Best Dive Bar in Town Has Good Food Too
- Pai men Miyake | www.miyakerestaurants.com | Food from Further East than Eastern Maine – P.S. Try the Pork Belly Bun
- Harbor Fish Market | www.harborfish.com | …And when you’re done, take some fish home from here
Browse the gallery below for some snapshots of goodness devoured at said eateries:
Now, here are a couple Flops:
- J’s Oyster | Yeah, I know Bourdain came here, but it’s overcrowded and mediocre
- Bresca | Overpriced for what you eat, and there’s better food in town | Read My Review
With the busy summer season behind us and the Fall air blowing in, you might want to consider a weekend getaway to this eaters paradise to gorge on all of the above.
So, how does the fair city of Portland do it, you ask? Are their chefs better? Their kitchens more pimped out? Their eaters more discriminating? Their ingredients fresher?
The answer, my friends, washes up on shore with each Maine baby born from the salt of the Atlantic ocean.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
If you’ve been a reader of the Foodie for long, you’ll know that I like to stay hip with the newest, swankiest grub parlors in town…but every once in a while I like to throw a shout-out to one of my long-time favorites.
That shout for this week is going out to Oleana.
This is an all-star restaurant with stats like [insert your favorite jock here]. Here is what the back of my “culinary card” would look like for Oleana:
- A.N.R. (Average Notice for Reservation) – 1 to 2 weeks advance call-ahead for party of two
- G.M.R. (Good Meal Ratio) – 100% (4 out of 4)
- All-Star Chef Award Winner – Ana Sortun has been one of my favorite local kitchen-wizards for years and deserves praise for legitimately expanding my palate as an eater.
- K.A.M.L. (Kick-Ass-Meals-Lineup):
- Fish filet cooked sous-vide in paper with butter, truffle, and cauliflower.
- Awesome little greek sausages
- Delicate fish and chorizo in broth
- Fresh burrata with zucchini fritters with greens and a spicy sauce
- Filet of halibut in mild broth with crispy prosciutto and couscous “cubes”
- Y.I.B.C.H. (Years I’ve Been Coming Here) – 7
- Gourmet Food Sourcing Award – Sortun owns a farm that supplies a good many ingredients incorporated into the meals here and at her bakery, Sofra.
- A.P.E. (Awesome Patio Eatery) – Oleana’s outdoor eating area is spacious and beautiful – adorned with herbs, plants, and Mediterranean pieces of flair. Heck, they’ve even got a pear tree back there.
- U.D.S.P.R. (Ubiquitous Dollar Sign Price Range) – $$$ (25-30 per entrée)
Beyond these key stats, I’ll throw in a lil’ narrative here as well to guide your next meal at Oleana. Looking at my patented “K.A.M.L.” metric above, I’ll say that these guys definitely know how to cook their fish. I have never gone wrong with a dish harkening to the sea here. Also, there are always a ton of well-appointed appetizers rich in exotic spices, purées, veggies, and cheeses. So, load up on the front end, order yourself a baller main plate, and sip a little vino from the always-excellent wine list. Finally – Oleana has some bench strength in the kitchen and always has a pimpin’ pastry and dessert lineup spearheaded by the pastry chef.
With stats like this – what’s not to like? So choose Oleana this winter sports season along with the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins (that is if they’re not extinct due to bickering between millionaires and billionaires)