Dining guide – The Boston Globe

Dining out

These reviews have appeared in the Globe’s Food section recently. Critic Devra First writes the dining out reviews.

Stella½

Chef-owner Evan Deluty’s South End Italian restaurant has been open for 10 years, and it’s still going strong. It doesn’t try to reinvent any wheels. Instead, it focuses on serving tasty food to people out for a fun night with friends — artichoke hearts battered and fried into golden nuggets, thin-crust pizzas topped with sausage and broccoli rabe, a signature rich Bolognese over tagliatelle (above). It has earned its place as a mainstay of the neighborhood. 1525 Washington St., South End, Boston, 617-247-7747. www.bostonstella.com. (3/11/15)

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STUDY½

This Kendall Square restaurant from the people behind Journeyman is the kind where food is alchemized into jewel-like compositions occupying approximately 15 percent of available plate surface. Dishes like raw scallops with mushroom mousse and yuzu sorbet, or cured and smoked rabbit loin with leg confit, liver mousse, and Brussels sprouts over smoked cherry wood, are wonderful. Others feel mannered or precious, but there are so many fine touches at Study, from the house-made bread and butter to the bonbons at the end of every meal, from the cheese cart to the enticing wine list. 73 Ames St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-718-2333, www.studyrestaurant.com. (3/4/15)

CENTRE STREET CAFE ½

The team behind Jamaica Plain tapas bar/book-and-music store Tres Gatos purchased brunch institution Centre Street Cafe and turned it into an Italian restaurant. This fills a void for the neighborhood, but don’t come expecting heaping platters of ziti and chicken parm. There is a short menu that revolves around local ingredients, dishes handmade with great care by chefs who have worked at places such as Rialto and Clio. The portions are modest, the prices are not, and despite some unevenness, the restaurant is one of JP’s best. And it still serves brunch. 669A Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-9217, www.centrestreetcafejp.com. (2/25/15)

NIGHT MARKET½

Call it DownStairs on the Square. Night Market occupies a basement space that was formerly Indian restaurant Tamarind Bay, hidden in plain sight. The address is JFK Street, but the entrance is around the corner on Winthrop, and signage is minimal. Walls are covered in brick and colorful graffiti murals. The funky trappings and an enthusiastic young staff make this feel like a real college-town hangout, in a good way. The kitchen turns out small plates that roam all over Asia, from Filipino spring rolls to Sichuan-spiced chicken wings to Malaysian kaya toast (pictured). 48 JFK St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 857-285-6948, www.nightmkt.com (2/18/15)

KOY ½

Koy focuses on Korean dishes, both traditional and twisted, from Korean barbecue and kimchi fried rice to carnitas dumplings and bulgogi sandwiches on brioche. In the Faneuil Hall landscape of bars, chains, and tourist traps, these flavors couldn’t be more welcome. The friendly spot is a family venture, managed by siblings Catarina and Dan Chang and owned by their father, Danny. He is the character roaming the room, asking how everything is and recommending his favorites. 16 North St., Faneuil Hall, Boston, 857-991-1483, www.koyboston.com (2/18/15)

BEL ARI

Conveniently located near South Station, Sorriso was always overshadowed by sister restaurant Les Zygomates just a few doors away. Now it has been rebranded Bel Ari, and the Italian spot warrants at least as much attention as its French sibling. Chef Robert Fathman oversees a menu that feels both classic and modern. The best dishes show restraint, emphasizing a handful of ingredients well combined. Think simple sfizi; gnocchi with shrimp, lobster, and mushrooms; and chicken saltimbocca. 107 South St., Leather District, Boston, 617-259-1560, www.belariboston.com (2/11/15)

CAFÉ ARTSCIENCE ½

Café ArtScience is not so much about art or science as it is about ideas. It is a collaboration among a Harvard professor and inventor, a bartender who makes drinks with a centrifuge, and a chef who hews closer to tradition than one might expect. Dishes don’t feel like science lessons. They are instead a careful scrutinizing and rearranging of traditional fare — a perfectly composed artichoke soup, a dish that showcases both lamb saddle and belly. There are many ups and some downs, but the bar is always first-rate. 650 East Kendall St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 857-999-2193, www.cafeartscience.com (1/21/15)

MAST’

The first thing one sees upon entering Downtown Crossing restaurant MAST’ is the impressive pizza oven, which turns out good pies. But in offering an ambitiously long menu of Italian snacks, salads, antipasti, pasta dishes, main courses, sides, and desserts, MAST’ bites off more than it can chew. A newer chef imported from Italy is working to change that. In the meantime, the pizza is the main draw. 45 Province St., Downtown Crossing, Boston, 617-936-3800, www.mastboston.com (1/14/15)

VIALE½

Rendezvous was an essential Central Square restaurant, and when it closed, it seemed nothing could replace it. Viale, however, is a worthy successor. More casual, with an even greater emphasis on the bar, it feels like a natural evolution. Excellent handmade pasta and other Italian-influenced dishes from chef and co-owner Greg Reeves don’t hurt, either. 502 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge, 617-576-1900, www.vialecambridge.com (12/17/14)

COMEDOR

Chefs Jakob White and Fernanda Tapia White got married last year. Then came the expected next step in any young culinary couple’s life: They opened a restaurant together. For Comedor, they draw from both of their backgrounds, serving “American-Chilean” small plates such as scallop empanadas and Chilean-spiced pork ribs with North Carolina mustard sauce. Food can be uneven, but the place is sweet and stylish, a welcome addition to Newton Centre. 105 Union St., Newton, 857-404-0260, www.comedor newton.com (12/3/14)

BAR BOULUD

It is big news when a master chef like New York-based Daniel Boulud opens a restaurant in Boston. Bar Boulud is one of his more casual concepts, a fine place to stop in for charcuterie and a glass of wine. But food and service are uneven. For every decadent pate grand-mere and tender boudin blanc, there is a flavorless pumpkin cavatelli and rubbery coq au vin. 776 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-535-8800, www.barboulud.com/boston (11/19/14)

RED BIRD½

Red Bird, from an alum of the Franklin Cafe, does for Waltham what that restaurant did for the South End years ago, adding a fine, comfortable New American staple to the mix. In the small, glassed-in kitchen, chefs move like human pistons, the hard work of cooking for a crowd on display. It can take a while for dishes to arrive, but it is worth the wait for killer clam strips; pasta with spicy red sauce, chorizo, and rock shrimp; and perfectly grilled hanger steak. 361 Moody St., Waltham, 781-891-5486, www.redbirdwaltham.com (10/22/14)

BISTRO 5½

Chef-owner Vittorio Ettore opened Bistro 5 15 years ago, renovating last year. (The harlequin theme remains.) This is still the nice restaurant people come to in this part of town, although other options are arriving. It’s busy even midweek, with regulars tucking into Italian-inspired fare like salt cod arancini, calamari with tomato chutney, handmade pasta, and veal Milanese.

5 Playstead Road, West Medford, 781-395-7464, www.bistro5.com (10/8/14)

BASTILLE KITCHEN

This is a bistro as envisioned by Seth Greenberg, a name often preceded by the title “night life impresario,” the guy who launched clubs like M-80 as a lad and later on places like Mistral and Woodward. It is 11,000 square feet of lavishly outfitted space, transforming a former Fort Point textile factory into a highly styled new restaurant and lounge. It serves modernized French fare, for better (octopus ceviche) and worse (dry Cajun-spiced roast chicken with weak fries). 49 Melcher St., Fort Point, Boston, 617-556-8000, www.bastillekitchen.net (10/1/14)

LEGAL OYSTERIA

The latest spinoff from Legal Sea Foods opens in the Charlestown space that used to be Olives, where chef Todd English’s legacy went up in flames, more than once. The new tenant is an instant win for Charlestown residents, who can definitely count on Legal Oysteria to be on fire less often than its predecessor. The theme: Legal goes to Italy. (The name is a seafoodization of the Italian word “osteria.”) Visitors will find friendly staff and a menu barely recognizable as Legal. There’s chowder, sure, but also small plates, pizza and pasta, and entrees like swordfish salmoriglio. 10 City Square, Charlestown, 617-712-1988, www.legal seafoods.com (9/17/14)

Cheap Eats

BROTHERS RESTAURANT

At a new North Brookline eatery, chef-brothers Edison and Cesar Gutierrez and Concepcion Perez are turning out an ambitious menu of American, Italian, and Mexican specialties, along with a full breakfast, served daily. Go for the short ribs taco, Korean-style beef tucked into two tortillas (one crisp, the other soft), a cumin-spiced lamb kabob burger, and a well-made Manhattan cocktail. 404 Harvard St. Brookline, 617-383-6268, www.brothers-restaurant.com (3/5/15)

CHA YEN THAI COOKERY

Manita Bunnagitkarn, 31, is doing something courageous in Watertown. She has rented a slip of a place and is offering very good Thai food to take out. You can stay, of course, but you’re vying for one of eight table seats. She is making everything to order (no MSG), and that can take time. So you have to wait and there’s no place to wait. At Cha Yen Thai Cookery, Bunnagitkarn’s philosophy is, “I want people to have fresh food and ingredients that they can afford, every day.” To that end, no dish on the menu — and portions are generous — costs most then $10. 613 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, 617-393-0031, www.chayenthaicookery.com(2/4/15)

RICE THEORY

Newly minted Wellesley College grad Will Sripakdeevong, 23, who comes from Bangkok, opened this 20-seat spot in January. Mostly takeout, Rice Theory is an island of authenticity in a sea of fast-food places, giant furniture stores like Bernie & Phyl’s, and an Audi dealership lit up like a space ship. Pad Thai comes in original and US versions. Both are terrific, as is much of the food here (only 12 entrees), which you order on a screen yourself and follow the prompts. Fun, authentic, and a little rough and ready. 381 Worcester St. (Route 9 West), Natick, 781-333-1887, www.ricetheory.com (2/25/15)


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