Dining Out capsules – The Boston Globe

Dining out

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

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 (above); and chicken saltimbocca. 107 South St.,

Leather District, Boston, 617-259-1560, www.belariboston.com (2/11/15)


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Who would have guessed we would one day drink craft cocktails and eat street food-inspired small plates while gazing out at the Mystic from a three-season patio with a fire pit? And yet here we are at River Bar, where chef Patrick Gilmartin (Staff Meal) remixes the flavors of the world deliriously, with an unabashed embrace of fat. The menu at this likable spot is a compendium of clever ideas: corned beef and cabbage dumplings, chorizo Scotch quail eggs. When they land, it’s a pleasure. 661 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-616-5561, www.river-bar.com (1/28/15)


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)


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)


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)


Small and intimate, Spoke is one of the best places in Davis Square for a romantic tete-a-tete. It is also one of the best places for thoughtful food and drink. Executive chef John daSilva previously worked at No. 9 Park; proprietor Felisha Foster was a wine buyer for the likes of Dave’s Fresh Pasta. The menu features inventive, delicious small plates — from farro risotto with hen of the woods mushrooms, smoked chestnut, and cured egg yolk to fried quail served over a cheddar waffle with smoked butter and maple syrup. 89 Holland St., Davis Square, Somerville, 617-718-9463, www.spokewinebar.com (12/10/14)


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.comedornewton.com (12/3/14)


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)


The South End will miss Hamersley’s Bistro, which recently closed after 27 years. But let us not forget the bistro that opened 19 years ago and stays that way today. Metropolis, two blocks away from the former Hamersley’s on Tremont, is a different creature — casual, affordable — but no less a neighborhood mainstay. And its roast chicken happens to be delicious. 584 Tremont St., South End, Boston, 617-247-2931, www.metropolisboston.com (10/29/14)


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)


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)


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.legalseafoods.com (9/17/14)


Dave Becker, the man behind Needham’s Sweet Basil, opens another suburban spot. Juniper serves Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and the neighbors are clearly hungry for this kind of place. The menu serves up Middle Eastern dips, charred octopus salad, quinoa falafel, lamb Bolognese, and more. Often these days, diners don’t want anything too heavy or elaborate, just an easy meal filled with bright flavors, a glass of wine, and a convivial spot to socialize. At Juniper, that’s what we get. 13 Central St., Wellesley, 781-446-6950, www.juniperwellesley.com (9/10/14)


The year’s best surprise. This Burlington steakhouse is anything but run-of-the-mill. The space is sophisticated and modern, decorated with Pop Art prints, industrial antiques, and touches of whimsy. Executive chef Mario Capone serves steakhouse fare for the present day, with some unusual cuts, interesting flavors, and a farm-to-table approach. (The Bancroft is run by Webber Restaurant Group, which also operates Gibbet Hill Farm in Groton, where much of the produce is grown.) There’s a clever bar program, and hospitality is top-notch.

15 Third Ave., Burlington, 781-221-2100, www.the-bancroft.com


The North End gets in on the speakeasy trend with this tiny cocktail lounge and restaurant that pays tribute to its location in creative style. Eating here feels like being inside a 1920s-themed diorama, filled with amber light and Prohibition-era decor. The menu offers the likes of lobster ravioli and seafood brodetto alongside Asian-influenced octopus salad and ramen noodle “carbonara.” Drinks have names like Sacco & Vanzetti and L’Atto Finale. Parla has plenty of good ideas, but it often lacks the focus to pull them off. 230 Hanover St., North End, Boston, 617-367-2824, www.parlaboston.com (8/20/14)

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 (above); pasta with spicy red sauce, chorizo, and rock shrimp; and perfectly grilled hanger steak. 361 Moody St., Waltham, 781-891-5486, www.redbirdwaltham.com


Cheap eats


Putterham Grille offers a warming array of homemade soups, plus Greek, Italian, and American favorites, many of which are cooked with olive oil from co-owner George Giannaris’s family farm in Greece. Delicious bowls like mushroom barley and split pea change daily, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves are excellent, and steak tips are well-crafted. Service can be uneven, but the Mediterranean-inspired fare makes this place stand out. 1012 West Roxbury Parkway, Chestnut Hill, 617-327-2202, www.putterhamgrille.com (2/11/15)


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 philosopy is, “I want people to have fresh food and ingredients that they can afford, everyday.” To that end, no dish on the menu costs more than $10. 613 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, 617-393-0031, www.chayenthaicookery.com (2/4/15)


There is something for everyone at this reasonably priced Asian restaurant with a vast and eclectic menu. Nice décor, good service, and very fresh food make it the perfect spot for a date night that won’t blow the budget. 1678 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, 617-547-0212, www.mixitrestaurant.com (1/28/15)


When you’re craving warming winter fare, chef David Xu of Cilantro Chinese Cuisine, Harvard Square, hopes you’ll try Sichuan-style bubbling fish, tilapia morsels served in a vessel of hot oil with chile peppers. Americanized Chinese favorites are on the menu, but rustic dishes like roast beef tendon and double-cooked-pork are stars here. Weekend dim sum can be uneven, but dainty dishes of ginger tripe, leek pies, and chicken soup with corn will chase away the chill. 1105 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-945-1768


The daughter in question here is Nadia Liu Spellman, whose parents, Sally Ling and Edward Nan Liu ,opened Sally Ling’s on the Waterfront. Spellman’s fast-casual concept in Weston Center eliminates reservations. You order at the counter and a runner brings you food as it is prepared: ramen, dan dan mien with spicy pork, Grandma’s Beijing meat sauce over spaghetti. It’s all appealing and well made. 37 Center St., Weston, 781-216-8989, www.dumplingdaughter.com (1/14/15)


Husband-wife team Dereje A Hailu and Addis Woldesenbet serve comfort food from their native Ethiopia at Addis Cafe in Malden. The menu consists of hearty, spicy meat sautes, braises, and legume stews. Entrees are served on warm injera, the ubiquitous round, spongy Ethiopian flatbread that acts as a plate and a utensil. Tear off a piece and scoop up the satisfying homey fare. 281 Cross St., Malden, 781-324-3042, addiscafe281.weebly.com (1/6/15)


The newest outpost of Temazcal Tequila Cantina in Lynnfield lacks the waterfront view of the original Seaport location, but glammed up versions of Tex-Mex favorites are all here, including marinated skirt steak tacos, shrimp ceviche, and chicken tortilla soup. Creative offerings like a delicious Veracruzana grain salad round out the menu, along with a voluminous list of margaritas and tequila selections. 500 Market St., Lynnfield, 781-334-2500, www.temazcalcantina.com (12/20/14)


Alex Barrientos, a longtime Arlington resident, opened La Victoria Taqueria and offers Mexican street food, like tacos, burritos, and especially delicious tortas, inspired by the food he ate growing up in Veracruz. Stop in for takeout, or snag one of the few tables in the small but stylish counter-service restaurant for a hearty Mexican meal. 12 Medford St., Arlington, 781-859-5503. www.victoriataqueria.com (12/16/14)