This is the third post in the mini-series where I reflect on my favorite restaurant discoveries in 2015. The other two posts in this series include the the following: Happy New Year, A Look Back at 2015, Part I where I reflect on the unique year I had traveling more than usual because I wasn't working a corporate 9-5 job; and Around the World Birthday Extravaganza Trip, which summarizes the amazing trip I just took at the end of 2015 (mid-November to early December)
Wow. What a year it's been for Boston restaurants!
Sometimes I forget how good we have it now. Even as I look back on 2015, I'm surprised at how many really good restaurants appeared just within the past year.
The restaurant scene has seriously exploded in both Boston and Cambridge (and even in the burbs!). Kendall Square especially is a whole new ball game now when it comes to food (especially compared to when I was in college, or even just 5 years ago). There are so many good restaurants, so many new chefs carrying out their dreams, it's quite exciting.
Below are a list of my personal favorite new restaurants from 2015. Definitely check some of these out!
Best New Boston Restaurants 2015
I was thrilled when I first heard that James Beard award winning chef Susan Regis, formerly at Upstairs on the Square (one of our old favorite haunts), was going to partner with Rene Becker (owner of Hi Rise Bread Co., yet another favorite of mine!) were going to open Shepard right around the corner from my house!
We have since visited many times and we have not been disappointed. Chef Regis is a pro at coaxing the best flavors out of simple, quality ingredients without over-saucing or over-seasoning. Every time I have gone, I have tremendously enjoyed the ever-changing menu of wood-fired meats, house made pastas, and creative small plates. Don't miss the free Hi Rise bread served with house-cultured butter. I never feel like they give enough butter (it's just a schmear on a black slate), but you can always ask for more!
We have been longtime fans of O Ya, Tim and Nancy Cushman's Japanese inspired high-end restaurant. Alas, it's not the type of place that you would visit every day. This is why we were so excited when they finally opened up their second restaurant in Boston, Hojoko. Hojoko serves casual Asian fusion, small plate Japanese dishes. The vibe is fun and energetic, the dishes are creative, and the food is excellent.
Try the chicken Ramen, torched Uni, or honestly, anything else on the menu.
If you're into cocktails, you have to come to Café Art Science. Bar Manager Todd Maul makes magic through the use of science lab tools like roto evaporators ("rotovaps"), centrifuges, and other nerdy lab tools. Though I'm not typically a cocktail person (I find almost all of them to be too sweet or "boozy" for me), I always order a cocktail at Cafe ArtScience because they are elegant, creative, and fun. The food is similarly refined and delicious. Portions are all the smaller side (which I don't mind), but the flavors are always spot on. Desserts are excellent and worth trying.
We had been anticipating the opening of BiSq (short for "Bergamot Inman Square), for over a year. Chef Dan Bazzinotti from Bergamot is at the helm and produces fun small plates influenced by his love for all things meat (hello house-made sausages, house-cured meats, and fabulous charcuterie!), bold flavors with a Peruvian slant (his wife is from Peru!), and his endless creativity. The atmosphere intimate, the menu ever-changing, and all-in-all, it's a fun place to visit.
Select Oyster Bar
You know a restaurant's going to be really good when the chef of one of Boston's most popular (and impossible-to-get-into) restaurants leaves and opens up his own place. Chef Michael Serpa did just that, leaving Neptune Oyster in the North End to open Select Oyster Bar in Back Bay. I was extremely impressed with the delicate seafood selections at Select - everything from perfectly seasoned crudo and gorgeous salads to entrees influenced by flavors from around the world.
I know, it's cruel to include this in the round-up when it's not really open in Boston quite yet. Earlier this year, I visited Alden & Harlow for a midnight pop-up of Mu Ramen from New York. It turned out to be one of the best bowls of ramen I'd ever had in Boston. Yes, the service was messed up and we didn't get our ramen until almost 3 hours later, but man, was it fantastic. Other fantastic dishes, like the uni ikura bowl pictured above, were similarly amazing. It made me wish Mu Ramen would come and open up in Harvard Square right now. We think there are plans, but we're just not sure when it's going to happen. Until then, you can always enjoy their New York location in Long Island City.
Thankfully, Cambridge did get ramen from Santouka, a Japanese ramen chain from Hokkaido that opened up in Harvard Square about a year ago. The creamy tonkotsu broth is satisfying, and the ramen is very good. We certainly enjoy having it within walking distance of our home. Definitely try the toroniku, soft, tender pork cheeks simmered for hours. During busy times there is often a line, so plan ahead or show up early.
We visited Study to celebrate a friend's birthday and we were extremely impressed with the dishes. The menu is not huge, and the four of us almost were able to order almost every single item on the menu (!). The plates are edgy and creative, but also well-executed and (most importantly), taste really good. There are many small plates, and it's fun to try a bunch. For fun, share a large format plate with friends. We shared an entire braised oxtail, which was fantastic. If you're into whiskey, check out the whiskey pop-up that occurs every Saturday from 7pm - 11pm.
I love the taste of food chargrilled on fire, and La Brasa in Somerville does it incredibly well. Fire touches almost every menu item in one way or the other, whether it be the charred leeks in the seafood dish, wood-fired bok choy as an entree, or a tender steak. Chef Daniel Bojorquez is Mexican, and he's included several excellent Mexican dishes as well. The menu changes frequently, but most dishes I've had are very good. Parking can be a bit tricky, but we've always managed to find a spot.
I have been a fan of Peter Ungar's work for years, ever since I tasted one of his tasting menus with the Dining Alternative. I kept wondering when he would finally open his own restaurant. Well, 2015 was that year, and Tasting Counter opened up in Somerville inside the Aeronaut Brewing Company's building. Chef Ungar sells tickets to the meals, which are all-inclusive of food, beverage pairing (wine, sake, or beer), tax, and tip ($165 or $180 depending on the day of the week).
Guests sit around a square bar where they watch the staff prepare and plate each course right in front of them. The 9+ course tasting consists of visually stunning and delectable courses, from black truffle artichoke sea bream and "grapefruit three ways" to miso-cured duck and a number of elegant desserts. It is a great value considering what it includes.
Other Noteworthy News and Restaurants
In 2015 we welcomed the opening of the Boston Public Market. Finally! We have a public market too! Bostonians were thrilled that they could access so much artisanal, quality products in one single location right in the center of the city. Mario Batali's Babbo Pizzeria finally opened in Boston, giving us a reasonably-priced option for tasty pizzas and other simple Italian fare at the waterfront. Kyoto's coffee chain Ogawa Coffee decided to open its first US location in Boston, putting Haruna Murayama, the winner of the 2010 World Latte Art Competition, in charge.
I also personally discovered some well-established places that I wish I'd discovered earlier, like the awesome lobster sandwiches at Alive & Kicking Lobster in Cambridge, the solid, reliable menu at Beijing Chinese Dining in Lexington, the dizzying array of options at ShabuZen in Allston, and the famous pasta table at Giulia.
I'm seriously blown away by the sheer number of really, really good places that have opened up this year alone. Things have never been so exciting, and the explosion of new restaurants is not slowing down at all. It's a great time to be living here, and I'm really encouraged by the number of chefs who are willing to work so hard to create such a vibrant dining scene here.
I'm thrilled to be experiencing it all!
Happy New Year!
Next up, we'll wrap up the New York series and move onto Alba, Italy!