Boston Bounds Back
New York Corner: The Dutch
Man About Town: Plein Sud
BOSTON BOUNDS BACK
by John Mariani
sniff out a recovery when everyone else has the jitters? It would seem
so in Boston, where a slew of
new restaurants have opened just as the city’s economy is showing signs
of a small boom driven by high tech. In fact, the nation’s
largest private sector construction project is set along Boston’s
anchored by a new $900 million, 1.1 million square-foot office building
developed by Vertex
Pharmaceuticals Inc. Already on the scene is Legal
Liberty Wharf, a
venture of the Legal Seafood chain, which has 18
restaurants and markets in Massachusetts and units in nine other states.
Island Creek Oyster Bar (below) is a whole lot more than an oyster bar. It's a big, loud rollicking restaurant adjacent to one of Boston's best hotels, The Commonwealth, and Fenway Park Field, making it ideal for a pre-game supper. Owners Jeremy Sewall and Skip Bennett maintain close daily relationships with their purveyors, not least New Englands' oystermen, whose names you'll find on the seasonal menu. It's a happy place and people are clearly having a good time just being here, and it's hard to be disappointed by the array of shellfish (a platter enough for four is $78).
Appetizers may include a few mussels renditions, perhaps with lemongrass broth and chili flakes, along with house-cured gravlax, and a pan-fried Jonah crab cake with apple and fennel salad. There are at least three lobster dishes, including the inevitable lobster roll with rosemary aïoli, chips and cole slaw (not the best lobster roll I've had in Boston).
They don't fuss too much with the fine fish they serve, so that a line-caught cod comes with clams and artichokes; pan-seared skate has a saffron quinoa, baby bok choy and creamy scallion and yogurt raita; seared scallops come with a roasted mushroom ragôut, and lentil and lobster cream--a terrific idea. And don't forget to order a side or two, or three, of the buttery biscuits, baked beans (very difficult to find these days in Beantown), or crispy zucchini cakes.
Desserts are a paean to sweetness Americana, with strawberry shortcake (but with basil ice cream?), doughnuts with strawberry-rhubarb jelly; and even a good old ice cream sandwich. The wine list here is excellent.
The Cambridge neighborhood known as Area IV, between Kendall and Central Squares, near M.I.T., has burgeoned with bio tech companies like Dyax Genzyme on Technology Square, conveniently located across from the sleek, new, very casual Area Four restaurant. There’s a fine bakery upfront, while the dining area, facing huge, handcrafted ovens, turns out an array of small plates that include a tangy seviche of wild Rhode Island striped bass, thin-crusted pizzas with toppings of Wellfleet cherry stone clams and bacon, mussels cooked in white ale with roasted tomatoes, and a few larger plates, with a mac & cheese of daunting richness that you will fight friends over not to have to share it. This is a fine place to pick up breakfast, delightful for lunch, and doing great biz at dinner.
Chef-owner Michael Leviton is happy turning out such desirable comfort food, including the dripping sundae of soft serve ice strawberry ice cream, marshmallow sauce, and chocolate almond meringue crunch. In keeping with the no frills ambiance, Area Four has communal tables and serves wines mostly from kegs and boxes along with 12 rotating beers on tap.
In the same neck of the Cambridge woods in Bondir (left) a darling little dining room owned by Jason Bond, a midwesterner and chef for 20 years, so natural and wholesome are worthy descriptors of his farm-driven cuisine. The menu, fairly lengthy for a small kitchen, therefore changes daily but when I visited it contained some lovely, full-flavored, ungimmicky food of a kind you might crave week after week. This summer we thoroughly enjoyed an excellent ceviche of blackback flounder with pea greens, chili oil vinaigrette and caramelized shallots with an aniseed tuile. Scituate scallop was sweet and fattened, with roasted fiddlehead ferns, Swiss chard, and baby bok choy, chive and chervil broth. Mallard duck breast came with a radish green pesto, black lentils and cornmeal cake, and the roasted venison leg with a honey and spice-glazed salsify and white wheatberry salad was a hit at our table. Only a dish of mint tagliatelle with peas, pancetta, spruce, fragrant cicely and ricotta was a mess--flavors that just didn't hang together and clashed with one another.
Leviton has the balance right on a plate--the vegetables should share at least equally with the protein. His is a menu I wouldn't mind feasting on if it were totally vegetarian. He does overdo the tangles of microgreens, but that's not a big problem with food this tasty.
A version of this article ran in Bloomberg News on August 15.
NEW YORK CORNER
The name, says The Dutch's website, means nothing, though it vaguely evokes Manhattan's first European settlers. The place, while brand new, does have the cast of a good old American eatery in SoHo, and Chef Andrew Carmellini, with his partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom--the gang that opened the Italian trattoria Locanda Verde--are doing a mostly American menu here. It's a very friendly place, lots of wood, white tiles, slatted ceilings, open kitchen, and the waitstaff, even under the nightly crush of a crowd that just has to be here right now! is very amiable and knowledgeable.
It does get outrageously loud--all hard surfaces--though the Sullivan Room room (below) beyond the oyster bar (right) is supposedly less so. A manager did ask one grotesquely loud table of six shirtsleeved guys to try to keep it down a tad, but that had little effect. In answer to whether or not The Dutch has a dress code, management gives an entirely reasonable response for the neighborhood: "This ain’t no country club, but it’s no ball game either. This is New York. Do what you feel, but keep it fresh."
Carmellini, with on-premises chef Jason Hue, is treating American fare exactly the way he treats Italian food: simple, based on the best ingredients, as much as possible local, and a square meal for a square deal: except for the steaks and chops (an 18-ounce sirloin is $48, a 28 ounce veal porterhouse $52, and a 40-ounce ribeye for two is $105), there are no main courses above $29, though if you start ordering a platter ($75 and $125) of shellfish and nine-dollar french fries, the bill can get steep quickly.
Right off the bat, let me say the meats are excellent--the legendary LaFrieda offerings--so the bone-in NY strip had the true beefy taste even some Prime lacks these days. Impeccably cooked, it was the kind of thing I crave every week or so. But this is not just a steakhouse, so try the snacks like the little oyster sandwiches, fried and set on small buns.
Appetizers include dressed crab with a bloody Mary element and old-fashioned Green Goddess dressing, a nice dish, if nothing to get excited about, and ruby red shrimp with fried green tomatoes and pepper sauce, which is. Bland fluke is laid over sweet watermelon and lime. A special one night was a sumptuous seafood pie (on most nights it's filled with rabbit), plumped up with fish and lobster and oysters, in a rich creamy sauce under a golden cover of cracker-thin crust. Sea scallops were lustrous, served with summer's sweet corn, bacon (always a good idea), and a delicate bite of chipotle. Of excellent quality was a rosy breast of duck with black Mission figs, pecans and the textural virtues of a three-grain pilaf.
Even though I was very tempted to share a plate of cheeses--interesting varieties like Green Hill from Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia and Boucher Blue from Green Mountain Blue Cheese in Vermont--for dessert I can never resist strawberry shortcake, and The Dutch makes a fine one, with lemon-anisette granita, though the tarragon cream makes for an odd flavor. The same wholesome goodness can be said about devil's food cake with black pepper boiled icing, and each night they make fresh, hot pies (right), whose variety changes each night, so do ask. Peaches are beautiful these August days.
The Dutch also proudly has a wide range of unusual spirits, beers, cider, and cocktails. But the immensity and fine selections of its wine list is totally unexpected. There's a lot of French bottlings here, and a lot of expensive ones, too, but you'll find wines here that you won't easily see on a hundred other menus.
So, don't let anyone tell you The Dutch is just a terrific steakhouse or another gastro-pub. It's both those things, but what it really is hearkens back to an earlier time in New York, and across America, when food like this ruled. It's good to see so much of it back in better shape than ever at The Dutch.
The Dutch is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner nightly, for brunch ch Sat. & Sun.
85 West Broadway (at Chambers Street)
It’s really amazing that cooking shows now blanket most cable and major television networks across the country, some of them good, most not. Based on my last three dinners in NYC, I can confidently say that Bravo’s Top Chef series and the Food Network’s Iron Chef, although over-dramatized at times, are both doing a great job of casting a group of highly talented chefs. In the past month, I’ve written about the West Village’s Kinshop restaurant, run by Herold Dieterle, winner of the first season of Top Chef; Hearth restaurant, owned by Marco Canora, winner of Iron Chef; and most recently, Plein Sud, run by chef Ed Cotton, a finalist during season seven of Top Chef. All three restaurants were as good as any in NYC doing their kind of cuisine, that is, Thai, regional Italian, and French. By no means have I deliberately searched out restaurants with TV show winners; I happen to find out this information after each dinner was finished. Come to think of it, maybe I should start keeping an eye out for the next winner. He or she will probably open a restaurant shortly after and it will most likely be a very good restaurant based on what I’ve tried just this month.
past week I drove deep into Tribeca, down by Chambers Street, and
dined at Plein
on West Broadway, opened by veteran Frederick LeSort and serving
true French bistro
food. Executive chef Ed Cotton is a proud New Englander, born and
raised in Waltham,
MA, where he began his career as a cook, eventually settling in
Boston, where he trained under Todd English at Olives and Figs. Years
after a stint
Vegas, he returned to Boston for awhile before
heading south for NYC, where he worked alongside master chef Daniel
sous chef at Daniel and DB Bistro Moderne. Having honed those
skills over the years as a French chef, he is now serving some of the
French bistro dishes.
breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; brunch Sat. & Sun.
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THAT'S ODD. THEY LET HIM
INTO KFC DRESSED AS A CHICKEN
In Wallace, NC, Vishon Murphy (left) was booted out of a Pizza Hut
for being dressed as a woman after customers complained.
Pizza Hut reps said he also entered the store three times and
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