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Boston Restaurant Blog -- January, 2008

Below are blog entries from January, 2008. Use the links in the left column to do a quick search of blog entries, or to see blog entries from other months. And feel free to use the "Comments" links under each blog entry to reply to us; your comments just might end up in our Boston restaurant blog! (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section.)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Boston's Hidden Restaurants to Become Handheld-Friendly

It seems that with each passing year, more and more people are using handheld devices to surf the Internet. Whether it be a PDA or a cell phone, a lot of folks today are looking at Web sites on handhelds in addition to (or, in some cases, instead of) laptops and desktops.

There is a problem with this, however; many, if not most Web sites are set up to be viewed only on computer screens, and when these sites are accessed on handheld devices, the sites often look terrible on the tiny screens that these devices have. I have personally given up looking at several sites on my Palm TX for this very reason. And partly out of my frustration, the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site is slowly but surely being transformed into a site that can be viewed with relative ease on handhelds.

Many of our pages have already been converted, including one that I will give here as an example. If you look at our page on Addis Red Sea in the South End of Boston on a Palm or other handheld device, it will look more or less the same as if you were looking at the page on a computer. But much of the design has been stripped out as well as ads and other items, making the page a lot easier to read on a small screen.

Many of the pages that have been converted have been tested on a variety of devices, with all of them displaying the pages with little problem. Unfortunately, handheld devices are by no means standardized like desktop and laptop screen are, so there still may be issues with our site, depending on the device. If you have a handheld and our the page shown above is not displaying correctly, please contact us and let us know what kinds of problems are coming up. We will do our best to make sure our pages run smoothly on as many handheld devices as possible. Thank you!

Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday Brunch at the Noon Hill Grill, Medfield

A group of us went to the Noon Hill Grill in Medfield Center yesterday. The Patriots were playing the Chargers that afternoon (congrats to the Pats, by the way), so we arrived at 12:00 sharp to make sure we wouldn't miss any of the game. And thanks to the quick, efficient service, we were able to watch the game with time to spare. Just as important, though, was the fact that the food at the Noon Hill Grill was very good, and while prices were a bit high for some dishes, this turned out to be a fine option for dining in Medfield, a town that has few restaurants of any kind to speak of.

photo of Noon Hill Grill, Medfield, MA The Noon Hill Grill resides in an old train station in on Route 109 within a stone's throw of the Route 27 intersection. The building has housed a few dining spots in the past, including Canelli's, an Italian restaurant that was around for several years and really impressed me. The Noon Hill Grill is a different sort of restaurant from Canelli's, as it features some New American dishes as well as more traditional American fare.

The brunch menu at the Noon Hill Grill was varied enough, with mostly sandwiches and maybe three or four full entrees, as well as a number of breakfast items. Mini-muffins with nuts in them were served instead of bread at the start of the meal, and they were rich, moist, and delicious. I didn't order soup, but those who did were greatly impressed by the quality and freshness of them, especially the chicken noodle soup. We mostly ordered sandwiches, including a cheeseburger (a bit dry, but with a nice char-grilled taste), and a couple of monte cristos (excellent, with loads of turkey, ham, and cheese on griddled bread and served with maple syrup). The fried haddock was very nice, too, with enough fish for two people. French fries were ok, though nothing special. We all saved room for dessert, and I split (three ways!) a ridiculously sinful brownie sundae with chocolate sauce.

It is tough to judge a restaurant based solely on brunch, but the brunch we had at the Noon Hill Grill was surely good enough to warrant another trip there. I hope to return there sometime this spring or summer for dinner; in the meantime, if anyone has had dinner at the Noon Hill Grill, let us know what you thought of your experience there.

If you would like the address for the Noon Hill Grill, here it is: Noon Hill Grill, 530 Main Street, Medfield, MA, 02052. Phone: (508) 359-9155.

Related Blog Entries: New American restaurants

Monday, January 14, 2008
Mid-Winter Weekend in Manhattan

I took the first of several New York City trips that I have planned for the winter. This was the shortest of the trips, and one in which I met up with family in Manhattan, and over a whirlwind two-day period, we hit some decent restaurants, including a couple of real gems.

photo of Josie's, Manhattan, NY Soon after I arrived on Saturday morning, we headed over to a casual New American restaurant called Josie at the corner of Amsterdam Street and W 74th Street in the Upper West Side. The place was packed, but we were able to grab a prime corner window seat with a fantastic view of the city. Josie's prides itself on healthy dishes, and indeed, our breakfasts were filled with fresh, organic ingredients. My dish was especially tasty; the Josie's Special was a scrumptious mix of scrambled free range eggs, Brandt natural ground beef, mushrooms, and chopped Asian greens. At about $15.00, it wasn't cheap, but it was worth it considering the freshness of the ingredients. The other food didn't quite match up to this dish, but none of the food was of poor quality. Between the views, the bustling feel to the place, the friendliness of the staff, and the decent chow, I could definitely see the appeal of this nice little dining spot.

photo of Surya, Manhattan, NY After our satisfying brunch at Josie's, we wandered down to Greenwich Village, enjoying the sights and sounds of Bleecker Street as well as some of the quieter side streets in the West Village. After a quick trip to McNulty's on Christopher Street to pick up some tea, we went back to Bleecker Street to have dinner at an Indian restaurant called Surya. Situated near the intersection of Bleecker and Seventh Avenue, Surya didn't look like much from the outside, and inside was only a little better, as the atmosphere was a little barren. But it was warm and comfortable, and more important, the food at this tiny Indian place was absolutely fabulous. From the smooth, mild mulligatawny soup to the paratha (a type of whole wheat bread) to the main entrees of chicken saag and chicken chettinad (chicken with a moderately hot mix of of herbs and spices), this was some of the best Indian food I have had in awhile.

photo of Cafe Angelique, Manhattan, NY We had eaten a lot of food at Surya, but we somehow found just enough room to have a small bite to eat and some drinks at Cafe Angelique, a coffee and pastry shop at the corner of Bleecker Street and Grove Street (more or less across the street from Surya). I've been to Cafe Angelique before, and find it a cozy place with the type of atmosphere that only a West Village dining spot could have. We dined on chocolate biscotti while sipping on hot drinks (my coffee was outstanding). If I have one complaint about Cafe Angelique, it is that the tables are too close together, but the street scenes from the windows and, indeed, the people watching within the place make it all worth it, in my opinion.

photo of Viand Cafe, Manhattan, NY I woke up a bit late on Sunday morning, thanks in part to watching the Patriots game (it is strange watching the Pats in Manhattan), so I didn't have as much time to walk in the city as I had hoped. I did end up walking around Little Italy, stopping by Ferrara to grab some pastries to take home. Then it was back to the Upper West Side, and after have a rather average bagel at Fairway to tide me over, we eventually ended up at Viand Cafe at the corner of Broadway and W 75th Street. Viand Cafe is a local diner that I had been to before, and it's really just a simple, basic family restaurant that serves some pretty good food cheap. I ordered something called a cowboy wrap, which was an egg and cheese wrap with a few other items in it. Nothing special, but it was cheap and tasty, and helped keep my hunger at bay for a few hours, since we were looking at a late lunch that day.

photo of John's Pizzeria, Manhattan, NY After leaving the Viand Cafe, we visited The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine up by Amsterdam Avenue and 111th Street, then toured the Riverside Church up by Columbia University and the outskirts of Harlem. By the time we arrived in Times Square to head to lunch, it was well after 2:00, so we were pretty hungry when we arrived at John's Pizzeria. John's is located on W 44th Street in the Theater District, and it can get awfully crowded before or after shows. But our timing was perfect, and we were seated right away. There are three John's Pizzerias in Manhattan, with this one being by far the biggest, as it is two-plus stories high and has two large coal-fired pizza ovens. And those pizza ovens impart the most incredible flavor on the pizza, especially when you order them well done like we did. The charred thin crust, delicious sauce, and chewy mix of cheeses made for what was perhaps one of the best pizzas I have had anywhere in the country (yes, it was that good).

After filling our stomachs at John's, it was time for me to go. Usually I'm very sad when I leave New York City, but as I said before, I will be doing more trips there over the next several weeks. And what restaurants will I be trying on those trips? Stay tuned...

Related Blog Entries: Manhattan restaurants, New York restaurants

Sunday, January 6, 2008
New Year's Eve Dinner at Sardella's, Newport, RI

I usually stay local for New Year's Eve, but this year, we decided to go to Newport to celebrate. And after researching several restaurants including Puerini's, Mamma Luisa, and Cafe Zelda, we decided on an Italian place on Memorial Boulevard called Sardella's, mainly because they had both specials and their regular menu, and they had seating available at 7:00 in the evening.

Sardella's is a spacious restaurant, with seating for maybe 250 people. All five rooms are cozy and attractive, with the front room perhaps being the most appealing. We were able to get seated in this room, getting a table next to the fireplace and a few feet away from the windows that looked out at the boulevard.

Even though it was crowded, our server came over to the table immediately, taking our drink order. The Crosspoint Pinot Noir from Monterey, CA was delightfully buttery and mild, but the dirty martini was so salty that it was almost undrinkable. We started with a decent Cesar salad as well as some delicious garlic bread, then moved onto the main entrees. The spinaci di tortalloni was a marvelous dish of large pasta pockets filled with smoked mozzarella and spinach, and served in a red pepper pesto cream sauce, while the gemilini e pollo al fungi was simply outstanding, with slightly chewy twisted pasta, portabella mushrooms, and grilled chicken served in a slightly bitter gorgonzola cream sauce. We struggled to finish our meals, as portions were fairly good sized (and the appetizers had filled us up a bit), and we passed on dessert.

Sardella's was indeed a terrific New Year's Eve experience, and gave us a great last meal of 2007. I am hoping to get back there sometime in 2008, perhaps even for a quick Saturday evening trip, as Newport is little more than an hour from the Boston area.

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants, Newport restaurants, Rhode Island restaurants

Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Delicious Food, Spacious Digs at China Pearl, Quincy

We tried to get to the new China Pearl in Quincy a few weeks ago, but there were literally hundreds of people inside the place, with many more waiting in line outside. Needless to say, we went somewhere else that night and decided to try again some other time. Well, we did end up going to China Pearl about a week ago, as it was much less crowded this time around, and we are glad we did get there, as the food was as good as we've had in a Chinese restaurant in many months.

photo of China Pearl, Quincy, MA China Pearl is a huge restaurant, with a high ceiling and countless tables scattered about. It seems like it can get quite hectic, with waiters rushing about in all different directions, sometimes carrying trays absolutely loaded with food. The restaurant is set up perfectly for dim sum, which they do have on weekends. The menu has just about every dish you can imagine, with a large number of traditional dishes and some exotic ones, including shark fin soup.

We started with hot and sour soup, which was tasty and had a slow burn to it. Then we split an order of outstanding peking raviolis, which were nothing like the greasy, tasteless kinds that many other Chinese restaurants serve; these were obviously homemade, as they were all shaped differenly and had the scrunched-up look of freshly-made raviolis. For our entrees, we tried the sizzling beef with ginger and scallions, which was perhaps the best individual Chinese entree I have had in at least a couple of years; and the kung pao chicken, which was much better than average, and had a particularly tasty sauce.

The other two China Pearl locations (the original in Chinatown and the second location in Woburn) generally receive high marks from critics and diners alike. If our meal at the Quincy location is any indication, the latest China Pearl will probably receive similar accolades and should become a very big hit in the southern suburbs of Boston. We can't feature China Pearl because it is destined to become a popular place, but that certainly won't stop us from going there. That is, unless there is another endless line of people waiting outside as there was a few weeks ago.

If you would like the address for China Pearl, here it is: China Pearl, 237 Quincy Avenue, Quincy, MA, 02169. Phone: (617) 773-9838.

Related Blog Entries: Chinese restaurants, Quincy restaurants