Special Section: Suburban Boston Eateries
If anyone tells you that food in the Boston area is confined to baked beans and cod, don’t you believe it! There any number of interesting eating places to be found in Waltham, Somerville, Watertown, and other suburbs. Below is a list of those I tried on an August trip...
--Indigo, 45 Chapel St., Needham, (781) 453-0002, www.indigo-needham.com. Some intriguing menu choices, but both food and service could use more finesse. One companion’s mahi mahi entrée was overcooked; the mussels, ordered by another, simply weren’t very good. The frozen strawberry souffle dessert was too hard to eat, and the pieces of strawberry in it were too large (and, of course, frozen solid). On the plus side, a crispy softshell crab main course (with sweet peach sauce, roasted corn salsa, and wilted greens) was perfection on a plate, and the lemon semifreddo sparkled. Recommended dishes: baby spinach salad with prosciutto, fontina, pistachios, and sliced apples in a cider vinaigrette; crispy softshell crabs; lemon semifreddo. Service was pleasant and started out smoothly but slowed to an unacceptable degree throughout the course of the meal, especially considering that the restaurant wasn’t that busy when we dined there.
--evoo, 118 Beacon St., Somerville, (617) 661-EVOO, www.evoorestaurant.com. “evoo” is short for “extra virgin olive oil”. A charming, smallish restaurant, sparely but nicely decorated, with the emphasis where it should be: on food. Vegetarians may find the menu a bit limiting, but there will always be a choice or two. The menu seems more extensive than it really is, partly due to a number of specials in most courses every evening and partly because so many of the dishes sound appetizing. Recommended dishes: cucumber-yogurt soup; salad of tart plums, radishes, feta, pine nuts, arugula, and red onion; salad of smoked rabbit confit, wild greens, port soaked cherries, and toasted pecans; grilled wild alaskan king salmon filet with creamy corn puree, smoked bacon, and peach salsa; “3 Little Pigs” (grilled smoked pork loin, barbecued pork shoulder, and garlicky sausage); corn-basil bread pudding; chocolate-banana bread pudding (use a spoon for that amazing buttermilk caramel sauce). Service started a bit slowly but increased to a better speed toward the end of the meal; staff were polite and helpful.
--The Great Wall Restaurant, 309B Great Rd., Great Road Shopping Center, Bedford, (781) 275-7007, www.greatwallbedford.com. If you can’t find something to eat on this menu, you aren’t hungry. Most of “the usual suspects” are here, along with a few less-common dishes, such as the cold wine chicken or vegetarian potato nest. A large Saturday night crowd might have accounted for the fact that the food wasn’t as good as it has been in previous visits, though service was efficient and polite. Recommended dish: crispy chunking duck.
--Stellina, 47 Main St., Watertown, (617) 924-9475, www.stellinarestaurant.com. Another smallish, upscale-but-not-formal restaurant The menu definitely contained fewer choices than in past visits; if this was due, as one companion suggested, to it being vacation time with so many people away, you’d never have known it from the crowd that Sunday evening. Service was a trifle slower than we’d have liked. Recommended dishes: smokey mussels zuppa; heirloom tomato tasting; pesto fettuccine; crab risotto cakes; zucchini and squash summer soup; trio of sorbets. The food remains inventive, the combinations are thoughtful, and the ingredients used are of top quality.
--Zathmary’s, 299 Harvard St., Brookline, (617) 731-8900 (also in Needham Heights), www.zathmary.com. What do you want for lunch today? Whether the answer is a salad, pizza, a freshly-made sandwich, or prepared food, you’ll find it all under one roof in Brookline (I haven’t visited the Needham Heights location). This isn’t a large place, but the variety is incredible. Part deli, part bakery, and part market with an upscale twist, Zathmary’s does a brisk business. There are a few tables, but you can also get your food to go. Locally popular, and deservedly so, with good-quality food. Open during the evening, too, and it’s not uncommon to see neighborhood folks stopping in to pick up dinner on the way home from work.
---Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream, 1255 Cambridge St. (Inman Square), Cambridge, (617) 492-7021, no website. How is it that I can recommend this place when I’ve never been there? Stellina (see above) serves three of their sorbets (chocolate, raspberry, and honeydew) as the restaurant’s Trio of Sorbets. If these are just the sorbets, I can’t wait to try their ice cream! The raspberry sorbet was decent but not stellar, but the chocolate and honeydew flavors were knockouts, and I’m not usually a great fan of honeydew. Neither was too sweet; both had very true and clean flavors. I’ve done a bit of reading up on Christina’s, and they tend to have some unusual flavors of ice cream. But even if you just want one of the old standbys, the place has to be worth a try.
---Ice Cream Club, 3 Washington St., Wellesley (Lower Falls), (781) 235-4670, no website. So I’m taking a walk in Wellesley with my Mom and we pass by this funny little bare-bones storefront with about 5 small tables. On impulse, I decide I need some ice cream. I don’t always make good decisions regarding impulse food purchases, but I did here. Some of the ice cream flavors are very good, notably the rum raisin. Try the coffee and the mocha chip; neither is too sweet, and both taste deeply of coffee. The coconut almond chip was a winner, as well. While I thought the pistachio tasted too strongly of pistachio flavoring, I applaud the fact that it was white, not the unnecessary green seen all too frequently. Give the cookie dough a miss; the vanilla base is solidly good, but there aren’t enough cookie dough chunks. No gimmicks and nothing fancy, just a little neighborhood ice cream place of the kind I wish my neighborhood had. There is an ice cream store of the same name in the nearby town of Newton, but it is no longer affiliated with this one.