Posts Tagged ‘Boston Restaurants’

Sportello Restaurant ~ Boston

Posted 01 Sep 2011 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Barbra Lynch seems to design her restaurants so they run better without her than with her.  Don’t get me wrong, Chef Lynch is at the center of her restaurant group. She is the visionary and the driving force behind every new concept and outlet. However, her restaurants are well run and the food at each and every one is consistently excellent, not just excellent when Barbara is in the house. I admire this.

A recent trip to Sportello, Lynch’s take on a modern lunch counter, is a case in point. I arrive a bit before lunch and take a seat on a black bar stool at the end of the counter closest to the hot line. Sportello is located next door to Menton, Lynch’s fine dining outpost in the Seaport (Fort Point) neighborhood of Boston and one flight of stairs above Lynch’s wonderful bar Drink.

My server is just across the counter at the point of sales system talking with a colleague about the graduate courses she is taking in Gastronomy at Boston University. I can’t help but hear her quick but detailed description of the course and the words she uses suggests to me that she is a writer and an intellect.  To my left, a heavy set chef walks past, glances at her and takes up station on the hot line. He makes eye contact with me for a second and smiles slightly and turns away to finish his station prep.

The kitchen at Sportello is wide open to the dining counter; the entire culinary crew is on stage. Now my server approaches and takes a drink order. I ask about BU and she smiles and fills me in on her background. She’s working for Lynch to build her resume and learn the business while hoping her graduate degree will lead to greener pastures in the world of food, food writing, teaching or, perhaps restaurant ownership.

Off she goes to pull my drink order while I study the menu seeking options. She’s back now with some suggestions. I ask her to bring me the two best selling items on the menu and she agrees to deliver a tagliatelle with sauce Bolognese and fried basil and her favorite item: a strozzapreti (hand rolled “priest chokers) with braised rabbit, picholine olives and rosemary. I am game so off she goes again.

First up: a hot plate of tagliatelle topped with finely grated pecorino. For years I have been making an excellent tagliatelle, one that I roll a few extra times through the pasta machine to assure that the thin sheets have excellent bite after being cooked al dente, a la minute. The tagliatelle (the pasta itself) at Sportello exceeds my expectations. Better yet, the Bolognese is the real deal and not overcooked like so many I have tried. It’s rich with a deep meat and tomato flavor. The basil leaf adds color and aroma; an excellent simple dish.

Second: the strozzapreti. The rustic inconsistency of the shapes of this hand-rolled deliciously light pasta is endearing. After braising the rabbit the sauce is reduced by eighty percent into a savory brown glace that clings with gelatinous tenacity to the pasta. Each piece of rabbit is moist and fork-tender throughout. This is a very rich dish that is cut by the light bitterness of the picholine olives and the saltiness of the pecorino. By the way, I ordered half portions knowing that Sportello would be generous. The rabbit is the best I have had in Boston.

Prior to heading for the door I sample a small plate of fresh ricotta (usually an amuse at Sportello) as a dessert and it is a perfect ending. Not once did any employee at Sportello flash Chef Lynch’s picture in my face. Her image isn’t glued to the wall nor is it pasted across the menu. Sportello is a standalone restaurant with a good professional, smart crew that executes Lynch’s cuisine with no pretense and with no need to stand on her shoulders all day long. I like this restaurant and, as I have said before, I like Barbara Lynch.


348 Congress St

Boston, MA 02210




O Ya Restaurant ~ Boston: Seeing and Eating the Finer Things

Posted 25 Jul 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Every once in a while I dine alone. The solitude is relaxing to me and my sense of observation is heightened when I am by myself. Being alone forces me to take things in at a slower pace and to view the world undistracted. Perhaps this is due to the hectic pace that runs like a raging river through my life. I love charging ahead each day with full force but realize that I miss the details of life from time to time. I am surrounded by people who live this way, the successful people I run with fully engage life. No one is sitting on the sidelines and we tend to run in a pack. Because of this, it’s rare for me to be alone, let alone, eat alone. When I do, my senses are heightened.

Tonight, to further enhance my experience I plan to eat at a restaurant within one or two miles of the waterfront hotel where I am staying here in Boston (again). From time to time when travelling, I walk from my hotel to a restaurant to soak in a city at street level. Walking, so long as the weather is good, helps slow things down as well. It provides heightened details about the neighborhoods and environment surrounding the restaurant that you can’t see, smell, or feel, when riding in a vehicle. For tonight’s adventure I select Tim Cushman’s O Ya which is exactly one mile from my hotel at 9 East St., in Boston. The sky is blue and sunny and I am heading that way on foot.

I leave the hotel at 7:00pm walking northwest on Congress street toward the city. The sun is just starting to dip below the Boston skyline and the city arteries are slowing down as rush hour eases. It is still 80 degrees out, so I pause for a moment and consider jumping on the Silver Line bus that runs under the seaport directly to South Station. East Street is a stones throw from South Station and riding would save me from the heat. The Silver Line station is absolutely deserted and strangely clean. This makes me uneasy for some reason so I head back up the stairs and out the door. To hell with the bus, I could use the exercise anyway.

After passing the intersection of A Street and Congress I notice a huge piece of graffiti by (now famous) Shepard Fairey pasted to a building. Fairey is the artist best know for riffing on an Associated Press photo of Barak Obama creating one of the most recognizable posters of the 2008 campaign and a heap of copyright infringement trouble for himself in the process. Four stories up next to a fire escape is a large four foot by six foot stencil of “Obey” Fairey’s 1990 ode to the professional wrestler Andre the Giant. If you drive down Congress Street you will miss this work because the building is set back behind a parking lot parallel to the street. There are thousands of these images stenciled on buildings around the world now, if you miss this one, there will be others. I click a few shots of it and move on.

A few minutes later I am on Atlantic Avenue heading south toward South Station. The stone façade of the station is speckled with sunlight reflecting off of a sky scraper across the street. Studying it for a moment, the light shifts and the building entrance, windows, and clock are lit by the reflection. What a beautiful image.

Crossing the street I am now just a minute or two from O Ya. I continue down Atlantic Avenue passing Essex Street and make a right onto East Street. O Ya is just ahead, hidden on the south side of the street. For some reason Tim Cushman and his team designed an entrance that is so completely understated that you could miss it. Located in a multistory brick building, O Ya’s street presence consists of a small sign and a door that appears to be made of graying slabs of rough hewn barn-board.


I enter into a small vestibule and approach the maître d’ station. The hostess greets me and escorts me to a table. I order a beer and scan the room taking it in. O Ya has an industrial feeling, loft like interior with concrete floors, exposed ventilation and brick. The dining room consists of a long sushi bar with eighteen bar stools on one side and, on the opposite wall, a long banquette with eight tables for two. Three large arched windows provide natural light. The wall above the banquette is painted a pastel green with natural colored wood trim and the tables are a lightly stained cherry. Wooden chopsticks on small ceramic rests are located at each place setting. My pair is made of Yew and rest on a green ceramic fish.


When my waiter arrives to take my order, I ask him to have Cushman send out four courses of what ever he feels like sending so long as it doesn’t have Wagyu or Faberge in the name. He smiles with delight and tells me I wont be disappointed.

1) My first course is the Diver Scallop with Sage Tempura, Olive Oil Bubbles and Meyer Lemon. Five pieces of scallop arrive on a pastel green square platter. Each is topped with a tempura fried sage leaf and a rich, lemony, olive oil foam. The texture of the scallop contrasted with the sage leaf is fantastic. The olive oil foam adds an almost heavy cream like richness to the dish with a wonderful lemon perfume finish.

2) Next, I have the Hamachi with Viet Mignonette, Thai Basil, and Shallot. Three, fatty, skin-on, perfect slices of Hamachi arrive. They are simply presented with a chiffonade of Thai Basil, the Mignonette, and a dusting of dried shallot and spicy red chili. The Himachi is pristine and the combination of flavors wonderful. Halfway through the first bite, the basil cuts in with the saltiness of the mignonette. After a few more bits, the chili kicks in for a nice warm, lingering finish. 

3) I have had these Fried Kumamoto Oysters with Yuzo Kosho Aioli, Squid Ink Bubbles before. They are tiny little oysters that are flash fried and served warm and sexy. The squid ink foam, when it arrives at the table, is almost purple in color and sits atop each oyster. Beneath each oyster is a small “button” of aioli that serves as a flavorful glue, keeping the oyster attached to the sushi rice. Excellent!

4) Out comes a Soft Shell Crab with Soy and Sesame mousse. Topped with a fine julienne of scallion, this dish is explosive in flavor. The soy and sesame mousse is so perfectly balanced and thick in texture that it coats my palate while I crunch on the salty, oceany flavored crab. As I dismantle the crab, small wisps of steam escape perfuming the air. Another winner.

5) Tea Brined Fried Pork Ribs with Hot Sesame Oil, Honey, and Scallions. I anticipated that this item would have some flavor overlap with the crab since several ingredients are used in both dishes but this wasn’t the case. When I took my first bit of the Pork Ribs I inhaled just before putting the fork in my mouth and got a full head of the complex flavor that made Frank Bruniof the New York Times swoon over this dish back in 2008. The tea Cushman uses in the brine adds such a depth to this dish and, surprisingly, the subtle notes of flavor from the tea remain fully intact after frying.

6) The festivities end with Soy Milk Blancmange with Chilled Thai Tea, and Thai Basil Seeds.  This is the one dish that I ordered on my own.  I chose it because the description was interesting and I have yet to find a soy cream of any sort that meets my expectation. When the blancmange arrived, I was a bit disappointed at the presentation but this changed once I tasted it. This was the smoothest, most flavorful soy dessert I have had in years. The basil seeds floating on top added such a wonderful perfume and crunch and the cream was spectacular. Heads up all you lactose folks. I would order it again.

Six courses later and I am ready to walk back to the hotel. The past 90 minutes went by quickly but I feel great. Portion sizes were perfect and O Ya is just as good as I remember it. Having a great meal like this leaves me resonating with a love for the culinary profession. I think I will take the long way home!

O Ya

9 East St.

Boston, MA 02111