I was asked to contribute to the best bites list - a compilation of media folks' recommendations published by Boston's Hidden Restaurants. Given the stellar company, I can't hope to provide a secret favorite or a yet-to-be-discovered spot (although I DO know of a new dumpling house coming to Chinatown - scoop!)
I took a different approach. What are some of the unexpected spots or standout dishes at perhaps surprising spots that I'd recommend?
Here, then are my picks for the...
Best Bites of 2012
Oysters at Mare Oyster Bar - selection that’s hard to beat, perfectly shucked. Sure there are tons of good oyster bars in town now, but this was a surprising addition to a North End spot and I've not had a more perfectly shucked, diverse dozen anywhere.
Cassoulet at Les Zygomates - just wonderfully rendered version of this home-style dish, the tagines are pretty terrific, too.
Sichuan dumplings at New Shanghai - The Sichuan chili oil defines tantalizing.
Ramen or soba at Pai Men Miyake - okay it’s in Portland, but it takes less time to drive there than it does to wait on line at any top ramen spot in Boston. I don't believe anyone in Boston even does yakitori over binchotan coal...the motsu (pork intestine yakitori) might be the single bite that stands out this year.
Red Wattle heirloom pork and barley dish at Russell House Tavern. An off-the-menu item that is worth asking for. If enough of us do, maybe Chef Scelfo will put it on the menu? This luscious barley and Red Wattle fat is the stuff of dreams.
Clams at Enzo in Newburyport - off the charts umami, Enzo is a perfect marriage of sustainable, local ingredients, contemporary interpretations of traditional Ligurian dishes. These are Woodbury clams and the Striper that day was also amazing. What I love is that the Chef Reilly is confident enough to let the technique and the ingredients speak for themselves. No ego on the plate, getting in the way.
Two final thoughts:
I had the most ethereal falafel at the new Piperi, haven't been back but I bet it's going to be just as good next time. And, the head cheese at 51 Lincoln (in addition to other dishes there) were so good, I was sad to realize that it was 2011 when last I was there. Must remedy that!