Another year of eating has come and gone, but not before we have the chance to give local restaurants their due. Many deserve a shout-out for dishes so well-prepared, we want to remind readers they’re at the top of our list.
Newstead Tower Public House: Welsh rarebit with bread slathered in a melted cheddar cheese-ale mixture.
Starr’s: Potato-encrusted scallops: a huge serving of tender bivalves crammed between two layers of shredded potatoes, like a big latke sandwich. The coating was crunchy, the scallops creamy: all on a bed of tangy arugula in rich, buttery sauce dotted with caviar.
Paul Mineo’s: Fagioli soup: white kidney beans, macaroni, diced tomatoes and fresh wilted spinach in a perfectly salted broth with a peppery bite.
Revival: Beef tenderloin: charred to perfection and served with whipped red potatoes and crisp-fried shiitake mushrooms; braised lamb, slow-cooked and shredded, with homemade buttered noodles; and sea scallops, pan-seared crisp and served on top of creamy parsnips with red wine roux and green herb sauce.
Bartolino’s: Arancini: deep-fried balls of Arborio rice formed around a center of mozzarella and Boursin and served with marinara and béchamel sauces; lobster ravioli, house-made pockets stuffed with real chunks of lobster meat and covered with Nantua sauce, a blend of crawfish reduction, béchamel and cream.
Sleek: Kobe flat-iron steak: tender, flavorful and perfectly seasoned.
Everest: Mo-mos: delicate stuffed dumplings served steamed and filled with a flavorful blend of ground pork, onions and pepper flakes.
The Crossing: Celebrating 10 years, this place does just about everything well. Our special pick: lamb ragu: homemade broad noodles in a rich brown sauce with tender chunks of braised lamb and minced fennel bulb.
Land of Smile: Curry shrimp: not too hot and flavored with sweet, rich coconut milk, basil and pungent spices.
Mosaic: A move across the street didn’t hurt this place at all. The flight of soups is our pick, three small servings on a tray: butternut squash soup laced with vanilla bean, spinach-artichoke soup and tomato soup.
Onesto: Arancini: jumbo rice balls laced with anise seed, breaded and so well fried that you wonder if they even used oil. These were topped with a delicious Bolognese sauce of fresh-roasted tomatoes and ground beef.
Picasso’s: House-smoked shrimp with polenta: jumbo shrimp infused with smoky flavor and done to an appetizing bronze-red finish. They were served on firm grilled polenta with a touch of cayenne.
West End Pub & Grill: Polenta fries: airy, crisp and with a distinctive yeasty flavor.
The Shaved Duck: Fish stew: with all the ingredients slivered to yield a pleasant, soup-like consistency. It was deliciously fish-flavored with seafood bits, as well as minced carrots, onion, garlic and fennel greens.
Three Monkeys: Pan-blackened tilapia: liberally sprinkled with a spicy salt and pepper mix and glistening with a coating of oil and butter.
Pi: Garlic bread, dense, crusty Italian bread served with a ramekin of softened butter and a whole roasted garlic head for spreading on the bread. Also, any pizza here: the crusts are superb, the toppings fresh and delicious.
Brazie’s: Cassata: Italian wedding cake, possibly the best dessert of the year. Made in-house, it is a multiple-layered sponge cake topped with a thin layer of chocolate sponge cake and butter cream. A milk chocolate-y sauce that hardens tops it all.
Morton’s: The Clayton favorite got a facelift this year, but the filet is still the same wonderful slab of meat. Beautifully charred, the monster steak has a dusting of salt and pepper and an appealing au jus finish.
Winslow’s Home: Salmon: sliced paper thin and cured with lemon and orange. Tiny bits of rind come on the plate, as well as a remarkable lemon relish.
Taft St. Restaurant & Bar: The Bosnian pastries are a real treat here. They are thick flour pockets filled with ground beef, boiled and served in a dense, white, cream sauce with diced tomatoes.
Scape: A Sunday-only barbecue offered moist meats with just the right char and a big, delicious salad bar, all you can eat.
Nubia Cafe: Fried plantains: plump pieces fanning out from the center of the plate with a dollop of delicious stewed tomatoes.
Mazara: The flatbread appetizer: grainy with cornmeal and parmesan, it was topped with goat cheese, roasted red onions, yellow peppers, mushrooms and field greens and drizzled with sweet balsamic vinegar.
Amigo’s Cantina: Mojo shrimp: large crustaceans covered in a creamy adobo sauce of ground chilies, herbs and vinegar, served over rice.
BC’s Kitchen: Roasted Amish chicken: served on a pile of creamy mashed potatoes with sautéed cipollini onions and Portobello mushrooms. If you think chicken is mundane, you haven’t tried this.
Mia Rosa: Salt cod Florentine: a delicate fish lightly floured and pan-fried to crisp around the edges and served with sautéed spinach in tomato sauce.
Sameem: Sambosa: a potato and scallion-stuffed pocket much more delicate than the thick-skinned samosa, its Indian counterpart.
Joey B’s: Pretzel bites: hot and fresh, homemade on the Hill and served with jalapeño cheese dip.
Sub-Zero Vodka Bar: Their thick and slightly chunky hummus is among the best I’ve had. It’s topped with fresh cucumbers and diced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and served with fresh pita slices. Also great: the Kobe burger with avocado and a big side of tempura veggies.
Bistro Toi: Thai shrimp stick: a skewered shrimp wrapped in crabmeat, spring roll skin and cabbage, and deep fried in tempura batter.
Triumph Grill: Flash-fried asparagus: fresh spears dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. Also great: the Southwestern smoked shrimp crepe and the trio of soups. This place has great starters, in general.
Herbie’s: Shrimp dumplings: classic pot stickers, but filled with a mousse-like ground shrimp mix and perfectly pan-browned.
Napoli 2: Eggplant parmesan: thick slices cooked soft and layered with creamy melted cheese and hearty sauce.
Trattoria Branica: Eggplant parmesan: tender and covered with rich melted mozzarella and a delicious house-made marinara sauce.