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Posted by rocky at 09:00AM, Saturday, December 01st, 2001

The c75 restaurant guide: Davis Square, Porter Square and beyond

Circa75 reviews our favorite and not-so-favorite restaurants in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston.

Porter Square, Cambridge



Kaya



Sushi & Korean BBQ. BBQ reservations for parties of six or more. After dozens of visits, we've found the quality of the sushi here to range from miserable to sublime. When the fish is good, it rivals or exceeds Boston's top sushi joints in both flavor and presentation, but off nights can really be far off. Service is similarly variable. Kaya also boasts outstanding kimchee, and its Korean bbq, served grill-it-yourself style on in-table grills, is great fun. We recommend the seasoned tenderloin. Reserving one of the large bbq pit tables with a big group is a blast. 1924 Mass Ave, (617) 497-5252



Bluefin



Japanese. There's almost always a wait, but and the lines move quicker than you would guess. We think Bluefin is more consistent than Kaya for sushi, and has a great selection of non-sushi Japanese dishes. We tried a fried oyster & fried mackerel special that was really oustanding. The deep-fried soft-shell crab is not to be missed. They have a great flat-price choose-your-own 18- or 25-peice sushi combo -- we wish more places did this. The wasabi lacks bite and flavor, and this takes a lot away from the otherwise fresh and attractively presented sushi. Shop at the Japanese grocery next door while you're waiting, but don't eat in the store, or they'll kick you out. Bluefin is located in the back of the Porter Square mall. [Update, 8/02: the wasabi is very strong on a return visit today] 1815 Mass. Ave (617) 497-8022



Metro



French. Metro is a new addition to the Porter Square mall. It tries to mimic a real Parisian bistro or brassserie, but ends up looking a touch too plastic-y. We had to ask the waiter whether it was a chain (it's not). The menu selection was very authentic, but in our one visit so far, we found the food to be slightly less flavorful than we had hoped for, and lacking texture. Interesting wine selection, with helpful recommendations from the waiter. We ordered a three course meal for two, including a chestnut souffle, a lamb, duck and sausage ragout, and an outstanding dessert of handmade chocolates and lemon ice. Overall, Metro was disappointing because it came so close to having foodgasm potential, but failed to deliver. Nonetheless, we'll be back sometime for lunch or a beer to check out more of the menu. [Update 8/23/02: We've been back several times for lunch. The service is variable, from pleasant to quite negligent, and the food varies a lot. Our first time, we had a sublime pate sandwich. Subsequent times this has been a giant chunk of nasty processed meat. They've always had good frites, and do simple garden greens well.] 1815 Mass Ave (617) 354-3727




Christopher's



Bar food. Christopher's has a great beer selection, and is a great alternative to adjacent Toad if you want to have a conversation along with your beer. Oddly, Christopher's bills itself as a vegetarian restaurant, which apparently alludes to the handful of non-meat items on its menu. Filling, but not particularly amazing food, with a wide selection of burgers and sandwiches, along with some Mexican basics. We've enjoyed the soups, but have had less luck outside the bar-food section of the menu. A piece of yellowfin a recent meal was way overcooked. Service varies between excellent and poor. 1920 Mass Ave, (617) 876-9180



Anna's Taqueria



Mexican. We're divided on this popular burrito joint. To a Boston native, it seems pretty damn good. For someone who has lived in the Southwest, it's lacking in authenticity, but not necessarily objectionable. Good for a cheap, fast burrito that won't upset your stomach. Watch out for the over-the-top cilantro, though. Other locations in Brookline, and coming soon in Davis Square. 822 Somerville Ave (617) 661-8500



Davis Square, Somerville



The Burren



Irish pub. It's hard to dislike the Burren. We go to eat on the off nights or in the afternoon, avoiding the packed bar scene Thursday through Saturday nights. Great fish & chips, Guiness stew, chowder, portabello mushroom sandwich, and other hearty meals. Outstanding beers on tap, naturally, including c75 faves Old Speckled Hen and Caffrey's. Oh, and they serve a wicked pint of Guiness. Authentic Irish waitresses! There's often a live Irish string band in the front room, and local music in the back. [update - as of April 2002, there's no more Caffrey's] 247 Elm Street, (617) 776-6896



Mike's



Pizza, subs, etc, cafeteria-style. Mike's is a great spot to sit and watch what's happening in the square, but the service is -- ahem, colorful -- and nothing is particularly exciting. The few beers on tap and a big selection of bottles rescue it from being another generic pizza joint. 9 Davis Square, (617) 628-2379



Gargoyles



New American/Continental. Currently our favorite local restaurant. Think Chez Henri, but more down to earth, and with better food. We've had a number of outstanding meals so far: the duck with a potato and beet ragout was excellent; venison with pudding was perfectly done; salmon tournedos wrapped in bacon were very good; a mahi-mahi special with soba noodles and deep-fried oysters was a little overdone, but rescued by the outstanding oysters; lamb shank was delicately flavored and very pleasing. So request that your tuna or mahi-mahi to be cooked rare, and don't miss the pear/brie tarte for an appetizer -- one of the best Boston foodgasms I've had. The wine list is a little short, but we can't complain about the selections we've tried on it so far. A cheaper bar menu looks appealing, but we haven't ordered from it yet. If you sit in the bar, you can also order from the dining room menu or nightly specials while watching people walk by outside. The bar atmosphere is a little cozier and more interesting. We haven't fully explored the desserts Gargoyles offers, but if the chocolate cake from our recent birthday celebration is any indication, everything else will be equally delightful. Did we mention the pear on brie? 219 Elm St, (617) 776-5300



Rosebud Diner



Diner. On the shit list. We sat for fifteen minutes on our last visit without an acknowledgement that we were there (did they not see us? There must be all of four tables there), so we walked out and haven't been back. Prior to that, a short-order breakfast wasn't anything memorable. 381 Summer Street, (617) 666-6015



Redbones



Texas BBQ. We're not fully equipped to evaluate Redbone's authenticity, but a Texan assures us that it's spot-on. There are often lines out the door, but we've found it to be worth the wait. Go early on a week-night. We went to a less-crowded all-you-can-eat lunch buffet which still had great food. The tough part is rolling yourself home after gorging on ribs, pulled pork, and bbq chicken. 55 Chester St, (617) 628-2200



Joshua Tree



Bar food. Good beer selection and a variety of sandwiches. Noisy, and the frat-boy sports-bar ambience can be a bit much. 256 Elm St, (617) 623-9910



Wing Works



Takeout wings and sandwiches. Tastes great, and delivery is quick but everything is deep fried and leaves you feeling bloated -- but hey, sometimes that's what you're after, right? 201 Elm St, (617) 666-9000



Johnny D's



We tried eating here once but didn't like the table we were given or the attitude we got when we asked to be seated elsewhere. Another one for the shit list. 17 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 776-2004



Union Square, Somerville


The Independent



2002 Aug 23 The Independent has good food at slightly-less-than-Chez-Henri prices. The wine selection is good, centering around Spanish Rioja, etc. Dishes range from pub-style to a wonderful lamb shank with cous cous -- the best cous cous we've had in a restaurant. We had a great prosciutto and mesclun salad here at our last visit. Service has always been at least adequate, and the food is consistently at least good, sometimes excellent.



Taqueria la Mexicana



2002 Aug 23 Those of us who have lived in the Southwest think this, along with El Pelon in the Fenway, is the most authentic Southwestern food we've had in Boston.

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