Our NRT gathering for June was at Technique in Kendall Square in Cambridge. It is the restaurant run by the students of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston. Technique is located in an office building which makes it a bit difficult to find. The restaurant itself is a cavernous space with high ceilings and an open kitchen. The tables were well spread out in the space so you could have a nice conversation without hearing the diners at the neighboring table. With the tables moved, it would be a great place to host a cocktail reception.
For our NRT outing in May we tried Punjab in Arlington. The space is beautiful! It is a very large spacious room decorated in warm tones of brown, orange, and yellow. The room is separated into smaller dining spaces and a long bar. The menu is quite extensive with dishes not only from the Punjab region but also from other areas of India. I was sitting with the vegetarian table and we tried a few dishes. The Malai Kofta is a dish of balls made of mined vegetables and cooked in a mild cream sauce. The kofta balls were tasty however, the sauce itself was too creamy and was not well balance with the spices. We also tried the Dhal Makhani which is a lentil dish which was nice with a good balance of spice. We also tried the Paneer Vindaloo. Vindaloo is a Goan curry dish which is typically prepared with lamb or chicken and is very spicy. I was excited to try a paneer version of this dish. However, it was extremely bland and not spicy at all! It was a disappointment. The consensus of the group was that the food was average and comparable to the majority of Indian restaurants in town.
Our NRT gathering for April was supposed to be at Café Mami in the Porter Exchange building but we arrived to find it closed. It was a bit strange as there was no sign or note so instead we headed two doors down to Ittyo Restaurant. It is a very similar establishment with few tables and focusing on Japanese food including udon and soba noodle dishes, curries, and donburi style bowls. The atmosphere is very basic as it is a mall setting. I ordered the Sansai (wild vegetable) Udon Noodle bowl and a green tea. The tea was rather disappointing because the water was just warm, not hot enough to steep the tea bag properly. There was just one waitress dealing with all of the tables so I didn’t have the heart to ask her to heat it up. The noodle bowl was quite comforting. The noodles were perfectly cooked, toothsome and satisfying. The broth was well seasoned and there was sufficient quantity and variety of vegetables. Most of us ordered noodle dishes and were satisfied with them however we weren’t overly impressed. Ittyo is perfect for a quick satisfying, basic meal but nothing more.
1815 Massachusetts Ave
Porter Exchange Building
Cambridge, MA 02140
For our March NRT gathering we decided to take advantage of Boston Restaurant Week and try Locke Ober. During this week participating restaurants offer prix fixe menus for $20.09 at lunch and $33.09 at dinner. It is nice chance to try a restaurant which you might otherwise reserve for an occasion. Every year we try to test out a new place during this week and have found some favorites which we return to often.
Locke Ober is one of the old guard restaurants which are synonymous with Boston dining. The room is magnificently elegant with warm mahogany, huge plate glass mirrors, decorated tin ceilings, and graceful chandeliers. You almost felt as though you have stepped back in time. We were seated and were looking at the wine menu as we waited for the rest of the gang. We selected a bottle of Pinot Noir and the waiter returned telling us they were out. Then we selected another and they were out again. Finally, they had our fourth choice. This was a bit disappointing as they only had about eight Pinots to choose from. But, more disappointing was our waiter’s lack of interest to help us find a wine they had. Instead he just said no to each one we selected.
After a break in January we reconvened our NRT outings this past week with a trip to Nikisha’s Roti Shop in Dorchester. As is the case with most Trinidadian roti shops, it is a simple storefront with counter service. A few of us arrived right at 7pm and were greeted by Niki. She mentioned that she was going to close at 7:30pm since it was a slow night. We told her that there were others coming and she said she would wait for us.
While we waited for the others to trickle in we ordered some doubles. They were delicious! Maybe the best doubles I have had! Since she makes them slow and methodically, as compared to the rushed street vendors, the proportion of channa to bara is much more satisfying. The curries are all prepared and kept in warming trays but the rotis and buss-up-shut are made fresh.
Our NRT gathering for December was at Con Sol in Cambridge. We arrived on a freezing winter night to an almost empty room. It is a cute space with warm brick and adobe tones and Spanish, Portuguese artifacts on the walls. The room was quite cold that we asked the waitress to turn up the heat. She said she would have to ask the manager but it didn’t get warmer all evening. In fact, several of us were sitting with our hats and coats on.
We ordered several appetizers and a few entrées for the table and we shared everything. For tapas we ordered the camarone ajillo, chourico, costillar lacado, rissos camarones, olive plate, and pasties bacalhau. The tapas came out extremely slowly. On the whole the tapas weren’t great; several felt premade or packaged. The rissos camarones (shrimp cakes) and the pasties bacalhau (salted cod cakes) felt as though they were packaged and just fried there. The lacked in flavor and freshness. The olive plate was just canned olives topped with minced garlic. The only stand out of the tapas was the costillar lacado which was a slow cooked beef rib with an apple glaze. The beef was very tender and nicely enhanced with the sweet glaze.
Our NRT gathering for November was at Beehive in the South End. So many of our recent outings were in Allston we decided that we had to try another neighborhood. I found the Beehive name to be appropriate as the space is separated into several areas like the cells of a beehive (might not be what the owners were thinking when they named it!). Upstairs is small with a long bar and some seating. However, downstairs is cavernous, divided into several spaces including another L-shaped bar. The focal point is a small stage area for a band. They have jazz bands there several nights a week. The space has a really nice energy with people chatting and the music buzzing!