Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar — Coolidge Corner, Brookline

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If there’s one thing in this world that I love, it’s sushi. In fact, I could eat sushi three meals a day and never get sick of it. It’s an obsession, really.  Luckily for me, Boston has no shortage of sushi restaurants — large and small, upscale and basic, funky and traditional — and my goal in life is to try them all.

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Recently, Nate and I decided to visit Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar, a relatively new Asian fusion restaurant in Coolidge Corner that boasts a giant menu of both Chinese favorites and, more importantly (at least in my opinion), dozens of different kinds of Maki, Nigiri, and everything in between.  

The sushi menu featured traditional rolls that any sushi restaurant usually serves — there were a few veggie options for people who don’t love the idea of raw fish, as well as standard maki featuring different combos of salmon, shrimp, crab stick, or eel with avocado or cucumber.  The highlight, however, was the specialty maki menu, featuring interesting and intricate ingredient combos (like the Sweet Lobster Maki — sweet potato tempura topped with lobster, mango, avocado, flying fish roe, and mayo — or the Spicy Baked Scallop maki — served with crab stick, mushroom, flying fish roe, and mayo).  There were also tons of different options for sushi platters and combos, making Jin’s not only a nice date night spot, but also a great option for larger groups.

Nate and I decided to split three different kinds of rolls:  Philadelphia Maki, which came with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, and scallion; Rainbow Maki, which is a traditional California maki topped with slices of tuna, salmon, squid, and avocado and then garnished with multi-color flying fish roe; and Volcano Maki, which came with eel, shrimp, avocado, and cucumber rolled together and topped with spicy tuna mixed with flying fish roe and crunchy tempura flakes.  

The Philadelphia roll was exactly as expected — the combo of the smoky salmon and the cream cheese with the starchy rice tasted like the Japanese version of a bagel and lox.  The Volcano maki had a slight kick to it, but not enough to really qualify as “spicy” — the avocado and cucumber helped to counteract the spiciness of the tuna, and the tempura flakes gave each bite a nice crunch. The Rainbow maki was easily my favorite — immensely fresh and flavorful, the tuna, salmon, and squid complemented the sweetness of the crab stick. And the green, red, yellow, and black flying fish roe was not only aesthetically pleasing, but also gave the roll a delightfully pleasant texture that elevated the flavor of each bite. (Also flying fish roe is basically Japanese caviar — pinkies up, everyone).  

Portions were on par with most sushi restaurants — each order came with six to eight pieces, so three rolls were enough for two people to split without breaking the bank (although some of the maki options on the menu get very expensive depending on what you choose).  We left satisfied with all of our menu choices (if not wishing that there was such a thing as dessert sushi — someone invent that, already!!) and wanting to return for another visit to try more off the menu.

TL;DR:  Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar is a great option if you’re looking for fresh and flavorful sushi in a casually elegant setting.

Kelly’s Roast Beef – Saugus, MA

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Labor Day marks the official end of summer, and while fall does have a lot to offer in terms of fun (Apple cider donuts! Leaves changing! Halloween! All pumpkin everything!), I’d be lying if I said that I’m not clinging to the last minutes of summer the way sand clings to your feet after a day at the beach.

So, in an attempt to get one more summery activity under our belts, Nate and I decided to go full-on New England and head up to Maine for the weekend. On the way, we stopped in at Kelly’s Roast Beef in Saugus, the second of five locations of the classic Massachusetts-based chain that originated on Revere Beach in 1951. A family-owned and operated business, Kelly’s has won a slew of awards for their lobster rolls, roast beef, and clam chowder. And after our visit this long weekend, it’s easy to understand why.

First of all, the menu is gigantic. The roast beef is only the tip of the iceberg — Kelly’s also serves everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to fried seafood platters to barbecue pulled beef (there are also salads if you want to be that person, but honestly if you’re coming to Kelly’s, you’ve already lost the battle when it comes to calorie counting).

Nate and I decided to go for the classic Kelly’s staple — the roast beef sandwich. The roast beef was thinly-sliced and juicy and it came on a grilled sesame-seed roll. Nate got a large sandwich with mayo and barbecue sauce, while I opted for the small roast beef meal, which came with French fries and thick-cut onion rings.

There wasn’t much of a difference size-wise between the large and small sandwiches, and where my meal came with the fries and onion rings and a fountain drink of my choice, it seemed like the better deal even though it cost a couple dollars more.

The best word I can use to describe the sandwich was perfect — the warm, tender roast beef combined with the slight crunch of the grilled roll and the savory smoothness of the mayo made for a delightful, no-fuss version of the classic roast beef sandwich. After trying one, it’s no wonder that Kelly’s has been in business for six decades.

TL;DR: With seriously delicious roast beef sandwiches (not to mention a menu chock-full of other beachy favorites), Kelly’s lives up to its reputation as Massachusetts’ authority on the best roast beef.

Cha Yen Thai Cookery – Watertown, MA

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We went out to dinner with our friends, Todd and Ashley, at Cha Yen Thai Cookery – just outside the city in Watertown center. Cha Yen Thai Cookery is not what you’d call “fine dining”, but it is what you would call “delicious fooding”. There are also great vegetarian and gluten-free options here.

It’s a small space that was quiet that night – although to be fair, it was also raining, and nobody likes to go out when it rains – that and we also went later in the night around 8 pm.

To start it off, we ordered and split appetizers enough to taste test, ordering curry puffs and shrimp donuts ( Donut mind if I do)! The curry puffs had spices and the shrimp donut, which was not a dessert by any means, was nothing I had ever eaten, but in the best way possible.

The Seafood pad thai that we ordered was also nothing short of tasty. The dish had every type of seafood you could think of outside of lobster – calamari, shrimp, and squid. Samantha and I ended up splitting the dish, which worked out nicely because there was enough to split into two good-sized portions. In my humble opinion, it’s not Thai food if there’s no kick, so to give it some spice, I asked the waitress for some sriracha sauce for the portion.

After dinner, we debated off-and-on about whether or not we wanted ice cream for about half an hour, basically until they closed (worth noting that they close early on weekdays). The flavors sounded intriguing, and included flavors like green tea, ginger, and Thai iced tea (yes, Thai iced tea coffee, sounds amazing, right?!). The ice cream is also homemade, so it must be good! Next time we go, we’ll try it and report back.

TL;DR: The high ratings online hold up in my book – Cha Yen Thai Cookery is completely worth a trip out to Watertown if you’re in the market for Thai food.

Blue Ribbon BBQ – West Newton, MA

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Nate and I have been getting very into House of Cards lately, and real talk: those scenes where Frank Underwood goes to Freddy’s BBQ Joint to get ribs and unwind after a day of political deception and double-crossing have been getting to us. In other words, two seasons and twenty episodes in, we’ve been finding ourselves thinking more and more about finding a place in the city to eat good barbecue than about Frank and Claire’s depraved quest for political power.

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So, we hopped in the car and headed to West Newton, home of Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q, for some down-home Southern-style comfort food. And let me tell you, if Frank Underwood was eating here instead of at Freddy’s, he’d be too full and satisfied to be so angry and devious all the time.

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The storefront itself is very small — there is only counter seating available (other than a few tables and chairs located on the sidewalk outside) — but the atmosphere is fun, homey, and exactly what you’d expect from a Southern BBQ joint.With a full wall of pickled veggies surrounded by a bevy of out-of-state license plates, kitschy neon signs, a menu full of classic Southern sandwiches and platters, and a barbecue sauce station with a myriad of flavor combos, Blue Ribbon is a casual and fun slice of the South located in the heart of Newton.Nate got the North Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich — made from pork shoulder smoked for 14 hours and mixed with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce traditional to North Carolina. The pork was tender and juicy and the sauce was tasty but there needed to be more of it (the BBQ sauce station came in handy since the sandwich needed extra sauce for dipping in order to bring out the full flavor of the pork). Each sandwich comes with two sides and Nate chose the mashed potatoes (garlicky, creamy, and flavorful) and the baked beans (which came smothered in a sweet, tangy, and thick molasses-based sauce that made the beans irresistibly delicious).I decided to go a little off the beaten path and get a dish I had never heard of before — the Kansas City Burnt Ends, beef brisket smoked for 14 hours with oak and hickory and then chopped and cooked in sweet BBQ sauce until the meat is caramelized. I’m not usually a huge fan of Southern BBQ brisket, but the Burnt Ends were otherworldly. Each piece was unbelievably tender (to the point where there weren’t even whole pieces of brisket on the plate — it was just a pile of sweet, juicy, stringy, fatty goodness) and the portion was so big that I hardly made a dent in it.  I chose to get a platter instead of a sandwich, which meant I got to choose three sides.  I went with the mashed potatoes, baked beans (which I devoured), and the cornbread, which had a dense, almost cakey consistency.Blue Ribbon has a location in Arlington as well as Newton, but despite the fact that the restaurant has been in business for over 20 years and is such a household name that they even sell their sauces online, the restaurant has the feel and technique of a roadside barbecue joint (the meats are all slow-cooked at low temperatures over oak and hickory hardwoods to ensure that every piece of meat comes out tender, juicy, and flavorful).  Along with Tennessee’s Real BBQ in Braintree, Blue Ribbon BBQ is one of Massachusetts’ best pieces of proof that good barbecue isn’t just a Southern tradition.

Tl;DR: If you want delicious barbecue and don’t have the time to take a trip down South, Blue Ribbon BBQ is the next best thing to being there.

Bottega Fiorentina — Coolidge Corner, Brookline

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When it comes to Italian food, Boston has no shortage of delicious options — from casual slices of pizza to fine dining to cannoli, the North End alone offers a taste of nearly every region of Italy. But, you don’t always have to make the trip to the North End to get authentic, delicious, and homemade Italian food.

Nate and I recently made our way to Coolidge Corner to try Bottega Fiorentina, an intimate and cozy Tuscan restaurant with a small but diverse menu full of antipasto plates, salads, sandwiches, and handmade pasta in a myriad of sauces both traditional (i.e. Alfredo, pomodoro, bolognese, etc.) and unconventional (i.e. the Boscaiola, a tomato sauce with prosciutto, mushrooms, pine nuts, and red pepper; or the Paradiso, a cream sauce with zucchini, mozzarella, and garlic).  The menu is perhaps best distinguished by its extensive list of daily specials, all of which are made to order, are offered only once per week, and sound so good that I seriously would consider eating at Bottega Fiorentina every day for a week just so I could try them all.

After perusing the menu and trying to decide what we wanted to order, Nate settled on the Prosciutto di Parma sandwich — a generous amount of paper-thin prosciutto topped with fresh mozzarella rounds, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil.The sandwich came on an Italian sub roll that was the perfect ratio of crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  And, the saltiness of the prosciutto combined with the smoothness of the mozzarella made for an excellent meat lovers’ take on the traditional caprese sandwich.

I went with a pasta special — we went on a Friday, which meant that they were serving their homemade pesto sauce. So, I got an order of spinach gnocchi topped with the pesto (that’s what people mean when they say they want to go green, right?). The order was small, but each individual dumpling was packed to the brim with a deliciously creamy spinach filling. The pesto — made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and cheese — was creamy and thick, coating each gnocchi and adding a tangy punch to every bite. The whole dish was topped with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and served with a side of crusty Italian bread. It was a small portion, but the heartiness of the spinach gnocchi combined with the cheesy, creamy texture of the pesto left me full and satisfied (if not wishing I had a little more left on my plate).

In addition to the dine-in and take-out options, Bottega Fiorentina also sells imported Italian grocery specialties, including pasta, cookies, chocolate, and different varieties of coffee and espresso. Combine that with the unpretentiously casual dining area (complete with a communal wooden picnic table, tricked out with a large umbrella and white string lights) and you’ll feel more like you’re dining al fresco in a cafe in Florence than inside a storefront in Brookline.

TL;DR: One of Coolidge Corner’s culinary gems, Bottega Fiorentina offers delicious, homestyle Italian food without the hassle of North End traffic and crowds.

Boston Superstar Athletes’ Favorite Restaurants

We all know Boston is one of the most storied sports towns of all-time. But what keeps these athletes going? Food, of course! We’ve detailed current and recently retired Boston athletes to tell you their go-to restaurants for fine dining in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline. Read below to see where Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, and Red Sox players go to dine out in greater Boston! See what keeps them coming back for seconds.

Abe & Louie’s – Back Bay

Patriots’ Wide Receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman

Both wide receivers have visited this steakhouse, located on Boylston Street in the heart of Back Bay.

 

Craigie on Main – Cambridge

Patriots’ Wide Reciever Julian Edelman

Another Julian Edelman favorite, he covets the Craigie is one of his few favorite places to get a burger in Boston (even though it’s located in Cambridge near Central Square).

Strega Waterfront – Waterfront

Patriots’ Tight End Rob Gronkowski

The Patriots’ Tight End has hosted events here in the past, where he has bartended before. Beyond that, he frequents Strega Waterfront for fine dining in Boston.

Strip by Strega – Downtown Boston

Celtics’ Point Guard Isaiah Thomas

Strip by Strega is considered Isaiah’s “go-to”, and is often seen eating here with his wife. He’s apparently tight with Strega restaurant owner Nick Varano.

Merengue – Roxbury

Celtics’ Center Al Horford, Former Red Sox Designated Hitter David Ortiz

Both from the Dominican Republic, Al Horford and Big Papi love dining at Merengue, in South Boston, which is said to have authentic and delicious Dominican food.

Grill 23 – Back Bay

Red Sox Rightfielder Mookie Betts

An avid steak-eater, Mookie Betts mentioned his go-to dining spot in Boston to get a steak is Grill 23 right in the heart of Back Bay. Who doesn’t love Grill 23?

Vejigantes – South End

Former Red Sox Designated Hitter David Ortiz

A big fan of Dominican cuisines, another Dominican favorite of Big Papi’s is Vejigantes in Boston’s South End.

Union Oyster House – North End

Former Celtics Small Forward Paul Pierce

Pierce would frequently stop by the historic Union Oyster House for seafood after home games, often with two or three of his teammates.

La Morra, Brookline

Patriots’ Quarterback Tom Brady

The G.O.A.T. has been known to carbo-load at this hometown spot of his in Brookline. Brady’s favorite dish at La Morra is the tagliatelle al ragù.

El Oriental De Cuba – Jamaica Plain

Red Sox Shortstop Xander Bogaerts

Although he doesn’t go much, Bogaerts has long coveted El Oriental De Cuba in Jamaica Plain, serving authentic Cuban dishes.

Del Friscos – Seaport 

Bruins’ Goaltender Tuukka Rask, Patriots’ Safety Devin McCourty 

Both the Bruin’s goaltender and the Patriot’s Safety frequent Del Friscos Steakhouse in Boston’s Seaport district.

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Stephanie’s on Newbury – Back Bay

Patriots’ Tight End Rob Gronkowski,  Patriots’ Wide Reciever Julian Edelman

Patriots’ players Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman have both been to this beloved Back Bay restaurant on Newbury Street.

Doretta Tavern & Raw Bar — Back Bay

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Samantha and I wanted to change things up this time and go to a Greek restaurant. There aren’t too many Greek restaurants in Boston, but we settled on Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar in the Back Bay.

The atmosphere is a reason in itself to visit Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar. The restaurant is filled with contemporary art and colorful decor. It’s certainly stylish, but not in a flashy way, but in a more simplistic way. The space inside is big – there are tables and booths that surround a big bar located in the center of the restaurant.

Doretta is like many restaurants around the back bay or downtown area – it doesn’t pretend to be this lesser, more casual restaurant. That means you’ll get smaller portions that cost more, but the quality of dishes are top notch.

The dinner menu is split into raw, mezze (smaller plates), and larger plates. I had never had grilled octopus, so we started with an order of that. Again, a small portion (and even smaller since Samantha split it), but so. Damn. good. The order came in a bowl and in that bowl, along with grilled octopus, came with capers, onions, and parsley.Doretta TavernAfter splitting a mezze, we also ordered a larger plate to split. While the branzino and lamb shoulder both sounded great, we ultimately went with something a little more affordable, that sounded just as great – the lamb burger. We were not disappointed. The lamb burger was topped with whipped feta, spicy cucumber, and tzatziki sauce. The burger came with a side of awesome homemade potato chips which we also thoroughly enjoyed. We also found a foodie hack and dipped chips in the tzatziki sauce that fell out of the burger and onto our plate, and that was a truly delightful experience for my taste buds.Doretta TavernIf you’re looking to change it up from the typical bar and grille, Doretta fits the bill as an elegant restaurant downtown with fresh, authentic Greek food – a very solid place for a date night!