August 2008


Maria’s
East Braintree, MA

New York Sirloin Steak
Eggplant & Sausage
Fresh eggplant and sausages, topped with cheese & meat sauce, served en casserole.

If you manage to leave Maria’s hungry, you didn’t order anything. Or eat off of anyone else’s plate. The pre-dinner salad was modestly sized; the portion, at least of the breaded eggplant and sausage en casserole, was more than generous: layered eggplant and sausages sliced lengthwise, drowning in rich red meat sauce. I found the sauce became a little too spicy over time, but I couldn’t have eaten the whole thing in one sitting anyway; brought half home and now it’s in the fridge.

Steak was well-cooked, moist, and tender, but an over-application of liquid smoke prior to searing led to a slight charred taste (but not at all a charred steak). This was easily masked by our favorite A1 steak sauce, which actually complimented and balanced the flavor. Mixed vegetables on the side were seasoned with an olive oil-garlicky type dressing: not overwhelming on the garlic and in proper proportion to the amount of veggies. DH chose baked potato on the side, with no complaints.

I wish the water glasses were larger. I think they held about a tablespoonful, and our waitress seemed a little overwhelmed for a fairly quiet Monday night, so they didn’t get refilled. She also handed the night’s specials handwritten on a piece of paper and let us read them ourselves; non-traditional, but at least the handwriting was perfectly clear and there were prices listed too. Service was polite and entrees came quickly.

Love, love, love the kitschy neo-Italian-American decor. Who doesn’t love a faux grape arbor in the middle of the dining room? Wall murals are lush, bright, abundant, and add to the new-old-world charm; white porcelain statuary placed in wall niches throughout the room reminded me of street vendors in Florence and Rome. With the broken silverware drawer on service-area hutch staring him in the face all night, DH says it feels just like home.

And who doesn’t love strings of Christmas lights daisy-chained in and around empty Valpollicella Chianti bottles? You know the wine didn’t go to waste in the name of decor.

NOTE: When you eat at Maria’s, your UPromise account may benefit. Ours did!

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Inn at Bay Pointe
Quincy, MA

Pan Seared Crab Cakes
lump crabmeat blended with seasoned crumbs and vegetables, then pan-seared with a spicy remoulade
Tenderloin Steak Salad
a pile of field greens topped with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, crumbled bleu cheese and walnuts with tender sliced sirlet steak

FOOD ALLERGY ALERT: There were four black olives lurking in the salad. I am diligent about checking the menu descriptions for olives, and when I see them listed, I ask if they can be left out because of I am allergic to them. And restaurants are almost always willing to comply with my request.* But this time I had to fish them out before I tucked in. DH ate one and the other three were relegated to the far side of the table.

By the way — “sirlet steak” is something between a sirloin and a filet. Whatever it was, the steak on this salad was in a word, delectable. DH asked for it medium, but it came out sort of medium-well — which I’ll never complain about. I thought that if the steak on the salad was that good, I hope that the entree steaks were just as moist, tender, and at that same perfect temperature. The salad itself was a balanced blend of salad greens; the walnuts were slightly sweetened then toasted. My only complaints about the salad are these: Whoever was in charge of the bleu cheese was a little heavy-handed, and The balsamic vinaigrette dressing was nothing to write home about. Happily, the onions counterbalanced the overabundance of cheese, so as long as there was an onion on the fork with the cheese, it was good. I found the dressing a little too bitter for the salad, not counterbalancing the slightly bitter salad greens at all. Something sweeter and lighter may have been more in order. Olive oil and raspberry red vinegar, for example.

I quite liked the crab cakes, even though they were thinner and larger than I had been expecting. I was expecting palm-sized, hockey-puck-thick cakes filled with the aforementioned lump crab meat, but it was more like I had been given crab pancackes. Two thumbs up for the spicy remoulade, though — not too spicy at first, but over time the flavor layered and melded and filled the tongue, c’est parfait.

 

*Last year, we were at the Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston and ordered nachos — South of the Border Fiesta Nachos if I am correct when I consult their current online menu, or something very like how that is described. I told the server that if the chili didn’t have any olives in it, we’d like chili on our nachos. She said she didn’t think there were olives in the chili, but that she’d check. She hunted down the chili chef and made him tell her every ingredient in the recipe, until she was sure there were no olives. Then she placed our order and came out to tell me she’d spoken to the chef. Most places, the server will only say they’re pretty sure there aren’t any olives, and won’t bother to make the chef double-check the recipe to be sure. Kudos to that server, whoever she was.

Snappy Sushi (formerly Shino Express)
Newbury St., Boston

Tuna roll
Salmon roll
Cucumber roll
Philadelphia roll
Tuna Gone Wild

Tuna, salmon, cucumber, Philly roll (smoked salmon with cream cheese, for those of you who are unfamiliar) — pretty much our usual selection. I avoid the tuna and salmon rolls and leave those for DH (Dear Hubby), because I don’t like the texture. But I always get the cucumber rolls, because I love them. They have almost no effect on the palate, so they are all about texture (and soy sauce). This time the cucumber was cut chunky, which was a nice change from the usual matchstick-sized cucumber.

We do usually get a fifth choice to split, so there is always much debate. Last time we went we got Spicy Shrimp Tempura roll, because I was craving. This time DH picked, and he picked the Tuna Gone Wild roll (he wanted the fancy crispy eel roll, but I made a face):

Tuna Gone Wild
torched white tuna, avocado, cucumber, radish sprouts, green leaf, ginger and wild sesame with Snappy Sushi’s special marinated yuzu flavored miso sauce

It was much sweeter than I was expecting — for some reason, I expected something more savory than sweet. The interplay of texture was interesting: soft blowtorched fish on the top of the outside of the roll, with cold crispy greens inside. I’m not a huge fan of raw fish, avocado, or ginger, but I think I would order this again. The hardest part was deciding which direction to eat the sushi from — fish up? fish to the side? fish head-on? I finally decided: fish up, the same orientation as it is presented on the plate. This is one fancy roll for which the direction you eat it from changes the taste experience.