Where Boston's Biggest Chefs Are Eating Right Now

Top toques share their favorite openings
April 18, 2016
by Scott Kearnan

We're constantly surveying the Boston dining landscape to discover the hottest new restaurants, but there's one other resource that is pretty indispensable: the opinions of our chefs. So, to get an industry perspective on the latest and greatest restaurants popping up in the Hub, we asked big name toques to tell us which newcomers are really making their mouths water — and what to order when you're there. (Plus, we've included some extra info on what each of these experts is up to.) Want to find some great chefs? Easy: Ask one. 

Ken Oringer (Coppa, Toro, Uni)

​His pick: Yvonne's

Yvonne's made waves when it opened at the end of September, becoming one of the year's biggest openings (and one of the sexiest spots too) thanks in large part to chef Juan Pedrosa and pastry chef Kate Holowchik (both past 30 Under 30 honorees). Star restaurateur Oringer agrees that Yvonne's is a new grand dame of Boston dining. "Yvonne's is one of the great openings this past year," says Oringer. "They have an amazing cocktail program from Will Thompson; and culinary director Tom Berry really knows what he's doing. For one, I'd say they're cranking out the best French fries in the city."

What's Hot with Oringer: Following the close of Clio, his Japanese legend Uni has taken over the entirety of the space inside the Eliot Hotel, undergone a massive renovation and totally re-imagined its menu. Check out our look at the bigger, bolder Uni here.

Jamie Bissonnette (Coppa, Toro

His Picks: SRV, Uni

Unsurprisingly, Boston's punk-chef superstar has big praise for what he dubs "Uni 2.0," the new incarnation of his Coppa and Toro partner Ken Oringer's Japanese joint. ("Every time I go I see a ton of friends stuffing their faces and crushing sake," says Bissonnette.) But Bissonnette, who does quite the job with housemade pastas at his Coppa, also gives props to another South End Italian: the just-opened SRV. "I am always excited to have more in the South End," says Bissonnette. "They're doing some really creative and delicious stuff at SRV. I love the salt cod on squid ink bread."

What's Hot with Bissonnette: He's prepping his next joint venture with Oringer, Central Square's Little Donkey, which is one of our most anticipated restaurants of the year.

Tony Maws (Craigie On Main, The Kirkland Tap & Trotter)

His Pick: Shepard 

The James Beard award-winning chef could certainly count his Craigie on Main as a Cambridge institution. But he's not shy about sharing praise for what could become a future icon in his neck of the woods. "This year, I've been excited to welcome Shepard to the hood," says Maws. "Susie Regis is a tremendous cook and I’m psyched she's in a kitchen that's close to Craigie On Main. I really like what they do with vegetables; the parsnip dish from a few weeks back was great. As are the sweet potatoes with house-cultured butter.”

What's Hot with Maws: Thanks to its 60-plus variety beer list, which includes plenty of large-format and rare "cellared" suds, we recently named Kirkland one of 30 killer spots for beer in Boston

Tim Cushman (Hojoko, O Ya

His Pick: Tiger Mama

O Ya, his ultra-luxe sushi destination in the Leather District, just celebrated its nine-year anniversary. And Hojoko, a funky izakaya inside the rock-n-roll themed Verb Hotel, was one of the biggest openings of last year. But Cushman is also apparently a fan of its Fenway-side neighbor, Tiger Mama. He picked Top Chef alum Tiffani Faison's new Southeast Asian spot as his favorite new opening, particularly singing the praises of the chile-spiced short-rib crudo — one of several plates we also called out in our first look. "Tiffani doesn't mess around when it comes to flavor," says Cushman. "I'm a big fan of her food."

What's Hot with Cushman: Hojoko rolled out lunch at the beginning of April. Besides one of the best cheeseburgers in the city, you'll find customizable rice bowls, a Japanese tonkatsu sandwich with pank-breaded pork belly, and the "weggie," a salad of charred steak with miso-blue cheese dressing. 

Barbara Lynch (B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop, Drink, No.9 ParkMenton, Sportello

Her Pick: Sarma

The James Beard award-winning restaurateur knows that Somerville meyhane Sarma may no longer be the newest kid on the block, but the younger sibling to Oleana is still her pick for the freshest new entry to the local dining scene. "I love Sarma and couldn't be more excited for Cassie," says Lynch of chef Cassie Piuma, who worked with Oleana's Ana Sortun for over a decade before opening Sarma. "She is a young rock star chef who has come up the ranks in a predominantly male industry. Working under a mentor like Anna, Cassie's food has developed in a unique and delicious way. She takes risks and her cuisine is unlike anything else in Boston. She's a leader and a new mom and continues to blow me away." 

What's Hot with Lynch: For one, Menton just debuted lunch service. Now you can get a two-course prix fixe for $48 (add $12 for a dessert or cheese course) in the main dining room or Gold Bar on Wednesdays through Fridays from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM. The opening menu includes dishes like ricotta gnudi with guinea hen polpetti.

Jason Santos (Abby Lane, Back Bay Harry's

His Picks: Yvonne's, Fuji

"The Boston restaurant scene got a lot more interesting this year," says Hell's Kitchen runner-up Jason Santos, who picks hot spot Yvonne's, the buzzing successor to Locke-Ober's space, as one of his favorite new dining spots. "My girlfriend and I go there just for the tater tots. They are ridiculously good when paired with vodka. Or as I call it: potatoes two ways.” Santos lives by Assembly Row, and also "spends a lot of time" at Fuji, where the roast duck on a croissant is "rich and buttery; the perfect lunch." 

What's Hot with Santos: His restaurants Abby Lane and Back Bay Harry's just rolled out their spring menus. At the former, you'll find standouts like the grilled chorizo dog, one of our must-try new hot dogs, and at the latter, we suggest digging in to buttermilk fried chicken with white BBQ sauce and cranberry-jalapeño chutney. 

Jamie Mammano (L'Andana, MistralMooo...., OstraTeatroSorellina)

His Pick: Uni

As chef-owner at Columbus Hospitality Group, the team behind some of Boston's most popular (and longstanding) high-end restaurants, Mammano knows that you need to keep things interesting to keep diners engaged. So it makes sense that he'd have a special respect for Ken Oringer and Tony Messina's all-new Uni, where his favorite dish is the whole roasted lobster with black pepper glaze and yuzu drawn butter.  

What's Hot with Mammano: He's showing his support for a great cause. All his restaurants have donated dining packages to Victory Programs' upcoming Dinnerfest, one of the month's must-go events for food lovers.

Ming Tsai (Blue Dragon, Blue Ginger)

His Picks: Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar, Little Big Diner, Uni

Tsai's tastes clearly run the gamut, hence the East-West fusion found at his Wellesley icon Blue Ginger and newer, more casual Fort Point offering Blue Dragon. And that's reflected in his picks for favorite new spots. He's equally impressed by the Greek flavors coming from the kitchen of Michael Schlow at Doretta, where Tsai extols the "deep flavor" of the braised lamb, the soulful Eastern street food of Newton's funky Little Big Diner, where he's partial to the "sweet and meaty" Hawaiian burger, and the refined Japanese of Ken Oringer's new Uni, where the eponymous urchins are "the sweetest, most umami-packed bites eva'!" 

What's Hot with Tsai: The star chef continues to host monthly wine dinners (at Blue Ginger) and beer dinners (at Blue Dragon) that pair multiple courses with select sips from various breweries and wineries. Coming up next: A Harpoon Brewery spotlight at Blue Dragon on May 2 (6 PM) and Cain Vineyard & Winery at Blue Ginger on May 23 (6:30 PM); details will be posted soon here. 

Jody Adams (Rialto, Saloniki, Trade)

Her Pick: Shepard

She just opened the Fenway-side Saloniki, her foray into the fast-casual sphere, but when Adams has a few seconds to dine out herself she's over at Susan Regis' Cambridge newcomer Shepard, which is also home to chef de cuisine Peter McKenzie, a former 30 Under 30 superstar and alum of Adams' Rialto. "I love the warm rustic feel that the open fire brings to the simple, clean, modern design of the dining room," says Adams. "I am a sucker for pasta in all forms, and each one I’ve tasted is spectacular.  I’m also a fan of the current delicate rabbit agnolotti paired with spicy green mustard shoots, but my favorite is the creamy smoked brandade with sourdough and dill." 

What's Hot with Adams: Have a few thousand dollars socked away for a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Check it out: Adams is leading a 12-day African culinary safari next year that is full of fascinating flavors — and wild sights. 

Michael Schlow (Alta StradaDoretta Taverna & Raw Bar, Tico

​His Pick: Uni

Schlow opened his own highly anticipated restaurant, Back Bay's Doretta. But when it comes to choosing another hot new spot, he joins the chorus of chefs singing the praises of Oringer's re-launched Uni. “The most memorable meal that I have had in Boston this year was at the new Uni," says Schlow, who points to the Chinese celery and sashimi as menu standouts. “I have always been a fan of anything that Ken Oringer has done, and his new and expanded Uni is nothing short of brilliant.  It was a smart idea to showcase the talents of Chef Tony Messina.”

What's Hot with Schlow: If you're looking for a hot deal, head over to his Pan-Latin eatery Tico. It just launched "Taco Tuesdays," now doling out six tacos and five Coronita beers for just $30. 

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