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Boston Restaurant Blog -- December, 2008

Below are blog entries from December, 2008. Use the links in the left column to do a quick search of blog entries, or to see blog entries from other months. And feel free to use the "Comments" links under each blog entry to reply to us; your comments just might end up in our Boston restaurant blog! (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section.)

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DECEMBER, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
A Snowy Night at Tiki Palace, Braintree

There is something about a snowstorm that makes me want comfort food, no matter how unhealthy it may be. Perhaps it is because of all the shoveling burning off calories, or maybe it is because snowy nights lend themselves to being in a cozy, comfortable place, but whatever the reason, I indeed found myself eating the ultimate comfort food (Polynesian-American cuisine) at a place called Tiki Palace in South Braintree a couple of weekends ago.

photo of Tiki Palace, South Braintree, MA Unlike many restaurants that feature Polynesian food, Tiki Palace is a rather modest, low-key place with none of the gaudiness of restaurants such as Kowloon in Saugus or the long-gone Royal Hawaiian in Burlington or Aku-Aku in Cambridge. The inside of the restaurant is quite big, with a bar to the left and a long room with booths and large tables to the right. Hanging plants and lights add some atmosphere to the main room, carpeting help keep the noise level down, and mirrors on the back wall make it feel even bigger than it is. Tiki Palace is a family-owned restaurant with a pretty loyal clientele from the neighborhoods in and around South Braintree, and the folks who run it are as nice as can be.

We started out with drinks (including a fairly strong but not-too-harsh drink called a King Funk of Tahiti for me), then had a couple of soups, including a delicious chicken wonton soup that tasted quite fresh, and a tasty hot and sour soup that was both spicy-hot and hot-hot (almost to the point of boiling). For our entrees, we ordered a plate of Singapore noodles and an alleged Polynesian dish called fong wong gai. The curry sauce in the Singapore noodles wasn't all that spicy, but the noodles themselves were firm and full of flavor, and there were a good amount of vegetables in the dish. The fong wong gai was a rather odd dish, with what can only be described as chicken fingers on steroids (they were extra large and round) and there was ham stuffed in the middle of each piece. Water chestnuts, pea pods, and assorted greens were mixed in with the dish, as well as those odd Alice in Wonderland-type mushrooms (cartoon-like caps and tiny stems--most likely straw mushrooms) that you sometimes see in Asian stir-fry dishes. The fong wong gai was almost comical in an over-the-top way, but it actually tasted great, and was the perfect comfort food for such a lousy weather night. I can't say the same for the pork and mushroom fried rice, however, as it was dark brown and dried out, and there was a strong fishy taste coming from it that was so harsh that I could only take a bite or two before calling it quits.

Tiki Palace is by no means a destination restaurant, but I thought that it really hit the spot with its friendly service, cheap prices, mellow atmosphere, and mostly decent food. I would certainly go back there the next time I'm in the area, and it probably doesn't even have to be a snowy night in order for me to go there. I'll definitely pass on the fried rice next time, however.

If you would like the address for Tiki Palace in South Braintree, MA, here it is: Tiki Palace, 1177 Washington Street, Braintree, MA, 02184. Phone: (781) 380-3808.

Related Blog Entries: Braintree restaurants, Chinese restaurants

Friday, December 19, 2008
Kennebunkport Prelude (and Several Restaurants)

For the third year in a row, I made it up to the Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude. The weather was better than it had been the previous two years (much less wind and a bit milder), and, as with the other trips, I was able to try some decent restaurants in the area.

photo of Shalimar India, Portsmouth, NH We stopped for lunch in Portsmouth, NH, on the way up on Friday. Our destination was a little-known Indian restaurant off the main drag called Shalimar India. The atmosphere at Shalimar India had touches of classiness and elegance but it also had a slightly drab, tired feel in some ways with its maroon/cranberry colored walls and old carpeting. The food, however, was very impressive; for very little money, we enjoyed some really tasty dishes, including a spicy and smooth mulligatawny soup, a delicious order of garlic naan, a nice version of the ever-popular chicken tikka masala, and a moderately spicy and flavorful chana saag (spinach and chickpea curry). The masala tea wasn't bad, though it didn't have the rich flavor I'm used to, and the side of rice was adequate and went well with the dishes. Service was friendly and it seemed like it was a family running the place. All in all, Shalimar India turned out to be a terrific way to kick off the trip.

After checking into our place and spending some time walking around the Perkins Cove section of Ogunquit, we drove over to Route 1 where we had dinner at Bintliff's on the northern edge of town. I had enjoyed an excellent breakfast at Bintliff's a couple of years ago (see the blog entry A Few Restaurants in Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunkport, Maine), so I was looking forward to trying the place out for dinner. And they certainly didn't let us down, as everything from the Tuscan bread to the French onion soup to the rib eye steak to the chicken Tuscany was just about perfect. The atmosphere at Bintliff's was just as nice as I remember it, too, with a gas fireplace warming the area in which we were sitting, and the subtle exotic touches adding an intimate feel to the room. Service was professional and friendly, and the prices really weren't all that bad considering the quality of the food.

photo of The Ramp, Cape Porpoise, ME After having a quick breakfast where we were staying, we spent Saturday morning wandering around Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunkport, eventually driving along the scenic ocean drive that goes past the Bush compound and ends up in the charming fishing village of Cape Porpoise. We drove through the town and continued to the end of the road, where we had lunch at a restaurant and pub called The Ramp. Located on the ocean and below an upscale restaurant called Pier 77, The Ramp has a real sea shanty feel to it, with wooden floorboards, lots of memorabilia on the walls, lobster traps outside of the building, and interesting characters at the bar. The menu at The Ramp is limited, but the food that we had was really quite excellent, with the split pea soup being thick and hearty, the steamed mussels being fresh and piping hot, the cheeseburger with Vermont cheddar cheese being thick and juicy, and the handcut fries being absolutely addictive. I also greatly enjoyed a special Shipyard Prelude beer there that was dark and spicy. We soon left The Ramp with bellies happy and full and we were now ready to tackle the crazy crowds at the Prelude.

photo of Angelina's, Ogunquit, ME We ended up spending relatively little time at the Kennebunkport Prelude, mainly because the crowds were ever more out of control than the past couple of years, but we had a great time wandering the streets, checking out the shops, and enjoying all the Christmas lights. But we soon hit the road and went back to the Ogunquit area, eventually heading to an Italian restaurant on Route 1 a little north of Bintliff's called Angelina's. For some reason I was thinking that Angelina's was going to be your basic suburban-type Italian-American restaurant (maybe because of the pleasant but slightly plain exterior and interior), but it was much different from this. The food was authentic, fresh, and at times outstanding, with the Tuscan soup, Caesar salad, and delmonico steak really standing out. The Tuscan risotto was perhaps a little less impressive, as the rice was slightly dry in spots and the dish in general wasn't really bursting with flavor. But the rest of the food was fantastic, as were the wines--the buttery montepulciano was exquisite, while the cabernet was nearly as good. The homemade tiramisu was also good, with the type of rich flavor you want with this dessert dish. Once again, service was excellent and the prices, while a bit high for some items, were about on par for the type of food we ordered.

Snow was in the forecast for the next day, so we left early on Sunday and got back to Boston around noon, ending yet another fun trip to the Kennebunkport/Ogunquit area. All of the restaurants we went to on the trip were good in their own ways, but if I had to pick one for the best combination of food, atmosphere, service, and price, I'd probably go with Bintliff's. My guess is, it will be a restaurant that we will be returning to on our next trip to the area.

Related Blog Entries: Maine restaurants, Ogunquit restaurants

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Pizza and Other Comfort Food at Guido's, Walpole

Let's face it; even though Italian-American food isn't the most adventurous food around, sometimes you just gotta have it. Perhaps it has something to do with the comfort factor of the food, and Italian-American cuisine (as opposed to Northern Italian or authentic Italian) is indeed a category with lots of comfort food dishes. And the dining spot that several of us went to about a week and a half ago--Guido's Restaurant in Walpole--certainly satisfied on the comfort front.

photo of Guido's Restaurant, Walpole, MA Guido's Restaurant is located in a nondescript shopping center just north of the center of Walpole. The restaurant itself is pretty easy to overlook, so much so that I couldn't initially find it even when I was in the parking lot of the shopping center. The interior is a bit nicer, however, as the rectangular room had a tiled floor, chandeliers and wall lights that weren't overly bright, mirrors on the walls, and comfortable tables and booths. The restaurant was fairly quiet, too, even though it was almost full (though there was an incessant humming sound in the dining area that was at times a bit irritating).

Our table started with several appetizers including a tasty pasta fagioli, a thin and watery (but tasty) clam chowder, and a solid caesar salad. (We were also given some delicious homemade scali bread and rolls, neither of which I could stop eating.) For our main course, most of us had pizza (both thin crust and regular crust), though a nicely prepared baked stuffed haddock dish was also ordered. The pizza was very good, with a hearty sauce and a decent amount of cheese placed on top, though I thought that the thin crust version wasn't thin enough, and in fact seemed a bit doughy and heavy. One note: Guido's also features Sicilian pizza, and while I didn't get to try it, I have heard good things about it.

I liked Guido's and wouldn't hesitate to return, perhaps to try one of their many pasta dishes, seafood entrees, or sandwiches. The bread itself is reason enough to go back, as I put it only behind the amazing sourdough bread at Pescatore in Somerville as the best bread I've had in the past three or four months. It may not be a fancy place, and the pizza isn't the best I've had in the Boston area, but Guido's certainly holds its own against some of the other Italian-American restaurants south and west of Boston.

If you would like the address for Guido's in Walpole, MA, here it is: Guido's Restaurant, 683 Main Street, Walpole, MA, 02081. Phone: (508) 660-1533.

Related Blog Entries: Italian restaurants, pizza places, Walpole restaurants

Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tex-Mex Food at Candeleros, Manchester, VT

I happened to be in Vermont a couple of weeks ago, driving through Woodstock, Ludlow, and Weston (where we encountered a blinding snow squall on the aptly-named Terrible Mountain). Eventually, we wound our way down to Manchester Center, where we had dinner at a Southwestern Tex-Mex place called Candeleros Southwest Grill. It turned out to be a pretty good place, though not all of our food was up to snuff.

photo of Candeleros Southwest Grill, Manchester, VT Candeleros is certainly a pleasant and attractive spot; it resides in an old home (from the early 1800s) that has been converted into what looks like a real Mexican cantina, with arches, low hanging lights, wooden floorboards, and Mexican art on the walls. The room that we were in had loads of charm and seemed to be the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely dinner on a freezing cold (and at times snowy) night.

While the atmosphere was appealing, the food was a bit inconsistent, but generally pretty good. We received chips and salsa when we were first seated, and the chips were just ok, with several of them being puffy and chalky. Both sauces were tasty, however. Our black bean soups were flavorful but a bit on the watery side, with few relatively beans in the soup. Our entrees were also a mixed bag, with the ground beef burrito being the better of the two meals. It was hearty and delicious, with a deep red sauce over it that, while mild, had a ton of flavor, and the outside of the burrito was crisp at the ends, possibly from being toasted, giving it an interesting and unique consistency. The other entree--a fajita plate--was disappointing, as both the fajitas and the beans had a nasty metallic taste that may have indicated too much cilantro in the ingredients. One highlight was that Candeleros had Wolavers Oatmeal Stout from the Otter Creek Brewing Company in Middlebury. This is one of the best beers I have had in the past year or two, and one that I see popping up more and more.

To me, Candeleros seemed like a place that could be a really great place for dinner, depending on the dishes ordered; the atmosphere is wonderful and some of the food that we tried was impressive, but in the end, I believe that the inconsistency of the dishes kept it from being a true find. I'd probably consider going back to Candeleros, but with several really interesting-looking restaurants in nearby Jamaica, Londonderry, and Dorset, there is some pretty stiff competition in that area.

If you would like the address for Candeleros in Manchester, VT, here it is: Candeleros Southwest Grill, 5103 Main Street, Manchester, VT, 05255. Phone: (802) 362-0836.

Related Blog Entries: Mexican restaurants, Vermont restaurants

Monday, December 1, 2008
Our Blog Makes the Boston Globe Magazine

Yesterday, our affiliate blog Boston Restaurant Talk was mentioned as part of a feature in The Boston Globe Magazine. The feature, titled Sixty-four websites on Boston life that you should know, mentioned Boston Restaurant Talk (our news-based blog) as a site that is considered one of their favorite Web destinations that readers should know about.

We are both honored and flattered that The Boston Globe regarded our Boston Restaurant Talk blog so highly. Thanks to the folks who put this article together, and congratulations to the other Web sites that made the list!

Related Blog Entries: restaurant blog