Leah and I met for lunch in Harvard Square to try out Tom’s Bao Bao. I love me some dumplings so I was in heaven. We walked in and spent a good ten minutes just staring awkwardly at the people behind the glass making the dumplings (and taking videos of them). All of the buns are made by hand and each employee is trained to steam and fold them. The restaurant has limited seating in the back by the register, but don’t worry, you can always do take out. They had 6 bao on the menu with one additional seasonal special.
So of course we tried one of each:
Juicy Pork ($3.25): pork, scallion, ginger, shaoxing wine
Curry Beef ($3.75): beef, potato, carrot, mild curry
Chicken ($3.50): chicken, cabbage, carrot, bean sauce
Seasonal Lobster (market)
Vegetarian ($3.50): bok choy, shiitake, smoked tofu
Sweet Potato ($3): sweet potato, orange zest
Seasonal Braised Pork and Apple ($4)
The buns are a bit doughy but we liked every one that we tried. My favorites were the juicy pork (the meat was so flavorful) and the sweet potato (it tasted like dessert – although I think I missed the orange zest flavor in there). The steam buns are reasonably priced for their size, you could definitely make a meal out of one or two (we were definitely pushing it with 3.5 buns each).
Tom’s Bao Bao
84 Winthrop Street, Cambridge
Three of us headed over to Luke’s Lobster for lunch before our little field trip to Eataly. We showed up right before the lunch rush and boy did it fill up fast. I had first been introduced to Luke’s Lobster when I was in New York. (See another post here.) They have two locations in Boston, one in Back Bay near the BPL, where we went, and one in DTX. You order at the register and they call out your number when your order is ready – service is pretty speedy. They have their own blueberry lemonade (tastes heavy on the honey flavor) and chocolate chip cookies from the South End Buttery.
We decided to get the Noah’s Ark for 2 ($46) which includes two 1/2 lobster rolls, two 1/2 crab rolls, two 1/2 shrimp rolls, four crab claws, two drinks and two chips or 2 slaws and pickles. We order the lobster bisque and the clam chowder as well. Let’s start with the good: the soups. LOVED the clam chowder and the bisque, creamy but not too thick, and packed with flavor. We gobbled these up quickly! Great on one of these cool winter days we have been having. Now the not so good: we may have just caught them on a bad day. The rolls were seasoned, but they were watery (you couldn’t really get the flavor of the actual seafood). The buns were soggy under the meat so it was hard to enjoy them. I remember the rolls being a bit better when I was in NYC. For $46 I had hoped for a little more for my money. Willing to try them out again though at some point in the future to see if we indeed just caught them at a down moment.
75 Exeter Street, Boston, MA
The ladies and I had been dying to try out Juniper in Wellesley. I love Sweet Basil in Needham and Juniper is Dave Becker’s second venture, a Mediterranean restaurant that opened in 2014. In addition to being a restaurant owner, Becker is also a potter. He makes unique dinnerware that is used in both Sweet Basil and at Juniper.
We start with the roasted cauliflower salad ($13) curry vinaigrette, arugula, spiced chickpeas, olives, toasted pine nuts and red onion (pictured top right). I love roasted cauliflower, it had a rich, warm flavor. A perfect start to our meal.
(Pictured left) They have a nice selection of dips and spreads (served with yummy flatbread), you can order them for $6 each or 3 for $15: muhummara (red pepper and walnut), matbucha (tomato, red bell peppers, garlic and chili pepper), tzatsiki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic), hummus (chick peas, tahini, olive oil), skordalia (potato and garlic), and baba ghanouj (eggplant and tahina).
(Pictured bottom right) I HAD to try the lamb bolognese ($16) saffron pasta, roasted tomato sauce, chili oil and yogurt. A totally different flavor profile than traditional bolognese, but every bit as tasty. This dish has comfort food written all over it, perfect for cold New England days.
The restaurants generally only open for dinner service on Sundays. This Sunday, January 8th, for one day only, they will be opening their doors for brunch with a special guest chef, Avi Shemtov, of The Chubby Chickpea. He will be preparing a Middle Eastern-inspired brunch, including his signature Shakshuka from 11:30am – 2:30pm. Call the restaurant for reservations. If you can’t make it in for this special pop up, make sure to try it out for lunch or dinner at another time, the food was delicious.
Service was excellent, we were there for a weekday lunch. Parking is on street at meters.
13 Central Street, Wellesley, MA
Meatball Kitchen is one of the newer restaurants in the Natick Collection. Located in the old Sel de la Terre the space, the restaurant is divided into two areas, the front bar area pictured above and the main dining room in back. The bar is bright and airy with high ceilings and a glass wall that faces the mall (great for people watching) as a opposed to the dining room that is a little more intimate and has a warm glow to it.
We arrive just before the lunch rush and sit at a great table towards the back – perfect for a larger sized group. The restaurant has a second location in Wilbraham, MA.
The casual eatery serves Italian comfort food with something on the menu for everyone – even vegetarians and vegans!
Pictured top right and moving clockwise: spiedini alla Romana ($9.95) fried mozzarella sandwich with anchovy butter; cheesecake balls ($6.95) served with chocolate, caramel and strawberry sauce; the mbk sampler ($17.95) 6 balls (beef, classic, chicken, pork, veggie and vegan) and 6 sauces (tomato, far diablo, pesto, alfredo, nano’s san marzano tomato sauce, and truffle parmesan); fried Brussels sprouts ($8.95) served with bacon butter and fried shallots; and the buffalo chicken balls.
The meatballs were pretty tasty, although I’m not sure I can trust a vegan “meatball” ;). I did like the option of the sampler, I always want to try one of everything! The cheesecake balls were good, but nothing to write home about. The Brussels were probably the table favorite with the buffalo chicken meatballs as a close second. The chicken meatballs had a really nice texture to them. Service was decent for the lunch rush. Great place to go with kids and a nice addition to the current choices at the mall.
Natick Collection – 1245 Worcester Street, Natick, MA
See their website here.
Nancy, Kim, Leah and I headed out to the Neiman Marcus Cafe for a “company holiday party”. Nestled away on the second floor of Neiman Marcus in the Natick Collection, this cafe is a private little oasis. In fact, I never knew it was there until Kim told me we MUST go. We are greeted by the manager, Hans. He’s old school and the customer service is top notch (we would expect nothing less at Neiman’s!). Every meal starts out with a little shot of the most delicious chicken broth you have ever had, and for some reason, it feels so luxurious. Next, popovers. I could stop there, but I won’t. Two words: strawberry butter. Yup, AMAZING! The menu has a little bit of this and a little bit of that: seasonal soups and salads, sandwiches, quiche and burgers. I have the Cafe Burger ($17): white cheddar, crispy fried onion rings, applewood smoked bacon and roasted garlic aioli, served with a side of truffle fries. It’s a days worth of calories in one meal, but it’s the holidays and I’m treating myself (I’m worth it!). It’s a delicious burger – perfectly cooked and there’s just something delicious about the bun (bonus points that it didn’t get soggy). Don’t get me started on the truffle fries – thin and crisp, perfectly salty and delicious.
Neiman Marcus Cafe
2nd Floor: 310 Speen Street, Natick, MA
See their website here.
You may be wondering what the photo on the left is. While we were celebrating, we were also toasting a friend, Flo, who we lost very suddenly. We couldn’t believe the news that she had passed, we were just on a trip with her a month ago to the North Fork. Florence was an amazing woman, a good friend and a PR dynamo. She was a joy to be around and she will be missed. Here’s to you Flo!
When you have little ones at home, sometimes it’s hard to rally and do simple things like get out to the mall. The holiday season snuck up on me this year. I cringed when I saw the Christmas decorations going up in October and then BAM, Thanksgiving, Christmas, oh wait, it’s NYE! I was behind on my shopping and needed to get out to the mall and pick up a few things. Cue rockstar girlfriends who help you at the mall with your kids and then go out to lunch so you an feel like you have rejoined civilization! We headed over to the Chestnut Hill mall and decided to try out Daikanyama, the sushi restaurant in Bloomingdales. There were so many of us that we were able to sit in this cute little room in the front of the restaurant and close the doors so as not to bother other customers dining there.
The gyoza ($7) were a little well done for me personally, but the filling was still tasty. We loved the shrimp shumai ($6) that we ordered for the table. All the sushi was fresh and delicious – plated perfectly. Daikanyama offers specialty rolls such as the sunny maki with pumpkin tempura, avocado, yuzu tobikko, chef’s special yuzu sauce and raspberries ($8.25), the green dragon with spicy yellowtail topped with avocado ($8.95) and the autumn maki with shrimp tempura and enoki mushrooms topped with torched white fish and mango finished with a spicy teriyaki sauce ($13.95).
There are other options if you aren’t interested in sushi: delicious salads: seaweed, tofu and tomato, friend calamari or a lobster avocado option; soups: miso, robin sushi, spicy lobster miso or akadashi; udon, tempura or katsu. They have delicious specialty drinks, both alcoholic and non alcoholic. Service was friendly and attentive.
225 Boylston Street, Newton, MA
Check out the menu here.
Any time I am in the Natick Collection I head over to the Nordstrom Cafe to grab a quick bite. You order at the counter and they bring the food to you when it is ready (make sure to bring a little cash for a tip). All items are made to order so you can fully customize your meal. My go-to meal is usually the cilantro lime shrimp salad, but I have been in the mood for soup lately. Their soup du jour can be purchased by the cup ($3.95) or the bowl ($5.25). My favorite soup was the corn chowder a while back. Creamy but not heavy, bold in flavor but the corn was still sweet. While the soup usually isn’t enough to fill me up, I like to pair my cup with a side of their delicious fries – they are thin and light, crispy, but not overly so, perfectly salty and the perfect side to any meal!
2nd Floor, Nordstrom’s – 290 Speen Street, Natick, MA
View their menu here.
I’ve been dining at department stores lately. Recently we had a girl’s day out at 40 Carrots in Bloomingdale’s in the Chestnut Hill Mall. A cute little upscale cafe, perfect for a quick bite before heading out for round 2 of shopping.
Kim had to get the boxed water…
They have a well rounded menu, with a little something for everyone: wraps, salads, lasagna, burgers etc. Pictured above is the Laguna wrap ($15): grilled chicken, avocado, Apline lace low fat swiss cheese, dried figs, dried cranberries, roasted walnuts, and a roasted red pepper aioli, served in a warm tortilla. Super tasty with a lot of protein. There are a lot of things going on in this wrap but they all blend together nicely – a little sweet, a little crunchy, and some smooth avocado to bring it all together!
The Astoria spinach pie ($15) is served with a delicious Greek salad. I loved the crunch from the pie and the saltiness of the Greek salad.
And of course, you can’t leave without trying their signature yogurt. They have a small size that you can get for $3, a regular size for $5 and a large for $7. If you’re not in the mood for a little sundae, grab the yogurt in a delicious smoothie. I topped my yogurt with strawberries and peanut butter cup chunks. Can’t have a completely healthy lunch 😉
The service was good, our server was attentive. They also offer a kids menu if you have little ones with you for $10 and the meal comes with a frozen yogurt. You have your choice of a grilled cheese, tuna salad on a pretzel roll, a kid’s omelet, mac and cheese or baked chicken fingers.
Where do you grab lunch when you are shopping?
Bloomingdale’s – 225 Boylston Street, Chestnut Hill, MA
Check out their menu here.
You might miss Bottega di Capri if you didn’t know where to look. This unassuming little restaurant is one of Brookline’s best kept secrets. They have delicious Italian food and more types of pasta dishes than you’ll know what to do with. You could come here for a month straight, order something new every time, and would still have options left on the menu for you to try. This most recent time we tried the meatball sandwich. The meatballs were delicious and well seasoned, but it was the bread here that put the sandwich over the top- soft, fresh and well seasoned. There was the perfect bread to filling to sauce ratio here.
Here is a list of just some of the sauces they offer:
- Pomodoro: Basil tomato sauce
- Arrabbiata: Spicy tomato sauce w/white wine sauce
- Amatriciana: Pancetta in a spicy tomato sauce
- Puttanesca: Olives, anchovies, capers. hot peppers, tomato
- Pesto Rosa: Tomato-cream pesta sauce with parmesan cheese
- Rosantina: Tomato cream sauce
- Riviera Sauce Tomato-pesta sauce
- Carbonara: Pancelta in a cream sauce
- Alfredo: Alfredo cream-butter sauce with parmesan cheese
- Pesto: Our own fresh pesta w/pine nuts, basil, cheese, garlic and olive oil
- Pesto: Creamy Alfredo-pesta sauce
- Vongole: Red or white sea clams sauce
- Parma: Sausages porcini mushrooms, white wine
- Bolognese: Tomato meat sauce
- Boscaiola: Ham, caramelized onions, sweet peas, sun-dried tomato puree, cream, parmesan cheese
What is your favorite type of sauce?
Bottega di Capri
41 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA
Who does’t love cream puffs? We headed over to Chinatown to pick up a few from Beard Papa’s. The tiny shop has a few seats at the window, but most people here are grabbing them to go. Mine by the way, barely make it out of the door 😉
You can choose which shell you’d like: the original, the eclair (topped with chocolate), the Paris brest shell (shaped like a donut) or the mini shells. The fillings are pumped into your cream puff while you wait. They have original vanilla, dark chocolate and green tea fillings and other special flavors that rotate each month.
How cute is their logo?
See, I barely made it out the door and I almost didn’t get a picture of it I was so excited to have one! The shell is light as air and the filling is smooth and creamy – the only bad part is that they are gone in just a few bites, so be sure to pick up a few!
100 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA