in the Hub
Our annual survey of the new restaurants, shops and other attractions that debuted in Boston in 2001
by Andrew King and Christopher Wallenberg
The tragedy of September 11 transformed a soft U.S. economy into something resembling jello pudding. No matter, Bostonians demonstrated our resilient Brahmin backbone as dozens of new restaurants, shops and other attractions continued to sprout despite the weak economic climate.
New Kids on the Block—(top) The 3-D Simons IMAX Theatre graces Central Wharf next to the New England Aquarium; (above) H & M brings affordable high fashion to Downtown Crossing.
Boston is still a booming restaurant town, with many new eateries flinging open their doors in 2001—from the much-anticipated Indian-inspired gem Mantra to the French brasserie Metro. Meanwhile, the prolific Todd English seemed to be unveiling a new restaurant almost every week. On the shopping front, the city was abuzz with the debut of the trendy European discounter H & M. And the New England Aquarium launched its shimmering new 3-D IMAX Theatre. Here’s hoping 2002 will be even more promising.
Boston’s North End is famous for its authentic Italian and Mediterranean restaurants. As a sign that diners are as enthusiastic as ever for the neighborhood’s traditional fare, 2001 saw the opening of several new restaurants within the North End’s dense square-mile bloc of the city. Bacco (107 Salem St., 617-624-0454) is a second-floor Italian eatery offering classics such as chicken verdicchio and lasagna, with impressive views of the boisterous streets. The addition of Ristorante Fiore (250 Hanover St., 617-371-1176) at the head of Hanover Street was certainly welcomed by North End loyalists who recognize its name as that of chef Fiore, whose other neighborhood establishment, Cantina Italiana, has earned legendary status over the years for its old fashioned charm and delicious authentic Italian dishes. Ristorante Fiore boasts one of the North End’s only outdoor roof decks. High hopes for the contemporary Italian fare at the recently opened Lucca (226 Hanover St., 617-742-9200) quickly exceeded expectations, as it made its name by winning Zagat Survey’s “Top New Restaurant 2002” and earning a spot on Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston 2001. Another critically hailed newcomer and favored Zagat Survey eatery was Prezza (24 Fleet St., 617-227-1577). Its Mediterranean menu, immense Italian wine list and intimate ambiance have quickly placed it among the North End’s best tables. Across town in the newly revitalized “Ladder District” bordering Tremont Street and Downtown Crossing, the hip restaurant and jazz bar Limbo (49 Temple Place, 617-338-0280) takes aim at a younger set of diners looking for haute cuisine to go along with their martinis and jazz rhythms, with an Italian-American twist from chef Charles Draghi. At Faneuil Hall, uber-chef Todd English added to his empire with the opening of the playful Rustic Kitchen (Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 617-523-6334), which boasts a scrumptious amalgam of English’s Mediterranean-inspired cuisine from Olives and Figs.
Nouveau cuisine—Mantra (top) in the hip new Ladder District offers an Indian fusion menu; new North End establishments that opened this past year include Lucca (middle) and Fiore (above).
The past few years have also shown a growing hunger for Asian cuisine. Legendary local chefs such as Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger and Stan Frankenthaler of Salamander have shined the celebrity light on the burgeoning and evolving Asian and Asian-fusion dining scene. At the new Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, the sleek, modern Jer-ne Restaurant & Bar (12 Avery St., 617-574-7176) is helmed by chef Jorg Behrend, who set out for the Far East and returned with an inventive, bold New American menu. Jer-ne features an exhibition kitchen, tandoor oven and steampot. In Chinatown, the well-hidden Malaysian-Thai gem Penang has been a favorite among the most discerning spicy food lovers for years. As evidence of the restaurant’s success, Penang recently unveiled its newest locale in highly competitive Harvard Square (57 JFK St., Cambridge), where diners will find the same zesty selections like the roti canai or chicken satay.
Both sides of the Charles River were graced by the addition of a pair of notable Eastern restaurants in the year 2001. The much anticipated, much delayed opening of the posh Mantra (52 Temple Place, 617-542-8111) in the Ladder District appears to have been worth the wait. Local and national critics are singing praises of both Thomas John’s Indian-French-Asian fusion cuisine as well as the elegantly stylish urban decor that includes a hookah den in the middle. Cambridge, a city with a host of venerable Indian establishments, just added Zuzu (474 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-9181) to the crowd—with an upscale Middle Eastern menu that includes mazza, which are similar to tapas.
Adding to the A-list of French-inspired bistros around town was the eagerly awaited and charming brasserie Metro (1815 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-3727), with Food & Wine award-winner Amanda Lydon helming the kitchen. The restaurant serves a full menu ranging from croissants to steak frites. New French cuisine has arrived in the Theater District as well, with the recent opening of an ideal pre- or post-theater wine bar and bistro called Troquet (140 Boylston St., 617-695-9463), featuring a careful selection of wines and a menu of French appetizers and entrees.
Ladder of success—Another hot new dining spot in the so-called Ladder District is Limbo, which also doubles as a jazz club.
And last but not least, there were openings and re-openings of Boston restaurants with decidedly American menus. Fueling the Ladder District’s clout is the recent addition of Blu (4 Avery St., 617-375-8550) in the Sports Club/LA, a streamlined, sophisticated cafe and dining room that includes a raw bar. Todd English is at it again, this time departing from Mediterranean flavors and heading for the stockyard with Bonfire (Park Plaza Hotel, 617-262-3473), a hot new steakhouse cooking up American and continental fare. Two recent face-lifts have revitalized a couple of Beantown’s Brahmin hangouts. The Fifty-Seven steakhouse (Radisson Hotel, 200 Stuart St., 617-423-5700) underwent a renovation that raises its status on the luxury scale with everything from a new entrance to new chandeliers to a new chocolate molten cake.
Tucked into an alleyway at Downtown Crossing, Locke-Ober (Winter Place, 617-542-1340), the dimly lit, oak-walled former denizen of Harvard men and patricians of the Boston elite underwent a physical and philosophical renovation when acclaimed local chef/restaurateur Lydia Shire took the reigns in November. Former diners will find that much of Locke-Ober’s old charm remains—the quaint setting, the hands-on service and even several classic dishes, like the lobster stew. But Shire has added her own touches to the menu and given the brass, silver and mahogany a 21st century shine.
According to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, visitors come to Boston as much to shop as they do to walk the Freedom Trail or visit one of our myriad historic sights. In 2001, there were a bevy of new store openings, most notably in Downtown Crossing, which has established itself as a bargain-hunters alternative to Newbury Street. Labor Day weekend brought the highly
To the Max—Discount retail giant TJ Maxx offers brand name clothing at 20 to 60 percent off usual department store prices.
Meanwhile, Newbury Street, New England’s own Rodeo Drive, is brimming with many chic new boutiques. Olivier Baussan extended its olive branch to Newbury Street with Olivier’s & Co. (161 Newbury St., 617-859-8841), specializing in vintage olive oils, cosmetics and kitchenware. At Francesca Laurenzi’s Newbury Street store (170 Newbury St., 617-351-6900) you’ll find unique high-end houseware and apparel. French perfumerie Diptyque (123 Newbury St., 617-351-2430), renowned on Saint Germain Boulevard in Paris for 40 years, just opened its first U.S. store in Boston proffering perfumes, soaps, room sprays and its famous scented candles.
Eight years after the popular sitcom “Cheers” went off the air, fans still flock to Beantown for a nostalgic glimpse of the famous Bull & Finch Pub, on which “Cheers” was based. Last summer, Cheers
The Reel Deal—The Loews Boston Common offers moviegoers a state-of-the-art megaplex in the heart of the Hub.
It’s a water world for the senses at the New England Aquarium’s dazzling, recently unveiled Simon’s IMAX Theater (617-973-5200), the first large-format theater in the area to have 3-D capability. Inside the walls of this striking silver building, viewers float away with movies such as the current Into the Deep.
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