At Oishii Too Sushi Bar, chef Kung San fuses his knowledge of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, south Asian, and French techniques with fresh, local ingredients to create dishes that are as tasty as they are beautiful. The well-traveled chef handpicks produce from local farmer's markets and fish that's fresh out of Boston Harbor, crafting sushi with yellowtail, salmon, and soft-shell crab. But he also garners inspiration from his own customers, using their ideas to design an innovative menu page devoted to patron-generated rolls such as scallop sushi topped with tobiko, Japanese mayo, and lemon.
The upscale, artistic maki is complemented by an array of sake and wine and an elegant ambience. Soft lighting at the green, lit-from-beneath sushi bar illuminates a few potted flowers, who crane their necks to jealously admire the natural beauty of the chef's creations.
The chefs at Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina aim to cook authentic Mexican dishes unaltered by any Tex-Mex influence. Their recipes reach back generations within the owners' family and several miles into their underground tortilla vaults. Spanish-speaking servers deliver simple combinations of protein or veggies, topped with vibrant sauces: carne asada steak dressed in green pepper and guacamole, tender pork loin in tomatillo sauce, chicken in chocolate mole. The chefs' adherence to tradition doesn't preclude experimentation. Case in point: the dessert burrito, a lightly fried tortilla wrapped around apple-cinnamon or creamy cheesecake filling.
Both the menu and the decor change slightly from location to location—a painting of Mexico here, a tiled mosaic there. Each one, however, has a full bar where bartenders mix margaritas and flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports overhead.
Though Bistro 20 Restaurant & Tavern's contemporary dining room can accommodate more than 175 guests, its staff keeps the restaurant casual in the bistro tradition. Dark wood panels and a red-and-brown color scheme dominate the cozy interior, where soft lighting plays on photographs and Italian paintings or spills out from a fireplace like syrup from a newly tapped syrup bottle. Inside the kitchen, chefs craft Italian and American meals using ingredients such as housemade pasta, farm-fresh produce, and Maine grass-fed beef. They plate chicken piccata, grilled mahi mahi, and grilled grass-fed beef tenderloin alongside fruits de mer, braised lamb shank, and grilled steaks, and customize pizzas with up to 23 eclectic toppings.
Inside Sierras, an antlered chandelier overlooks cream tile-plated tables, ocean blue floors, and walls festooned with antlered skulls and colorful plates in pale blues and vibrant reds. The meals are just as colorful, from the dollops of sour cream, pico de gallo, and chili that top a tower of homemade corn nachos to the roasted red peppers, sweet corn, and Monterey jack cheese that pops out of burritos.
Owner and head chef of Viva Mexican Grill and Tequileria, Carlos Mendez grew up in Mexico watching his mother and aunts as they concocted labor-intensive food without batting an eye. He would even venture off to the countryside to collect any wild mushrooms they might need. Now at his restaurant, he keeps his culinary traditions alive with his menu of Central Mexican cuisine. Fresh guacamole made table-side prepare palates for forthcoming entrees. Handmade masa pancakes topped with queso fresco join slow-cooked pork carnitas and tricolor plates of chilis en nogada with creamy walnut sauce. Thirteen types of margaritas and chilled coladas and daiquiris cool tongues coated in hot spices.
The festive decor of earthy deep blues, red clay tiles and adobe-colored walls also pays tribute to his homeland, as does a mariachi band. These musicians rove between tables, serenading diners with romantic string and vocal harmonies and the occasional rap battle.
The chefs at Savoring Indian Cuisine have a couple different tricks for imparting every dish with a burst of flavor. The first involves their spices, which they grind in-house before sprinkling them onto coal-roasted eggplants and various flavored naans. The second's in their tandoor oven, which gives meat a smoky flavor and a light, juicy texture. This makes the resulting cuts of lamb, chicken, and salmon perfect for the house kebabs. The chefs don't only craft meat entrees, however. They also have a full menu of vegetarian entrees, which showcase vegetables like the invite list to a scarecrow's retirement party.