Citizen’s Oyster House. 1310 Boylston Street. Boston.

A great place to spend an hour or so before a baseball game at Fenway Park. We had delicious cod cakes, good clam chowdah (corn included, which apparently renders it inauthentic), and fresh clams in a fortified white wine sauce. Cocktails were interesting: JM had the mint julep, I had Olmec’s Revenge (infused Macchu Pisco, vanilla-chili syrup, Boddington’s with a chili rim). The inclusion of a British bitter fascinated me, but the whole thing ended up tasting like beer, with a chilli-salt distraction. There were also eight beers on tap. Service is a tad awkward, but attentive. The atmosphere, though, walks the line between cosy and brasserie-bustle. Come here early as it does get quite packed, especially before a Red Sox game.

$$-$$$
Fenway Park area

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Pio Pio. 702 Amsterdam Avenue. New York

Our NY hosts suggested this noisy Peruvian place as they had never been there, and we were glad to be part of their first experience of Pio Pio. Ostensibly a pollos a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) joint, this was, we felt, the overpriced part of the meal: the Matador Combo at $36. Great flavours in the skin leave the rest of the white meat quite dry and bland. Otherwise, their cebiche mixto is fabulously spicy and tangy raw corvina fish, and the Mero con Salsa de Mango (seabass) is rich and delicate. Sides like yuca fries are just fillers, but some of the interesting citrus sauces were reordered to mix with other dishes. Passion Pisco is a refreshing and syrupy concoction, as are the other great cocktails. Many guests seemed to be having birthday parties and it gets annoyingly rowdy at times, but otherwise the ambience and lighting is very down-to-earth and unpretentious. I’ll be back here in the future, ordering everything else on the menu.

$$-$$$
96th Street Subway

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Orinoco. 477 Shawmut Ave. Boston

Like a few other places in this neighborhood, Orinoco closes up its kitchen quite early, especially if there isn’t much activity; Shawmut can get quiet on this end of the long street. In the spirit of a real taguarita, a family-run eatery, they don’t take reservations and it’s as casual as you like.
We shared a pitcher of white wine sangria, poured into glasses furnished with a couple of dozen fresh blueberries. A good idea. Our starters (antojitos: ‘little cravings’) were Tequeños: guayanes cheese wrapped in flaky dough with chipotle ketchup and Datiles, bacon wrapped, almond-filled dates. Both were small but very tasty snacks. The best main was the smoked rack of ribs, from which succulent meat just fell off the bone without any fat whatsoever. They were possibly the best ribs I’ve ever tasted in a restaurant. If I was any more of an animal I would have taken the bones home to suck on for breakfast. Triumphant.

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$$-$$$
Massachusetts Avenue T-stop or
Back Bay Station on the Orange Line

Sueños. 311 W.17th St. New York

Our NY hosts wanted to bring us here after Sue Torres’ appearance on Iron Chef America, with the promise of Mexi-fusion and very interesting flavours and textures. The restaurant is reaching its first decade anniversary and it certainly is becoming well-known, offering prime ingredients in a very cosy basement setting.
Cocktails were certainly punchy, and at $12-14 each with a wait time of 10 minutes, not to be sneered at. We had the excellent ‘Jerry’s Real Deal’ and passion fruit margaritas, and an unremarkable pomegranate punch. Suzy’s Smokin Margarita – Gran Centenario Silver, Grand Marnier, fresh lime and a Float of Del Maguey Chichicapa – was as powerful as you can imagine.
The corn bread and dip was one of the best nibbles I have had in any restaurant. Our appetizers included the sumptuous Lobster sope in a coconut-habanero sauce, some bland veg-stuffed gorditas and finally, tequila-flamed shrimp stacks, tangy and crispy.
My dining companions all had fish: bronzini, cod and grouper, but I was dead-set on having the chile-rubbed goat. I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made in NYC. Chunks of tender meat in a dark Negra Modelo sauce made it one of the finest red-meat dishes I’ve eaten in my life; it really does need to be publicised that this wins, hands down, over any steak, burger, or wagyu concoction that you can throw at me. Of course, that’s all down to personal preference, but if you’ve ever enjoyed curried goat at Notting Hill carnival, you’ll know what I mean: soul food, through and through.
Apparently, the fish dishes were all good too.

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$$$-$$$$
Subway: 14th Street (A, C, E)

Miya’s Sushi. 68 Howe St. New Haven

Not just the best sushi I tried in the USA, but the most ethically sourced and environmentally conscious food I’ve ever had the privilege of eating. Much of the guff in the menu (food philosophy, our ethos blah blah blah – one of the dishes is even inspired by Sylvester Stallone) is actually quite readable, but most people’s favourite, and Miya’s USP, is the fact that this joint not only avoids endangered species (obviously no bluefin) but actively fish invasive species in order to turn local pest control into food supply. So everyone’s a winner.
Drinks were great: beer ‘cocktails’ made with PBR and Sake and lots of additions such as maple syrup and lemongrass, all at under $8 each. Service was quick and very friendly. The staff even do an intentionally ramshackle glee-club rendition of Happy Birthday if you’re lucky enough to be there on your special night.
Too much on the menu looked so good, but we sensibly shared a platter including the Howe St (falafel, avocado, and asparagus, topped with roasted eggplant, and wilted greens, drizzled with champagne tahini) a Sweet Natured Kabuki Girl (hard shell clams, shiitake mushrooms and heirloom grits simmered in sauvignon blanc and fresh clam juice) and a Tyger, Tyger (goat cheese, apricots, avocado, pickled radish, homemade african berbere mix -wrapped in freshly made Ethiopian sour dough teff grain crepe). The menu needs to be studied at home to be fully appreciated and to get your head around some of the concepts and ingredients. However, it may be in danger of tipping over into abundance of exoticism for its own sake. One of the dishes, Kwanzaa Bananzaa, even has a jokey requirement: ‘You must be mostly African American to order this roll.’

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$$-$$$
Near Yale University, 45 mins from NY’s Grand Central

Two Boots Pizza. Various locations, New York

I have been raving about this place ever since I came here just over three years ago, when I ate a slice from the Bleeker St branch almost everyday for a fortnight. The Upper West side now boasts a branch, and we picked up our fix here when we spent a night just five minutes walk away from 96th street subway. La Alta had a deliciously crispy Night Tripper, with big blotches of the best pesto I’ve had in a long time, and I went for The Bird: spicy buffalo wings, blue cheese dressings, scallions and jalapeños. A small root beer cost $2 and the slices were less than $4 each. I don’t care what none o’ y’all NewYorkers say: this is still the best pizza in the world.

$
Now also in LA and Baltimore.
Someone please bring this to Europe now!

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Ali’s Roti Restaurant. 1035 Tremont Street, Roxbury. Boston

The choice to eat here came from our need to find a good free parking spot in Boston, as close to Fenway park as possible. This shabby neighborhood eatery advertised wraps as well as curries and that’s exactly what I was in the mood to eat. Prices were astoundingly low, for good quantities of meat: the beef curry over a pilau rice with a side order of peppery channa masala chickpeas came to $8.84. The goat curry didn’t look meaty enough, and the chicken could’ve been served in a thicker sauce, but I’d probably try that next time. All the food is laid out in front of you – behind a glass screen – to direct the chef what portions you’d like. You’ll dine out of a polystyrene box with a plastic fork, sitting in wooden booths, but the cuisine is the closest to West Indian soul food I’ve tasted in the US. I hope it doesn’t close down, as the changing fortunes of the area may force it to; as it is, there are times you’d think it already has.

We ate very well here for very little, and it certainly hit the spot.

$
Area: Roxbury/ NorthEastern College

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