Wasabi sushi in Natick

Hi friends! How’s life? Mine is good. In an attempt to get out of the house daily (yeah, I started going a little stir crazy early last week), I’m currently at the library catching up on computer stuff. I noticed some pictures of the lunch Adam and I had at Wasabi in Natick a few weeks back and thought it’d be fun to do a quick post to introduce you to this spot… if you haven’t already been Smile

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Wasabi is newish kaiten dining sushi restaurant located inside the Natick mall. There is a conveyor belt that runs through the entire space with plates of sushi (and other Japanese dishes) on it. You watch them pass by and grab what you like. At the end of the meal, the waitress adds up your bill based on the empty plates. Fun and fast! Open-mouthed smile

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Oh and the plates are color-coded, with each color representing a price category. The most expensive plate as you see below is $5, so you really can try a whole bunch of dishes. Love it!

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[There are a few other dishes you can order straight off the menu, including soups, salads and some hot appetizers.]

I’ve seen this conveyor belt concept in airports in London. I’m glad they finally brought it to the U.S. (or should I say… Boston area since Wasabi appears to be a chain).

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Which one is it gonnna be?

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Adam and I tried a few plates as a light lunch. This guy was my favorite:

Tyson’s Roll

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It was sort of like a deconstructed California roll (with the crab on the outside) topped with seaweed salad and wasabi cream. It tasted super fresh and delicious.

The seared salmon with red pepper coulis was pretty boring.

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Adam got the crunchy salmon. It was pretty fun dipping the maki in the panko mixture for some extra crunch Smile

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These two rolls were sort of forgettable. Solid but nothing special.

Eel cucumber maki

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Lucky roll – mango, salmon, green and red tobiko (and wasabi cream)

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Our bill was about $20 for all of this. Definitely the perfect spot to refuel at during your next shopping spree in the Natick mall. Open-mouthed smile

Have you ever been to a kaitan sushi place?

Dinner at Sportello, Boston

This past weekend, Adam and I attended the Boston Local Food festival. It was supposed to rain on and off all day so I was happy the weather actually held up for the most part of the afternoon. I think the fear of rain put off some people (or maybe how crowded it was last year!) so while it was still pretty crowded, at least you could see the end of the line to the vendors (and in many cases there was no line at all!). Anyways, I’m telling you this because snatching up a grilled pork belly with apple chutney sandwich from the Sportello booth was no problem at all. The sandwich was pretty nice but my favorite part was getting a little token for a free chocolate chip cookie, which we could get a few blocks away from the actual restaurant. Of course I made sure to stop by and claim what was rightfully mine!

Standing in front of the bakery counter, watching happy brunchers enjoying their meals, reminded me that I never actually blogged about our experience at Sportello back in July.

sportello Photo by Boston Photojournalist Erik Jacobs

Our wedding anniversary happens to be on the same day as my dad’s birthday and also the weekend of 4th of July. Needless to say, there is a lot of eating happening during those few days. Since we went to Italy for our honeymoon, we also have a tradition of celebrating somewhere Italian. Keeping all of this in mind, this year we decided to keep things relatively casual (read: not too pricey) and Barbara Lynch’s Sportello seemed to fit the bill perfectly. [Last thing going for it is that it happens to be on my 30 by 30 list Smile]

On a Tuesday night, around 7:30pm, the restaurant was pretty deserted. I’ve seen pictures of the space before but in real life (possibly partially because it was empty), it seemed like we just came to a bakery to celebrate our anniversary dinner (there is in fact a bakery section to the right of the above picture). The large windows flooded the space with light, which made the space seem that much more casual. I did say we wanted things relatively casual. Casual we got.

It’s all right, I had high expectations for the food and was excited to finally try it. We hopped on the bar stools right by the open kitchen and made our beverage selections.

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Whipped ricotta and stewed fruit with Italian bread

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The whipped ricotta was rich and creamy but the bread did not excite me. I felt like I could get that at a supermarket. I saved room for what I hoped would be better things to come.

Salumi plate – robiola, peperonata, olives

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A simple plate of fantastic salami and what I thought at the time was the best brie of my life. Looking at the description now I see it was in fact robiola, which wikipedia tells me is a softened Italian cheese (of course!) made with varying proportions of cow’s, goat’s milk and sheep milk. I loved how soft and creamy it was without any stink that I’ve experienced with stronger brie. Even the little breadsticks (grissini) seemed more flavorful that usual (house-made?).

Adam ordered the spicy tomato soup with caraway grilled cheese

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He enjoyed the flavorful soup (I tried it, good stuff) but the cracker on top does not grilled cheese-make. I’m all for creativity but that’s just false advertising Smile

For my entrée, choosing the ricotta gnudi with tomato, basil, black olives croutons was a non-brainer.

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I’ve only had gnudi at Pazzo (which has since closed, tear) and was shocked at how fluffy and airy those pillows of ricotta-goodness were. The gnudi at Sportello did not resemble those at all. They were a lot smaller in size and in fact seemed pretty firm – a lot heavier than even my homemade gnocchi which I made just days prior (too much flour?). I’m going to cut to the chase here – I wasn’t that impressed. My favorite part of the dish was the tiny olive croutons you may be able to spot in the pictures. I picked every one out and thought it was a really fun and creative twist on an otherwise very classic dish.

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Adam pretty much licked his plate clean (he got the polenta bolognese of sorts – sorry I don’t remember the details, it’s obviously been a while) but I once again thought this was too classic and unexciting for a Barbara Lynch spot (with prices to match!).

Ice cream sandwich – chocolate gelato, chewy chocolate cookie

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Classic. Solid.

Overall we left the dinner pretty disappointed. I think a very large part of it was the ambiance, which just did not match what we need for an anniversary night (totally our fault although most online pictures make the space look cozier than it is) and then high expectations for a hyped up spot further just lead to unmet expectations. I loved the open kitchen concept and think that on a busier night the space could be buzzing with more excitement and perhaps take a life of its own (like at Barbara Lynch’s B&G Oysters). What we experienced was more fitting for a brunch/lunch spot. Simple food with quality ingredients in a modern space. Don’t expect anything beyond that.

Ever been to a place that was just wrong for the occasion? Have you been to Sportello? Any other Barbara Lynch restaurant? Thoughts?

PS – Adam and I are going to New Orleans this coming weekend. Any not-to-be missed dining spots or any other suggestions for us?

The Cottage Chestnut Hill–brunch review

If you’ve been reading Healthy and Sane for a while, or have had a chance to check out my restaurant review page, you know I eat out a lot. I love to cook – yes, but eating out at quality restaurants is absolutely one of my favorite pass times (Quality is key. Since I cook and eat out a lot, I have high standards). I love the anticipation before the actual event, then the excitement for the meal after reading the menu and making a selection and of course being pampered by waiters and chef. But my favorite part of all is the ability to disconnect from all the other obligations and really be in the moment – with the people you’re with, enjoying a (hopefully) wonderful meal.

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Luckily, Boston has a lot of foodies with the same love for eating out… and brunching. We even have a Boston Brunchers group, which meets monthly for… you guessed it, brunch. Since it’s inception less than a year ago it grew to over 300 bloggers. And this is why it’s the very first time I got to finally join them. Clearly, the seats at these brunches go fast!

This past Sunday, The Cottage in Chestnut Hill hosted 16 of us bloggers to an amazing brunch. If you’re familiar with Chestnut Hill, the Cottage is located right in the strip mall by the newly renovated Shaw’s, the movie theater and Macy’s (which used to be a Bloomingdales… also known as my mom’s second home Winking smile ).

The restaurant space is absolutely gorgeous. It has gigantic windows which just shower the rooms with natural light. Everything is so clean, fresh and inviting. It definitely had a very modern cottage feel (the original location in La Jolla was in fact a cottage, that’s how the name came about).

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I just loved the little details like flowers on each table and little knickknacks throughout (see the shelving units in the next picture).

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Bloggers chatting it up… we never run out of food related topics! Smile [I also spy my Bloody Mary there. It was solid.]

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Chef Todd (below) and the owner John came out for a bit to say hello and welcome us to brunch. They talked about their other locations in La Jolla, CA and (surprisingly close to the Chestnut Hill location) Wellesley, MA. All are in affluent cities with demand for high quality restaurants.

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Chef Todd shared a story about the executive team’s semi-yearly trips to California where they stuff themselves silly doing “research” for future menu planning. He admitted it actually gets painful towards the end, but it’s absolutely the biggest inspiration for the restaurant’s ever-changing menu (hey guys, I wasn’t joking when I said I’m willing to endure the pain. Call me!). The focus is always on freshest ingredients, and as often as possible – local (you can see from the menu it’s definitely seasonally appropriate!). I was also happy to hear that they work with local and sustainable meat suppliers (I noticed in their dinner menu duck from Crescent Farms and Brandt Farms beef – both committed to humaine treatment of their animals).

Since the restaurant hosted us bloggers for brunch and everything was taken care of (except for tax and tip), obviously I can’t review “normal” service. We were all treated like queens! I can, however, tell you about the food. I’m sure you’d get the same quality even without camera in tow.

Truffled tater tots

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Need I say more? They were mentioned as a side to bbq tenderloin tips and caught our attention right away. Luckily, the server was happy to bring us a few plates to share sans the beef (and was even kind enough to swap the fries for tots for a few ladies). Under a wonderfully crispy layer, were creamy truffled mashed potatoes. I admit that truffle oil can feel like cheating but man oh man, that’s my kind of cheating. These were incredible and got 2 thumbs up (or something less geeky Winking smile) from everyone at the table!

For my entrée, I was *thisclose* to ordering stuffed French Toast with strawberry compote + marscapone cheese (Liz did – smart girl!). Doesn’t it look and sound incredible?!!

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I sort of OD’ed on sweets the day before so I went with a savory option instead.

Maine Lobster Cobbmixed greens, applewood bacon, egg, spring beans, tomato, great hill blue cheese, hass avocado, tarragon vinaigrette

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[sans the blue cheese]

This salad was fantastic. Every ingredient on its own was super fresh and I just loved the citrusy tarragon dressing covering the greens. And what is better than fresh Maine lobster on a beautiful summer day? Nothing! If (correction: when) I come back to The Cottage, I will make sure someone at my table orders this salad so I can steal a few bites (there is no way I’m not ordering the stuffed french toast twice in a row – let’s get real!).

Some other gorgeous eats a few other ladies ordered…

Quiche of the day with broccoli and caramelized onions

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Maine Lobster BLT+A with hass avocado, applewood bacon, lemon aioli, butter lettuce, tomato, toasted brioche bread

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Um, I think I need this Lobster BLTA  in my life right now!

Every single plate was licked clean when we were done. It’s safe to say this brunch was a great success (say it like Borat!).

It was really fun to catch up with a few of my blog friends and meet some new ones! Smile Thanks again to Renee for organizing this event and to The Cottage for hosting us! I am certain I’ll be back again. Open-mouthed smile

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