ISLAND CREEK’S Jeremy Sewall wins our Mitcham Memorial Medal for innovation in seafood, like this wild Virginia striped bass with fried Michigan ramps.
This past year was so simple. It was the year of the gastropub, and if you didn't paint the ceiling black and put the menu or the beer list on a blackboard, you were old school. Black was the new black. The year, at least in my reviewing of new restaurants, was all over the place: it was about the view, the patio, the noise, the crowd. Sometimes, it was even about the food.
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
The Journeyman, for being locavore and sci-fi at the same time. Most times, you can't figure out the menu, and the server has to tell you what everything is, but the staff is having fun — and diners are, too. It's expensive, it's in a converted garage, and it's weird, but the flavors are there, and it makes memories. You'll never forget your first blueberry-basil bubble.
ASIAN RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
Floating Rock. Great food, gorgeous, and even fairly quiet. Order all the spicy stuff.
HOWARD MITCHAM MEMORIAL MEDAL FOR INNOVATION IN SEAFOOD COOKERY (THE MOST SERIOUS AWARD IN THE COLUMN)
... goes to Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar for "no shell mussels," pan-fried Jonah crab cake, grilled razor clams, and wild striped bass from Virginia in early summer, not to mention seared sea scallops, lobster-roe noodles, and, of course, the oyster program.
Mark Fisher's steampunk cartoon doo-dads at Deluxe Station Diner.
MOST DRAMATIC SPACE
(BUZZ-) KILLER APP
The iPad menus at Temazcal. If you don't know to scroll down with your fingers, you miss half the menu.
MEANDERING PATH TO GLORY
Tres Gatos. From a musty used bookstore to a hip music store with some new books, to — OMG — a great quasi-Spanish place with tapas, Catalan small plates, an all-Spanish wine list, and vinyl records on sale.
A QUIET PLACE WITH REMARKABLY GOOD FOOD
BEST BREAD-AND-OLIVE-OIL COMBINATION
BEST MEATBALLS AND PIZZA ON THE SAME MENU
Il Posto. And the smoked-rabbit pappardelle is insanely great.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING
Gourmet Dumpling House.
HALF-TRUTHS IN ADVERTISING
I took the thermometers to 28 Degrees, and yes, the martini comes to the table at 28 degrees. But it's a vodka martini. There is a Trina at Trina's Starlite Lounge, but there are no skylights, although they did put in a window.
Cognac Bistro has chef Nelson Cognac, and the right sort of brandy.
EASIEST WEIRD THINGS I ATE IN 2011
Grapefruit granita over dry ice and green-apple cotton candy, both at Lolita.
Duck tongues with garlic chives at Gourmet Dumpling House.
MAJOR WEIRD, BUT WORTH IT
"Fried stinky tofu with pickle" at Gourmet Dumpling House.
BEST STUFFED TURKISH DISH
(You think this is a joke, but we're going to have this important category every year.) Stuffed pepper at Bosphorus.
BEST BISTROFIED COMFORT DISH
Mini-pierogies neatly plated at Porter Café.
BEST THING I ATE AND DIDN'T WRITE ABOUT
Gnocchi at the Met Club in Back Bay.