Caleb P., New England Conservatory
As authentic Asian foods go in Boston, most purists would probably skip over the long list of greasy takeout joints and stir-fry deliveries catering to students looking for a quick fix. Even among the many sit-down Asian restaurants surrounding the campuses of BU and MIT, a plethora of options end up making the decision of where to eat harder, not easier. For an impressive performance in serving Vietnamese food, however, Le’s Vietnamese Cuisine in Allston serves an a satisfying and stomach-warming bowl of pho noodles for more than reasonable prices. Continue reading
Adjectives like sensitive, delicate, and expressive rarely describe German cuisine, at least not the stereotyped foods so common in America: bratwurst split over hot coals, a tall stein of beer. All served with a jolly smile straight from the hands of a barmaid or mustachioed, portly man in lederhose. I always imagine a rather drunken, lecherous Santa Claus shipped direct from the Black Forest, a glorious icon of gluttony. Although restaurants offering this experience do exist within the beautiful but slightly creepy neoclassical wonderland that is Berlin, a new aesthetic has emerged. Wholly divergent from heavy, hyperclassical French fare, this new German gastronomy emphasizes subtlety and composure. Just as frail glass and steel megacities arose from the ashes of Potsdamer Platz, contemporary German food involves a transcendently gentle architecture of flavor. At Reinstoff, dishes feel more ethereal than monumental; barely any pork or beef appears on the menu. Huge sausages hold no place on these plates; no brats and no beer here.
Reinstoff offers two tasting menus, “quite near” and “far away”—”quite near” focuses on traditional flavor combinations, while “far away” explores unconventional pairings. Since I wanted to consider Reinstoff’s “covers” of German classics, I opted for the former. Both menus begin with an identical series of canapes entitled “waking up the senses.” Despite the goofy title, these miniature bites succeed as a whole, particularly vegetable muesli. An eccentric lollipop of dehydrated vegetables simulates the cereal, and an accompanying shot of yogurt completes the breakfast experiment. In fact, after forcing the entire lollipop into my mouth at once and downing the drink, my mind fixated on eating granola mixed with sour, thin yogurt in the college dining hall. Campy, but outlandishly delicious.
Chipotles in adobo sauce taste like swirls of dust in New Mexico, smoke, bacon, and then a numbing fire that kisses the barest edges of lips and tongue. With a more vegetal heat, grassy and green, serranos cut a stabbing stroke across the palate. Looking down at my peppers of choice, I shrugged. Frankly, I lack any depth in my knowledge of Mexican cuisine: regional variations, proper spicing, correct technique. I do, however, possess a pleasant friendship with Tex-Mex, the sloppy enchiladas and tacos served up at semi-chains and neighborhood start-ups. Chevys, Hacienda, Canyon Cafe. Taco Bell (gasp). I know what a pizza crepe taco pancake chili bag is. And I know how to use it.
Obviously, the quality of cuisine at chain Mexican restaurants usually disappoints. Nevertheless, the authenticity fetish feels more and more tired and inappropriate with each passing “foodie” fad. “We have to go out and get some tongue tacos from that guy with the tiny stand in Queens!” “Yeah, and after that, let’s go get authentic British pub food at The Breslin! Because that’s just what British pubs are like!” For those suffering from an authenticity fetish, every ethnic cuisine produced in America feels vaguely unsatisfying and wrong. Ordinary meals turn into disproportionate disappointments, even if the food tastes perfectly fine. Even delicious.