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2006 restaurant awards

The best of this year’s dining
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  December 20, 2006

Well, here we are in our imaginary tuxedos, passing out imaginary awards for fine-dining experiences — culinary performances which are sometimes hard to repeat and usually go undocumented. But this column documents the hits and the flops, so here are the awards from my dining-out year, for achievements dandy or dubious.

Restaurant of the year: Oishii Boston.

Non-asian restaurant of the year Lineage.

Décor prize and fusion restaurant of the year:  OM .

The 10th Annual Howard Mitchum Memorial Medal For Innovation In Seafood Cookery (the one award that really matters): Pino Maffeo of  Restaurant L . Although he dabbles in science fiction, his winning entry was based on refinement of basics: a tempura-style soft-shell crab with wasabi mayonnaise; grilled wild salmon with a Japanese-style topping of lightly pickled veggies, and warm lobster with coconut emulsion, so the effect is less rich than dipping one’s lobster in butter at a lobster shack, but tastier.

Best trend of the year: tea made loose-leaf in pots — at last! Runner-up: osso bucco with risotto.

Worst trend of the year: (unless you like spicy) Mandarin-Sichuan restaurants that do their specialties very well, but have an attitude about the rest of the menu.

Trend I’d like to see: bars with no televisions.

Trend foods ready for retirement: seared tuna; tuna tartare. Let’s try another flavor of high-mercury seafood for a change.

Leading indicator trend of a coming recession: mostly Italian and Asian second restaurants and conversions.

Best neighborhood restaurant:  Masona Grill .

Best bar food:  River Gods the Alchemist Lounge .

Best new north end restaurant: Eclano .

Most authentic Italian outside the North End: Trattoria Toscana .

Best Neighborhood Italian:  Salute .

Best second location that’s now the only location:  Atasca .

Best fourth location that’s now the second location: Rustic Kitchen in the Theater District.

Funniest menu, intentional: Stoli.

Bar popcorn of the year:   OM .

Potato chips of the year: Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

French fries of the year:  no award, because the best I had were in Portugal.

Appetizer of the year: maiz asado at  Toro . Runner-up: Daddy-O’s chipotle wings at  Z Square .

Soup of the year: what’s left at the end of the Mongolian hot pot at  Kaze . Runner-up: corn, baby shrimp, and basil oil at Café Pompei. One bite’s chowder, the next is pistou.

Science-fiction appetizer of the year:  “exotic mushroom” soup frothed like a latte at  Sorellina .

Science-fiction entrée of the year: coffee-curry monkfish at Bin 26 Enoteca ; don’t miss their cocoa tagliatelli, either.

Octopus of the year: Dionysos .

Pasta of the year: (tough category, a lot of research involved) tagliatelli Bolognese at  Marco . Runner-up: pappardelle piemontesi at  Tresca .

Best fried fish: Baja fish tacos and fried calamari at Café D.

Best fried non-fish: fried stuffed poblano peppers at  Zocalo .

Whole fish dish of the year: “homestyle red braised whole fish” at  New Taste of Asia , especially the tofu in the dish.

Barbecue of the year: hickory roast chicken at  SoulFire .

Some like it hot: dry, diced chicken with hot chili at both  Zoe’s .

Meatloaf of the year: Tuscan meatloaf at Columbus Café.

Steaks of the year: the filet side of Ruth’s Chris’ porterhouse; the skirt steak at  Z Square.

Duck of the year: Muscovy duck (with bisteeya of confit duck) at  OM ; rare breast and slow-roasted leg at  Masona Grill .

Best eponymous: a glass of Caymus “conundrum” at  Conundrum .

Wine list of the year:  Bin 26 Enoteca , and great food to set it off.

Coolest new wine policy: Ivy , where all 60 wines are the same price, and they pour a 12-ounce quartino — ideal for couples — for $18.

Best cheap wine list:  North Street Grille .

Best new all-French wine list:  Bouchée .

Best $7 glasses of wine: Los Planos syrah (Spain) at  Toro .

Vegetarian appetizer of the year: pâté at  Petit Robert Bistro .

Vegan entrée of the year: Quanti at  Himalayan Bistro .

Health food of the year:  whole-wheat pizza at  Legal Test Kitchen .

Non-alcoholic drinks of the year:  ginger juice at  Flames ; mango lassi at  Himalayan Bistro .

Cookie of the year: coconut rocks at  Flames .

Cheese plate of the year:  Toro .

Desserts of the year: churros at  Toro ; chocolate budino at  Eclano .

Non-chocolate desserts of the year: butterscotch pudding at  Lineage ; mocha-meringue semi freddo at  Sorellina ; ginger soda at  Dante .

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