What the experts recommend: French with a twist
On the menu: parsley and garlic beef tenderloin; tempura-fried clam necks; duck breast with orange, "kissed" with smoked chorizo and sauce enhanced with sherry.
Evoo BostonFor more than 12 years, chef Peter McCarthy has kept diners on their toes with his “quirky cuisine,” said Corby Kummer in Boston Magazine. While his array of big flavors—from French to Indian—can be “too jumbled for my taste,” it somehow all seems to work. Now McCarthy has moved Evoo to larger quarters, giving Bostonians easier access to his fusion fare. The main draw is, understandably, the beef. “When it comes to steak at Evoo, you don’t almost feel a rush — it is a rush.” A luscious parsley and garlic beef tenderloin, served with sour-cream-and-butter-loaded whipped potatoes and grilled portobellos, has been on the menu since the restaurant first opened. The same goes for the bavette steak, a grilled slab with a side of double-cooked fried potatoes that are “smoked between fryings.” Stick to these regular offerings and shy away from the specials: The rest of the menu is a bit of a crapshoot. In most respects, though, “Evoo is worth the gamble.” 350 Third St., Cambridge, Mass., (617) 661-3866
Annisa New YorkOne year after a kitchen fire, this 13-table “jewel box of a room” has reopened with a new, more contemporary feel, said Adam Platt in New York. The setback has allowed celebrated chef Anita Lo to create a revitalized Annisa: An elegant redesign lends the space a “cheerful vibrancy,” and the menu of Asian-fusion flavors, which borrows from Lo’s French training and Asian heritage, has been updated. “The result is an experience that strikes that delicate (and increasingly rare) balance between modern style, classic technique, and pure, old-fashioned gourmet pleasure.” Plump chicken breast is crisped and stuffed with a “delicately gamy preparation of pig’s trotter and chanterelles,” accompanied by a sherry truffle-oil sauce. An “inventive seasonal riff on steamed clams” consists of tempura-fried clam necks, clam bellies with chive buds, and a disk of clam tartare drizzled with garlic chive sauce. Don’t skip dessert: The strawberry millefeuille—layers of creamy ricotta and buttery phyllo pastry, touched with balsamic vinegar—was so good that I was shocked to learn it was made not by a pastry chef but by Lo herself. 13 Barrow St., (212) 741-6699
Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar MilwaukeeThe constant waits at this tiny bistro have made it one of the “hottest tables” in the city, and deservedly so, said Carol Deptolla in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Chef Michael Engel, a veteran of Milwaukee kitchens, has opened his dream restaurant, cooking with his three sons in a space “near the house where his father grew up and across the street from where his uncle had a butcher shop.” The menu features moderately priced fare with a French base and an emphasis on “local ingredients when possible.” Start with a “trinity of patés” that includes “chicken liver mousse, rustic campagne (a pork blend), and forestière (mushroom).” Move on to a tender duck breast with orange, a classic French dish here kissed with “hints of Spain—smoked chorizo and sauce enhanced with sherry.” Finish with one of the crème brûlées. The skimpy final tab will make you realize why this neighborhood restaurant is worth the drive. 3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 482-1446