Saturday, August 9, 2008
Legal Test Kitchen
Among the major cities I've been to in America, Boston may have the weakest restaurant scene of all. The prices can easily be twice what they would be for comparable places in L.A., and for reasons I'm not able to fathom, the quality is typically disappointing for a given price and style of restaurant. Tragically, the one true hidden gem I've found with amazing food at low prices was a placed called Noodle Alcove in Chinatown which served glutinously springy, slurpingly delicious handmade noodles. Within two months of my initial discovery, it went out of business. In any case, to stay within my $300 / month food budget, I eat out only a few times a year.
But when friends come to visit, I almost always take them to the Legal Test Kitchen in the waterfront district, close to the Silver line and the Institute of Contemporary Art. After Noodle Alcove's demise, it's by far the best deal in the city and serves some of my favorite dishes. As the name suggests, LTK is a testing ground for the Legal Seafoods chain, and although I find the regular Legal restaurants quite average with a penchant for serving dry, tasteless seafood, LTK seems to employ much more capable cooks, and the textures and flavors of the delicate seafood dishes are always on par. Best of all, the prices are at least 25% lower than what you would pay for the same dishes at another Boston restaurant (which would likely not taste as good either). The portions are generous (the large plate of mussels above was only $10), and the decor is sleek and stylish (another contrast with the stodginess of the regular Legals).
A favorite which seems to always be on the menu is the Niman Ranch burger (above) made with naturally-raised beef from the famous Niman Ranch. So far it's the best burger we've found in Boston, and it's served on wonderfully chewy bun with crunchy slaw and freshly-fried potato chips. It's a steal for $10.
Last time I went we splurged on the lobster pad thai. Although it's the most expensive thing on the menu, at less than $30 it's a pretty good deal for lobster in this town. The dish contained sweet, briny chunks of the meat from an entire lobster, and the pad thai was well-made with nuanced flavor.
I really haven't gone wrong with anything I've ordered at LTK, and paying for the check is a cinch with their self-check gadgets with which you can slide your own credit card and split checks with ease. When you're done with dinner, take a walk by the waterfront and catch some stunning views of the city. In this city, dining out doesn't get much better than this.