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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