A roundup of recent restaurant reviews

October 20, 2010

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Extraordinary | Excellent

Good | Fair | (No stars) Poor

TOWNE STOVE AND SPIRITS 900 Boylston St., Boston. 617-247-0400. Famed Boston chefs Lydia Shire and Jasper White join forces for the first time in years on this project, along with Mario Capone, Shire’s right-hand man. The restaurant is 13,000 square feet of overstimulation, with two levels, three bars, three dining rooms, almost 400 seats, and more than 50 dishes that flit from continent to continent like a hippie trekker following his bliss. Whimsy is on the menu, but consistency isn’t. For those looking for a scene, an experience, Towne is just the ticket. For those in search of a predictably excellent dining experience, this is not it, not yet.

ALMA NOVE 22 Shipyard Drive, Hingham. 781-749-3353. Alma Nove’s website says it’s “destined to become the new hotspot on Boston’s South Shore.’’ This kind of restaurant prognostication often turns out to be wishful thinking. In this case, it’s simply a fact. Chef Paul Wahlberg, brother of actors Donnie and Mark, puts together a mouthwatering Italian menu (pork meatballs, tagliatelle with short ribs and baby artichokes). His solid to inspired dishes and the stylish surroundings are bringing in the crowds.

JACKY’S TABLE 1414 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton. 617-274-8687. The little brother of the Petit Robert bistros, this restaurant is even more laid-back and affordable. The fare is proto-French, a feast of pates, steak frites, coq au vin, and other stalwarts. It’s rich, often garlicky, not infrequently topped in bubbling cheese, and completely satisfying with slugs of red wine. This is the stuff of old-school romance. If it plays its cards right, Jacky’s Table could be the big-date spot for generations of students, the kind of place one remembers fondly decades later.

THE GALLOWS 1395 Washington St., Boston. 617-425-0200. Never mind the mordant name. The Gallows is a happy place, and eating and drinking here will take you to your happy place. Chef Seth Morrison serves up decadent bar food such as Buffalo chicken livers, poutine, Scotch eggs, and cornucopian cheese and charcuterie platters. It’s all a sneaky way of getting you to eat your vegetables. If pork is served in approximately 10 different dishes one night, well, so are heirloom tomatoes, tender lettuces, and sweet corn. Add great cocktails and owner Rebecca Roth’s zany banter, and you’ve got an ideal watering hole.

SAM’S 60 Northern Ave., Boston. 617-295-0191. In a beautiful location in Louis on Fan Pier, run by a seasoned team of professionals, but far from ready for primetime. The menu features basic dishes such as salads, roast chicken, grilled salmon, and a burger. Too often, even this simple fare isn’t successfully prepared. Sam’s doesn’t need to do anything fancy. It just needs to do it well.

ROCCA 500 Harrison Ave., Boston. 617-451-5151. Let’s stop calling her “Tiffani from ‘Top Chef.’ ’’ Rocca’s Tiffani Faison deserves simply to be known as the killer cook she is. She has created an incredibly beguiling menu that makes you want to eat everything on it. Her flavors are bold, unusual, and strikingly combined. Think whole wheat tagliarini with Parmesan, Meyer lemon, blueberries, and mint, or squid ink strozzapreti. There’s nothing crazy — this is just real food, influenced by modern Italy — but there’s also nothing you’re going to see on other menus around town.