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Cantaloupe soup at L'Espalier
Chill out with cantaloupe soup at L'Espalier. (Zara Tzanev/Globe Staff)
TASTE

These cool treats trump hot eats

When temperatures and humidity hit the roof, serious chill-out cuisine is required. There's a big difference between cold food and chilled. The former simply lacks heat, whereas the latter is deliberately cooled to below room temperature as part of the recipe to enhance the experience. Local restaurants are brimming with such fare, including these standout dishes.

Chilled savory fruit soups have become a popular option for summer. At L'Espalier (30 Gloucester St., Boston. 617-262-3023. lespalier.com), the chilled cantaloupe soup ($12) on the lunch menu plays with the traditional sliced ham and melon appetizer. The thick, amber liquid is poured around a centerpiece of chilled shrimp wrapped in prosciutto.

At Aujourd'hui, in the Four Seasons (200 Boylston St., Boston. 617-351-2037. fourseasons.com/boston), chef William Kovel begins his five-course tasting menu ($88) with a chilled crab salad, which sits in a spicy-sweet apricot-colored broth made from Charantais melon. Kovel's chilled coconut pea soup ($15) gives the traditional English version a subtle Asian twist with the addition of coconut milk. A petit pea spring roll sits in the center, adding a nice crunch, and Thai basil gives a piquant kick.

At Beacon Hill Bistro (25 Charles St., Boston. 617-723-7575. beaconhillhotel.com), chef Jason Bond has added a chilled Georgia pea soup ($7), which has a generous centerpiece of smoked salmon coiled around thick sheep's milk yogurt.

T.W. Food (377 Walden St., Cambridge. 617-864-4745. twfoodrestaurant.com) opened recently with several chilled goodies. Chef Tim Wiechmann, who previously cooked at Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain, has developed a signature oyster shooter ($3) served in a shot glass filled with a soupy asparagus "essence" and seasoned with a dried lobster powder. The small but airy restaurant's chilled avocado soup ($12) is much more adventurous than it sounds. The delicately flavored creamy soup surrounds a mound of scallop tartare, which is topped with fruity-salty oscetra caviar. But the magic lies in the sprinkling of finely minced crystallized grapefruit around the soup's edge. You can also check out Wiechmann's chilled softshell crab ($13), for which he soaks the pan-fried crab in a minty vinaigrette, then chills, creating a substantial dish that's also very refreshing.

Gazpacho is the best-known cold savory soup. At Avila (1 Charles St. South, Boston. 617-267-4810. avilarestaurant.com), co-executive chef Paul King's Andalusian gazpacho ($11) is practically a meal in itself. King embellishes the chilled tomato blend studded with jalapeno and cilantro with a center mound of diced yellow and red peppers, then topped with crab meat. A dollop or two of tangy lime crème fraîche adds a nice contrast, while sliced avocado and hard-boiled egg add further substance.

In the Middle East, yogurt is an everyday staple sauce that's the perfect foil for hot spices. At Diva Indian Bistro (246 Elm St., Somerville. 617-629-4963. divabistro.com) in Davis Square, the chilled shrimp chaat is served in a fun poppadom bowl ($7.95), which soon succumbs to the tangy yogurt bathing the grilled and chilled shrimp. It's drizzled with a sweet tamarind sauce, and peppery mint chutney adds spicy heat. A small side of "coleslaw" gives it a nice finishing crunch.

At Lala Rokh (97 Mt. Vernon St., Boston. 617-720-5511. lalarokh.com), the Persian restaurant on Beacon Hill, chef Azita Bina-Seibel makes her own cow's-milk yogurt and uses it as a cool, creamy base for ab-dough ($7), a yogurt soup speckled with crushed mint, garnished with sweet currants and crushed rose pedals, and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.

Great Bay (500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-532-5300. hotelcommonwealth.com) has an island of cool delights in its raw bar, which is dubbed "The Island." For summer, chef Adam Fuller has designed four wonderful ceviches for the menu. The halibut tacos ($12) are hard-shell tacos enveloping halibut dressed with avocado puree and cilantro and served with a fruit salsa. The Japanese octopus ceviche ($13) finds thinly sliced, melt-in-the-mouth octopus layered with orange slices, pickled shallots, and finely diced haricots vert. The mixture sits in a bright, orange-colored (and flavored) broth made with fiery Thai seracha chili pepper sauce.

Meanwhile, Great Bay's dayboat fluke ceviche ($12) requires a lighter touch. Too long in a marinade and the delicate fish breaks down. It gets a sprinkle of lime juice before being mixed with some pickled corn and ramps and served on a corn chip. It is accompanied by a shot glass of gazpacho made with watermelon and jalapenos. The diver scallop ceviche ($16) comprises super fresh, sweet scallop, diced and layered with thinly sliced kumquat and julienned cucumber. It's bathed in a mimosa-inspired vinaigrette of champagne and fresh orange juice. A few drops of basil oil finish off the dish.

With food this chill, bring on the heat.

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