Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, you can begin it. For boldness has genius, power and magic in it.


February 14th, 2017

Feb 14, 2017 Cameron Sperance,


While some attempt to aim Cupid’s arrow by sensually pairing entrees with live music, others are zeroed in on inviting materials. Restaurant owners look to surround their dishes with a romantic aura this time of year, and hiring the right team of designers is key to executing the perfect aesthetic shot.

Romantic restaurantFlickr / Portobay Hotels And Resorts

A restaurant build-out can cost a venue half its projected annual income, according to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, so designers have to tug at purse strings before they can strike at diners’ heartstrings.

“Building for romance is definitely more expensive,” said Jo Megwa, owner of Italian eatery Piattini on Boston’s popular Newbury Street. The venue will open for its first Valentine’s Day since undergoing a romantic facelift.

“My designer fought me every step of the way,” Megwa said, “but we covered the front and back of our booths so we could pull them out for one day out of the year and provide our guests with intimate [seating arrangements].”

With more than half of her Valentine’s Day customers returning each year, she said the cost is ultimately worth it. Her seating strategy is pivotal in heating things up, as diners expect to feel like they are shrouded in privacy while in an expansive dining room.

“The way we sit is important when we think of romance,” said Cheryl Katz, the co-owner of C&J Katz Studio, which designed the dining rooms of Boston’s No. 9 Park and Menton. “We look to give the option of sitting on the same side with banquettes and always would recommend going with upholstered as opposed to wooden seating.”

While what is romantic might be up to each individual, certain things seem to be universal.

“Some people are wooed by grandiose spaces and others look for cozier spots, but the No. 1 thing that defines romance is lighting,” said Brian Miller, design director at Washington, DC, architecture firm Streetsense. “You can’t get romantic without good lighting.”

Boston's Bistro du Midi Fireplace Courtesy of Ashling Inc.

“Romance is a fireplace. There’s nothing like sitting in the dining room at Bistro du Midi by the antique fireplace and looking out on the lights of Boston Common,” said Tom Clark, president of restaurant construction company Ashling Inc. (responsible for the build-out of Bistro du Midi). “The only negative is that it might be slower business at those cozier spots during warmer months, so you need to find a balance.”

But Miller, who completed 41 restaurant projects while at Streetsense, said ideas of romance are also influenced by region.

“The perfect Valentine’s Day in Boston is going to be different than one in Miami or L.A. I look to give something primal or elemental — a courtyard in a warmer climate or a fireplace in a colder climate and then provide a counterbalance like expansive windows to make the space inviting year-round.”

There is another potential danger in narrowing your focus too much.

“The con of building for romance is that you become a cliché and that’s all your restaurant is about,” said Kenneth Feyl, architect for numerous Boston-area restaurants while at JD LaGrasse & Associates, “but for some restaurants, that may be the goal and what works.”

It works for Piattini, Megwa said.

“I don’t see any negative with going the romantic route,” she said. “We have candles — real ones because I’m against those battery ones — at our tables and back lighting to give an intimate ambiance, but we aren’t turning people off. We’re hosting financial firms at dinner, too.”



The Breakdown: Ruka’s Anticucho Skewers

February 6th, 2017

Fire it up.

ruka anticucho skewers


From left:

 Aji dulce sauce accompanies fermented black-bean-marinated chicken thighs.
 Served with bonito mayo and sea beans, tamarind-glazed octopus is braised, then grilled.
 Luscious rib-eye cap is dolloped with dashi butter and slivered raw watermelon radish.
 Trumpet mushrooms are confited with chilies, then drizzled with an herbaceous sauce and hot mustard.

How do you follow up a stunner like Yvonne’s, Downtown Crossing’s gilded supper club? Give diners something entirely fresh. That’s what partners Chris Jamison, Mark Malatesta, and Tom Berry wanted to do with their latest, Ruka, which opened in December. Focusing on two new-to-Boston cuisines, Peruvian-Japanese (nikkei) and Peruvian-Chinese (chifa), the team is turning out a menu heavy on seafood, citrus, and fire. That translates to stylized sushi, bright ceviches, and these creative skewers, known in Peru as anticucho. Traditionally a simple snack of grilled beef heart, “These are Ruka anticucho,” Berry says. “Latin flavors, mixed with Asian, give us the opportunity to do things that are more vibrant.”

At Ruka, where cocktails come in alligator pitchers and murals channel Peter Max’s Asian vacation

January 18th, 2017
Kanpachi ume tiradito at Ruka.


Kanpachi ume tiradito at Ruka.

Where to Ruka, a new restaurant in the Godfrey Hotel from the people behind Yvonne’s.

What for A taste of Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) cuisine from a team with impressive resumes. Executive chef Preston Miller was previously at the Breslin in New York, and the sushi bar is steered by Oishii legend Ting Yen.

The scene Crowded, late, midweek. Thumpy dance music makes deep talk difficult. Young, well-dressed people Instagram with enthusiasm. Women speaking Japanese eat sushi at tables made from tree-trunk cross-sections. Dragons curve around stone columns; walls are covered in black tile carved with geometric patterns; murals channel Peter Max’s Asian vacation. Multicolored strings warp and weft their way across the ceiling, looking like a proto-poncho on the loom. People depart; more people show up. Many wild-looking cocktails — in smoking glass vessels that resemble modern mate gourds; in alligator-shaped pitchers — are consumed.

What you’re eating The menu features sushi rolls; tiradito, Peru’s answer to sashimi; hot dishes from the wok; “monumental” plates to share (whole crispy Japanese butterfish, grilled long-bone short rib); and more. Nantucket bay scallop ceviche comes in yogurt leche de tigre with candied bulgur, scattered with pomegranate seeds; a kanpachi ume tiradito comes with a tiny scoop of apple-shiso sorbet crowned in gold leaf. It’s all very delicate. Order the octopus lomo saltado for something more solid and you’ll be surprised — the “shoestring fries” it’s served with arrive as a lacy garnish. Honey, they shrunk the spuds!

 Care for a drink? Turn to the chapbook of “cocteles,” which encompasses Incan mythology, watercolored line drawings, and drinks made with Peruvian chiles, pisco, and purple corn. (The Chicha Diabla is a boozy version of the traditional drink chicha morada.) If you happen to read the very fine print at the end, it is probably in the comfort of your own home, rather than the dimly lit restaurant, that you discover the exhortation “Please do not steal before reading this.” The cocktail menus are for sale for $20, and the proceeds go to local charities. I’m sorry! I’m bringing it back! The wine list takes the altitude at which grapes are grown as its organizing principle — an interesting one. There’s sake, too.

Overheard A smiling server presents the menus to a two-top: “We have options, ladies,” he declares. Several “ladies” later, the dames are in distress. “If he calls us that one more time,” one hisses. “He calls us that every time,” her friend replies. “Here’s your sippy cup,” a man says archly to his companion, delivering a large beverage. “It looks great in here, despite the Tory Burch logos,” a man observes, looking at the geometrically carved black tile. A chef torches something at the sushi bar, and nearby diners sniff the air. “Something’s on fire,” one says nonchalantly, then goes back to sipping his potion.

505 Washington St., Downtown Crossing, Boston, 617-266-0102, www.rukarestobar.com

Devra First can be reached at dfirst@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.

Roxy’s Central/A4cade Takes Over Cambridge This Month: Fried Chicken, Foosball, More

January 17th, 2017

The dream collaboration between Roxy’s Grilled Cheese and Area Four is almost ready to materialize in the increasingly exciting MIT area of Cambridge’s Central Square. (Just this week, a new Saloniki location and Pagu opened up in the same area.) When Roxy’s Central/A4cade opens up — likely later this month — prepare for burgers, grilled cheese, cocktails, and tons of games.

The two venues share an address (292 Massachusetts Ave.), with Roxy’s Central located in the front and the A4cade accessible through a “speakeasy-style door,” per a rep. While the spaces will maintain their individual social media channels and branding, guests (and food) can flow freely between them. Once gamers get busy in the arcade, they can still order from the full Roxy’s menu from A4cade bartenders and waitstaff — no need to head back out front.

At Roxy’s Central, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese fans will find plenty of classics from the existing locations, such as the Green Muenster and Mighty Rib grilled cheese sandwiches, several burgers, truffle fries, and poutine. But then there’s more.

“Our guests have been asking for a veggie burger for over two years, so I’m excited for The Lucy,” says Roxy’s owner James DiSabatino. “It’s a veggie burger version of a juicy lucy. It’s a mushroom and lentil patty stuffed with muenster cheese, topped with thinly shaved lettuce, tomato, onion, and Justin’s sauce. We are also adding a new double-fried chicken sandwich — inspired by our pop-ups with Kenji Lopez-Alt in 2015. It’s buttermilk-brined, double fried chicken with thinly shaved lettuce, Grillo’s pickles, housemade ranch and spicy honey.” Check out the full Roxy’s Central menu below, from tater tot poutine to dulce de leche milkshakes. For those with dietary restrictions, there are a variety of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available.

Hidden behind Roxy’s mountains of grilled cheese, the Area Four team’s A4cade will serve up cocktails, beers, and wines alongside a lineup of games that includes shuffleboard, foosball, arcade games, and pinball machines. Stay tuned for more details as the opening approaches, and in the meantime, take a gander at the Roxy’s menu:

Roxy’s Lynnfield Is Now Open With New Sandwiches, Hot Dogs, and More

January 17th, 2017

The North Shore outpost of the grilled cheese mecca is previewing what’s to come at Roxy’s Central Square.

Roxy’s Lynnfield Is Now Open With New Sandwiches, Hot Dogs, and More

Boston’s 47 best new restaurants

January 9th, 2017

Dozens of picks for any budget, including a temple to Italian cuisine, fast Greek and fantastic Mexican, and seafood and burgers galore.

Within the listing are two receently completed Ashling projects, Ruka and Saloniki Greek I.  Both opened in 2016. See whole article at Boston Globe link below.



Best of the New 2016 contributors: Diane Bair, Kara Baskin, Ellen Bhang, Karen Campbell, Marisa Dellatto, Gary Dzen, Perry Eaton, Devra First, Jan Gardner, Patricia Harris, Emeralde Jensen-Roberts, Katie Johnston, Sheryl Julian, Marni Elyse Katz, David Lyon, Dan Morrell, Rachel Raczka, Melissa Schorr, Catherine Smart, Shira Springer, Tina Sutton, Denise Drower Swidey, Ann Trieger Kurland, Ted Weesner, and Pamela Wright. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

Hottest Restaurants in Boston January 2017

January 9th, 2017

9 Ruka

This new project from the team behind Yvonne’s and Lolita, along with Oishii’s Ting Yen, hovers around in the intriguing intersection between Peruvian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines, serving up intricate ceviche and sushi, large-format dishes to share (such as a whole crispy Japanese butterfish), and lots more, plus a very elaborate cocktail list. It’s your new downtown date-night destination for a lively ambiance with visually stunning decor, furniture, and glassware, not to mention adorable desserts.

Read more: Ruka Opens Today, Courtesy of the Yvonne’s Team

505 Washington St
Boston, MA, 02111

Where Julia Child favored the burger and Meryl Streep smiled

December 15th, 2016
Pork pate served en croute at Harvest.Pork pate served en croute at Harvest.

Photo by Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

Back in the day, everyone called it The Harvest — this was before the article dropped off and it became simply Harvest, no introduction necessary.

And, once upon a time, I was a waiter there.

I used to regularly serve Julia Child. To the frustration of the chef, she favored the burger. Her husband paid the bills and never left more than 10 percent. We were still happy for a brush with such a personality. Once, during a snowstorm, I served “lunch” to a certain illustrious Massachusetts governor and his guest — martinis followed by two bottles of wine. The waitstaff looked on in awe. When I once tried to pour Chateau Margaux into Meryl Streep’s Riedel, I missed and hit her hand. She smiled. I went shakily about my business.Oddly, the Harvest of then surely looked more contemporary than today’s Harvest. It was an airy exercise in Scandinavian light backdropped with swaths of Marimekko fabric, which the Thompsons introduced to the US via Finland. In other words, design out of reach. Today, Harvest’s ceilings hover low, wood runs baronial, decorative touches smack of luxe seriousness.

In those days, The Harvest was legend. An energy gripped the place. The cooks, the bartenders, the servers, the bussers, the baristas, the sommeliers, and of course the diners — everyone felt the charge, everyone was working on some kind of project in his or her spare time.

Like many aspiring writers, I found waiting on tables to be ideal work. You could log creative hours during the day, exhaust yourself at night making rent. For a solid chunk of the early ’90s, five shifts a week, I hustled the floor. Fell in love there, met my best pal, watched an obsession with cooking blossom. When I quit the place, I knew it better than my brother. (Sorry, Stevie.)

The jingle we heard by night was not money, though there was plenty to go around. It was culture. As house organ of the neighborhood university, the Harvard Square spot offered up a cast of luminaries on any given night. Nobel laureate, celebrity novelist, local rock star, fabled opera singer, aging screen icon. They were a dime a dozen.

Over the 41 years the restaurant has been open, the kitchen has seen an equal parade of talent, including Lydia Shire, Chris Schlesinger, Barbara Lynch, Sara Moulton, Frank McClelland, Bob Kinkead, Jimmy Burke. It was opened in 1975 by celebrated architect-designers Ben and Jane Thompson, whose firm Design Research reinvigorated Faneuil Hall, Navy Pier, and South Street Seaport. They were equally visionary regarding culinary trends. They set upon farm-to-table early, and put forth an upstart American aesthetic that challenged the traditional European. (Sometimes to a laughable extent; raspberry coulis was ladled out like soup.)

Yet the restaurant, tucked down an alleyway off Brattle Street, continues to buzz like a hive. It’s as if the conversation never stopped. Old professors continue to hold forth. Young academics argue vehemently, then explode with laughter. The Europeans still roll in late wearing black.

And for the most part, the food at Harvest hits as squarely and creatively as ever. That sophisticated American style the Thompsons nosed out has assumed an impressive life of its own. If anything, the service is better: quietly, knowledgeably professional.

Granted, the cocktail menu could be swapped with that at just about any other area restaurant. At $14 a pop, one hopes for concoctions that run deeper and more daring. Thankfully, the ambitious wine list is both those things.

The pork pate is a tremendous start to dinner. Served en croute, studded with pistachios and dried black cherries and draped with pear mostarda, it elaborates boldly on what had been a simple Harvest staple.

Maine sea urchin at Harvest.Maine sea urchin at Harvest.

Photo by Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

For a lighter beginning, the Maine sea urchin offers a quintet of sweet discord. Lobes of uni see their funk checked then raised by weightier celery root and toasted brioche, brighter green apple and radish.

Apple and fennel salad is beautiful enough to justify the price ($14) for mere apple and fennel. As with the sea urchin, texture and intensity are put subtly into play. I eat this before the garlic and fennel roasted porchetta — pork loin inside crisped pork belly, served with farro risotto and green chimichurri — which has to be one of the more satisfying one-two punches around.

A few of the starters could use retooling. The beet salad sounds promising, yet the brie it’s layered with is tough, offering no creamy solace. Parsley rigatoni represents one half of a superb dish. Sure, the pasta is beguilingly green and toasted hazelnuts cast surprise depth and crunch, but it misses the simple bite of straight-up parsley. My mouth pines for it.

Still, at most turns chef Tyler Kinnett upends expectations vividly. This accounts for one of Harvest’s finest dishes. What sounds weird — whole-wheat pappardelle with braised veal, toasted pepitas, and zhoug (a Middle Eastern condiment made with spicy green peppers, cilantro, and parsley) — tastes multidimensional and novel in the best sort of way. I could eat this pasta every week.

Entrees follow the zigzag trail left by appetizers: wannabes laced with acts of transcendence. Risotto comes strewn generously with foraged mushrooms, braced with arugula pistou, yet slicked with olive oil and butter. The halibut, described as “brown butter poached,” turns out to be a honking fillet that feels like work to eat, and especially when fanned with undercooked pumpkin.

Meat, however, is where everything comes alive. That porchetta is the definition of visceral pleasure. The venison — another echo from the Harvest of yore — can be glimpsed on just about every table. And with good reason. Served atop wine-braised cabbage, dolloped with sweet potato, traced with Concord grape jus, it is perfect for the cold season.

Caramelized apple entremet.Caramelized apple entremet.

Photo by Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

Somebody has been let loose to experiment at Harvest’s dessert station. The birch-beer float is fun to look at — a scoop of black-pepper ice cream sitting in a tuile suspended over a half-filled glass of soda — yet its puzzle pieces never quite fit. To resuscitate the real thing, you may be tempted to grab a can of A&W and a pint of vanilla on the trip home. Every Harvest dessert acts as eye candy, including a delicious caramelized apple entremet that’s the color of a preppy’s chinos. (Kelly green, no whales.)

In a restaurant world that’s increasingly corporatized — Harvest is part of Himmel Hospitality Group, which also includes Grill 23 and Post 390 — this quirky play with sugar and cream and fruit feels like a Cambridge throwback. For a few moments, it allows you to shut your eyes and travel into the past. No cellphone, no Instagramming the meal, just a man and his apple.


44 Brattle St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-868-2255, www.harvestcambridge.com. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Raw bar and first courses $12-$70. Entrees $26-$42. Desserts $8-$16.

Hours Dinner Sun-Thu 5:30-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 5:30-11 p.m. Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Brunch Sun 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Noise level Low-key buzz

What to order Sea urchin, pork pate, apples & fennel, whole wheat pappardelle, venison, porchetta, apple entremet

Ted Weesner can be reached at tedweesner@gmail.com.

Original article link below.


Ruka Move

December 14th, 2016


The Yvonne’s team opens a new Peruvian-Asian concept in DTX.

girl-picWhatever you do, don’t call RUKA a follow-up to the wildly popular Yvonne’s. Sure, the latest spot is the next project from the same team behind our 2016 pick for Boston’s Best New Restaurant. But RUKA, which just opened in Downtown Crossing’s Godfrey Hotel, has been in the works for a while.

“We started doing test menus before Yvonne’s even opened,” says Tom Berry, culinary director for the group, which also includes Back Bay’s Lolita. “I was still in Nantucket at the time, and I flew off and did a dinner for some of the executives for the hotel group just to say, ‘Hey, this is kind of what we were thinking.’ ”

What they were thinking was a concept that draws on Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) and Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese) cuisines. Berry tapped Preston Miller as the executive chef for RUKA and brought in Ting Yen as the executive sushi chef.

“I probably should have more of a tagline for the food, but I think I’d call it a fun and creative and somewhat approachable take on Peruvian and Japanese fish, vegetable and meat preparations, and also using some of the local, New England and regional fish that are available to us,” Berry says.


The menu breaks down into six sections of shareable plates. The makimono include Terra Incognito, made with wild mushrooms, grilled leeks, pressed rice and mushroom foam, as well as Hamachi Amarillo, which pairs the fish with a baby corn and avocado roll, tomatillo salsa and jalapeno-corn sauce. The tiraditos include crunchy salmon tacos and penshell clam sashimi. Ceviches of Nantucket Bay scallops and halibut fill the chilled and raw grouping, while skewers of octopus and Sichuan king trumpet mushrooms dot the anticuchos section. Veggie fried rice and chicken fried rice make the hot-and-wok section, which also includes a green noodle dish with smoked cobia, curly udon, miso-dashi butter, basil and spinach. Monumental dishes include a whole crispy Japanese butterfish, which will cost $150.

“We sort of take it off the bone and almost cube it into nice chunks, then fry those, as well as the whole body, and then piece it back together on the platter. It’s a little easier to eat than a typical whole fried fish, where you have the bones to worry about,” Berry says. “It’s larger, big, kind of over-the-top things.”

The dessert menu from Liz O’Connell, the group’s pastry chef, also includes a larger dish, a buttered taiyaki waffle with caramelized banana, lucuma ice cream, prickly pear sorbet, chocolate sauce, spicy peanut brittle and peanut butter caramel.

The 177-seat space, centered on an open kitchen, has ornate columns with dragon sculptures and multicolored Peruvian ropes hanging from charred Japanese wood beams on the ceiling.

“It’s very different from Yvonne’s,” Berry explains. “This is a very ambitious project for us, and hopefully it will appeal to our customers from there, and hopefully a new group of customers who haven’t been to Yvonne’s.”

Ruka The Godfrey Hotel Boston, 505 Washington St., Boston rukarestobar.com

Contact Us

We are a group of highly skilled professionals who bring experience in all disciplines of project management, supervision, estimating and permitting to every job. Get in touch with us to get started on your project.

  • address 411A Highland Avenue
    Suite 372
    Somerville MA 02144