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Food + Drink

The 10 Hottest Restaurants in Boston Now

Boston's food scene offers more than just baked beans and cream pie. Thanks to a wave of innovative restaurants headed by the country's most promising chefs, this city—one of America’s oldest—has finally found its culinary groove. Craving a game-changing tasting menu, creative Southeast Asian small plates, or locally sourced oysters from a New England seafood stalwart? These are the 10 best restaurants in Boston to eat at right now.

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Chefs Michael Lombardi and Kevin O’Donnell have been serving hand-rolled pastas made from house-milled flour, along with assorted Northern Italian-leaning small plates, at this Venetian wine bar in Boston's South End ever since it debuted early last year. Sticking with the Italian theme, cocktails embrace bitters while all wine in house is sourced directly from Italy. Thanks to its bright, comfortable, industrial-designed space and consistently excellent (and affordable) cuisine, SRV has quickly become one of Boston’s staple eateries.

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Mei Mei

What began in 2012 as a single food truck serving Chinese-American street food has since grown into a three-location outfit—including a proper restaurant near Kenmore Square. Inspired by the fusion cuisine they ate while growing up in Boston, siblings Andy, Irene, and Margaret Li take a more modern approach to traditional Chinese cuisine while sourcing sustainable Northeastern seafood and farm produce from within a 250-mile radius. The quality of those raw materials shows in dishes like their addictive scallion pancake breakfast sandwich loaded with eggs, cheddar, and pesto as well as the myriad dumpling options filled with potatoes or cumin lamb.

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Somerville-based Sarma is James Beard Award-winning chef Ana Sortun's more modern follow-up to Oleana, her other Middle Eastern outpost in Cambridge. For the last four years, Sarma (whose turquoise walls and decorative hanging platters echo the equally vibrant cuisine) has garnered praise for its inspired Turkish- and eastern Mediterranean-influenced small plates—beef jerky with spiced date molasses; Tunisian steak tartare with harissa chips; brisket shawarma—executed by head chef and co-owner Cassie Piuma. Cocktails taste equally as exotic, mixed with ingredients such as rose water and sumac.

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O Ya

Beloved sushi spot O Ya, now with an outlet in Manhattan, has been prepping pricey bites since it hit Boston in 2007—though unlike traditional bars, it takes a far more creative route. Sure, the Japanese custom of letting the chef choose your meal is still in place (you can also order sushi and sashimi à la carte), but instead of classic fish-on-rice combos, expect the unexpected. Umami-rich bites of sea bream with peach miso, squash blossoms with black truffle and sake butter, plus an A5 wagyu hand roll with fermented soybeans, are just three of the crave-worthy, atypical offerings that keep locals coming back.

RELATED: 12 Best Hotels in Boston

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In 2015, Rene Becker (of Cambridge-based star bakery Hi-Rise Bread Company) and Susan Regis (of now-shuttered Harvard Square fixture UpStairs) rejiggered Cambridge’s aging sandwich landmark Chez Henri into a cozy, clean-lined bistro that since earned a place on Eater's 2016 list of Best New Restaurants in America. On the menu: an ever-changing roster of seasonally driven homestyle cuisine. In the summer, one might find hay-roasted oysters and cavatelli with fresh beans; winter celebrates a different slew of flavors, like charred Napa cabbage with cured egg yolk and dry-aged lamb with turnips.

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Neptune Oyster

There’s almost always a line at Boston raw bar stalwart Neptune Oyster, in the historic North End, where an assembly of the namesake mollusk is served both hot and cold along with various crudos and daily specials like squid-ink risotto and sea urchin bucatini. The best seats in the house are lined up along Neptune’s long marble bar, where patrons sip local Riesling alongside towers of shellfish and richly saturated lobster rolls dripping with butter. The restaurant does not accept reservations, but the seafood is worth the (inevitable, no matter what time or day) wait.

RELATED: America's Best Seafood Restaurants

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This spacious all-day café in Somerville from couple Josh Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri offers global breakfast classics—think breakfast tacos, Greek lemon soup, and salmon toast—as well as a more serious set menu for dinner. Just 30 guests per night are treated to Lewin's prix-fixe seatings, which include both three- and five-course tastings based on themes (Persian New Year; Marseille in March) that change every four to six weeks. Forget to make a reservation? Six seats are reserved for walk-ins, who can choose from an à la carte dinner menu.

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The Table at Season to Taste

There's room for just 20 guests at Top Chef alum Carl Dooley's intimate restaurant inside the Season to Taste catering facility, in Cambridge. Every Tuesday through Saturday, diners vie for a seat to taste his $69 four-course menu, which spotlights seasonal New American flavors prepared using traditional French techniques (grilled squid and citrus salad; pork belly with crispy skin). Try to nab one of the four chairs along the kitchen counter to watch Dooley prepare the meal right in front of your eyes; for those keen on a more casual experience, there’s also a standing snack bar for drop-ins.

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Tiger Mama

What if tiki bars were invented in Asia, instead of the South Pacific? This playful den near Fenway, from former Top Chef contestant Tiffani Faison, puts a Southeast Asian spin on the tropical theme with its flavor-bursting cocktails and experimental small plates packed with herbs and spices. Wash down plates of Singapore street noodles and crispy pork ribs with a Malay Straits, which comes with pandan-infused cachaca, mango, pineapple, and thai chili, or a Da Nang, mixed with vodka, passion fruit, and lime. The look is just as funky: rough-hewn booths are shadowed by potted plants, while an entire wall is covered in a living herb garden.

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The elegant look of this special-occasion restaurant—all grays and browns with chic chandeliers and impressive wine bottle displays—sets the stage for chef and Massachusetts native Chris Coombs' upscale (but not too fussy) French-American Nouveau cuisine. Expect top-grade, seasonal ingredients finessed with traditional French techniques in dishes like Wagyu carpaccio, seared foie gras with strawberry onion jam, and crispy-skinned organic chicken alongside corn and chanterelle mushrooms. Pair it all with a bottle from their well-stocked wine cellar, which offers everything from affordable finds to Burgundy Grand Cru—or better yet, leave the choice up to head sommelier Jason Irving, whose work here has earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2015.

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