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10.01.14 - Lost your way.

The Compass Tap Room on Worcester’s Harding Street in the Canal District was scheduled to open the last week of September. It will be home to a great beer selection and a sliced roast beef sandwich that, according tom owner Dave Dominick, will be the envy of the city.


10.01.14 - Take your pic.

The Pic on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street is under new management with new owners. Arthur Furtonado heads up the new group. Look for a new menu soon.


10.01.14 - In other Brookfield news.

We hear that Carmella’s, a fixture in the Brookfields for a couple generations, has closed its doors. We wish the Fitzpatrick family well. Carmella’s celebrated its 25th year in business a few years back.


10.01.14 - Big news in the Brookfields.

A new restaurant is opening in East Brookfield ~ 308 Lakeside, which will take the place of the Lashaway Inn. The old Lashaway Inn, which was on Lake Lashaway, was torn down and a new 200-seat restaurant and bar was built in its place. Look for a late October/early November opening.


10.01.14 - Farm to stomach.

The Regional Environmental Council’s annual fundraiser will be held from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at Worcester’s Citizen restaurant in downtown Worcester. The event is now billed as The Farmers Gala, and it celebrates farm-to-table food. Call (508) 799-9130 for information and tickets.


10.01.14 - Get your fix.

The Fix on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street opened in mid-September for lunch. This is a natural for the Niche Hospitality Group’s latest venture. Who doesn’t love a burger, fries and a milkshake for lunch?


10.01.14 - OktoberFest on Shrewsbury Street.

Can’t make it to Munich this year? Head down to Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street for a variety of Oktoberfest beers. There will be live music, as well as German food at some of the Shrewsbury Street eateries. Check out shrewsburystreetoktoberfest.com for details and participating restaurants. The event is sponsored by Leominster Credit Union and Harpoon Octoberfest, Sam Adams Octoberfest, Wachusett Octoberfest and Leinenaugel’s Oktoberfest beers.


10.01.14 - Not another pumpkin beer

I had the idea for this article back in July, when the first pumpkin beer hit the market for the season. I discussed pumpkin beers in this column last October, so if that is your thing, the recommendations there are still the same. For those of you wondering what else is out there for fall, read on. All of these recommendations are readily available in Central Massachusetts. Read the rest of this entry »


10.01.14 - Chuan Shabu

Experiment with the flavors.
Aromatic broths simmering in broad silver bowls right at your table. Baskets of fresh vegetables, seafood and thin-sliced meats ready to be plunged into the broth and cooked to your personal ideal of perfection. It’s the ultimate DIY meal and as healthy as you want it to be.

That’s hot pot at Chuan Shabu. It’s a concept that allows inventiveness and up-close participation in the preparation of your meal. Though Vietnamese restaurants have offered variations on it, the hot pot concept is fairly new in Worcester, and the friendly staff at Chuan Shabu is eager to assist.

Chuan ShabuHere’s how it works: My friend and I were seated at a jet-black, glass-topped table. At the center is an induction cook-top with a very simple set of controls. Induction cooking avoids an open flame and heats metallic cookware superfast. We were provided with a laminated menu and pen to check off items for our entrée.

It starts, I suppose, with broth selection. There are a number of choices, each $3, with a “basic” version offered for free. We selected Seafood and, at the recommendation of people nearby, Tom Yum ~ a Thai-inspired, spicy and slightly sour broth.

Then, we checked off our vegetable selections: bok choy, broccoli and wood ear mushrooms. For meat, we selected Angus sirloin. It came gorgeously red and marbled, sliced thin in big, loopy rolls and ready for the plunge. From a long list of seafood, we chose fresh clams (in the shell) and shrimp dumplings. To unite all this, we also ordered a bowl of Udon noodles.

Chuan ShabuIn addition to hot pot, Chuan Shabu also features a full Chinese menu. We started with one of its appetizers, Sliced Pork Belly in Mashed Garlic Sauce. Enough for sharing? Oh, yes! There were more than a dozen slices slightly less than ¼-inch thick and schmeared with sauce ~ I’d call it garlic-chili ~ and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was served just under room temperature over salad greens.

We snagged slices of pork belly with our chopsticks and took the edge off the mildly spicy heat with bottles of Tiger Beer. Tiger is a lager from Singapore that’s really meant to be enjoyed with food; on its own, well, it’s just not that interesting. In contrast, the rest of our meal was quite fascinating.

Chuan ShabuWhen we finished with the appetizer course, our server set out small bowls of soy sauce and dishes of condiments for us to mix as we desired. Then, the large simmering bowl, divided down the middle and filled with our broths, was set on the table and the induction device was activated. In moments, the bowl’s contents were steaming away, and for the remainder of our meal, it emitted clouds of sumptuous vapor. The broths were rich creations that included chunks of ginseng root, jujube dates and citrus slices.

Some rudimentary knowledge of cooking helps when engaging in the hot pot. For example, it’s nice to know that razor-thin sliced beef will cook in seconds. And that overcooking it is not a good idea. Broccoli florets, on the other hand, can take five minutes or so to cook, but too long in the broth and they’ll go battleship grey. Some experimentation was required, but soon I felt reasonably proficient.

Chuan ShabuThe bok choy was one of my favorites. Perfectly green and flawless, these mini-stalks of tender leaves became exceedingly delicious in either of the broths, but I really favored the Tom Yum. Mushrooms took the plunge, and we fished them out with ladles. Other than that, we managed with our chopsticks.

The clams ~ cherrystones, actually ~ took more time to open than I expected. But they were well worth the wait; they were as fresh as possible, tender and clean.

As we proceeded through our meal, we concurred that on a return trip, we really should order a bowl of noodles per diner. They simmered up tender and acquired the flavor of the broth. Plus another meat; perhaps pork. And more vegetables. Oh, yeah, and I want to experiment with different broth.

Perhaps it should have been obvious to me, but the food choices you select for simmering add their own flavors to the broth, and by the end of the meal, it was just as satisfying to relax amidst the rich aromas and enjoy spoonfuls of our own unique creation.

Chuan Shabu’s hot pot is delicious and fun. Come the colder months, all that steamy redolence should make it the most sensual place in town.

Chuan Shabu
301 Park Ave., Worcester
(508) 762-9213

By Bernie Whitmore


09.04.14 - Gee what is going on with Gia’s?

Gia’s Restaurant, 785 Quaker Highway, Uxbridge, recently reopened under new ownership. The old place abruptly closed the week before Father’s Day. The restaurant will be managed by Robert D. Passaretta, son of the new owner, Orlando Passaretta. Gia’s will honor all gift certificates from the previous business. The gift certificates will have by a deadline, most likely the end of the year.


09.04.14 - Go Fish.

Marlboro’s Fish restaurant recently hired a new chef. Jonathan Saiff was the former sous chef at the very posh Oak Room in New York City and head chef at Bretton Arms Inn in Bretton Woods, N.H. Saiff will bring his own style to the kitchen. George Voyatsis, the owner and son of the folks who own Worcester’s Coral Seafood, has really stepped up his game in what has become Metrowest’s best seafood restaurant.


09.04.14 - More than a sandwich.

A new sports bar has opened in Holden. The Specialty Sandwich Co. Bar & Grill recently opened at 624 Main St. Owned by Bill Gjinis, who formerly owned the Specialty Sandwich Co. next door, the pub opened on Aug. 1. In addition to sandwiches, the restaurant also offers brick-oven pizzas. It is open seven days a week.


09.04.14 - You won’t get lost using a compass.

Dave Dominick, bar manager extraordinaire, has set out on his own and will be opening the Compass Lounge in the Canal District. Dominick, who has managed too many nightspots to list, will offer food and numerous draft beers. The Philadelphia native will feature what he said will be an authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwich. He will also serve steaks and other homecooked comfort foods. Watch for the opening. The Compass will occupy the space that once housed Smokestack Urban BBQ on Harding Street.


09.04.14 - On the high road.

Via Alto 27 has closed its doors on Clinton’s High Street, and a new sign recently went up for the Clinton Bar & Grille. Doesn’t sound Italian to me, but Open Table says that it is still owned by the Ensrt Family, which owned Via Alto 27.


09.04.14 - We no longer have to wonder.

The Wonder Bar, an iconic Shrewsbury Street pizza parlor with decor from the ’50s and in-booth juke boxes, was recently granted a liquor license for new owner, Frank Prizio. Prizio has food in his blood, being the son of Regatta Deli owner Joanne Prizio. Prizio hopes to re-open in the early fall.


09.04.14 - Can you teach an old Sea Dog new tricks?

Tavern in the Square recently opened in Northborough at the site of the former Sea Dog Steak & Ale. This is the fourth eatery in this location in the past eight years. We are not quite sure what square it is on, but the small six-restaurant chain has a place in Cambridge’s Porter Square. The restaurant has what appears to be traditional pub food and a large selection of draft beer.


09.04.14 - Is that beer Gluten Free?

By Kerry Cyganiewicz

Seven times this weekend, I heard someone ask if a particular product contained gluten. Whether it’s because of allergies or lifestyle choices, people are looking for gluten-free alternatives to everything. I have assembled a list below of gluten-free beers that I wholeheartedly endorse that can all be purchased locally.

A word of caution: “Gluten free” is defined in different ways. In the European Union and the United States, a beer must possess less than 20 parts per million to be labeled as such. Other places, such as Australia, define “gluten free” as having no detectable gluten at all. If the difference is important to you, I recommend that you research the actual amount of gluten through the individual brewer.

Green’s Gluten Free Beers, Dry Hopped Lager 4.10% ABV
If you tend to lean towards mass-market lagers, this would probably be the most similar. It pours a familiar pale yellow with a small head that disappears quickly. There is an aroma of citrusy hops and sweet grain. It tastes as it smells, with a slightly sweet beginning and an almost bitter-free citrus and pine-hoppy finish. It was well carbonated. This surprised me; it was quite enjoyable and set the bar high for the other gluten-free beers I was to drink.

Sam Adams/Brewery Rickoli, Oats McGoats American Stout 6.5% ABV
This is a low-gluten beer. The Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Brewing and Business Experienceship annually provides one craft brewer with hands-on brewing and business coaching. This year, it was Brewery Rickoli from Colorado. Rickoli brewed a stout with rye and oats as the primary ingredient. It is currently only available in select bars in Denver and at the Sam Adams Boston Brewery. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle. It poured a very dark brown with a luscious two-finger head that lingered. It smelled of roasted coffee and a dark chocolaty sweetness. It tasted like a well-made stout with a roasted coffee and chocolate taste and a lingering finish. Usually, rye beers have an overly spicy or peppery taste to them, but this one was smooth.

Dogfish Head Brewing, Tweason’ale 6.00% ABV
It is no secret that I am a fan of Sam Calagione and the way that he crafts unusual beers that you can’t help but enjoy. This one is brewed with sorghum, strawberries and buckwheat honey. The head appeared quickly and disappeared just as fast, leaving a ring that lasted until the end. The smell was of strawberries, sweet wine and overripe seeded fruit. It tasted of strawberries, citrus and a slight sweetness. The finish reminded me of drinking soda water. If you like fruit in your beer or are a wine drinker, give this one a try.

Windmer Brothers Brewing Company, Omission Pale Ale 5.80% ABV
I tried this beer on the recommendation of a coworker. This beer is a little different from the rest, as it uses barley with the gluten removed. Last I checked, the company cannot claim that the beer is gluten free, but it has a reduced gluten content. The beer poured a clear bronze color, with a two-finger head that lingered throughout the experience. It looked and smelled like a good pale ale with a slightly sweet malt backbone and a citrusy hop aroma. If you handed me a glass of this, I wouldn’t guess that it was a reduced-gluten beer.

Lakefront Brewery Inc., New Grist Sorghum Beer 5.75% ABV
This offering poured a pale yellow with a small head that lingered. There was some lingering lace down the glass to remind you that this was, in fact, a beer. It smelled sweet and tasted sweet. There was a slight sourness that contrasted nicely with the sweet molasses-like taste. It had the liveliest carbonation of the bunch. This is similar to the Green’s Lager, with less of a hop presence.


09.04.14 - The Perfect Game

Perfect Game revitalizes bar cuisine

By Bernie Whitmore

Perhaps it’s time for me to revise one of my personal laws of dining, the one that says sports bar cuisine is dismal and industrialized fare.

For all I know, this was never true. It may be a prejudice born from a couple of poor dining experiences many years ago. But in the past couple years, one after another, my excursions to sports bars have proved to be surprisingly good culinary outings while retaining the elements that made them so popular: big screens, draft beers and fun.

The Perfect Game extends this winning streak.

Sited on Water Street, The Perfect Game is at the vanguard of the rebirth of this historic neighborhood. It is taking advantage of the new streetscape with outdoor seating and large, retractable windows that allow the outside in.


On the evening I met a friend for dinner, The Perfect Game was busy with two huge parties, and we soon surmised the kitchen staff was stretched because the wait for our first course felt like an unannounced rain delay. I put the time to some good use, observing that the décor had distinctly shifted to football. It was also an opportunity to enjoy my Harpoon IPA and listen to a surprisingly extended live concert recording of the Dave Matthews Band. (How often to you hear that at a sports bar?)

But the manager at The Perfect Game just doesn’t like being less than perfect. After a while, he came to our table to explain the situation and left us with a promise to make things better. Game on.

In minutes, he was back with our first course. Consider this an object lesson in how to correct a business problem: Face it, take ownership of it, explain it, and then correct it. In this case, it was corrected with an oven-hot dish of Stuffed Mushrooms. My friend’s appetizer choice, the half-dozen caps were packed with a seafood stuffing of bread crumbs, minced onion, herbs and, of course, bits of fresh seafood. Then, they were topped with a layer of molten mozzarella cheese. He effused, “Stretchy and delicious!”

I started with the House Salad, a large salad plate of mixed, crispy leaves (red and green), wide carrot shavings, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes and sweet-fresh red onion slices. I dressed it with tart balsamic vinaigrette. Perhaps I’ve been salad-deprived; this one tasted so crunchy-fresh and alive with flavor that I eagerly savored the generous portion.

Disclosure: Our meals were specials featured for Worcester Restaurant Week. But I daresay they were representative of The Perfect Game’s everyday fare. Most places tend to scale back a bit on portion sizes for these special offers. Each of The Perfect Game’s courses was very generous in size.


My friend’s entrée, Grilled Jack Daniel’s Sirloin Steak, was a 12-ounce hunk of sirloin marinated in homemade Jack Daniel’s sauce and topped with caramelized onions. The medium-rare presentation was proof that this is a chef who knows his way around a grill and, as my friend put it, there was enough Jack Daniels sauce to “float Kentucky.” If you are from Tennessee, you might know exactly what that means. For the rest of us, let’s assume it was an enthusiastic compliment. The steak came with baked potato and Greek-style string beans.

I chose Seafood Alfredo. It seems that every menu touts the alfredo sauce as ‘homemade’. Most of them are thick and tend toward gloppy. Not so at The Perfect Game; the sauce was cheesy-light with a peppery flavor that made it truly a delight. It also contained strips of tasty sundried tomatoes and freshly sautéed spinach to boost the flavor and provide streaks of contrasting color. And the seafood: This Alfredo came with plenty of large, juicy shrimp and scallops and was bristling with mussels in their deep-blue shells.

REVIEWPerfectGameBOur server told us the dish was being considered as an addition to the standard menu. My advice: Do it.

We ended with cake. The Carrot Cake was dense, moist and slathered with thick cream cheese frosting. It was decimated on the spot. I boxed a slice of Lemoncello Cake to take home. It was mouth-puckering tart and sweet, with lemon filling, butter cream and, of course, fluffy yellow cake.

After a shaky start, The Perfect Game truly hit its stride with tasty cuisine, good service and large portions. Recommending sports bars for their cuisine? It’s not easy to get used to. But dining at The Perfect Game? Any time.

The Perfect Game
64 Water Street, Worcester, MA
(508) 792-4263


08.07.14 - Worcester Restaurant Week kicks off.

The semi-annual Worcester Restaurant Week kicks off Aug. 4 and runs until Aug. 16. More than 40 locally owned restaurants are participating in the event, where diners can get a three-course meal for $23.14. You can check out the restaurants on worcesterrestaurantweek.com, where you will find the menus each restaurant is offering. Sponsors include: UniBank, Stella Artois Beer, Mercadante Funeral Home, Percy’s, American Express and Integrity Merchant Services. Media sponsors include: Pulse magazine, tasteweorcester.com and radio stations WXLO, The Pike and WCRN-830 AM. Worcester Restaurant Week is produced by Pagio, Inc., parent company of Pulse.


08.07.14 - As the worm turns.

Worcester’s Wormtown Brewery, which will soon move to Shrewsbury Street, was recently chosen as the best beer in the country. Wormtown was named Grand National Champion at this year’s U.S. Open Beer Championship in Atlanta on July 4. More than 3,000 breweries from around the world competed in a variety of categories. Wormtown won several gold medals and a couple of silver to gain the national championship.


08.07.14 - Will it still be Shangri-La?

Shagri-La, which is currently located in 7 Hills Plaza, is moving across the Common to 50 Front St. at the corner of Commercial Street. The space has housed McFadden’s and the City Park Grill. Let’s hope that the third time is a charm.


08.07.14 - Bocado opens in Providence.

Bocado, a Niche Hospitality Restaurant, has opened a second location. This time, the owners crossed state lines and opened in Providence. The tapas restaurant is located just off of Federal Hill at 60 Valley St. It has 85 seats and the same concept as Worcester. It also has a small outdoor dining area, and the bar area has 30 seats. Alexis Babineau went from the Worcester operation to Providence to head up the kitchen.


08.07.14 - It’s become a Ritual.

Ritual, located on Main Street in Worcester, has a new main man taking over the range. The new chef is Mark Ronnquist, of Westborough. He moved over from Rovezzi in Sturbridge. He will bring his interpretation of classic food combinations, stressing quality and clean flavors. Ritual is offering expanded lunch hours during the summer, including a $10 lunch buffet.


08.07.14 - Stepping up your game.

There is a new chef at Perfect Game on Worcester’s Water Street. Angel Barbosa, who has cooked at Tatnuck Grill and Coral Seafood, has taken over the kitchen. While not changing the sports bar theme, the Perfect Game will be offering meals during dinner.


08.07.14 - Change is good.

We see that the old Tara Pub on Worcester’s Green Street is undergoing much-needed renovations. We also hear that it will become a hookah bar. The appeal of this must be great, since another hookah bar is about to open up down the road on Harding Street. This one is on the back side of the Bay State Bakery & Restaurant.