Bjorn Koch

The Boston area restaurant scene had a great year in 2015. The city was graced with a number of new restaurants, chefs, and developments throughout the area. The Boston Globe recently published an article, which handed out awards for the best and brightest restaurants in the city. I would like to highlight some of my favorite places and trends and what they have to offer below.

Restaurant of the Year: Tasting Counter

Chef Peter Ungár graced us with the Tasting Counter this year and it has become one of the most sought after places in the city. Ungár serves up one tasting menu each night to whoever occupies the restaurants 20 seats. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself sitting down at the table, you will not be disappointed. Through the nine courses, you will be treated to thoughtful and inventive dishes that showcase his creative and technical prowess. The intimate atmosphere allows the chefs to interact with diners, which provides an interesting dynamic for the meal. The Tasting Counter aims to use natural, local ingredients and eliminate its carbon footprint. The restaurant embodies many of the changes taking place in the industry as it looks to progress in the future.

Chef of the Year; Susan Regis

Susan Regis was once featured in the New York TImes story “Understudies by Choice,” but is now front and center at Cambridge restaurant Shepard, sharing the spotlight with co-owner Rene Becker of Hi-Rise Bread Co. and chef de cuisine Peter McKenzie. The level of excellence she provides at her newest venture would come as no surprise to those who have followed her career. The food Regis creates is poetic, from the charred baby leaves with green romesco to the beet cappellacci with lobster.

Most Promising Trend: Rethinking Tipping

In October, New York-based restaurateur Danny Meyer announced that he would eliminate tipping in all 13 restaurants of his Union Square Hospitality Group. There are now a lot more people in the restaurant industry nationwide actively exploring similar measures. Select Oyster Bar in Boston recently opened with a 20 percent gratuity included. Yvonne’s implemented a 3 percent “kitchen appreciation charge” to address the disparity in earnings between the front and back of the house. All of these measures are looking to address the growing issue of fair and equitable wages for all restaurant workers. These innovative ideas are still a work in progress but at least the industry is heading in the right direction.

Most Welcomed Arrival: Dudley Cafe

Located in an area that still feels up-and coming (Dudley Square), Dudley Cafe fits the scene perfectly. This cozy neighborhood hangout spot is a welcomed addition to the area. You will find a diverse crowd, ranging from artists to politicians.

Biggest Surprise: STRIP by Strega

STRIP, part of Nick Varano’s fast-growing restaurant group, feels much more like a club than a restaurant. It offers a Vegas style vibe, but the real surprise comes when the food arrives at the table. Do not let the atmosphere fool you, this is a restaurant, and a very fine one indeed. From the showy seafood platters to the extraordinary pork chop Milanese, you will be sure to find a dish that will exceed any expectations.