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Masala

Masala is a special place. Lined with a row of windows that looks out onto Teele Square, natural outdoor light meets the warmth of the restaurant itself. Inside, with a beautiful dining area and a glass window looking into the kitchen, Masala gives every customer a sense of both openness and connection. That, in fact, is what makes the whole experience so unique.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with a plate of complimentary papadum, a thin and fragrant cracker with three sauces, including a spicy chutney. For dinner itself, we sampled a variety of food, including samosas, garlic and peschwari naan, a lamb rogan josh, and a creamy rice pudding for dessert. Everything was delicious; I was only sorry I didn’t have room for more of the extensive selection.

After dinner, we were warmly welcomed by Dammar, Masala’s owner. He talked about how Masala serves both the local Nepalese community – nearly half of customers on weekends are Nepalese – and helps engage people who are less familiar with the cuisine.

 “Before,” Dammar told us, “I sold only 10% of my menu – now I sell 40%.”

It is a dynamic process for him, a two-way street where his guests learn about his food and culture – they start to know the names of different dishes, and ask for new recommendations – while Dammar also loves to ask the guests’ opinion on what they have eaten.

Dammar’s own story shows how comfortable he is working between cultures. Before arriving in Boston, he travelled to over 80 countries as a chef on Carnival cruises. He described working with crews of 150 people from 140 countries, making food 24 hours a day for thousands of people. Trained in French cuisine, Dammar’s wanted to share a passion for his own cuisine, the taste and textures of Nepalese cooking.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2f20.jpg

This passion has caught on, as we could tell by the number of different kinds of people sharing the restaurant with us, whether a regulars who knew all the wait staff, or a group of friends out for a weeknight meal. This restaurant is clearly well-respected and well-loved, as a unique place to connected to the people and the process behind the delicious food that you are served.

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Masala is located at 1127 Broadway, Somerville. Find more information on Masala here: http://www.somervillemasala.com/

Sample Masala’s dishes at YUM, coming up this Thursday, April 6th at the Arts at the Armory! Click here to buy tickets.


YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year.

Photo credits: Helen Fowowe.

 

 

 

 


Royal Bengal: Homestyle Indian Cuisine, Fresh Ingredients

By Delia Hagan

To its loyal Cambridge and Somerville customers, Royal Bengal is known as a reliable takeout spot for homestyle Indian favorites. Tucked away on Medford Street in Somerville, where it’s been for the past three years, Royal Bengal has begun to expand and offer more seating to accommodate its diverse patrons, from local families to young professionals. It also offers a growing catering menu perfect for family parties and gatherings.IMG_3711 (1)

My friend Mei-Mei and I met there last week to catch up and try the cuisine, taking shelter there during a heavy rainstorm. After a refreshing Mango Lassi, we sampled the Chicken Tikka Masala (a dish of roasted chicken tikka in spicy sauce) and Aloo Gobi (a vegetarian dish made with potatoes, cauliflower and spices), two of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. The food was vibrant and comforting, served in generous helpings with a tasty blend of spices and cilantro. And what meal is complete without garlic naan? Theirs was delicious. As we ate our meal, we noticed the quiet, family-friendly atmosphere of the restaurant and its casual, peaceful feel. (The service was also very fast, which might be why many Somerville residents choose Royal Bengal for takeout as well).

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I was able to talk with the restaurant’s owner Bosudeb Majumder, who told me more about Royal Bengal. He said his goal is to please his local customers and have them come back time after time. He emphasized the restaurant’s use of fresh ingredients to create homestyle Bengali recipes and Indian favorites, as well as their openness to taking requests for specialty items their customers love. The restaurant has gone through a number of changes over the past few years – including moving from Cambridge to Somerville three years ago, and expanding to create more space last summer. Bosudeb is the new owner of Royal Bengal, and noted that he took over the restaurant from his relatives who taught him all of the restaurant’s most treasured recipes so he could continue the restaurant’s legacy with excellence. He hopes to continue expanding the restaurant’s offerings, especially as a caterer for family parties and gatherings. In addition to the Aloo Gobi and Chicken Tikka Masala that we tried, he noted that the restaurant’s other vegetable dishes and it’s goat and chicken curries are other customer favorites.

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Sample Royal Bengal’s dishesat YUM, coming up this Thursday, April 6th at the Arts at the Armory! Click here to buy tickets.

Royal Bengal is located 364 Medford Street in Somerville, MA. Click here to find out more about the restaurant or place an order online.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year.

 


Tu y Yo

by Alex Galimberti

If you attended the YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City festival in either one of the last two years you will remember the delicious authentic Mexican food served by Tu y Yo. This year we are happy to welcome their participation at YUM for the third time. The spirit of YUM and of The Welcome Project is reflected by the hospitality at Tu y Yo, even the name of the restaurant which translates to “You and I” is a reference to the power of connections between people.

On a recent visit I was welcomed by Chef and co-owner Adolfo Alvarado. He shared with us his story as an immigrant who came from Guatemala twenty-four years ago. Adolfo has worked as a cook in some of the best Mexican restaurants in greater Boston and has been working at Tu y Yo for nine years; three years ago he became a co-owner of the restaurant and at this time he also decided to move to Somerville. Adolfo is also a student at The Welcome Project’s ESOL program. He has been taking intermediate classes for two years. With his improved English skills Adolfo now feels like he can better communicate with City Hall and with the Somerville community.

Chef Adolfo is proud that at Tu y Yo he can train his staff to learn responsibility at all roles in the kitchen and thus provide advancement opportunities.  The cooking philosophy employed since Tu y Yo opened in the year 2000 is based on elevating a homemade cooking style. This makes Tu y Yo stand out as a place where you can eat classic authentic dishes that are imbedded in the history of Mexico. The menu gives you not only a description to each dish but also highlights the origin of the recipe that they use. Most of their recipes are representative of home style cooking from the Southern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz, with some unique influences from the North.

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The staff at Tu y Yo: Nathaly, Yefry, Chef Adolfo, Everardo, Henry

Trying out unique ingredients can be a highlight of a visit to Tu y Yo. On my first visit many years ago I was delighted to try tacos de chapulines (grasshopper), they were a delicious dish and a memorable experience that my partner and I talk about to this day. Other unique Mexican ingredients that you can try at Tu y Yo are cuitlacoche (corn mushroom) and nopales (cactus).

After a great conversation with Chef Adolfo and after meeting his staff, my partner and I enjoyed a delicious meal with some of the highlights in the restaurant’s menu. For appetizers we had Crepa de Cuilacoche en Salsa Poblana and the assorted mini tamales. Our main course consisted of two of the more traditional dishes in the menu; the Mole Colorado Tlaxcateca was a superb execution of a traditional red mole sauce with Mexican chocolate, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and Mexican peppers (chef Adolfo says it takes six hours to prepare the sauce); the Chile Relleno en Nogada is a dish that celebrates Mexican’s Independence, a poblano peper stuffed with ground beef mixed with fruit, covered in a walnut and cinnamon sauce topped with pomegranate seeds and cilantro. We finished our meal with a slice each of Avocado Cheesecake and Imposible, a Mexican flan baked with a layer of chocolate cake topped with caramel tequila sauce. The best way to end your meal at Tu y Yo is to sip on a warm cup of Café de Olla, coffee boiled with chocolate, clove, cinnamon, orange and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar).

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Tu y Yo  is located at 858 Broadway on Powder House Square.  When you come to the YUM festival on Thursday April 6 make sure to say hi to Adolfo.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year. The event will be held April 6 at the Arts at the Armory. To purchase event sponsorships or tickets click here.


Yoshi’s

 

It would be hard to find a restaurant that demonstrates Somerville’s diversity better than Yoshi’s. The restaurant, a five minute walk from Davis Square,  used to be primarily Korean, but for six years has been under the management of a Chinese couple who specialize in sushi. I visited Yoshi’s with a friend on a weeknight, and had a chance to sit down with Qing, one of the current managers.

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Yoshi’s was warm and welcoming place, just like its owners. I heard a little of Qing’s experience as an immigrant to Somerville from southern China. After coming to the US over a decade ago, she quickly became rooted in Massachusetts when she first moved to Ipswich.  Qing and her family have found Somerville as a fun and welcoming place, and love try different cuisines around the city, her own favorite being Vietnamese food. She and her husband took over Yoshi’s from a Korean owner, and since then have revamped the menu to create a fusion of Asian cuisine that makes it a unique place that is invaluable to local residents.

Qing loves to welcome the international community brought in by students at Tufts University in particular. At the same time, they have also tailored the menu so that it is accessible to customers less familiar with Asian cuisine. True to this end, all kinds of people wandered in and out of the restaurant for take-out or a sit-down meal.

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My friend and I tasted only a few dishes from the extensive menu, but tried to get a sample of the different kind of cuisines offered. We started with fried tofu skin, friend tofu skin (thin, fried tofu stuffed with sweet rice), a tuna roll, as well as both scallion pancakes and the traditional dosul bibimbap – foods that I loved to eat growing up in a Korean home.

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Everything we sampled was fresh and delicious, but even with this much food, there were so many things left to try, especially with an incredibly extensive sushi menu. The lovely atmosphere, eclectic offerings, and warm hospitality make Yoshi’s a place that has something for everyone.

Yoshi’s makes itself accessible to customers by offering online ordering and a delivery service. It offers plenty of promotions for its customers, such as a free sushi roll for orders over $30.  Yoshi’s is located at 132 College Street, Somerville. Find a menu and more information at http://yoshis.net/.

Qing, her family, and Yoshi’s are an integral part of the community of Somerville, and the Welcome Project is honored to host them as one of ten immigrant-owned restaurants which will be featured at the event YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City, coming up on April 6.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year. The event will be held April 6 at the Arts at the Armory. To purchase event sponsorships or tickets click here.

 All photo credits to Helen Fowowe.

 

 

 

 

 


Fasika: Bringing a Neighborhood Together with an Ethiopian Feast

By Delia Hagan

“The best thing about my job is when people say ‘I love the food’ and they leave happy,” says Befekadu Defar, owner of the beloved Somerville Ethiopian restaurant, Fasika.

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It’s no wonder Befekadu seems so happy – his customers certainly are. My husband and I wandered down to Fasika on a bitterly cold Sunday night to try the authentic Ethiopian fare at this cozy, family-run restaurant. As we took off our coats and settled in, we noticed Fasika’s diverse patrons – folks of all ages and ethnicities, from young people on what seemed to be a first date, to old friends catching up, to whole families laughing and talking around the mesob (a traditional Ethiopian woven serving table). It was clear that Fasika is a gathering place for friends and family. Its atmosphere exuded warmth, making us feel instantly at home, despite our lack of familiarity with Ethiopian food and culture.IMG_3664 (1)

We were warmly welcomed by Befekadu, who was posted up at the bar, greeting his customers one by one. After our meal (which was delicious, see our rave reviews below), Befekadu shared some stories with us about his restaurant, and his appreciation for the East Somerville community, which welcomed him with open arms 14 years ago.

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Befekadu, who has a background in culinary science and hotel management, brought the restaurant to East Somerville during a time of great demographic change. Before Fasika opened, the building it now occupies was an Irish Pub, with a large following of Irish American patrons. Befakadu was unsure how his traditional Ethiopian food would be received, and he wanted to respect the community’s existing preferences, so he began serving Irish food as well. For 4-5 years, he served up corned beef and cabbage alongside injera (traditional Ethiopian pancake-like bread) and a wide variety of traditional Ethiopian vegetarian and meat dishes. The community loved it. Fasika was even known for their annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, where they served the neighborhood’s favorite Irish fare. Befekadu fondly remembers a compliment he received during this time from a City of Somerville school official, who remarked that she wished the schools could achieve such peaceful coexistence and respect among those of different cultures. “This community has been so supportive – instead of rejecting me, they gave me a chance. That is part of our fabric,” says Befekadu.

As the demographics of East Somerville shifted, the demand for Fasika’s Ethiopian fare grew, and the restaurant began to focus on what it does best. Now, Fasika serves exclusively Ethiopian food, and finds that patrons of all backgrounds come from all over the Boston area (and New Hampshire!) to experience it. People seek out Fasika because of their healthy vegetarian and vegan options, and they are known for their delicious dorowot, or spicy sauce, which is a crowd-pleaser. “Some people come because Ethiopian food is out of the ordinary for them,” Befekadu says, from the seasonings that are used to the way food is eaten with your fingers, communally. He fondly speaks of all the patrons who come for the first time, asking “what do I do?” when the food arrives.

Befekadu joked that the food at Fasika is addictive – once you taste their spices and seasonings, it’s tough not to return. My husband and I can attest that this is not a joke! We loved what we ordered and can’t wait to try everything else on the menu.

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We ordered the Fasika special with lamb, which was served over injera, with chickpeas on the side. The seasoning was mind-blowingly delicious – not too spicy, but totally different than anything I’ve had before. We also ordered a vegetarian dish with green beans and carrots, which was so flavorful. To go with it, we split a glass of tej, traditional Ethiopian honey wine, which balanced out our meal with its sweetness.

Fasika takes its welcoming atmosphere to an even greater level with its many vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, making it a place where anyone can enjoy a delicious meal (call ahead for gluten free!). With its social, welcoming atmosphere, incredible food, great service, and convenient location to the orange line, we will definitely be making regular stops at Fasika.

The name Fasika translates to “feast,” and that is certainly what we found at this charming East Somerville gem. Check them out at YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City on April 6th – we’ll see you there!

Fasika is located 145 Broadway in Somerville, MA. You can make a reservation here, or by calling 617 628 9300. Visit their website at http://www.fasikarestaurant.com/

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year. The event will be held April 6 at the Arts at the Armory. To purchase event sponsorships or tickets click here.


Vinny’s at Night: a cozy spot for an intimate dinner

The great thing about living in Somerville is that we are a city of immigrants. East Somerville is a great neighborhood where one can observe the immigrant presence in our city. This is reflected in the choice of eateries that our neighborhood has to offer. Vinny’s is one of these restaurants and it represents one of the earlier immigrant groups that came to our city. For years Vinny’s has been serving Italian-American and Sicilian classics to residents from Somerville and the surrounding communities. The restaurant offers counter service for breakfast and lunch as well as sit-down service at night. For dinner the lights are dimmed and Vinny’s at Night becomes a place for a romantic date or intimate dinner with friends or family.

Although you can never go wrong with any of the pasta options at Vinny’s, on our most recent visit my fiancee and I wanted to try some of the options listed on the “Vinny’s Dinner Specials”. I ordered the Sicilian Rabbit and my fiancee ordered the Eggplant Parmigiana with the house-made fusili. The wine list offers an array of Italian options and a small selection from other countries. We chose a bottle of Nero d’Avola from Sicily. Service is casual but attentive and small touches like the bread basket with butter and extra virgin olive oil are spot on with the bread perfectly warm to help open up your appetite.

Our meal was greatly executed. The rabbit was braised to perfection, with the meat falling off the bone. The side of roasted vegetables and potatoes had a depth of flavor that was telling of the long cooking process. Vinny’s Eggplant Parmigiana is a generous portion or eggplant cut lengthwise and perfectly breaded and layered. The impressive dish is complimented well by the hand made fusili with Vinny’s marinara. Not only is the food great but the ambiance is one of the draws that keeps Vinny’s as a mainstay with long term Somerville residents and new arrivals alike.

It is great to see how Vinny’s is well liked by Somervillians not only for their great food but also for their connection with the community. On April 6, 2017, Vinny’s is joining nine other Somerville restaurants owned by immigrants in supporting The Welcome Project by serving food at the annual event YUM: A Taste of Immigrant Somerville at Armory on Highland Avenue. Make sure you don’t miss out on this great event, you can purchase your tickets online by clicking here.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured in this years’ YUM event please click here.

Vinny’s is located on 76 Broadway in East Somerville. You can check out their menu and hours of operation by going to www.vinnysatnight.com

   


Rincón Mexicano: Tastes from a Little Corner of Home

Rincón Mexicano is a vibrant oasis of authentic Mexican fare on Broadway in East Somerville. My husband and I went for a relaxed Sunday lunch, and found owner Lorenzo Reyes and his team serving a delicious selection of flautas, tostados and enchiladas to their hungry patrons. By the time we finished our meal, we had found our new weekly take-out spot.
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The experience of eating at Rincón Mexicano, with its brilliant décor, attentive staff and adoring customers, is just as satisfying as the food itself. But let’s start with the food, because man, it was good, and I’ve been dreaming about it since I left! We had the taco with carnitas, which was perfectly spiced, tender and tangy. The flautas – fried to perfection with a lovely chicken, potato and cheese filling, and topped with green and red sauces made in-house – were so good I almost ordered another to go. Finally, the chicken enchiladas (which we ordered with both mole and green sauce, since it was too hard to choose!) were to die for – expertly cooked and seasoned. In particular, the mole sauce was the best I’ve ever had, and as I later found out, it is made in-house with no less than 25 different spices.

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Lorenzo took some time to chat with us after bringing us our meal, and told us a bit about the restaurant. He and his brother Ricardo, of Framingham, MA, found this cozy spot on Broadway about three years ago and thought it would be a great place to bring their authentic Mexican flavors to the East Somerville community. It turns out the neighborhood went wild for their fare, and now, the brothers are expanding their restaurant into the space next door, so there will be more seating for their eager patrons.

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Lorenzo, with his friendly manner and kind smile, is clearly a man who doesn’t cut corners. “We focus on what we do well,” he told us. He is proud of the way he and his brother have focused on creating high-quality, authentic Mexican cuisine, resisting the urge to shift into a fusion restaurant, as can be trendy these days. As a result, they’ve made their mark by perfecting their traditional Mexican recipes, quickly making Rincón Mexicano both a unique and reliable staple in Somerville’s ever-changing restaurant landscape. The brothers and their staff make everything they can in-house, including their delicious salsas and famous mole sauce.

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We certainly weren’t alone in our adoration for Lorenzo’s food. As we ate, we chatted with a young family, the Valencias. It was their first time at the restaurant as well, and they had come from Waltham with their toddler to give Rincón Mexicano a try. They raved about the meal they had – tacos with guacamole, tortilla soup, and flan – and said they’d definitely be back to further explore the restaurant’s robust menu.

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We can’t wait to sample some more of the Reyes brother’s delicious eats at the YUM event in April, and stop by to try more of their delicious meals. Thank you Lorenzo and Ricardo for a refreshing and unforgettable taste of Mexico!

Rincón Mexicano is located 99 Broadway in Somerville, MA. You can contact them or (order for free delivery in Somerville and Charlestown) by calling 617 776 1200. Visit their website at http://www.rinconmexicanosomerville.com/

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City benefits the work of The Welcome Project, which is Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization, serving over 200 families each year. The event will be held April 6 at the Arts at the Armory. To purchase event sponsorships or tickets click here.