You know limiting us to one choice is like asking a parent which child is their favorite. At the risk of losing sleep from remorse, here goes.
Sycamore in Newton Center. What makes it special? Start with the venue. Two small rooms, the first dominated by the bar. The second, the main dining room, minimalist in ethos but subtly and perfectly lighted - illumination from below creates wonderful patterns on the exposed brick wall - creating a effect that is warm and flattering to people and plates alike.
To start - an assortment of snacks on offer include croquettas and house-picked vegetables. A pickled dilly bean stars as an accompaniment to Scott Shoers classic cocktail, Ghost of Mary. An apt description might be “essence of Mary”, based on citron vodka and spicy tomato water (tomato juice strained through a cheesecloth. Or start with wine by the glass from an eclectic selection on rotation.
The apps - interesting salads and pastas rotate here; I enjoyed a winter citrus salad recently.
The mains - mainstays include excellent roast chicken and steak frites. There’s always fish, often whole, simply grilled. But the real reason to come are the 'boards". Nominally for two, but could satisfy three or four if you sample snacks and apps liberally. The boards consist of 3-4 takes on a single main ingredient. Currently Berkshire pork done four ways, with various and inspired condiments.
More about the beverage program - though the wines by the bottle reflect careful curation, here I find it rewarding to sample the wines on offer by the glass, according to recommendations specific to each course. Don’t overlook the beers. Recently they offered bottles from a collaboration between Hill Farmstead and a Belgian brewery - a rare treat as Hill Farmstead long ago reached cult status.
To finish - whatever else tempts you, do not miss the beignets - accompanied by a dipping sauce, usually chocolate or my favorite, milk jam.
Though in size of the space and extent of the menu Sycamore is modest, chefs David Punch and Lydia Reichart are turning out wonderful meals worthy of mention among the very best in Boston. Scott Shoer is a pro’s pro, and if you are seated at one of the high-tops in the bar area it’s a treat to watch him in action. The service overall is warm and accommodating- as my SO likes to say, adults are in charge. You’ll have a very pleasant and memorable evening.