When you are daydreaming of a wonderfully lavish trip to Paris, it may feel painfully intangible at times. When I dream of Paris, never do I think about the romanticism lingering in the air, the beautifully cut throat high fashion, or people with berets calmly smoking cigarettes with a mysterious gaze. No way man! I dream of piping hot, garlicky and tender escargot, various foods fried in pure duck fat, extravagant foie gras terrines and simply complex pairings of wine and cheese. Oh gosh… Paris! Est-ce que vous connaissez un bon restaurant par ici? English translation: Do you know a good restaurant around here?

There’s something special about Marliave. You feel like you’ve been transported to a chic and casual bistro in France where dining without a glass of wine between your fingertips almost feels uncomfortable. Tastefully simple, dimly lit lights heighten the ambiance for romantic dinners and gatherings of close friends. As for the food… Well, let me tell you about the food.

Everyday, from 4-6pm and 9-11pm, Marliave has a variety of $1 oysters and Little Neck Clams. Oysters usually include Wellfleet, Peter’s Point, Duxbury and Rocky Nook. How can you beat that? Restaurants that serve $1 oysters once a week usually serve you the ones that are about to rot. Trust me, you can taste the difference. This is the perfect after-work spot to relax and slurp on some perfectly briny bites. Squeeze a little lemon juice to bring that baby alive, plop a small dollop of zesty cocktail sauce and then drizzle a little mignonette on it. Yum!

Macaroni & Cheese - $14

Instead of ordering entrees, my table split three appetizers. One of these appetizers is my absolute favorite macaroni and cheese. No fancy descriptions are necessary, I’ll just share the main ingredients: house cut ziti, black truffle cream and farmhouse cheeses. If you had each of those ingredients alone, they would already be good! Firstly, I don’t know how they make the pasta but the texture is unlike any other typical pastas you’ve had. It is very chewy, but starchy and soft at the same time. It is almost like gnocchi made al dente- except it comes with a decadent truffle cheese sauce and tells you to never stop eating it. This is a must-try at Marliave. I’ve never had anything like it!

Beef Carpaccio - $12

Looking at these pictures make me reminisce while salivating over the beef carpaccio. It was good. Damn good. It was prepared with thinly sliced ribeye, topped with peppery arugula, nutty Reggiano cheese, garlicky aioli, sea salt and fruity and flavorful extra olive oil. Here’s the thing… maybe you’ve had steak carpaccios before and they all have same, exact ingredients, but a good quality carpaccio goes a long way. At Marliave, you won’t have to feel unsure about ordering this dish or not. If you aren’t afraid to eat raw meat, this is something I highly recommend.

Duck Confit - $15

Last was the duck confit; “crispy leg, coarsely ground duck sausage, broccoli rabe, cassoulet of white beans.” It was warm, hearty, savory and delicious. The duck meat was cooked to juicy and succulent perfection, and the skin gave it a nice crispy crunch. It was a wonderful dish due to the lovely variety of textures and flavorful components in this hot cast iron dish.

Of course, these are only a handful of great dishes you can order at this cozy establishment. I recommend the Beef Wellington and escargot. I’ve also seen many patrons order the risotto- wild mushroom, Reggiano and truffle butter, and Henry’s Soup- french onion, Gruyere, short ribs and crouton. (Hint: Boston Restaurant week is here and the Beef Wellington is usually $32, so now’s a good time to go!) Cheeses and charcuterie are a good option as well. The Fish-n-Chips has been the only dish I felt indifferent about. I’m not sure if it was only that one time, but the fried batter and french fries were a bit soggy and oily. Even though there’s one single dish I didn’t thoroughly love here, it never alters my wonderful impression of Marliave.

You always ease the pain of my intangible trip to France, Marliave
Total Meal: $65
Servings: 2 people

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China Sky

What’s the difference between China Sky and the typical Chinese restaurant in Chinatown? Here’s one: open space. Here’s another: it is contemporary while being comfortable. Although you can’t see it in the pictures, there is plenty of street parking so you don’t have to deal with pesky meters, Boston traffic or the road rage associated with it. Also, the service here is very inviting and attentive- your menus aren’t just carelessly plopped in front of you.

But wait- there’s a catch! A street full of parking, no road rage, open spaced dining area… this may be too good to be true. And in this case, it kind of is. You pay for what you get. China Sky is an absolutely lovely place, but their food comes with a hefty price tag. Surprisingly the more expensive dishes are the dinner plates, as opposed to the sushi. Who knew!

Crab Rangoon (6 pcs) - $6.95

Spicy Salmon Roll - $5.45, Eel and Avocado Roll - $5.45

What’s a better appetizer than a fried appetizer? One of my fatty favorites is the crab rangoon; cream cheese, imitation crab, savory onions…perfect. The only way you can get this wrong is if the portions of filling are excruciatingly tiny or your cream cheese has already expired and spoiled. Unfortunately, portions were tiny and they were scantily filled. Oh, woe is my mouth and happy are my arteries.

But here’s the good news- their sushi? Bomb. I’ve seen a couple of reviews for China Sky that say “all the dishes here are fantastic- but we will not be ordering the sushi next time.” I am a bit dumbfounded with this reoccurring statement. The sushi here is the best bang for your buck! They are generously portioned and they also do little things I appreciate, like for the Spicy Salmon Roll. Inside the roll is a large piece of salmon and the rest is the chopped, spicy salmon mixture, so you are really eating two different textures together in one. Simple, unique, scrumptious. I haven’t met a roll I didn’t like!

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce - $12.95

General Tso's Chicken - $14.95

Crispy Sesame Shrimp - $17.95

The thing is… I feel absolutely terrible for saying that I did not fully enjoy my dinners here because I genuinely think China Sky is a wonderful staple to Winchester. I am just disappointed with how such popular Chinese dishes can be prepared so differently here. For example, the General Tso’s Chicken- a very, very popular dish everyone loves to order; sweet, tangy, crunchy, moist chicken- yum, right? Instead it was on the stale side and the chicken was dry and tough. For $10 at most Chinese restaurants, I was hoping $15 would get me at least the same quality or more. As for the shrimp, not bad at all. The shrimp itself was very fresh and the sauce accompanying it was perfectly light, there were no overpowering salty flavors to my surprise- but “crispy” in the Crispy Sesame Shrimp was missing. Once again, portions were on the small side and I will probably be ordering something else next time. Lastly, the Eggplant and Garlic Sauce dish. Of the three plates we had, this one was my favorite. With a colorful assortment of fresh and crispy vegetables, the meaty eggplant and my rice bowl became the perfect couple that night. Be prepared to finish it when you take your first bite.

Overall, maybe China Sky isn’t my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Boston area, but it is one of the better restaurants in Winchester. For the locals, it is a staple where you can hear old friends reunite over the buzz of cheerful conversations in the air. They are happy to see one another and dine in such a beautiful setting with friendly service. There’s something very “warm” about this place.

If you are in the area, this may not be a bad place to have lunch or dinner, but above all, this is definitely the best sushi in Winchester.

Looking forward to your delectable Spicy Salmon Roll, China Sky!
Total Meal: $70
Servings: 3 people

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