Review: Strip T's (Boston Phoenix)
Under any other circumstances, I would actually not speak this restaurant's cheeky name out loud. Not just because of the terrible pun, but in order to hoard the Watertown gem for myself. Alas, as a restaurant reviewer, it is my duty to tell you that Strip T's is a gift — a perfect neighborhood restaurant serving delicious food at out-of-this-world value. I would never expect the quality and attention to detail that appears here in $6–9 plates.
A lot of people eating here look like college professors, and most seem to be regulars. In fact, I saw a few of my own favorite former professors dining here one night. But unlike the price of college tuition, Strip T's is a bargain. Revealing a playful yet comforting menu, it dances a circle around some other spots charging twice the price. Marinated tongue two ways with frisée ($10) and the charred baby octopus with tomato wasabi and a crisp capicola crinkle ($10) are great examples.
There are fresh takes on tongue and tail, but even the corn is fun. Supple bluefish sauced with smoky piperade over heirloom grits is a highlight ($13), and the half plate, at $9, is plenty. The pig tail ($9), lopped into pieces, is pure pork pleasure, done low and slow. Sweet, crisp skin reveals tender meat and creamy cartilage — think ribs with vertebrae. Salads include an outstanding grilled romaine with braised oxtail and ethereal egg ($9). Elote loco ($5) is summer on a stick: corn on the cob, juice busting from its kernels, slathered in parmesan, yellow mustard, and a thick paprika dusting. Poutine's peppery gravy is an acerbic foil to mild, gooey cheese curds ($6). A tall pile of mussels in curried broth ($13; $9/half portion) arrive in a scorpion bowl. There's no flaming rum shot, just shellfish liquor and sweet carrot juice, perfect for dunking accompanying French fries. A rotating beer and wine selection includes a daily sangria, like an angelic rosé with honey, basil, and orange blossom (seasonal, $6). For dessert, try excellent brioche doughnuts in carrot-chai puree or seven-spice pickled pineapple with pineapple-rind ash ($6). If that's too adventurous, there's also homemade chocolate cake ($3.50).
Not everything is perfect — an unexciting clam chowder (cup $4/bowl $5.75) and a loosely composed pulled-pork burrito ($8) are overshadowed by their showier mates. My last visit, the sublime playlist of Nuggets-era garage rock was supplanted by, well, Sublime. But that's quibbling — Strip T's is a quirky, wonderful treat. I love it here, and you will too.
This review originally appeared in the Boston Phoenix, November 7, 2011.