Though he now boasts restaurants around the globe, Jamie Bissonnette is still a Boston chef at heart. After earning his culinary degree and following stints in Europe and on the West Coast, he settled in Massachusetts—near his native Connecticut—landing executive chef roles at well-established eateries. In 2005, he partnered with industry stalwart Ken Oringer to open Toro, a tapas spot in Boston’s South End, followed by the Italian enoteca Coppa.
Since then, the duo have opened outposts of Toro in New York, Bangkok, and Dubai, in addition to Little Donkey, a “global tapas” eatery in Cambridge. Though his schedule is hectic and full of travel, Bissonnette still finds time to enjoy the burgeoning food scene in his adopted hometown. “Boston is a lucky food city,” he says. “We have some great restaurants and chefs. But what we have that’s better than most cities is a great community that is supportive and collaborative. Whether it’s an industry-led basketball game or seeing friends helping unload coolers at events together, the support is amazing.”
He shared with Furthermore five of his go-to spots:
“The chef at Bambara, David Bazirgan, is a hometown hero. He has a lot of influence from growing up here and some from living in California for over a decade. He puts flavors together like an old French chef,” says Bissonnette. Choose from inspired dishes like salmon ceviche with sour orange and fennel, spring pea falafel with tahini yogurt, and seared ahi tuna with tapenade and gigante beans.
“Bricco is a Boston institution, and for good reason. It is a great standby, and the whole menu is full of classic North End Italian food—try the housemade pasta,” Bissonnette advises. Though they’re known for items like ricotta pillows with truffle butter and tortelli with pumpkin, there are plenty of lighter creations like Chilean sea bass in agrodolce, steamed local mussels with garlic and caper berries, and beef carpaccio with arugula.
“Uni serves classic and inventive new-style Japanese [cuisine]. Tony [Messina, the chef] packs so much flavor into each dish. The menu changes a lot, so it’s rad to visit once a month, or on every visit back to Boston. The sushi and sashimi are craveable,” raves Bissonnette. If they’re on the menu, snack on the shishito peppers with sesame and smoked salt while you choose from the extensive selection of sushi.
“Dazken has the best Thai food I’ve had in the Boston area. The menu is noodle-heavy and all the dishes are wicked tasty,” says Bissonnette. The culinary concept is inspired by Thai street food and they offer four types of homemade broth: pork, beef, chicken, and vegetable. Don’t miss the shrimp dumplings and steamed Chinese broccoli.
“New Golden Gate is a Chinese family spot. It’s great for large groups or just sitting alone in the corner. If you preorder from the banquet menu, you can get some not-so-well-known food. My favorite dishes include sea conch with yellow chive and sea cucumbers in black bean sauce,” says Bissonnette.