This spring, al fresco dining is boosted by plentiful sunny, warm -- even hot -- days and balmy evenings, without the high humidity of summer. Perfect.
One is urban, one suburban, but AKA Bistro in lovely, leafy Lincoln and Church, situated on a quiet Fenway backwater, have much in common. Each has a spacious permanent terrace rather than tables crammed onto heavily trafficked sidewalks. A lawn with sculptures and tall American oaks borders AKA's; Church's wide area is tucked away from Boylston Street's hustle -- even on game night.
Each has an adventurous chef who's also tuned to local, sustainable food culture. AKA's chef Chris Chung pairs French and Japanese cuisines and includes a classic cabillaud; that is, roast cod with a robust stew of clams, ham, fingerling potatoes and buttery leeks. Church's chef, Jon Gilman, bakes halibut New England style, with a Panko crust, and pairs it with roasted red bliss potatoes, garlic, spinach, and a mustardy sauce.
Spring rhubarb shows up with strawberries in a simple pastry case at Church, while AKA pairs the tart vegetable with a seasonal soft-shell crab tempura with black garlic vinaigrette. Pretty, pale, purple chive blossoms dot AKA's crab plate, and Gilman sprinkles some around the baked halibut.
The halibut, Church's Market Catch, comes from Trace and Trust, a national initiative supporting local fish stocks and fisherman by pairing boat captains directly with chefs to provide an accountable, sustainable true catch of the day (www.traceandtrust.com). Similarly, or not, AKA's rhubarb has long roots in Lincoln soil. It's grown by a local farmer from the same rootstock as the grower's great grandmother.
Don't miss at AKA Bistro:
Exquisite hamachi paired with citrusy, fruity yuzu and pineapple; fabulous banana mochi -- an amazingly rubbery textured doughwith Thai tea ice cream and powdered Tonka bean.
145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln 781-259-9920
Don't miss at Church:
Perfect, plump crab cake with spicy chipotle mayo and cooling fried green tomatoes; irresistible banana brioche bread pudding sprinkled with strawberries and chocolate, served with vanilla ice cream.
69 Kilmarnock St., Boston