At Red 8, the Cantonese restaurant at the Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, you can order a 10-pound live King Crab. If you’d like, they’ll even hoist it onto a tray and bring it out to the dining room, legs flailing, to impress your guests (and your social media followers) before preparing it. Prefer steak? Just a short stroll past the casino-resort’s flower-covered ferris wheel, created by renowned artist Preston Bailey, will bring you to Rare, where a custom-built aging cabinet holds untold riches of beef, including true Kobe steaks imported from Japan.
Encore Boston Harbor is a lavish, opulent feast for all the senses. Soaring ceilings, attentive restaurant staff (who will even bring tiny chairs, upholstered to match the décor, for purses and bags) and outsized art emphasize the feeling that the world is your oyster. And you can feast on oysters and caviar—or cheeseburger salad and deep-fried Twinkies, then wash either one down with Perrier Jouet—available by the glass throughout the property. Whatever your heart desires. There are eight sit-down restaurants, plus three counter-service ones, including the only 21+ Dunkin Donuts in the world, right on the casino floor.
In the service of Northshore’s readers, I wanted to try it all—from Cinnamon Roll French Toast at the Garden Café to an off-menu nightly special at the classic Italian spot Fratelli. And I did my best. Here are some of the top tastes at the top spots at Encore.
It’s hard to choose where to start at this temple to Chinese food—a plush red-velvet enclave that opens onto the casino floor. Since there were only two of us, the enormous King Crab was out of the question, but that still left a wealth of options—like prawns that were swimming about just a few seconds before executive chef Richard Chen expertly prepared them, advising us to suck on the heads, just like crawfish. Chen is a Cantonese cooking specialist who brings with him a constellation of five-star and five-diamond awards, and holds the distinction of helming Wing Lei at Wynn Las Vegas, the only Chinese restaurant in North America ever to have earned a Michelin star.
Don’t miss the terrific Hong Kong barbeque, or the Peking Duck, which is fanned for about 32 hours to ensure it is perfectly dry before cooking, which translates into a shatteringly crisp skin. The duck is very popular—in an average month, the restaurant sells 1,200 of them, and you can even get a duck tasting menu. Or splash out on the wok-charred beef tenderloin—seared with king oyster mushrooms and cooked in an intensely flavorful soy sauce blend, it is luxurious and worth the $68 price tag. Red 8 is the perfect spot to improve your fortunes—red is the lucky color in Chinese culture, and the number eight is said to invite wealth.
My dining companion and I dressed to impress at this elegant BONS-winning steakhouse—white upholstery (with matching stools for purses, natch) and soaring windows looking out on Encore’s alluring grounds add to the quiet sophistication of the space. But the real star here is the beef. Chef Kyle Bradish oversees the most uniquely curated steak program in New England, including exclusive Japanese cuts from Kobe and the Kagoshima prefecture, as well as the best of domestic beef from Snake River Farms, Idaho.
We chose to share the bone-in cowboy rib-eye, so we could also feast on sides like chili-roasted Brussels sprouts and Yukon Gold potato purée. Like most of Rare’s cuts, the cowboy rib-eye was aged in house in a custom-built cabinet designed specifically to control humidity and temperature. The steak was dense and especially “beefy,” if that’s a thing, with notes of earthiness and nuttiness that are akin to terroir in wine.
Speaking of wine, the list at Rare is the most extensive at Encore, with experts to guide you every step of the way and to pour into really cool decanters, as befits a restaurant for high rollers. We couldn’t pass up dessert. The State Fair Funnel Cake is every bit as fun as it sounds—rounds of crisp fried dough are served hanging from a bronze sculpture with a variety of sweet sauces.
Cheese, Meet Wine
Bourbon and bacon salami? Yes, please! An adventurous selection of cheese and charcuterie—including a board made up of New England selections—is the main draw at this tiny spot channeling a European bistro vibe. It’s a perfect match for the sophisticated wine list. Our deeply knowledgeable server was happy to offer suggestions from a by-the-glass list that spanned the world of vino from a tasty Jermann Pinot Grigio to cult favorites like Kistler Chardonnay and Pahlmeyer Merlot. Granted, the Pahlmeyer will set you back $51 for a glass, but you’re worth it. The menu also encompasses raw bar offerings, a lobster roll, and a truffled grilled cheese that’s on my bucket list for next time.
I asked my server about his favorite dish at this North End–inspired Italian joint from legendary Boston restaurateurs Frank DePasquale and Nick Varano, and without hesitation he pointed me to the Cacio e Pepe. Prepared tableside, it starts with house-made bucatini pasta tossed inside a wheel of parmesan cheese. Yes, you read that right: The pasta and truffle cream sauce are mixed together inside a wheel of real Parmesan direct from Italy, cut out like a bowl. Then, when the dish is plated, truffles are shaved over the top. This platonic ideal of mac and cheese for grown-ups isn’t listed on the menu, though it’s a special almost every night.
I would have been perfectly happy with that, but in the interests of our readers, the Veal Milanese called to me. And I was glad I answered. The 14-ounce chop, butterflied and coated with homemade breadcrumbs, topped with an arugula salad, lemon, and shaved parmesan, was worth the calories. Don’t miss the cocktails at Fratelli. The espresso martini, made with Absolut Vanilla, Bailey’s, Kahlúa, Frangelico, and Disaronno, wins awards. Sipping on a mixed drink after dinner, with the soundtrack of 1950s crooners playing in the background, I expected to glance over and see the Rat Pack tossing back martinis at the bar.
Roll the Dice on Comfort Food
With a dozen options for dining, there is something for everyone. Here’s a roundup of some of the more casual options at Encore:
It’s always brunch at the Garden Café, a regal daytime restaurant overlooking the lobby with delightful views of that flowered ferris wheel. Watch the stuffed animals riding in the carts—they are always dressed for the season—or the playoffs, when a Boston sports team is in the mix, over a mimosa. Get the Cinnamon Roll French Toast—dense and moist, it’s exactly what you need the morning after a late-night dancing at Mystique or, really, any time.
Ever wondered what happens when you deep-fry a Twinkie? Something magical, as I discovered at the calories-be-damned sports bar On Deck. The inside cream mostly melts away, soaking into the sponge pseudo-cake and leaving a crispy, crusty exterior. You can pretend to be virtuous with the restaurant’s decadent Cheeseburger Salad—two thin patties, enrobed in melted cheese, sit atop a bed of potato sticks and a nicely dressed chopped salad, dressed with Thousand Island salad dressing—my favorite as a kid.
If you’re in a hurry, there’s a Shake Shack on the casino floor that has a line well into the night. Or you can visit Frank & Nick’s and grab an Italian sub to enjoy at tables near the casino floor, at the soon-to-be-open sports betting parlor, or on Encore’s lawn.