Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, you can begin it. For boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Roxy’s Central & A4cade get the high score

February 28th, 2017
The Double Fried sandwich at Roxy’s Central & A4cade.

ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

The Double Fried sandwich at Roxy’s Central & A4cade.

If you’ve ever wondered what a deliriously happy hipster looks like, head over to Roxy’s Central & A4cade. A collaboration between the teams behind Roxy’s Grilled Cheese and Area Four, it is part counter-service and takeout restaurant (in the front) and part raucous game room (in the back).

Don’t expect to just waltz in to the 21-plus arcade; as early as 6 p.m. on a Monday, the line of beanie-clad post-grads can snake down Mass. Ave. We’ve never waited more than 20 minutes — but that’s long enough to realize it’s been at least a decade since we last contemplated standing in the cold to get in somewhere.

The Roxy’s side is a fine spot for a workday lunch — get the turkey Caesar, with tender baby kale and shaved Parmesan ($8.15), and treat yourself to a dulce de leche frappe ($4.69) — but it’s no match for what lies beyond the metal meat-locker door.

Flash your wristband and toss a total stranger’s coat to the side so you can settle into one of 20ish seats scattered among vintage video games like Ms. Pac-Man and Nintendo. “People just throw their stuff wherever, doesn’t mean the seat is taken,” the waify hostess yells over the cacophony of ’80s pop music, pinball machines, and dozens of 20-somethings laughing as they share tater tots and strong cocktails in vessels shaped like R2-D2.

Start with a large order of crisp, golden fries for the table ($4.15) and a flight of dipping sauces — barbecue, vegan ranch, a mustardy house blend called Justin’s Sauce, and chipotle and truffle mayos — while you work out what you’ll be drinking.

If you’d like to pretend you’re on a tropical vacation with your sweetie, you can’t go wrong with the Kill Screen 2 player ($18, $9 for a single serving), from a slushie machine emblazoned with the words “DRINK ME!” What’s swirling around is a frozen painkiller, the tiki favorite made with a mix of rums and coconut.

There is a whole section of the menu devoted to fried potatoes. If fries aren’t your thing, try tater tots ($3.15). We had ours topped with cheese ($4.29), despite our server’s warning that the smoked gouda sauce quickly coagulates. “We should have listened,” we said, dragging the crisp cylinders through the gloppy paste, and returning to our small order of rosemary truffle fries ($3.95).

The festive vibe might have you contemplating another drink. Maybe this time it’s Worst. Drink. Ever ($10), the arcade’s answer to the most love-to-hate-it cocktail of mixologists everywhere: the vodka soda. This version is delicious, with St. Germain, cranberry, and citrus shrub ($10).

The food here is mostly much better versions of what you might find in a boardwalk arcade. The West Coast dog ($12) comes split down the middle and filled with more gouda sauce (it stays hot and works well here), with caramelized onions and pickles. The BLT ($7.49) is a gut bomb, with a fistful of shredded North Country bacon on a Portuguese roll with lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo. The LTO burger ($6.49) is a tasty, thin griddled patty in the style of Tasty Burger or Shake Shack, and the Double Fried ($7.29) takes fried chicken to new levels of crunch. It takes two dips in the fryer before it’s served on a bun with lettuce, Grillo’s pickles, hot honey, and ranch dressing. Of course, you’ll also find the grilled cheese sandwiches that Roxy’s became known for.

But A4cade is as much about the atmosphere as the food. You didn’t queue up in the cold for a fancy hot dog. You’re here to stuff gold tokens into 25-year-old gaming machines with terrible graphics and discover you still stink at skeeball. You’re here to drink a brandy cocktail called Your Mom’s Basement and to notice that no one is looking at his or her phone. The delicious vanilla soft serve with cheery yellow sprinkles ($3) and fried chicken sandwiches? They’re just a player’s bonus.

ROXY’S CENTRAL & A4CADE

292 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge, 617-714-3960, www.roxysgrilledcheese.com or www.areafour.com

All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Sandwiches $4.49-$8.99, burgers and hot dogs $4.19-$12, sides $3.15-$8.15, desserts $3-$4.69.

Hours Daily 5 p.m.-midnight

Liquor Full bar

What to order Fries with a flight of sauces, LTO burger, the Double Fried, West Coast dog, Kill Screen cocktail

The Critics Ate Makimono, Squid Ink Noodles, and Tater Tot Poutine This Week

February 28th, 2017

At Ruka, Porto, and Roxy’s Central / A4cade

Cheesy snacks and vintage arcade games at Roxy’s Central & A4cade

February 27th, 2017
From left: Kara Brooks, JM Craven, and Cliff Ashbrook play video games at Roxy’s Central & A4cade.

ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

From left: Kara Brooks, JM Craven, and Cliff Ashbrook play video games at Roxy’s Central & A4cade.

Where to Roxy’s Central & A4cade, a hybrid grilled cheese shop, game room, and bar. This emporium of wholesome fun is a collaboration between Roxy’s restaurateur James DiSabatino and Area Four’s Michael Krupp.

What for Board games, booze, burgers, and grilled cheese. It’s a gluttonous mullet: Enter at Roxy’s for counter-service grilled cheese and tater tots; linger at stools or a table with Cambridge families introducing their toddlers to poutine. Or proceed through swinging doors into a holding pen-slash-storage area. You’ll step through what looks like a walk-in fridge — just call it a speak-cheesy — to present your ID to a host, who’ll outfit you with a paper bracelet. Once you’re in, it’s a free-for-all: Play skeeball and vintage arcade games like “Ms. Pac-Man,” ogle the longest shuffleboard table in the city, and order up some drinks. But prepare for a wait: Everyone had the same idea as you.

The scene Studio 54 for gamers. Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” plays on the speakers. A Dr. Who arcade game twinkles alluringly. Three guys play foosball in a corner. Another man caresses the shuffleboard table, murmuring to it like a lost love. People mill around in a daze, awestruck by the assortment of throwback gaming options, occasionally clutching one another and squealing. A slushie machine behind the bar implores, “Drink Me!”

What you’re eating Meals designed for young metabolisms. Roxy’s is known for its husky grilled cheese sandwiches, and these are here in profusion, loaded with short ribs, bacon, guacamole, and more. There are also hot dogs, coated in smoked gouda sauce or topped with sliced pickles, and bacon cheeseburgers. A “fried potatoes” menu section offers truffle, cheese, and loaded fries, plus a beefy poutine, also available in tot form. For dessert, vanilla soft-serve.

Care for a drink? Enter A4cade for playful tipples like rum-and-coconut brain-freezer The Kill Screen and There’s No Crying in Skeeball, a tequila-based concoction that’s “spicy AF,” per the menu. A “Gettin’ Tiki With It” section promises tropical temptations like a Land Shark with cognac and passion fruit; Schwing, Schwing is a “foxy mixture” made with rye and plums. Or you could always order a magnum (P.I., heh-heh!) of wine.

Overheard Testosterone-fueled excitement; praise for poultry. A fellow with a fluffy man-bun punches his pal in the shoulder. “I’m gonna get my ‘Mortal Kombat’ on, man!” he says. A trio of young gents, one of whom wears a long navy lab coat, discuss the economics of arcades. “If you’re gonna open one of these places, the games had better be cheap,” says one. A man with a “Star Wars” long-sleeved T-shirt rhapsodizes about fried chicken. “Last time I was here, I ordered two! But I think you need to be drunk to do that,” he concludes.

292 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-945-7244 or 617-714-3960, www.roxysgrilledcheese.com or www.areafour.com

Review: Riding the waves at new Jody Adams restaurant Porto

February 21st, 2017

Last year, a few months after co-owner and chef Jody Adams and the team from Trade opened their lively, suave Mediterranean-on-Back Bay restaurant Porto, I waddled in to review the place. Adams was perched at the bar.

It was October — four months and one chef de cuisine ago. Eataly, lurking in the Pru next door, wasn’t open yet. Rialto, long Adams’s flagship, had closed upon her departure in June.

Like a lot of things at Porto, the cocktail cart is a little better now.

This month, the cart pulled up to my table with two different aged rums and delivered a daiquiri that maintained the drink’s trademark tartness but added several layers of complexity.

Dragging the bartender into the middle of the room to do tricks like the chef at a Mongolian barbecue is still a godawful affectation. But the drink was good, and there was no chance of burning down the building.

 More than six months into Porto’s run, Adams — along with co-owners Eric Papachristos and Sean Griffing and recently added chef de cuisine Andrew Hebert — has steadied the ship somewhat. The deceptively spacious dining room, next to Saks Fifth Avenue in one of the city’s highest-rent districts, is a stunner. Subway tile lines the long open kitchen; macro photos of seafood hang on poured concrete walls; the dark, glassed-in front room can be bustling and even uncomfortably loud, while the main dining room offers a warmer, cozier vibe; a long L-shaped counter rings the kitchen, and a separate bar overlooks the street. And an elegant patio offers A+ people-watching opportunities in the summer.
Owing perhaps in part to Adams’s long track record, the crowd seems to skew slightly older, and some stop to greet Adams — still watching from the bar during one recent dinner service.

The restaurant is named for the Italian and Portuguese word for “port,” and the menu focuses on fish in its many forms; it excels with Mediterranean-inspired meze plates, raw and cooked, cold and hot.

A crudo of fresh scallops displays precise knifework, and a dice of briny, crunchy nicoise olives offsets the sweet shellfish. Clams and guanciale — cured pork jowl — swim in a rich, fennel-seasoned broth that will have you searching for a spoon once the bread has run out. Crunchy, cornmeal-dredged oysters and a bright preserved-lemon aioli complement each other perfectly.

Grilled octopus at Porto.

LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF

Grilled octopus at Porto.

Grilled octopus is omnipresent these days — good thing they have so many tentacles, I guess — but Porto’s version is anything but perfunctory. Mining the southern coast of the Mediterranean for flavor, the perfectly tender, lightly charred cephalopod is surrounded by chickpeas (whole and hummused) and hunks of eggplant and enlivened by harissa.

Pasta dishes, made in house, are also standouts. Squid ink noodles, sometimes a pointless gimmick, here redeem the whole black-pasta genre, tossed with delicate squid, chorizo, and peppers (an earlier incarnation, no longer on the menu, added a bright citrusy tang that made it even better). Delicate campanelle pasta, studded with roasted cherry tomatoes and covered with bottarga — cured, grated fish roe — would make for a good main course if it doubled in size.

That wouldn’t be a bad idea, because Porto, even now, is afflicted with the same disease that plagues so many otherwise excellent restaurants: The wonderful small plates are more exciting and better executed than the main courses.

Whether this is a terminal case remains to be seen. The entrees on Porto’s refreshed menu are indeed more interesting under Hebert, who worked with Adams at Trade and Rialto before gaining experience in kitchens all over the country.

Pan-seared monkfish, matched with Brussels sprouts, raisins, and pine nuts, is moist and flavorful, served with a swatch of squash romesco (apparently anything can be a romesco now).

Whole fried fish.

LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF

Whole fried fish.

Whole fried fish is crisp and tender and meaty — a snap to take apart and eminently shareable. Though the accompanying pool of aioli flavored with Aleppo pepper runs a few shades too salty, it’s easy enough to dip into it sparingly.

And fish stew, with a beautifully cooked cut of hake at its center and mussels, squid, and white beans swimming in a fragrant broth, is more cohesive and satisfying now.

But a massive boneless rib eye that should be a showstopper at $60 is instead marred by bad butchering. Imagine preparing a rich, bright sherry reduction, grilling and trimming a slab of beautiful romanesco, dotting the dish with black garlic and shaving a mortgage payment’s worth of truffles over the whole thing, only to spend the next half-hour chewing and hacking at connective tissue that shouldn’t be anywhere near a properly butchered rib eye.

And what to do with a pallid, gray confit duck leg — served with duck and pork sausage and a tasty fried cube of mashed sweet potato — that has been salted beyond all reason? After three visits of entree ennui, we’ve chosen to share three main courses among four people and pile on the small plates. If I was stuck with the duck all to myself, I’d be chugging water straight from the sturdy glass decanter on the table.

By the fourth visit, I’m totally convinced that the way to best enjoy Porto is to stick mostly to the small plates. Servers, warm and accommodating, and quick with clear recommendations, won’t dissuade you from that approach.

The bar is inventive and competent. The Greek negroni subs out every ingredient in a classic negroni but somehow succeeds in appropriating the idea with unusual flavors; to create a drink called Le Parfumeur, the bar infuses mezcal with black pepper and mixes it with good vermouth and a high-test version of the artichoke amaro Cynar, then cuts the heat with lemon and lavender.

Desserts run from satisfying to strange. Chocolate Om Ali, an Egyptian bread pudding made with coconut and coriander, is hot and sweet and melty; a cylinder of intense chocolate mousse in a pool of vibrant cherry syrup is easily enough for two. But get all the way out of here with a recent affogato, which asks an otherwise sane person to pour hot espresso over a fruity scoop of delicious, deep red sorbet, thereby ruining both.

Few area chefs have done as much to earn a loyal following as Adams. But whether the loyalists who flock here will find what they’re looking for is an open question. For all the grace and skill on display — on plates, in glasses, and all over the dining room — Porto can seem confoundingly adrift.

Campanelle.

LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF

Campanelle.

PORTO

Ring Road, Back Bay, Boston, 617-536-1234, www.porto-boston.comAll major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Small and raw dishes $8-$17. Main courses $28-$60. Desserts $7-$12.

Hours Mon-Thu 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Noise level The reverse mullet: party in the front, business in the back

What to order Raw scallop, barrel-aged Greek feta, fried oysters, clams, octopus, pan-seared monkfish, chocolate Om Ali.

Nestor Ramos can be reached at nestor.ramos@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos.

Not so fast: Roxy’s arrives at MarketStreet Lynnfield

February 13th, 2017

Not so fast: Roxy’s arrives at MarketStreet Lynnfield STEPHANIE SCHOROW  A sampling of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese offerings, including the cheese dog (upper right) and Green Muenster grilled cheese. (lower left). By Stephanie Schorow GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  FEBRUARY 10, 2017 WHO’S IN CHARGE The Hub’s guru of grilled cheese has chosen another, tougher testing ground. Last month, James DiSabatino, owner and operator of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, took the comfort food formula that fueled his popular food truck business and launched it into a third brick-and-mortar location, this one in Lynnfield.   Roxy’s still runs food trucks, but its home kitchen is now located at its Allston outlet. (There’s another in South Boston, and Cambridge just became No. 4.) The Allston kitchen sets the menu for the various outlets, and DiSabatino continues to play with new sandwich variations.   THE LOCALE By opening a sit-down restaurant in the expansive MarketStreet Lynnfield shopping center, DiSabatino is not only testing the suburban market, but he’s going toe-to-toe with the big guys.   Bottom of Form Roxy’s is operating alongside behemoth chains such as Panera, Starbucks, and Boloco common to the American mall. However, DiSabatino really was jonesing for that Lynnfield location. He had grown up on the North Shore, and the MarketStreet site had once encompassed a club (the Colonial) that hosted his junior high school prom.   “It seems like the right place,” said DiSabatino, who launched the Roxy’s Grilled Cheese food truck in 2011 as a recent Emerson College graduate. “It puts us against much bigger competition. We’re taking our first steps of being more than a little food truck company.” The Lynnfield site features an expanded menu of new sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, and desserts. The décor still has a street-wise kick – there’s wall-size version of the tattoo that graced the shoulder of the cute but devilish girl in the original Roxy’s logo: a stylized skull with a fork and knife standing in for the crossbones. That tattoo, DiSabatino said, was originally aimed at putting a counterculture spin on a more traditional fast-food logo.   There are seats for 30 and there will be more when warm weather allows for patio dining. ZAC WOLF The stylized skull motify with fork and knife on the wall is based on the tattoo on the shoulder of the young girl in the original Roxy’s Grilled Cheese logo. ON THE MENU The Lynnfield spot has, of course, Roxy’s basic Classic Melt ($4.50) or Rookie Melt ($5) with Vermont cheddar and tomato, which you can match with roasted tomato soup ($3.50) for baby boomer nostalgia.   Vary your grilled cheese fix with the thoroughly gooey Three Cheese Melt ($5) or Green Muenster ($5), in which cheese, bacon, and guacamole make for a satisfying blend of tastes. Veggies can get down with the nicely made Caprese ($7.50) with mozzarella, roasted tomato, and kale pesto; there are vegan options as well.   Lots of sides to choose from: The hand-cut truffle tater tots ($4) were crisp and divine. You can go all out with Loaded Fries ($5.30/$6.30) or the West Coast fries, ($8), which came smothered with smoked gouda sauce, pickles, and caramelized onions. (These were a bit too loaded for us in terms of grease overkill.)   Hot dogs include plain, ($4.20) and cheese dog, ($4.80), loaded with smoked gouda cheese and barbeque sauce and crispy onions ($5.20). We sampled the cheese dog; the juicy, flavorful meat was almost drowned by the bland cheese.   Burger choices include the newly introduced Lucy ($7), a veggie patty with Muenster that makes for a nice meat substitute. For double-dipping into the deep fryer, there’s the Double Fried chicken sandwich ($7.30), in which the chicken somehow managed to be juicy despite the really crisped exterior.   Diet food, this ain’t. You can, however, get a turkey Caesar ($8.15) and house salad ($6.80). Both families and suburban hipsters will dig Roxy’s reasonable prices, and everyone can use some comfort food in these trying times. Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, 1205 Market St., Lynnfield. 781-304-4880,   www.roxysgrilledcheese.com. ROXY’S GRILLED CHEESE There’s no shortage of dishes and sides at Roxy’s Grilled Cheese in Lynnfield. Stephanie Schorow can be reached at sschorow@comcast.net.

 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2017/02/10/not-fast-roxy-arrives-marketstreet-ynnfield/PE9DrWT6wnt9dd2xhmADLM/story.html

Play Galaga, Doctor Who Pinball, and More at A4cade

January 26th, 2017

Opening so soon in Cambridge

There’s No Crying in Skee-Ball: Sneak a Peek at A4cade’s Boozy Offerings

January 17th, 2017

The bar and arcade is almost ready to open in Cambridge’s Central Square, alongside Roxy’s Central

Later this month, Central Square will become home to a venue — a collaboration of two venues, really — where you can eat grilled cheese, burgers, and fried chicken sandwiches; play arcade games, pinball, and foosball; and drink cocktails themed after all your favorite pop culture references, old and new. Roxy’s Central/A4cade is on the verge of opening at 292 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge, as previously reported, with Roxy’s Central serving up grilled cheese and lots more in the front and A4cade located through a “speakeasy-style door” in the back, offering up cocktails, beer, wine, and loads of games. The Roxy’s Grilled Cheese and Area Four teams are behind the two halves of the project.

Refer back to the Roxy’s Central menu here to get excited about tater tot poutine, dulce de leche milkshakes, and loaded hot dogs — or stay here to learn more about the cocktail program that awaits at A4cade.

A cocktail at A4cade, served in a TARDIS
A cocktail at the forthcoming A4cade, plus a burger and grilled cheese
Zac Wolf for A4cade

“A4cade’s beverage program features an expertly compiled cocktail list disguised as childhood memories (with various octane levels to satisfy both traditional light weights and the professionals),” says consultant Augusto Lino, a Hungry Mother alum and opening bar co-manager at Area Four’s new South End location. “Think Frozen Painkillers served in plastic kids’ cups, poured from Alice in Wonderland-decorated machines that demand, ‘drink me.’ Bar manager Tainah Soares extends Area Four’s commitment to quality into A4cade’s selection of small breweries (alongside industry favorites such as the champagne of beers) and killer Magnums of wine (served P.I. style…we’ll let you guess what that means) from some of the best producers in France, Spain and California.”

The frozen drink Lino mentions, The Kill Screen, is available in “one player” or “two player” format ($9/$18), made with rums, coconut, and citrus. Likewise, a couple of other tiki-inspired beverages are also available for one or two drinkers ($12/$24 each): Kong Jungle (“barrels be damned!”) is made with Blackwell, Rhum JM, allspice, banana, and citrus, while the Land Shark (“I’m just a dolphin, ma’am”) features Privateer Tiki (from Ipswich), Angostura 7 Year, cognac, sherry, and passionfruit.

 Also on the cocktail list: a seasonal gin and tonic, a bottled Aperol spritz, and a brandy cocktail featuring North County Apple Brandy from GrandTen in South Boston. And that’s not all. There’s the Rainbow Road cocktail ($10), described as “clouds and unicorns,” which mixes Sipsmith with watermelon and grapefruit. Worst.Drink.Ever ($10) — say that in Comic Book Guy’s voice — is made of vodka, St. Germain, cranberry, a lemon/lime shrub, and soda. A “spicy AF” cocktail, There’s No Crying in Skee-Ball ($11), combines “Jimmy Dugan-approved” Chamucos with Lejay and lime. The list continues with plenty of fun references, not to mention creative glassware.

“I’m a child at heart who love cartoons, games, and prancing around in Mickey Mouse gear and shaggy coats, so I obviously don’t take myself too seriously,” says Soares. “Looking for inspiration to create this menu wasn’t hard at all. It’s a lot of playful takes on classics with things such as a Cape Codder with a lemon/lime shrub and a hot toddy that is served in an ‘80s Thermos lunch box with a snack and a mom note. Our cocktail program is very much serious when it comes to creativity and taste, but our presentation will be as silly and fun as it gets!”

Where Julia Child favored the burger and Meryl Streep smiled

December 15th, 2016
Pork pate served en croute at Harvest.Pork pate served en croute at Harvest.

Photo by Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

Back in the day, everyone called it The Harvest — this was before the article dropped off and it became simply Harvest, no introduction necessary.

And, once upon a time, I was a waiter there.

I used to regularly serve Julia Child. To the frustration of the chef, she favored the burger. Her husband paid the bills and never left more than 10 percent. We were still happy for a brush with such a personality. Once, during a snowstorm, I served “lunch” to a certain illustrious Massachusetts governor and his guest — martinis followed by two bottles of wine. The waitstaff looked on in awe. When I once tried to pour Chateau Margaux into Meryl Streep’s Riedel, I missed and hit her hand. She smiled. I went shakily about my business.Oddly, the Harvest of then surely looked more contemporary than today’s Harvest. It was an airy exercise in Scandinavian light backdropped with swaths of Marimekko fabric, which the Thompsons introduced to the US via Finland. In other words, design out of reach. Today, Harvest’s ceilings hover low, wood runs baronial, decorative touches smack of luxe seriousness.

In those days, The Harvest was legend. An energy gripped the place. The cooks, the bartenders, the servers, the bussers, the baristas, the sommeliers, and of course the diners — everyone felt the charge, everyone was working on some kind of project in his or her spare time.

Like many aspiring writers, I found waiting on tables to be ideal work. You could log creative hours during the day, exhaust yourself at night making rent. For a solid chunk of the early ’90s, five shifts a week, I hustled the floor. Fell in love there, met my best pal, watched an obsession with cooking blossom. When I quit the place, I knew it better than my brother. (Sorry, Stevie.)

The jingle we heard by night was not money, though there was plenty to go around. It was culture. As house organ of the neighborhood university, the Harvard Square spot offered up a cast of luminaries on any given night. Nobel laureate, celebrity novelist, local rock star, fabled opera singer, aging screen icon. They were a dime a dozen.

Over the 41 years the restaurant has been open, the kitchen has seen an equal parade of talent, including Lydia Shire, Chris Schlesinger, Barbara Lynch, Sara Moulton, Frank McClelland, Bob Kinkead, Jimmy Burke. It was opened in 1975 by celebrated architect-designers Ben and Jane Thompson, whose firm Design Research reinvigorated Faneuil Hall, Navy Pier, and South Street Seaport. They were equally visionary regarding culinary trends. They set upon farm-to-table early, and put forth an upstart American aesthetic that challenged the traditional European. (Sometimes to a laughable extent; raspberry coulis was ladled out like soup.)

Yet the restaurant, tucked down an alleyway off Brattle Street, continues to buzz like a hive. It’s as if the conversation never stopped. Old professors continue to hold forth. Young academics argue vehemently, then explode with laughter. The Europeans still roll in late wearing black.

And for the most part, the food at Harvest hits as squarely and creatively as ever. That sophisticated American style the Thompsons nosed out has assumed an impressive life of its own. If anything, the service is better: quietly, knowledgeably professional.

Granted, the cocktail menu could be swapped with that at just about any other area restaurant. At $14 a pop, one hopes for concoctions that run deeper and more daring. Thankfully, the ambitious wine list is both those things.

The pork pate is a tremendous start to dinner. Served en croute, studded with pistachios and dried black cherries and draped with pear mostarda, it elaborates boldly on what had been a simple Harvest staple.

Maine sea urchin at Harvest.Maine sea urchin at Harvest.

Photo by Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

For a lighter beginning, the Maine sea urchin offers a quintet of sweet discord. Lobes of uni see their funk checked then raised by weightier celery root and toasted brioche, brighter green apple and radish.

Apple and fennel salad is beautiful enough to justify the price ($14) for mere apple and fennel. As with the sea urchin, texture and intensity are put subtly into play. I eat this before the garlic and fennel roasted porchetta — pork loin inside crisped pork belly, served with farro risotto and green chimichurri — which has to be one of the more satisfying one-two punches around.

A few of the starters could use retooling. The beet salad sounds promising, yet the brie it’s layered with is tough, offering no creamy solace. Parsley rigatoni represents one half of a superb dish. Sure, the pasta is beguilingly green and toasted hazelnuts cast surprise depth and crunch, but it misses the simple bite of straight-up parsley. My mouth pines for it.

Still, at most turns chef Tyler Kinnett upends expectations vividly. This accounts for one of Harvest’s finest dishes. What sounds weird — whole-wheat pappardelle with braised veal, toasted pepitas, and zhoug (a Middle Eastern condiment made with spicy green peppers, cilantro, and parsley) — tastes multidimensional and novel in the best sort of way. I could eat this pasta every week.

Entrees follow the zigzag trail left by appetizers: wannabes laced with acts of transcendence. Risotto comes strewn generously with foraged mushrooms, braced with arugula pistou, yet slicked with olive oil and butter. The halibut, described as “brown butter poached,” turns out to be a honking fillet that feels like work to eat, and especially when fanned with undercooked pumpkin.

Meat, however, is where everything comes alive. That porchetta is the definition of visceral pleasure. The venison — another echo from the Harvest of yore — can be glimpsed on just about every table. And with good reason. Served atop wine-braised cabbage, dolloped with sweet potato, traced with Concord grape jus, it is perfect for the cold season.

Caramelized apple entremet.Caramelized apple entremet.

Photo by Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

Somebody has been let loose to experiment at Harvest’s dessert station. The birch-beer float is fun to look at — a scoop of black-pepper ice cream sitting in a tuile suspended over a half-filled glass of soda — yet its puzzle pieces never quite fit. To resuscitate the real thing, you may be tempted to grab a can of A&W and a pint of vanilla on the trip home. Every Harvest dessert acts as eye candy, including a delicious caramelized apple entremet that’s the color of a preppy’s chinos. (Kelly green, no whales.)

In a restaurant world that’s increasingly corporatized — Harvest is part of Himmel Hospitality Group, which also includes Grill 23 and Post 390 — this quirky play with sugar and cream and fruit feels like a Cambridge throwback. For a few moments, it allows you to shut your eyes and travel into the past. No cellphone, no Instagramming the meal, just a man and his apple.

HARVEST

44 Brattle St., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-868-2255, www.harvestcambridge.com. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Raw bar and first courses $12-$70. Entrees $26-$42. Desserts $8-$16.

Hours Dinner Sun-Thu 5:30-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 5:30-11 p.m. Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Brunch Sun 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Noise level Low-key buzz

What to order Sea urchin, pork pate, apples & fennel, whole wheat pappardelle, venison, porchetta, apple entremet

Ted Weesner can be reached at tedweesner@gmail.com.

Original article link below.

 https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/food-dining/2016/12/12/where-julia-child-tipped-poorly-and-meryl-streep-smiled/bNklITEJEdP31AUyQV3cLN/story.html#comments

Porto’s Cocktail Cart

November 22nd, 2016

Off the Carts

From baristas to bartenders, hospitality pros weigh in on tableside offerings you can roll out at your own holiday bash.

By Sara Hagman/ Photo Credit: Holly Rike/ Nov. 11, 2016

http://www.improper.com/food-drink/off-the-carts/4/

(more…)

Contact Us

We are a group of highly skilled professionals who bring experience in all disciplines of project management, supervision, estimating and permitting to every job. Get in touch with us to get started on your project.