Saturday, November 3, 2007

Craigie Street Bistrot

It's been awhile since I've given a Boston restaurant review, so I thought I'd tell you about what has become one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Craigie Street Bistro. Located just outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA this place is a must for anyone coming to the area. The location itself can be a bit hard to find, so make sure you get out that trusty GPS or proper directions from MapQuest. I found that cabbies even have a hard time finding the place, so know where you are going.

The entrance is subdued as it is at basement level of the building. The red door brings you into a nicely arranged dining room, which feels extremely comforting. On my first trip I did not have a reservation, I called about 20 minutes ahead and they were still able to accommodate me in a reasonable amount of time. Extremely friendly staff here with a superb knowledge of the menu and the eclectic wine list. The menu here changes with what is available to the chef based upon the seasons. Tony Maws, the chef/owner makes daily trips to the market for the freshest ingredients. The restaurant is unmistakably modern French with an occasional toss of Pacific Rim influence in his raw fish dishes used in his tasting menu.

The dining room is small, with probably no more than 45 seats I would guess, so don't be like me, make a reservation of you plan to go. The few times I have been it is always packed. Besides Chef Maws' regular menu which includes many traditional and contemporary French dishes like terrine and much lighter choices, ures he also features what he calls the Chef's Whim , this three-course prix fixe ($38) menu is available all evening Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday; and after 9:00 pm Friday and Saturday. In addition there are multiple tasting menu options, one being a four course prixe-fixe at $75, the other is a seven-course Chef's Tasting Menu available after 8:30 on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at $135. Those who know me know I took the seven course option and it was worth every single penny.

Some of the items in the tasting menu were on the regular menu as well, but for the most part the menu consisted of items Maws came up with just for the menu. Be prepared to be here late if you take this option. A 9:00 dinner reservation will easily keep you there until 1 am, but it is about the experience of the dining event.

My last trip consisted of an amuse of Kona Kampachi Sashimi with avacado, green grapes, pickled pistachios, chervil and salmon roe. Second I received a Foie de Lotte au Torchon with a maple soy vinaigrette. Next came a dish of the most perfectly cooked Wellfleet clams I had ever eaten served with squid and vegetable noodles and a cubanelle pepper puree, followed by a Potage of Local "Butter and Sugar" corn with "CSB"-smoked bluefish pate crouton and parika oil. The next ridiculously good dish was a Ragout of Local Forest Mushrooms, Veal Sweetbreads and Parsley Root along with a slow-cooked egg, Smithfield ham, sea urchin sauce and herbs and edible flowers. You have not had great veal bone marrow until you've had Maws' which was roasted and served with a ragout of shitake mushrooms. My final savoury course was a Vermont Organic Pork Two Ways: Suckling Confit and Slow Roasted Belly, paired up with smoked farro, spinach, early fall vegetables and ancho chile jus. Desserts consisted of Rooibos Tea-Infused Panna Cotta, Ocumare Chocolate Mousse Terrine with peanut butter ice cream, and finally a Raspberry Sorbet with candied fennel.

Words can not even describe how great the meal was. Although they do not undertake a wine pairing, there are many many great French wines that will go along with the whole menu. I went for an Alsatian 2003 Pinot Noir "Strangenberg" Pierre Frick, very different and very tasty. They do offer two appertifs, one being the traditional Kir Royale and the second being their CSB Champagne-Charentes Cocktail, which I had and I highly suggest.

The restaurant was rated tops in 2007 for "Best in Service", Boston Globe Magazine," Award of Excellence," Wine Spectator," "Best Restaurant -- General Excellence," Boston Magazine (Best of Boston). They have also many more accolades in the past, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They also have a blog that is updated occasionaly to tell their guests about upcoming events and menu items.

I highly suggest Craigie Street Bistrot and highly suggest you come with an appetite, but also a large available balance on your credit card if you really want to enjoy the experience.

Hours of Operation:
Tuesday: 5:30-10:00 pm
Wednesday: 5:30-10:00 pm
Thursday: 5:30-10:00 pm
Friday: 5:30-10:30 pm
Saturday: 5:30-10:30 pm
Sunday: 5:30-10:00 pm
(Closed Monday)

Reservations are accepted and recommended. Walk-ins are also welcome, space permitting. To make instant reservations online, click here, or to make reservations on the phone, call them at (617) 497-5511.

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