It's been a year in the making. The build up of suspense is huge.
But finally, FINALLY, BISq is really opening tonight for dinner service.
BISq stands for Bergamot In Inman Square and is the second restaurant from Servio Garcia and Chef Keith Pooler, who first opened Bergamot a little over five years ago. BISq differs from Bergamot in that the food is focused more on small plates, there's a much larger charcuterie and cured meats program, and the wines are exclusively Northern French. It's also more casual, so don't worry about dressing up before you come.
Meet Chef Dan Bazzinotti ("Chef Bazz"), the executive chef at BISq and also someone who has been with Bergamot since opening day (five years ago!). Chef Bazz is an extremely talented chef and has a strong passion for making his own cured meats, charcuterie, and sausages. I fondly remember the Butcher's Plate at Bergamot (which mysteriously disappeared from menu when, I'm guessing, they had to save up those cured meats for BISq!).
At BISq, these meat products are fully featured in their own section of the menu, and Dan is much freer to experiment with all of his ideas. Additionally, Chef Bazz's wife is Peruvian, and thus he has incorporated a lot of unique and fun Peruvian influences into the food on the BISq menu.
They have assembled an excellent team.
They are cheerful, excited, and super, super hard working.
The space, which is on Cambridge Street in Inman Square, is warm, cozy, and beautiful.
Servio, Keith, and the team have spent a lot of time picking out the exact lighting and decorative elements of the restaurant. There are tiles from Mexico, a crazy cool glass panel full of cut wine bottles (see left photo), and wine bottle ends embedded in the walls. One of the most unique features is this crazy wine bottle chandelier in the back wine bar.
Wait, there's a wine bar?
There is a cozy wine bar in a connected but separate room at the back of the restaurant. Here is where you can sit at the bar, sip on various wines, and be in a more intimate environment.
The wine bar area has a few tables with soft banquette seating.
But enough about the space, let's talk about the food!
Bryan and I were honored to be invited to the soft opening at BISq, a Friends and Family event where the entire staff honed their skills and practiced on a friendly audience. It was great to celebrate with the team, who overcame so many hurdles to final get this restaurant to open. I also got a sneak preview tastes of many dishes on the menu, which I'm thrilled to share with you today!
Don't be surprised if you see the restaurant's name stamped on some of your pasta
The BISq menu is divided up into four sections: Garde-Manger, which includes small bites, snacks, and salads; From the Drink, which includes various lighter seafood options like raw oysters, ceviche, and the like; Off the Block, a cured meats section that allows you to order either a whole charcuterie board or various charcuterie and sausages a la carte; and Farm and Field, additional small plates that range anywhere from grilled items (on a skewer!), pastas, and sandwiches to heavier dishes like red wine poached bone marrow and cherry glazed lamb ribs. Below are a few dishes we tried from each of the sections of the menu.
Lemon + Herb Foccacia ($5) is a beautiful soft-on-the-inside perfectly crispy-on-the-outside foccacia which comes with confit shallots on top. I loved charred super thin lemon slices on top, which added a lovely crispy and zingy pop to the foccacia. I wouldn't hesitate to order this again if I came back.
Drumlin Farm Salad ($8) features fresh produce from a local farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The version on the opening menu includes lettuce, kohrabi, radish, cucumbers, feta, and olives all tossed together in a lemon vinaigrette.
From the Drink
We tried a gorgeous lime ceviche made with purple potatoes topped with cancha, a crunchy toasted Peruvian corn. The menu will feature a similar item, a Salmon Tiradito ($11), which will come with aji amarillo, crunchy quinoa, and those gorgeous purple potatoes.
Tiger’s Milk ($4), the liquid milk that's left over once you've made ceviche, is a popular drink in Peru. Cheff Bazz's version is pretty classic, with tons of lime, onion, and cilantro. I loved this "drink" (or shot?), especially the addition of cancha, a crunchy toasted Peruvian corn, on top.
Grilled Sea Bream ($15), is a gorgeous seafood "stew" that includes grilled sea bream, fresh plump mussels, squid, semolina,
cherry tomatoes, and lacinato kale all cooked together in a fragrant white wine broth.
N’awlins Barbecue Shrimp Toast ($8) is hearty, comfort food where an unctuous shrimp and fish cake is griddled on top of toast, slathered with a flavorful sauce, and topped with "sexy scallions." The dish totally hits the spot especially if you're starving.
Off the Block
Chef Dan Bazzinotti is obsessed with anything meat (just follow his Instagram and you'll get the idea), and he loves making his own sausages, cured meats, and other creative meat products. The BISq menu features many charcuterie items and sausages that you can order a la carte. You can also get the Bazz Hook-up Board ($26), a chef's selection of five meat focused items including at least two off-menu items, usually the latest innovative experiments from Chef Bazz.
The term "hook up" refers to how Chef Bazz used to hook up regulars at Bergamot with fun meat products he was testing out. As a regular at Bergamot, I fully got to enjoy many of these experiments at Bergamot (lonza, coppa, various types of prosciutto, unique sausages, and the like). I will attest that Chef Bazz most certainly knows his stuff and is very talented in this arena.
There are several creamier pâtés and mousses on the menu that you can order a la carte, such as Creole Calf Liver Mousse ($5), Chicken Rillettes ($5), Head Cheese ($8), and Pâté en Croute ($12). Pictured above is a Creole Calf Liver Mousse served with grilled bread ($5).
Kabanosy ($7), house made smoked Polish sausage sticks, were dense, chewy, and flavorful, balanced out by the pickled red onions and creamy sauce.
Betty's Mazzafegati ($7) is an Italian (more specifically, Umbrian) pork liver and bood sausage served with roasted peppers and onions. Chef Dan's not shy about the amount of liver and blood in this sausage, and you can immediate tell upon first bite that this is a serious liver blood sausage, full of that iron-laden, almost chalky liver-like texture. Liver and blood sausage lovers will rejoice. My friend Peter loved it, saying it reminded him of a Portuguese blood sausage. I don't love the taste of liver, so I ended up giving the rest of my sausage to Bryan, who happily ate it up.
Farm and Field
The menu includes several grill items, like grilled nectarines and the pictured Peruvian Grilled Chicken Livers ($5), which are served with a tomatillo, pineapple, and cilantro salsa.
Everyone at the table unanimously loved the Rare Hanger Steak Salad ($15), which is served with queso verde, oyster mushrooms, peanuts, and bits of egg omelette. The steak was cooked beautifully, and I just loved the refreshing brightness of the dish, which has elements of Peruvian flavors. The dish is innovative, exciting, and all around fantastic. Definitely order this one.
Another favorite was the Choucroute Garnie ($16), another comfort dish that incorporates sauerkraut, saucisson noisette, duck confit, bacon lardons, and yukon gold potatoes. The smoky flavors of all the different cured meat products came together beautifully, and the shredded chicken on top lightened the dish just enough so that it wasn't too heavy. Though it's summer, this is the type of dish that I would totally want to eat on a cold winter's night.
BISq does not have a dedicated pastry chef, but Chef Bazz has provided a few desserts, including a liquid cheesecake trifle ($9), a fun dessert served in a sundae glass that includes liquid cheesecake, a chocolate brownie, mint, chocolate sauce, and cherries. The Dessert Charcuterie ($12), includes an assortment of mignardises to share.
The wines here are special. Wine director Kai Gagnon has amassed a great collection of wines over the years as wine director at Bergamot, and he's using BISq as a way to showcase some of his favorites.
The BISq wine list will focus exclusively on Northern French wines, which Kai thinks pairs best with the charcuterie-focused menu at BISq. I've always enjoyed Kai's wine choices at Bergamot, which often come from unique, hard-to-discover wine producers. I am very excited to see what the wine program at BISq will look like.
I did try a couple wines at the event last night, and I loved both the rosé and the bourgueil (I never got around to trying the muscadet!).
I cannot emphasize how excited I am about this restaurant opening. Think of it as a more casual sister of Bergamot that focuses more on small plates, a strong cured meats program, and lots and lots of really great wine. I am confident this team can execute, and I think Cambridge is super lucky that BISq chose to open in Inman Square.
A few logistical notes. There will be no reservations, so show up right at 5:30PM (opening time) or else you might have to wait for a table. The team hopes to add weekend brunch after the staff get their feet wet with dinner service.
The talented team at Bergamot/BISq
Best wishes for an awesome opening night!
1071 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02139
Disclaimer - being a long time regular at Bergamot, I am close friends with the entire staff. The Friends & Family soft opening was free for all guests, so I did not pay for the food featured in this post. As always, all opinions are my own.