It's been a glorious week of warm weather. I've been thoroughly enjoying going out without my jacket and even (yesterday!) putting on a spring dress and walking to work outside. Beyond the weather, I am absolutely LOVING the spring ingredients I am seeing on menus, like asparagus, ramps, green garlic, and morel mushrooms. After such a harsh, harsh winter (our house finally got "put back together" after it was ripped apart to address water damage from ice dams), it's most certainly a very welcomed change.
I had a wonderful opportunity to taste Cafe ArtScience's new spring menu recently at a press dinner. It was my second time having dinner there. The first time was opening week (day 2!), when Bryan and I stopped in on a whim after our SCUBA diving course ended early. Even then, we were extremely impressed with the quality of the food. Despite the fact that I didn't have my camera with me that evening, I still felt compelled to publish a post about the meal with just my iPhone photos because it was worth sharing about the meal.
This time, I was able to return with my own proper camera, and even catch a bit of daylight for some of the photos.
The food was excellent. Kudos to Chef Patrick Campbell (No. 9 Park, Eastern Standard), who has put together an impressive menu that is consistently executed well. The food was so good, in fact, that I invited Bryan to come back with me the following week. We ate at the bar the second time, enjoying yet another great meal (detailed mostly via a series of Instagram photos). Bryan went so far as to say that the fried chicken at the bar is the best one he's ever had in Boston, almost rivaling his favorite fried chicken in the world.
In general, I am very impressed with both the food and cocktails here. The level of quality is extremely high. Everything is just really good. Better yet, there's validated parking in the garage for only $1/hour. For all these reasons (and the fact that it's in my home city), I have a pretty good feeling that we will be visiting Cafe ArtScience a lot more down the road.
Here's a look at the spring menu!
The famous Todd Maul, co-owner and master cocktail guy, makes an unusual drink where he clarifies tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic and a spicy pepper in centrifuge, mixes it with vodka, and then serves it with a smoked Tabasco cucumber. The flavors are bright, intense, and delicious. It is almost mentally jarring to taste something that has the flavor profile of a Bloody Mary yet is perfectly clear.
All bread is baked in-house and is fantastic. The focaccia (left) is ridiculously soft, sprinkled with just enough sea salt on the outside to be addictive. The sourdough definitely has a tart punch, which I love.
We start with some simple House Made Chicharons, a fun bar snack that is topped with tiny dollops of palm heart puree and a dusting of chili powder.
Our first course, Beef Carppaccio ($21) is incredible and probably my favorite course of the night. Ultra thin slices of beef are topped with a homemade lobster XO sauce (generous chunks of lobster, deep fried shallots, and shrimp), plus hen of the wood mushrooms, burgundy truffles, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. The lobster is fresh and sweet, the carppaccio is ultra soft, and I especially love the umami and crunch from the flavorful XO sauce.
The next course, Asparagus Salad ($17) screams spring. Barely poached white and green asparagus from California and Holland are served alongside deviled quail eggs, lobster aioli, tarragon vinaigrette, and a creamy asparagus terrine. It tastes light, fresh, yet full of springtime flavors.
The Terrine of Foie Gras & Organic Rabbit ($28) is gorgeous, a creamy block of foie gras interspersed with chunks of rabbit. It comes with crushed pistachio nuts, cocoa nibs, and a pomegranate jam. The terrine is decadently creamy and works best spread on the delicious house-baked crostini which came with the dish.
Our next course is the Crispy Head-On Shrimp En Brik ($19). Locally-sourced farm-raised shrimp (from Stoughton, Massachusetts, the state's first shrimp farm!) come wrapped in a shiso leaf and deep fried. Accompaniments include pickled chilies, a fava bean relish, cilantro, mint, and Argan Oil.
By this point in the meal I am getting pretty full, but I really want to try the final savory course, the Colorado Lamb Leg ($36), which comes with a couple pieces of perfectly seared (medium rare!) lamb, heritage pig sausage, Spanish anchovies, broccoli, artichokes, pistachios, and a couple of chickpea fried cubes. I really enjoy this dish, especially how all the fun components come together. It's fun to try a little bit of each part of the plate. I take half of this home and enjoy a lovely lunch the next day.
You must not forget dessert if you come to Cafe ArtScience. Their pastry program is run by the extremely talented Chef Renae Connolley, who was pastry chef at Clio and Marea (in New York) before joining Cafe ArtScience. Her desserts are simply incredible: elegant, subtle, not too sweet, and all around a pleasure to eat. Lucky us, we get to try all four!
Rhubarb Mille Feuille ($12) consists of a couple layers of rhubarb sheets sandwiched between layers of whipped fromage blanc, orgeat (a syrup made from almond, sugar, and rose water), and almond praline.
Urfa Pepper Soft Chocolate Cream ($13) is a dense, mouse-like cream made from Urfa peppers, a spicy pepper from Turkey, topped with sesame tuile, caramelized feuilletine, and a bright Satsuma tangerine sorbet.
My favorite is the Clarified Lime Mousse ($13), which reminds me of a deconstructed key lime pie. A lime mousse log covered in crushed graham cracker sable comes topped with smoked loomi (dried lime) pearls, a refreshing coconut sorbet, and tiny coconut spherified pearls.
The Petit Rose Macaron ($13) contains a single rose macaron, yuzu curd, yogurt, a raspberry bubble (a spherified ball that pops raspberry liquid!) and pistachio ice cream.
All in all, I have been extremely impressed with Cafe ArtScience. I love the sciency, nerdy bent of the space coupled with the creative laboratory-inspired cocktails and seriously good food. The cocktails alone are reason to visit Cafe ArtScience. There are very few places (if any, in Cambridge) making cocktails at this level. Their obsession with their craft is clearly evident. I love asking them about their cocktail ingredients, whether it be the specific wood that they import to get that right smoke flavor or the optimal techniques they use with the centrifuge or the rotary evaporator. For a chemistry science nerd like me, I soak it all up.
Aside from the cocktails, of course, the food is excellent as well. In general I have been very pleased with all the food I've tried here. Dishes are designed and plated with care. Ingredients are top notch, and execution has been very good. Portion sizes are smaller, so you do need to order more than at other comparably-priced restaurants. Unlike our meals at places such as Bergamot and Ten Tables (where we almost always take stuff home), we typically have no trouble finishing everything we order from Cafe ArtScience. Though this means your meal will be a bit more expensive, I think it's worth it.
On a recent Friday night, we noted that the dining room still had available seats and the bar was reasonably open. For us, it's rare to have a place of this caliber that actually has available seats (and parking!) on a Friday night. I'm not sure if it will last. Selfishly, I'd love to keep this place my little secret, but I guess it's best for everyone if all of Boston can enjoy and appreciate the exciting things coming out of this innovative kitchen and bar.
The tasting menu was a press meal provided by Cafe ArtScience. I did not pay for the press meal. I did pay for our first meal at the restaurant as well as the meal at the bar described in the Instagram photos. All opinions are my own.