Welcome to the neighborhood!
It took about four months, but the space previously occupied by Ten Tables Cambridge (and before that, Craigie Street Bistrot), is now finally open for business, this time as Forage Cambridge.
The previous general manager of Ten Tables JP, Stan Hilbert, is now owner and general manager of Forage. He brings along chef Eric Cooper and bar manager Joe Choiniere from Ten Tables JP.
We were huge fans of Ten Tables (a 5-minute walk from our house) when we first moved into the neighborhood, so we were anxiously waiting to see what would open up in that space after it closed.
Forage calls itself a "neighborhood farm-to-table restaurant", and seeks to create a menu that is based on local and seasonal ingredients. At the same time, it aims to be approachable, down-to-earth, and comfortable all while maintaining high quality standards.
We came here for dinner with some friends about three weeks after the restaurant opened in April 2016.
I immediately felt comfortable when I sat down. They had clearly renovated the space, brightening up the walls and making the overall space feel a bit more open.
Each table had a tiny little pot filled with herbs and various other plants. There was also a small bowl of pickled carrots, a complimentary snack that you could immediately start munching on if you were hungry. Much healthier than bread!
The menu is not too big, fitting on just one page. There are about 7-8 appetizers ($8 - $15) and 6-7 entrees ($24 - $29). Of course, there are also daily specials.
Soon after we ordered, the server came back and apologized because one of the dishes we had ordered had already sold out, even though it was only 7PM. They sent over a Pickles Board as a way to say they were sorry they ran out of his dish.
It was fun to try a variety of pickled vegetables (some of which were lacto-fermented). The plate included pickled lily shoots, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and shallots. This was served alongside some sliced bread, butter, and berry jam.
Cold Poached Arctic Char ($12) came with nasturtium (leaf of an edible flower), dandelion ice cream, pickled burdock, and pine buds. It was definitely an unusual assortment of foraged vegetables, most of which I had never seen selling in a grocery store. The fish was perfectly cooked, with a nice, soft texture. The dandelion ice cream was a touch sweet, and reminded me of green tea ice cream. All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable dish.
The Red Wine Steamed MDI Mussels ($13) come tossed with wild garlic mustard greens and bacon, and topped with cheesy toasts.
The Sweet Potato Soup ($11) included shrimp dumplings, thyme oil and orange zest.
My favorite appetizer by far was the Scallops Spaetzle ($15), which consisted of small, crispy, pellet-sized spaetzle cooked in brown butter and served with crispy sage leaves, cured scallops, braised scallions, and ramps. I loved the texture of the crispy spaetzle, and all the other components together were just phenomenal.
My friend ordered the Mackerel (one of the specials), which came with pea shoots and charred onions, and was pleasantly surprised that the typically strong-tasting fish was not too "fishy". She enjoyed the charred onions and how it balanced out the meaty mackerel.
The Mycoterra Mushroom Cassoulet ($26) is a vegetarian slow-cooked casserole which consists of their housemade mushroom and black walnut "sausage" together with buckwheat and thyme wafers and a mushroom demi. This is one of the dishes about which owner Stan Hilbert had said he was really excited.
The Saffron Brined Pork Chop ($29) was excellent, and came served with a local grain risotto, crispy kale, and confit garlic, raisins and mint. The Vietnamese Clay Pot Catfish ($26) is another dish about which Stan Hilbert said he was really excited. It comes with basmati rice, spicy peanuts, and pea shoots in a ginger vinaigrette. Our friend who ordered it really enjoyed it and thought it was executed quite well. Sorry photos are a bit blurry - it was really dark!
We tried three different desserts. The Citrus Sticky Toffee Pudding, a traditional sticky toffee pudding cake served with orange segments and orange peel, was clearly the favorite at the table. We enjoyed how the citrus balanced out the otherwise very rich toffee pudding cake.
We also tried the Ginger Semi-Freddo, a half frozen block of mousse topped with a candied ginger. crumble. The ginger flavors were really strong, which was nice.
The "Nemesis" is a baked chocolate dessert that's as cross between a brownie and a souffle. It came with pineapple, sage pineapple powder, and cocoa nibs. It was definitely enjoyable, but we did not find the flavors to be as complex and interesting as the other desserts.
We were quite impressed with how smoothly dinner went, especially considering that the restaurant had only been open for about three weeks. Overall, the food is very good, the prices are reasonable, and the environment is very pleasant. I like the concept they have. I enjoy sampling unusual "foraged" ingredients that I usually never eat (pine buds? nastortium? wild garlic mustard greens?). I also like their experimentation with pickling a variety of things, which I think will be fun to try when I do go back.
I'm thrilled that this new place (opened by experienced people), is already doing so well. It can only get better from here, and I look forward to adding Forage into my regular rotation of neighborhood restaurants that I visit on a regular basis.
5 Craigie Circle
Cambridge, MA 02138