update: click here for an updated post on this restaurant from 2009
Tonight Bryan and I tried out a new local restaurant and we both absolutely LOVED it. This falls into the category of a Basta Pasta type discovery. It’s THAT good, and truly still one of the best kept secrets of Cambridge, I think. Best thing is, the prices are very reasonable for the quality of food, and the restaurant is about a 3 minute walk from our house.
The chef, Will Gilson, previously worked at Oleana (one of Zagat’s 10 best restaurants in Boston for food) before coming to cook for The Garden at the Cellar. If you’ve been to Oleana, you may notice haunting similarities in the way the menu is set up. For example, there are small plates (like the pret a manger at Oleana), normal appetizers, salads, pizzas, and main entrees. The Garden is different in that the focus seems to be less Mediteranean and more of an eclectic mix with an American comfort food focus. For example, you can add a grilled cheddar sandwich to any of the soups for an additional $2.
The food is excellent. As a start, Bryan ordered the pureed carrot soup with the grilled cheddar sandwich. The soup was very good, and portion size was enormous – probably about double a typical bowl size. We easily shared the soup and the grilled cheese sandwich, which was perfectly grilled and oozing with flavorful cheese.
Bryan ordered the grilled hangar steak (which comes over a bed of pureed parsnips and sauteed spinach). He said that the steak was expertly cooked (medium rare) and had good flavor. The portion size for that too, was very generous, and Bryan was only able to eat about half.
Oh, but I left out the best part! The rosemary truffle fries that came with the steak. Both Bryan and I agreed that these were the best French fries either of us had ever eaten in our lives! Not only was the texture perfect, the flavors were incredible. Truffle oil and rosemary is an absolutely delectable combination. Each fry, infused with this fragrant blend of flavors, provided a near-euphoric experience with each bite. We could not stop eating the fries. Bryan even decided to stop eating his steak to finish off the fries.
I decided to get the sample platter of the appetizers. Out of the four I ordered, the home-made tater tots were by far the most interesting. Unlike a typical tater tot, Gilson’s tater tots are crunchy golf balls with creamy and fluffy insides. Imagine bighting into a lightly golden fried pillow of mashed potatoes.
I also ordered the parsnip puree, which was very flavorful and intense. Parsnips are naturally quite fragrant and sweet. When pureed with butter, the combination tastes almost as rich as caramel buttered popcorn. I thought it was delicious, although a bit heavy. I also ordered the roasted beats, which were fresh, flavorful, and good. Finally, I ordered the sauteed Swiss chard. I was not especially impressed with this dish. It reminded me of the collard greens that I’ve ordered at places like Cracker Barrel – overcooked leafy greens that resembled boiled vegetables sitting in a film of oil. It was OK, but not something I’d order again.
Over all, we thought the food here was absolutely amazing. Most of the appetizers range from $3-$10, the pizzas (flatbreads) are $10-$12, and the entrees are $18-$20. All in all, very reasonable prices for truly exquisite cuisine. If nothing else, go sit at the bar, order beer on tap, and get the French fries, which cost less than $5.
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