Sometimes I really regret moving out of my old hood.
For years, Bryan and I lived in the bustling neighborhood between Central and Harvard Square. Regular haunts for us back then included the old Cafe Sushi (hello dollar sushi!), Il Panino (now closed), Garden at the Cellar (now closed), The Plough and Stars, and the original Basta Pasta, which we visited almost weekly.
Since we left, the neighborhood has really, really changed.
There are so many incredible restaurants that have appeared in the area. Most notably, Dumpling House moved right into the first floor of our building. Imagine if we still lived there. I'm sure I'd stop cooking altogether with so much good Chinese food right downstairs. There are so many other really great restaurants that have popped up, like the new and much more awesome Cafe Sushi with Chef Seizi's creative input, Little Donkey and Pagu not too far away in Central, and right down the street, Michael Scelfo's new Waypoint.
We visited Waypoint with two MIT students we had met at a food event. Despite the fact that we were nearly a generation apart, we bonded over our common love of food and shared MIT experiences (hee hee, we even compared brass rats - MIT's class ring - from different years). Tara write the food blog Spilling the Beans, and Elizabeth just loves eating good food.
We both identified Waypoint as a place that we wanted to visit. Why not visit together and get to try double the variety of food?
Waypoint is Michael Scelfo's second restaurant, following his wildly successful Alden & Harlow in Harvard Square. The restaurant focuses a lot more on seafood, offering a whole raw bar section of the menu (oysters, clams, crudo) and even includes caviar service. Waypoint also has an eclectic mix of other fun plates reflecting influences from all around the world. There are pizzas, pastas, and all sorts of interesting, creative small plates.
We started with an order of the House Made Bread ($6) from the Snacks portion of the menu. It was nicer than a typical complimentary bread plate, but it wasn't that much bread. Our table of four had to really cut up the four slices into tiny pieces in order to try a taste of each kind.
The bread was definitely interesting though (one was jet black!), and came with smoked seaweed butter (spread artistically along the plate) and a walnut and anchovy dip. I couldn't really taste the seaweed that much in the butter, but overall everything was still very enjoyable. The fresh bread was quite good.
One of my favorite dishes was the Tallow Fried Peanuts ($6), beef fat fried peanuts tossed with crispy anchovies, pickled fish peppers, and herbs. The flavors reminded me of Thailand (maybe lemongrass?). I absolutely loved the complex mix of flavors. The crunchy peanuts took on a fatty umami from the beef fat, the anchovies added a punchy saltiness and crisp, and the fragrant herbs balanced the whole dish out. It was fantastic and I would totally order it again.
Plates are slightly larger than the Snacks, but are still smaller than a full-sized entree and cost between $14 - $22, with most dishes hovering in the $15 - $16 range.
The Root Vegetable Nicoise ($16) was a creative take on the classic French salad, replacing cooked tuna with raw bluefin tuna, and incorporating nontraditional ingredients like pomegranate, olives, and anchovies. This was another favorite of the table. We loved the burst of flavors from the pomegranate, olives, and anchovies.
We ordered the Wood Roasted Char Belly ($15) thinking it would be pork belly. It turned out to be arctic char served over crispy and creamy ceci beans. The creamy part came in the form of a puree spread on bottom of plate. The crispy part came in the form of deep fried beans on top of the fish. There was also grilled grapes, lemon, and some cress. Everything was executed well, and the flavors were good.
The King Crab ($22) came served over crunchy black rice, brown butter aioli, and a chili garlic oil. The plate was quite small, but the flavors were fantastic.
The menu typically has around five different types of pizzas, including a classic chopped clam pizza, an unusual pig's face pizza, a tomato pie, and other rotating flavors. We tried The Swisher Sweet ($16), a pizza topped with duck tongue, bosc pear, and peperoncino oil. The crust of the pizza was nice, but we found the toppings to be underwhelming. The pizza was a bit greasy, and the flavors were not very exciting. It was probably the least favorite dish of the night.
This pizza is no longer on the menu. Hopefully, other pizzas are better than this one, since I still did enjoy the texture of the crust.
All pastas dishes come with fresh pasta and cost between $17 and $19 a plate.
The Uni Bucatini ($18) was a generous portion of buttered noodles tossed with a smoked egg yolk, shaved pecorino, uni, and shaved bottarga. I personally found the ratio of pasta to uni and egg to be imbalanced. There was a lot of buttered noodles to a small amount of uni (4 slices in the entire dish). I had a hard time tasting the single smoked egg. Overall, it was still an enjoyable dish (buttered fresh pasta is still tasty), but I found it underwhelming compared to other versions of this dish that I've had.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Emmer Casarecci ($16), casarecci shaped pasta tossed with fermented parsnip, brown butter, hazelnuts, nutritional yeast, and maitake mushrooms. It had nice flavors (strong umami from the nutritional yeast and mushrooms) and interesting textures (crunch from hazelnuts). The pasta also had a nice chewy texture.
There is a Roasts section of the menu that serves larger format meat dishes meant to serve two to three people per order (ranging from $35 for the vegetable dish to $74 for the lamb dish). Since we only had four people, we opted for variety and chose not to order a roast. However, we did see some tables around us getting roasts, and they looked beautiful. I'm sure someday if we go with a larger party we would consider trying one.
There were three desserts on the menu, so we tried them all.
Chocolate Sourdough Cake ($9) came with blackberry preserves and white chocolate butter. It was nice, reasonably dark and not too sweet.
The Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts ($9) came with cocoa nibs and a Fazenda ganache. It was fine, pretty classic, and executed well.
The Hearth Baked Fruit Crostada ($9) was the best dessert and everyone's favorite. It was not too sweet and the pear flavor was very pronounced. All in all, it had a lovely balance of flavors.
GENERAL THOUGHTS - Waypoint Cambridge
I really enjoyed this place. I'm a huge fan of seafood in general, so I love the idea of taking Michael Scelfo's creative skills and seeing what he does with seafood. We didn't try a roast, but throughout the rest of the menu, I tended to enjoy the smaller plates more than the larger plates. We were underwhelmed with both the pizza and the pasta, and the desserts were fine but nothing to write home about.
Our favorites were the really interesting snacks and small plates (Beef Tallow Peanuts, Root Vegetable Nicoise, and King Crab were my personal favorites). If I were to come again, I would be tempted to just order from those parts of the menu. Or maybe I would try a roast, which looked enticing.
In any event, it's great to have a place like this in the neighborhood. It almost makes me want to move back to my old condo again.
1030 Mass Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138