Egg in a Jar at West Bridge
by MC Slim JB
| June 25, 2012
Photo: JOEL VEAK
Not very long ago, Kendall Square became a desert every weeknight, as thousands of nearby office workers fled the area at the stroke of six. Who could blame them? The neighborhood had barely any worthy dining and drinking destinations. But a dozen terrific places have opened there in the past year, many of them reviewed in this column, though frankly we’ve wondered when the winning streak might end. West Bridge (1 Kendall Square, Building 300, Cambridge, 617.945.0221) won’t be that failure: it’s a terrific independent effort doing original, French-leaning, locally sourced New American cuisine.
The look is familiar in a neighborhood where many restaurants occupy ground-floor spaces in modern office buildings: soaring ceilings, reclaimed wood, industrial metal finishes, many tall windows, a cozy patio. The first-rate craft-cocktail program is helmed by Josh Taylor (ex-Eastern Standard) and features inventive specialties like the Wheelwright ($11), a superb aperitif made with fino sherry, Dolin bianco, Galliano liqueur (which lends a radioactive yellow tint), and Wray & Nephew overproof rum. A small plate of crispy pig’s head ($13) obviates any potential offal horror by rendering it as a puck coated with crunchy batter; mustard aioli and tart little cubes of pickled rutabaga provide a lovely counterpoint to its faintly gamy notes. Dandelion ($11), falsely advertised as “small,” features spiky, slightly metallic, grassy dandelion greens, darkly rich and moist duck confit, bitter greens, and tart, firm gooseberries. Any two of those elements pair beautifully; in total, they’re a minor symphony. This big salad goes nicely with a glass of draft sparkling wine(!): Montelvini prosecco ($8) is a lightly acidic, gently fizzy, and bargain-priced refresher.
The highlight of dinner is less conventional: egg in a jar ($12), a gently poached duck egg served in a miniature mason jar, floating in a suspension of pomme purée, layered with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and topped with crunchy, flat shards of fried chicken skin, meant to be gently stirred to combine. It’s slightly absurd in its faint echoes of baby food, but the contrasting textures and flavors of the creamy potatoes, runny yolk, earthy fungi, and crisp skin offer a dreamy comfort that the overused term “comfort food” doesn’t begin to approach. Maybe infantilization is the point: this dish can make you coo like a contented newborn. Chef Matthew Gaudet doesn’t always veer so far afield of convention, serving plenty of entrées centered on beautifully plated slabs of protein like Arctic char ($25) and bone-in ribeye ($53, serves two). But his early efforts here show a confidence and wit that makes West Bridge a worthy competitor to nearby indie-chef smashes like Bergamot and Bondir, raising Kendall Square’s newfound game to a pricier, more refined level.