Category Archives: Porter Sq

Giulia, Harvard / Porter Sq

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Where: Giulia- 1682 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

After reading about Giulia on one of those “hot new restaurant” lists, I quickly made a reservation to go with OZT. Excellent. I had a week to pine over the menu and figure out a tactic to convince her to share a few different items with me, which it turned out was just waiting for her to make the suggestion. Great minds think alike.

Giulia is conveniently (for me) located between Porter and Harvard Squares in the old space where Rafiki briefly lived. The layout is similar but with an additional built up seating area (watch your step), open kitchen, large pasta / dining table at the back and more rustic charm. Our server told us that if you walk by Giulia during the day around 3:30 you can peek in and see the chef making all the pasta from scratch on this big table. Not sure I could resist joining if I ever caught that.

We were quickly seated and greeted by our server. He poured over the menu describing half of the menu items in great detail while we stifled our giggles at explanations of fairly well known items like “lardo”.

I still don’t understand this trend in restaurants to have the server describe each item on the menu in flowery detail. One or two items to point out fine, but if you don’t want me to read the menu for myself don’t give me one! I could have taken a nap in the time he took to finish!” – OZT.

After we were left to look over the menu, he came back and told us that he “didn’t want to previously tell us about this other item but is now ready to…”. Um, why didn’t he want to tell us before?! Did he think we weren’t worthy of knowing? Was he watching us to make sure we were sophisticated enough? Why was it some big secret?

We started with the Bruschetta with tuscan kale with house made ricotta and chilies. The bruschetta looked gorgeous with the deep green kale and bright white ricotta with little specks of chili oil. Sadly, the Bruschetta didn’t taste as vibrant as it looked – it was pretty bland. We couldn’t taste any heat, zing, or seasoning from the chilies. Nada. Salt helped a little but the Bruschetta were definitely missing something.

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We then shared two pasta plates – the lobster agnolotti (umbrian truffles, chives and lobster brodetto) and pappardelle with wild boar (black trumpet, juniper and aged parmigiano), the latter being highly recommended by our server.

The lobster agnolotti, which were like little tortellinis, came out in a delicate broth and looked divine. I couldn’t wait to get in there so I started with this one before we did the midway swap. I was pretty disappointed to find that the lobster flavor was very, very mild. I likely wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the lobster in the pasta at all had it not been for the small pieces (2) of shell I came across.

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We did the midway swap, and as soon my OZT took a bite of the lobster agnolotti she said that what she had started with, the pappardelle with wild boar, was definitely better. I couldn’t agree more. The pappardelle with wild boar was phenomenal. The pasta was perfect, the sauce rich but not heavy and boar salty and a touch gamey. Delicious. I would like another whole plate of that, please. I polished that off and then dug into the bread to get the rest of the sauce off the plate. This dish made up for the first two.

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I wasn’t too bothered with getting dessert but why not? Boy am I glad we did. We split the Panna Cotta with madagascar vanilla bean, and poached quince and it was well worth the calories. The panna cotta was nice and firm and the vanilla tickled my senses before I could even take a bite. The quince, which I realize I know far too little about, was light and a perfect contrast to the dessert.

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Overall, I’d go back to Giulia for a drink at the bar but I don’t think I would go back for dinner, at least not until they settle in and for a few months and work out a few of their kinks. Half of our meal was fantastic but the other half was lacking in flavor. The wait staff were a little too attentive which may just be growing pains, but you really don’t have to reach in front of us mid conversation to fill up our water glasses after each sip. I really wanted to love you, Giulia, but you didn’t give me much of a chance.

How did Giulia measure up? 2.5 Spoons

Cambridge Common, Harvard Sq

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Where: Cambridge Common- 1667 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138
When: September 2012

I used to be a brunch person going almost every weekend -t was my Sunday equivalent of church. I would roll out of bed, put on my Sunday worst (sweatshirt, sneaks, ponytail) and head down to Sound Bites around the corner for something delicious and typically greasy. This would usually be followed by a few hours on the sofa watching mind numbing tv as I was too full to do anything else. Why did I stop, right?

Well, I moved to a different part of town but I still jump at the chance to go out for brunch so was thrilled when a friend was in town at the last minute and suggested meeting up on Sunday morning. In shorts, tees and ponytails we headed to Cambridge Common to check out their brunch menu. We sat outside in the sunshine which was just perfect. They had me at Breakfast B.L.T.

The Breakfast B.L.T. comes with applewood smoked bacon, fried egg, avocado, baby spinach, and tomato with chipotle mayo on multi-grain toast and is served with home fries and fresh fruit. The combination of the salty bacon and egg with the buttery avocado and spicy mayo is out of this world. It’s a good sized sandwich but doesn’t leave you feeling like you just ate a whole cow. The home fries were good as well – nice and crispy.

Overall, service was good and we got plenty of coffee refills (perhaps too many even). We were happy to able to sit outside as its a little dark indoors (great for nighttime though). Food was crave worthy. I’ll be back, as I always am.

How did Cambridge Common measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

Yoshi’s, Powderhouse Sq

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Where: Yoshi’s – 132 College Avenue Somerville, MA 02144
When: June, 2012

A few days after I broke my foot a dear friend invited me over to her house (with a pick up and drop off service!) for a movie and sushi. Full of Vicodin and exhausted from carrying my weight around for the last few days I was stoked to get out of the house and have a real evening with little effort.

We ordered from Yoshi’s in Powderhouse Sq, which I hadn’t ordered from since I moved out of Somerville a few years ago. We shared an order of Gyoza and then I got the Seaweed Salad, Spicy Tuna Maki and Sweet Potato Maki. For starters, this was too much food so ended up taking the Seaweed Salad home for another time.

The Gyoza, with “meat” (what kind, I couldn’t tell you) and vegetables, were lightly pan fried and flavorful. The sauce it came with wasn’t particularily good, it tasted very watered down which made me wish I had brought my own bottle from home (from Whole Foods – its the best I’ve found). The sushi was fine, your standard fare, although definitely not our favorite. We both talked about how we prefer Blue Fin and , for me, Super Fusion – both in Porter Sq. The Sweet Potato Maki was a little dry and didn’t have that crunch from the tempura that I hoped for. The Spicy Tuna was a little on the mild side.

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Overall, I wouldn’t actively seek out or suggest Yoshi’s but for delivery its quick and adequate. I wouldn’t order from here again unless knocked out on Vicodin with a broken foot without many other sushi options around. Glowing review, eh?

How did Yoshi’s measure up? 2 Spoons!

Yoshi's on Urbanspoon

Highland Kitchen, Porter / Union Sq (ish?)

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Where: Highland Kitchen – 150 Highland Avenue  Somerville, MA
When: May, 2012

A few weeks ago the lovely Mr and soon-to-be Mrs Juddles came down to Somerville to have dinner with Libby and I. Our last dinner took us to the Gulu Gulu Cafe in Salem which is fairly close to where they live and the one before that was at my place so this time we chose a restaurant near Libby’s. What better choice than Highland Kitchen which is just a stone’s throw away! The Juddles put our name on the list and with over an hour’s wait we went to Libby’s for a few glasses of wine. When we headed back down they were just about to call us to be seated – perfect timing.

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We started with the oysters which were a special (Wellfleet maybe or am I getting my oysters confused?). I loved them, as usual, and could have eaten another dozen just on my own.

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Libby and I decided to share a couple of appetizers and then a sandwich. First we started with the Ricotta and Mozzarella Fritters with a Chile-honey dipping sauce. Oh my. These fritters just melted in your mouth and the sweet spiciness of the sauce is such a nice compliment to the salty creaminess of the cheese. I think I may get these every time I go back. The photo is a bit blurry as I may have been shaking from mild excitement.

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We then split the Smoked Bluefish Cakes with mango-mustard hot sauce and scallions. These were really good, smokey and tangy with the sauce. Light but substantial.

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Now our main course… We split the Blackened Catfish Po’ Boy that came with remoulade, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles on french bread. This photo doesn’t do it justice but you get the idea. The catfish was really nicely cooked, or fried I should say, with a crispy layer outside and nice and flaky inside. As for the remoulade, I could eat that shit by the bowlful. The bread was perfect for it as well, toasted and not too doughy. The fries were delicious. Overall, fantastic.

We decided to get two desserts to share with the table, which is always a good idea…

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The first, which Judd was adamant about (that’s praise, not judgement), was the Hot Fudge Sundae with Vanilla Ice Cream and Whipped Cream. This was good, although very melty, and I would have likely really enjoyed it if we hadn’t gotten the second dessert but it just got blown out of the water by the second one.

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Now this is the dessert that blew my socks off. Warm Banana Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream. I have been so fond of bread puddings this past year – I have got to make one at home sometime as its rare to find other foods that are as comforting. The bread pudding was firm yet totally bursting with banana and caramel flavors. The ice cream, although simple, went along with it perfectly. Yes, please.

Overall, loved everything we got to order, especially the fritters and the bread pudding. The service was great (and wine glasses quickly replenished) and Highland Kitchen has a busy but friendly atmosphere. I’d definitely go back and likely will, many times. Just beware of the wait.

How did Highland Kitchen measure up? 4.75 Spoons!

Highland Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Andy’s Diner, Porter Sq

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Where: Andy’s Diner –   2030 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA  02140
When: April, 2012

With a friend in from New York for a Kentucky Derby shing ding I thought there was no way she would drag herself out of bed (after only getting in it a few hours earlier) to have brunch with me. But she did! Originally we planed to go to Sofra but after looking over the menu we decided we wanted to try somewhere with more options (not that I would not be completely happy brunching off of donuts alone). I threw around a couple of places, one of them being Andy’s Diner in Porter Sq. I swear I had heard that this place was great as its right next to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts but I must have misheard as it was far from great.

I actually really like the atmosphere – its this unpretentious diner type place with no frills and slightly curmudgeony older waitresses. The clientele is a good mix of young hipsters and older families. The location is great. Sadly, the food was disappointing.

I got the Denver Omelet which was fine enough but bland and a bit on the dry side. The home fries that came with it were super dry and had no seasoning. I couldn’t even get them to taste good by drowning them in ketchup. Out of everything I ate mostly toast as that was the best thing that came with my meal.

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Overall, I like the atmosphere but I wouldn’t go back because of the food.

How did Andy’s Diner measure up? 1.25 Spoons!

The Elephant Walk, Porter Sq

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Where: The Elephant Walk – 2067 Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140
When: April, 2012

With the Elephant Walk just a few blocks from where I live its a wonder why I haven’t been there more than once in the last 5 years. My last experience wasn’t particularly uplifting (company, not the food or service) so had to give it another go. We had just gotten one of those groupons (what are they called when they are not from Groupon?) from Google Offers for the Elephant Walk so chose to go there the same night for dinner. Of course we forgot the actual groupon so knew we would have to go back again soon. The pressure was on to like it, knowing we’d be eating there again.

We were seated quickly and the service was excellent. Our server was really knowledgeable about traditional Cambodian food as well as French. She was able to answer Libby’s questions without missing a beat (Libby having lived in Vietnam is a lot more knowledgeable about this cuisine than I am). The space is airy and open with high ceilings. It was busy but didn’t feel chaotic. We also had the added benefit of sitting next to two ladies maybe 10 years older than us who were discussing past relationships, especially one that was particularly narcissistic. I am sure we often make our dining neighbors try to eavesdrop as well.

Libby got the Amok Royal: A Cambodian signature dish – a spicy, steamed, custard-like preparation of fresh crab, shellfish and Southeast Asian catfish with coconut milk and complex Khmer seasonings; garnished with cilantro and red bell pepper. She loved it.

I got the Crevettes Amrita: Natural shrimp sautéed in a lightly sweet and spicy Cambodian satay sauce with coriander, cumin, cardamom, galangal, cinnamon, ginger, peanuts, star anise and lemongrass; with button mushroom, onion and scallion. I barely stopped to talk during dinner, it was delicious. The portions are generous and flavors worked really well together. I’ve actually since considered getting this dish for take away as I have still been thinking about it.

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Overall, the service and atmosphere were great and our meals were both delicious. The menu is extensive so you may be in trouble if you have a hard time making decisions. We did think the prices were a little steep for a the meals. Both were excellent, as I said, but we were surprised that most dishes were close to $20 for the area and ingredients.

I was also excited to find that The Elephant Walk has a bar downstairs, I had no idea! Porter Sq doesn’t have a ton of bars that I like to go to so this is on my list as places to go for a drink or two when in the neighborhood.

How did The Elephant Walk measure up? 4 Spoons!

Elephant Walk on Urbanspoon

Temple Bar, Harvard / Porter Sq

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Where: Temple Bar – 1688 Mass Ave Cambridge, MA 02138
When: December, 2011

With my mother in town for the holidays I thought it would be fun to take her out with one of my friends. After narrowing it down to a few places we settled on Temple Bar between Harvard and Porter Squares.

I had been to Temple Bar three other times with very different experiences (food has been great each time) so why not add a fourth. The first time was about 8 years ago to meet a group of friends for drinks and apps. I remember feeling out of my element and terrified by the prices with my very barely livable salary. I sipped on one drink for about 3 hours and made sure not to touch the food (how sad). The second time was about 4 years ago on a date where we mistakenly ate copious amounts of fondue and homemade potato chips with a goat cheese dip. At the time, as vegetarians, we thought it was a genius idea but quickly regretted it. Obviously. The third time was the summer of 2010 when Daniela and I took the now Mrs. Woulfe out for a bachelorette brunch. I had the BLT which was delicious.

You know when you remember what you ate somewhere up to 4 years ago it’s gotta be good (although feeling like I might die of cheese overdose isn’t the best reason for remembering).

So this fourth visit was bound to be another memorable experience.

We ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir which was bold and warm and just right to cut through my sniffles and the chill from the rainy weather outside.

My mother was thrilled to see bavette as she hadn’t seen that on a restaurant menu in the US before. Have I mentioned that my maternal grandparents’ business in Paris is a meat distribution company? They know their meat. When googling bavette I found out that its another name for flank steak which my mum will be happy to learn as that’s fairly common here. Sad to think that a language barrier has been keeping her away from a cut of steak all these years!

So mum got the Grilled Brandt Farm Bavette Steak with Twice Baked Truffled Parmesan Potato, Summer Tomato Salad, and Mojo Vinaigrette which she raved about it. I, as usual, couldn’t decide between two dishes so my friend got one and I got the other. I got the Slow-Braised Boneless Beef Shortrib with Horseradish Mashed Potato, and Crispy Shallots and he got the Grilled 14oz Porterhouse Cut Pork Chop with Vermont Cheddar Stone Ground Grit Cake, Braised Greens, and Grilled Peach Tasso Piperade. After tasting our own we offered each other a bite and both liked the others’ better so we swapped (or he knew which I preferred and was being chivalrous). The pork chop was really juicy and tender and the peach piperade really complimented the saltiness of it. I preferred the horseradish mashed potatoes that came with the short ribs (so creamy and good) as the cheddar stone ground grit cake I got was a little dry.

For dessert we split the Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding with Ginger Caramel, and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Oh my. The ginger was really good in it, adding a little spice, balancing out the ridiculously amount of caramel we drizzled on to it. It went perfectly with a cup of bold coffee to round out the evening.

 

How did Temple Bar measure up? 4 Spoons!

Temple Bar on Urbanspoon

Super Fusion, Porter Sq

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Where: Super Fusion – 1759 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02140
When: December, 2011

I think I first really noticed Super Fusion, or “Super Fusion Cuisine III” according to their website, while sitting in the window of Beauty Spa waiting for my nails to dry back in October.  I considered getting sushi to go but was hesitant to try a new place when I knew Blue Fin was just around the corner and oh so reliable and delicious.

Dan and I decided we wanted sushi and thought we would try a new place since I’ve dragged him to Blue Fin for years. I’m really glad we did as it was excellent! The space is pretty small with about 10 tables (for two) that can be pushed together and reconfigured according to parties (we know as we had to move when a large party expanded). It was clean and friendly but not really the type of place you would want to sit at for hours sipping wine glazing adoringly at the person across the table from you (no offense, Dan).

To get to the restroom you have to go through the kitchen which I thought was sort of fun as I always like to sneak a peek at the back of the house.

Ok, so we got (in order from left to right):

- Guan Maki – Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, tobiko, sweet potato, cucumber & spicy mayo
– Snowing Maki – Spicy tuna roll topped with spicy tuna and tobiko
-Cambridge Maki – Eel tempura with cucumber, topped with tuna, torched with spciy mayo, eel sauce & tobiko
– Snow Maki – Shrimp tempura topped with snow crab, mayo, and a layer of avocado & mango

The waiter was a really sweet man who, when he saw me taking photos of the food, took out his own phone and excitedly showed me photos of food he had taken. He raved about the photo of the Spicy Ahi Tempura Roll at the Cheesecake Factory telling us how amazing it is and how the entire roll is tempuraed and deep fried. Anyone who can find a gem on a menu like the Cheesecake Factory’s is golden in my book. I was charmed by his shared excitement for food.

When he brought our food out he took the time to explain which rolls were which and what his suggested order to eat them in was. He suggested starting with the Snow Maki, then going to the Snowing Maki and then the last two could be eaten as we wished.

I LOVED the Snowing Maki. I always get spicy tuna maki so this was like that all super charged. The tuna was super fresh and it had great flavor. I also loved the Guan Maki although always have a bit of trouble with those extra large rolls and time eating them right after I ask my dinner companion a question that I know will last at least 40 seconds. I typically would have shied away from sushi with mango but I’m glad I didn’t as the Snow Maki was also very good. We both wished there was a little more avocado over the top though. The only one we weren’t big fans of was the Cambridge Maki although now that I am looking at the description and the photo I am wondering if they gave us the wrong roll as the description says its topped with tuna and spicy mayo but the fish on the top of this one clearly is not tuna. Hmmm. Anyways, whatever this roll was it was a little too fishy for both of us so we didn’t finish it.

Our waiter brought us a couple of complimentary desserts when dinner was over which was very nice of him. It was a tapioca pudding with black bean paste. Turns out I am not a fan of tapioca pudding. Turns out I do hate to make anyone feel bad after a nice gesture and will still eat something I don’t like.

Overall, I think Super Fusion gives Blue Fin a run for its money. Blue Fin has a nicer atmosphere but the sushi was equally delicious and reasonably priced, even for the big fancy rolls. I’ll definitely be going back and adding them to my contacts for when I’m getting take away sushi.

How did Super Fusion measure up? 4 Spoons!

Super Fusion 3 on Urbanspoon

Rod Dee, Porter Sq

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Rod Dee– 1906 Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140
When: December, 2011

Rod Dee opened in Porter Square, snuggled between Wok n Roll and Passage to India, last winter. Although a loss for Brookline residents when Rod Dee relocated, as I Cambridge resident I am happy to have gained some great Thai food.

The place is brightly lit, busy, and serves no alcohol. Needless to say I got my food to go.

Being ignorant when it comes to Thai food we stuck to the basics and got an order of Pad Thai with Shrimp and an order of the Green Curry with Tofu. I had never had green curry before so wasn’t sure what to expect but it was delicious and I would definitely get it again. It wasn’t spicy but was full of flavors and seemed almost creamy. The tofu and veggies came over a huge portion of rice. The Pad Thai was also really good although I am not sure I have ever had a bad Pad Thai before. Seems like everyone does it right.

In my haste to eat I forgot to take any photos but I did find this gem online that is not that dissimilar to what the reality looked like. Get in my mouth!!

I was happy to have left over green curry today for lunch, it was just as good.

How did Rod Dee measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

Rod Dee on Urbanspoon

Blue Fin, Porter Sq

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Where: Blue Fin – 1815 Massachusetts Ave Cambridge, MA 02140
When: October, 2011

Blue Fin certainly isn’t new to me, nor am I to it. I’d recognize most of the waitstaff if I say them outside the restaurant as I think at this point they’d recognize me.

On this occasion I went with Daniela for our annual tradition of sushi and manicures around my birthday (we do the same for hers). I had also been here celebrating my birthday with Libby and Dan just a week earlier and then with my Dad and Daniela again soon after. I could eat here days in a row before every wanting anything else – its that good.

The atmosphere isn’t really the greatest, it is in a mini-mall, brightly lit, and with no table cloths or anything. Oh, and there are no bathrooms in the actual restaurant so if you have to excuse yourself let your date know you may be a couple of minutes. Despite all this, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat, just maybe not on the first or second date.

The sushi is super fresh and never disappoints. The spicy tuna is bursting with fresh flavors, the shrimp and sweet potato tempura rolls are crunchy on the outside and soft and delicious on the inside, the eel is like butter that melts in your mouth.

For starters get the seaweed salad which I have recently been turned on to or if you aren’t watching your waistline try the Crab Croquettes which are deep fried balls of crab and cream cheese that will melt in your mouth. Don’t forget to dunk them in a healthy dose of Japanese mayo as if they weren’t creamy enough.

See you soon, Blue Fin.

Blue Fin on Urbanspoon