Where: Firebrand Saints – 1 Broadway, Cambridge MA 02142
When: January, 2012
I had never even heard of Firebrand Saints until Meg mentioned wanting to try it out a few weeks ago. After googling it I learnt it is literally 2 blocks from where I work, right in Kendall Sq. How did it sneak by without me detecting it?
Meg and I decided to do a joint review, keeping reading!
Overview / Decor
Meg: Obviously fitting very well into the whole Kendall Square techno-chic aesthetic that’s going on in all these new places. I actually found it to be much cozier than I expected.
Me: Based on the online menu I thought Firebrand Saints would be a little more casual than it was. It’s definitely not “fancy” but it’s cozy and trendy in a non pretentious way. It made me regret my decision to wear my bulky snow boots, glasses, and comfy sweater.
Meg: Although I know some reviews have faulted the service for being slow or inattentive, I thought this was one of the high points of our experience. I was really impressed with our waiter–he was friendly and attentive, without being intrusive; he gave substantive menu suggestions; he noticed my drink was done even before I did. The pacing of everything was good. I felt like it was efficient without being rushed, and even though it was filling up on a Friday night, I didn’t feel rushed to finish my drink at the end of the meal so they could get us out to turn the table over.
Me: We were seated quickly and greeted by our friendly waiter. While we waited for our cocktails (another Pimm’s Cup for me and a Whiskey Smash for Meg) we asked our waiter what his favorite eats are. He immediately said their burgers are fantastic and then went though pointing randomly at items on the menu saying this is good, that is good. Ok, so what don’t you like? This a risky question and typically I don’t get an honest answer so I was charmed that I did. He said he wasn’t a huge fan of the roast beef au jus sandwich (because of the bread choice) and he didn’t think the poached lobster was worth the price tag. Excellent! Well, I’m not getting the roast beef then. I appreciated his candidness.
Meg: The Whiskey Smash was good enough to have 2. Enough said. I feel a little silly reviewing it without trying the burgers, but if you’re not Five Guys or Four Burgers, why be a one-trick pony? Arugula salad: Nothing I couldn’t have made for myself, but a good balance of bite from the lemon juice and pepper, and a generous amount of shaved parmesan, without overwhelming the greens. Buffaloed rock shrimp: Delicious, with just the right amount of vinegar-y tang and spice from the hot sauce. Cooked just right, giving the shrimp that done-but-firm mouth feel, without making them soggy or mealy, which can happen when this dish is an afterthought in the menu. I still am not clear what the side produce was, but it was a cooling and enjoyable alternative to celery and bleu cheese. It was a great shared plate. Porchetta plate with kale and polenta: Perfect dish for a cold Friday night. The porchetta had just the right level of salt and tenderness, although I did find a few pieces to be somewhat dry, and would have liked the meat to have retained a bit more moisture. The kale was braised nicely, perhaps in a cider vinegar? I wouldn’t have eaten a ton of it on its own as a side, but especially when eaten in the same bite as the porchetta and perfectly creamy polenta, it made all three elements of the dish much stronger, even, than they were individually. The Captain Planet of porchetta plates, if you will. Steak fries: really more like a potato wedge, and I bet they really round out the burgers. Just the right amount of salt and perfectly cooked (not too firm, and left with that satisfying brown crispiness, without becoming mushy in the middle). Dessert: the only dessert choices are a selection of pies featuring Russell Orchards fruit (which, to be fair, could be outstanding) and ice cream. I’m torn about what to say on this matter, because on the one hand, g’head and do your thing, Firebrand Saints! You are for meat! If you want dessert, walk your butt over to the Cheesecake Factory or something. On the other hand, it felt like the Restaurant Wars episode of Top Chef where everything is chugging along beautifully until someone is like, “I think we can just get by with some ice cream and shaved chocolate, right?” I didn’t feel disappointed or unfulfilled at the end of the meal, but I probably would have dropped another $6 on a bread pudding or profiterole, given the option.
Me: Before we went I did the usual looking over their menu online trying to narrow down what I will get (otherwise expect dull conversation for the first 10 minutes of dinner as I’m a terrible decision maker). I knew what I wanted – the roast beef au jus sandwich. I hadn’t had one of those since pre-vegetarianism so it must have been about 7 years. It’s time. My decision was quickly thrown out the window once the waiter told us that it was his least favorite on the menu. I was grateful that Meg wasted to share a few items as it made the decision easier. Porchetta plate with kale and polenta: I’m a big fan of the other white meat so quickly agreed to this option. The kale may have converted me to a kale-liker as until then I would have never ordered it. It was braised really nicely and a wonderful compliment to the saltiness of the porchetta. The p olenta was so creamy and cheesy, I could have eaten a soup bowl of it. The star of the dish, the porchetta, was… Fatty. I didn’t know a whole lot about porchetta other than it being pork so wasn’t sure what to expect but it was a lot fattier than I expected. Not like ‘I need to run an extra mile tomorrow’ but like ‘I can’t bring myself to swallow this’ fatty. After a little table side googling we did find out that porchetta is generally very fatty so not sure I can fault Firebrand Saints for this, it’s just not my thing. Buffaloed rock shrimp: YUM! I loved this dish! I’m a big fan of buffalo shrimp which you don’t find that often (why aren’t they as popular as buffalo chicken?) so was very pleased to find this. The shrimp were light delicate little things lightly coated in buffalo sauce drizzled with a blue cheese fondue. Delicious. I could eat this again and often. It came with a refreshing salad that I believe was maybe celeriac and celery but I’m not really sure to be honest. Steak fries: These “fries” were monsters at about a quarter of a potato each. They were crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside. Hearty, filling and satisfying. Dessert: Anytime I go out to eat I think of it as a special occasion and since desserts are for special occasions we asked what they had. I don’t remember exactly what they offered but all I heard was “pie, pie, pie, pie, and ice cream.” They need a little something chocolatey on there!
Meg: Overall, I enjoyed the atmosphere, and thought it was a great value. I would definitely come back for burgers. 4.25 Spoons (for the dry porchetta and on behalf of folks who don’t really like pie).
Me: I would and will definitely go back soon whether it’s for a drink and app at the bar or a burger for lunch or dinner. How do I think Firebrand Saints measured up? 4 Spoons!