Tag Archives: kendall square

Think Tank, Kendall Sq

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Where: Think Tank– 1 Kendall Square  Cambridge, MA 02139
When: March, 2012

With our team all in town for an offsite training I was charged with choosing where we would go for dinner two nights in a row. The first night was easy, we went to Area Four right across from our office in Tech Sq. For our second night I needed to find a place  close to our office with a variety of menu options and capable of holding 14 of us. Easy! I first tried Emma’s Pizza but they don’t take reservations. Bummer. I then tried the Cambridge Brewing Company but they said they were full and couldn’t take our reservation. Mmmm ok… I love a lot of the other restaurants in that area, like The Friendly Toast, Hungry Mother, and Atasca, but didn’t think they would work for such a large group with such a variety of backgrounds and tastes. Then I remembered Think Tank. I was looking forward to trying Think Tank when it opened in June of 2010 but within a month it was flooded when Boston was hit with one of our crazy tropical storms so they had to shut down for a few months to renovate. I did go there for a drink sometime last year and played trivia at the bar which was something a little different. I remember Think Tank being really empty though so hoped it would be a bit busier this time.

We showed up for our reservation and the hostess seemed to have no idea I had made a reservation which was a little strange as I spoke to an actual person on the phone a couple days earlier (makes you wonder what the point is, right?). Regardless, they were able to quickly pull a table together and seat us in the back where we had the whole room to ourselves. Our server was awesome – he was attentive, efficient, informative, and very friendly (and even commented on my awesome Costco kids glasses – flattery will get you everywhere).

Our meals came out quickly and everyone seemed really pleased with what they ordered. We had people ordering burgers, noodles, steak, salads, pork belly, a little of everything. I ordered the Seoul Burger, the restaurants’ most popular dish (which I can now see why). The Seoul Burger is a Korean BBQ marinated beef patty with lettuce, tomato, a fried egg, with sriracha aioli, on a poppy seed bun. To round it out I got the garlic fries.

This was a damn good burger. Not your traditional burger but also not so crazy that you forget you are eating a burger. It all worked well together. The beef was cooked just the way I ordered it – medium – and the smokiness of the BBQ sauce mixed with the aioli creating this creamy sauce with a bit of a zing (there wasn’t too much of it either which is good – less is more in this case). The fries were exactly as they were described – garlicky. I’d definitely get both of these items again if I were to go back.

Overall, the service was fantastic and Think Tank has a great atmosphere. Photo booth, anyone? The downside, and maybe I’ve just been unlucky, is that it always seems really empty which doesn’t give it a very lively vibe. As we were leaving they were converting the back room into a dance area and the place was filling up quickly so I’m thinking its more of a late night spot. I’d recommend Think Tank for large groups and casual dinners with friends or colleagues. I don’t think it would be my first pick for a date night although I’ve definitely been to less romantic places.

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How did Think Tank measure up? 3.75 Spoons!

Think Tank on Urbanspoon

Firebrand Saints, Kendall Sq

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20120122-200706.jpg 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.

Service

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.

Food/Drinks

Meg: The Whiskey Smash was good enough to20120120-225321.jpg 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 20120120-225308.jpgplates, 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 20120120-225314.jpgfirst 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!

Overall

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!

Firebrand Saints on Urbanspoon

Fuji, Kendall Sq

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Where: Fuji – 300 3rd Street, Cambridge MA 02142
When: January, 2012

My heart skipped a beat when I heard that there was a new sushi place coming to Kendall Square. I LOVE sushi and could eat it every day if I had to (or even if I didn’t). I learnt from some of my twitter buddies that it had opened a few weeks ago and was eager to get over there.

Lucky for me, one of my colleagues also loves sushi so we quickly made plans to go. Coincidentally, this was during my detox week (more about that later) but on a day where I could have protein and veggies so I could make this work.

Fuji was busy which is a good thing but we also were quickly able to get a table. We were originally sat next to one of the doors but as soon as it opened with the next guests we asked to move as it was just too cold. The table we switched to was a little further away but it was still a bit chilly so if I had one suggestion for Fuji it would be for them to install a couple of those thick curtains around the doors to try to keep some of the cold out and warmth in. No one wants to eat sushi in the cold! Well, I don’t. Just my two cents.

The restaurant is clean, simple, and welcoming. An upscale sushi restaurant, somewhere you would go for a birthday lunch, with business clients (make sure they like sushi), or a nice dinner with friends. Not the kind of place where you’d see college boys doing sake bombs, not that there is anything wrong with that. The cocktail menu looked delicious but I was detoxing (and I would never, of course, drink during lunch! Right.) so slid that away from me. On to the food!

We started with the Tuna Takaki which is lightly seared tuna accompanied by wakame, julienne cucumber, and ponzu sauce. Technically I probably should have avoided the ponzu sauce and wakame but, well, if that’s my biggest detox fail then that’s OK with me. The Tuna Tataki came beautifully presented and nicely seared. The sauce was a perfect compliment being citrusy with a touch of sweet. I’d definitely get this again (or try the beef tataki next time).

For our entrees, my lunch date got the Spicy Maki Lunch which came with Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon, and Spicy California Maki. He was really pleased with it and it looked delicious (he offered me some but couldn’t do it because of the rice, sad).

Typically I would also go for spicy tuna maki so something similar but I had to avoid rice so opted for the 15 piece sashimi combo with Maguro (tuna), Sake (salmon), and Unagi (eel). The fish was super fresh and the eel was perfectly cooked. I didn’t miss the rice, avocado, spicy mayo, etc, that I usually get at all. I actually had to remind myself to slow down as not to inhale the entire dish before my lunch date touched his. The tuna, salmon, and eel all melted like butter as soon as you put it in your mouth.

Overall, the food was delicious, the atmosphere was great (but chilly), and the service was very good. It was pricey though so I can’t see going here every other day. I did see some people at the sushi bar so that might be a better option for when I just need a quick sushi fix. Or take away perhaps?

After work, while chatting with the same colleague I wondered out loud “I wonder what I will have for dinner” and he responded with a very frank “Didn’t you eat enough at lunch?”. It wasn’t until I stopped dead in my tracks with my jaw having fallen a good two inches that he realized the tragedy of what he just said. “WHAT?” I replied with. I don’t think he could hear me as he was in stitches laughing so hard while trying to apologize. For the record, a 15 piece meal of fish is NOT enough to hold over anyone for the entire day! I didn’t have any rice and even if I did one needs to eat three meals a day! Pffft.

How did Fuji measure up? 4.5 Spoons!

Kika Tapas, Kendall Sq

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Where: Kika Tapas – 9 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge, MA 02142
When: December, 2011

I’ve been walking by Kika Tapas on my way to work since they started building out the space a couple of months ago. The last month has been pretty exciting watching them install the painted wooden floors and apply the awesome “Almodovar-like” red and white wallpaper, which I love. Until I heard someone refer to the décor this way I didn’t put the connection together between the restaurant name and Almodóvar who directed the film Kika. Until I put this together I wasn’t really crazy about the name but it makes a little more sense to me now.

I saw that Kika Tapas opened last week so was excited to go there with Libby for our holiday-y dinner. I really liked the restaurant decor, its fun and funky but clean and simple, if that makes any sense at all. I dig it.

We started with a bottle of the Las Rocas Garnacha which I didn’t recognize the name of but I knew as soon as it came out that I had had it before and liked it. Its still driving me crazy as to where I previously had it.

When I was a vegetarian I used to hate going out for tapas as the table would end up sharing multiple items but with only which about 1/4 of them being vegetarian. So I’d share those and still get stuck with 1/2 of the bill and a 3/4 of an empty belly. You do the math. I now love it as I get to try so many things in one sitting instead of just having one plate of food in front of me.

We ordered the Boquerones, marinated fresh anchovy filets, while we looked over the menu. I think I have previously mentioned my newly found affinity for anchovies and you can always count on a tapas place to have them on the menu. They were garlicky and salty, just as they should be.

We then got the Gambas al Ajillo, Sizzling Garlic Shrimp, which came out just as they should – piping hot. The shrimp were really garlicky and well cooked (lucky thing we weren’t planning any canoodling with all this garlic). Next was the Ravioles de Mariscos, Lobster Crab Raviolis in a Langostino Sauce, which I think was my favorite dish of the night. I am a sucker for these rich tomato cream type sauces and this one was good. Not too heavy and just right to compliment the delicate pasta as well as to be mopped up with extra bread, one of my favorite parts of any sauce.

The next round was the Mejillones a la Salmorra, Steamed Mussels in a Spicy Tomato & Wine Sauce, which I was a little apprehensive about after my experience at Abigail’s but I am glad I plowed through it as they were really good. The sauce was, again, garlicky and a little spicy and also great to use up that second basket of bread we asked for. Last but not least we had the Queso de Cabra Montañes, Baked Goat Cheese in Tomato Basil Sauce, which surprised me every time I took a bite. I knew from the description that it was goat cheese but for some reason every time I took a bite I expected a milder cheese, like a mozzarella. Each time I was like, wow, this is goat cheese!

The only off putting part of the evening is that the waiter would only look at me when he came over to our table. Granted I did order the wine, taste the wine, and order all the food but I felt as though I was on a date and I was the man which was a little awkward. Libby ended up putting dinner on her card so there’s a lesson to you all to look at both parties in the eye when talking to them!

Overall, I loved Kika Tapas and am excited to have them in my work neighborhood. I see many lunches, drinks, and dinners happening here. Its perfect for groups, friends, or even a date (although careful with all the garlic!).

How did Kika Tapas measure up? 4.5 Spoons!

Kika Tapas on Urbanspoon

Dante, Kendall Sq, Revisited

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Where: Dante – 40 Edwin H Land Boulevard Cambridge, MA 02142
When: December, 2011

After the abrupt and sudden end to the last Dante visit I decided to go back to Dante for coffee with a colleague of mine.

I had dinner plans following our coffee date so insisted that I did not want any dessert so if he chose to get something he would be on his own. I was adamant about this. Then the jerk goes ahead and orders the Fritelle (Venetian style fried dough with four dipping sauces). Really?! Like I stood a chance… Come on!

I had to have one. Just one. Shockingly, only one. They were probably some of the best little doughnuts I have ever had. Soft little pillows of deep fried powdered goodness. I made four bites out of the little doughnut so I could try all four dipping sauces in the order that I thought would be my favorite to my least favorite: Chocolate, Vanilla, Caramel, and Raspberry. I’m actually glad I saved the raspberry for last as it was surprisingly delicious (as they all were but I don’t typically like raspberry sauce) and the tartness of it went really well with the sweetness of the doughnut. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I will definitely be getting this again and hopefully often.

How did Dante measure up? 4 Spoons!

Dante on Urbanspoon

Abigails, Kendall Sq Revisited

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Where: Abigail’s – 291 3rd Street Cambridge, MA 02142
When: December, 2011

A couple of weeks ago Mr. S and I tried Abigail’s for lunch and weren’t tremendously impressed with the food but liked the atmosphere enough that I vowed to give it another chance for dinner. So disappointed.

I came here for dinner on a Friday night after work before going to see a show with Libby. We ordered a bottle of wine, which smelled an awful lot like vinegar but was drinkable, and a few items from the raw bar and “small plates”. We had the Seaweed Salad, the Grapefruit Salmon Ceviche, and the Mussels.

The Seaweed Salad was good. Not “blow your mind” good but edible. In fact, it was the only thing we came close to finishing.

The Ceviche was terrible. If you Wikipedia “Ceviche” you’ll learn that: “The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chili peppers.” So what on earth was cooked salmon doing showing up on our plate? It was a sad plate with under-salted tortilla chips and a sparse mix of citrus fruit and salmon which looked more like cantaloupe. It was bland and totally underwhelming.

The coup d’état was the mussels which tasted like they were pulled from the Charles River (which is still bad, right?). The first one I got was empty, the second had something I couldn’t identify and later found out was pork (didn’t try eating it, was afraid it would break a tooth), the third tasted terribly off, the fourth was ok, the fifth looked green. Ok, I give up, the odds are not in my favor.

We ate the bread (yum) while we waited to awkwardly tell the server the mussels were off / terrible.

We left not necessarily hungry (we had that bottle if wine, after all) but craving more.

Overall it was a disappointing meal and I won’t be going back other than to the bar.

How did Abigail’s measure up? 1 Spoon!

Abigail's on Urbanspoon

Dante, Cambridge

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Where: Dante – 40 Edwin H Land Boulevard Cambridge, MA 02142
When: November, 2011

Around 3pm this afternoon I could feel a migraine coming on so reached for my trusty bottle of Excedrin Migraine. Then I thought better of it, I could just go get a coffee instead and see if that nips it before it gets too bad. I headed over to the Starbucks in the Cambridgeside Galleria with a colleague to find a line of about 30 people in front of us. It looked as though a tour bus had just pulled over. This won’t work.

We decided that we’d run over to Dante in the Royal Sonesta Hotel across the street as that would be quicker at this point. The place was empty which would normally be a turn off but it was 3 in the afternoon after all and that just meant quicker service. I didn’t peak into the dining area but we grabbed a seat in the loungy area by the bar. Between the throw pillows, comfy seating, and pending migraine I could have curled up in the corner there – it was very comfortable.

Two coffees, please! Oh, and look at that dessert menu… Ok, I guess we can share the Torta while we drink our coffees. Let me clarify: Chocolate hazelnut mousse cake, spiked chocolate sauce, anglaise, and caramelized hazelnuts. My head suddenly feels better already.

Just as dessert was put in front of us my colleague received an urgent message and had to leave. I was left with two cups of coffee and a Torta. I can handle that.

Actually, that’s a lie. I can’t handle that. I felt self conscious sitting there eating cake by myself so I got it to go and gave it to another colleague back at the office. I will be braver next time.

Dante on Urbanspoon

Abigail’s, Kendall Sq.

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Where: Abigail’s – 291 3rd Street Cambridge, MA 02142
When: November, 2011

I hadn’t seen a friend of mine in what seems like weeks due to our (by “our” I mean “his”) busy schedules so I was excited to go to Abigail’s for lunch before we went our separate ways for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t heard of Abigail’s before but any suggestion coming from him comes with high expectations.

I really liked the atmosphere here, it didn’t feel like your usual lunch joint, it felt special. The booths were cozy and there was great light coming in from the large on-street windows.

The raw bar looked good at a glance but with it being rainy, and one of the coldest days of the season, the last thing I could think about was something raw and cold. Skip to the Small Plates.

We decided to get a couple of small plates inside of a meal, so we could try more items. We started with the Mushroom Tart with spinach, onions, and a quail egg which was good although I think could have had more filler. More mushrooms, more onions, more quail egg. It was heavy on the crust but the flavors were there. We then had the Slow Cooked Lamb Ribs with a orange ginger-glaze served with cucumber raita. Until re-reading the description I couldn’t have told you that it had an orange-ginger glaze but not sure if that’s just because I’m not used to the strong lamb flavor. Meat on the bone probably isn’t the best idea for a lunch date but I did what I could with cutting the meat off the bone. It was ok but didn’t wow me. Not really glowing reviews so far but we were having a great time and enjoyed the food enough. But wait, here comes the 3 cheese plate. I wish I could remember what the three cheeses were but I was just so excited they served them with honey that everything the waitress said went in one ear and out the other. The combination of cheese and honey is officially my favorite thing of the week. I’m actually ok with skipping dessert when I have my little side of honey.

Looking over the menu again we agreed that none of the sandwiches really grabbed us but that we’d come back for the burgers and we would definitely come back for after work drinks or dinner as that menu looked pretty damn good.

We finished up lunch with coffees and hopes that our schedules will open up a little after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Abigail's on Urbanspoon

Art Bar, Cambridge

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Where: Art Bar – 40 Edwin Land Boulevard, Cambridge, MA 02142
When: November, 2011

This isn’t the first time I’ve been to Art Bar but it was memorable (although not necessarily for the food) and needs to be mentioned as it is a place I go to with some frequency. Not because it isn’t good but it is just down the road from my office so for a nice lunch or bite after work it fits the bill.

This time it was for a bite to eat after a few very crazy days at work. They had just renovated the back room which was cozy and made you feel as though you weren’t in a hotel restaurant. The waitstaff was friendly and even perhaps a little flirty with my dinner date but fortunately I don’t think he noticed.

We both started with their Clam Chowder which is pretty good and then he got a burger which was also good. I wasn’t as hungry as I should have been so just got another appetizer, the Sugar Pumpkin Fritters with Micro Greens and Molasses Aioli. In theory they should have been delicious with a name like that. I mean, it indicates that its sweet AND fried. How can you go wrong? Well, they were dry and pretty bland. They didn’t taste as though they had been made to order, not that they always need to be, but when you have to drink something between each bite so they don’t get lodged in your throat that’s saying something. You’d do better without those things dragging down your menu, Art Bar.

Catalyst, Tech Sq

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Where: Catalyst – 300 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
When: November, 2011

The buzz from this Tech Square restaurant had me dying to try it. I tried going when they first opened in September but, with short planning, I couldn’t get a reservation. I got lucky last night when we walked in without a reservation and only had to wait about 20 minutes, the perfect amount of time to have an aperitif.

I was excited to see what chef William Kovel, formerly of Aujourd’hui in the Four Seasons, could do and, boy, could he do.

First of all, for a place with such high ceilings it was surprisingly cozy. Then the service was phenomenal. We had a designated waiter, who I forget his name, who was very charming and attentive. It didn’t hurt that he referred to me as beautiful. Not one bit. We then had at least another 2 people wait on us. We barely noticed them coming and going but did notice that our glasses were never empty and everything ran seamlessly.

We started with the Mushroom Ravioli which were divine. It was hard to share those. My dinner date then had the Tournedos of Beef with Rainbow Chard, Taleggio Ravioli, Garlic, and Parsley Bordelaise Sauce and I had the Roasted Cod with Olive Oil Crushed Butterball Potatoes, Mussels Chowder, Bacon and Herb Nage. I can die now. His was good and all but the my dish was the kind that you wish you were eating while home alone in your sweatpants so you could lick the bowl when you are done without anyone judging you. I did what I could while in company.

Would definitely go back and, lucky me, our office is moving to Tech Sq in the Spring. Yee haw!

How did Catalyst measure up? 5 Spoons!

Catalyst on Urbanspoon