Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Craigie on Main: Birthday Dinner

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an event at Central Bottle where Chef Tony Maws of Craigie on Main made a few delicious cicchetti. The night after that event, I again saw Chef Maws at his restaurant, where I celebrated my wife's birthday. Though I have dined there previously, my wife had not yet been there and was eagerly looking forward to dinner.

We began with a couple cocktails while we perused the menu. The Northern Lights is made from Douglas Fir, St. Germain, Scotch, citrus, and Bittermens Tiki. A delicious smoky and herbal cocktail with hints of citrus. The Jerez Flip is created from oloroso sherry, Pimm’s, Benedictine, and an egg. It was a bit creamy, with lots of nutty flavors, and would have also made a good after-dinner drink. Craigie has a very creative cocktail list, seasonally revised, and well worth checking out.

For dinner, to best sample the cuisine of Chef Maws, we decided to order the Six-Course Tasting Menu ($90/person). This menu is at the whim of the chef so you never know what you might get. And many of the dishes may not even be on the regular menu. They do ask you about any allergies, as well as whether you object to certain types of foods, such as organ meats. We had no issues with either allergies or dislikes, so we looked forward to see what we would be served.

I would recommend that even if you are a bit squeamish about certain foods, like organ meats, that you still order the tasting menu as is. Chef Maws prepares such items in a compelling way that is likely to appeal even to those diners who might not usually enjoy those foods. To me, if a chef can prepare foods that I normally dislike in such a way that I actually enjoy those foods, then he is a very talented chef. And Chef Maws fits that criteria.

(I will note that as this was a celebration, I did not take notes or photos of the food, so everything is by memory and a few details may be missing.)

As a prelude, we were brought an Amuse Bouche, three small bites, including a big eye tuna rillette, monkfish liver, and salt cod brandade. Tasty and diverse bites, initiating my taste buds for the meal to come.

Our first course was Hirmasa Sashimi, yellowtail amberjack, which is different from the Hamachi that you most often see at sushi restaurants. I don't recall exactly what was on the hirmasa, but it made for a nice mix of textures and flavors. That would be a common theme throughout the dinner, a fine combination of flavors and textures due to an expert blending of ingredients. These combinations elevated each dish above the ordinary.

Next up were Grilled Dayboat Monkfish Cheeks, which had a very different texture from the usual monkfish I have tasted before. Though I dont recall before ever having eaten the cheeks. For cheeks, they certainly were meaty, tender and flavorful. They almost looked like little veal cutlets.

The third course was superb, and not what you might have expected. It seemed like a simple dish, a Small Lasagna, but was loaded with flavor. Thin, circular sheets of pasta sandwiching homemade sausage and fresh melted mozzarella. The pasta was perfectly cooked, with a bit of crispness. The gooey cheese and flavorful sausage were delicious accompaniements to the pasta. It was the type of dish that nearly made me moan with delight.

Then the Pork Belly arrived, with chestnuts, pomegranate, and a burnt caramel sauce. Who can dislike the smoky, silky fat pork belly? The chestnuts added some nice nutty and crunchy texture to the dish and the sauce provided some smoky sweetness. I really love pork belly and Chef Maws definitely knows how to properly prepare it.

For the final savory dish, there was Lamb Three Ways, including a lamb chop, sweetbreads and a loin. Lamb too is one of my favorite meats so this dish really pleased me. All of the meats were cooked just right, being tender, flavorful and well spiced. A fine ending to our line of savory treats.

Our first dessert were two different Tea Panna Cottas, one a green tea and the other a rooibus, each infused with fruit flavors. A creamy delight, with a definite tea taste and hints of citrus, the tastes blending well together, none overpowering the dessert.

For a second dessert, we received two different ones. There was an Olive Oil and Taza Chocolate Mousse with a walnut coulis. Taza is made locally in Somerville, an interesting stone ground chocolate. This mousse was creamy, and thinner than other mousses. It was more like a pudding in consistency, and its rich chocolate flavor was quite good. The other dessert was a Parfait sandwiched between two thin cookies. Creamy but thicker than the panna cotta, the parfait was also very good.

As a final treat, we received cups of Valrona hot chocolate with ancho chile. Rich and sweet but with a spicy kick. A fine ending to a fantastic meal.

Service was excellent, and though Sarah (sp?) was our primary server, it was a team effort with several others helping out over the course of the evening. Overall, the dinner was excellent, a fine mix of dishes without a mistep. Chef Maws is very talented and creative, and this meal continued to confirm my esteem for his culinary prowess. My wife was extremely pleased with her birthday dinner, and we will both return again. Craigie on Main is an ideal place for a celebration, as well as just a great place to have a delicious dinner.

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street
Cambridge, MA
Phone: 617-497-5511

1 comment:

The Wine Whore said...

Happy B-Day to your wife! This sounds like a great way to celebrate!