Atasca

>>  Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I am currently in China right now and will be there for one more week. This is the third of several posts that I had prepared beforehand for when I was away. Please understand that during this time my response to comments / e-mails / etc. will be slower than normal. Finally, if you are so inclined, you can vote for me here for Project Food Blog round 2.

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It seems like virtually the entire staff at my building is Portuguese. The head concierge,
other security staff, the live-in superintendent . . . . It's one of those family things.  One refers another, and pretty soon they are all working at my building.

I absolutely love it. During our annual holiday party, one of them always makes this fantastic Portuguese dessert. They will also cater all sorts of cool Portuguese dishes, such as linguica, salt cod potatoes, and my all time favorite, pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts - sooo good!).

Not only that, since I live in Cambridge, I happen to live steps away from one of the densest Portuguese areas in the city. Towards Inman Square and East Cambridge, there are countless Portuguese restaurants (Casa Portugal, Sunset Cafe, Portugalia, just to name a few) and markets as well (Courthouse Seafood, Casal Bakery). There's even a Portuguese Credit Union, and the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers in the area.

I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring this section of town.

However, there is one place that we frequent regularly, a place that even our Portuguese staff will acknowledge is one of the best.

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I'm always surprised how easy it is to get a seat at Atasca on a weeknight. It's almost like our "back up" place if we don't feel like waiting for a seat at some of our other favorite ethnic restaurants in East Cambridge. One of my favorite things there is actually the bread. For some reason, I am severely addicted to this dense, Portuguese bread (I've seen it in Spanish restaurants too!). I absolutely cannot get enough of it!
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Fresh Grilled Sardines with Chimichurri Sauce

We decided to be adventurous and order the whole fresh grilled sardines. Apparently it's one of their more popular dishes (at least for those who aren't grossed out by eating a whole fish!). We ordered it and agreed that it was quite fragrant and well prepared, although we couldn't get past the strong smell of the sardines themselves. It's really strong, and you have to like sardines to enjoy this dish.

We ate one fish and brought the rest back to one of Bryan's friends who LOVES both sardines and Chimichurri sauce. He absolutely loved the dish.
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Arroz de Marisco
Seafood risotto with mussels, clams and squid

Bryan loves getting the "paella" here, which is very generously sized and priced. In fact, it's meant to be shared by two, and is definitely plenty of food as it is filled with all sorts of seafood.
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Roasted peppers stuffed with dry salt cod

I love salt cod, which is such a classic ingredient in Portuguese food. In this rendition, roasted peppers are stuffed with a mixture of salt cod and other aromatic vegetables. I really enjoyed this dish.
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Lobster ravioli

Although at $9 this felt slightly expensive, after one bite we realized it was totally worth it. The texture of the uniquely striped pasta was absolutely perfect (nice and al dente with the perfect chewiness). Furthermore, the lobster filling was fragrant, juicy, and all-around delicious. Everything worked perfectly with the lobster cream sauce.

We had hesitated to order this initially because it seemed to be too Italian, but the waiter actually recommended this as a great dish, and we wholehearted agree.
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And how could I forget my favorite?

Pasteis de nata! (Portuguese egg custards) - YUM! They dress up the traditional  pasteis de nata by adding blueberries, a dash of cinnamon, and an orange liqueur sauce. We both love this dessert so much we usually order one for each of us!
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Bryan tried a Portuguese rum-spiked coffee, which was interesting. I personally preferred my perfectly brewed cappuccino.

I really like this place. It has nice ambiance, good service, and excellent food. It's easy to get a table on a weeknight. Surprisingly, I don't think I've ever had to wait to get a table at this place. Although this newer larger location lacks a bit of the charm of the original Broadway location (they moved here several years ago), the food is still just as good, and the extra seating is definitely not a bad thing!

Atasca
50 Hampshire St
Cambridge, MA 02139
Atasca on Urbanspoon

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