>> Thursday, May 17, 2012
When I was in college at MIT, dining choices around campus were really, really slim. We usually ordered out from places like Quan's Kitchen, Pu Pu Hot Pot, or Mary Chung. For Italian, we would trek all the way to Bertucci's or Cinderella's on Main Street (a pretty far walk from west campus dorms!). Once in a blue moon, we would hop on the T and go to Chinatown or the North End.
How much more fortunate are today's students! In the past two years, Kendall Square has transformed from a hungry, relatively food-starved techland to a vibrant area hailed by many to be the "next hot restaurant neighborhood."
So many new restaurants have moved into the area recently. Lucky students even have a great boba place virtually on campus.
I've tried Abigail's, Area Four, EVOO, Catalyst, and Think Tank. Mead Hall, Fuji, Voltage Coffee (and many others, I presume), are still on my "to try" list. It's hard to keep up with all the openings.
A couple weeks ago, we came one step closer trying all these new offerings in Kendall. After hearing great things about Firebrand Saints, a friend asked us if we wanted to try it together. Within two hours of that phone call, we found ourselves in Kendall Square, ready to check out yet another new restaurant.
Located virtually at the foot of the Longfellow Bridge at the edge of Cambridge and the Charles River, Firebrand Saints is a collaboration between MIT and Gary Strack of Central Kitchen. The dining room is as much a technoart gallery as it is a dining space. Gary Strack has partnered with several different artists to deliver art in many different forms.
I love the space the moment I enter it. A clean, open loft-like space beckons me in with cool graffiti art on the walls and an ever changing sketch of black and white cityscapes projected on the wall.
Above the bar, a row of TV screens light up. One shows the actual broadcast, while the other four project artistic interpretations based on the broadcast, whether it be text or visual modifications.
We start with these lovely Deep Fried Battered Onions which come with a side of scallion buttermilk dressing. A fancy "tempura-style" version of onion rings, this starter consists of a variety of members from the onion family, all fried to perfection. My favorites are these fried, long green strips, probably either scallions or garlic scapes. Whatever they are, they are fragrant, punchy, and delicious.
The FbS Style Deviled Eggs are filled with bacon and blue cheese, adding a strong, flavorful kick to an otherwise ordinary starter.
Bryan quips, "How can you go wrong? Add bacon and blue cheese to eggs, it's bound to taste good."
Our friend orders the Spit Roasted Lemon Sage Chicken, which comes with a side of fingerling potatoes and broccoli rabe. I do not taste his meal, but he seems quite pleased with it.
I order the Roman Style Porchetta Plate, which is rolled up with chopped kale inside and served alongside soft polenta. I order a tiny simple arugula salad on the side.
Though the flavors are pretty good, the porchetta is uneven - some parts (the fatty ones) are reasonably moist while others are a bit dry. It is nowhere as good as the crispy, juicy, heavenly porchetta sandwich I enjoyed in San Francisco at Roli Roti. As for the sides, the polenta is creamy and flavorful and the arugula salad is citrusy bright and refreshing.
Bryan orders the Lamb & Sirloin Burger, which is topped with spicy pickles, frisee, and harissa aioli. The burger is wonderfully juicy and perfectly cooked.
Overall, even though I'm not a huge fan of lamb, I like his burger better than my porchetta because it is so well executed. I like the spicy kick from the pickles and the harissa (a Tunisian hot chili sauce).
The dessert menu is simple, with your choice of a fresh baked pie from Ipswich, MA and/or ice cream from Coop's Ice Cream in Harvard Square (in the old Herrell's location). The pies are excellent (wonderful crust, not-too-sweet, fresh fruit), and the ice cream is solid.
Overall, we had a really great time at Firebrand Saints. The prices are reasonable, the food is pretty good, and the ambiance is really special. If I were to return, I would probably skip the rotisserie offerings and instead focus on trying a burger and sampling some more of their interesting appetizers.
I'm excited that Kendall Square continues to grow with these great restaurant choices, and I really think this is just the beginning. I can't wait to see what the neighborhood will hold in another year or so.
Cambridge, MA 02142