>> Friday, August 24, 2012
This is the third restaurant post in the new series, Welcome to My New Hood. Other posts in this series: Rafiki Bistro and Super Fusion Sushi.
I utterly can't believe it, but it's been just a little over a year since we moved into our our new place just north of Harvard Square.
This most certainly confirms that I am guilty of being just a tad sluggish on this "Welcome to my New Hood" Series. It isn't that I haven't been chowing down around my home (I have!). It's just harder to get inspired about my neighborhood joints when photos from trips like New York, Rome, Napa Valley, and Las Vegas vie for my attention.
But that's no excuse. There are some real gems just around the corner from where I live. I had originally expected to be secluded on my woodsy, tree-lined street, far away from any restaurants. I was pleasant surprised to find out how many really cool places are within a 5-minute walk from my home.
Temple Bar is one of these.
Temple Bar is owned by the Grafton Group, a group that also owns Park, Russell House Tavern, and Grafton Street Grill. The gastropub offers what it calls "modern American cuisine" with a focus on "seasonal, New England flavors at reasonable prices."
This place serves solid food at reasonable prices. It's a great reliable standby on those nights when we don't feel like cooking and don't feel like going out very far.
Have you ever tried a barrel aged cocktail? We certainly had not, and Bryan was most definitely intrigued by it. Hugh Reynolds, former bar manager at Temple Bar, had begun playing around with aging cocktails in charred oak barrels in order to round out and mellow the flavors of the alcohol.
Reynolds was the first in Boston to do this. Since then, other craft cocktails places, like Drink, have joined in on the fun. Though Reynolds is no longer at Temple, bar manager Alex Homans (from Russell House Tavern) continues the tradition.
The food at the Temple Bar is supposed to be "Modern American", though executive chef Greg Boschetti injects influences from many other cultures. Chef Boschetti trained under French chef Paul O'Connell at Chez Henri and Tom Berry (a "trailblazer" in Asian inspired bistro cuisine) at Temple Bar. As a result, don't be surprised if you see French, Asian, or other worldwide touches in his food.
For example, the Yuzu-Ginger Salmon Poke reminds me both of Japan and Hawaii. Chef Boschetti's version sits on top of a spicy cucumber salad and is topped with avocado mousse and shiso (one of my favorite Japanese herbs). The overall flavors of this dish are reasonably enjoyable and refreshing on a hot day.
Bryan loves duck, and he enjoyed this flavorful Tea Smoked Duck Salad. Thin slices of tea smoked duck breast are served over a healthy bed of arugula together with thyme roasted pear, candied pecans, and caramelized blue cheese in a roasted shallot-ginger vinaigrette.
The Slow-Braised Boneless Beef Shortrib is hearty and satisfying. It comes on top of horseradish mashed potato and is served with crispy shallots.
The White Truffle Pizza sounded promising, with avocados, tear drop tomatoes, baby Arugula topped with balsamic vinegar and white truffle oil. I couldn't really taste a strong white truffle essence. The crust was fine, but this dish did not particularly stand out.
We came back another time for brunch, where we started out by munching on complimentary baked muffins and coffeecake.
The House-Smoked Pastrami Reuben is great (and HUGE!). It comes stuffed with braised sauerkraut, house Russian dressing, and Gruyere.
I order the House Citrus & Fennel Salmon Gravlax, which comes with a toasted bagel, caper-herb cream cheese, and slices of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. The fennel and citrus cured gravlax is delicious (I do have a weakness for gravlax and love making it at home), and I enjoyed making little bagel sandwiches with it.
In general, we enjoy going to Temple Bar. For a neighborhood restaurant, it delivers a nice combination of quality food, reasonable prices, and an interesting cocktail list. Usually the service is fine, though we have on occasion found it frustratingly slow.
Is it a destination-worthy restaurant?
Likely not - but only because I think Boston has a lot of really, really good gastropubs (heck, I used to have one within a 2-minute walk from home!). It's one of Boston's strengths in the dining arena - we have a lot of cozy little gastropubs that serve excellent beers and very good New American food. We're really fortunate in Boston that way. Perhaps it grew out of the Irish pub culture of a former generation.
More likely than not, you probably already have your own little gem of a "neighborhood pub" near by.
I'd love to hear about your favorite neighborhood gems. Please do share below in the comments section!
Cambridge, MA 02138