Tavern Road

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Cochon de lait (deep fried head cheese), Chicken Rillette, Duck Prosciutto, Lamb Salumi, Lardo, Coppa di Testa ($15 for half board, $30 for full board)

It wasn’t that long ago when most people in America would be grossed out by the idea of eating chicken hearts, pig’s heads, or whole fish.

Growing up in a Taiwanese household, I was no stranger to the likes of chicken feet, pig’s ears, or fish heads on the table. However, it wasn’t until the last 5-10 years that I have started to see these items appear more often in the American upscale dining scene. In conjunction with the desire to eat local and seasonal foods, the movement towards eating “nose-to-tail” has permeated the food culture in Boston (and many other parts of the US).

Tavern Road, a new restaurant opened in February 2013 by brothers Michael and Louis DiBicarri, most certainly embraces and pushes the envelope of this movement.
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Louis DiBicarri, the chef part of the duo, is very serious about this. Louis regularly brings whole pigs, lambs, and birds into the kitchen. He makes an effort to use every part of the animal. Tavern Road often feature an “animal of the day”, a special menu of dishes all made from one animal. Louis cures his own meat, makes his own sausage, and invents all sorts of other creations using various animal parts. Tavern Road regularly host whole animal dinners based on an entire locally raised animal.

In fact, the night we were dining there, they had just done a few whole lamb dinners a couple days earlier. Above you can see Chef Louis picking and separating out the meat, eyes, and tongues from several lamb heads. [links lead to rest of my photos from this to protect those that are squeamish]

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warm fresh ricotta, cranberry jam, roasted hazelnuts, rye $12

I had an opportunity to check out Tavern Road last week during a media dinner that they hosted. It was a great opportunity not only to taste Chef Louis’s current fall menu, but also to have a chance to talk to him and learn a little about his philosophy and thoughts behind the restaurant.
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Louis shared with us a very special Whipped Lardo with Fig Jam. The lardo came from a pig that was raised by a local family who only raises a couple of pigs at a time with great care. According to Louis, these pigs are among the most beautiful ones he’s ever seen. He has started the curing process for a lot of the meat from this pig, so I definitely look forward to some really incredibly tasting prosciutto and coppa to appear in a few months!

I found the lardo to be rich, buttery, yet light and airy.
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The Sun Choke Soup ($12) was a rich, creamy soup anchored by the flavor of curry and accented by roasted walnuts and dried cranberries. It was creamy and surprisingly sweet, probably inherently from the sunchokes themselves. I found the flavors to be unusual yet interesting. I wished for just a tad more salt, though overall the soup was enjoyable.

When asked about favorite dishes of the night, more than one diner chose this soup.
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Sautéed Mussels ($14) were cooked with prosciutto in a butternut squash and beer broth and sprinkled throughout with pomegranate seeds. The salty prosciutto did a good job of balancing out the butternut squash and beer broth, which was pretty sweet. Certain bites that didn’t have prosciutto tasted too sweet and unbalanced, but the bites with proscuitto were quite good._DSC4504
I loved the Risotto of Foraged Mushrooms, a dense, creamy risotto made with marscapone cheese and topped with pine nuts and a crispy chicken skin. Even though the risotto itself was already pretty good, the crispy chicken skin elevated it to another level. I loved both the textural crunch and the savory umami that accompanied each bite with the chicken skin.

Louis makes a chicken skin BLT which he serves during lunch at TR Street Foods, the take-out lunch stand adjacent to Tavern Road. Apparently, it has quickly become one of the most popular sandwiches on the menu. I’m not surprised. That chicken skin is pretty tasty.
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Entrees at Tavern Road are pretty generously sized and do not include sides. Similar to a steak house model, you order your meat and then order sides that are easily shared. The beautiful Lamb Osso Buco ($24) was perfectly cooked and had beautiful flavors. The meat was super soft and easily fell off the bone. This dish was served over a chickpea puree with harissa and topped with Sparrow Arc radishes. Several of the diners chose this dish as their favorite.
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The restaurant had recently hosted a whole lamb dinner the previous couple nights. They had an extra leg, which they served to us. This whole Leg of Lamb is good for 2-3 people and would cost in the ballpark of $50.
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It was seriously huge. It’s hard to get a sense when it’s picture by itself, so I though I’d hold it up so you could see how gigantic it is. The leg was simply roasted and definitely had that characteristic gamey lamb flavor. I’m actually not a huge fan of that gaminess, so I didn’t love the lamb. I preferred the lamb osso buco, which was not nearly as gamey. If Bryan had been there, I’m sure he would have loved it, since he loves lamb.
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All of the sides at Tavern Road are vegetarian. My favorite was this pan fried White Sweet Potato Gnocchi ($8), which was tossed with Brussels sprouts, apples, and smoked maple. I especially enjoyed the chewy-on-the-inside yet crunchy pan-fried exterior of the gnocchi. _DSC4512
This hearty Spaetzle ($8)baked with Gruyere cheese and cherry peppers, was rich, heavy, and really reminded me of a fancy mac & cheese. It was pretty tasty though I didn’t really taste any heat from the cherry peppers. It was hard to eat more than a few bites since it was so dense. Definitely share this one. It may look small, but it’s rich!
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Roasted Golden Beets and Cauliflower ($8), served with dates and horseradish, was OK but nothing particularly special. The beets were a bit pickled (or maybe vinegared) and the horseradish flavor was pretty mild.
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All of their pastas are made from scratch in-house. The meat, of course, can come from all different sources depending on what whole animal is in the house. Pictured above is their House Made Tagliatelle with Smoky Pork Sausage Bolognese ($20). I did not get to taste this dish, unfortunately, so I can’t comment on it, though it does look fantastic. TavernRoadDessert
For a long time, Tavern Road did not have an official dessert program, offering just simple ice cream or a chocolate chip cookie at the end of the meal. More recently, they have hired a part-time pastry chef who used to work at Sel de la Terre. Now, the menu is full of comfort desserts, such as fruit tarts with ice cream, chocolate torts, various flavored ice creams, and a generous cookie plate.

Chef Louis said he wanted sundaes and cookies because “I’m a kid and that’s what I wanted.”
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I did want to mention the beverage program, run by beverage director Ryan McGrale. Ryan McGrale comes from No. 9 Park and trained with some of the best mixologists in the world in New York City before coming to Tavern Road.  I was extremely impressed with my cocktail, which is saying a lot, since I’m really picky about my cocktails (I hardly order cocktails at restaurants because I’m generally disappointed with them). They often get the overflow crowd from Drink, a craft cocktail bar just down the street, and probably surprise people with the quality of their drinks.

The server recommended that I try a drink that wasn’t on the menu. For the life of me, I can’t remember the exact ingredients, but I’m pretty sure it had maraschino, lime juice, mezcal, and aperol. It came with one of those huge ice cubes that almost takes up the entire glass. It was fantastic – definitely one of the better cocktails I’ve had in a long time.
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All in all, Tavern Road is a fun restaurant. The people are friendly, the space is fun, and the food is enjoyable. I did find the noise level of the restaurant to be just a bit too loud for conversation across larger tables (though I had no trouble hearing the girl sitting next to me).  I’m not sure if it was due to the loud music, the conversation levels, or a mixture of both.

I was most impressed with Chef Louis’s expertise on meat. The charcuterie plate was by far my favorite item on the menu, with the lamb osso buco coming in a solid second. The appetizers and sides are fun, creative, and generally solid. The drinks are also excellent.

It’s still early (Tavern Road has been open only since February 2013) and Chef Louis still has a ton of ideas up his sleeve for different fun things he wants to try at the restaurant (e.g., more whole animal dinners, a huge rotisserie in the open kitchen, etc). It’s refreshing to see such excitement and energy, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Tavern Road 343 Congress St
Boston, MA 02210
Tavern Road on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer – the cost of this media meal was paid for by Tavern Road.

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Comments

  1. Molly Galler says

    Jen – gorgeous photos, as always. Thrilled to make two small cameos in the pics! It was so lovely to see you again.

  2. Philip S. Hou says

    I just made my first pilgrimage to Jiro today. It was a surreal experience. They take credit cards now! The menu I had was almost identical to the one you posted.

  3. Jennie says

    Hi Frances, how far in advance did you book for Jiro? :) Did you ask the hotel concierge to book for you when you arrived at the hotel or beforehand via email or phone? Thanks!

  4. says

    Thanks! Best of luck with all your booking! I was able to book Mizutani not too long ago and it wasn’t terribly difficult. My new Japan series is just starting again. Enjoy!

  5. says

    Hi Claudia,
    The meal will cost close to $300-$350 per person and you need a local Japanese speaker to at least make the reservation for you, although you don’t necessarily need to bring that person to the meal.
    Jen

  6. Frances Fung says

    Now Jiro only takes reservation starting the 1st day of the month before the month you want to go, meaning if you want to go any day in December, you have to reserve starting 1st of Nov. But it’s getting so popular now, it’s almost impossible to get in. And on the 1st of the month, their phone line is so busy that it’s hard to get through. For instance, for this coming December, everything is fully booked since Nov 1st. Unless you are Japanese living in Japan, for foreigners, they only take reservation from hotel concierge. Here is the website. http://www.sushi-jiro.jp/e-contents/e-omise.html

  7. Frances Fung says

    In my case, I was at Jiro in Dec 2012, I had my hotel concierge book the table for me. I was there with my aunt, both of us foreigners. I didn’t put down any deposit for the booking and they didn’t ask me to.

  8. Josh Berman says

    Would it be possible to go there if you do not speak english. Do they treat you differently if you are not of asian descent?

  9. Monsta Ward says

    I’m sure that there have been people who have made reservations only to not show up (hence all the fuss about reservations). Jiro-san is a serious man who should be treated as such, not just some curiosity for some cretinous tourists. I’m sure the hassle was well worth it.

  10. Jaideep Pradhan says

    I had lunch at Jiro’s last Wednesday and Dinner at Mizutani last Monday and both were amazing. I traveled to Tokyo from Manila only to eat at these two places and to see Eric Clapton live at the Budokan, The trip was truly a heavenly experience. I had made the reservations thru the concierge at the Ritz Carlton and didnt have to pay any deposit. Mizutani accepts only cash but Jiro accepts cards now. I had booked for 4 at Jiro’s but my other buddiles bailed at the last minute so I paid for 4 ( ~ US$ 1,200.00 ) and lunched alone and still came out feeling that I had got my moneys worth! I was also extremely lucky coz it was just me and my wife dining at Mizutani and there was no other customer while we were there so we got to chat with him thru his assistant and his wife and all of them were really nice. Again at Jiro’s I was the only one being served so I had one on one time with Jiro and he was extremely hospitable and constantly in dialogue thru his assistant who spoke english. On the whole I came back feeling blessed. I will keep going to both the places time and again. My next trip will be with my son and that too only to eat at Mizutani and Jiro!

  11. says

    Wow! I can’t believe you paid for four and lunched alone! So glad to hear you had a good time, and it’s great that you were able to talk to them through their assistants. I really enjoyed my conversations with Mizutani, though I didn’t really get to talk to Jiro since it was busy that day.

    Thanks for sharing your unique experience!

  12. says

    Yes. It’s easier if you go with a Japanese friend who can translate for you. However, there are definitely examples (e.g., read some of the other comments here) of non-Asian foreigners who were able to enjoy a good meal w/o knowing Japanese.

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