In summertime, a bite of something cool and light doesn’t have to mean a salad. Meet some of the most interesting—and delicious—crudi, crudités, tartares and ceviches on menus right now.
Rachel Klein proved her artistry in the kitchen at the Mandarin Oriental. With a new canvas at Liquid Art House, she’s in full mastery of her medium—as shown by this swathe of pale hamachi with a curl of compressed green papaya and paintbrush dabs of black garlic. “I’m cooking for myself,” she says. “But I think it will resonate with people.”
The dish was originally conceived as a sea bass crudo, but imported Japanese hamachi proved more economical and brighter on the palate. The quick-pickled papaya is a clean base for the fish, while smoked lemon and cilantro hoist it with citrus notes. Ginger gives it snap. The effect is light and impressionistic, but you should also sample the heavier tones of the menu’s tuna tartare with pickled shiitakes, or the flagrantly sexy smoked sable with beet and sour cream.
$17 at Liquid Art House | 100 Arlington St., Boston | 617-457-8130 | liquidarthouse.com
Presentation is one of Robert Sisca’s many culinary strengths, and this creative use of lamb loin is no exception. Plated on a rectangular slate and accented with pistachio nuts and chives, the diced lamb arrives in a dainty brick, fanned with toast points. Mixed with black truffle, Anjou pear and a vinaigrette of mustard, sherry and red wine vinegars, truffle jus and olive oil, it’s the sort of dish that makes people instantly reach for their camera apps.
“It’s one of our top sellers,” Sisca says. “At first, people were like, they’d never heard of it. Now it’s on the tasting menu.” Fresh lamb, while hardly gamey, is more aromatic than beef. Combined with the perfume of the truffles, it makes for a lilting and complex dish. Pair it with a glass of Nerello Mascalese from Sicily for proof that raw can taste more nuanced than any grilled chop.
$14 at Bistro du Midi | 272 Boylston St., Boston | 617-426-7878 | bistrodumidi.com
A couple of months after opening his Neapolitan-style eatery, Todd Winer, formerly of the beef-centric Met Restaurant Group, says he never wants to flip another burger. “I love the simplicity of country cuisines,” he says. Hence the wood-burning stove at the heart of Pastoral, which turns out everything from pizzas to chicken wings to whole fish.
But one of his most intriguing dishes doesn’t use the stove at all—namely this raw fish confection laced with a reduction of Campari. “A lot people have their go-tos of salmon, tuna, mackerel, hamachi. There’s an unreasonable prejudice against albacore.” The fish’s neutrality gets an umami lift from a base of paper-thin mushrooms. Bonito touches it with smoke, while grapefruit, preserved lemon and citrus oil give it a bitter edge. “It’s complex, but with simple flavors. Your brain and your tongue understand it immediately.”
$14 at Pastoral | 345 Congress St., Boston | 617-345-0005 | pastoralfortpoint.com
Steak tartare is a textural dish—uncooked beef has a mild taste, so the capers, onion and seasonings give it form on the palate, while the raw egg adds unction. Sarma’s Cassie Piuma rejects tradition for flavor.
“It’s all about the vinaigrette,” she says. “It’s inspired by a traditional sauce from the Kerkennah Islands off the coast of Tunisia. They’re known for their abundant caper bushes.” In addition to capers, her sauce uses fresh tomato, red chilies, coriander, caraway and the expected jolts of olive oil, vinegar, parsley, cilantro and lemon. The beef is hand-diced top round, garnished with a pillow of grated soft-boiled egg and harissa pita chips. “It’s salty, briny, spicy and acidic, but bright with fresh herbs,” Piuma says. “It’s got everything covered.”
$14 at Sarma | 249 Pearl St., Somerville | 617-764-4464 | sarmarestaurant.com
When Will Gilson opened his Inman Square restaurant, one of the inaugural dishes was buttered radishes on toast. “Then we realized people in Boston don’t eat radishes in butter,” he says. They do, however, eat crudités with onion dip, so he reinvented it for fine dining. “It’s not like you’re buying it from Shaw’s.”
Charring spring onions until they’re blackened, he mixes them with house mayonnaise, sour cream and French sheep’s milk feta. Then he smears the concoction on a piece of tile and plants it with raw baby turnips, radishes, carrots, sugar snap and snow peas and asparagus. (Sourcing is local, naturally.) Sprinkling the construction with toasted pumpernickel and brown butter, he creates a tiny, edible garden plot. “People dig it,” Gilson says. “I want to get people excited about just eating vegetables, so we do Market Mondays, writing the menu based on what’s fresh.”
$8 at Puritan & Company | 1166 Cambridge St., Cambridge | 617-615-6195 | puritancambridge.com
Sliced razor clams from Island Creek form the base of this wildly flavorful ceviche from Tico executive chef Leo Asaro. “The shellfish isn’t super fishy, like salmon,” he says. “But it stands out, and you know what you’re eating.” You couldn’t mistake it on sight, either. Jeweled with reds and yellows, the ceviche arrives in three gray razor clam shells roosting in a bed of glittering ice. This is a dish that turns heads.
Says Asaro, “It gets lime juice, diced pineapple, cilantro, pickled red onion,” plus Aleppo pepper and pineapple gel for added kick. “It needs to be cold and refreshing, but have spice and acidity. Fresh grated horseradish on top drives it home.” It is, indeed, a home run, and the thrumming dinner scene shows diners concur. Asaro’s ceviche program also includes scallop, shrimp, salmon and tuna versions, but the clam’s the big seller, with the kitchen slicing up to 20 pounds per week.
$11 at Tico | 222 Berkeley St., Boston | 617-351-0400 | ticoboston.com