Confidence pervades imaginative creations
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge | 617-945-0221
There’s a dish that exemplifies West Bridge’s understated creativity, chef Matthew Gaudet’s exceptional command of ingredients and his willingness to use them in novel ways. But the much-lauded “egg in a jar” ($12) isn’t it. Written up in rhapsodic terms since the restaurant opened in May, this elevated breakfast in a glass might as well be a centerpiece at every table. Although indisputably delicious, a fancified egg doesn’t compare to the calamari ($13), presented as a tangle of soft noodles mixed with yellow and red tomatoes, cockles and whelks. Tasting like the apotheosis of pasta and seafood, the squid does double duty as carb and protein. Whereas the egg in a jar merges extravagant ingredients (duck egg, chicken crackling and hen of the woods mushrooms) with buttery potatoes, the comforting results could be achieved with bacon, eggs and whipped spuds. The calamari, by contrast, eludes description in its subtlety. It is and it isn’t linguini and shellfish at the same time.
The West Bridge menu is divided into three parts—small, large and to share. There’s a steep increase in price between these different sections, and while a couple of smalls ($7-$14) could satisfy one person, and a “to share” plate ($42-$45) can easily feed two, the entrees ($23-$29) yielded the least value. The duck breast ($26) arrived in three small pieces over black rice with a sprinkling of hazelnuts and a crowning of frisée. The rice was nutty and rich with the juice of the medium-rare duck. But the dish’s shortcoming was that there wasn’t enough of it.
Besides the egg in the jar and calamari, another small-plate standout was the sweetbreads ($15). Three creamy, sweet morsels came glazed with an apricot-lobster butter and dotted with cubes of blue cheese, giving the offal a pleasant tang. Of the three shareable dishes, make sure to order the lamb shoulder ($45), a huge roast of medium-rare lamb sliced into three-inch chops. Currant-red and tender, the lamb hardly needed the accompanying goat cheese or eggplant-fig purée as a sauce. It was a dish designed to conjure images of conviviality and full bellies over Sunday-night suppers.
Less successful were lunchtime offerings like the steak salad ($16), which brought an overcooked filet notable for its stringiness, and a lackluster peach pie ($6) with a dry crust. While the s’mores mousse ($7) incorporated contrasting ingredients to wonderful effect—miso-syrup providing an umami dimension to the base layers of chocolate panna cotta and house-made marshmallow—the chocolate-chip-cookie bread pudding ($7) was inedible. Three deep-fried cubes of compressed chocolate chip cookies (which seemed to be missing the chocolate) were accompanied by a mouth-puckeringly tart strawberry sauce.
But the infrequent misses were easy to overlook when perched at the bar with a glass of La Cartuja Priorat ($10) or a seasonal craft cocktail ($11) mixed by bar manager Josh Taylor, formerly of Eastern Standard. The West Bridge team clearly designed the 3,600-square-foot Kendall Square space for mass appeal: With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Hampshire Street, the long slate bar invites both after-work techies and pre-theater-goers interested in a quick bite, while the separate dining area and private room draw date-nighters and larger groups. Only a few months old, the restaurant already operates with the confidence of a neighborhood mainstay, thanks to general manager/co-owner Alexis Gelburd-Kimler, formerly of Aquitaine and Craigie on Main. The only quibble with service is that the ambitiousness of Gaudet’s food can get lost when waiters drop off dishes and walk away without explaining them. Part of the payoff of dining at West Bridge is discovering how ingredients are used in innovative ways. However casual or approachable the restaurant seems, it’s the moment of upended expectations that makes dining here worthwhile.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 11:30 am-12 am; Sat.-Sun., 3 pm-12 am | Reservations: Yes | Credit Cards: Yes
Handicapped Accessible: Yes | Parking: Garage and street | Liquor: Yes