Tracy Chang constantly fieldsthe same question, especially now that PAGU is set to open in December on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. “People say, ‘Oh, have you gotten the menu done yet?’ ” Chang says. “I’ve been working on the menu all my life. Of course I have the menu done.”
With plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, that menu will be quite extensive once PAGU is operating at full strength. All the items will have some Spanish or Japanese influence or ingredients, with Chang aiming for an izakaya-meets-tapas spot, serving small plates as well as large shareable items. Breakfast will include dishes such as a wafflato—a potato-based waffle made with egg and smoked mozzarella—and a congee bowl with cured pork and a 62-degree egg. Lunch items will range from a soy-braised pork-belly bao to croquetas such as curry crab and bacalao. The dinner menu is set to include a Cornish hen with sticky rice, squid-ink oyster bao, Guchi’s Midnight Ramen (from her former pop-up) and a childhood favorite: fried rice with Taiwanese sausage, peas and scallion oil.
“Fried rice was the first thing I ever learned how to make, and it was before I was tall enough to reach the stove. It was something I could do with my parents every Sunday,” Chang says. “ We still like to make fried rice and make it the best we can, and each time better.”
Chang has a backstory for just about every dish at PAGU. A quick rundown of the dessert menu has her reminiscing about making matcha cookies in college and harking back to a black-sesame pudding made with tofu that she cooked up while working at O Ya.
“I end up being obsessed about what I’m cooking, and I try to make my own version of it,” Chang says. “It’s like, ‘Hey, this is something we’re studying, where we’re trying to recreate a technique or we’re trying to pull all the dairy out of it and use whipped tofu.’ ”
Diners will get a good look at Chang and company at work in the open kitchen, lined with a 14-seat counter and set at the heart of the 100-seat space. A bar stocked with sake and basque cider, among other offerings, runs along the left side of the space, and banquette seating as well as hightops and lowtops fill the rest of the restaurant, including a 20-seat dining room that can be closed off for private events. A 60-seat patio is expected to lure folks during the warmer months, and to-go items and coffee will be available from a few carts near the door so customers can pop in quickly for breakfast and lunch.
“It’s intentionally designed so that people can interact around the cart. I want to see if it works,” Chang says. “We’re taking a page from the Apple store design model, where you’re standing around something together and looking at it together. You’re standing next to someone, not behind a glass. It feels less like a transaction and more like a conversation.”
PAGU 310 Mass. Ave., Cambridge gopagu.com