In the month and a half since West Bridge, Kendall Square’s newest eatery, has been open, I have had the pleasure of dining there on two different occasions. West Bridge does New England cooking with a strong French influence. It offers many a carnivorous treat, and, to my delight, does some superb work with vegetarian dishes as well. took just one visit and I was smitten.
The space is modern but with some homier touches here and there. There are floor to ceiling windows on two sides, flooding the space with ample natural light. My favorite element of the space is the open shelves holding glasses and bottles that separates the bar from the main dining area. The shelves and bottles become a makeshift glass wall, creating a divide but allowing light to pass through.
Dinner number one took place about a month ago when Megan suggested we check it out. We received complimentary starters of fried chicken skin with aioli and pickled vegetables: cauliflower, carrots, cucumber and fennel. I am a huge pickle fan and love this tangy start to the meal.
I’d heard numerous positive reviews of the Peas & Favas with shitake, goat cheese cream, and red quinoa. Even without the reviews, I would have ordered this just based on the description and Megan was keen on trying it as well. The goat cheese cream was rich and tangy, light like a mousse. It helped to bind the slightly crunchy quinoa and the tender favas and peas, which were blanched to a perfect sweetness and bright green color. The layers mixed together into a wonderful medley of textures and flavors.
Farro with green garbanzo beans, cherries and cress. I am a huge fan of farro, but this was my first time trying green garbanzos. The garbanzos were wonderful, they had a texture more akin to fresh corn kernels than their starchier dried counterparts. The dish was hearty but it also had a lightness to it, dressed with just a vinaigrette, tossed with tender cubes of beet and finished with bright green cress.
Dandelion greens with duck confit, gooseberries and ramps. I was a little confused as to why the gooseberries were bright orange. The gooseberries that I know of are a deep maroon as seen here or green, so I did some research afterwards. I didn’t recognize them at the time, bu these were actually husk cherries, one of my favorite fruits, and which also go by the name Cape Goosberries. Fun fact! I love learning about fruit and vegetable plants.
Megan and I knew going into this dinner that we were planning on ordering several desserts. It’s just not dinner for us if there’s not a significant portion of dessert. We’d both heard about the s’mores verrine which consists of a layer of chocolate mousse, a layer of marshmallow fluff, and a layer of miso graham cracker crumbs. If miso in the mix sounds weird to you, just don’t think about it and eat it. It’s fabulous. It does not taste distinctly miso-y, rather it just adds a welcome saltiness to the sweet and decadent layers.
The carrot cake with hazelnut cream cheese frosting was served in a very unique way. It was one single cake, much like an oversized muffin, and the frosting was actually inside the cake. If you’re a frosting fan, know that since the cake is quite large, it takes some time before you reach the frosting in the center. Luckily the cake is quite pleasant on its own, and the two sauces provided a nice sticky-sweet accompaniment.
The dessert menu, which changes regularly, was rife with my favorite items that evening, case in point, the ice cream sandwich with SoCo Creamery ice cream in between chocolate chip cookies atop a pool of chocolate sauce. Three stellar components. My only complaint was that the ice cream was melting a little too quickly to allow for us to pick up the sandwich and bite into it. Instead we ate it with our forks like a cookie sundae. And it tasted superb.
The rhubarb tart was the only dessert that didn’t pass muster, the rhubarb pieces were not quite tender enough. Luckily, we had had quite our fill of really creative and good-tasting desserts that night.
Dinner number two was a complimentary press dinner, a five course meal with wine pairings. It included wonderful company and allowed me the chance to try even more of West Bridge’s vegetable dishes. And desserts.
First course: artichoke soup with black garlic. The artichoke base was fairly mild, but it was studded with bits of chopped preserved lemon that added a wonderful burst of tangy sweetness each time you bit into one.
Bread and butter is available upon request. It’s almost hard to justify getting it since there are so many dishes worth leaving room for, but this stuff is fabulous. The bread os warmed, with a crackly, crispy crust. The inside soft and chewy.
Second course: dandelion greens with gooseberries, ramps, and lemon vinaigrette. You’ll recognize this dish from the first dinner but without the duck. That time, the base was a mix of dandelions and other more tender greens. In this rendition the base was pure dandelion greens. I love my raw greens but dandelions are quite pungent. The gooseberry and ramp added a wonderful sweetness and were a nice pairing against the slightly bitter greens.
Third course: cauliflower with verjus grapes, harissa and sherry vinaigrette. After the peas and favas and the farro, I was already impressed with chef Matthew Gaudet’s skill in creating vegetarian dishes. This cauliflower took it to a whole other level in terms in terms of creativity. This dish actually featured cauliflower two ways. The plate started with a layer of roasted cauliflower, which is soft and rich with a wonderfully sweet caramelized flavor. Atop that are pieces of thinly sliced raw cauliflower flavored with harissa and the sherry dressing. The harissa is just the slightest bit spicy, so you have the textural contrast of the raw versus roasted cauliflower, but also a spicy-sweet contrast happening between the two, with the grapes adding another touch of sweetness. I’ll say it again, that I was delighted and impressed with the creativity and thought that went into this dish.
My fourth course was the farro and garbanzos, which I was thrilled to enjoy again. While I enjoyed all vegetarian dishes, my fellow diners feasted on five courses that included meat and fish. Their fourth course, and the one that really caught my eye, was this halibut with snap peas, radishes, diced chorizo, nectarine and ramp. I didn’t taste it but this looked like one heck of a dish and those who did have it said it was spectacular.
Our first dessert was the aforementioned s’mores, which unsurprisingly seems to be wildly popular. The second dessert was donuts. I met chef Matthew prior to my second visit at Taste of Cambridge and went on about how much I had loved my first visit and oh, the desserts. He shared with me the exciting news that he was working on a donut dish for the dessert menu. It’s no secret that I have a donut obsession so I was thrilled to try them on this second visit. They are mini cider cake donuts, served in a paper bag and dusted with powdered sugar. On the side is a small dish of creme anglais and rhubarb compote for dipping. The donuts were not at all greasy, with a wonderfully tender cakey texture. I noticed there seemed to be some sort of syrup or glaze on them. Matthew let us know that when he was cooking down the rhubarb for the compote, he reserved some of the liquid, reduced it to a glaze, and dip the donuts in that before dusting them in powdered sugar. It added the most wonderful flavor and sticky sweetness to the donuts. They were delicious on their own, even better with the accompanying sauces.
I was positively thrilled with my experience each time I dined at West Bridge. The ambiance is warm and pleasant, the service friendly, and the food is inventive and executed with skill. I really did not go in the first time thinking I would be so blown away with their vegetarian offerings but I was, both times. I can confidently say that these are some of the best meatless dishes I’ve encountered at a nice restaurant in a long time. And from the reactions of my fellow meat-eating companions, I know those dishes are equally as impressive (see Megan’s, Lin’s or Cassandra’s reviews for more on the meat dishes). When people ask me my favorite places to eat, they often expect me to respond with a list of strictly vegetarian restaurants. Instead, it is usually places such as this, where the chef’s skill extends to knowing how to creatively work with vegetables, beans and grains. West Bridge is an excellent new addition to the burgeoning Kendall Square dining scene, and vegetarian or not, it is worth a visit.
1 Kendall Square