Gastronomic Journey to Five Restaurants in Cambridge

Cambridge's Best Restaurants 2012
Courtesy of Jane Seo

"I'm too busy" is never a good excuse to skimp on exciting and delicious food escapades. In this new series, explore the culinary scene of Boston and Cambridge with Jane, your Crimson foodie who may be picky, but will still try anything on the plate at least once (except maybe chicken feet).

If you thought Boston was a mere college town, then think again. Home to some of the best restaurants in the world, Boston boasts a myriad of cuisines in its diverse neighborhoods, from authentic Italian in the North End to high-end classics in Back Bay. To help hungry eaters navigate through this eclectic culinary scene, Boston magazine publishes an annual list of top 50 Best Restaurants in the area.

This year, 13 restaurants in Cambridge made the cut, including three local favorites from Harvard Square. In this edition of Food Talk, you can vicariously experience a five-course gastronomic journey as we explore a dish each from five different Cantabrigian restaurants that made this year's list.

First Appetizer: Crispy Sweetbreads ($16) from Rialto

Lightly breaded and fried sweetbreads—or thymus glands of chickens—sit atop creamy Parmesan risotto and red currant jelly in this delectable appetizer from Rialto, a highly acclaimed restaurant at the Charles Hotel. The dish is finished off with some crunchy pine nuts and soft raisins for a pleasant combination of sweet and savory.

Second Appetizer: Margherita Pizza ($11/small, $18/large) from Area Four

About a 15-minute bike ride from Harvard Square, a chef donning a white apron slides pizza dough topped with fresh mozzarella, pecorino, basil, and tomatoes into wood-fired ovens at Area Four near MIT. Once the cheese oozes into the dough, he sprinkles some more basil leaves on top before serving this Margherita Pizza to the diners.

Main: Sumac Spiced Loch Duarte Scottish Salmon ($30) from Harvest

Tucked away on Brattle Street, in the heart of Harvard Square, Harvest incorporates fresh local ingredients to create dishes like Sumac Spiced Loch Duarte Scottish Salmon. Although the farm-raised, pan-fried Scottish salmon was slightly greasy and overcooked, a bed of vanilla scented parsnips, fennel, and roasted cipollini onions underneath made up for its lackluster main ingredient.

Dessert: Butterscotch and Passion Fruit Pudding with Warm Pound Cake Croutons ($9) from Catalyst

Located just a couple steps away from Area Four, Catalyst offers tantalizing desserts that are well worth saving room for in your stomach. The rich butterscotch and passion fruit pudding, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and some candied walnuts, acts as a perfect dipping sauce for scrumptious pieces of fried pound cake. These dense, yet moist, fried sticks are reminiscent of churros without the overly sweet sugar and cinnamon coating. Don't think about your expanding waistline—just enjoy the heaven in front of you.

Late Night: Island Creek Oysters ($2.50/each, $1 after 11 p.m.) from Russell House Tavern

A popular destination for college students looking to enjoy drinks while mingling with their friends, Russell House Tavern also has great bargains on some of its bar foods, including Island Creek Oysters. After 11 p.m., the oysters are only $1 a shell. The oysters, served with sweet pickle mignonette and old bay cocktail sauce, were juicy, but not quite as plump as they could have been.