Restaurant Review | Sycamore delights patrons with thoughtful preparation
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 02:02
Buzz phrases calling Somerville the “Brooklyn of Boston” have been circulating for some time throughout artistic and foodie circles in the city. Is a sleepy suburb of Newton poised to be next on the list? A mostly residential corner of the city, Newton Centre stands as the quaint hub of the town, replete with New England charm. Neighborhood bistro Sycamore rejuvenated the quiet stretch of storefronts nearly six months ago when it opened at 755 Beacon St. Nestled between other local hangouts, Sycamore offers seasonally inspired, locally sourced foods with an impressive complementary wine, beer and drink selection.
The food, beverage and managerial teams hail from Boston’s best, hence the reservation list and filled tables. Chef David Punch was a co-owner at Ten Tables in Cambridge, which previously occupied the same space that Craigie on Main now uses. His resume also includes stints at Upstairs on the Square and Rendezvous. Sous-chef Lydia Reichert hails from Craigie on Main and more recently from hidden gem Bergamot, which carries a Somerville address but lies a few blocks from Harvard Square. The accolades run high — the food and ambiance reflect these combined decades of industry experience.
Upon entering the restaurant, barman Scott Shoer can be spotted to the right, tending a long stretch of the narrow space with all-American PBR tallboys and British cocktails called Pimm’s Cup. Behind the hostess station is the entranceway to the larger open dining room. Exposed brick walls and an unconventionally placed bookshelf keep the surroundings cozy and unpretentious. Comfortable booths sit under a large glass window, granting a peek into the mysterious inner workings of the kitchen. Diners can only see the top of the chefs’ heads as they remain busy with the food preparation below.
The current winter menu reflects the ethos of true farm-to-table dining: winter citrus salad with jicama, Boston Bibb lettuce and pistachios, big eye tuna crudo and grilled cobia with smoked Vidalia onion and black olives make the starters list. The handmade ricotta cavatelli, a small oblong pasta shell, was perfectly tossed with a Texas wild boar sauce and garnished with shaved Parmesan. American big- game hunt like boar shakes up the Italian pasta influence, making the modest portion size densely flavorful and delicious.
Main dishes expand upon the worldly flavors like the Spanish seafood cassoulet, a meat-lovers delight filled with chorizo, fish sausage, littlenecks and navy beans, or the Cajun Louisiana-tinged boudin blanc, a specialty sausage. Though it sounds complicated, the za’atar-spiced giannone chicken — za’atar being a spice often mixed into beet dips — is a sensational all-natural, free-range chicken breast from a small farm in Canada that holds its flavor exceptionally well. Garnished with kohlrabi and turnip hash, the entree is priced at $23 which is a little costly, but the tender loving care taken to source, prepare, cook and present the dish makes it worth it. If you’re not a food connoisseur, the wait staff meticulously explains the ingredients with a genuine excitement for the food coloring their descriptions. The dessert menu is unassuming with the Francophile choice of a cheese plate, but also features sugary confections like panna cotta and beignets.
Although the food might sound fancy and intimidating for some more modest palettes, the preparation and melds of flavors come naturally. Sycamore lives up to the expectation of a neighborhood bistro, just with a more nuanced and elevated array of taste buds than the usual bar snacks and fare. Punch and the rest of the team have set their eyes on an attainable prize, which they seem to have won: new American dining with a warm atmosphere and passionate group of individuals.