Sunday, October 8, 2017

Urban Hearth in Cambridge

Gail and I went for a celebratory dinner this weekend at Urban Hearth on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. What a delight. They do a supper club on Thursday, Friday and Saturday each week. That's their way of turning the traditional sit down meal into something closer to a visit to the chef's home.

It's a little more traditional than described on the web site. We were seated right away at a private table. I wonder if the communal dining concept was difficult to implement with each party arriving at a different time.

After greeting us, our host went off to create a welcome cocktail for us. She brought back a Cava and rosewater cocktail with dried rose petals. It was lovely and elegant. What followed was dish after dish of wonderful flavors and textures, punctuated by pleasant descriptive interludes by the team of four in this intimate, storefront setting. The team included our host, the chef-owner Erin Miller, the sous-chef, and a helper/dishwasher.

The menu is prix fixe with either three or five courses. For the two of us, the five course menu let us have one of everything, and gave us an opportunity to honestly say, "We'll 'ave the lot." Our host got it.

I added the wine pairing, which was equally delightful. The owner seems to search out special and small batch wine selections. Each was nicely paired with our dishes. Since we were sharing each dish, we made the per-course pairing more difficult, but we watched the host and owner consulting over each course to find a match that worked with each pair of dishes on the table at each course. I was never disappointed, and particularly enjoyed the white vermouth pairing with dessert. That would have never occurred to me, and it was excellent.

Our first course was the duck and the halibut. The halibut was clearly not Gail's thing with both raw-ish fish and roe, but it was outstanding for me. It set a tone that we would be enjoying not just good flavors, but excellent textures with each tiny egg bursting with light saltiness. The duck was also quite tasty and topped with a treat of small cracklins of duck skin.

Next was the delicata squash and the stewed eggplant. The squash was excellent and also included perfect greens and dabs of goat cheese, cranberry, and a humous-like mixture, which went best when mixed together. The eggplant dish had dollops of parsley crema, but really starred the katailfi egg. There is a certain mastery in getting the egg cooked so perfectly while not burning the coating and delivering it to the table still perfect. Again, the texture contrasts enhanced the joy.

Between the courses, the sous-chef brought over some roasted peppers. He warned us that they were usually mild, but once in a while one would have a little heat. We didn't notice any heat. Look how perfectly seared they were.

The next course was beautiful bass and shrimp dish coupled with an equally beautiful ramen dish. Each was perfectly cooked to bring out different tastes and textures with each bite. We were starting to get full at this point, and some of the ramen came home with us for later.

The final savory course included "the best vegan dish we have ever had" and a wonderful pork and Brussel sprouts dish. The peanut butter-like smear was cashew and miso butter, and it was amazing. It  was specked by a crispy quinoa that played up the flavor and texture theme more than anything that preceded it. It was simply amazing. It made it hard to appreciate the wonderful pork sitting next to it. Of course, roasted sprouts are always delicious, but Brussel sprouts coleslaw was a surprising and delicious addition.

Before dessert, the chef brought over a small snack plate with a young manchego cheese, roasted pecans and some unusual grapes and offered us some coffee. Gail thought even the decaf coffee was remarkably good. The standouts with dessert were the fresh figs and the apple mille feuille, which tasted like the yummy goo along the edges of an apple pie.

Overall, this was an excellent meal in a lovely place, prepared and served by people who made us feel very welcome and cared for. We will be back.

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