Unpretentious Fine Dining at Journeyman, Somerville.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I took this shot using my point and shoot; doesn't it look like it was taken by an SLR?
9 Sanborn Court
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 718-2333

Food (4.1/5.0)
Service (4.2/5.0)

I felt like a Journey-woman while making my way to the restaurant, tucked away from the T lines in east Somerville. It wasn't easy because MBTA buses aren't the most reliable means of transport in Boston. But like a climber working towards the peak, I was duly rewarded by an evening of unassuming but very fine dining. My 3 course tasting menu for $39 wasn't cheap, but their attention to detail and service makes it a worthwhile experience. Admittedly, this positive experience was enhanced by the company of dear friends and a delicious glass of efferverscent rosé.

I first heard of husband and wife team, Tze Wei Lim and Diana Kudayarova (from B and Vaughn) via their underground supper club. Time passed and before I could get an invite, they went above ground and set up their restaurant. But true to their roots, Journeyman lies nestled in an alley, off the beaten track and in the heart of Union Square. Therefore, I was really excited when Jess organized a dinner outing to sample their food. In addition, it seems that my friends and friends of friends knew the owners so to say our enthusiasm was vested would be an understatement.

Our party of 10 was huge and we were asked to submit any dietary restrictions to the restaurant so that they could plan the menu. It was definitely a nice feeling to know that our dining experience was such a personal affair. Journeyman is mostly localvor-ic but Jess in her blurb said it best,
"The food comes daily from local farmers and artisans, often people the owners know. Not sure if this is sweet or macabre, but the owners have raised and named some of the animals (Lenin & Stalin were their first two pigs) and, on a less controversial note, grow edible herbs and flowers in the restaurant's windows. They also support other local purveyors such as Taza Chocolate, Pretty Things beer and other local/back alleys of production."

Most had the omnivore menu, but there were some of us opted for a vegetarian menu. I was impressed with their vegetarian options because it is no way lacking in terms of impact and quality as compared to the meat option. I thought the main course was going to be vareniki but it turned out to be sweet potato agnolotti. No matter, because the agnolotti was hearty and satisfying and the sauce that accompanied was excellent combination of sweet and savory. I got a bite from Daniella, and I wish I had more. My pasture-raised pork came from North Face Farms (the piggies look so happy!) and was just phenomenal--moist and slightly nutty; I think they forage for acorns and seeds for play. I cannot mention enough that carefree, ethically-raised animals taste significantly better than their caged counterparts. Like most fine dining, the portions are very tiny but over the course of 3 hours, everyone left sated and satisfied. Also noteworthy is that this was Jess' second visit in a month.

Amuse-bouche 1a. Buttery baby biscuit. I wish this could be lighter and softer and not so dense of crumb.
 Amuse-bouche 1b. Freshly made ravioli (vegetarian menu) with cubed beets.
First Course. Salad. Smears of carrot soup and eggplant soup frame a variety of squashes, striated beetroot, Watermelon radish (cute!), jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes. I loved this salad not because there was so much variety on a place but also because the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients speak for themselves. In fact, there was no dressing, just artfully-arranged slices of veg and a little moisture from the soups to tie it all together. Every mouthful was different and gave a unique explosion of flavor. This was also my first time having watermelon radish (center) and the first bite really did taste like the firm rind of a watermelon, lots of juicy crunch going on. 
 Said herb-garden.
Second course (vegetarian). Sweet potato agnolotti with seasonal greens and candied pecans, canneilini beans. Sweet and nutty and oh so yummy.
 Second course. Short ribs, pommes ecrase, frisee.
Second coursePork Loin, chard, potato cube. The caramelized sauce hardened on the plate so I really wasn't able to taste it. But the overall natural and refined flavors made it a pleasure to savor. Potato cube was nicely roasted.
 Close up of my pork. Mmmm.... meat-fat-meat = very YUM. Crispy crackling reminds me of Sio bak.
 Amuse-bouche 2. palate cleanser of apple and fennel jelly. I could have a whole pint of it, please.
Dessert. Rosemary pumpkin seed biscotti, apple cake, pear (?) ice cream. Apple cake was moist, tender and perfectly sweet. Biscotti was not as hard as a rock, which I prefer actually. I swore I tasted rosemary in the biscotti and people around me were incredulous and mentioned the creme anglaise and pumpkin seed instead (huh?). But my tasting abilities were validated upon double-checking the menu. Rosemary, it is! hah!
 Amuse-bouche 3. that I think resembles a baby chick.


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