Over the past few years Kendall Square in Cambridge has experienced an explosion of restaurants. I've been keeping my eye on the new hot spots, however Kendall isn't really convenient for me to get to from home or from work.
When looking for a place to toast to a friend's 30th birthday, Kendall seemed a good meeting place as I was coming from downtown and she was coming from Winter Hill in Somerville. After brainstorming a few locations, we decided to meet at Catalyst.
I had been dying to dine at Catalyst since it opened and was giddy with excitement as I approached the front door.
The trees on the sidewalk seemed to frame the entrance to Catalyst perfectly.
When I first walked in my attention was drawn to the bar area which has a 360 degree fireplace and the most stunning lighting installation above the lounge area.
How gorgeous is this? I was hypnotized.
If you don't score a seat in front of the fireplace, fear not, you can sit against the floor to ceiling windows and look out onto Kendall Square.
Catalyst also has a beautiful bar in front of a wooden wall. I love all the textures in this space.
On the far right wall, the Catalyst team is growing plants! They live in industrial style, vertical pots.
There are two sections of the dining room. The front section has an open feeling and the ceiling is adorned with purple, blown glass light fixtures that looks like flowers.
When the birthday girl arrived we were seated in the rear dining room which has a view of the open kitchen. It also has three beautiful, sunflower yellow, light fixtures.
As soon as we took our seats I noticed our knives were standing straight up! I've never seen a restaurant table set like that.
The menus had Catalyst's signature rooster symbol in the top left corner.
The drink menu was particularly amusing with its fun cocktail names. One of the drinks is called "Your last night alone." I like that kind of fortune at the start of a night!
While we perused the menus our waiter, Juan, brought us a bottle of Catalyst branded water. It's these little touches that really make a restaurant memorable.
The birthday girl decided to start with the hysterically named drink "Your last night alone" which was Hendricks, St. Germain, cucumber and rose. It came in a champagne flute and fizzing away as Juan placed it on the table. He looked at her and said, "Your last night alone, madam." Ha!
Nothing on the cocktail menu really spoke to me, so I settled on a glass of sauvignon blanc which came in a stemless glass.
After placing our order, Juan brought us a basket of bread with a small plate of butter. Though I didn't sample the bread, I could see the pieces of rosemary in each and every bite.
To start, we both ordered soups. The birthday girl chose the parsnip soup with crab which came in an elegant presentation. After two spoonfuls I asked her, "How does it taste?" to which she answered, "It tastes like I could eat this every day!" She said it didn't taste too strongly of root vegetables and that she loved the lemon oil. Though there was crab meat in the dish, she suggested that the soup didn't need it. She raved about the flavors in the soup and assured me it was the ideal dish for a cold night.
I decided on the caramelized onion soup. These onions were pureed into the smoothest, velvetiest soup. The onion flavor was so rich and the addition of the raclette toast was heavenly. The toast had that crouton crunch and the cheese added that ooey gooey element that we all love in say, a grilled cheese.
For the main course, the birthday girl selected the tournedos of beef which came in a Top Chef-like presentation. She shared that her meat was perfectly, beautifully cooked and had a great sear on it. She said the meat melted in her mouth and the sauce was savory, nicely reduced and had a lot of zing. The meat sat on a bed of Swiss chard which she applauded, "The chard was greasy, yummy and ahhhhhhh! Perfect." Her only complaint was that the two tallegio cheese raviolis were underwhelming. She said they didn't add anything to the dish.
For my entree I selected the cavatelli pasta with peas, spring onions, mint, lemon and pecorino cheese. The pasta was a bit too thick and gummy and if you got a bite with too much mint, it tasted like toothpaste. I definitely would not order this dish again.
As we were celebrating, we had to have dessert! The birthday girl decided on the Meyer lemon pudding cake. She described the dessert as lemony, citrusy and tasting like lemon meringue pie. She liked the dill garnish and the white chocolate ganache underneath.
Though I often say I'm not a fan of fruit desserts, the pear almond financier appealed to me. Shocking, I know. The dessert tasted like shortbread and was made better by combining a forkful of cake with a dollop of the creme fraiche ice cream.
The ice cream however, tasted like absolutely nothing on it's own. It had a small hint of butter if you really concentrated on the taste, but that's pushing it.
To wash down the dessert we sipped on coffee and passion fruit tea. I love passion fruit tea, but it's really hard to come by anywhere other than Starbucks or Whole Foods.
After hours of catching up, gossiping and noshing, it was time to go home. I made a quick trip to the ladies room and found myself loving the simple design centered around wood walls, clean lines and green plants.
I wasn't madly in love with the food or drink at Catalyst, but I was in love with the design and vibe of the space. I would happily meet friends there to sit in the beautiful bar and lounge area. Additionally, our waiter, Juan, was kind, funny, knowledgeable and very attentive.
Have you been to Catalyst? What was your winning dish?