I grew up in Newtonville, one of the 14 villages of Newton, MA. If you know someone from Newton, I am positive they can name all 14 neighborhoods, as we were required to memorize them in elementary school. Though Newtonville is cute and charming, we didn't have much going on in the way of restaurants, so we always scooted up to Newton Centre to go out to eat.
Over the past 32 years, I have eaten at the same three Newton Centre restaurants - Johnny's Lunchonette (grilled cheese on challah, sweet potato fries and a pickle), Jumbo Seafood (excellent Chinese) and Union Street (hidden, secret outdoor patio). In addition to these local institutions, in the last few years the neighborhood has welcomed Farmstead Table, Sycamore, Little Big Diner, Comedor and most recently, Central.
Central is located at the corner of Beacon and Sumner Streets, a few doors down from JP Licks. The night we went it was pouring, so I failed during my many attempts to snap a photo of the exterior.
Inside, the space stuns with this gorgeous light fixture over the bar.
My friend said, "Doesn't it look like molecules?" It does and I feel like it also belongs in Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge.
We had a reservation and were seated right away. Our waitress was friendly and gave us a tour of the menu. Central offers small plates and they recommend 2-3 plates per person. Sharing is highly encouraged.
We had both endured tough work days, so we were ready to drink. My dinner date was interested in wine, which they have on tap!
I don't know why I am obsessed with wine on tap, but it feels like spotting an endangered species in the wild.
She opted for a glass of pinot noir and I made a selection from Central's awesome cocktail list. The drinks have funny names like "No Sunscreen" (a rum-based drink) and "I Trust The Nanny" (gin, elderflower and grapefruit).
I went with the Georgia Smash, which was Four Roses bourbon, Combier peach liqueur, lemon and fresh mint.
I took my very first sip, put the glass down and said, "Apologies in advance if I am slurring my words by the end of this meal." Man, oh man, was that drink strong! The more I stirred it and gave the ice a bit of time to melt, the easier it was to drink.
With drinks in hand, we were ready peruse the menu and formulate a plan of attack. The items are categorized into three sections: garden, ocean and farm. Thankfully, my friend was willing to go mostly vegetarian for the evening, so we doubled down on the garden offerings.
After careful strategizing, we decided to sample six dishes. The first to arrive was the spring salad with arugula, braised apples, roasted pecans, blue cheese and citrus vinaigrette.
I found it to be a very generous portion for a salad. There was an ideal ratio of greens to goodies (so key) and the vinaigrette was particularly tasty. The combination of the apples and pecans generated an apple pie-like sweetness. The crunch from the pecans was my favorite element of the dish.
Next to land was the burrata. I don't know about you, but when I see burrata on a menu, I have to have it. The Central preparation is plated beautifully and has the burrata sitting in a pool of olive oil and balsamic, dotted with dried tomatoes and preserved lemon.
The burrata cheese ball was enormous! I began salivating the moment I saw it.
The dish comes with a side plate of perfectly toasted crostini. I spread that burrata over the crostini with glee.
Our third dish was the truffle fries with three dipping sauces. These fries are French-style (thin, expertly crisped). I couldn't get enough of the aioli.
This bowl felt like Mary Poppins' bag. I couldn't ever seem to find the bottom!
The brussel sprouts arrived next. They are served with roasted red peppers and balsamic.
I wanted to love these, but they were too firm and lacked that crispy texture I've come to expect from killer sprouts.
My friend strongly recommended the wild mushroom risotto and I happily complied. The dish had a delicious mushroom flavor, but the earthiness wasn't too overpowering. The parmesan made the dish extra rich and creamy.
The portion size for the risotto is excellent. You can easily split it two or three ways and still have room for plenty of other dishes.
Lastly, my dinner date ordered the tuna tartare, which came in an unusual presentation. The tuna is served inside wonton taco shells with cucumber, sesame and cilantro.
How cute are these? They were simple to lift and eat, never cracking open. My friend commented, "I think this presentation is gorgeous. The fish is really fresh and it has just the right amount of cilantro. There is some kind of tangy, wasabi mayo on here that is really yummy." After another bite she continued, "The wonton taco shell added a hearty crunch to every bite."
About an hour into the meal we started to slow down. I think six dishes between two people may have been a little aggressive. #SorryNotSorry
I will say, all of the dishes arrived at once, leaving us hardly any room on the table (which I hate). On my next visit, I'll plan to order two dishes at a time and order more if we're still hungry. That would allow ample space to share properly and we'd probably call it quits at the right moment, rather than over-order and have regrets!
If you live in the Newton / Watertown / Brookline area, Central is definitely worth a visit.