T.W. Food

Foodie heaven, but not for beginners
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  December 12, 2007
2.0 2.0 Stars
CUTLINE: SQUASH-AND-LOBSTER BISQUE Genuine Nantucket bay scallops and excellent lobster

T.W. Food | 377 Walden Street, Cambridge | Open Mon–Sat, 5–10 pm | AE, DI, MC, VI | Beer and wine | No valet parking | Access up a threshold bump; bathroom down full flight of stairs | 617.864.4745
What if a chef dropped all commercial considerations and spent his or her days searching out the best local ingredients (plus sustainable airmail staples) and producing short-menu masterpieces for a select clientele? This is the ideal that Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann bring to T.W. Food, a teensy “bistro luxe” in the space that used to be Aspasia. As for the menu, it’s pretty green — often biodynamic and organic — but not doctrinaire. If you accept that great chefs are either devoted to cuisine du terroir (regional ingredients) or cuisine des épices (unusual flavor combinations), know that, here, the Wiechmanns are doing both, and also drawing on the latest test-tube emulsions and froths.

This is foodie heaven, but it’s not a restaurant for beginners. Some things are too fussy and forced, and some things just don’t work. With that in mind, T.W. Food could be characterized as the kind of place many diners will visit once for the experience. To really enjoy it, though, you probably ought to return often enough to anchor your experiments with known winners.

We began our meal with slices of a whole-wheat loaf and unleavened, slightly sweet multi-grain bread, both glorified with European-style butter sprinkled with sea salt. Then came an amuse bouche of a cherrystone clam with some hot pepper: very good. In the same spirit, you can order a T.W. Oyster Shooter ($3/each; $15/“six-pack”), which is impeccably fresh, from Duxbury, and served in a beet purée. The combination of sweet oyster and earthy vegetable is surprising and effective.

Appetizers might be the course to skip. Of them, handcrafted turkey and Vermont-farm pork bratwurst ($11) would be my pick. It’s lean, meaty, and delicious, served with a side sauté of Asian spinach and wild mushrooms that’s hearty enough to support it. Crème brûlée of foie gras ($14) is, of course, rich and delicious, but the burnt-sugar crust adds nothing. Scrambled egg with spinach concentrate and Oregon porcini mushrooms ($13) uses the crunchiness of the wild mushrooms nicely, but we’re not here for breakfast. And an autumn salad ($10) of local greens with apples, pickled vegetables, and a wisp of vinaigrette was very good, but not amazing.

The silliest appetizer is “local Napa cabbage soup perfumed with vanilla sauté of wild Washington matsutake mushrooms and Narragansett Bay razor clams” ($12). Here you have the aforementioned froth, but all I tasted was cream and vanilla, and maybe some spice from the wild mushrooms.

Vermont Waverly Farm roast loin of veal ($30) and roasted monkfish loin ($28) were the best of the entrées. Both dishes were carried by marvelous flavor and the freshness of the protein component. The veal was as richly flavored as lamb and garnished with Chinese-spinach custard and a potato pancake. The monkfish, which usually needs a sauce, was as tasty as any fish I’ve had this year. It was served with creamed local leeks, micro beets, and black trumpet mushrooms.

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