Beef carpaccio has suffered an unfortunate fate. Like seared tuna and fondue, it’s a well-loved classic that’s entered the world of the hackneyed thanks to heavy-handed overuse on faux-fancy bar menus. It’s the kind of thing that would have looked dauntingly elegant to me had I saved up enough money to take my date out on Valentine’s Day back when I was a sophomore in college (if I’d had a date then), but now just seems old hat. That’s not to say that a perfect carpaccio is not delicious — it is — but unless you own an unpretentious casual Italian bistro or were riding a Vespa for at least five years before they became cool, you’ve got no business serving this beleaguered standby. At least that’s what I thought until I tasted chef Tom Berry’s pan-Mediterranean version at Temple Bar.
Though the name might bring stools and high-tops to mind, Temple Bar (named after the cultural quarter of Dublin) is all warm lounge furniture and sleek leather banquettes — a much better setting for its comfortably upscale cuisine. Paper-thin slices of lean, raw beef form the familiar base of their carpaccio, but in place of the traditional EVOO is a thin drizzle of olive oil dyed crimson red with pimentón de la Vera, the smoked paprika that gives Spanish chorizo its characteristic smoky-sweetness. Continuing the Spanish theme, shavings of Parmiggiano-Reggiano are swapped out for equally sharp and nutty Manchego. With mild heat from the pimentón, peppery arugula would be redundant. A simple pea-green salad adds freshness instead.
If there’s one complaint I’ve always had about carpaccio, it’s lack of texture: soft on soft on soft. But Berry deftly and deliciously solves this problem with a sprinkle of crunchy sea salt, crushed Marcona almonds, and fried green olives — the latter quite possibly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. (Note to self: open bar, replace peanuts with fried olives, get rich.) A splash of sherry vinegar rounds out the flavors and the Spanish theme, and firmly reasserts raw beef’s position as a legitimately fashionable and delicious entry to the appetizer side of a menu.
Available for $9 at Temple Bar, 1688 Mass Ave, in Cambridge. Call 617.547.5055.
: Hot Plate
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