By about the end of 2011, restaurant-industry PR people had already worn out the phrase "farm to table." If we hadn't already figured out that many chefs like to feature quality local produce, the endless menu descriptions of the provenance of each artisanal cheese, heirloom legume, and grass-fed beeve hammered the point home. But give Will Gilson, the chef/owner of Inman Square's new Puritan & Company, some slack on this score. After all, he grew up working on his parents' Groton farm, whose vegetables and herbs have long been favored by local chefs, and he had an acclaimed tenure helming the kitchen at Cambridge gastropub Garden at the Cellar. It doesn't hurt that what he's doing here with all those great ingredients is so inventive and well-executed.
A theme of historical New England cookery and old-time kitchen craft runs throughout his menu, starting with complimentary oven-fresh potato Parker House rolls with excellent butter. ("Don't fill up on bread": tough to heed.) Smoked bluefish pâté ($7) is creamy and just smoky enough not to overwhelm the oily richness of the blue, with fine house-made hardtack (like oversized oyster crackers) as a gently crisp medium. Bone-marrow gratin ($11) shows the advantage of being tight with your purveyors: I've never seen fatter, more marrow-rich bones. This heaping portion of "God's butter" achieves sensory overload with accompaniments of duck-fat brioche and fried onions (though a rationale for nesting it on a pile of hay is not offered). Chicken soup ($12) features that showy presentation where the solids (here, chunks of chicken, carrots, Macomber turnips, baby Brussels sprouts, and a carrot-top pistou) show up naked in your bowl before the broth is poured over them tableside. Never mind the foofaraw: that broth is sensational, memorable.
Swordfish pastrami ($13) probably didn't grace our Pilgrim fathers' tables; too bad for them. This dish reveals Gilson's more playful side, pairing strips of smoked, cured belly (coated canonically with a pepper-heavy rub) with smears of pureed pumpernickel and the shocking cool of horseradish gelato. Many entrees show similarly witty platings, like wood-roasted Muscovy duck ($28), which features two long, shallow, rosy breast slices, its fat well-rendered into the crisp skin, flanking a long root of the novel, pale vegetable salsify, with dollops of quinoa, deep-flavored mushrooms, and a garnish of fresh thyme. Lamb chop and lamb sausage ($27) is initially baffling — there's only one meaty thing on the plate, a smooth-surfaced lamb lollipop — until you cut into it and discover a beautiful little chop on the bone, surrounded by finely textured sausage and somehow cooked perfectly within. That winning way with lamb is echoed by lamb belly ($14), listed as an app but fatty and rich enough to maybe qualify as an entree: it's another long, narrow presentation, a delicately textured slice of slow-roasted belly in a lovely, bittersweet Moxie/orange glaze, perched atop a foundation of eggplant puree, piquantly contrasted with a fermented red-pepper sauce.