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Con Sol

Shining light on a secret Iberian bargain
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  October 14, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

0910_consol_main

Con Sol | 279A Broadway, Cambridge | 617.868.3111 | consolcambridge.com | Open Monday–Saturday, 5:30–10 pm | AE, DC, DI, MC, VI | Beer and wine | Up one step from sidewalk level | No valet parking
Three-year-old ethnic bargain spot Con Sol snuck under reviewers' radar with an Iberian menu that draws mostly on Portuguese-American food — a cuisine that feels native to long-time Cantabrigians, but otherwise is little known north of New Bedford and Fall River or west of Provincetown. Better for you, since this Inman/Central Square-area storefront serves up savory meals in the vein of the past, and a sense of knowing what few others have discovered.

We begin with thick slices of white bread and good, not great, olive oil from a cruet that really is intended to make oil-and-vinegar salad dressings. Appetizers come on seriously, though, as chef-owner Tony Amaral borrows a lot of tapas and small plates from that other Iberian country.

A fine crossover dish is sopa de casa ($4), here done home-style and not overly thickened, with kale, Portuguese sausage, and a few beans. Sopa de ajo ($4) is more Spanish, a false soup (no meat stock) based on a broth of tomatoes and fried garlic, with an egg dropped in and softened bread to thicken it. Both are winter warmers.

The short-rib appetizer, costillar lacado ($7/appetizer; $15/entrée), is perhaps the biggest portion I've ever seen, and is falling-off-the-bone tender and full of flavor. If you are going for all small plates, it could center your meal. Octopus ($8) is prepared on a redware dish (a cazuela in Spain) and stewed with salt, pepper, and a bit of tomato until tender. Clams ($7) are presented in a nice size bowl of the usual, flavorful garlic-wine sauce, with bread that is ideal for dipping. The best appetizer buy is pasteis bacalhau ($6): eight beautifully fried finger croquettes with balanced funky salt cod and potato to smooth it out, plus a lemony mayonnaise dip.

One appetizer that didn't delight was bland pork-and-cheese spread on toasts ($6), though it was eaten nonetheless. The house salad ($5) uses olives and plum tomatoes.

A paella entrée ($16) didn't suffer from the all-too-common Lazy Paella Syndrome; instead, the rice was undercooked and soupy, and the seafood (clams, mussels, scallops) was perfect, as were shreds of chicken and slices of chorizo sausage. Carne porco alantejana ($14), a classic combination of pork and clams — some say it was invented during the Inquisition to test the sincerity of converted Jews and Muslims — is mostly about the clams, with the pork as flavoring and cubes of oven-fried potato as filler. Pollo carioca ($12), despite its Brazilian name, is a simple dish of braised boneless chicken breast in a mild white-wine sauce with bell peppers and a lot of white rice. (Amaral's parents own the old P.A. Seafood in Somerville —  which transformed from a Portuguese American Lounge, to P.A. Seafood, and is now known as P.A.’s Lounge.)

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Related: Review: Off the Boat Seafood, North 26, Review: Craigie on Main, More more >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Seafood,  More more >
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ARTICLES BY ROBERT NADEAU
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  •   BUBOR CHA CHA  |  October 21, 2009
    I’m not an enthusiast of fusion food, but I do like the cuisine of Malaysia, where history has developed a four-way fusion cuisine.
  •   PUNJAB PALACE  |  October 15, 2009
    Punjab Palace — by the same owners of Kenmore Square’s India Quality — “proves to be the kind of kid brother that would make any older sibling proud,” my colleague MC Slim JB wrote last year. That’s true, but this is also another second-tier Indian restaurant. So why do Slim and I like it so much?
  •   CON SOL  |  October 14, 2009
    Three-year-old ethnic bargain spot Con Sol snuck under reviewers' radar with an Iberian menu that draws mostly on Portuguese-American food — a cuisine that feels native to long-time Cantabrigians, but otherwise is little known north of New Bedford and Fall River or west of Provincetown.
  •   NORTH 26  |  September 30, 2009
    I never call chefs before writing a review, but if I did speak with Brian Flagg of North 26, I'd ask him if Jasper White has ever paid a visit.
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    Remember Circle: Plates and Lounge? The Stork Club has succeeded that short-lived restaurant and bar, which succeeded Bob's Southern Bistro, itself the recast version of Bob the Chef's.

 See all articles by: ROBERT NADEAU

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