Bergamot

[I started this post over a month ago, when the dinner was only a week or old. Since then, some details have escaped my memory, but I think the essence of the meal has been preserved.]

Several weekends ago, L and I shared a very special meal at Bergamot. Since opening last summer, Bergamot has received a continuous stream of rave reviews. Most recently, Bergamot earned a spot on The Improper Bostonian’s 2011 “Boston’s Best” list, making its mark as the best new restaurant in Somerville. I don’t agree with some of the Improper’s other choices, but Bergamot was definitely a good call. Working there for the past few months, I can personally attest to the ocean of blood, sweat, and tears (my own included) that go into making that place–though don’t get me wrong, we at Bergamot know how to have a good time. I think the restaurant strikes a great balance between holding itself to a high standard and not taking itself too seriously. It prides itself on being a neighborhood joint, albeit one with outstanding food and service, both of which people seem to agree is among the best in Boston.

Onto the food: L and I placed ourselves entirely in the capable hands of Chef Keith Pooler, and we were rewarded with a veritable parade of palate pleasers. For many of the courses, Chef Pooler sent us different dishes so we could taste as much of the menu as possible. I had some wine with dinner and L had a couple cocktails, but as we’re both casual consumers of alcohol, we didn’t dip into pairings. As I’ve experienced from the other side, service at Bergamot operates on a team, not individual, basis; this philosophy is stressed constantly, not just as a way of service but as an extension of the restaurant’s identity. Thus, we had the pleasure of seeing a number of friendly faces throughout the night as they bustled about us attending to their myriad responsibilities.

First course: roasted beet and purslane salads.

cumin-carrot purée, chickpeas, grilled scallions, bibb lettuce shards, buttermilk dressing

purslane, cucumbers, kohlrabi carpaccio, radishes, eight brix verjus vinaigrette

For course #2, Chef sent us both the same dish, and wisely so — if only L had gotten this one, I would’ve been tempted to eat her entire bowl. The combination of briny seafood with earthy vegetables and strongly spiced linguica made it one of my favorite dishes of the night.

potato, corn, chickpeas, housemade linguica

Third course: smoked ham salad

house-smoked ham, ricotta mousse, marcona almonds, cantaloupe, frisee, sherry vinaigrette

Fish course: striped bass for L and red fish for me

Striper:

green beans, summer squash, tomatoes, herb fumet

Red fish:

snow peas, potatoes, lemon-garlic mushrooms, pistou

Fifth course: porcine duo, one roasted pork loin and one stuffed

Sixth course: bovine, up there with the clams as my favorite of the entire meal. The steak was tender and savory, and the herbaceous pistou cut through and complemented its rich, meaty goodness.

yellow, green, and dragon tongue beans, bacon lardons, pistou

Cheese course: Clochette (“little bell” in French, goat’s milk). Bergamot gets all its cheese from Formaggio, which carefully sources each product on their shelves.

blackberry jam, toasted baguette

Et voilà! Dessert: Pistachio financier for me and chipotle chocolate cake for the lady.

olive oil gelato, basil tapioca, oven-roasted cherries

caramelized banana ice cream, caramelized bananas, peanuts, marshmallows, graham crackers

What an incredible journey this meal was. More than 3 hours after we had our first bite, we finished our last one. If you can believe it, we did not leave uncomfortably stuffed; just utterly sated. By this time, the sun had long set and the dining room had emptied out; even most of the kitchen staff had gone home. As we were leaving, I savored the silence of content in the air before giving Servio a big hug: for the dinner, and for the opportunity of being part of the family. I’m excited to see what the future holds for it–the vision, the people, the energy that drives the whole thing–and as I move forward, my cambros overflow with many moments of laughter and learning; camaraderie and commiseration, good will and gratitude for the people who help make Berg a very special place.

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