Alden & Harlow – Cambridge

My trip to Boston was off to a fantastic start.  I absolutely loved Cambridge.  No matter where I end up living, I can see myself spending a fair amount of time in Cambridge.

I knew we’d be staying in Cambridge through dinner because we were meeting our friend from college, Megan.  I asked for restaurant recommendations when I was in my meeting at BU that afternoon.  Who better to recommend where to eat than the academic director and manager of the gastronomy program?  The director recommended Alden & Harlow, a small plates restaurant in Harvard Square.

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My first impression of the restaurant was that is was incredibly dark.  It felt like we were entering a cave.  Once we were taken back to our table in the dining room, however, it was more lit.  We were actually seated not far from the open kitchen, so we got a preview of sights and scents of what this restaurant has to offer.

It didn’t take too long to realize this restaurant caters to hipsters.  I would describe it as “hipster-chic.”  The menu has a number of items on it that are simple, popular dishes but with an exchanged ingredient for something a bit more unusual (in the most hipster way possible).  Leave it to hipsters offer a “secret burger” on the menu where one of the ingredients list is “your faith.”  With that said, everything we tried at this restaurant was delightful.

Our waiter recommended we get 2-3 plates per person.  What we decided to do was order two small plates to share and each order something else for ourselves.

For the two small plates, we chose : the local burrata and the fried Brussels sprouts.  The burrata was served over a chickpea waffle with honey and fennel butter.  The fried Brussels sprouts were dressed with fish sauce, peanuts, and pickled peppers.

 

Every time I think I have seen all that Brussels sprouts have to offer, I find a whole new and delicious way to prepare them.  I don’t keep fish sauce lying around, but I just might make Brussels sprouts like this if I ever happen to have some.  The burrata was also delectable (as burrata should be).  I enjoyed the waffle, and did not actually realize that it was made with chickpea flour.  We thought it might have been a cornbread waffle, but I guess that would have been too mainstream.  It was tasty either way.

We all then decided to order one “medium” plate aka a small entree.  I chose the smoked lamb belly served with grilled carrots and cardamom, and dates and spicy honey.  I love pork belly, but this dish takes it to a whole new level with lamb.  It was so tender and just melted in my mouth.  I am having dreams of that sexy piece of meat as I am writing this.  That puree on the bottom was also so good.  I am sure I could have just eaten that with a spoon.

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Chris ordered the grilled mackerel served with celery root, remoulade, and house pickles.  I thought this was a well-cooked piece of fish.  The fish was tender, and the sauce complemented it nicely.  We didn’t get through the meal without Andrew making a corny “holy mackerel” joke.  He felt validated when the Massachusetts State House made the same joke on their tour brochure.

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Andrew ordered the chicken fried rabbit served with celery, apple, blue cheese, and chili oil.  I had never tried rabbit meat before, and I certainly never heard of it being prepared in a “chicken fried” method.  I really like it though.  This was one of the most hipster dishes on the menu.  I am not complaining because it tasted good, but only hipsters would think to take something like a cheap, southern comfort food staple like chicken fried chicken/steak and replace that with “local rabbit.”  I am still not sure I got a sense of what rabbit tastes like through the breading, but I would try rabbit meat again.

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Megan order the corn pancakes served with maple syrup, popcorn, and shishito peppers.  The pancakes were so moist and tender.  The presence of buttermilk was definitely noticed.  It was odd, however, to see this dish paired with a pile of popcorn with roasted shishito pepper sitting on top.  That was by far the most hipster dish we saw all night.  Nothing about the description of this dish would have led us to believe this was going to be served with popcorn.  I could knock out a stack of those pancakes though.

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After we finished our meal, we couldn’t resist the dessert menu.  We ordered two desserts to share: the smoked chocolate bread pudding and the olive oil cake.

Andrew and Megan primarily shared the chocolate bread pudding topped with “salt” ice cream.  I was sadly not able to try this dessert because it had sesame in it.  I was told it was delicious by the rest of our party.  The main comment on this was that they were surprised by how savory it was.

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Chris and I primarily shared the olive oil cake, or I should say we devoured it but let the other two sneak a bite.  I was in love with this cake.  It had a blood orange buttercream frosting and side of earl grey whip cream.  I am a sucker for citrus in desserts.  The buttercream was not overly sweet and had a subtle blood orange flavor.   It was unreal how good this dessert was.  I could go for a slice of that cake right about now.

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So, I have picked on this restaurant for its hipster vibe, but this was one of the best meals I have had in a long time.  Everything I tried was delicious, and I would eat it all again.  This restaurant definitely deserves the 4.5 stars it has on Open Table, Google Reviews, and Trip Advisor.  I think it’s safe to say I will be returning after I move to Boston.

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