Temple Bar, Cambridge - Report (June 2009)
Another hound and I decided to check out the Temple Bar in Cambridge. I've been a long time fan of Michael Scelfo, since his Dedo days (when will he bring back those tuna tartare deviled eggs?)
Anyway, we had a really nice time and the food was very good. Unfortunately, Scelfo wasn't on that night, but his signature was ALL over the menu.
Here is what we split:
Sesame Tuna Tartare - Togarashi Aioli, Avocado, Seaweed Salad and homemade potato chips.
This was excellent and an extremely generous portion for the price point. It was about the size of a burger, with the seaweed salad on the bottom and the tuna tartare on top. Personally, I could have used a bit more potato chips because I LOVE those homemade chips. These are the best homemade chips, even superior to Green Street's version.
Fried Calamari with truffle, parmesan tartar sauce. The calamari was ok, the breading came off the squid and it wasn't that crispy. The sauce, however, kicked it up to this amazing flavor. The combo of the truffle oil and parmesan hit my taste buds and they went into overdrive. My DC thought it was a bit salty, but I had no problems.
Burger and fries - just plain and perfectly cooked to medium rare. The meat quality was excellent. But, the main reason for splitting the burger, for me, were the french fries. Scelfo makes lovely fries, always with rosemary and sea salt. This batch however, lacked enough rosemary and aren't nearly as good as the versions from North Street Grille (best version of his ff), or even Good Life (where they were thicker then NSG but still thin fries). These fries could have been thinner (more like frites is my preference) and needed more rosemary and a bit more crisp.
But, Temple Bar's food is much improved then before and it's reasonably priced. I think with Scelfo in the kitchen, the food will continue to get better, plus, the location is great for me. I *think* the three dishes and three glasses of wine came to about $60 (not including tip). The portions are all generous and we even still had some fries left over.
I've was VERY excited to try Temple Bar when I heard Chef Scelfo was there. I was a fan of his from his NSG days and was hoping he'd bring the same creative, authentic cuisine to Temple. After two recent experiences, I can say he did not disappoint and I will be making regular crossings to the other side of the river to enjoy his food.
First, I went with a group of friends to brunch on a Sunday, and it has to be the best and most creative brunch I've ever had. The crispy oyster omelette elevates a chinese food classic to places its never been. The omelette was topped with delicious crispy fried oysters and a spicy aioli - it's a must eat. And the pulled pork eggs benedict was ridiculously good - a perfectly poached egg, smoky pork atop an english muffin were an addictive combination. Both were great examples of how he puts his own creative twist on standards.
I then returned a week or two later for dinner with another group, and Chef Scelfo's creative genius continued to shine. I was psyched to see the tuna tartare was still on the menu, but there were also new menu items like smoked salmon fritters and the cripsy pork belly that showed his creative use of simple ingredients. I had the chicken dish with carrot latkes (even as a Jew, I never thought of marking latkes out of carrots). They were delicious! The saffron and carrot pairing was perfect making them savory with just a little hint of sweetness. Another big hit was the chicken sandwich with bacon, cheese, and a harissa aioli, which my friend still talks about to this day. And the panade that comes the pork chop was fought over at the table b/c it was so good.
Chef Scelfo used to be our North End secret, but it seems like he is in a great place to bring his delicious food to a wider audience. Lucky Cambridge!
i moved to cambridge about a year ago and live just a few blocks from temple bar and really love it, both for a meal and just for a drink. i've had multiple dishes on the menu, including the steak, salmon, burger, mussels, various brunch items, etc., and really have never had a bad meal. it's a relaxed atmosphere, usually without a long wait and friendly staff. they also have outdoor tables, which is a plus as well.
My last visit was many moons ago. I've always thought that Temple Bar had an interesting menu, but it never could execute its ambitions. Your description of lackluster food is perfect. I think Scelfo is a fairly recent addition to Temple Bar so the food should be improved from two years ago.
Scelfo moved to Temple Bar in early spring, this year. The food is way better than it used to be.
I was the DC, and I loved our meal -- the tuna tartare was excellent, and as beetlebug pointed out, a HUGE portion. Definitely big enough to share. Good, juicy burger, cooked precisely med-rare. I wish the calamari had been better, but the oil wasn't hot enough. I think that's what was wrong with the fries too. Just not quite crispy enough.
I want to go back soon when the chef is in the kitchen to see if there's a big difference.