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Fantastic meal at Journeyman in Somerville

m
mightywombat Sep 20, 2010 08:05 AM

I dined with several friends at Journeyman in Union Square this weekend. Full disclosure: I *just slightly* know one of the owners, although not more than to just nod hello on the street.

First of all, the space is gorgeous, inside and out. The giant wooden panels on one wall, with the hanging garden in front of the floor-to-ceiling window on another, combined to make the space feel both sleekly modern and welcoming, not an easy trick to pull off. The only complaint I had about the decor was that for those sitting against one wall, the lights from the open kitchen were kind of harsh.

To start, we wanted a bottle of white, and the (friendly, knowledgeable) server recommended a bottle that was perfectly crisp and dry, exactly what we wanted. At $25, it was very reasonably priced as well.

I ordered the three-course vegetarian menu. It started off with a lovely amuse-bouche of "hot tomato, cold tomato" - a chilled wedge of green zebra tomato on top of a warm tomato confit. The sweetness of the confit worked really well against the tartness of the tomato. We were also brought a complimentary shot of beer that was bright and fresh - I wish I remembered what the waitress told us about it.

The appetizer was an egg custard, with fried shallots on top and diced preserved duck egg (white and yolk separate). The silkiness of the custard made a great foil for the crispiness of the tiny fried shallots.

The entree was stunning - grilled hen of the woods mushrooms alongside agnolotti filled with pureed eggplant and garlic and topped with a dash of wheat foam. Sophisticated and delicious.

The dessert's flavors were "plum, lime, coffee", and the plate had several different confections (from meringue to ice cream to a poached plum) that incorporated them. It was quite good, but my favorite part of dessert was the plate of tiny cookies they brought to our table afterward. There was a quarter-sized sugar/butter cookie, a little cube of something like preserved apricot, and a tiny, round morsel of warm chocolate cake. All three were incredible, the perfect way to end the meal.

They're still working out some kinks - we had to ask for forks for our appetizers, although after that everything came smoothly, and the appetizer we were told we were getting (polenta) wasn't what actually came out (egg custard). But overall, I would say they're doing a phenomenal job for their first week in business. I will definitely be returning.

-----
Journeyman
9 Sanborn Ct, Somerville, MA 02143

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  1. MC Slim JB Sep 20, 2010 09:15 AM

    Anxious to try this place, but it's a tough table: booked a week out last I looked.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      digga Sep 20, 2010 05:13 PM

      Just made our reservation for an early Sunday supper in a couple of weeks. (Pats play MNF that week so I won't be stressed out.) I really don't want to go during prime time dining hours - would rather go during a time when they have some breathing room. I've been eagerly following their blog. I will report back.

    2. c
      cambridgejen Sep 20, 2010 05:39 PM

      I enjoyed a wonderful meal over the weekend as well. We went with the full 5-course omnivore tasting menu and wine pairings, and I'd say that it was 95% excellent. We didn't care for one of the five courses, and the service was a bit awkward at times, but overall it was a great experience. The space itself is just gorgeous. The wine list is really interesting - so interesting that I find myself wishing that they offered a bar where one might experience all of the wines without having to commit to a $40-65 meal each time.

      There was a strange twist though that I can't quite get out of my mind. When I got home, I googled the Pig's Head Torchon (first course) just for the heck of it, and was surprised to find what appeared to be the exact recipe (other than the sauce) in the Momofuku cookbook. I checked my copy and sure enough, there it was, in graphic detail. (I am glad that I didn't read it before the dinner as I may not have had the stomach for it!) Anyway, this was one of several cookbooks out on the counter at the restaurant, so I went through other cookbooks from my library that I'd noticed in the restaurant. I found a recipe in Thomas Keller "Under Pressure" that looked very, very similar to the plum dessert. Does it matter that they may be preparing dishes from cookbooks for the home chef? I don't know. The food was delicious either way, but for some reason this really caught me off guard.

      Another important note for anyone planning to order the omnivore tasting - this is truly a snout to tail type of restaurant, and you may not know from the menu which part of the animal that you're getting. If you're ok with being surprised by a dish featuring pig's head or veal heart, then that's great. If you think you may have trouble with some of those less common parts of the animal, then it's best to ask a lot of questions upfront or just play it safe and order the vegetarian tasting. For example we did not know we'd be eating beef tongue or pig's head until the courses were set in front of us. In our case it was fine and we truly enjoyed the food, but I wondered about the couple across the room who seemed to be on a first date and not prepared for the many possible versions of "beef" and "pork"!

      -----
      Journeyman
      9 Sanborn Ct, Somerville, MA 02143

      1 Reply
      1. re: cambridgejen
        The Chowhound Team Sep 24, 2010 05:20 PM

        We've moved a digression about chefs using other chefs' recipes to the General Chowhounding Topics board, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/736369

      2. p
        Parsnipity Sep 21, 2010 07:18 AM

        Interesting thread, guys. Does anyone know if the veggie menus are the same price as the omnivore tasting?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Parsnipity
          enhF94 Oct 11, 2010 05:23 AM

          They are.

        2. d
          djd Sep 22, 2010 07:10 AM

          So it sounds like the three-course meal was enough food? I wondered about portion size.

          1 Reply
          1. re: djd
            a
            alice blackwell Sep 23, 2010 07:29 AM

            The veggie menu is the same cost as the omnivore, and for one of our plates the portions seemed on the small size. We definitely didn't leave hungry, though, as there were amuse-bouches along the way, and plentiful bread and butter. Which, by the way, was amazing-- house baked and just fantastic.

            I've found this to be an interesting thread, too. I think it's exciting that two non-restauranteurs are getting into the business, and I want to welcome them and give them a chance to figure things out. (The chefs are ex-academics, and as an academic myself, I kinda cherish the fantasy of being able to bow out of my university job and try something completely different.) Anyway, I didn't feel intimidated walking into the space (which is beautiful, if a little too bright for my taste)-- and I find their blog tone to be charming and hyper earnest, rather than holier-than-chow and pretentious. But that's a personal taste, and I do respect the suspiciousness on this front. When my Uncle Ernie is in town I'll take him somewhere else. When I want a treat and a surprise, I'll meet my friends at Journeyman.

          2. c
            cambridgedoctpr Sep 24, 2010 08:39 AM

            i will give the place a try; for me it is all about the food. If the food is good, i can forgive a lot; if the food is not good, i do not care about anything else.

            1. greenzebra Sep 26, 2010 06:18 PM

              Ate dinner here tonight with three DCs (two of whom are vegetarian). I would say that overall our impressions were very favorable, with a few minor quibbles.

              We started with an amuse of hot tomato, cold tomato (tomato sorbet and chipotle roasted tomato for the vegetarian tasting) or pork confit, which included a tasting of a Belgian brown ale that was a perfect pairing with both the pork and the tomato, and a nice touch to include.

              The first course was a fall salad which included a tomato foam, freeze dried shallots with miso paste, an eggplant puree, a selection of roasted fall vegetables, greens, and a freeze dried and powdered zucchini and majoram puree. This was really spectacular, and although the description sounds a bit disjointed, the foams and purees complemented each other nicely and provided a good counterpoint to the greens and roasted vegetables.

              The second course was corn gnocchi with mushrooms and a corn foam. The gnocchi were very airy and light and yet also very intensely corn flavored, and nicely counterbalanced by the meatiness of the the mushroom.

              The third course was very similar to the egg custard described by mightwombat for the vegetarians, and steamed swordfish with raspberry paper and spaghetti squash. I was initially doubtful of the swordfish/raspberry combination, but it was actually quite interesting, and the swordfish was obviously of high quality and very tasty.

              The entree was braised pork shoulder with butternut squash puree and a cilantro pesto/salsa for the omnivores, and butternut squash agnolotti with garlicy spinach and thinly sliced apple for the vegetarians. Also quite good, although the vegetarian portions seemed rather small.

              Dessert included a gin and tonic jelly with cucumber sorbet as a palate cleanser, a variety of apple, butter, and burnt sugar themed tastes (apple sorbet, creme brulee, cardamom pound cake, a poached and then bruleed apple slice, and some kind of apple jelly), and then a trio of plum gelee, caramel milk, and the molten chocolate morsels mightywombat describes.

              Overall, I think this is a place that is doing something that is hard to find elsewhere in Boston, and doing it well. I have not been anywhere else that has this much emphasis on molecular gastronomy, with touches of molecular cooking showing up in most courses (although usually as supporting players in the form of form or jellies, rather than the main event). They are clearly changing the menu quite frequently, as many of the dishes we ate do not sound like those described by previous posters, and it certainly seems possible that as they find their feet the dishes will be get more inventive and novel. That said, although I'm certainly not an expert in the cuisine of famous chefs, to me the dishes that Journeyman is turning out right now feel unique, and certainly aren't derivative of anything else I've experienced in Boston.

              We did have some quibbles, generally minor issues. First of all, the vegetarian menu especially felt like it was just not that much food. The bread is plentiful, that is true, but with only a handful of small agnolotti as the main course it just didn't seem like very much to eat, and the vegetarians left, if not exactly hungry, not feeling all that sated. Part of the issue here is I think achieving a good balance between light and airy dishes, and something that feels filling. For the omnivores, the fairly substantial portion of braised pork with the entree was satisfying as well as tasty, but the vegetarians just didn't have any significant starch or protein. Second, they did a very poor job handling requests for substitutions, even when notified days in advance. One of the vegetarians does not eat either tomato or mushroom, and despite the fact that she called the restaurant in advance and was assured that they could satisfy those requirements, in the end she had to pick around mushrooms and not eat part of one dish that was infused with a tomato broth. Clearly they are still getting their feet under them, and weren't up to the challenge of subbing even with some advance notice. Neither of these is the biggest issue in the world, for sure.

              With the combination of a nose-to-tail approach, a strong side of molecular gastronomy, and fixed menus with no options, Journeyman is definitely charting a risky path. But just on the merits of the food, I think that this place has the potential to be something special, and is already a worthwhile addition to Somerville and the Boston dining scene.

              1. enhF94 Oct 11, 2010 05:56 AM

                This thread put my experience last night in context, so thanks, all.

                I tend toward agreeing with Alice Blackwell's comment that "I find their blog tone to be charming and hyper earnest, rather than holier-than-chow and pretentious. But that's a personal taste, and I do respect the suspiciousness on this front." Me too.

                I read above that the chefs are "ex-academics," so I presume they were not raised in the restaurant world. Unlike more experienced restaurants who know better than to bother or try, they got some notes super-right (the eager-to-care-for-you-vibe, single random blueberry in a salad, century egg bits, service from a real person).

                And they missed some "basic" notes (mis-seasoning on five or six elements, tough cake, awkward service, goopy g&t gelee) that an experienced restaurant wouldn't let slide.

                Contrast Foundry on Elm: experienced restaurateurs pitching squarely in the zone, but the whole thing seems a little corporate and steroidal. Whereas Journeyman really wants to play baseball, loves it, and occasionally misses an easy catch.

                It's as if they skipped the ladder-climbing in other restaurants, and planted their flag squarely in the lavish/intricate zone. Price-point and fanciness-wise for Somerville city limits, they've put themselves with Gargoyles and... that's it. No wonder they're making a splash.

                I liked both, but Journeyman gets my heart racing more than Foundry.

                18 Replies
                1. re: enhF94
                  b
                  bella_sarda Oct 12, 2010 02:53 PM

                  To enhF94: don't forget Bergamot, which is in the same genre and also in Somerville. It sounds like Journeyman is more ambitious than Bergamot in some dimensions, so I'm eager to try it. So far I love Bergamot after 2 visits and I'm excited about the growing resto scene in the Ville. I've never been that excited about Gargoyles, but I haven't been recently.

                  1. re: bella_sarda
                    enhF94 Oct 15, 2010 05:23 AM

                    Bergamot's just across the Cambridge line; you can find the signpost just on the other side of Trina's, which is sadly, Cambridge too. Bergamot certainly _seems_ like a Somerville restaurant in spirit to me, though. (This is why I was weirdly specific about "city limits.")

                    1. re: enhF94
                      enhF94 Oct 15, 2010 05:34 AM

                      Further research from google maps, Bergamot & Trina's websites, & city of Somerville suggests I am totally wrong about this. Ack!

                      1. re: enhF94
                        Bob Dobalina Oct 15, 2010 05:41 AM

                        I think there is actually a street in that area called Line Street, which denotes the boundary.

                        1. re: Bob Dobalina
                          b
                          bella_sarda Oct 15, 2010 01:15 PM

                          That's correct Bob D. Line St., the boundary, is one street west of Beacon St., although many folks tend to think of Beacon as the boundary. Washington St. actually doesn't "become" Kirkland St. until Line St. Lots of people refer to the intersection of Kirkland and Beacon, when technically speaking no such intersection exists. As a proud resident of the Ville, I shudder at the thought of Cambridge claiming Bergamot (or Trina's for that matter) as its own. I'm glad enhF94 corrected him/herself and that the rumor did not gain any traction along the way. With Journeyman, though, there's really no way you can mistake that for Cambridge.

                          1. re: bella_sarda
                            jgg13 Oct 15, 2010 01:27 PM

                            It's trickier than that though, the town line doesn't go down line st all the way to cambridge, it cuts in right at dickenson st. Looking at the map now, it appears that I was incorrect and trina's is fully in somerville - I could swear there is/was a town line sign that sat right in the middle of the building that was abbey is trina's though

                            1. re: jgg13
                              r
                              rknrll Oct 15, 2010 02:10 PM

                              I think the sign just says...

                              Hampshire St. Cambridge / Beacon St. Somerville

                              So, not an actual town line sign...just noting the street changes names/cities.

                              1. re: rknrll
                                jgg13 Oct 15, 2010 02:57 PM

                                Ahh, I think you're right. Not that I've never seen a town line sign be slightly off anyways, even if it really were such a thing (e.g. given the difference was half a block, it might have been put there to be funny considering that it was bifurcating a building)

                            2. re: bella_sarda
                              chickendhansak Oct 15, 2010 01:53 PM

                              This is the kind of geographical pedantry which must be applauded. I had never noticed the Line St. issue with Kirkland St., but now it's going to give me that frisson of pedantic delight forever. For food-psychogeographers, it's also worth recording that some effort by a blogger (and poster on CH I think) has been made to name the area Food Four Corners, informally of course.

                              As for Trina's/Abbey Lounge, IIRC the parking regulations on the street beside it, but closer to Inman, are for Somerville permits. So logically this would put Trina's even more firmly inside Somerville, if your worldview is car-centric.

                              1. re: chickendhansak
                                b
                                bella_sarda Oct 19, 2010 10:12 AM

                                That intersection has been referred to as "food four corners" for some time now here on CH. I remember being concerned when EVOO left that we would only have 3 corners, but then I was reminded of Kebab Factory. Still, I'm so glad Bergamot moved in so quickly to restore the illustrious food reputation of this dear little intersection.

                                -----
                                EVOO Restaurant
                                350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02143

                                The Kebab Factory
                                414 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143

                                1. re: bella_sarda
                                  chickendhansak Oct 19, 2010 05:02 PM

                                  Yes, I didn't mean to suggest it hadn't been called FFC here on CH. That's where I first heard it called that.

                              2. re: bella_sarda
                                d
                                dulce de leche Oct 19, 2010 07:21 PM

                                Word to the wise: I tried to get a Cambridge cab to pick me up at the bus stop outside of Dali when it was pouring rain, and the dispatcher wouldn't send a cab to "an intersection, I need an address."
                                So I gave her Dali's and she said, sorry, we can't pick you up in Somerville. So I moved down another building and gave that address and how about now? Sorry, that is Somerville. I kept moving west building by building and that is how I found the Cambridge/Somerville border. Soaking wet.

                                1. re: dulce de leche
                                  b
                                  bear Oct 20, 2010 09:32 AM

                                  My son is tempted to use that strategy to get delivery. When a place refuses to deliver to his Somerville apt. right in that area, he's thinking of asking if they'll deliver to Kirkland Convenience because it has a Cambridge address.

                            3. re: enhF94
                              jgg13 Oct 15, 2010 06:08 AM

                              Trina's technically sits right on the line, but is considered somerville. I remember noticing that back in the days of the abbey

                              1. re: enhF94
                                c
                                Canadian Tuxedo Oct 15, 2010 03:27 PM

                                "Most" of Trina's is in Somerville, while the Parlor Bar side is technically in Cambridge. That's what I've been told by one of the owners.

                                1. re: Canadian Tuxedo
                                  enhF94 Oct 15, 2010 06:27 PM

                                  my greatest CH contribution since Secret Donut Factory is about city limits. I'm so proud! And pedantic!

                                  Line Street: just the wrong side of Savenor's, too. Dammit.

                                  rknrll: THAT'S what it was.

                                  Chickendhansak, that blog released its domain name not ten days ago, now inactive. It seems to be still hosted at blogspot. Also, you either have a fantastic memory or are clever and sly. Maybe both.

                                  ObTopic: Interesting that both Bergamot and Journeyman are ever-so-eager-to-please. I like that a whole lot. Hungry Mother kinda felt that way when they were raising money, but I haven't felt the same love for them since they got booked six ways from Sunday.

                                  1. re: enhF94
                                    Bob Dobalina Oct 18, 2010 04:50 AM

                                    On enh's "eager to please" note, the staff at Tupelo on Friday night was just awesomely friendly, so wanted to give a shout-out to those on the other side of the line. And the food (jalapeno mac-n-cheese, crawfish and andouille jambalaya, and fried catfish) was also outstanding.

                                    1. re: enhF94
                                      chickendhansak Oct 18, 2010 07:04 AM

                                      It's just something I remembered because I lived very close at the time.

                          2. v
                            VintageMolly Oct 11, 2010 11:26 AM

                            Can someone explain their online reservation system to me? Some nights, it says no tables available, some nights it gives every time as an option. I tried to book for Oct 23rd a few weeks ago (around the time of this thread, and no tables were available but there were tables for closer weekend dates, so I thought maybe they only released 2 weeks at a time, but when I went back now, Oct 23rd says fully booked again. Maybe they're actually fully booked now and have been the whole time, maybe not. It's completely frustrating and lacking in transparency.

                            It's not particularly booked up night at other restaurants on Open Table. I know they're a hot ticket right now, but booking out before everyone else except O ya and No. 9 Park seems a little far fetched to me.

                            Anyway, we're going to Bergamot instead. We'll go to Journeyman when they either pony up and join Open Table or get an online reservation system that works.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: VintageMolly
                              MC Slim JB Oct 11, 2010 12:05 PM

                              I'd just call. It is a small room, fewer than 40 seats, I think. Maybe the new Stuff Magazine Dining Award (they won this year's "Biggest Balls" award) has driven a flood of customers to them?

                              Also, looking at their Facebook page, it appears that the bar seating is set aside for walk-ins.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              1. re: VintageMolly
                                r
                                redelephant Oct 11, 2010 01:28 PM

                                I don't want to be rude, but what's the problem here? The reservation system says when there are openings, and it says where there is no availability. That sounds like it's working to me. As suggested, if you are in doubt, you can call, which is the same thing that one should do if Opentable reports no availability on a desired night. Sometimes you get in. Most of the time you don't. But this hardly seems like something worth complaining about.

                                1. re: redelephant
                                  enhF94 Oct 11, 2010 03:55 PM

                                  Note: Phoning would solve all problems described below, and is an option.

                                  I'm not the complainant, but I found the site's UI clunky at best. For example, there's no clear signal they are open or closed; I tried for several Mondays and Tuesdays before researching the hours (found only on the menus page, as far as I could see) and realizing they were closed.

                                  Also, perhaps some folks get twitchy about providing their e-mail address before even having a chance at a table. Journeyman seems cool enough not to spam me now that I've met them, but the thought crossed my mind beforehand.

                                  Third, with Opentable or a phone reservationist - and to some extent even getting a return call - you're likely to get a "best alternative" offer: "Here are other restaurants that can take you," or "We don't have anything on the 12th, but perhaps the 14th?" With Journeyman's online reservation system, it's blindly throwing darts on dates until you get lucky, with no feedback until you hit a day when times are still available.

                                  (It looked to me as if the table is yours for the night; one seating only. Wow. I wonder if this suggests they are aware of their newbidity and staying slow, or if this is further evidence of balls, or if their business plan is just that tight - or all three.)

                                  The reservation system doesn't say when they have openings so much as when they are full, and perhaps this makes all the difference.

                                  1. re: enhF94
                                    v
                                    VintageMolly Oct 14, 2010 07:04 PM

                                    Thank you. This is an accurate description of the frustration. If a date is not available, help me find an available day without having to feel like I'm playing pin the tale on the donkey.

                                    1. re: enhF94
                                      barleywino Oct 16, 2010 07:07 PM

                                      tried calling today (Saturday) and nobody answered, no answering machine. went there and door was shut with no sign, nor sign of life, just a missed delivery notice. pretty lame.

                                      1. re: enhF94
                                        enhF94 Dec 30, 2010 11:56 AM

                                        Journeyman's reservation system has been upgraded to the Urbanspoon service, called "Rez." They seem to have decided against opentable purposely, according to their blog, quoting Mark Pastore's Incanto diatribe.

                                        The new system is a moderate and "good enough for me" improvement, now reflecting the hours and days they are open. It doesn't include all the OT features (like suggesting alternate times), but I'm satisfied by the change anyway.

                                    2. re: VintageMolly
                                      y
                                      yanz Oct 14, 2010 06:33 PM

                                      FYI, 10/23 is the weekend of Head of the Charles, so most good restaurants in the Cambridge/spilling-out-of-Cambridge area are booked far in advance. Pick a different weekend.

                                      1. re: yanz
                                        v
                                        VintageMolly Oct 14, 2010 07:02 PM

                                        Ah, yes. I'll go back in time 7 years and pick a different date for my first date with my husband. That's the solution!

                                        1. re: VintageMolly
                                          MC Slim JB Oct 14, 2010 07:58 PM

                                          Still, a useful fact you should be glad to know when planning an occasion dinner, yes?

                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                            g
                                            Gabatta Oct 16, 2010 06:43 PM

                                            Not really. Head of the Charles actually doesn't fill up Cambridge restaurants nearly as much as you might think. Last year, we met friends staying at the Charles hotel and snagged a walk in table at Rialto at 8p on Saturday of HOTC weekend. If one were to call around now, I'd assume that they could secure a table at almost any restaurant on this side of the river with the exception of Craigie (which is tough on most weekends if booking less than a week in advance) and I suppose Journeyman which seems to be enjoying an opening rush.

                                            1. re: Gabatta
                                              MC Slim JB Oct 16, 2010 07:59 PM

                                              My point was that the Yanz was trying to be helpful, and I thought the response was less than appreciative of that fact.

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          2. re: VintageMolly
                                            y
                                            yanz Oct 15, 2010 04:42 AM

                                            I'm in the same boat, except I have to go back way more years and choose to be born on a different date.

                                      2. r
                                        redelephant Oct 11, 2010 06:24 PM

                                        Guess I should also add a brief laudatory note concerning Journeyman. I had an outstanding meal here and look forward to returning as often as money will allow. One great example to why I enjoyed my experience with Journeyman so much: I ordered a Manhattan. Bourbon with Dolin Blanc vermouth. The wine/"bar" manager offered a question: what type of bitters would you like? I asked "what is available?" and perhaps responding to my question, he brought out at least eight different types of bitters. Of course, the typical Angostura and Peychauds were available, but also many types of Bitterman and Feye Bros. varieties. I want with the Lavender bitters (self serve as I needed some time to decide), and it added a lovely complimentary note to the Dolin Blanc vermouth. While I could see this overwhelming some, it was such a pleasure to have a place pay attention to such details and offer such a wide array of quality choices in manner that was so responsive to the customer (me). And this is decidedly not a drinking establishment and not something that occurs or is even an option at most. The rest of the meal was lovely as well, with the same careful attention to detail, with many hits and several misses, and my meal was close to that described by greenzebra. I did have the additional 2 courses (for 7 total) including a sashimi branzino that was lovely and fois gras. my only complaint would be the the fois gras portion was too big for the richness of the dish (it was accompanied with a chocolate-beet emulsion of some sort). Also, they have a fun and affordable wine list. Yep, I dig this place.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: redelephant
                                          enhF94 Oct 12, 2010 05:22 AM

                                          Word on the bitters.

                                          1. re: redelephant
                                            s
                                            shellicopter Oct 13, 2010 09:14 AM

                                            I agree that the meal was really delicious but I was totally thrown off by the massive hunk of foie and the accompanying beet "ganache" which wasn't particularly delicious, at least not paired with the foie...i was really looking forward to this dish and in the end it kind of grossed me out...luckily the pork belly to follow was a true delight!
                                            Additionally I found the service to be slow and awkward and the other dinner guests to be awkward as well...might have been a weird night but the whole vibe was bizarre. Still, overall I really enjoyed the food and the care put into it, with some more practice for the staff and a few tweaks to the menu, I'd be very excited to go back!

                                            1. re: redelephant
                                              StriperGuy Oct 13, 2010 09:29 AM

                                              Too much foie gras is a totally foreign concept. That said, chocolate beet with foie is a bit weird.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                                s
                                                SonOfAllston Oct 20, 2010 07:05 AM

                                                chocolate and beet sounds totally like a totally insane but possibly delicious combo. Was it actually a combination of those flavors, or was it beets with a ganache-like texture/format?

                                                1. re: SonOfAllston
                                                  s
                                                  shellicopter Oct 20, 2010 10:00 AM

                                                  It was described as a" "beet ganache" which I assumed meant just in a ganache like format... but I couldn't get over the overpowering chocolate flavor...after eating more than I wanted of this beet colored schmear, I asked the waiter if it had chocolate in it and he replied, "yes, it's a ganache, so it is made with chocolate and cream". I honestly think it would have been an interesting flavor had it been paired with something fresher, it was just too much for me with the foie.

                                                  1. re: SonOfAllston
                                                    r
                                                    redelephant Oct 20, 2010 10:13 AM

                                                    As shellicopter described, it was chocolate/beet. I think that dish would have been better and potentially a total hit if it were one or two explosive bites of fois with the beet granache. The fois itself was amazing. But ten or twelve "bites" was just way too much for me and I image most others. I did finish my serving, but the other 2 people in my party did not and normally I would use that as a chance to eat their portions as well, but the thought did not even cross my mind.

                                              2. w
                                                wea74 Nov 6, 2010 01:15 PM

                                                I loved the atmosphere and the room itself. Journeyman is clearly making an effort, but too many things flop. The starting salad, for example, was a nice idea: current vegetables and a large variety. But many of them were water-logged and tasteless.; it looked good but the taste didn't live up to the looks. A dish with squash had undercooked - actually, almost tough, who knew that could happen? - squash with almost no flavor. that was actively unpleasant to eat. The whiting, a standard, was very nicely cooked and full of flavor, perhaps the high point of the meal. The main course - pork shoulder - had a fabulous, if minute (a cube maybe 3/4 inch on a side) accompaniment of an apple "pancake" and greens. The pork itself, although perfectly cooked - rosy - tasted too fresh and, repeating the theme, had little flavor. The crackling did not crackle, because it had only been cooked as long as the shoulder itself. A better move would've been to separate the crackling from the meat and get it to the crackling point. Dessert was tasty if unremarkable. Service was very accommodating and generally efficient but the constant "pardon my reach" made the reach obtrusive. I'm glad I went but I won't be returning. For $30 more I had a superb meal the next night at Menton - everything was beautifully cooked, beautifully plated, had beautifully harmonizing and, in some cases, unusual flavor combinations. the service was outstanding. Only the ordinary dessert was a letdown.

                                                -----
                                                Menton
                                                354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

                                                Journeyman
                                                9 Sanborn Ct, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: wea74
                                                  MaineRed Nov 6, 2010 07:46 PM

                                                  @wea74 -- you hit the nail right on the head. I went for the 5-course veg, and DC had the omnivore. We loved the space but you immediately noticed the lack of music and personality of the place (yes, it's beautiful). Service was good, if not really long between courses. I don't mind a 3-hour meal at Craigie, here tho, with the sterile vibe I just didn't *want* to hang around that long. There were plenty of very sweet surprises with various amuse bouche, a sparkling rose, and a delicious chocolate platter (which was not dessert).

                                                  The problem: we just had an outrageous similar coursed home-run meal in Minneapolis (!) and it was so unforgettable that, in comparison, Journeyman had no chance.

                                                  I critical because I want a story: I want the flavors of the season to speak to me throughout. While I enjoyed the "eggs and breakfast potatoes" it had little continuity to the root veggies and other more seasonal flavors. DC's pork was OK. And forgive me, but I think all tables should have very good salt and pepper on them. (Apparently I like salt.)

                                                  I also quibble with the little things, like the bread: it was not great but also undersalted with that consistency home-made bread gets when you don't bake it right: the clammy doughy bottom.

                                                  I love that this place is in Somerville. To compare it to other institutions, tho Gargoyles just has better food and it also creates that welcoming story/vibe. Considering this place is the same price range as Craigie, my inclination is to risk the heart-attack of the delicious rich food there and skip Journeyman.

                                                  As beer geeks, we love the fact that they serve Pretty Things (best beer in Boston), but only serving 22oz ($12) bottles of only these domestic beers could be a problem to those who actually can't/don't want to drink that much (no draft beers).

                                                  I think they'll get better over time as they create their own ways of doing things and become less academic/by the book. And I do look forward to the spring/summer flavors. I have high hopes for this place--as in I want to love you so don't make it so hard :)

                                                  Two people with a bottle of wine = $230 with tip

                                                  -----
                                                  Journeyman
                                                  9 Sanborn Ct, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                  1. re: MaineRed
                                                    Suze123 Dec 28, 2010 01:16 PM

                                                    Sorry to revive a somewhat old thread, but did you really mean that Gargoyles has better food? Just checking, because I have never enjoyed a meal at Gargoyles (went 3 times, trying to give it a chance). We're set to go to Journeyman this week.

                                                    1. re: Suze123
                                                      enhF94 Dec 30, 2010 11:03 AM

                                                      Journeyman is aiming (a little) higher than Gargoyles, but I agree with MaineRed's opinions that Journeyman has many technical errors that Gargoyles wouldn't tolerate (inconsistent, but frequent, underseasoning topping my list).

                                                      Both their earnest passion and their inexperience show. They aim higher than Gargoyles, but fail on some fundamentals. I had the same experience with the bread recently, as well as undercooked dacquoise (I like chewy; this was raw-ish), forks arriving after food was served, odd flavor pairings. Many items were, however, impressive, like excellent explodey-in-your-mouth ravioli.

                                                      My guess is that with five (total, including a dishwasher) people in the kitchen, they have one weaker cook who is either a. on the way out, b. a co-owner, or c. a close friend. I'd hate to be in their position. Cook's practice and co-worker feedback would help.

                                                      1. re: enhF94
                                                        s
                                                        somervilleoldtimer Jan 4, 2011 07:07 PM

                                                        Haven't been to journeyman yet, although I think the whole concept and personalities are terribly appealing. I have only had one meal at Gargoyles, and loved my appetizer and entree; not so much with the dessert, which is clearly their weak spot.

                                                2. gini Feb 1, 2011 05:33 AM

                                                  Rather than start a new thread, just thought I'd revive this one. We had the 5 course omnivore tasting menu with wine parings last night. It was utterly fantastic. Meg, our server/sommelier/host extraordinaire was absolutely lovely. So was the food.

                                                  Alice Blackwell's hit the nail on the head with: "I find their blog tone to be charming and hyper earnest, rather than holier-than-chow and pretentious." The former is definitely my taste and this tasting felt right for me. Your mileage may vary.

                                                  While L waited for my terminally late self to arrive:
                                                  Chickpea and Carrot Spread
                                                  Pork Rillette - everything a rillette should be, including fatty, without being greasy.
                                                  Boredelet Poire Authentique - a lovely pear cider

                                                  Roasted Cauliflower Soup - pickled cauliflower, fried shallots, house made mortadella - this was my second (third?) favorite course of the night. It was so very balanced.
                                                  Pedrott Nosiola - acidic white from Northern Italy paired perfectly with the creamy soup

                                                  Bivalves (clams and oysters) with Bok Choi and lardo Agnolotti - the agnolotti literally popped open in your mouth in fatty goodness.
                                                  Pedrott Schiava Nera - a blush wine from the same vineyard as above. I love comparative tastings.

                                                  Duck Confit and Parisienne Gnocchi with kimchi sauce - hello, lover. These are the best gnocchi I've ever had in Boston. Ever. I will probably dream about them forever.
                                                  Mezcal Cocktail (yuzu and hibiscus) - a daring pairing that cut the tartness of the kimchi sauce beautifully.

                                                  Pork Loin and Crabapple - crabapple sorbet, apple butter, sauerkraut, cranberry chutney - Hooray for pink pork! A smart rendition of a comfort food favorite; I especially adored the sorbet.
                                                  Gobelsburger Zweigelt

                                                  Lime Jelly and Jasmine Rice with elderflower foam - A good palate cleanser.

                                                  Coconut and Coffee - Meyer lemon sorbet, coffee crumbs, coffee panna cotta, coconut bread, palm sugar swirl - This was perhaps the only dish I wasn't ecstatic about, but my DC really enjoyed it. I just found the sorbet to be completely overwhelming in flavor, but I loved the panna cotta and coffee crumbs.
                                                  Domaine Pothiers Bulles - a bubbly beaujolais nouveau

                                                  Walnut, Honey and Semolina - three tiny cakes to end the evening. Only the walnut was a little too dry.

                                                  Also of note: they really are very eager to please. If you have allergies or preferences (I asked that no kidney beans be harmed in the making of our food) the chefs are more than happy to adjust menus accordingly. Additionally, a note on timing: our 5 courses took just over 2 hours. Someone had prepared me for a 3 hour minimum time commitment, but course pacing was quite reasonable.

                                                  If you haven't been to Journeyman, you should go right now. They're doing something very unique to Boston and Somerville especially.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: gini
                                                    Bob Dobalina Feb 1, 2011 05:51 AM

                                                    Friggin a that sounds great! What was the cost? Sounds like they have ironed out the kinks reported earlier...

                                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                                      l
                                                      laura jean Feb 1, 2011 06:22 AM

                                                      (I was gini's DC.) It was absolutely amazing! The best tasting dinner I've had in Boston (which made my boyfriend sad when I told him cuz he sprung for the Craigie tasting on my last birthday. Well, now I have a new birthday place!)

                                                      Cost was $65 for 5-courses and $45 for wine pairings.

                                                      With the addition of the starters I had waiting for gini, I was absolutely stuffed at the end of the 5 courses. But I would definitely do 5 or even 7 courses again - just skip lunch next time.

                                                      1. re: laura jean
                                                        StriperGuy Feb 1, 2011 06:31 AM

                                                        That's fairly reasonable for a 5 course tasting.

                                                      2. re: Bob Dobalina
                                                        gini Feb 1, 2011 06:23 AM

                                                        I think it was $65 for 5 courses and an additional $45 for the pairings, though I could be wrong. Something in that ballpark, anyway. You should go, Bob!

                                                      3. re: gini
                                                        l
                                                        lorita113 Feb 1, 2011 06:29 AM

                                                        I went during their super yummy special rabbit dinner and ended up so stuffed I could hardly move. The rabbit liver and kidney pate might have been my favorite, but even the "rabbit food" salad course was fantastic. I love this place.

                                                      4. p
                                                        pistuk May 25, 2011 02:47 PM

                                                        Like wea74, I'm glad I went, but I certainly won't be returning. We were really excited because of all the hype around this restaurant, but like others on this board we found the atmosphere to be cold (literally -- another table had their coats on), the service awkward, the pacing of the meal excruciatingly slow (waited 40 minutes to have our order taken, and an hour into the meal had only been served one of seven courses), and the dishes themselves to be odd and somewhat tasteless. There were a few standouts -- soft shell crab, nicely poached duck egg -- but many of the dishes were frankly far, far below standard. A piece of foie gras had so much butter in it that it was virtually inedible. A pasta dish was bland and served with no sauce. It was a somewhat bizarre experience, all in all, given the hype... the meal took 3 1/2 hours and we couldn't wait to leave when we were done. I couldn't help thinking that maybe they've managed the initial PR well but can't really handle the kitchen aspect. IMHO, this restaurant is several notches beneath Hungry Mother, Ten Tables, and Craigie in terms of food and overall experience. An interesting experiment, but not worth repeating!

                                                        -----
                                                        Hungry Mother
                                                        Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                                                        Ten Tables
                                                        5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                        14 Replies
                                                        1. re: pistuk
                                                          opinionatedchef May 26, 2011 10:05 PM

                                                          what a horrible experience, pistuk. This v.s. gini's wonderful experience leaves me very confused about whether to go or not. Any other CH comments?

                                                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                            p
                                                            pistuk May 26, 2011 10:38 PM

                                                            I hope you go and have a better experience, opinionatedchef.... honestly, I think enhF94 may have hit the nail on the head. There is at least one weak link in the kitchen. The meal moves so slowly, you get the sense that they are mulling over the ingredients as they are cooking -- and not in a good way. They only have one seating per table per night, with a set menu, so there's no reason why the kitchen should be functioning so inefficiently.

                                                            We also both left hungry, despite the fact that my companion ordered a seven course meal. I saw others on yelp complain about small portions, but I chalked it up to culture (sorry, but Americans often enjoy larger portions). After experiencing it for myself, though, it's really true that all the courses are doll-sized. If you're dropping $100+ for a meal, you expect to leave feeling full at minimum. We were just annoyed, cold, and rather bemused at the bizarre meal we had just experienced. Thank goodness we had takeout from Mulan in the fridge!

                                                            1. re: pistuk
                                                              barleywino May 27, 2011 02:24 AM

                                                              the one time i went, the pacing was also painfully slow, enough so that I wouldn't go back despite the interesting food.

                                                              1. re: pistuk
                                                                opinionatedchef May 27, 2011 06:06 PM

                                                                pistuk, you speak my language. Thanks so much for saving me the trouble. We can both wish them the best and plan to go when the problems get worked out.

                                                                1. re: pistuk
                                                                  StriperGuy May 28, 2011 07:39 AM

                                                                  Listen, I found the place annoying just based on their web presence, and I've never even eaten there. Thanks for saving me the trouble hounds.

                                                                2. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                  davis_sq_pro Jun 8, 2011 08:09 AM

                                                                  pistuk's experience pretty much matches the one I had late last year. It's disappointing to hear that they've not managed to improve since I visited. I hoped that they would work out the various kinks and move on to excellence, but I guess it's not in the cards. Really unfortunate; it seemed to me like they really were trying hard to achieve greatness, and that they did have the potential to make it. I wonder if they've bothered to read the various criticism they've received on this and other boards?

                                                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                                                    StriperGuy Jun 8, 2011 08:18 AM

                                                                    They were trying to achieve greatness before they even opened the doors. And with zero resto experience that sets the bar pretty high.

                                                                    In food, and life, a little modesty goes a long way.

                                                                    All the hyperbole on their web site is just a recipe for trouble.

                                                                    If I were opening a resto (longtime fantasy) I would say nothing on the web site, and let the food speak for itself.

                                                                    1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                      f
                                                                      FoodDabbler Jun 8, 2011 08:27 AM

                                                                      "If I were opening a resto (longtime fantasy) I would say nothing on the web site"

                                                                      Imagine the buzz you'd create with a totally blank website. It would match the unmarked door, with no known street address, behind which your restaurant would operate without a name.

                                                                      I'm here for you to make your fantasy come true. You can cook any number of meals for me as you try out dishes for the restaurant with no name.

                                                                      1. re: FoodDabbler
                                                                        StriperGuy Jun 8, 2011 08:46 AM

                                                                        Come on over: the menu tonight is sausage ravioli with a proscuitto carbonara!

                                                                        1. re: StriperGuy
                                                                          f
                                                                          FoodDabbler Jun 8, 2011 08:57 AM

                                                                          Sounds fantastic, but it will have to be another day. We're visiting an old friend tonight who's recovering from a fall. (You don't know what you're letting yourself in for .... )

                                                                  2. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                    a
                                                                    antimony Jun 8, 2011 09:05 AM

                                                                    We went in march and had a fabulous time? It wasn't fast, but it wasn't that slow, either -- we did the five-course (one veggie, one omnivore). We did sit at the bar, which made the time between courses speed by as we watched them cook. (And made it clear what was taking time, when.)

                                                                    The only complaint I had about the food was that the amuse-bouche, brought out to a one-veggie-one-not table had meat (a lardon, IIRC) laid across almost all of the lovely bean salad, so I could eat all of two beans that were over to the side, plus a cheese puff, while the rest of it (some little meat sandwiches and the rest of the salad and the other cheese puff) went to my dining companion. It's kind of awkward to sit there not eating, especially for the first thing out to the table -- and lots of restaurants nail this. It feels bad to complain about "extras", but there it is.

                                                                    I found it beat Craigie by a bit (including on portion size -- I've left Craigie hungry several times -- happy, but still kind of hungry), and came in behind JP Ten Tables (except for the desserts, where it blew Ten Tables and Craigie out of the water with awesome). Haven't been to Hungry Mother (yet!)

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Hungry Mother
                                                                    Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                                                                    Ten Tables
                                                                    5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                                    1. re: antimony
                                                                      opinionatedchef Jun 10, 2011 06:22 PM

                                                                      we went to harv sq Ten Tables and found it v good but not memorable, and I keep hearing raves about the JP one(for many yrs now), so i guess we better head there.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Ten Tables
                                                                      5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                                  3. re: pistuk
                                                                    lambshanks Jun 7, 2011 01:32 PM

                                                                    I agree with you pistuk. Went here this past Saturday and found the food to be at best OK and at worst pretty bad. I don't want to pile on the hate for this place because the chef/owners seem to have their hearts in the right place, but the food just wasn't good.

                                                                    The bread is homemade but suffers from a lack of salt. It tastes exactly like the first few times I made Bittman's no-knead bread before I added some more salt to the recipe.

                                                                    Asparagus + asparagus puree with soy and bonito also suffered from having not enough salt, and there was a bit of soft tofu in the dish that was ice cold and didn't really add any flavor. The dish had interesting texture differences, but just NO flavor.

                                                                    Clams served on the half-shell were rubbery, very chewy, just plain old over-cooked.

                                                                    Veal course included sweetbreads that had sinewy veins and were chewy. I love sweetbreads when properly prepared. These were hard to cut and chewy, not soft and buttery like I've had before. The veal itself had a thick layer of fat (don't remember the cut) which is fine but it was lukewarm and had not been seared leaving it with an unpleasant texture and no flavor. The beans in the dish were really the only part of the meal with enough salt.

                                                                    Almost everything was under seasoned and lacked any complicated flavor. The dessert was OK. The drinks were superb. The pates we chose were very good. That's it.

                                                                    For the price point it was a real disappointment. Like pistuk says go to Craigie, HM, Oleana etc.

                                                                    1. re: lambshanks
                                                                      opinionatedchef Jun 7, 2011 01:55 PM

                                                                      When I read a review like yours, I feel that I can trust in your judgement because the points that you have made are very observant and important ones for me and I can relate to them. Thanks much for the detail. Hope you have a great next meal to make up for this one.

                                                                  4. Unfoodie May 28, 2011 01:38 PM

                                                                    FYI. They're putting in a small "speakeasy" in the back with a bbl aged cocktail program.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Unfoodie
                                                                      h
                                                                      hungryphd Jun 10, 2011 03:49 PM

                                                                      Hey Unfoodie -- do you have any details on this so-called speakeasy? Do you know when it is going to start up?

                                                                    2. Boston_Otter Nov 30, 2011 04:18 AM

                                                                      I'm heading there tonight -- any thoughts on things not to miss from their cocktail menu? Is the 5-course the way to go? I see a lot of bad experiences from the spring/summer but haven't heard much since then.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Boston_Otter
                                                                        Boston_Otter Dec 1, 2011 05:43 AM

                                                                        As a followup: my friends and I all got the 7-course menu plus their charcuterie plate, and had a really lovely meal.

                                                                        The highlights, for me:
                                                                        • shaved foie gras over a cloud of solid foam, which collapsed into tiny bubbles when bitten into. This was a very generous dish, too.
                                                                        • Duck pate and lamb-plum terrine on the charcuterie plate. Both were rich and tender.
                                                                        • Warm pumpkin soup with fried oysters. The oysters were sweet, fresh, and half-dollar sized -- really great.
                                                                        • Their composed salad plate, a vibrant mix of vegetables and flavors. Art on a plate.
                                                                        • A lovely piece of monkfish alongside monkfish liver with a pear gelée.

                                                                        Cocktails were inventive and unique, especially my first drink of the night, which involved bourbon, campari, and white soy sauce -- savory and fascinating, never had anything like it. Looking forward to their "back bar", supposedly opening next week.

                                                                        We had excellent service, though it was a quiet night -- only three tables filled -- and our server was working his first night as front-of-house, solo. Near to the end of our meal, when a fourth table filled, service started to get understandably strained (given that he was maitre d'ing, serving, bussing, sommelie'ing, and mixing all the drinks by himself). I'd like to come back when more than one server was working, which is something he apologized for.

                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter
                                                                          barleywino Dec 1, 2011 07:16 AM

                                                                          Thanks for your report-- may I ask how long the 7 course meal took?

                                                                          1. re: barleywino
                                                                            Boston_Otter Dec 1, 2011 07:55 AM

                                                                            About 2.5 hours. The first few courses came at a nice pace, but things got a little leisurely around desert, considering how much multitasking the one server was doing. To his credit, he never seemed flustered or harried.

                                                                          2. re: Boston_Otter
                                                                            opinionatedchef Dec 1, 2011 03:25 PM

                                                                            otter, lovely report; thnx so much.
                                                                            Gotta ask,
                                                                            <solid foam>? is that a new oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp and military intelligence?

                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                              Boston_Otter Dec 2, 2011 05:17 AM

                                                                              I have to admit, I forget what it was made from. They called it a "cloud". A lot of their dishes have frothy foams (and yeah, I know foams are overdone, but they were really flavorful, especially the tomato foam atop the pumpkin soup), but this was more like edible styrofoam or marshmallow -- foamy, but solid enough to cut through with a fork. The creamy foie melting on my tongue as I bit into the squishy foam was lots of fun :)

                                                                        2. Bob Dobalina Feb 21, 2012 06:59 AM

                                                                          Finally got to Journeyman:

                                                                          Online menu samples suggest a 3, 5 and 7 course tasting - only 5 or 7 were offered - it was the weekend.

                                                                          First amuse I don't remember -
                                                                          Second amuse of veal consomme in a shot glass, a teaspoon-full of lentils, and a custard with roe - fine.

                                                                          The 5 course omnivore was:

                                                                          Carrots (braised, pickled, marinated, ice cream, barley, rye glass) - really liked this dish - a little undersalted / underpickled for my tastes - surprised how much I enjoyed the cold ice cream with the carrots. The slightly bitter barley and rye glass worked very well against sweetness of carrots. Best bite of the dish were a couple of curlicues of carrot that had been infused with something very savory.

                                                                          Hake, crab salad, four baby spinach leaves, dots of cherry reduction (I think) - Hake was matchbook sized, sous vide and thought the consistency was not complimentary - it was sort of fibrous. The crab salad was tasty but had raw little tidbits of some vegetable that seemed out of place. I thought this was the least successful dish.

                                                                          Egg, cauliflower, can't remember - This was excellent, carmelized cauli bits and marinated cauli bits, egg fried on the edges, runny yolk, lick the plate good. Very good bread, generously served, wiped the plate clean.

                                                                          Sous vide steak, mushrooms, potato (for two) - subbed this in for veal - @$25 supplement (total, not pp), was well worth it - the best pieces of meat I have had in a long time - first time having sous vide and I can see why the technique draws raves - BIG flavors, had some pieces that were medium rare, and a few well done (by design) that were chewier, and liked both - potato was extremely creamy, rich - wish there were more mushrooms.

                                                                          Dessert was a square of cake, bergamot ice cream, three or four other elements that get lost to the wine - bergamot ice cream was the star.

                                                                          Plate of macarons, cake, house-made jelly squares - all very nice - hoovered.

                                                                          Enjoyed my cocktail - "Walk the Line" - Bottles of Vouvray and some Italian red that was pretty middle of the road, but a big floral bouquet (guessing it could have used a good amount of time to decant) - dessert wine of some sort of cognac/wine combo - sorry, can't recall the name, but reminded me of a less sweet Sauternes - good coffee.

                                                                          5 course veg - courses 1, 3 and 5 were the same.

                                                                          Second course was a celeriac custard with a couple of other layers to it, with side of salt-vinegar chips (Utz brand - ha, just kidding) - this was outstanding, very rich.

                                                                          Entree - fourth course - was some sort of veg cannelloni - I have to admit I was a few glasses in and engrossed in my steak - it seemed well received, but looked a little light for the entree -

                                                                          -------------

                                                                          Overall impression - very Somerville - fancy cuisine cooked by a Ph.D. in Physics in what is basically a garage down an alley - reasonably high prices and then your wine is stored in a plastic bin on the floor at the front of the room - I actually like the high/low brow.

                                                                          Service was very good, food was very good - clearly a lot of thought and detail went into each dish - The hake just did not work for me. Luckily the steak made up for it in the protein category. Felt it a little odd that veal was the main protein, especially when you are locked in to a fixed menu. (I am not suggesting that this particular veal was in any way inhumanely raised. But if I had ordered it, I might have asked if it had any friends...) Our veg diners did not feel undernourished.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                                                            p
                                                                            pollystyrene Feb 21, 2012 12:36 PM

                                                                            Thanks for the detailed and lively report! I take it the tasting menus are mandatory and there's no a la carte option? Good to know about the 5-course minimum on weekends.

                                                                            It would appear your virtuous wife has decided to take the veg route, but you just couldn't bring yourself to go along for the ride? I appreciate your reporting on the vegetarian menu. Did anyone ask to make any modifications? I just wonder how accommodating they can be about a tasting menu when someone who's already taken their options way down by being vegetarian also happens to be allergic to nuts and a hater of beets. Although that menu you described looked refreshingly nut-and beet-free. The celariac custard with the chips sounds fantastic.

                                                                            Forgive my ignorance, but I've noticed this ice-cream-with-your-entree thing popping up recently and wondered if it's actual ice cream or more of a cold foamy thing? Can you get a soupcon of jimmies?

                                                                            It does sound quintessential high/low brow Somerville, right up my alley, so I guess I'll have to give in and walk down theirs soon.

                                                                            1. re: pollystyrene
                                                                              Bob Dobalina Feb 21, 2012 01:45 PM

                                                                              Hi Polly - excellent questions all around.

                                                                              The tasting menu appears to be the only option - $65 for 5 or $85 (I think) for the 7.

                                                                              As for the virtuous wife, I normally would join her in the veggie tasting, but the other carnivore at the table was not interested in the veal, and the steak supplement was for two diners. So since my vegetarian diet is not based on ethics of eating critters (as opposed to said virtuous wife), I thought it was more accommodating to go in on the steak with carnivore friend. We were assured the steak was locally raised and cared for. And I am back on the veggie wagon - at least the steak made it a worthwhile reason for falling off.

                                                                              No modifications were requested, and not sure whether a few nuts might have been involved, particularly with the veg entree of cannelloni - there was some sort of crumble. I don't exactly remember being asked if anyone had any allergies, etc., though we may have been asked and I reflexively dismissed the question (and any memory of it). I am sure they would be ok with a call ahead about allergies, etc. The staff was quite pleasant.

                                                                              Both amuses contained meat/fish, but the veg diners were not offered veg amuses. I also don't know if they realized this, because everyone ate the free stuff. Oops.

                                                                              The carrot ice cream was definitely a very rich, very carrot-y ice cream, creamier than sorbet. I think I would have been really happy with a carrot ice cream and chocolate jimmies for dessert - that's a great idea.

                                                                              The celeriac custard was fantastic - if they could bottle that, it would quickly replace the sour cream and onion chip dip.

                                                                              There were no beets killed in the making of our meal.

                                                                              BTW, as an aside, I was sorry to hear of the passing of your chowhound namesake - my condolences.

                                                                              1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                                                                p
                                                                                pollystyrene Feb 21, 2012 06:17 PM

                                                                                Thanks for answering my selfishly specific-to-me questions.

                                                                                So you WERE being virtuous in your gracious gesture toward your carnivorous friend. I can buy that, although a part of me would be satisfied if you'd been served a plate of gristle for all your magnanimity. (I kid.) It seems all amuses are meaty (why?), and whenever I'm served one after ordering vegetarian, I say, "I am not amused." But I've indulged in a few "Oops" moments, too.

                                                                                Maybe the chefs share my aversion (and that of many!) to beets. The only mention of them in this epic thread is as part of the chocolate beet foie gras. Way to ruin chocolate! They've learned their lesson.

                                                                                Now I've got a hankerin' for carrot ice cream. Maybe I'll check Christina's on the way home.

                                                                                Thanks for the condolences. She may be dead, but she'll never biodegrade.

                                                                              2. re: pollystyrene
                                                                                opinionatedchef Feb 22, 2012 12:38 AM

                                                                                'soupconofjimmies'- a good CH moniker for someone!

                                                                            2. v
                                                                              Valyn Feb 16, 2013 01:38 PM

                                                                              We got to Journeyman, finally, last night. We had dinner with the owners when they were running their previous place privately, and had been following their progress.

                                                                              We did the seven-course and it was just too much for me. The portions were appropriately small, as one would expect when plowing through seven courses, but I do wish we had gone for the fiver. Also, it takes awhile to get through seven courses!

                                                                              But the food was fabulous. There was confit pork heart, maine shrimp, hake with sea urchin, SUBLIME agnolotti with lamb liver, the best duck I've ever had in the States, and a very clever presentation of foie gras. The carrot ice cream was in there somewhere and my husband, who's not a huge carrot fan, gave it a thumbs up - it was really lovely.

                                                                              The sweet potato custardy dessert was very nice too. We opted for the alcoholic pairing by the glass, which included wine and beer and which hit the mark all times but one.

                                                                              It's a bear getting to this place from the western burbs - Somerville traffic is torture, but we'll make sure we go back.

                                                                              1. v
                                                                                valcfield Oct 21, 2013 08:10 AM

                                                                                Has anyone been here since they switched to the menuless format? any thoughts?

                                                                                I enjoy journeyman's sister establishment backbar quite a bit for their creative throughput on the drinks menu, and have enjoyed most of their small bites (and was a big fan of their burger during the summer), but did not have a great experience when i did a tasting at journeyman last year, and friends who have gone felt similarly.

                                                                                wondering how it's evolved, and especially what portions/ingredients look like with a 1 size fits all format.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: valcfield
                                                                                  Small Plates Oct 21, 2013 10:27 AM

                                                                                  I write this with somewhat of a heavy heart because while there were a few things that were memorable (transcendent) even on our recent visit, overall the meal was somewhat of a disappointment. The Chawanmushi with cured tomato and nori crisp was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. The rest... I don't know... I tried to love it... I would give both the lightly smoked lamb shoulder with shallots, leeks and cucumber AND the five-spice marinated eggplant with edamame mousse a B+ - in relation to everything else we ate, these were the higher performers. As for the not so much - both the ocean sashimi with cured spaghetti squash and the seared scallops with scallop roe and curry sauce were underseasoned and really just meh. And for the worst - the first course - the raw and poached apples with cheese curd - was just blah mush - no seasoning whatsoever - the purity of the ingredients on the plate alone were supposed to inspire? I don't know - I didn't get it. For our final course, we opted for the cheese plate instead of dessert - these selections were another high point - and something we really needed at the end to not feel totally depressed about this meal. I have some photos. I would go back and give it another shot. I so wished it was better - and the chwanmushi course is proof it can be - I hope to try it again with more success.

                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                  1. re: Small Plates
                                                                                    v
                                                                                    valcfield Oct 21, 2013 10:37 AM

                                                                                    thanks for the write up small plates; sorry to hear it, given that i've liked the burger, ramen, and the newer buns they've been serving at Backbar, i was hoping that would mean the kitchen was now more consistent. i'm all for experimentation, but at that price point/a set menu where you can't take a guess at what will appeal, the hits need to outweigh the misses. especially (for me) now that bronwyn is right nearby...

                                                                                    1. re: valcfield
                                                                                      Small Plates Oct 21, 2013 10:48 AM

                                                                                      Yeah, and I should have mentioned that we are huge fans of backbar and love EVERYTHING we've ever had there. It seems a bit too precious, I think - and I even hate that I said that... but that apple thing was just, "huh?" And the scallops were soooo bland. I had to force a few down and cut the pieces of roe up and move them around the plate (shades of childhood peas) because I did not want the staff to think I hated them. {I did.}

                                                                                  2. re: valcfield
                                                                                    Gonzo70 Oct 21, 2013 11:45 AM

                                                                                    I dined here in August and was really excited for my meal; unfortunately although the experience was not bad it was disappointing. Most of the courses were interesting and artistically plated - but taste wise for me were in the good, not great realm. More importantly for me there were multiple amateur service flaws; not something I expect at this price point. Likewise while I loved the space and decor, there just seemed to be a lack of warmth, energy and passion at Journeyman. This was my only visit, so not sure if this was an off night - but it certainly did not leave me wanting to return.

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