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Fantastic meal at Journeyman in Somerville

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.

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Journeyman
9 Sanborn Ct, Somerville, MA 02143

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  1. 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

      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. 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"!

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      Journeyman
      9 Sanborn Ct, Somerville, MA 02143

      1 Reply
      1. re: cambridgejen

        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. The original comment has been removed
        1. Interesting thread, guys. Does anyone know if the veggie menus are the same price as the omnivore tasting?

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

            1 Reply
            1. re: djd

              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.