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Has anyone tried Catalyst yet ?

vitaminQ Sep 20, 2011 12:46 PM

I've heard reports that it's now open. Has anyone been ?


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  1. yumyum RE: vitaminQ Sep 20, 2011 12:48 PM

    I was going to post similar, but am going Friday for lunch so I thought I'd just add my thoughts after I eat unadulterated.

    BUT if anyone's been, would love any recs!

    6 Replies
    1. re: yumyum
      barleywino RE: yumyum Sep 21, 2011 04:28 PM

      Tried the wings which were tasty but a bit too understated for me, with none of the crunch and salty kick I was hoping for. The corn ravioli was a robust dish with plenty of corn/cheese/butter goodness, altho not as delicate as say Prezza or Sorellina's ravioli. The sole was on the overcooked side (unlike say at Bergamot) but the creamed leeks/lobster underneath were perfect. I would probably try the burger next time. Ambience at the bar was like sitting at a chemistry lab bench in a stripped down hotel lobby (probably intentional?) but otherwise fine.

      1. re: yumyum
        yumyum RE: yumyum Sep 23, 2011 01:34 PM

        I had a lovely lunch at Catalyst today. I had the roasted cod over smashed potatoes with mussels and a chowder herb "nage". It was pretty perfect. Little bits of crispy bacon set off the perfectly cooked cod and the rich creamy broth was loaded with shallots, leeks, herbs and scattered with a handful of mussels. I expected competently cooked fish, not outstanding fish. This was the latter. I hope the picture below does it justice.

        Friend had the burger with no cheese, no bacon (and no fun, I muttered under my breath) but she loved it and ate every morsel on the plate. Not too huge, cooked as she ordered it, and placed on a buttery brioche (not my favorite) which seemed to make the meat slip out the back jack when she bit into it. Never mind, the house made ketchup and aioli and pickles were very good accompaniments and the thin crispy frites were also a very nice rendition of the classic style I like.

        The room is gorgeous. Kinda massive in that ICOB way, but with separate eating areas including a sleek bar with high bar tables, a fantastic lounge area with a fireplace (there will be fights soon for a spot in that room) and a light airy dining room with a view of the open kitchen. Service was polished and gracious.

        The menu at first glance is nothing special, when you consider the more interesting (to me) options at Area IV next door and Abigail's down the street. And I've enjoyed my one visit to Meadhall, also in that hood. So, there's plenty of competition, but they execute very well and the overall experience was a total pleasure. Free parking in the nearby garage is a plus as well (they will validate your ticket, details on the website).

        I will probably try to get to the other neighborhood places before I return to Catalyst, but for a new place I think it's worth a look. Bar menu looks especially good for a low-impact investigation of this newcomer.

        Pictures of food (natch):

        1. re: yumyum
          9lives RE: yumyum Sep 24, 2011 06:49 AM

          That cod looks like it was cooked perfectly. I've given up ordering it out cuz Ms 9 has the right technique, but Catalyst seems to have nailed it. Keep it flaky and translucent.

          1. re: 9lives
            barleywino RE: 9lives Sep 24, 2011 09:00 AM

            i'll have to try the cod next time. the sole was inedible when I had it.

            1. re: barleywino
              9lives RE: barleywino Sep 24, 2011 09:59 AM

              Sole/flounder is much tougher than cod to nail perfectly. It's so thin and easy to dry out..:(

          2. re: yumyum
            vitaminQ RE: yumyum Sep 24, 2011 11:28 AM

            Thanks. It looks great. I made a reservation for tomorrow. Excited to check it out.

        2. b
          babka eater RE: vitaminQ Sep 20, 2011 02:44 PM

          I had an excellent first experience at Catalyst. My DC and I ordered

          Baby beets salad - Very good rendition with shaved fennel and some fried balls of cheese.
          Corn soup - Very good as well, but could be a bit too creamy for lunch. I liked the fresh tarragon.
          Roasted cod - This was a rich dish as well with a lot of different things going on including potatoes and chowder. My DC loved it.
          Tournedos of Beef - One of the most tender pieces of beef I have had in awhile. Typical but excellent parsley bordelaise sauce. Perfectly done greens.

          For dessert we had a peach-almond tart which was outstanding. It was delicate and was appropriately buttery. The basil coulis provided a nice contrast.

          The room was beautiful and the service was a bit uneven, but the restaurant is so new. Overall, this was a great meal and I hope to return soon.

          1. p
            peach2020 RE: vitaminQ Sep 30, 2011 03:32 PM

            Catalyst was great went for dinner the food was excellent and the service was outstanding. I knew William ( owner and chef) from AuJourd'hui and he didn't disappoint. The quality of the food was outstanding. There was music (a little loud) but ok. The bar big and inviting. There were some banquettes, the tables were wooden no table cloths with lots of room and the outside is wonderful on a nice night. l would definitely go back again for dinner.

            Catalyst Restaurant
            300 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139

            5 Replies
            1. re: peach2020
              sunalso RE: peach2020 Oct 5, 2011 07:34 AM

              Went for dinner last night, and will wait a couple months before trying again. A couple of things were good (a pureed onion soup, the chicken liver mousse), the sole failed completely by being dry and flavorless, and all the hot food was delivered cold including the fish, the burger (which was done to perfection and would be dynamite if hot), fries, squash ravioli. We got the rookie service staff who delayed getting drinks, couldn't answer a really simple question about wine, kept trying to clear plates while we were actively eating, and we were even asked 'are you still working on that'. Oh boy. The room is great and so is the music. Really comfortable bar stools! I'm hopeful.

              1. re: sunalso
                yumyum RE: sunalso Oct 5, 2011 09:09 AM

                Oh bummer! Did you send back the cold food? What did they say?

                1. re: yumyum
                  sunalso RE: yumyum Oct 5, 2011 09:58 AM

                  Truthfully, we did not send anything back as we were testing the waters at such a brand new place, and also trying to have a good time. Next time, I'll be more assertive if there are blatant problems, and I do want to return. But will wait.

                  Noticed that Area 4 was deserted when we left Catalyst, around 9:15pm. I hope Kendall can support all the new night time businesses!

                  1. re: sunalso
                    barleywino RE: sunalso Oct 5, 2011 10:02 AM

                    I did warn that the sole was inedible!

                    1. re: barleywino
                      sunalso RE: barleywino Oct 5, 2011 11:15 AM

                      You sure did. I would have gone for the cod, but was overruled by one of my mates.

            2. MC Slim JB RE: vitaminQ Oct 8, 2011 09:36 AM

              I've been, found it quite good with some expected shakedown-cruise unevenness. Favorite dish so far is the corn ravioli: fabulous. Might want to get that one before the local corn is over.


              1 Reply
              1. re: MC Slim JB
                cambridgedoctpr RE: MC Slim JB Oct 8, 2011 02:31 PM

                that could mean today; i went to the farmer's market and noted that there was no corn when i arrived.

              2. c
                cpingenot RE: vitaminQ Oct 18, 2011 08:23 AM

                Went last night for my birthday and was disappointed. The room was oddly lit, exacerbating a chilly ambiance and odd table positioning (tables too close together and yet large unused spaces).

                Service was simultaneously obtrusive and inattentive (a trick that) with forgotten side of fries (quickly supplied by the food runner), a long delay for requested additional condiments (while the waiter was visible clearing tables and messing around at the station).

                Had the quail appetizer which was fine. Not incredibly flavorful, but fine.
                I had the Tournados of beef, which were meltingly tender and flavorful, but the plating was kind of precious- too much white space, very symmetric, with the greens almost completely hidden below the beef, and topped by a pair of nipple-like ravioli.
                DC had the paparadelle bolognese, which was not very good. I just tried a bite, but pasta was al dente to the point of crunchy (how do you do that with fresh noodles?) the bolognese didn't have any of the luxurious unctuousness that I would hope for, and the flavor seemed flat.
                At this point, cold and uncomfortable in the modern chairs, I nixed birthday desert- the pear and brown butter tart looked tempting, but not enough to stay for it.

                I'm not going to hurry back, and I'm afraid that it's going to be hard to make that combination of price point, menu which was simultaneously pretentious and not very interesting, and enormous space work out in that neighborhood.

                1. m
                  mkfisher RE: vitaminQ Oct 18, 2011 10:19 AM

                  We were there a couple Sundays ago and had a fabulous cocktail that the bartender was testing out. All I remember was cucumber vodka and sriracha, but it was one of the more interesting drinks I've had in quite some time.

                  Thought the artichoke soup was kind of bland. The hirmasa appetizer was fantastic. As others have noted the burger is excellent (and a relatively good deal for $15). We also had a mushroom ravioli and another pasta dish with pancetta and chicken oysters. Both of those were quite good too.

                  The place was pretty dead as one would expect on a Sunday night. Service was excellent for such a new place.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: mkfisher
                    DoubleMan RE: mkfisher Oct 18, 2011 12:09 PM

                    We were there at the bar around 9 on Friday and it was almost completely dead - Area IV, where we had dinner, was mostly full. We just wanted some drinks and were a bit disappointed. Most of the drinks were fine, but I didn't see much on the menu was too novel. The Catalyst was tasty - ends up tasting like a root beer - sweeter and weaker than I would have suspected from the ingredients. Enjoyable, but not something I'd order again.

                    One of us ordered the "bartender's choice" and told the bartender that she "really liked brown liquors, especially rye, and drinks with lots of bitters," he returned with a overly-anised sazerac. Of course, as with anyone who loves rye and bitters, a sazerac was not a new drink to her. Nothing wrong with it, but I just feel that if you are going to put the "bartenders choice" option out there, you need to back it up. The bartenders should also realize that certain requests (saying one is a fan of "rye and bitters" would be included) should illicit different levels of suggestions. A scotch sazerac, perhaps, or a Brooklyn variation. Offering one of the top 5 quintessential cocktails doesn't fly anymore.

                    While I wholeheartedly welcome the overall increase in quality of the cocktail craft in this city, and love the handful of spots that really shine, I've been quite disappointed by a number of newer places that overpromise on the cocktail front (Russel House except for Aaron, Woodward, Lord Hobo, and now Catalyst). If you can't back it up, aim a bit lower - or hire someone who has done the Lynch Gruppo or Jackson Cannon training.

                    unrelated: the bar stools are very comfortable.

                    Lord Hobo
                    92 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02141

                    1. re: DoubleMan
                      lloyd RE: DoubleMan Oct 18, 2011 12:33 PM

                      I was at Catalyst on friday too, the place was packed. Are you sure you have the right day?

                      1. re: lloyd
                        DoubleMan RE: lloyd Oct 18, 2011 12:47 PM

                        The lounge area was completely empty and the bar had about 20 open seats when we arrived around 9. By 10:15ish, when we left, the front part of the dining room (closest to the street) was completely empty - along with the lounge and all except 4 seats at the bar.

                      2. re: DoubleMan
                        HarryC RE: DoubleMan Oct 22, 2011 11:22 AM

                        I went there last night and the bar was three deep. After a few rounds I went to Area 4 and was the only one at the bar.

                        Oh, and a Brooklyn is a variation of a Manhattan, not a Sazerac.

                        1. re: HarryC
                          DoubleMan RE: HarryC Oct 23, 2011 12:51 PM

                          Sorry, I wasn't clear, I didn't mean to imply that a Brooklyn is a Sazerac variation. The Brooklyn and its variations are just some less common but still accessible rye drinks that would be better for a "bartender's choice" drink than one of the most famous and popular cocktails.

                    2. lipoff RE: vitaminQ Nov 25, 2011 09:58 PM

                      Just went to Catalyst for dinner tonight. I'm very excited, since I was a big fan of William Kovel's cooking at Aujourd'hui.

                      I like the room --- modern, a little spare, at least when it's empty, but feels very comfortable. Service was extremely attentive, maybe a touch overly attentive, in fact. Clearly they are trying hard, introducing themselves by name, and making conversation.

                      I started with the spice crusted hiramasa, which was just lightly seared, and slightly cooked by an acidic orange-yuzu syrup, and served atop a bed of julienned cucumbers and radishes that tasted crisp enough to have been quick-pickled. There was also a little bit of fried something (onion?) atop for textural contrast. This dish was divine, if perhaps a little small portion-wise.

                      My DC had the sunchoke and lobster soup, which she enjoyed, but I didn't taste.

                      She had the roasted cod served "a la nage" (as if the cod were swimming!), and the few bites I was allowed were heavenly. One of the best textures in cod I have ever had, just perfectly cooked through and through.

                      I had the tournedos of beef. Ordered medium rare, mine were a touch over cooked and a touch too salty, but still tender and the terrific sauce compensated for the overcooking. The chard underneath was truly terrific, but the little ravioli didn't pair well with the beef. They were definitely house-made --- I recognize the unique shape from Aujourd'hui.

                      A strongly herbed focaccia and a terrific, simple potato bread made for a nice accompaniment through the meal.

                      My DC had the chocolate fondant cake for dessert, which I nibbled but didn't care for. I had the root beer float, which had a wonderful sassafras-ginger syrup inside. The menu said it came with chocolate-mint ice cream and crushed blueberries, but it came with vanilla ice cream and another crushed fruit, but was delicious all the same to me, although my DC didn't care for it. That's why there are menus.

                      Very excited about Catalyst. Really enjoyed this meal. Another great addition to the area, and glad to have William Kovel's cooking back in Boston. Main Street now has Catalyst, Craigie, Salts, and Toscanini's, and Oleana and Evoo, not to mention Emma's and Mulan are right near by. Quite a line up in the area!

                      134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lipoff
                        opinionatedchef RE: lipoff Nov 25, 2011 10:54 PM

                        wow, sounds like quite the winning meal! i'm psyched that you liked the hiramasa because devra first didn't have such a great experience w/ it, but it certainly calls to me from that menu. is it very mild or is there much flavor to distinguish it, the fish itself?( i tend towards the fatty fish for sushi- hamachi, sake...)

                        globe review 11/23/11:


                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                          lipoff RE: opinionatedchef Nov 26, 2011 09:11 AM

                          Yes, definitely a winning meal.

                          I thought most of the flavor came from the sauce, but the hiramasa definitely had its own flavor and nice texture, and the whole dish came together really well, from the delicate fish, the crisp vegetables beneath and the crunchy topping.

                          Also, a small correction to my own review --- the root beer float was not meant to come to chocolate-mint ice cream, but rather chocolate-mint (a variety of mint), which it did. Apologies for my own confusion. I'm sure the crushed fruit at the bottom weren't blueberries though.

                      2. b
                        bookdwarf RE: vitaminQ Dec 5, 2011 09:13 AM

                        Three of us went to Catalyst last night for the first time. We were planning on trying out Area Four for dinner but didn't realize it's closed on Sunday nights.

                        I found the interior gorgeous though the restaurant was only a quarter full at 7 pm. We sat at the comfy bar and split a bunch of dishes. The bartender was polite but not overly personable. Cocktails were pretty good--Corpse Reviver #2 and Mexican Sand. I got the bartenders choice which was fine except she neglected to tell me what she gave me.

                        From the bar menu we tried the Crispy Pork Rillettes, which were indeed crispy and delicious and had a shallot grape jam that paired well. We also split the Crystal Valley Chicken Wings with Tatziki Dipping Sauce. The wings were excellent and came in a little pot covered in a sweet and spicy sauce. The tatziki was a little sweet but nicely countered the spiciness of the wings.

                        From the main menu we tried the Caramelized Onion Soup with Raclette Toast and roasted cipolini onions which was sort of like a pureed version of French Onion soup. It was very delicious especially once the raclette toast soaked up some of the soup! We ordered the Garganelli, Chicken Oysters, Bacon, Black Truffle Butter which could have used a touch of salt & a bit more bacon but the flavors were outstanding nonetheless. The chicken oyster meat was falling apart and tasty! We split the Lightly Pickled Vegetable Salad, Peppercress, Crispy Onion that we all enjoyed and perhaps the winner of the night was the side of potatoes, pearl onions, roasted with "drippings", if my memory serves me correctly.

                        We split the Chocolate Fondant dessert which came with Caramel Glaze, Hazelnut Streusel, and Banana Coulis.The three of us all really really liked it. It's my kind of dessert, salty and sweet.

                        They seem to change the menu often. I checked online this morning to help me remember the names of some dishes but they weren't on there.

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