Craigie on Main; finally
For a big fête we finally made it to Chef Tony Maws vaunted Craigie on Main. Ashamed I never dined at the original Bistro, at long last a table was reserved and we descended to set things right...mainly speaking. Parking just on the the street is always a good omen and at round seven the place was beginning to fill up. Academics and blue hairs treating their college kids, definitely older, no young monied types, no raving beauties cept one. A few 2 tops were enthusiastic about each other and the experience. Us too. A buzzing open kitchen was gearing up in practiced intensity for what would prove to be a big "in the weeds" Friday night. House fizzy water had the extra fine carbonation going for it and just the right bubble as well as a big gulp dirty martini and an absinthe/calvados cocktail. Slap my hand but I could not resist the bread. Excellent service is the clear norm in this irregular shaped room with tiny aisles and servers doing the limbo to negotiate the place. It is reminiscent of so many good dim boîtes in Paris sans the grande tude. In fact the attitude and knowledge of every server and busser at COM was exemplary. Chef Maw's menu is my favorite kind. Hard to decide. I want it all. "Can't we just order all the apps?" Locavore and real deal James Beard Award winner, Tony and his crew have real deal crazy fresh talent and inspiration working. We decide to put our palates in their hands and so order the 8 course Chef's tasting and order a bottle of French hard cider to embrace autumn and the degustation to follow.
Because this was a special occasion and hunger and passion were in the air, caution was thrown to the wind and in addition to the dishes of the day we had to have the marrow bones and toast. I do not feel one shred of guilt for this pleasure. Large split bones with luscious rich marrow and very toasted bread were just so good and bad...perfect. Here's how the rest of what I can recall went down. Everything was subtle and elegant. Stars where ingredients were not cheated but not masked. My favorite was the crispy pig's ears bright with nuoc cham and pickled peanuts. So good in the haze of morning...afternoon.
So she goes like this;
EIGHT-COURSE TASTING MENU
Three Seafood Preparations: fluke sashimi, anchovy, tuna rillettes/hackleback caviar
Salad of Bluefin Tuna Tartare watermelon, cucumber, shiso
Wild Nunavut Arctic Char Mi-Cuit fresh rock shrimp, barley couscous, spiced cucumber broth, purslane
House-Made Rye Flour Spaghetti kid goat confit, charred tomato and eggplant
Pork Belly-Wrapped Veal Sweetbreads Boston brown bread, green tomatoes, beer house-made mustard
Crispy-Fried Pig’s Tails pickled peanuts, nuoc cham, cilantro
Sour milk Panna cotta
Yogurt Foam with Red Beet and Blood Orange Granite
It's an on purpose metered and Euro slow paced experience in the chaos that is the front of the house of this bustling room. Tony came to our table much to our surprise and was charming and down to earth. Not a media dilettante or damaged over-indulger but rather reminiscent of the great Jasper, Gordon or Ken of whom we can be so proud and delighted by. The whole thing was just surprising, subtle, satisfying and priceless (sic). I will return perhaps with reinforcements but first I must hibernate.
Craigie on Main
853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
I ate there for my 15th wedding anniversary last year, and agree wholeheartedly with your review, just a wonderful experience. I know some people find the service cold and somewhat rude, but my server was very knowledgeable and conscientious. Tony Maws is also well know for being inflexible about changes to his lineup (we also went for the tasting menu), but I don't eat desert, and he changed my desert course to a cheese course (that was outstanding btw) without hesitation. Probably one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life to be honest.
i have always been treated well by the waitstaff at Craigie though I was made aware of inflexibility from the front of the house. But then I almost always feel that waitstaff at good restaurants try to give diners a good experience; the only time I was disappointed was at Alain Ducasse in Paris and only due to upselling on the wine.