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Catalyst - or somewhere else?

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Did a quick search of the board and didn't turn up any reviews of Catalyst in 2012. Has anyone been recently?

I need to book a spot for dinner for my husband and I and another couple. I want to go somewhere I haven't been before. Beyond that, one of us is a wine aficionado, so I'm looking for somewhere with a good wine list. Also important is that the restaurant be quiet or at least not noisy, and have comfortable, reasonably-spaced seating. We want to be able to relax and talk (but not be locked into a compulsory multi-course tasting.) Past dinners together were Sorellina and Hammersley's - both delivered on all of the above (except newness obviously).

Anyway, that's why I'm thinking of Catalyst. Other places on my list of new-ish restaurants to try are T.W. Food (worried its food is uneven) and Tico (too noisy/casual?). Is there anywhere I'm missing or is Catalyst a good choice?

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  1. Cannot speak to the wine list, but have been to TW Food a couple of times and it has been great and very even. I think that's a better choice than Catalyst, certainly in terms of noise level. Catalyst is all concrete and hard surfaces - tables are well spaced. TW Food tables are a little closer, but the feel is warm and cozy by comparison.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      Wine at TW is highly curated: a small list, fewer than 10 wines, mostly french, all very good and appropriate to the food. Go there expecting to drink something they've chosen well for you, not something you already have in mind. It's a cozy, intimate space. I find the food consistently excellent. No cocktails.

      Catalyst is a large lively space, not as noisy as some. Good mid-sized wine list, US-focused but with some good choices from France, Italy, etc. More casual overall than TW. The food is very good, but TW is on a different (higher) level.

      Both places should be on your list to visit eventually.

    2. Had a very unpleasant experience at Catalyst: Over-cooked pork chop and a server that never checked back in on us until time to drop the check. For that area I would recommend West Bridge, creative delicious menu and good service.

      1. My wife and I had a lovely meal at Catalyst about a week ago. Started with a Ward Eight cocktail, which was well executed, although not quite as delicious as Craigie’s. The corn soup with crab and truffle is divine (although it probably contains a stick of butter.) The Tournedos of Beef are tender yet full of flavor and the Blue Cod au Nage was perfectly prepared. We ordered wine by the glass and found the pairings from the limited selection to work nicely. We were seated in the front room, which is spacious and conducive to conversation and privacy from fellow diners. I’m not sure the same can be said for the other rooms. The service is quite competent. All in all, it was a delightful experience and I’m sure we’ll be back.

        1. I enjoyed Catalyst's food. Burger looked amazing. Pea ravioli was delicious. I also loved the decor. Impressive, quiet enough for conversation, great bar, tables are spaced well. However, I did not like the location. I had a tough time finding it, and it was DEAD in that area on a Saturday night.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Marisa23

            Validated parking in the Tech Sq garage is a nice bonus.

            1. re: Marisa23

              The burger at Catalyst has been one of my favorite things to eat in the last six months. I've been there a handful of times and had different dish each time and the meals are always good to very good- never great. But, then, not many restaurants are great in Boston/Cambridge. I really like the decor, it's comfortable for a group, a foursome, or a date and their alt/indie playlist that is pumped into the room at just the right volume never goes unnoticed.

              1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles

                I also really like the burger at Catalyst. The combo of roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions is a really nice complement to the juicy, beefy burger. The house-made condiments are delicious, too, and the fries are great dipped into the aioli.

              2. re: Marisa23

                I'm not sure how it's hard to find. It's right on Main Street? I guess the signage isn't amazing, but it should be easy to find with an address.

                While that immediate area might be dead on a Saturday... you can walk right down Main Street and you'll be in Central Square in less than five minutes. Walk north and you'll be at One Kendall in less than five minutes with lots of other restaurants (West Bridge, CBC, Blue Room, Friendly Toast etc) and the live outdoor music at Tommy Doyle's

              3. It just occurred to me, Bergamot would be a great choice for your occasion. Very comfortable noise-wise. Excellent longish very interesting wine list. Great food, great service, not expensive. All win.

                1. Thank you to everyone who weighed in. I ended up choosing T.W. Food for the occasion, which was last week. (I got the feeling from the comments that it would be a little more elegant, intimate and polished than Catalyst, which I still plan to try one day.)

                  We had a nice meal. The room was perfect acoustically for a group of our size and nature, though I wish the decor was somehow felt warmer/plusher. My wine loving friend remarked that the wine list looked fun. Our consensus was that the two wines he chose (not sure of their names) were good but not great. I felt the same about our experience as a whole. The only food that delighted me was the tiny tomatoes in the lettuce and summer vegetable salad. (Nice pistachio sauce on that plate too.) I didn't love the consistency of my chicken - it was all very soft - more like ground chicken than a solid piece of meat. I guess I was expecting more texture and crispy bits.

                  Service was fine: not intrusive but no big absences either. I get the feeling that they knew we wanted to catch up and left us to it. The dessert beignets were slow in coming because they needed to change the frying oil (apparently it's the same that they fry seafood in and someone in our party has a shellfish allergy). I guess it took longer than they'd anticipated and they were kind enough to comp us the dessert.

                  Bottom line is that I'd go back if I was with someone else who wanted to eat there but wouldn't initiate another visit myself.