The Hungry Beaver: Setting a Standard
Kenmore’s Eastern Standard Kitchen Raises Bar With Seafood, Sorbet
By Yao-Chung King
The Hungry Beaver reviews area restaurants in search of hidden gems to expose to the student community every other week. It aims to uncover obscure restaurants that provide good food and service, appeal to a broad section of students, and are geographically and financially accessible to students. Look to the Hungry Beaver to expand your dining options, and live by the Hungry Beaver Credo: “Eat well with good company. Live well with good company.”
Eastern Standard Kitchen
528 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
A new red awning overhangs Commonwealth Avenue, preventing the street’s construction from hiding another recent Kenmore arrival: Eastern Standard Kitchen. Open since summer, ES is poised to swing the dining preferences of MIT students.
My first entrance to ES produced a silent “wow” as I scanned the vast room that is the restaurant’s main dining area. The high ceilings and chandeliers give the restaurant a grand feel, and the room is tastefully furnished with comfortable mahogany-colored padded booths. The entire room has a new-old feel to it, as if ES had just opened in your grandfather’s time. I was impressed by the well-styled room and long oak bar and was eager to taste the menu.
The appetizers include basics: mussels, salt cod fritters, and fried calamari. The fried calamari ($10) makes my top three list in the Boston/Cambridge area (the West Side Lounge is tops). The calamari and cherry peppers are fried and served with an old bay aioli and is usually salted right to my tastes. The calamari portion is huge. It’s great to share among three people, though if you’re like me, you’ll want it to yourself. The salt cod fritters ($10) are served in a tiny wood crate, and while the presentation is interesting, the flavor of the fritters is a surprisingly bland departure from what I’ve come to expect from fried foods. The same dash of kosher salt that’s applied to the calamari would do wonders for the cod.
If you’re feeling adventurous, Eastern Standard takes a risky step away from the norm with other items on the appetizer list: offal, foie gras, and roasted bone marrow. I don’t often see these items offered, and I was intrigued enough to eventually try them all. Offal ($9), composed of animal innards and extremities (the meats often made into sausage and scrapple), is served in p t form with bread and mustard. It tastes surprisingly good if you don’t think about what you’re actually eating.
The foie gras, ($14) goose liver p t , is known for its velvety smoothness and richness. The taste of liver is unmistakable in this dish, so if you’re a fan, this is a great value (foie gras is typically expensive). Otherwise, keep looking. Finally, the roasted bone marrow, ($6) served with sea salt and spicy mustard is another one of those niche foods. For me, bone marrow is too oily or fatty to enjoy; I wouldn’t recommend starting with this heavy appetizer unless you’re curious. While I’m a big fan of venturing beyond the standard fare, Standard’s unstandard fare, mostly in the nature of the food itself rather than chef’s skill, didn’t appeal to my tastes.
Eastern Standard offers a variety of entrees and daily specials ranging from $18–$27. Drop by on Saturday or Sunday, and you’ll have Beef Wellington ($27) and a Suckling Pig ($22) available to you. My top choice for the regularly offered entrees is the pork chop ($20).The most flavorful item on the menu, it’s served with riesling braised cabbage and mustard sauce and is cooked to tenderness, remaining moist throughout. The roasted king salmon ($20) and grey sole ($22) are decent fish choices, while the bone-in rib eye was also ok. The lamb chop was moist throughout and seemingly cooked well but lacked proper seasoning.
For dessert (all $7), the choice is clear — unless you are freezing to death, order the house-made sorbet, which captures the essence of the fruit from which it’s made. The sorbet is pleasantly light, and the precision of the flavor is immediately obvious. This is the sorbet in Boston/Cambridge to have and is a dessert standout rare to find anywhere.
If it’s too cold, any of the other four dessert are good choices: Boston Cream Pie, Chocolate Mousse, Berry Tart, and Cr me Br l e. They’re good choices for their price, but not a standout among others I’ve had.
In a nutshell: Eastern Standard’s impressive decor will add a classic twist to a date. To avoid sticking out, I’d recommend a collar for guys; most of the crowd is well dressed. The bar area is open until at least midnight, closing progressively later as the weekend approaches. The kitchen follows the same progression, closing at 11 p.m. and creeping to midnight later in the week.
This restaurant is crowded on the weekends, so I’d recommend calling two to three days in advance for a Friday or weekend date. On cool nights, sit outside, mix good conversation and a bottle of wine, and watch the Sox fans march to or from the game.
The restaurant, as its name suggests, reliably brings a mostly standard menu at standard cost. Standouts are the calamari to start, the pork chop as an entr e, and definitely the sorbet for dessert. The decor itself is also a standout, and the combination of setting and food make Eastern Standard a good option for a date.
Eastern Standard, by my measure, is ironically simply “standard.” Standard food at a standard price, with the added benefit of a unique setting and outstanding fruit-faithful sorbet make Eastern Standard a break-even restaurant for dollar-to-value.