350 Third Street
Travel time from 77 Mass Ave: 16 minutes walking
Though I don’t normally think of Kendall Square as the happenin’ place in town (most of the Cambridge nightlife and restaurants are clustered in Central Square), EVOO has spiced up the scene and brought the crowds to an area previously devoid of palatable pizazz. EVOO (which stands for “extra virgin olive oil”), though new to the Kendall Square area behind the Mariott hotel, is no newbie to the culinary world. The restaurant moved from Somerville just over a month ago.
My date and I were greeted in the front by a very friendly hostess, and immediately led to a table by an open-air kitchen, bustling with chefs who had wonderful matching black hats. If you’re a party of two, I highly recommend requesting these tables. We were entertained by the nearby chefs at work, and though the tables are high, the seating is comfortable and overlooks the entire modern atmosphere of the restaurant.
The service was well-paced in all respects. The menus weren’t rushed at us, so we had time to settle into our seats and enjoy small talk before being presented with an extensive menu. Though it all fits on one page (an extra long page!), there are plenty of options to choose from — plan to spend $35 to $40 for a three course meal. The menu does take some time to wade through, however, because unlike most restaurants, the descriptions here are extensive. Every ingredient is listed in the description, so you know exactly what is in the dish and even where it comes from. The menu is certainly fun and full of local produce and meats, but be prepared to do a little reading (I’ve abridged the titles in my following descriptions!).
We started with littleneck clams steamed with bacon, kale, white beans, white wine, basil and EVOO’s country pâté with pickled raisins, whole grain mustard, and grilled bread (each $10). The clams portion was somewhat small, but the sauce it had been steamed in was incredible, especially when drizzled on our bread. The pâté portion on the other hand was rather large, though not as outstanding. That said, the pickled raisins were so tasty that I went digging for a recipe to make some myself the very next day.
For our main dishes, we ordered the mustard glazed baked bluefish fillet with smoky pig skin risotto, crisp onion rings, and a beet vinaigrette as well as a jalapeño laced chicken sausage with fried buttermilk brined chicken drumstick paired with apple slaw, plantain chips, and a slathering of very tasty barbecue sauce (each $25). The fish was perfectly tender, and the beet vinaigrette lent the whole plate a vibrant but exciting red color and sweet flavor that matched the savory onion rings and salty pig skin well. The barbecue sauce dominated the chicken dish, but as an elegant variation on good home-style cooking, this dish worked well.
The finale was two beautiful desserts. We even had the pleasure of watching them being assembled. The panna cotta with fresh whipped cream and rhubarb was quite refreshing and without the heavy finish I was expecting, especially given the large portion sizes. The tarragon-infused gold beet and orange sorbet parfait with fennel sugar cookies on the side was equally light and a nice way to end a beautiful and tasty meal.
I often judge a restaurant on whether I could make the same dish at home. EVOO’s inventive and eclectic food brought together combinations I would have never dreamed of but was glad I had tasted, when the fork touched my pallet. The menu descriptions, while thorough, are approachable yet creative, and there’s almost something for everyone. Vegetarians, be warned — there were only one or two vegetarian options.
If you’re going with a group, know that most of the tables hold no more than five guests. However, there is a private dining room that can host 32 people. Make reservations early, because even though EVOO just opened in Kendall Square, they already cater to a full house even on the weeknights.