Puritan & Co.
1166 Cambridge Street, Inman Square, Cambridge
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday – Saturday 5:30 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Puritan and Co. excites me. It is not in Harvard Sq., and it is not in Central Sq. It is not in the Back Bay or the South End.
It is surrounded by Portuguese fish shops and Brazilian salons in up-and-coming Inman Square. This brand-new enterprise by chef Will Gilson (formerly of the Garden at the Cellar), is spacious, but also warm, unpretentiously elegant, and oozing with New England charm. It’s a bustling space, where seating is almost guaranteed, and the kitchen is happy to serve you at 10 p.m. — much appreciated by someone living the graduate student life, for whom dinner is whenever work is finished, or the belly can’t wait any longer.
Puritan is versatile: it provides the right environment regardless of the occasion. Its staff members operate like magicians, facilitating a seamless experience. Choose the intimacy of the tucked-away raw bar for catching up with a friend while watching craftsmen at work on desserts; get a table for two when on a date, to be amid the comfort of strangers; sit at the bar while munching on charcuterie and talking work; or get a larger corner table while dining with friends. The devil is in the details, and Puritan seems to know what a difference good lighting and proper acoustics make. Conversations flow and everyone and everything looks delightful.
But let’s talk food! And drink. The menu looks so good, it makes you plan your next visit before you’ve even decided what to order.
I know good butter when I get it, and the complimentary potato bread came with just that. In lieu of the oysters (they had run out), we got little raw scallops, teeny-tiny jewels topped with fresh — and I mean fresh — horseradish. While the crude scallops are nice little bites, the baked scallop stole my heart. It was like eating a beautiful micro-cosmos, as amusing to the mouth as it was to the eye. Colors, flavors, and textures were not only perfectly balanced, but quite unexpected. Pair it with a glass of Sancerre, and you are in for a great evening.
It was a fish night for my dining partner and me, and we opted for the two choices they had. In came a perfectly crusted, buttery seared bass, over a bed of potato and lemon puree and a ragout of heirloom beans, drizzled with a delicious citrus nage, and accompanied by perfect, bite-sized vegetables. The nage could have been a bit warmer, if only because it was spooned out of the plate until not a drop was left. The cobia, a fish I had never even heard of before, let alone eaten, turned out to be a meaty white fish similar to swordfish, and it was clean and simple.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw Pavlova in their dessert menu. Crisp, light, and soft: sweetness balanced by a dollop of coconut ice cream and grapefruit and orange citrus. Crumbled shortcake on top made for a delightful texture mélange.
Puritan features an extensive wine and beer list, which favors local brews, eclectic longnecks, and European wines. Try the beautiful Priorat and the Sancerre.
Our bodies and spirits left Puritan in the best of moods: satisfied, energetic, happy, and light. Nothing tells you a meal was superb better than that!