After a website misinfo glitch about wkend dinner hours last wkend, we finally got to Tres Gatos for dinner tonight. 5:30 Sat. (By the time we left at 7:30, all inside tables were taken or being seated, and parties were being given the option of sitting at the bar or on the pleasant outdoor patio of 3 umbrella tables.)The menu of tapas had changed since last week, so we were not able to get the dish that had brought us here (MCSlim’s CH mention of the Asian Soft shell Crab; thx so much for alerting us to this place, Slim!) but we still had a lot of good food. I love places like this. But as I type those words, i realize the irony that there are almost NO places like this anymore.Tres Gatos occupies the first floor of a Victorian house with a covered porch, right on Centre St. The book store/cafe that it was originally- still exists in the back of the house, but my guess is that, as word spreads about this small place, they are going to need alot more tables to satisfy demand, and maybe that bookstore space will make way for those tables......
When I say I love places like this, I am talking about the unique physical surroundings of a casual comfortable house,with idiosyncratic design elements and accents, but I am also talking about the fact that one feels the world of a family as one dines here. The everpresent owner, David, and his staff of women servers- are friendly and welcoming,knowledgeable about the food, and all sharing duties with ease. It’s clear that they all care about the place and that they are proud of it.
And there’s alot to be proud of. Chef Marcos, a star student and now PT instructor at Roberta Dowling’s Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, came here from a stint at Dante, but his California-bred talents are
much larger than the world of Italy. At Tres Gatos he taps his extensive knowledge of the expansive Latin food world . Alioli, romesco, chimichurri, pasilla pimenton tomato sauce, these are the treatments you will likely experience and admire as you work your way through a well varied menu of small plates. Portions are not skimpy and prices are fair.
With our very first bite, of Bibb Salad w/ Chorizo, Robiola and Spiced Pepitas, we knew there was a good talent in the kitchen. The chorizo was minced and fried with crunchy spiced pepitas to create a mysterious but delicious counterpoint to the soft tender lettuce. The moist lamb slider was slathered with flavorful soft chimichurri, and topped with crunchy bits of deep fried shallots. Quail was sauteed w/ foraged mushrooms and a rich jus. Brined, braised and grilled lamb tongue was served as slices on a bed of grits, with a 6 minute egg. (My Love scarfed it but it was not my thing; it would have benefitted by the Romesco served with the tender thick Asparagus, or any of the other luscious sauces.) Possibly our fav of all was Marcos’ version of Patatas Bravas (Listen up, Toro et al: THIS guy gets it right.) A generous portion of cubed Yukon Gold potatoes are fried medium brown and presented with a drape of two sauces: garlic alioli and pasilla pimenton tomato. Stellar. And for us, easily the best we’ve ever had. The churros and grilled semolina cake desserts of the neighboring table looked really tempting, but we were done. (Besides, we had a date to keep with some tart light soft Peach X [fro yo] and Extreme Chocolate at JP Licks!)
So, you lucky JPers you! Tres Gatos is a real ‘Neighborhood Gem’, and if we lived nearby, I would soon become a regular fixture there. What a lovely relaxing intimate spot to meet friends, and lucky you to get the extra bonus of Chef Marcos’ talents. The owners have started to get the picture of their new venture’s
success and rising future, and they have begun taking reservations, so do start going before seats become much harder to come by!