Restaurants & Bars

La Bodega (Watertown MA)

BostonBestEats | Jan 6, 2018 04:28 PM

La Bodega is the long-awaited sequel to Gabriel Bremer and Analia Verolo's Salts in Cambridge, which closed after a flood back in 2014. Although the celebrated roast duck from Salts is still on the menu, everything else about LB is completely different, starting with it's Uruguayan-Spanish (+French & Basque?)-oriented menu.

When we arrived, we were met by Analia's enthusiastic hospitality and treated to a quick tour of the restaurant and kitchen. "Sit anywhere you like" she said, so we sat at one of the tables in the bar area. It is an attractive space, with a very long bar (although I'm not sure how comfortable those metal bar stools looked), 4-tops along the bar, and then a cozy line of 2-tops in the connected old train car next door. Yes, a train car! It sounds weird, almost diner-esque, but it's not.

I'm not sure, but they may still be in soft-opening mode, with a limited menu. Certainly, the menu was a modest 16 items (plus the unlisted $65 deboned duck), there was no formal cocktail list, no website, and the hours seemed to be odd (opening at 6PM on a Friday night). Check before you go, just to be safe. Although the phone wasn't answered, they did quickly respond to my query by Facebook Messenger.

Having only opened a couple of weeks ago, I don't think the word is out yet, so the restaurant was only about 1/3rd occupied. Hence, the noise level was modest, but we'll have to see when more crowded.

The menu is composed of mostly small, shareable plates, the exceptions being the roast whole duck and the Chivito sandwich (which was apparently written up by Boston Magazine last year). We enjoyed:

NEGRONI: No formal cocktail list, but with a full bar and bartender, I assume they will eventually add one. On the bartender's suggestion of something involving vermouth, I went with a classic Negroni, which had some orange bitters added to it for complexity.

WINES: A nice little wine list, with 6 wines by the glass, and 2 beers on tap (one being a cider) and several by bottle. Recognizable names like Zind-Humbrecht, Guigal and Lopez de Heredia, it is mostly French/Spanish/CA, and interestingly many have a bit of age. Also, the markup seems very reasonable, with a $44 retail bottle of 2010 Merry Edwards SB going for $70 (and you won't find the 2010 in a store!), and a $48 2011 Gerard Boulay Les Mont Dame Sancerre for $68. Overall, in the $40-165 range, with quite a few choices at the lower end.

DEVILED FARM EGG: With Mangalitsa ham ($5). Two halves of a classic deviled egg, topped with this thinly shaved prosciutto-like ham made from heritage Hungarian pigs (a large haunch is proudly displayed on the bar).

LENGUA A LA VINAGRETA: Beef tongue, parsley, chopped farm egg ($12). Melt-in-you-mouth tongue, covered in a delicious medley of chopped accompaniments. This was probably my favorite of the night.

HEIRLOOM BABY CARROTS: "A la Plancha", romesco, almond, fried bread ($15). Perfectly roasted on a delicious romesco sauce, this is a beautifully Instagrammable dish. The only thing I didn't like were the jarringly crunchy tiny croutons.

WILD MUSHROOMS IN ESCABECHE: Baby artichokes, farm egg ($15). A selection of different mushrooms in a slightly vinegary broth, surmounted by a luscious, presumably sous vide egg.

All-in-all, the food was delicious and interesting. There are also ~4 desserts, but we didn't try any. I look forward to returning and seeing how the menu evolves (and try the duck with 3-4 friends).

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