It rarely happens. The best and most successful restaurants usually either rest on their laurels or drift downward in quality while hoping nobody notices. Not Somerville Origin. We had lunch there today, and we both agreed that they'd significantly stepped up their game.
Two reasons, maybe. First, they've changed the physical conformation of their lunch menus; the paper and font was different, and a dish here or there was added and subtracted. Second, and more likely, Origin just opened up Origin III in Basking Ridge some 30 minutes North, and just maybe, the Somerville crew decided to prove that the original Origin is still the one.
And it sure is. The mussels in the mussel appetizer were on a par with the best we've had anywhere. Perfectly plump and sublimely seasoned with lemon grass, basil, red and yellow peppers, they had just the right amount of chili heat to leave your lips singing at dishes end. We've had the mussels there a good half dozen times but this dish was special.
We might've considered it coincidence if both the entrees weren't another step up from the usual excellence. We had the Origin Oriental Chicken Salad, and a special Shrimp in Green Curry over wheat noodles. Again, we've had the chicken salad before but the green beans were fresher today with that right-out-of-the-garden snap. The portion, too, was a third larger, served in a different dish. The equally large portion of shrimp in green curry, though, was better still. Perfectly done shrimp which could only have been more flavorful if they'd been cooked with their heads on in a green curry graced with fresh bamboo shoots (so different from the usual crappy-from-the-can kind) and tiny Thai artichokes and green peas, garnished with half of a hard boiled egg. The curry sauce itself had, to our palates, just the right balance of coconut milk, curry and heat. And all this for an after tax/pre-tip price of under $29.00 !!! If we'd paid twice that, we'd still have considered it a bargain. Get to Somerville Origin for lunch while the gettin's still great. Take a sick day from work, if you must, or make up some lame story about an ailing relative, but get there before the staff realizes by how much they've just won the Origin race.