My foodbud Kevin and I repaired to Pagu in Kendall Sq., Cambridge, MA on a recent Saturday to continue my month-plus 70th birthday celebration. We grabbed seats facing the kitchen, the better to watch prep of ramen with a 6-minute egg, Spanish tortilla baked in individual little cast-iron pans, and much more. We began with festive drinks. Me: the Orchard Julep with house peach-vanilla sour mash, apricot and mint - served up in a copper iced julep cup. Very spirit-forward and it went down easily. Kev went for the Jardin de Balata with rhum agricole blanc, lemon, pineapple and Thai chili. Also a winner. Properly warmed up, we tucked into the following:
Shishito peppers with ponzu and togarashi - lightly grilled, we ate every one and it was a generous serving. Where can I buy shishito??? Anyone?
Curry crab croquetas with aji amarillo - hot fried peekytoe crab balls. What could be bad?
Braised Pork Belly Bao - a good-sized, fatty, unctuous hunk of belly in the usual bao. Nice.
Squid Ink Oyster Bao - standout of the meal, a squidy black bao enrobes one perfectly fried oyster, some purple cabbage, shiso and a tiny touch of heat. (sorry for the squibbly photo--must have been the drink)
Okonomiyaki - Japanese omelette, bacon, yam, sweet cabbage (nice and crunchy), alioli and furikake. This was a plateful of deliciousness but so rich that we could only eat half. I forced myself to finish it for supper. Somebody had to do it!
We were way too full for dessert but will be back to sample: smoked purple yam ice cream, coconut kaffir sorbet, black sesame tofu, kabocha ice cream or chocolate cake with sichuan peppercorn ice cream, cocoa nibs and chocolate salt. Pardon me while I swoon.....
Couple of notes: Pagu means 'pug' in Japanese. Also, their Kitchen Appreciation Fee is a transparent way they reward their hardest working dishwashers, line cooks, and prep cooks without increased menu prices. Parties of 8 or more are subject to a 20% gratuity.