I went out to dinner tonight in Somerville with my family. Last time I took them out we went to Il Pomodoro, a two story Italian restaurant on High Street in Somerville. The meal at Il Pomodoro was average at best, however, as we were leaving we realized that there was a small tapas style restaurant in the basement. We checked out the menu and decided that if we were in the area again we would give it a try. Well tonight was the night.
When my mother first said she wanted to dine at Tapastre I was hesitant. The meal at the sister restaurant Pomodoro was not that great, and I can't imagine that they would do a much better job at trying to interpret tapas style food in a seemingly second thought style setting under the building. We arrived for a 6:30 reservation and were promptly greeted and seated by a friendly host. The menu presented 5 sections each representing a different country ( Spain, Italy, Africa....) Each section had 5-6 items ranging in price from 4-11 dollars in price. To the eye the choices were very appealing and offered a variety of items from spicy, to tame, to savory, to exotic. The server ( who was very professional and well trained) explained to us that all the portions were small and he recomended that we order 3-4 items each. The wine list was on the table and only boasted 6-8 wines by the glass and a few by the bottle. The choices were not impressive.
We decided to each get three courses and have them served in waves of three. After we ordered we were given an amuse of fried alligator tail with a spicy Morrocon sauce. Now I am not sure as to what made this sauce Morrocon, however, it was quite tasty, The alligator tail was obviously breaded in house as it was studded with bits of fresh herbs and spices. I was a bit confused as to the idea of having alligator tail at a tapas restaurant in Somerville, but hey it was surprisingly good. The touch on the amuse that indicated to me that the chef actually cared about what he was doing was the dressed Italian flat leaf parsley salad on the plate with the alligator tail. The salad consisted of a few pieces of picked parsley dressed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
For the first course we had; Korobuta Sausage with a braised onion filled with a cannelini bean salad, Bacon "Pesto" crusted sea scallops with blue cheese crackers, and marinated octupus with fried plantain. The sausage was grilled and cooked perfectly. The combination of the braised sweet onions and the white beans complemented the spicy-richness of the sausage perfectly. The scallops were seared and caramelized on top, crusted with bacon and pesto and served over evidently housemade bluecheese crackers. The scallops tasted fresh and were seasoned properly, however, did not need the blue cheese complement. The octopus was lightly grilled and marinated with lime juice, herbs and aromatics, served in a martini glass with a thin piece of fried plantain. Wow, I love octopus, and this was perfect, not too mushy, with a little tooth to spare, seasoned with the proper amount of spice, and presented on a banana leaf lined cocktail plate....nice touch.
For the second course we had foie gras ravioli, poached pear salad and a wild arugula salad with sesame crusted goat cheese. The foie gras ravioli was home made and came in a bowl with two large pieces, it was served with a mushroom duck broth poured tableside upon presentation. The ravioli dough was cooked perfectly and melted in the mouth, however, the filling was mushy and tasted like poorly made pate. The arugula salad on the other hand was a huge success. The goat cheese medallion was crusted with black and white sesame seeds and seared until golden brown, the hot cheese spilled all over the perfectly dressed salad when cut into. The pear on the pear salad was poached to perfection, not too mushy, but not too raw, the dressing was a bit acidic, however, when eaten with the pear balanced out a bit.
For the third course we had lobster ravioli, morrocon duck bysteea, and grilled baby lamb chops. The ravioli once again was homemade and used the same dough as the foie gras ravioli, it was garnished with a thin lobster bisque "style" sauce seasoned with chunks of fresh lobster tail. The duck was a huge hit, and presented simply on a long plate with a single chive spear and two long lines of a vinegar reduction. The duck meat was meltingly tender and seasoned with a touch of cinnamon. The filo ( which I normaly dont like as it is usually dried out) was a perfect vessel to soak up the excess moisture inside the bysteea. The lamb was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It seemed as if the chops were rubbed down with a spice mixture of fresh cracked pepper, coriander, and fennel. The lamb was served over a salad of shaved cucumber, yogurt, spices and vinegar. Phenomenal contrast betwenn the slightly gamy lamb and the acidic nature of the yogurt dressed salad.
For dessert we had the trio of creme brulee and a cheese plate. The creme brulee was served three ways, with a traditional struesal topping, with caramelized brown sugar and with a caramel honey "type" topping. The custard melted in the mouth, with no grainy texture and freshness that indicated it was made that day. The cheeses, while not too exotic or artisinal
(mahon, asiago, humboldt fog, brie de meaux, tillst, and manchego) were served at room temperature, which indicated that the chef knows how to appreciate cheese. They were garnished with dried fruits and served with fairly cliched crackers.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised with Tapastre. The chef obviously knows his food as each element on every plate was treated with respect. The menu offered many choices all with unique flavors and attributes. The final price was 150 for 3 glasses of wine, soda, and 12 different dishes Service was to the point and flowed well. The atmosphere was comfortable with lighting that allowed for a bit of privacy, yet still allowed for diners to read the menu wuth ease. I noticed on the way out that on Sundays the restaurants has $2 beer and $6 martini specials during the football games. The bar was packed all night with couples watching college football. I will definitely go back and would recommend others to give this restaurant a try.