I first heard about Craigie on Main when a friend was telling me about how he tried their incredible burger. From then on, I assumed that the restaurant was more like a pub than anything else. As it turns out, Craigie on Main is more known for their casual yet fine dining cuisine because their burger is a limited quantity item sold only at the few seats along the bar of the open kitchen.
The opportunity to try Craigie on Main finally arose when my birthday rolled around. Every year, for our birthdays (which are one week apart exactly), my wife and I treat one another to a dining experience that we might not otherwise have during the regular year as our gifts. This year, we set our sights on Craigie on Main for our annual Birthday splurge and delved into the prix fixe menu offered.
Craigie on Main
853 Main St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
Service and Atmosphere
The interior of Craigie on Main is a combination of high-end dining with full service on tightly packed tables and rustic comfort with the open kitchen. The hosts and servers were all very friendly, courteous, and eager to answer any questions we had about the menu. Like many fine dining establishments, we had two dedicated servers and a few floating servers that delivered dishes or drink refills. We definitely felt very well taken care of by the staff and the atmosphere with its somewhat dim lighting allowed us to feel a sense of privacy despite the close quarters.
This, of course, is where any great restaurant shines the most. All of the dishes we had were expertly prepared masterpieces that impressed us visually as well with their creative combination of flavors.
Spanish Octopus a la Plancha (diva cucumber, Tuscan kale, young ginger, hon-shimeji mushroom, eggplant purée) – Properly prepared octopus is somewhat hard to find, but it is excellent. Anyone that likes calamari or shellfish, but that doesn’t like octopus has probably just had it prepared poorly. At Craigie on Main, I had one of the most incredible octopus preparations I’ve ever had. It was a little crispy at one end and at the other end, the texture was extremely tender, almost like a buttery lobster. Every bite just made me happier and happier. I even enjoyed the delicious eggplant puree and I don’t even like eggplant that much.
Salad of Cabbage, Frisée and Pistachio (smoked duck breast, pickled carrots, mustard seeds) – My wife ordered the salad that came with smoked duck breast. The ingredients were extremely fresh and not overly dressed. The pistachio went very well with the cabbase and frisee, but it’s shining achievement was helping to tie in the delicious smoked duck. This was unlike any smoked duck I tried before because the texture and look seemed more like a cured prosciutto than the usual duck breast. Overall, this was a refreshing yet complex blend of unique flavors that worked very well.
One amuse bouche is served between the first course and the entree. My wife and I both received different preparations of completely different ingredients. Allegedly, each one of us had something prepared that would go with the set of courses that we ordered. They served me a crispy rice cracker dotted with what tasted like a creamy curry sauce.
Vermont Pork Three Ways (farro, almonds, charred kumquats, spiced carrot purée) – Before ordering my entree, I couldn’t decide between the steak or the pork. Our server informed me that they are both good, but that the pork is one of Craigie on Main’s signature dishes. That made the choice easy for me because I wanted to try something that really represented the restaurant. The dish came with a spice-crusted, a piece of house made sausage, and a pork tenderloin medallion. The rib was unlike any I had ever had before, because it seemed like it was fried. It tasted more like a piece of chicharron than a rib, but overall the flavors were really good and the texture surprisingly crispy for a rib. The sausage also had good flavor, but was a little mild. The texture was interesting because it wasn’t overly processed, but also contained a good amount of fat. Lastly, the star of the dish for me was the pork tenderloin medallion. I have yet to have a piece of tenderloin cooked this perfectly.
Date and Chicken Sausage-Stuffed Chicken (charred persimmons, pistachio, roasted beets, spiced yogurt – I was surprised to see an item like this on the menu because it seemed a little Southern and home-style for the menu. Nonetheless, the chefs at Craigie on Main managed to take this dish to the next level. The dark chicken sausage within the chicken breast had great flavors balanced with spices. Meanwhile, the outer ring of chicken couldn’t have been cooked any better. The meat was tender and not dry at all, which is impressive in its own right. The dates and persimmons added a sweetness to the dish that worked very well with the sausage and the spiced yogurt worked in a slightly Indian take to the dish.
Ginger Bread Pain Perdu (warm caramel pears, crème fraîche ice cream) – When I ordered this dessert, I incorrectly read the item as “gingerbread,” like the cookie. Instead, this was more like a loaf of very sweet bread with ginger (i.e. ginger bread). The ginger bread was soaked in a sweet syrup, topped with a caramel pear, and set alongside an incredible quenelle of creamy creme fraiche ice cream. I enjoyed the ginger bread and the ice cream very much, but the pear was a little too firm and didn’t blend too well with the dessert as a whole.
Walnut Candy Cap Mousse (sumac cream, pine meringue, chestnut cake) – While beautiful, the dessert looked a little funny when it came out because I’d never seem mousse served as a tube before. Nonetheless, the shape made it easy to take “slices” of the mouse with a fork to mix and match with some of the ingredients accompanying the dish. The chestnut cake was relatively bland and crumbly, but it went very well with the full-flavored mousse. The sumac cream and pine meringue were delicious, but also delicate enough so as not to overpower anything with their woodsy flavors. The walnut mousse was a truly exceptional example of the skill found in the Craigie on Main kitchens.
Fantastic. Craigie on Main is one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in a long time. The food is imaginative, expertly cooked, and offers many familiar dishes with unfamiliar preparations. A meal at Craigie might cost more than a casual night out, but it is worth it!