Liz and I have been wanting to try TW Food in Cambridge for several months and finally got the chance this past weekend. The chef and proprietress duo of Tim and Bronwyn Weichmann who run the place had immediate cred with us having previously worked at Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain. TW Food gives off the same vibe as Ten Tables – casual and fun but sophisticated and tasteful. 12-15 or so tables, a nice view of the the chef in the kitchen, and decorations characterized by elegant simplicity. The night started off on a stressful note as we were running 10-15 minutes late for our 6pm reservation. We called on the way over to make sure this wouldn’t be a problem and they kindly explained that the table would be ours but that they had another seating at 8:30. A very reasonable reply – as accomodating as they could be within the practical limitations of their restaurant. We arrived in a frenzy and immediately ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings before even glancing at the menu. It is as follows:
The “Joy of Spring” Tasting ($69, $95 with wine pairing)
AMUSE BOUCHE littleneck clams on brioche, beet mousse on puff pastry over creme fraiche
SHOOTER local duxbury oyster with essence of fennel: chenin Blanc, “Les Amandiers”, 2005, Saumur, Loire Valley, France
SPRING BEET soup with atlantic sea scallop and wild morels: Melville Chardonnay, 2006, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
SMOKED SOFTSHELL CRAB kohlrabi salad and mascarpone vinaigrette: Sybille Kunitz Riesling, “Gold-Quadrat”, 2005, Bernkastel-Lieser, Mosel, Germany
CURED FARM BEEF “en gelee” with mango and rutabaga, horseradish cream: Matteo Corregia Barbera d’ Alba, 2003, Canale, Piedmont, Italy
PIG IN HAY vermont “yorkshire ham” slow roast leg with sorrel, ramps and asparagus, kentucky bourbon mint jus: Domaine Digiia-Royer Pinot Noir, 2005, Bourgogne, France
CHEESE roquefort, (aquitaine france) twig farm fuzzy wheel (west cornwall VT) comte vieux, (jura france): L’eCole No.41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot Blend, 2004, Columbia Valley, Washington
PROFITEROLES soft pate a choux pastry filled “a la minute” with vanilla ice cream, sauce caramel: Rasteau vin doux naturel 2005
First of all, $69 for a 7 course tasting menu is about as reasonable as it’s going to get, even if it were 7 courses at Chili’s, let alone a meal as good as this. And while your foot is in the door with the $69, may as well step on in for the wine pairing as well. Of everything we ate and drank, there were only two flaws that I can come up with. The seasoning was a bit off in the beet soup. The soup itself needed a touch more salt, and the morels a touch less. Though this was overshadowed by the best pairing I’ve had in a while with the Melville Chardonnay. Second, I didn’t care much for the beef “en gelee”. As opposed to a terrine, which is typically lined with a layer of gelatin, the beef ‘en gelee’ was essentially chunks of beef set in a gelatin mold. It provided a nice texture contrast with the beef but did not contribute significantly to the flavor of the dish. In fact, it just took away from the taste of the meat itself. The horseradish cream was excellent with the few pieces of beef on my plate, but highlighted that this was at heart a jello dish.
Despite these minor issues, TW Food impressed us. The attention and care paid to each dish showed that cooking this food was a very personal expression for the chef. His close proximity, tendency to serve the dishes himself, and anxious stolen glances from the kitchen to the dining room revealed a sincere concern for the experiences of his customers. But the effort devoted to selecting the ingredients and the delicious wines also showed that this concern was balanced by a principled approach to the construction of the meal itself. TW Food cares deeply not only about the satisfaction of the eaters but also about adhering to a particular philosophy of cooking (i.e. fresh and local, artisanal). And they pull this off without coming across as pompous or inaccessible, a feat which a lot of restaurants haven’t yet mastered (you try saying “soft pate a choux filled ‘a la minute'” without sounding like a prick. it’s tough.) Overall, a very genuine restaurant with delicious and reasonably-priced food. Highly recommended.