I grew up in a family of “sharers.” Dinner was a battlefield; no one’s dish was his own. Ok, that’s a tad dramatic. But in an effort to taste “a little bit of everything,” as my mom would say, we readily employed our bread dishes to share bites of each other’s orders. Sure, I appreciate having something that is “mine” and experiencing a composed dish as the chef intended it. But I still have acquired this neurotic compulsion to experience as many tastes off a menu as possible.
It really wasn’t until college that I found out that normal people don’t always follow this dining code. Even since then, I have occasionally found myself encouraging others to taste my dishes when they’re good and getting no such offers in return. I have dear friends who are strict “non-sharers,” and I respect that. But I certainly won’t take them to The Gallows.
Blink while you’re driving down Washington Street and you might miss it. That would be a shame. The Gallows, with its menu of weekly changing snacks, starters, and mains, is a temple of sharing. The kitchen does a great job of balancing the heart attack with the healthful. So if you dare indulge in the “Out of Control” Poutine (the night I went, it featured lobster and fava beans with a crème fraîche gravy — no, thanks), you can also choose one of the thoughtful, farm-fresh vegetable sides. With a vibrant bar scene and an aesthetic that is simultaneously stunning and quirky, beautiful and weird, The Gallows is a new go-to.
To start, my friend and I shared a single Scotch Egg and Eva’s Early Spring Greens — the latter offsetting the richness of the former. I’ve never been to London, but I would like to think that The Gallows nails the authentic Scotch Egg. A perfect soft-boiled egg wears a thinner-than-expected (that was a good thing), flavorful sausage coat. The dip in the deep fryer makes the coating impossibly crisp and the contrast with the soft, warm yolk is simply sexy.
Can a salad make you cry? Eva’s greens were lovely; Intensely bitter leaves were balanced with mild, woodsy ones; large, heavy stalked leaves were offset by soft, feather-weight ones. They tasted as if they were hand-picked just moments earlier. Under all of that life was a medley of early spring vegetables — all of the best quality. There was a glaring problem, though. While beautiful veggies need little more than a splash of olive oil and some salt, this salad was puckeringly salty and it took away from the beauty of the greens. The acid punch from the advertised Dijon vinaigrette was severely lacking.
As I’m wont to do, I ordered seafood after our waitress described that day’s market fish: Seared Sea Scallops in a Carrot Sauce with a Salad of Farro, Cucumber, and Radish. The scallops were done perfectly. Their natural sweetness was only heightened by the smooth, thin sauce – liquid carrot, as I called it. The cold farro salad was such an interesting choice, and I loved the added crunch from the thinner-than-paper slices of radish and cucumber and the refreshing bite of mint. A squirt of lemon made all the flavors of this “ode to spring” shine.
I less-than-subtly urged my friend, a burger lover, to order the traditional “Our Way” burger, swapping the American (read: “processed cheese product”) for Vermont cheddar and adding house-smoked bacon, crisp. I like thick, upscale burgers just as much as the next person, but sometimes you just want a flavorful patty, griddled old-school style so that the crust caramelizes in its own fat. The griddled burger itself was perfectly executed. The loosely packed patty was cooked to a rosy medium (you cannot choose your temperature). Its hard sear and abundant “burger jus” enforced its beefy essence. The toasted and generously-buttered bun was the perfect size for holding the patty and toppings. Or lack there of. You see, the cheddar was applied in sad little chunks and both the grilled onion and pickle were forgotten.
In addition to our pickle and onion envy, we definitely had fry envy. Our cold, dry, saltless tubers were a shock, given that the restaurant is known for its poutine. The patron sitting to my left taunted us; we could quite literally feel the warmth radiating from the glimmering, golden brown fries next to his burger, melting with cheese. Clearly, we experienced a fluke, and I would definitely order a burger here again.
A side of Browned Butter Cauliflower rounded out the meal. Intermingling with the cauliflower were earthy, curried lentils that perked up the rich, nutty flavor of the browned butter. The cauliflower sat on a base of garlic purée so good and potent I found myself scaping the empty plate with my fork. All of the flavors meshed seamlessly. No matter how much you’ve ordered, a side of veg should not be missed at The Gallows.
Lacking a dessert menu, the Gallows offers one over—the-top dessert, or rather, “concoction,” to cap off the meal. The Bananas Foster Fluffernutter Brulée is adored by anyone I know who has visited The Gallows. I was anticipating some sort of psychedelic, mind-altering experience from the dessert we said “yes” to before the waitress could get past the first word of her description. And I was so disappointed. The dessert boasts rum-soaked bananas folded into a peanut butter mousse, a schmear of ganache, and a thick layer of bruléed, housemade fluff. Now, I’ve admitted before that I like to take a spoonful of peanut butter and dip it into vanilla ice cream. What? I thought this dessert would elevate that habit, but it didn’t. The first bite elicited a unison “oh.my.god.,” but each subsequent bite became heavier and unbearably cloying. The mousse was more peanut butter than mousse, the ganache thick like fudge. Although I don’t love Fluff (sorry, Somerville), it actually saved the dessert, breaking up the belly-turning intensity of the bottom layers, and it was bruléed to gooey, campfire perfection.
It’s impossible to leave The Gallows without feeling a bit like a stuffed animal, but it is possible to explore the different sides of the restaurant. While it may be known primarily for its playful and indulgent fare, it excels in its invention and use of fresh meat, seafood, and produce. While the service lacked something to be desired (another fluke, I think, as they’re known for being very hospitable), some garnishes were forgotten, and dessert could have been better, there’s just so much good at The Gallows, and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.