Chickpea Fries with Lemony Browned Butter Mayonnaise and Fried Sage
We were welcomed by the coolest of cats. Smooth as a sax player, he had long, neat dreads that fell halfway down his back, and he wore a relaxed vibrant purple silk shirt, unbuttoned lower than another guy could get away with. We said that we had a 6 o’clock reservation, and we followed him slowly—he had a bum leg—to a two-seater. When we sat down, a woodsy scent drew our noses to the small potted thyme plant at the center of the table. Fun.
This was my and my mother’s first impression of a local restaurant, Garden at the Cellar when we met there maybe about 5 years ago. The restaurant is above and connected to another bar and it lives in an unnamed area on Massachusetts Avenue between Central and Harvard Squares in Cambridge, MA. We had planned to eat there because we knew that we could get a good but simple bite after a late lunch and before a trip to my apparently oft-mentioned favorite ice cream shop, Toscanini’s. And we did just that. The restaurant, a bit like a gastropub, was pretty well known for nibblies of the fried variety—tater tots, rosemary truffle fries, doughnuts…with fois gras. So we started with chicken and thyme croquettes, which were OK. My mom got hanger steak-frites (the fries were good), and I got a crock of tomato soup that came with a grilled cheese. The meal wasn’t particularly interesting, but it was certainly comforting and well executed. And that’s what we wanted. In lieu of dessert, a miniature square of Taza chocolate was served. We had a wonderful time catching up, and I left thinking that I wouldn’t make an effort to come back but that I could see myself frequenting it if I lived in intra-square Cambridge—it was a perfect neighborhood spot.