Central Kitchen, Central Square, Cambridge

Central Kitchen is located next to Dosa Factory (they have great gulab jamuns) in Central Square and it opened in 1998. Friends who have previously dined at Central Kitchen mentioned the ambiance is sleek, however the rustic mediterranean menu is limiting, hit or miss and a bit expensive.  We thought the dishes we selected were well executed and quite delicious.

I loved the warm ambiance. The pendant lighting, wine bottles and the lights along the wall and copper tables are great design choices. We sat next to two tables with different types of patrons- one was a well dressed couple on a romantic date, sharing a bottle of wine and whispering to each other. The other table was a group of MIT students, audibly chatting about their business school experiences, recruiting and current business trends. The juxtaposition of tables could not be more different.

The soup special was an Indian curry soup with creme fraiche. We joked that it would be funny if the soup was from next door at Dosa and the addition was the bit of cream. The spiced soup was made in house and was delightful. It was warming and had a nice contrast with the fresh cream.

My friend has this adorable bright orange fondue pot from the ’70’s, that she received unused and brand new from her mother’s wedding gifts. I’ve enjoyed fondue several times now from that particular pot and I always wondered if it makes the experience better.

The best dish of the night was the Great Hill Blue fondue with squares of squash, pear, leek, onion and buttered toast for $12. On top of the warmed bleu cheese were bits of chive. The fondue remained warm throughout from the intense heat of the skillet.

The perfectly grilled toast paired well with the sweet onions or leeks and a bit of the cheese. It was as if the kitchen was trying to make a sophisticated grilled cheese. The sweetness of the pear was also a nice combination with the bleu cheese. I would get this again.

Central Kitchen’s steak frites- house aged angus rib eye, hand cut frites and greens with vinaigrette- for $28 was an overly generous portion and could be easily split by two people. The steak was nicely grilled to medium rare and topped with a knob of butter. The bite from the well dressed watercress was a good contrast to the marbleization of the angus. The thinly cut fries were served with ketchup and aioli.

We devoured the seasonal wild mushroom polenta with parmesan shavings for $20. The bed of soft and creamy polenta was covered in slivers of tender wild mushrooms and tendrils of parmesan shavings. The whole dish was delectable, earthy and flavorful. Well done.

We made room for dessert, but I was puzzled by the buttermilk panna cotta with chocolate and candied hazelnuts for $9. Independently, the panna cotta was a bit too tangy for my taste and I couldn’t wrap my palate around it. However, with more candied hazelnuts and chocolate, the dessert tasted faintly like Nutella.

The heirloom apple tarte tatin, salted caramel and ice cream for $9 was freshly warmed and I enjoyed the buttery layers of the puff, softness of the glazed apple topped with bits of thyme, saltiness of the deep caramel and coolness of the ice cream. This was a great dessert and I finished it all.

We made a reservation for Central Kitchen through Savored, taking advantage of the fee waiver for first time use. With the promotion, we booked a reservation for free (normally $10 each reservation) and received an additional 40% off our dining experience (including alcohol). I appreciate the value proposition Savored provides. It prevents the stigma from voucher usage (especially on dates) and the annoyance of waiting for approval and clearance of the vouchers. Overall, the dishes we sampled were fantastic and much more reasonably priced and palatable with the discount.

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