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Restaurant Review: Catalyst

By Rachel Leah Blumenthal
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(credit: Rachel Leah Blumenthal)

(credit: Rachel Leah Blumenthal)

As someone who spends more than forty hours a week in Kendall Square, I’m always on the lookout for new places to eat in the area. I’ve got my lunches covered by the food trucks, but for the occasional night out after work, the list is growing longer. Shiny new Catalyst has been on my mind since construction began, so it was the perfect choice for a friends’ night out on a recent weekday evening.

Catalyst is the brainchild of chef/owner William Kovel, a fisherman and environmentalist with a heavy focus on sustainability and local food. Before opening Catalyst, Kovel was chef at the esteemed Four Seasons restaurant Aujourd’hui; he has also worked on the West Coast and in London.

We walked in to find a sleek, modern ambiance, perfect for Catalyst’s name and Technology Square location: geometrically interesting hand-blown lamps, ultra-high ceilings, floor-to-roof windows, a glossy bar, and a perfect view into the bright, wide-open kitchen. Lest the classy ambience make you feel too under-dressed, the reclaimed barn wood and omnipresent rooster logo help keep things comfortable.

We got off to a less-than-stellar start with our cocktails; two out of three really fell flat, but one was good. (If you’re feeling daring, trust the bartender and order ‘The Undecided.’) Our server was fantastic and graciously offered a replacement when one friend gave a mediocre review of the cocktail, but we stuck with what we had and moved along to the food, which was fantastic all around.

Chef Kovel’s focus on seasonal, sustainable food really comes through in the simple but elegant preparations. My dish, tournedos of beef (with rainbow chard, taleggio ravioli, garlic, and parsley bordelaise sauce), was delicious; I only wish there had been more ravioli. There were two pieces of (deliciously rare) beef and one little ravioli atop each. I could have had a whole bowl. Perhaps I should have ordered a separate bowl of house-made pasta, conveniently available in half portions. One of my friends ordered a full portion of the Georgia candy roaster squash tortellini (with braised escarole and parmesan), and it was heavenly.

Another friend ordered the organic rotisserie chicken (with chanterelles, haricots verts, pearl onions, bacon, and thyme jus “dripping potatoes”); based on my small taste of it, I’d pin this as the least exciting of the entrees. The final dish at the table was a tasty pork chop daily special accompanied by spaetzle, a big hit.

We finished the evening with a root beer float (Eva’s chocolate mint, sassafras-ginger syrup, and crushed blueberries). Nice restaurants seem to be drawing from childhood desserts in a major way all of a sudden. Over the past few months, I’ve had a milkshake at Blue Inc., cotton candy at Bokx 109, and caramel popcorn at Market. To be honest, I’m enjoying this trend!

Catalyst is good for a nice night out. The prices fairly reflect the high quality of the ingredients, although one dish on the menu gave us sticker shock – spiced chickpea fritters. “$22 for falafel?” exclaimed one of my friends. We found most of the food to be very good, and I look forward to giving the cocktails another chance some night after work.

Catalyst Cambridge

300 Technology Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 576-3000

Hours: Mon to Thurs 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; Fri 11:00 a.m.-2:30 pm, 4:30 pm-11:00 p.m.; Sat to Sun 5:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.
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