WALTHAM – Believe it or not, the best new restaurant in Greater Boston doesn’t have a name, or a sign, or even a front door. In spite of all that, if you can find your way to this mysterious spot, you’ll experience one of the best meals of your life.
Few chefs are more passionate about great food than Joshua Smith. After working in some of Boston’s best restaurants, he finally opened his own place a couple years ago: the outstanding Moody’s Delicatessen in Waltham, where he ages, cures, and cooks dozens of hand crafted meats, and piles them high on deliciously unforgettable sandwiches.
When the space next door to Moody’s became available, Joshua decided to take it over. Rather than just expanding the deli, he wanted to do something different. That’s how ‘The Backroom’ was born.
“We just affectionately call it our backroom, because that’s what it is. It’s the room behind the deli,” Joshua said. “We wanted it to be whatever you want it to be, something special. It’s just our backroom. What are you going to do in our backroom? Are you going to have dinner? You just gonna have a drink? You gonna have a cocktail? It’s just gonna be a fun spot.”
Joshua certainly spared no expense fixing up The Backroom. Once you enter through the deli, you’ll find hand blown lights, concrete tables, custom steel beams, a three-sided bar featuring a state-of-the-art wine preservation system, a gorgeous wall made from limestone reclaimed from French Abbeys, and a handmade, copper dome, wood burning oven that blazes all night long.
“It’s just pure awesome,” Joshua said. “Whenever you do anything with this oven, whether you’re near it, looking at it, or using it, it’s just awesome.”
It’s the true workhorse of the kitchen, as almost every item on the menu comes out of it.
“The oven burns at such a high consistent heat we can do flatbread in two minutes, and it gives it a nice crispy crust. Cooks the stuff on top perfectly. The meatballs, they can be cooked in like two minutes. Speeds up the food, gives nice wood flavor. It’s the most efficient heat source out there.”
When you come to The Backroom, come hungry, because you’ll want to try everything on the meat-centric menu. Before you even order, the server will bring over a bucket of crunchy fresh fried Truffle Bugles.
“We get this great corn meal, and we extrude this little pasta shape, looks like a bugle. We deep fry them, toss them with a little bit of white truffle salt, and it becomes this addictive little snack,” described Joshua.
After that, you might start with a platter of Charcuterie, all made next door in the deli; a Carnitas Flatbread with Smoked Sausage and Ancho Lime Crema; or maybe a thick, sexy slab of Bourbon bathed Pork Belly.
“The experience when you take a bite of the pork belly should be sensual,” Joshua explained. “It should be crispy, slightly salty, smoky, unctious. The pork belly explodes in your mouth. The outside is texturally very exciting and the inside is just so soft and luscious.”
The most popular starters by far, are the Never the Same Meatballs, made from the ends of all those house made meats.
“We have so much meat here, we don’t want it to go to waste. So what happens to that little bit that you can’t slice perfectly? We take the ends, we grind them up, and then we make these wonderful meatballs,” explained Joshua.
“We use Parmeggiano Reggiano, bread, milk, all these meats, and we wood fire these meatballs in the oven and then serve them up with a little bit of red sauce and a farmer’s cheese. But they’re never the same, because if we have a ton of pastrami we’re going through one week, maybe corned beef the next, it’s gonna vary week to week. And we make probably 1,400 meatballs every single week.”
The menu at The Backroom is always changing. Sometimes you’ll find Spatzle Mac and Cheese. Other times there’s a Croque Madame Flatbread, or maybe some Grilled Shishito Peppers with Coppa.
One dish that’s sure to stick around is the Bacon and Eggs, a luxurious bowl of black pepper spaghetti, topped with bacon Bolognese, and a poached egg.
“As you break that egg and you dig into this pasta, hopefully just every bite is like, ‘Wow!’ It’s rich, it’s heavy, but it’s delicious,” stated Joshua.
Everything in The Back Room is delicious, but the Smoked Wagyu Brisket with Charred Broccoli Gratin and Corn Chow Chow takes deliciousness to the next level. It’s a dish Joshua is particularly proud of.
“We found the absolute best briskets we can find. We season them with salt, pepper, porcini. We slow roast these things over hard wood, sous-vide for two days, and then picked up over the wood fired grill. You put it in your mouth and it just explodes, just falls apart. So you get that char on the outside of the brisket, a little bit of salt, and the meat itself just melts in your mouth. You can just taste the tender fat. It’s very much like the foie gras of meat.”
Joshua is a chef who obviously cares about the food coming out of his kitchen, but he tries to spend plenty of time in The Backroom’s dining room too, because seeing his guests enjoy the fruits of all that labor might just be the best part of the job.
“It just makes me so happy every day to come in here and see the smiling faces. When I walk through the dining room at night, the reactions, it’s so wonderful. We know people’s names, and they know our name, and we high five, and we say hi, and everybody just has fun together, and that’s amazing.”
The Backroom is hidden away at 468 Moody Street in Waltham, and online at moodyswaltham.com.
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