118 Beacon Street
Somerville, MA 02143
Bergamot is a surprise.
Located on the border between Cambridge and Somerville in an unassuming neighborhood, Bergamot doesn’t look like much from the outside. But don’t let that dissuade you.
Inside it’s an entirely different story. Warm light, soft music, intimate setting – the trappings of one of the best fine dining restaurants in the greater Boston area, lie beneath Bergamot’s average exterior.
Helpful Staff at Bergamot
First, a note on the service: it is truly excellent. Our waitress was knowledgeable and friendly, but it was more than that: she had the rare but essential quality, in any good waitress, of being entirely professional and simultaneously entirely un-intimidating.
I’m still pretty much clueless when it comes to wine, and her earnest helpfulness allowed me to work up the courage to ask for advice. It was a good call. If you, like me, are easily overwhelmed by a wine menu, ask for suggestions at Bergamot.
With the steak, she suggested the Rioja Alta, a full-bodied, velvety wine. I’m confident that at Bergamot, wines by the glass are chosen with specific dishes in mind – as the dinner progressed, it became more and more apparent that every aspect of the meal at Bergamot is a conscious decision – every flavor, every combination has been painstakingly planned.
Exotic Menu Options
Dinner started with country bread and honey butter (light and airy, easily spreadable with a distinct aftertaste of honey) and were then presented with the amuse bouche of the night, a small elegant bite of salmon ceviche.
I ordered off the Blackboard Menu, a $39 three-course set menu offered every night before 7. If you have time for a leisurely early dinner, I definitely recommend this. Not only is it a steal price wise, but it alleviates the stress of choosing between the fantastic and obscure sounding entrées on the menu, while guaranteeing a procession of courses that are delicious (chef’s choice) and work together, creating a nice progression from appetizer to entrée to dessert.
I could pour over Bergamot’s ever changing Blackboard Menu for hours online and, having now sampled the food, I want to try everything (recent offerings have included House Cured-Cod Fritter, Rabbit & Dumplings, Orange Peppercorn Marmalade, Black Pepper Biscotti, Rum Ice Cream with Chipotle-Cherry Compote). It all sounds so strange and exotic, but most importantly delicious in a way that’s unique and awe-inspiring. Definitely memorable.
My Meal at Bergamot
I started with a black bean soup with a soft boiled egg, fried plantains, and avocado salsa. In my experience, black bean soups are usually chunky, but this one was all velvet, smooth and creamy. The egg added a layer of richness that was offset nicely by the slight acidity of the avocado salsa, a refreshing element (in texture, flavor, and color) amidst all the beans’ silkiness.
The Blackboard entrée of the night was the pan-seared Atlantic Salmon; it was incredible, light and yet somehow simultaneously, incredibly buttery, breaking easily into melt-in-your-mouth flakes. Sides of Fennel-Potato-Leek Ragout, and Herbed Oyster Mushroom sauce were the perfect accompaniments, lightly salted and with points of flavor that accentuated the salmon, yet worked well on their own. I usually find mussels fishy, but at Bergamot they became buttery orbs of flavor that absorbed notes of the salmon, mushroom and potato. A meal in a bite.
If you decide to order an entrée off of the menu, the Grilled Skirt Steak ($28) is a good choice, tender and juicy. The accompanying sides, cubed Lyonnaise potatoes and root vegetables, soak up the au jus and are transformed into something infinitely more delicious.
The combination (surprise, surprise) is genius; the steak alone and sides alone, great. But together (the high end version of peanut butter and jelly, strawberries and chocolate), kind of magical.
Palate Cleanser Ice Cream
After the entrées, I was offered a “palate cleanser”: a single scoop of extra-virgin olive oil ice cream, accompanied by orange gelee. I am normally weary of novelty ice cream flavors (oyster ice-cream anyone?) but who knew: olive oil ice cream works.
The creaminess of the ice cream combined with fatty undertones and richness of the olive oil, paired with the refreshing and cutting acidity of the orange gelee was the perfect complex bite to bridge the gap between entrée and dessert.
The Blackboard dessert was listed on the board as simply “Chocolate and Juniper soup.” I had hazy expectations of some kind of concoction in a bowl and by this point in the meal, I was also expecting to be amazed; the desert that was placed in front of me both exceeded and defied my expectations.
Soup and Doughnuts
The “soup” was presented in a small shot glass on the side of the plate. Juniper is from the pine family and produces the flavor one tastes in gin. I took a sip of the soup straight, and the juniper was overwhelming. However, the “soup” was accompanied by a side of three cinnamon doughnuts and crème fraiche.
Dipping the doughnut into the soup added a level of starchy sweetness that stood up to the bitterness of the juniper and basically turned a harsh flavor into something delicious and perfectly weighted. And here it is again, the perfect illustration.
Every flavor at Bergamot is considered: each and every inclusion is a conscious one, and ingredients work off of one another to produce combinations of flavors that enhance the overall taste of each dish.
Bergamot: Delicious and Inspiring
The entire dining experience reminded me of a great scene from the Pixar film Ratatouille, a key scene in the movie for anyone who loves food and revels in the magic of combining flavors. Remy, a rat with culinary aspirations, attempts to show his brother the genius of flavor combinations, more specifically how a strawberry and a slice of cheese are great on their own, but when combined the flavors produce fireworks.
Eating at a place of this caliber reminded me what a meal is possible of becoming. At most Boston restaurants, flavors come together to create a (hopefully) satisfying version of what you are expecting – a burger, salmon, a steak. If the end result is good, you appreciate it but you rarely stop to consider the distinct flavors that add up to make the meal.
At Bergamot, however, flavors are unique and so distinct that you stop, as you eat, to trace them running through the dish; how they compliment and interact with other distinct flavors to produce elevated combinations of taste. It’s sounds hyperbolic to compare a dinner at Bergamot to a symphony but it’s an apt comparison nonetheless. At Bergamot, flavors sing.
Bergamot Map & Directions
[pw_map address=”118 Beacon Street, Somerville, MA”]