Last week, I met an old friend for dinner (who shall remain nameless – he’s a chef at a trendy Boston restaurant). He mentioned he’d been hearing great things about Pagu, a Japanese-Spanish fusion restaurant in Central square, around the culinary scene. I’d snagged a fresh paycheck earlier that morning and felt like treating myself, so we checked it out.
I didn’t know this at the time, but Pagu has some serious pedigree. The head chef, Tracy Chang, grew up working at a Japanese restaurant and has since worked at both the fanciest sushi places in Boston and a 3-michelin-star restaurant in Spain. So while the fusion concept might be surprising, it’s actually incredibly natural.
The vibe at Pagu is what most restaurants strive for – elegant and minimalist, warmly lit, a bunch of modern but casual tables with a view of the kitchen. Everyone on staff was really young and friendly. A homey environment, great for small plates and sharing, which is great for a taste addict like me.
First bite: Shishito peppers
They look ugly and withered, but I think that’s exactly what we wanted – charred and dusted in spicy togarashi, really juicy but still with a nice crunch to them. An awesome, flavorful start.
Best bite: Roasted cornish game hen, stuffed with sticky-fried rice
The photo sadly can’t do this justice; this hen was exquisitely roasted, golden-brown and crispy and exploding with sticky rice. The meat was really unbelievably delicate, savory and steamy. The fried rice was delicious and the peas and carrots lent it a really nice sweetness. This was a meal for a king.
Squid ink Oyster Bao
Bao is Pagu’s specialty, and it’s easy to understand why; I was pretty curious about the complicated flavors – he menu listed shiso, norioli, panko oyster, squid ink and purple cabbage, and I don’t know what most of those things are. But it couldn’t have balanced better – the bun in particular was flawless, dark and sweet and made with rye flour (I think).
Ham and arbequina cheese croquetas
The croquetas were only average, but croquetas have never once been bad – they are fried ham and cheese balls. A nice appetizer.
Dessert – Japanese cheesecake with cured peach and matcha ice cream
This cheesecake itself wasn’t very good, honestly – we didn’t even finish it. But the peach was really flavorful, and drowned in this unbelievable matcha ice cream, anything could have tasted good.
Pagu also has a massive tea selection – I chose a buckwheat tea that tasted warm and buttery; apparently it’s what the Japanese give their children after a big meal. I’m not complaining if I get to like this.
TL;DR: Japanese-Spanish fusion – as creative (and tasty) as you’d hope.