Last week, Boston’s first blizzard of the year forced my family to move up our celebration of my Mom’s birthday. On a few hours notice, I was tasked (very proudly) with picking a restaurant. It was beginning to snow and it was freezing out and nobody wanted to commute very far, so I thought of Bergamot, a fancy New American spot in a very convenient location. It had a great reputation and it looked like a cozy, warm place to celebrate a birthday on a cold January night.
Our food was excellent – I’ll get to it in a minute- but our experience, not so much. I thought our server was fine, but everyone else thought he was a bit cold. Undoubtedly, he seemed annoyed by the sheer volume of questions we asked – Bergamot’s menu is flush with fancy, in-the-know foodie words (Nduja, rouille, etc.).
He totally represented the restaurant – overall, the place was trying a bit too hard. It’s great to have a bunch of exotic mushrooms on the menu. But it’s ridiculous to listthem all without identifying them as mushrooms. For a second, we all thought there was literally a hedgehog dish. Similarly, the restaurant prides itself on an ever-shifting menu, which I admire, but not if it means the servers can’t answer questions. Having a tasting menu is awesome; refusing to tell me what’s on it is a little absurd.
I was able to look past these snobberies and gorge myself as usual, but for some people at our table, the pretentiousness carried into the meal and made it less enjoyable.
Anyways – on to the good stuff.
Homemade Cornbread Muffins –
Why the hell don’t more restaurants serve cornbread? It goes brilliantly with everything, it’s easy to make, and everyone loves it. I was pumped to see our waiter bring these bad boys instead of standard table bread. They didn’t disappoint, showing up warm and firm and crispy. The center of the muffin was soft but not too crumbly, and filling as all hell. Bergamot made a special maple and miso butter to spread over them, which wasn’t even necessary given the richness of the muffin, but I’m not complaining.
Best bite: Salt Cod Croquette with Bechamel and Country Ham
Mmmm. I’m smiling just thinking about this appetizer, a superbly cooked croquette that split into fourths easily while maintaining its crunchy exterior and mushy core. The cod was great – not too salty or fishy – and it went outstandingly with an outstanding, creamy bechamél and some nice, fatty chunks of country ham. I found myself scraping the sauce off the plate when it was all gone.
The rest of our appetizers were outstanding as well – the charcuterie board (below) was a diverse, complete production. We dug in as soon as it arrived, so we missed quite a few descriptions of the elaborate concoctions. Nobody wanted to bug our waiter to repeat them. But from what I can remember, the board came with:
-homemade foccacia (okay, not great)
-some prosciutto with raspberry mostarda (top notch)
-pork sausage with roasted fennel and onions (fire)
-salami and brie
-liver pate with cherries (very tasty, but textureless and tough to eat much of)
Black bean dip with fresh crema
Pictured above and on the left, this was everyone else’s favorite dish. The bean dip was thick and sweet and served warm. The crema balanced it brilliantly, with a rich, savory kick. The waiter lit up and rubbed his stomach when he brought it over – he showed more personality just when talking about that cheese than he did through the rest of the night.
Sole a la Plancha – with mussels, ham, black trumpet mushrooms, sunchokes buttermilk dressing and some other fancy stuff I can’t remember
This is a lovely photo and a lovely dish, but it’s also quite contrived. I guess I can’t complain about it. The fish was simple and clean and yummy and very well-cooked. The sunchokes were crispy and fantastic. The mussels and mushrooms were standard but enjoyable. The ham and buttermilk dressing was, well, ham and buttermilk dressing.
But overall, my mea was a bit too pretty and a bit too dressed up, and not quite flavorful enough. There was enough food, but with so many ingredients it was tough to get a single coherent flavor to comment on, for better or for worse. To be clear, I liked the dish a lot, but it just wasn’t very memorable or salient.
Most disappointingly, our dessert experience sucked. Absolutely sucked. We overpaid drastically for two tiny plates of cake – it was a birthday celebration, after all. One, a chestnut cake, was dry and grainy and bland. The other, a citrus upside down cake with like five fancy accoutrements, wasn’t even sweet. I can barely remember it. Appallingly, he menu totally lacked chocolate, which just doesn’t fly with me. Make dessert taste like dessert. Make dessert dessert again.
Better yet, make food food again. The cornbread starter was so wonderfully simple and soulful – everything else at Bergamot was delicious, but you just couldn’t say the same.
Tl;DR – Fantastic food – unfortunately, it’s trying a bit too hard.