by Bovey Rao ’19
In nearby Somerville, the buzz and activity of Cambridge and Boston seemingly do not exist. Quaint is the only way to describe the rustic buildings and quiet space. A mere ten minute walk, and you are able to escape the infamous “Harvard Bubble.” If you need a reason to allow yourself to leave Harvard to Somerville, go to Bergamot.
Bergamot is inconspicuous, sharing a building with a cable store and a kebab shop. It may not catch your attention immediately, but a glance inside the space reveals a sophistication that is unexpected.
My dining companion and I had a reservation for two at 5:00 pm (opening time), and we were promptly seated. Our waitress greeted us and informed us of our options. The two most popular offerings are the $44 dinner prix fixe, composed of an appetizer, entrée, and dessert of your choice, and the $75 tasting menu, a creative sampling of the chef’s choice. Given our time restriction, we opted for the $44 prix fixe (menu items can also be selected à la carte). After some careful deliberation, we ordered our appetizers and entrees and waited patiently.
The customary bread and butter were delivered and were pleasantly surprising. The unique apple mustard butter paired excellently with an almost burnt crust and custardy crumb. My appetite was stimulated. I excitedly watched as plates of food began exiting the kitchen. As my plate was placed in front of me, I could barely hold myself back out of courtesy for my companion. The instant both plates touched down, we ravenously began to eat.
The jet black squid ink tagliatelle left an immediate visual impact: a contrast of colors with a white plate and brightly colored heirloom tomatoes. The pasta itself was cooked a nice al dente, which gave it an almost meaty characteristic that complemented the sweet juiciness of the tomatoes. The light saltiness of the pecorino cheese plays on the palette like a light ocean breeze. My appetite slightly sated, I tasted the sea bass crudo and was confused by the complex saltiness from the avocado dressing, the floral notes from the petals, and the sweetness from the two types of melon. While these flavors bounced around my mouth, I was slightly off-put by the amalgamation of flavors. I could see the inventiveness in the exploration of taste, site and smell, but this particular dish was not appealing. We finished our courses and waited for the entrees.
As our waitress deposited the plates in front of us, I sat in awe of the meticulous plating of each course. I started with my course, the scallops provencal. My knife sunk through the scallop like a warm butter. The scallop simply melted in my mouth but simultaneously retained the meatiness of a protein. In a state of sheer bliss, I was amazed by the sweet scallop with minor notes from the tomato sauce and dill. The green beans served as the necessary textural component to give the dish a crisp element. Enjoying my course, I sampled my friend’s dish, and experienced an entirely different sensation. In contrast to my dainty scallops, I was almost overwhelmed by the rich meaty short ribs. The slightly sweet Korean glaze was apparent, and it balanced the plate with the crisp salty wild rice pancake. Nothing could describe this course besides a masterful expression of umami (savory flavor). Fairytale eggplant and shiitake mushrooms only contributed more to the savory nature of the course.
As our meal wound down, we prepared for our dessert courses. To say the least, I was underwhelmed. My peach ice cream was a nice reminder of the end of summer, but the ice cream was slightly icy and detracted from the overall dish. The tres leches was also unimpressive, so we finished our meal on a slightly more subdued note.
Despite this, Bergamot provided an incredible meal and experience. While the wait times between courses may have been longer than expected, they allow time for a truly enjoyable dining experience. Prepare yourself by bringing friends and companions outside of Harvard Square and enjoy a phenomenal meal. While Bergamot may appear to be a formal white tablecloth restaurant, it exudes a familiar and homely vibe. Keith Pooler, Executive Chef and Owner, has created a comfortable dining environment for those seeking a good meal and a nice conversation.
Location: 118 Beacon Street, Somerville, MA 02143
Reservation: OpenTable or by Phone (617)-576-7700
Stand out dishes: squid ink tagliatelle, Korean grilled short rib
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
* Note: the $75 7-course tasting takes 2 hours, so be prepared.