East Cambridge's new Loyal Nine picked up reviews in both the Globe and The Improper Bostonian this week. For the Globe, Devra First grants it two-and-a-half stars out of a possible four, declaring it "one of the most interesting restaurants in town" — but "it will either thrill you or drive you crazy."
On the "drive you crazy" side:
"Some dishes are painfully weird. Some dishes are painfully small. The bill is not. It is easy to walk out feeling as though you may have just inadvertently appeared in a recombinant episode of 'Portlandia: East Cambridge Edition' and 'Punk’d: Colonial Times.'"
But on the thrilling side, there's talent, meaning, and purpose. A dish that is essentially a "glamorously arrayed" fish skeleton is "the most poetic dish [she's] eaten all year." There's a "fresh and lovely" scallop dish, a "tender" pork dish, and "stellar" bread all around. "There is joyousness here," First writes, "if you order right and talk with the staff and want your food to have stories and meaning behind it."
For The Improper Bostonian, MC Slim JB compliments Loyal Nine on how it "draws on concepts and ingredients from early New England cookery to very original and frequently lovely effect." Like First, he appreciates the breads and pastries by Adam Ross. And both critics remark on the non-Google-ability of "pondemnast," a "comforting" dish Slim bids readers to remember, thanks to details like the confited turkey neck, which tastes "like the best bits of a brined Thanksgiving bird." The desserts and cocktails also get a strong nod of approval from Slim.
His recommended dishes include the periwinkles ("messy work" but "delectable"), the matelote ("fantastic in color and texture"), and the sourdough chocolate brewis ("a fabulous combination of savory and sweet").
For the June issue of Boston Magazine, Corby Kummer files a favorable review of the new Centre Street Cafe in Jamaica Plain. Chef Brian Rae, a Rialto alum, "makes food that would bring me back wherever it was served, let alone in a welcoming, comfortable place a seven-minute walk from where I live," Kummer writes, praising in particular the meatballs, risotto, and a bucatini dish that comes with a "killer" tomato sauce. The salads, too, are "reliable," and he especially loves one topped with strips of bresaola (along with fennel, pear, currants, almonds, gorgonzola, and a lemony vinaigrette).
Kummer finds inconsistencies in the "apps" section of the menu — and they're a bit smaller than one might expect. "Many portions, in fact, are oddly gauged," he notes. And there are also problems in the "mains" section, from a "stringy" butcher's steak to a "waterlogged and salty" chicken Parm. "Desserts, in true Italian tradition, were afterthoughts," he writes. But dishes like the risotto and the bucatini exhibit "terrific technique." Centre Street Cafe is accomplishing something Kummer's been looking for: "eateries that turn neighborhoods into villages, places in which the diners all know one another, or at least nod with cordial familiarity."