Opening late this fall in Cambridge's Central Square, Pagu is the first solo project from O Ya alum Tracy Chang, who previously co-founded the popular 2012 ramen pop-up series Guchi's Midnight Ramen, studied pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, worked at Martín Berasategui's eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant in San Sebastián, and worked with visiting Spanish and American chefs as part of the Science + Cooking course at Harvard. But the phrase "solo project" does a disservice to Pagu; Chang is working on building something that thrives on collaborations with people she has met in and out of the food industry over the years.Construction is fully underway, and Eater recently visited the future home of Pagu. Read on to sneak a peek inside the space, meet a couple of people involved in the project, and learn more about what to expect when it opens soon.
When Chang initially announced the project, she mentioned a focus on seafood, local ingredients, and a "'less is more' approach to composition." The restaurant, located at 310 Massachusetts Ave., will serve tapas and more, blending Japanese and Spanish techniques and flavors. Chang is also drawing inspiration from her grandmother's Japanese restaurant Tokyo, which operated in Cambridge from 1988 to 2000.
For Chang, Pagu is all about collaboration and community; she's building the restaurant from the top down, aiming to find out what the community wants and needs from it. Early in the construction process, she posted blank Post-it notes on the windows, inviting passersby to share their cravings, thoughts on collaboration and creativity, and more.
With these values in mind, she has already begun the hiring process and is looking for likeminded folks to join the team — with or without extensive restaurant experience. (Chang herself began in finance before moving into the culinary realm.) Want to apply? Email Chang.
Check out the sidebars to read about why two people with distinct culinary backgrounds have already decided to join the team: Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli and Samantha Chan.
Chang isn’t one for official job titles; she describes Schlesinger-Guidelli’s Pagu roles as "consultant, friend, mentor, and collaborator," not to mention "ceramicist and archaeologist." He’s a familiar face in Boston’s restaurant world with a lengthy resume that includes East Coast Grill, Eastern Standard, and Craigie on Main. Most recently, he was opening general manager at Island Creek Oyster Bar, a position he held for five years before leaving last year to work as a consultant to restaurant entrepreneurs.
Tracy Chang and Pagu, under construction
Meanwhile, Chan serves as "sous chef, baker, web designer, critical thinker, artist, dancer, and really, a sister," according to Chang. She's landed at Pagu through a bit of a different path than Schlesinger-Guidelli, having worked as a programmer at a Cambridge biotech company. But the restaurant business is in her blood: Her aunt's successful Chinese restaurant in southeast Massachusetts helped fund her mother's emigration from Hong Kong, and her mother later enrolled in culinary school.
Chan began working at the family restaurant, the Yangtze Inn, at age 12 and quickly added other food experiences to her teenage resume: a general store, an experimental cupcake shop, and a "classic American mom-and-pop joint." While in college studying math and economics, she became head of prep at Cafenation in Brighton and volunteered with Chang at Guchi's Midnight Ramen and other private events.
Now in full construction mode, Pagu will seat 100 inside and 70 on the patio. The large interior includes a mezzanine and an open kitchen, and Chang promises that "the Pagu open kitchen experience will not be like any other open kitchen in town." Potential menu items include squid ink oyster bao; curry crab croquetas; an oxtail rice bowl; uni fried rice with Maine uni, nori, and negi; and a variety of pintxos (small Spanish bar snacks), such as avocado, jamon, and boquerones.
As for drinks, the beverage list will be largely Spanish-influenced, including Basque cider (and local cider), Spanish wines (including sherry and txakoli), vermouth made in-house, and sake (both Japanese and from Waltham-based Dovetail).
Get a sneak peek of some Pagu menu items this Saturday, October 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the restaurant's future patio at 310 Mass. Ave. Pagu collaborators Gracenote Coffee and Island Creek Oysters will be on site, and Jordan Colón's pottery will be featured as well.
- Pagu Coverage [EBOS]