My next stop in a series of birthday dinners brought me to Back Bar and then Journeyman for the first time, where six of us enjoyed a three-course dinner tasting filled with cocktails, wine and a few amuse bouches. To give some background on Journeyman, for those who may not know about it, it is a fairly new restaurant hidden in a back alley behind Union Square in Somerville. It is small and relaxed, minimal in design with a mix of modern decor and earthy accents; an herb garden borders most of one wall. There is no a-la-carte menu, and dinner is served 6 days a week (closed on Tuesdays) by way of 3-course, 5-course and 8-course tasting menus. The food offerings rotate daily, as does the drink selection, and they cater to vegetarians as well.
Before ever visiting, I read some mixed reviews of the place, which prompted me to stop googling seeing as I didn’t want to dine there with too many preconceived notions. The most valuable information I’d come across during my short stint researching was that the food was nothing short of a conversation starter and that the best way to experience Journeyman is with an open mind. I forget where I read that, but thank you! The food was every bit as interesting and exciting as I had imagined; whimsical plating, impressive technique and unique ingredient pairings abound. I could not have asked for a better way to celebrate my birthday with close friends. And while it may not be the ideal eatery for everyone, I definitely encourage anyone with an interest in food science and an eagerness to try new things to check it out — just make sure you have time AND money to spend. But enough about that, on to the best part, the noms. Starting with the…VINO! After filling our wine glasses with some Vouvray, our server brought over an amuse bouche to start things off…
A spoonful of tallegio tortellino with coffee crumble and coffee-flavored foam. It was a standout dish in itself and a great way to kick off the meal; the coffee and tallegio combo was genius. The ravioli was creamy and decadent and the coffee crumble added crunch. In a matter of mere seconds, they were gone. Once the plates were cleared, we awaited our first course eager with anticipation, which became the standard overtone between every course there-after.Our first course was beets 3 ways made with a mix of red, chiogga, white and yellow beets. A few were glazed, the one that looks like a Fruit Roll-up was cut into a ribbon, and there was a beet ganache lining the plate. Served with homemade rye ice-cream and sprinkled with cocoa nib granola and micro fennel, everything about the plate was aesthetically pleasing and tasted equally as good. Another spot-on display of great flavor and texture combinations, the rye ice-cream was mind-blowing and the idea of pairing it with beets and cocoa granola was even more impressive. Like. Next came the entrée, a delicious cut of veal (courtesy of Misty Brook Farm) served with sides of leek puree, roasted sunchokes, braised endive, black trumpet duxelles, veal reduction, and borage. To be completely honest, I think I blacked-out for a moment when eating the veal, it was that good. Sigh. Tender and tasteful, nothing on that plate was disappointing. My first encounter with duxelles, and I loved them! My only complaint, I could have eaten three times this much, but it’s probably better that I didn’t.
The next amuse bouche to arrive came right before dessert, a gin and tonic jelly with yuzu granita and licorice mint. It tasted just like a gin and tonic and was ridiculously refreshing; the perfect palate cleanser!
And then we had dessert! A sampling of (from left to right) sweet potato and coffee cream, rosemary sorbet, and a smoked black trumpet ice cream. The plate was then drizzled with praline cream and praline crumble. Although the sweet potato and coffee cream was extraordinary, the rest of the dish wasn’t that memorable. I do love that my dollop of black trumpet ice cream somewhat resembles a hippo, but given my excessive sweet tooth I was a little underwhelmed with the offering.
Luckily, there was a second surprise dessert to come…
My birthday cake! For the record, I usually hate surprises, but not this one. I’m pretty sure I laughed so hard I started crying when the server placed it in front of me. I had an inkling Journeyman didn’t have any part in making the cake; turns out it was personally designed by this really great guy I know (insert corny wink face here) and perfectly executed by my cake-making neighbor Terri. Up until recently I had never met Terri, but I pass her blue scion almost every day which just so happens to double as her delivery car and a marketing mobile covered in Cakes By Terri stickers. It was clearly no secret my neighbor bakes cakes, and it was no secret to many that I was dying to try one. It was just as awesome as I’d imagined. Best cake evar – based on looks alone, but it also tasted pretty great too!
When we first arrived at Journeyman, I thought a 3 hour, 5-course tasting menu would leave me feeling too full before a night of drinking and dancing. However, given the portion sizes they offer, I think it would have been totally doable and it’s definitely what I’ll be going with next time, that is if I don’t go all out and try 8 instead!
9 Sanborn Ct.