Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eat at Journeyman

To eat at Journeyman is an adventure. To appreciate the experience in an industrial factory turned dining room tucked in an alley in Somerville's Union Square, is to let go of any preconceived notions, to absolve your expectations and go with the flow. The menu is secretive by design and so is the speakeasy-esque location. If you weren't looking for it, you'd miss it, and if you wanted to know what you're ordering for dinner, think again. From a clipboard menu, chose either the omnivore or herbivore tasting, in three ($45), five ($65) or seven ($85) course denominations, with listings that vaguely hint to a main ingredient. We chose the five course omnivore menu, listed as follows: Salad | Potato | Whiting | Lamb | Caramel. The menu options change weekly as a result of the fleeting imaginations of the chefs and what the local markets as well the seasons dictate.We were celebrating a birthday this evening, not that cocktails wouldn't have been in order anyways! I absolutely loved their spicy, complex version of a dark & stormy; the Stormy Weather ($8) which combined Whaler's Rum Rum, ginger soda, Cardamaro and peppercake bitters.
Beverage pairings are offered at $25, $45 and $65, with the courses, respectively. Forgoing that option was almost a necessity given the already serious five course splurge! But the journey, the one you trust these talented academics turned chefs to take you on, proves worthy of such a cost.

The meal began with an amuse bouche of
gougères, a savory French cheese puff made with gruyere that melted into a pillowy, flaky pastry shell. A plate of homemade bread was served next, rustic and grainy, complete with olive oil for dipping and a pat of soft butter served on a rock. Dishes are small, impeccably prepared, and tantalize the senses on multiple levels. My sense of smell was constantly overjoyed, the aromatics straight away drew me in before I even had a chance to marvel at the food itself. After the smell, there was the site, more often than not a fanfare of ingredients displayed thoughtfully and artistically. The first course of salad contained (don't hold your breath!) roasted goat pumpkin with a lemon brown butter, red pepper puree, zucchini ribbons, braised leeks, glazed carrot and green bean, braised hakurei turnip, apple with apple cider, radish, broccoli floret, eggplant-mustard sauce, potato crumble, sweet potato puree, micro greens, fig and brussel sprout! The attention paid to each tiny piece of fruit and vegetable was remarkable, the flavors beautifully defined. I though the potato crumble was particularly inventive and that brussel sprout was probably my favorite bite. The potato course featured a potato gratin, the cube of flaky buttery layers was plated over a forest green herb emulsion, with a fluffy Greek yogurt and sour cream foam, sauteed spinach and finally, sprinkled with brilliant, earthy, hen of the woods mushrooms. This was an elegant interpretation of potatoes, the warm gratin and the cold foam nicely contrasting. Known for their intriguing and obscure wine list, I opted next for a glass of white; Bisson "U Pastine" ($10) 2004; Bianchetta; Liguria, Italy. Bianchetta is a rare grape variety found only in Northwestern Italy and "U Pastine" is local dialect meaning "a very special product". It paired brilliantly with the course up next, which looked quiet and unassuming in comparison, but proved to be anything but. For the whiting, a black sea bass sauteed in butter was plated over a bevy of bivalves including an Island Creek oyster and an Atlantic razor clam. The trio of seafoods were perfectly prepared, offering an exciting mash up of textures. The bacon clam broth also served to excite. A balance of savory, smokey and salty, with a touch of scallion oil, it offered depth without overwhelming the components. Next, a duo of lamb delights. One part roasted, one part braised in a barley-milk, with apricot kernel oil infused bulgar wheat, toasted pistachio puree, poached damson plums and black trumpet mushrooms, every element on the plate was poignant and delicious. I would really love to eat this for dinner again and again, I don't often get this excited about lamb. To transition from savory to sweet, a palate cleanser arrives in the form of a Beefeater Gin + Polar Tonic Gelee. How fun! Cleanse my palate it did, with a hint of cucumber sorbet and fresh mint. The caramel course offered a Greengage plum-caramel sorbet over a super soft caramel cake with peanut/cumin meringue and walnut brittle finished with brush strokes of sherry vinegar custard and dots of huckleberry sauce. It was a splendid ending point.
The length of our meal ran for almost 3 1/2 hours, and from what I have since gathered, this is not uncommon. The span in between courses was a bit longer than ideal, but the outcome embodies a true labor of love. The service all night was on point; plates were efficiently cleared, silverware reset like clockwork, and waters refilled often. The manager, Meg, visits the table accompanying most courses with a cheerful demeanor and a detailed explanation of of the dish.
If an open mind can follow you in, and you have the dollars, not to mention the time, to splurge, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Journeyman proves to be a dynamic and charming dining experience where deliciously whimsical food amazes the palate and feeds the senses.
Journeyman on Urbanspoon

17 comments:

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I hadn't heard of Journeyman but thanks for the review since it's so close! I love the idea of gin and tonic palate cleanser!

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

This review only makes me want to try Journeyman even more!

Betsy said...

what a beautifully written review!

Meesh said...

this has been number one on my friends' and i's to eat list for quite some time now and I don't know what we are waiting for.

everything looks not only breathtaking but delicious and well-executed.

i love your review.

In and Around Town said...

Great review! That looks more like an experience than a meal - the lamb looks amazing!

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

What a well-written review! I definitely want to try Journeyman. That first salad reminds me of something I had at Menton! Everything looks great.

eatinginorout said...

Wow, it looks like every course was a winner. That doesn't happen too often. I've read a lot about Journeyman, and I think it's time to try it myself!

Amber Blue Bird said...

while i can appreciate the creativeness of the chefs and the owner i think that wait time is a bit much...plus the portions look kinda small. i feel like i would need burger after.

Grace - Stripes and Sequins said...

wowsa... looks and sounds amazing!!

Michelle Collins said...

I live in Somerville and hadn't heard of this place - looks fabulous!

Megan said...

So many people have told me it's not worth it and you leave hungry, so I haven't bothered to go, even though it's just a stone's throw away. Maybe I should reconsider. Some of the dishes you tried are really intriguing!

this free bird said...

there was a caramel COURSE.

*passes out*

Hotpockets! said...

"...served to excite" Har!!! Yet another great review. FANTASTIC PHOTOS! Please post the link if Journeyman uses them!!

Shannon said...

wow, such a great experience! i've heard some interesting things, perhaps i'll be able to swing it someday ;)

freefoodboston said...

That salad is a work of art. And every meal should have a caramel course

fancythatfancythis.com said...

You are a better person than me...there is NO WAY I could sit in one spot for 3.5 hours! But the food is beautiful, I must say!

Amanda said...

Restaurants that have huge menus usually overwhelm me, so I love that places like these make the decisions for me! Sounds like a wonderful experience!