Megan, Bridget, Elizabeth, Shannon, Emily, Bianca and I were welcomed by the chef; he treated us to a splendid tasting of the menu. Appetizers and entrees were shared family style and desserts were showcased by way of individual sample platters.I started with a composed cocktail, the Grey Dawn ($10) made with Greylock, Aperol, orange and Peychauds bitters. It wasn't particularly exciting in comparison to some of my past Aperol libations, but it still got the job done. (Read - nicely laced with gin.)As the dishes are prepared with food that celebrates the seasons, the current menu is focused on the summer to fall staples from local purveyors and farms. The Farmers Market Vegetable Salad ($9) was light, fresh and delicious with ever so slightly pickled carrots, onions and beets under peppercress and crispy onions. Crispy Quail ($15) was also excellent, enhanced by a black mission fig gastrique, minuza greens and autumn berry jam. The small gamey bird benefited from a delicate preparation and sweet syrupy pairings. Don't underestimate the Grilled Scallions ($6) served in a deeply flavorful walnut pesto. I imagine this dish on the side menu gets overlooked, (I wouldn't have given it a second glance) but they ended up being a table favorite. Grilling the scallions really seemed to heighten their otherwise mild onion flavor, the rich nutty pesto and soft set walnuts making them all the more swoon worthy.The Chicken Liver Mousse ($10) spoke to me with balanced and unobtrusive flavors. Soft and spreadable with a vessel of grilled country bread, a grainy mustard counterpart, pickled onions and a tiny herb salad, this was a surprisingly likable starter.
A ray of sunshine among a table of leafy greens and earth toned appetizers, the juicy orange yuzus and accompanying syrup brightened up the ensemble in a dish of Seared Spice Crusted Hiramasa ($11). The thinly sliced fish mingled nicely in a zesty cucumber radish salad. I was thrilled when the Jerusalem "Sunchoke" Artichoke Soup ($9) was sent out, since sharing family style doesn't always prompt the chef to go with soup. The Jerusalem artichoke has no relation to Jerusalem and it is not a type of artichoke, but the flowers edible tuber actually resembles the taste of one. This frothy soup with a drizzle of curry oil for contrast was buttery with touches of both sweet and bitterness at once. The homemade pasta courses at Catalyst are simply radiant, imparted with warm melted butter based sauces that give a luxurious edge to the fresh ingredients. A tubular pasta with wide corduroy ridges, Garganelli ($10) proves a fun shape to eat. Ultimate luxury comes in the form of an earthy black truffle butter sauce, and small bites of crispy bacon enhance with a touch of smokiness. Chicken oysters look the part, and are just about the smoothest most tender bite of chicken you never knew existed. Braised escarole greens lend bitterness while roasted carrot pearls give an extra touch of sweetness to the Candy Roaster Georgia Squash Tortellini ($10/$18) swimming in a golden buttery sauce. Flat toothsome pasta is folded up like an envelope to create a rustic tortellini of sorts, finished off with shaved Parmesan cheese. For the hat trick, Mushroom Ravioli ($10/$18) with hen of the woods mushrooms is a double dose of these earthy fall delights, also known as "the king of fall mushrooms." Smooth juicy caps and thick firm stems bathing in a flavorful cream sauce were lovely paired with purses of soft mushroom filling. The balance of textures is what truly allows all that mushroom to harmonize in one dish. Pasta certainly had us filled to the brim. The interlude of a a delicate fish, perfectly prepared to boot, the Lemon Sole ($27) with roasted baby fennel, creamed leeks and lobster (yes there is lobster under that fish!) in a vermouth butter was a solid entree. So was the dish up next featuring Chilled Pork, however, this entree does not appear on the menu.
Encrusted in a flavorful spice rub, the pork was nicely prepared and serving it cold with accompanying shaved apple slices and puree, fresh cilantro and a tart balsamic sauce worked in its favor. An impressive tasting of each dessert in miniature form, the folks at Catalyst truly took a go big or go home approach to this dinner. I was ever so grateful for their generosity and this personalized touch. My favorite by far and away was the Butterscotch and Passionfruit Pudding ($9) with a warm pound cake crouton. Ripe tropical passionfruit and the classic brown sugar and butter confection have come together to create a love child, it is this pudding. No matter how full you are after eating 3 courses of pasta, you must try this dessert. We also sampled the juicy Bosc Pear Tart over house made creme fraiche ice cream, a Housemade Cantaloupe Sorbet ($9) with hazelnut brittle, and a Coconut Cake with creamsicle ice cream and chocolate ganache. Proving you can fit right in by standing out, Catalyst is a fantastic addition to Kendall Square. If you live or work in the area, it's the neighbor you always wish you had. And if you don't, it's absolutely worth a trip!