Thursday, January 5, 2012

Carmen Trattoria

I have lived in the North End for a long time now and still I am never without a different restaurant to try. I love discovering new-to-me-spots just as much as I adore revisiting old favorites. Carmen is one I immediately came to regret not visiting sooner. An small trattoria tucked away in the ever quaint cobblestone lined North Square, Carmen serves memorable Italian cuisine in a intensely dark and extremely cozy brick walled space. The cave like interior with a wine bar nestled in the front is perfect for an intimate date night, while the dimly lit close quarters make for less than ideal photo conditions. (Sorry! I never post without photos, but I'm beginning to realize, exceptions can and should be made.) The cuisine is defined as old country Italian, it remains comforting with a sophisticated touch.

Definitely order the Steamed Wellfleet Clams ($16) with hot homemade mustard, fennel and cream to begin the meal. A heaping bowl of plump briny delicacies come bathing in a tantalizing cream where sliced fennel accompanies grainy mustard pearls. This dish is exquisitely pungent on multiple levels, not only do the clams benefit from an innovative preparation, I was eating the creamy, spicy, mustard laced broth by the spoonful. When I state bluntly that you should order these clams, I mean it. This is probably one of the best appetizers I've ate all year. Maybe ever.

For my entree I chose the Orichiette ($25) which came with sweet Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, tomatoes and herbed bread crumbs. The orichiette itself was excellent, cooked to a toothsome al dente, while the the broccoli rabe and the sweet Italian sausage were equally delicious. The dish had one major downfall being that the tomato sauce was severely over-salted. It tasted like the result of an unfortunate kitchen mishap, but I can not say for sure as I have only been here once. The red sauce became more abrasive with every bite, to eventually overpower the well executed ingredients.

Adam ordered the Pan Seared Duck Breast ($29) in a pomegranate reduction with sauteed kale and sweet potato puree. This was fantastic. Next time, I'd skip the red sauce dishes and head straight for the duck. A tender pan seared breast comes executed to the desired medium rare with a crispy skin in a luscious pomegranate reduction, with a smooth and creamy sweet potato puree and plenty of savory sauteed kale. Red sauce is pretty basic, so I would give Carmen the benefit of the doubt on this one and not hold it against them. Especially since I still liked the components of my dish, and I loved everything else we ate. And I was smitten with the romantic interior and we had great service. Our hostess was welcoming and bubbly and our waitress fit the bill, she was professional yet easy going. It was a lovely date night. I'm so bummed for all that salt!

All things considered, they still get my vote. The next time you are faced with the daunting task of where to eat out in the North End, don't hesitate to consider Carmen at 33 North Street.
Carmen on Urbanspoon

15 comments:

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

I absolutely adore the combination of sausage with broccoli rabe but not too much salt! As always, I love restaurant reviews from your neighborhood!

Meghan@travelwinedine said...

As you know, I LOVE Carmen. Their Chef is great and also helps out the foundation I am running the marathon with!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

Ah, that photo makes me really yearn for long walks and outdoor dining around the North End! In the meantime, I am always up for a good orichiette/sausage/broccoli rabe combo. Will have to visit here soon!

Megan said...

That clam appetizer sounds really unique and delicious. Would love to try that some time. I'm surprised there was even red sauce in the broccoli rabe dish. I've never seen it with red sauce before.

Elizabeth said...

That exterior looks charming. It's been ages since I ate in the North End.

40-Something Life said...

Carmen looks so quaint and you make a compelling argument to try the clams! Shame about the red sauce though.

Jennifurla said...

sounds like a place I would love to eat

MelissaNibbles said...

I had a horrific date here. The food was delicious though.

Ameena said...

I am constantly on a quest to find the perfect red sauce...I guess I won't be finding it at Carmen's?

Everything else sounds good though - I would definitely love to try this place.

Shannon said...

I don't get out to eat in the north end often enough! this is a good reminder to do so though :)

Michelle Collins said...

I'm a big salt fan, but overly salted food can really ruin a meal. Glad it didn't ruin this one, though!

Simply Life said...

great to know- I always see this place and want to go in! I would have picked the same entree as you so it's nice to have the heads-up!

Laura said...

I am salivating over here! Sounds like a delicious meal (especially that duck!) and the exterior is so adorable and inviting! I'll have to check Carmen out next time my husband and I travel to Boston! Thanks for sharing!

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

Looove Carmen! my dad's friend owns it- need to get back soon. I like that they change the menu alot.

Taryn said...

I went to Carmen once a few years ago for a birthday dinner and it was fantastic! I like the cute, intimate space a lot - would love to go back and try it again.