The Craigie Street Bistrot-A Hidden Gem

Craigie Street Bistrot
5 Craigie Circle
Cambridge, MA 02138

In the age of theme restaurants and celebrity chefs opening one restaurant of decreasing quality after another, it is heartening to know that there are restaurateurs who are willing to remain humble and put their energy into the food. The Craigie Street Bistrot is a restaurant where the quality of its dishes outshines its humble name and setting.

Serving classic French themed dishes, this understated escape could outperform any over-hyped competitor with a single serving.

Located in a residential neighborhood just outside Harvard Sq., the two-room space is tucked into the sublevel of an apartment building. It is the only commercial space in the area and respects the sanctity of its neighbors with a quiet dignity. White paper tablecloths and low-key decor provide a casual air that puts the diner at ease and ready to eat.

With only 49 seats to attend, the staff is able to give each diner an appropriate amount of attention.

For such a new restaurant, the service is on top of its game. Prior to being seated, the hostess Marjorie made us feel at home in the small bar area where we had a drink while we waited for the rest of our party.

Will, our waiter, was outstanding. He knew everything about the food and wine and was patient and gracious when answering our many questions. He had his hands full with both the size of our group (10 of us were celebrating a birthday) and our many questions, yet he never made us feel unsophisticated or unwelcome.

The food at Craigie Street is a modern take on classic French bistrot cuisine. Chef Tony Maws has worked with some of the Boston’s best chefs and spent some time in France as well. His combination of traditional French cuisine and the progressive internationalism of modern American cooking is a resounding success.

For appetizers, we split a few dishes, which, shortly after their arrival, were passed around enthusiastically. The duck rillettes (slices of pate served with traditional accompaniments) were velvety smooth with a rich flavor and surprising depth. The shellfish platter is buttery and succulent with plenty of herb flavor that heightened rather than overpowered the best of the shellfish.

The entrees are a combination of classic dishes and modern accoutrements. The venison was cooked perfectly rare and served with a luscious variety of vegetables and a smooth turnip puree that brought it all together. The skirt steak with marrow is a carnivore’s delight with added depth from the marrow served from the bone. The chicken confit was wonderfully moist on the inside and crisp on the outside, as generous a tribute to the French tradition of cooking as ever there could be.

Consistent with any French restaurant worth a damn, the wine list at Craigie Street offers a good selection of wines to complement the dishes. The wines are hand picked from some lesser-known vineyards, predominantly from France. We found that there are suitable wines at a variety of prices for each item on the menu. A small but well-chosen variety of beers are also available.

Dessert at a French restaurant is expected to be tremendous, and Craigie Street fulfilled our hopes with an innovative line of homemade delights. The chocolate mousse is unlike any you’ve had before with strong mocha tones and cocoa bitterness that will satisfy the most demanding chocolate lover. The highlight, however, were the homemade ice creams. A small selection of dessert drinks is available in addition to coffees and a large tea selection.

Overall, we were very impressed with our experience. The staff was great, the food was excellent and we were comfortable. I will definitely go back expecting to have as great a meal as I had the first time and since the menu varies from day to day, I hope to find something new to try each time I return. Prices are reasonable and a weekday three-course prix fixe option is available. They accept reservations and three major credit cards. Dress is casual, but you want to look good don’t you?