The Girl Who Ate Boston is joining the chorus of every other food blogger in the Boston area: Strip T’s Restaurant in Watertown, Massachusetts serves in an unassuming diner some of the most exciting haute-cuisine food I’ve found in New England.
Ironically, I first learned about Strip T’s not from the crowd of foodies singing its praises, but from my hat-wearing, black coat-sporting, Who-Would-Have-Ever-Guessed-He’s-A-Foodie friend Sam (see my post on our meal at Highland Kitchen) because his mother knows the owner. She had been a regular patron of Strip-T’s long before Tim Maslow became head chef and made waves across the Boston restaurant scene.
If you’re a food blogger in the Boston area, you already know the tale of Strip-T’s. But for those of you unfamiliar with this foodie fairytale, here it is, as written by Corby Kummer in his excellent review of Strip T’s for Boston Magazine:
Father opens sandwich shop after finding his time at fancy restaurants like the Ritz unsatisfactory. Son, meanwhile, develops ambitions to be a serious cook, goes to culinary school, lands high-profile jobs with a very hot chef in New York, then comes home to transform Dad’s humble shop into a destination dining spot by night. Word spreads, and soon local hipsters and bronzed Belmont families on their way to Edgartown are driving up to a small, unassuming storefront a few blocks from the Arsenal Mall in Watertown.
The aforementioned “very hot chef in New York” whom Tim Maslow trained under is legend David Chang (Twitter: @DavidChang) of the Momofuku franchise. Even without the endorsement from my friend Sam, his mother, and every other foodie publication in the Boston area, I would have wanted to try Strip T’s just because he trained under Chang. I had a phenomenal sixteen-course lunch at Chang’s flagship, Momofuku Ko, a twelve-person bar hidden in New York City. The reservation process was frustrating enough to nearly make me give up and the food was impressive enough to make me thankful I didn’t.
(1) Chatter across the Boston food scene. (2) Recommended by a trusted foodie insider. (3) The chef trained under the internationally-reknowned David Chang. With one, two, three compelling reasons to try Strip-T’s, my first visit to Strip-T’s occurred on Saturday, January 12, 2013, just after my second semester of classes at Northeastern began.
My boyfriend had rented the Canon Mark III with a 50mm lens for a few days, and I was determined to use this snazzy camera with too many buttons. (“ISO has something to do with light, right? No, no, I got this!”) After all, Bunny and Pork Belly and Use Real Butter use fancy DSLR and their food photos are swoon-worthy incredible … so mine will be too, right? RIGHT?
Strip-T’s interior is typical of a casual diner, giving away no hint of the haute-cuisine food being prepared in the kitchen. We were quickly seated, and after my standard agonizing over what to order, dove right into our meal. My boyfriend started with smoked fish head rillettes with Iranian pickles, dried egg and ham, and crackers ($13). Rillettes are a meat paste similar to a pate, so this dish was basically a fish pate with crackers. My pate-picky and cream-adverse boyfriend gave the salty, smoky rillettes a thumbs-up.
My appetizer was the charred Nantucket Bay scallops with greens, dates, yogurt, a potato salad, and some crispy Indian wafers known as “papdi” ($16). The artistic presentation had me smiling before I had even tasted the dish. Turns out, the small, delicate scallops tasted even better than they looked. I scraped my plate just-out-of-the-dishwasher clean.
Caesar salads make frequent appearances in the meal orders of my boyfriend’s mother, so I was unsurprised that she selected Strip-T’s “wicked small Caesar” for her appetizer ($5). Simple, classic, yummy.
For her entrée, my boyfriend’s mother selected roasted golden tilefish with kohlrabi (German turnip), fried clam garnish, eggplant, and pistachio ($25). She praised the variety of textures and the pistachio flavor in particular.
The next course was so weird that we couldn’t not order it when we spotted it on the menu. That’s right: fried Mexican grasshoppers with sour cream and lime ($3).
So maybe this is where not knowing how to use the aperture on this fancy DSLR camera worked (sort of) to my benefit: the narrow depth of field keeps just enough of the photo sharp that you believe the little brown things are grasshoppers, but not sharp enough that I worried it would give my friends nightmares if it came up in their Facebook newsfeed.
… And truly, it was just crunch with a bit of spice. What had I been expecting? Grasshopper meat? I wouldn’t characterize this as a must-order item, but it was unusual and adventurous and I’m glad I tried it. Now I put grasshoppers on the list of Weird-According-To-Western-Culture foods I’ve eaten, along with frog, chicken feet, and half of a pigeon head. Hooray for foodie adventures!
My boyfriend loves comfort food done at the haute-cuisine level, so naturally he ordered the buttermilk fried chicken with sweet potato cake and piperade (tomatoes, onions, and peppers) ($18). I liked the preparation better than he did, but simply because of personal preference; he prefers chicken breast without any extras, and had no criticisms of the execution.
For my entree, I went with the grilled bavette steak from Creekstone Farms in Kansas, with pears, turnip, and mustard ($21), garnished with fried beef tendon. This was my favorite course of my whole yummy meal.
Bavette is a cut of steak not seen on the average menu, but then, Strip-T’s is far from average. “Bavette” is the French term which Americans are adopting because “flap meat” is an unappetizing name for such a delicious cut. The rich steak packed so much flavor and the light, crunchy beef tendon was the perfect complement.
Dessert bell! Strip-T’s serves up eclectic desserts, reminiscent of the sweet-and-savory blends I had tried at the aforementioned Momofuku Ko. Behold: an apple cider donut with a white chocolate drizzle, apple chutney, and cheddar!
… And my boyfriend ordered the same but with cheese on the side.
In this case I was happy that my boyfriend orders his meals sans cheese, because the snowfall of cheddar on my dessert obscured the scrumptious donut for photography purposes. The chunky apple chutney was reminiscent of hearty apple pie filling. The fluffy pile of thinly-grated cheese was milder than I had expected but paired curiously well with the subtle white chocolate.
And what’s a haute-cuisine dinner without macarons at the end? Cherry-caramel, to boot!
I was so happy with our meal that I went straight home and wrote a message to my friend Sam, thanking him and his mother for first putting it on my radar.
With my first meal at Strip-T’s occurring just after my spring semester at Northeastern began, it made sense that my next meal would happen just after the semester ended. So on Saturday, May 4, 2013 my boyfriend’s mother and I decided to go for a second awesome dinner at Strip T’s.
We shared a side of pickles on ice ($7) to start. I should preface this with letting you know that I am a Pickle Person to the point that my boyfriend nicknamed me “Nickel the Pickle.” This was a crisp, refreshing dish to go with the warm(er) weather we had been having, and the kitchen brought it out only a few minutes after we had placed our orders.
The pickles came with pickled onions and eggplant, served atop ice and flavored with dill and mint. Chilly, spicy, and tangy. Nickel the Pickle was a happy diner.
For our appetizers, we each ordered one of the evenings’s appetizer specials. My boyfriend’s mother ordered the bluefish with homemade yogurt and greens. Bluefish is oily as fish go, but this preparation was quite light. She gave it a thumbs-up.
I got the ‘nduja, ricotta, and agrodolce on grilled bread with grilled spinach greens and culatello. So what are ‘nduja, agrodocle, and culatello, you ask? ‘Nduja is a spicy sausage spread made from pork, spices and peppers; agrodolce is a traditional Italian sweet-and-sour sauce; and culatello is a refined variety of proscuitto. I couldn’t spell the ingredients but I sure enjoyed the dish!
For her entree, my boyfriend’s mother went with the grilled bavette steak from Creekstone Farms in Kansas with beets, Maine yellow eye beans, carrots, and basil ($22). This was the same cut of steak that had dazzled me on our first visit. She loved the cut as much as I did, and the fried beef tendon was a hit all over again!
My entree was glazed veal breast with barley, hay yogurt, and pistachio amaretti ($22). Consistent with the attentive service we had experienced during our first meal at Strip T’s, our waiter let me know before placing the order that this veal cut had a lot of fat marbled throughout it. I appreciated the heads-up and ordered the dish anyway. Indeed, the veal was fatty as described, but cooked to silky perfection. The meat was rich and the barley was rustic—a dish for a wealthy farmer.
Continuing the creative-savory dessert experience was a lemon steamed cake with ginger-beet sorbet, miso meringue, and pieces of graham cracker crust ($8).
The steamed cake was delicate and pleasantly spongy. Curiously, the distinctive vegetable flavor of the beets was dessert-ified in sorbet form. On the sweet/savory scale of desserts, this lemon steamed cake was unsurprisingly heavier on the savory side than the donut concoction from my first visit to Strip T’s. I loved both and would order either—well, probably both!—again in a heartbeat. But to the confusion of my famous sweet tooth, I actually preferred the savory dessert over the sweeter one!
After dessert, ensuring that the evening ended on an unquestionably sweet note, the kitchen sent out a couple of apple cider marshmallows. Apple. Cider. Marshmallows. Enough said.
Surprise, surprise! Tim Maslow won Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston 2012” in the “up-and-coming chef” category. After months of anticipation by Boston’s foodie community, Maslow opened Ribelle (Italian for “rebel,” pronounced “ri-bell-ay”) in Brookline this August. Unsurprisingly, his solo project has been met with resounding praise and quickly made its way to the top of my Must Try list. Stay tuned!
INFORMATION as of February 2015
Address & Phone
93 School Street
Watertown, MA 02472