Monday, June 11, 2012

Strip T's In Watertown-Watch Out NYC!

Remember when you used to have go to to NYC to get really original food that didn't break the bank?  I am talking about dishes that reflect a chef's unwillingness to stick with one genre, but to mix up the best of Japanese-Thai-Korean-Chinese flavors with New England seasonality.
When you imagine Strip T's in Watertown, think Momofuku meets Craigie on a former diner of sorts.  Yup-just sitting in Watertown is a gem that you may want to catch now before the lines make it too hard to get in.  Strip T's, a restaurant since 1986, was taken over by son Tim Maslow last April.  The fact that Chef Maslow trained at the French Culinary Institute and worked at Momofuku may be the keys to getting best of NYC in MA.
Chef Maslow is thinking fresh. As we drove up he was getting a shipment of bass and tautog caught two hours prior by Ann, harpooning off of a kayak.  In fact, it was too fresh to be served moments later as the restaurant opened.  The restaurant takes some reservations, but for those walking in, 5:00 may be it. In fact by the time we left, at 6:30, the wait was 1 1/2 hours.

I began with one of my hand's down, favorite, all time bites. It was an oyster from Wallace Bay, Nova Scotia. But wait.  The oyster was topped with two seemingly contradictory tastes: pickled rhubarb and knotweed, a Japanese herb (and considered by some as a weed!)  Just go there. Try it. Tell me what you think.
Our first salad of the night consisted of grilled romaine, piled with tender oxtail (similar to short rib), a poached egg hand-delivered from Cepage Farm by Jonathan the general manager.  The grilled romaine was just smoky and crispy enough to scoop up the creaminess of the egg.
We would have returned to Strip T's for the cauliflower alone. It was dipped in hot oil making it  crispy and brown and sat on a golden puree of spicy chorizo. It was topped with cotija cheese and sweet pickled onions.
The japanese eggplant banh mi could easily have been a main dish. It consisted of a chunk of french bread, filled with pillowy fried tofu, pickled daikon and carrots, fresh cilantro and tender eggplant.  It was good, but it didn't knock us to the ground like the cauliflower.
The native squid salad was the unexpected star of the night.  The tender grilled squid were topped with heavenly house cured, thick chunky bacon.  Fresh mint, pine nuts and sweet gently pickled cherry peppers somehow created a dish that brought out the glory of each component. I would return for this dish and for that bacon alone!
I loved the idea of the grilled sweet peas. And in fact, they are the one dish that I may try (and be able) to replicate at home. They grilled the little guys until they were black and then topped with sea salt and the warm aleppo pepper.  I suspect this would work just as well with edamame.
We struggled to choose between main dish. I had read about the buttermilk fried chicken that is served with waffle.  A glimpse at the hamburgers that came with glorious skin-on the edges French fries were clearly the choice of the kids at adjoining tables.  But our lovely server, Kerry, suggested we go for the seasonal speciality: fried soft-shell crab. She sold us on the curry broth that was poured at the table.  The dish was good. It was.  I loved the combination of the chunks of celery root and Japanese yam that nestled in the bottom.  But the rest of the dishes had spoiled us, persuading us that EVERY. SINGLE. DISH would be awe-inspiring.  We still scooped up the broth and nibbled at the crab.  Next time I may actually stick with the appetizers or try another of the main dishes.

We were so full we had to pass on the desserts as well. That begin said both Jonathan and Kerry sung the praises of the pots o' cream. Typically my eyes glaze as I see chocolate pots o' cream (panna cotta, pudding, etc.)  but they pointed out that this one was made with, get this: shitake mushrooms! Perhaps that isn't everyone's idea of dessert, but it is definitely tapped my curiosity factor. Just one more example of the playfulness at Strip T's.

Strip T's, 93 School Street, Watertown, MA

1 comment:

  1. I have heard so many good things about Strip T's! My sister lives in Watertown and it is on our must-try list!