Bergamot is a fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to lemon. It’s also a small restaurant on the edge of Harvard Square and Inman Square, square and intimate, with food similar to home. That is if your home is owned by a couple of classic, comfort-loving, fun-seeking, pros-at-entertaining world-travelers. Yup. Everything feels warm and homey, but with just enough flair.
At Bergamot, the food is locally-sourced and everything is presented simply, without much flourish; but in every dish, there seems to be a little accent of wordliness, of chic, of flair. It’s not flamboyant, it’s not in-your-face extravagant, it’s just very subtle. And you don’t realize it immediately, because you’re already so at home the minute you walked in.
I was at Bergamot recently for my friend Sabs’ birthday dinner, and we had such a lovely time. It really did feel like we were home, but better. When you walk into Bergamot, you’re immediately welcomed by the warm host. The hospitality and service is on point: friendly but not overbearing, smiley but not too-perky-that-it’s-annoying.
We took some time deciding what to get. The menu is small but tempting. And there’s a blackboard menu too, which Chef Keith Pooler changes several times a week, depending on their fresh from the farm deliveries.
The flavors were familiar to me and my friends, especially because growing up in the Philippines, escabeche, sweetbreads, and anything pork were regulars in our households.
This was simply delightful. Soft, buttery fillets of sole, with sharp and tangy artichokes, tempered by chewy barley and peppery arugula. I almost didn’t want to offer my friends some bites of this dish, but I knew I shouldn’t keep something this good to myself. Plus they let me taste their plates as well hehehe.
You know me, I like my gelato as sweet (and hazelnut) as possible but this tiny scoop was the perfect segway from savory entrees to the best part of the meal. The basil tapioca was delicious as well, lending a fresh and jelly-like bite to the gelato. Again, the flavors were familiar, and yet it seemed like a such a fun novelty.
And then, dessert. If you can make it to Bergamot, please be sure to save some room for dessert. The few times I’ve been there, each and every dessert was fantastic. Pastry chef Stacy Mirabello does wonderful things for sweet items. For our dinner that night, since we were celebrating a special night and all, our table decided to split several desserts. (Actually special night or not, I always somehow manage to finagle my friends into ordering desserts to share…)
I used to not like spicy chocolate desserts but I’m growing to appreciate it. Taza chocolate is perfect for these kinds of dishes, with its grainy texture and bittersweet flavor. The scoop of banana ice cream complimented the creamy chocolate cake, where the chipotle flavor is only evident after you savor the sweetness. It reminded me of the flourless chocolate cake at Russell House Tavern but with stronger, punchier flavors.
This was the icing on our cake. You see, Sabs is one of those crazy people who do not like desserts that much (those people are crazy, I’m telling you!). However, she absolutely loves peanut butter. So a week before our dinner, I called Servio Garcia, the general manager extraordinaire (and co-owner with Chef Pooler). I asked if there might be a peanut butter dessert for the night, because if there won’t be any, I would bring in a little thing for Sabs (I was thinking of making something small and not obnoxious, like a small peanut butter bonbon for her to end her birthday meal with). Well Sergio called me a few days before our reservation and informed me that they are having peanut butter mousse on rotation for a few days! This was great, and it was wonderful seeing our birthday celebrant gleefully digging into the mousse.
Our meal ended with some raspberry pate de fruits, which was another lovely touch by Bergamot (“we know you’re paying the bill already, but here are some more delights for you”). Between the amuse bouche, the palate cleanser, and the jelly candies with the bill, Bergamot created a flawless – and tasty – flow of courses. And it wasn’t showy at all (we’re not at at L’Espalier), it was all low-key and friendly. Just the right amount of flair.
We had a quiet night of celebrations with dear friends, and Bergamot was the perfect home to do it.
What’s your favorite neighborhood restaurant?