Delightful Pasta at Catalyst

When was the last time you visited a new restaurant and you couldn’t stop raving about the dishes?

For me, it was Locanda Verde in New York. But most recently, it was at Catalyst in Kendall Square. Catalyst is Chef William Kovel’s new restaurant serving  modern American cuisine, and one of the newest places that just opened in the burgeoning culinary hub. We had one of those perfectly lovely meals that was filled with dish after delightful dish. The food was simple but impeccably prepared, and the whole place just gave off such a warm, welcoming vibe.

and Catalyst is beautiful, with a chic fireplace and lots of open spaces

In fact when we walked in, I said “I can’t believe we have something this sexy in Cambridge,”  because the place was really gorgeous.

we were browsing through the menu deciding which items to get, when Chef William came over and said that they will bring out rounds of different dishes and that we should be prepared for lots of food (Catalyst generously provided the whole dinner free of charge)

I quickly browsed the cocktail selection and settled on the Chubbs Peterson ("possibly the next Arnold Palmer") - bourbon, iced tea, lemon, and peach bitters

We munched on soft rosemary foccacia bread with the softest salted butter, then the appetizers arrived:

chicken liver mousse with grilled country bread

grilled scallions with walnut pesto

I actually really like liver so I’m glad we got to try the chicken liver mousse. It was creamy but not exceptionally liver-tasting so even the liver-averse in our group had a few bites.

As for the grilled scallions, I had no idea scallions could taste that incredible when they are grilled and drizzled with a house-made pesto. And to think I used to not like scallions!

we also tried the pickled vegetable salad

crispy quail (so cute!)

and the spice crusted hiramasa

And then the pasta courses arrived.





The pasta dishes at Catalyst are some of the best – the best! – I’ve ever tried (and you know I’ve tried a lot of pasta dishes).

let's start with the garganelli with chicken oysters, bacon, and black truffle butter

Do you know what a chicken oyster is? First of all, it’s not an oyster. It’s a part of a chicken that’s located near the thigh, and it’s incredibly tender and sweet. It taste slightly like dark meat but the texture is more firm/taut. And it is delicious. For those of you who watch Top Chef, chicken oysters might ring a bell too. Remember Top Chef All Stars? Richard Blais accused Mike Isabella of stealing his “fried chicken oyster” idea from his notebook. Prior to watching that episode, I didn’t know that those chicken parts were called oysters, but I’ve certainly eaten them in the past.

This pasta dish was rich and buttery, peppered with bits of crunchy bacon. Our first bites elicited moans of approval from the whole group. Catalyst served us half portions, which was a great idea because we had to save room for the rest of the other tasty dishes.

next we had squash tortellini with braised escarole

Catalyst was transitioning to its fall menu and I think this squash tortellini will be a big hit this season. I loved the escarole and the little carrot balls too.

last but not least, we had mushroom ravioli with hen of the woods mushrooms

Have you seen hen of the woods mushrooms before? These are huge, incredible mushrooms and can grow as big as forty pounds. (Do you like my little tidbits of food trivia in this blog post?) This mushroom ravioli dish was spectacular, with and earthy mushroom taste and a buttery sauce. The kitchen staff at Catalyst seems to have a heavy hand with butter, but I’m not complaining about that.

These three pasta dishes were definitely the highlights of our meal. I was already pretty full and glad that I ran a race that morning (I ran the Tufts 10K in 82 degree weather – most fun race I’ve ever ran but it was ridiculously hot. But at least not humid!) – because you know, I carb up before and after running ;) So anyway, I was ready to have dessert when my friends informed me that we’re not done yet, we still have the entrees coming! Eeep… I could only try a bite of each:

chilled pork with apple slaw and cilantro dressing

and lemon sole on top of a bed of leeks and lobster

Finally it was time for dessert. I had really high hopes for dessert – imagine if after our wonderful meal we were just served mediocre sweet endings? That would dampen the whole experience. But luckily for us, Catalyst once again shines with the desserts. We were given individual platters of desserts. Platters.

clockwise from top left: a pear tart, creamsicle ice cream sandwiched in between coconut cake, butterscotch pudding, and cantaloupe sorbet

The butterscotch pudding was the table’s unanimous favorite. It was actually butterscotch and passion fruit pudding, and it came with warm pound cake croutons. Remember when I said I didn’t like warm desserts? Yeah, me neither.

I really loved our meal at Catalyst, and I had such a fun time with my fellow bloggers Megan, Elizabeth, Emily, Daisy, Bridget, and Shannon (check out their reviews too!). I will definitely be back at Catalyst soon to try the other dishes and to take advantage of the lounge and fireplace.  And of course for more delightful pasta!

Catalyst on Urbanspoon

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu


20 Responses to “Delightful Pasta at Catalyst”

  1. #
    Michelle posted October 15, 2011 at 8:37 am

    It sounds like you guys had a fantastic meal!

  2. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted October 15, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Ah, that pasta! SO so so good. I think I’m going back for drinks tonight!

  3. #
    Joanne posted October 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    It’s definitely rare to find a restaurant that you can rave so much about! I think this place and I have a date with destiny.

  4. #
    Daisy posted October 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I was just working on my post and stopped for a moment to read blogs. I love your review, and your photos are looking ever so gorgeous.

  5. #
    Melissa posted October 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    The mushroom ravioli sounds insane! I need to get there. Like, this week!

  6. #
    Megan posted October 16, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I’ll meet you at the lounge any time! Drinks and pasta. Ha ha. Such a lovely evening.

  7. #
    cassandre posted October 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    when i’m in boston, you’re site will definitely be my goto for restaurant suggestions.. thanks

  8. #
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga posted October 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    what what an event! sooo fancy…& this sounds amazing
    and lemon sole on top of a bed of leeks and lobster as does the butterscotch pudding, mmm!

  9. #
    Elizabeth posted October 17, 2011 at 9:03 am

    So glad you could come! The food really was fantastic.

  10. #
    Jen @ Tiny Urban Kitchen posted October 17, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Fun fun fun! I’ve heard so many great things about Catalyst and I was super bummed I couldn’t make it to this dinner (because I was in Asia the last two weeks!). Glad I still got to meet you at another event though. :)

    See you around!

  11. #
    Katy posted October 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Yum! Those pastas look delicious!!!

  12. #
    Susan (Oliepants) posted October 18, 2011 at 11:01 am

    What a decadent and delicious meal! I love courses and right now that fish course is sending me through the roof! :)

  13. #
    Kim K posted October 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    wow, now THIS is a place i need to go. i love hen of the woods mushrooms!

  14. #
    Beth (Well I'll Be) posted October 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I would have this kind of experience at every restaurant if possible. I love having little tastes of everything on the menu. This meal looks amazing!

  15. #
    shannon posted October 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    ooh boy, i need to get my review up soon!! great recap :) definitely some good food, I’ll have to make a point to go back soon!

  16. #
    Juliana posted October 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Bianca, what a lovely place…everything looks fabulous, I would be content with the chicken liver and the awesome bread…
    Hope you are having a great week and thank you so much for your visit :-)

  17. #
    Hannah posted October 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    I super-love liver too, which is quite odd when you situate it against my raw-vegan-desserts-don’t-ever-eat-meat-at-home-and-avoid-it-whenever-possible general way of being. How I love pate…

    I don’t think I’ve ever really had a pasta that blew my socks off! These look gooood.

  18. #
    A Plum By Any Other Name posted October 19, 2011 at 7:29 am

    I’ve had that chicken oyster pasta dish: pure heaven! I also love that they have outlets to plug your laptop into should you want to get out of the house, grab a glass of wine (perhaps some chicken liver mousse), and write!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted October 19, 2011 at 9:22 am

      Oooh they have a plug for laptops? That’s awesome. Goodbye Starbucks (what a huge upgrade for me haha)

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