Press Dinner At West Bridge

West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

Shortly after my first visit to West Bridge, I was invited to attend a press dinner there. Having had such a great first experience, I couldn't wait to go back and immediately accepted the invitation. Our group was seated at one of the long tables in the middle of the restaurant. Special menus for the evening had been printed and laid on the table. When I glanced at the menu, I knew we were in for a treat.

While we waited for a couple of latecomers to join us, we sampled a grapefruit-infused Pisco sour. It was bright, bubbly, frothy, and citrusy--a drink I would definitely order on a return visit.

When everyone arrived, we started working our way down the menu items. First: the amuse-bouche cocktail. The Aegean Sunset in a beautiful orange-red sunset-like color features Dimmi (a kind of grappa), Mastic liqueur, Campari, and grapefruit. The drink, a play on a Negroni, is sweet upfront, followed by a bitter aftertaste. I definitely preferred the Pisco sour, but others at the table enjoyed this drink.

Grapefruit-infused Pisco sour at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.Aegean sunset at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

A surprise amuse-bouche followed the amuse-bouche cocktail: a small dish containing an even smaller square of brioche topped with crab salad. This was the perfect bite--crunchy, cool, and creamy.

Brioche topped with crab salad at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

A bowl of West Bridge's signature chicken skin with malt vinegar aioli was next to arrive. I enjoyed this on my first visit, and was happy to sample it again.

Chicken skin at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

Another familiar favorite followed the chicken skin: Sparkling Malbec. The pink bubbly beverage kicked off a series of great food-friendly wines.

Sparkling Malbec at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

The Malbec was paired with the artichoke soup. The description of the soup mentioned foie gras, but the foie gras was nowhere to be found when I looked at the soup, and I initially worried I had been given the vegetarian version. One bite revealed an unctuous quality that the foie gras was surely imparting to the broth. Black garlic and celtique vinegar complemented artichoke and lemon flavors.

Artichoke soup at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

While I tried to resist the soft, crusty bread and generous smear of butter placed before me, my attempt was futile. That butter was just calling my name!

Bread and butter at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

To accompany our next course, we each received a pour of the '10 Muscadet, Melon de Bourgogne, Claude Branger, Loire. This might be the best wine I've ever had with seafood. It was so clean and acidic.

Wine at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

The wine was paired with the calamari, which came with whelks, cockles, and sweet 100's. When I first looked at the dish, I wondered where the calamari was but soon realized those thin ramen noodle-like ribbons were it. This was the best calamari I've ever had (and it wasn't even fried). It was just so interesting and so tender. And the whelks, cockles, and tomatoes were added bonuses. The broth was so flavorful I had to indulge in another slice of bread just to mop it up. I could go back to West Bridge any day for the Melon de Bourgogne and this dish and be completely satisfied.

Calamari at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

Following the calamari was another seafood dish: halibut with sugar snap peas, nectarine, and chorizo. The halibut was paired with the '11 Sancerre Rose, Pinot Noir, Bourgeois, "Les Bonnes Bouche," Loire.

Once again, a few seemingly simple ingredients were prepared in a unique way. The chorizo was chopped teeny tiny to make a sort of relish, which kept it from overwhelming the dish. A thin sliver of nectarine was reminiscent of honey suckle. An onion-y ramp lay draped across the perfectly cooked fish.

Halibut at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

The last entree was probably the most highly anticipated at the table--after we had all seen the word "antelope" on the menu. None of us had ever tried antelope. We learned that West Bridge gets its antelope from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas. The animals are field-harvested, which means they're not caged or penned and you're getting free range, all natural meat.

When I saw what was on the plate, I could easily have been fooled into thinking the antelope was beef. Tender, mild slices of antelope were served flanked by a surprisingly tasty raisin puree (surprising because I usually find raisins pretty boring) and thinly sliced turnip. The wine of choice for this course was the '09 Mourvedre/Syrah, Chateau de Caladroy, Roussilion, France. After this first experience with antelope, I am looking forward to trying it again. I didn't find it gamy at all, and I thought it had such a buttery texture.

Antelope at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

We finished our meal on a sweet note with some house made doughnuts, accompanied by rhubarb compote and creme anglaise for dipping, and the s'more verrine, a layered dessert consisting of chocolate, marshmallow, miso, and graham cracker crumbs. The desserts were paired with a small cocktail made with brandy, Amontillado sherry, Galliano Ristretto, and cardamom bitters. The drink tasted of coffee and cardamom.

Doughnuts at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.S'more verrine at West Bridge, Cambridge, Mass.

This was my second visit to West Bridge and my second fabulous experience there. Chef Matthew Gaudet does such amazing, interesting things with food, taking something ordinary like calamari and turning it into a whole different concept.

If you're in the Kendall Square area, I highly recommend checking out West Bridge. And I hear they're going to start serving lunch, as of today, so you should be able to go for lunch or dinner now.

For more on West Bridge, check out Lin's, Elizabeth's, and Cassandra's reviews.

This dinner was complimentary, but as always my opinions are my own. I was already a fan of West Bridge before this dinner. Please note that not everything we tried is on the regular menu.

What's the most interesting food you've ever tried? Or what's the most interesting way you've had an ordinary food prepared?