The timing had to be right for my first meeting with this smart beauty of a restaurant. That’s exactly how I would describe Cambridge’s Sinclair Kitchen, a smart beauty. Tucked away from tourists’ photo stops and mall stores, this venue tailors to the charm of Harvard Square and draws me in with allurement.
The first vision I had of the Sinclair was back in February, dark and wintry but on one of the relatively warmer nights that fell on a Friday. The city street-style white sign illuminated the bleak night on Church street and teased my night life cravings. I knew I would love this place as I walked up the entrance stairs to the restaurant’s glass doors neighboring the music venue.
Inside, the interior features wood and metal with a seductive touch of leather and soft lighting. Exposed ceiling pipes add an industrial modern appeal amplifying the coyness of the bar area. Up the stairs will bring you to the main dining area with an open kitchen revealing a chef’s performance with food. Large windows face the west and welcome in the warm glow of the setting sun, letting natural light bounce off the neutral colored walls. Cushy pillows on the rugged booth add a soft romantic touch balancing the dark wood booths.
That first encounter in February unfortunately did not result in tastings. I longed for drinks and appies as I stepped inside, but it was so popular that night I felt intimidated and shy. No available dinner table was just a tease. As I left the bar area and exited the glass doors into the cold wintry air, I made a mental note that I need to find my way here again and flirt with its dinner menu. Because I simply cannot part from smart beauties for very long.
And it has to be summer. I knew about the Sinclair’s rooftop seating for some time and waited for ideal weather. A warm evening in late June arrived, and I was anxious to spend the summer evening high up on Church street. The patio is just lovely, flanked by tall buildings allowing just a little breeze and sunlight to grace over the diners. Small cozy tables outline the patio and sleek umbrellas hover over the center tables which are perfect for big groups. They are also community style, meaning that smaller parties may share a table. However, the hostess will ask if community seating is cool with you or if you’d prefer a more intimate dining table. I felt particularly bubbly that evening so I welcomed the social seating.
Ingredients are smartly sourced with even some grass-fed beef options. And that’s what matters with food right? Sustainable food sourcing, creative pairings, and impeccable taste! The menu features American classics with a bit of an Asian flair such as fired brussels sprouts with spicy red jalapeño, miso glazed roasted chicken, tamarind pork meat balls.
I’m a fan of this spicy appie! Chopped brussels are tossed with spiciness and a bit of molasses, then roasted until the leaves form a satisfying crisp. I often see this plate float from the kitchen to hungry patrons, so it’s definitely a popular one. The molasses imparts its smokey aroma into the vegetable with very little sweetness whatsoever, and that’s good news for any “Paleoite” with a sweet sensitive palette. The dish packs a spicy kick right at my ideal level of hotness, a welcomed intensity for spicy lovers. I noticed my table neighbors jumping and dancing in a peppery ecstasy when biting into those red jalapenos.
I paired my spicy veggie with the tamarind pork meatballs. Oooh these were incredible. And I’m really excited to see something with tamarind. It’s an underrated ingredient and I’m happy the chefs are attracted to it. I love the slight sourness and citrus essence of tamarind, and it pairs well with the Thai basil. There was a bit of onion folded into the meatballs, which were cooked perfectly. Something that angers me is raw onion in meatball or meat loaf things, so I’m pleased that these pork balls didn’t have that issue.
Very Un-Paleo Seductions
I encouraged my friend Nick to order a unique item. The “Kimcheesesteak!” Let’s talk about this inventive twist of the steak cheesesteak, or the very un-Paleo sandwich that will make your taste buds dance! It’s incredibly cheesy. A lot of cheese. See? Isn’t that something?
Under all that cheese is a juicy marinated hanger steak tossed with mildly spiced kim chee. I had to bite it. OK twice. But just those two bites were incredibly filling for me! I wanted to try the how the steak and kimchee tasted without the cheese and bread, so I picked out the “Paleo parts” to see how they commensurate. How did this dish stand without the bread and cheese? When isolated from the “fondue parts” the Paleo parts of the dish were just as incredible!
But that’s not all. As with most places in the Boston area, there is a burger! A glorious juicy burger! Local and grassfed beef! Two of them: the bar burger with cheese and the Sinclair burger. CJ ordered the Sinclair. There is no cheese on the Sinclair one; it’s served with brown butter mayo (OMG buttah!), crispy onion, and bacon pieces. Although, maybe he asked for cheese. I forget. But what I do remember is the remarkable juiciness of this moderately seasoned meat. Even before sinking my teeth in my hands were gently coated with its drippings. Extra care must be practiced with such beautiful things.
You know what else enamored me? The fact that there’s bacon pieces in the burger, not bacon strips. Pieces ensure an even distribution of bacon through each bite, wheres strips will slip out. I can’t tell you how irritating it is to bite into a bacon burger and accidentally pull out the bacon slice in its entirety. Then it’s left dangling from your mouth making you look like a horny lizard. So, bacon pieces are efficient and smart. And of course, you can always leave out the bun and fries and order the burger patty with greens for your Paleo Plate.
The menu is limited to one page, which I do believe is a sign of a good place. Fewer menu items generally mean better food artistry, as the chefs can concentrate their talents into a few select dishes rather than spreading themselves thin. Although the menu is small, there is a considerable amount of plates, with slight modifications, that can fit your Paleo plate. The organically grown produce and grassfed meats definitely abide by the big Paleo picture. Quality ingredients orchestrated into exquisite dishes will make your heart sing.
The Sinclair Kitchen, my smart beauty. I’ll see you again real soon.