Catalyst is Superb!

2 Oct

We went to dinner at Catalyst last Thursday night with high hopes and expectations. We had been to Aujourd’hui (at the Four Seasons in Boston) for a couple dozen wine dinners over the years, as well as to dinner a couple times, and loved the food prepared by Chef William Kovel. The high quality and consistency were unparalleled in our experience. We were amazed again and again how excellent the food was….so, after Aujourd’hui closed, we had been hoping Chef Kovel would emerge somewhere in this area, and he has, as Chef/Owner of Catalyst (www.catalystrestaurant.com, near Kendall Square). We were celebrating a birthday, always an excuse to pick a special restaurant….so Catalyst, open less than two weeks, was the choice. It didn’t disappoint. The dishes are special, combined in a balanced way that melds and highlights at the same time.

Chef Kovel kindly stopped at our table and told us a little about what he’s doing. Some of the dishes are similar to ones at Aujourd’hui but with new and fresh twists, and at much lower cost. The wine list is interesting and varied, again with reasonable cost and good value. The ambience is friendly and low-key. We didn’t ask the idea behind the name, but I imagine that Chef Kovel is the catalyst that transforms fresh foods into delicious plates….back to the food:

We started with the Farmer’s Market Vegetable Salad, Peppercress, Crispy Onion, and the Corn Ravioli, Scallion, Basil, Chanterelles. The vegetable salad was presented beautifully (as were all the plates), with a collage of vegetables with a perfect light vinegar-based dressing and a sprinkle of crispy mini onion rings on top…a rose’ cremant paired well with this dish. The corn ravioli “tasted more like corn than corn itself” one of us commented…absolutely delicious.
The Tournedos of Beef (with Rainbow Chard, Tellegio Ravioli and Bordelaise Sauce) was perfectly cooked, delicious, and a wonderful combination with the chard, ravioli and bordelaise sauce. The Honey Glazed Duck Breast, with baby turnip, bok choy and water chestnuts was a revelation as well. It’s hard to describe these dishes…listing the ingredients and using flowery language doesn’t do it justice. For our palates, Chef Kovel just has the “touch”.
We enjoyed talking with Beverage Manager Jason Kilgore about a bottle of wine to go with dinner. After going through the usual suspects, he suggested a 2003 Grenache blend from Beaumes de Venise (an area Lori and I visited early this year) that was an excellent wine and food pairing. The age smoothed the tannins, restrained the fruit, and let delicious herbal and garrique notes through, with good acid; it paired well with the other three plates. We may just have to get this wine into Pairings.

At Catalyst, they use “exceptional products centered on locally grown organic produce and wild and farm raised food from sustainable practice”, similar to many restaurants. What’s so different about Catalyst is what Chef Kovel does with the products.

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