Saturday evening, an early supper sitting at the bank of seats that face the perpetual-motion kitchen staff at Pagu (310 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA). We began with drinks. My companion went for the Spanish Negroni (gin mare, aperol, campari, atxa rojo, cocchi americano) a tart, bracing prelude to the rich flavors to come. I asked for a pisco sour which was good but was missing the top drops of some sort of bitters to help round out the drink.
OK. Time for the main act.
Local bluefish tuna tartare was crunchy with celery, topped with what I think were radish microgreens, and which carried a wallop of hotness through some sort of chili oil (the wallop is not mentioned in the menu description) but I’d order it again. Then the chef delivered a complimentary amuse bouche of Patatas Bravas– five little hassleback potatoes dressed with creme fresh and a small but powerful schmear of hot sauce, each tater sitting in a small bed of the same crema. Somehow those potatoes were buttery and creamy. Perfect finger food.
Next came two pork belly bao. Unctuous and good with just a tad too much rice roll for me, but the peanuts were slightly sweet - a nice subtle touch. Curry Crab Croquetas were hot (temp-wise), with a barely-there curry flavor. Nuggests of crabby goodness. We wrapped up the evening by sharing the Cedar Campfire Black Cod (also known as sable fish). We’d been smelling that seductive campfire-y smell periodically during the evening, so our tastebuds were eager to dive in. The fish had been marinated lightly in miso and was so so so buttery. We shared the medium-sized portion but I could have eaten a whole one myself. The included side was a melange of seaweeds, sauteed I think but cool. It wasn’t to my taste but if you love seaweed, you’ll like it. I understand the chef’s choice in that the tangy-ness was a good foil for the richness of the fish. I might have preferred a pickled red cabbage instead.
Service was attentive, just chatty enough, and not overly hovering. I strongly recommend the seats that face the kitchen because it’s fascinating to see them assemble the ramens, to see the charred avocado presented as a woman’s big green hat with a topknot of small salad - we wish we had room for it, but next time. Total bill (minus tip) about $105 (including a 4% “Kitchen Appreciation Fee” which was well-earned) for a meal and that was unique, deeply flavorful, and totally satisfying, despite being small plates that we simply shared. We’re looking forward to working our way through more of the menu.