Brighton Bodega [Brighton Center, MA]

Brighton Bodega opened a couple of weeks ago at the former Mandy and Joe’s space on Washington Street and we’ve been twice since. It’s nice to have a slightly-uppity (in the best of ways) neighborhood place not crowded with college kids (although that may change as September gets closer) and dishes that try out new yet still approachable flavors. It reminds us quite a bit of Strip T’s with its previous reincarnation of Asian fusion dishes, which have sadly passed on when they changed the chef at the place - but that’s another story!

The space is nice with some gorgeous original wood wall paneling from the older restaurant, but the noise bouncing off the wood - yikes. We went with older relatives this week and had to move to the back area with higher ceiling and glass window so that we can talk at a normal volume. The beer menu has maybe 15 or so choices of various styles and are all local. The husband tried a couple of IPAs and liked all of them, the relatives were also happy with their beer selection after the waitress brought over samples of a few beer to try.

The menu is mostly tapas plates with some Asian fusion flavors, and the portions are all quite good for the price and range from normal tapas size to just shy of dinner serving, depending on the price. For the most recent visit, we got some shrimp crackers with togarashi sprinkles on the house, and then ordered the triple creme cheese with olives and pickles, massaman vegetable curry with rice, beet hummus with pistachio pesto and za’atar popover, tomato and arugula salad with grilled halloumi and olives, scallion pancake with spicy beef and cucumber, and pan roasted rainbow trout with orange braised fennel and some kind of chimchurri sauce. The six dishes are just right for four hungry adults.

All the dishes are enjoyable and all the plates got wiped clean, but the standouts are the beet hummus, massaman curry and rainbow trout. It may not be a popular opinion, but quite a few restaurants have left us thirsty and heavy from the saltiness/umami bomb, and we are so happy that Bodega didn’t go there - it’s seasoned just the right amount, perhaps refreshing is the right word here?

Our first visit was also positive but left some things to be desired, I think we ordered the fried chicken buns, grilled pan squash with feta and pine nuts, and redfish with fingerling potatoes and grapefruit (the chef likes his fish and citrus) and queso dip, which proves to be too much food for us. Really enjoyed the contrast between light pan squash and salty feta, the buns are good but sauce tasted too discerningly like McD’s for my comfort. The redfish was competently prepared, but the grapefruit are quite bitter and didn’t have enough salt/sugar in the sauce or potatoes to cut the bitterness and the whole thing ended up slightly off-putting. I’m glad to see that the rainbow trout on the second time improved quite a bit and now has a nice green sauce to go with the fish. The menu also changed almost completely between the first and second time (the steam buns and tacos stayed but the filings have changed), so it seems like they are wanting to put on a rotating assortment of dishes depending on what’s in season.

All in all, the place is still new but all signs are promising and improving. With quite a few restaurants closing around Brighton center recently and being related by hair salon and dental offices, it’s encouraging to see a restaurant that can both fill a neighborhood void and putting forth some innovative dishes.

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Thanks for the report! I’m right in the neighborhood, so I’ll definitely be checking it out soon!

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold