Culinary Perfection and Genius Meet at Café ArtScience
by scott kearnan photography by andy ryan| February 23, 2015 |
Food & Drink
Take the city’s top culinary innovations. Add a Harvard genius. Serve.
At Café ArtScience, mille-feuille pastry is layered with house-smoked salmon and crème fraîche and dotted with caviar.
Most bartenders use a shaker. Todd Maul uses a centrifuge. Surprised? Don’t be. There is nothing formulaic about Café ArtScience, an upscale eatery recently opened near Kendall Square, the heart of Cambridge’s tech and innovation sector. From behind small spectacles, Maul peers at bottles of spirits, syrups, and house-made potions, like cigar essence, infused with tobacco wrappers from a Connecticut farm (it creates a smoky, sophisticated Manhattan). Tucked inconspicuously in one corner—just another bar tool—is the centrifuge. The laboratory machine stirs contents much faster than two hands can, allowing Maul to separate an ingredient into its distinct, unadulterated components based on their molecular weight.
“It’s not gimmickry,” says Maul, a cofounder of Café ArtScience, about all the wizardry afoot. He sets down a gin-based Singapore sling, its glass brimming with -40 degree ice cubes pulled from a blast freezer. They are designed to time-release the tart cherry juice that he injected into their centers. “It’s all very pragmatic. It’s about precision. It’s about improving the method.”
Building better foods is central to the work of Dr. David Edwards, the esteemed Harvard engineer who founded Café ArtScience. Edwards’s background is in biomedical engineering; his first company, Advanced Inhalation Research, pioneered the aerosol delivery of medicine. But he’s also dedicated to forging “the future of food,” particularly through the unique inventions of his Paris design center, Le Laboratoire.
The dining room of Café ArtScience.
Café ArtScience opened in conjunction with Le Laboratoire Cambridge and lets Edwards bring progressive ideas directly to consumers. “The idea is to create an innovative environment where we pioneer the future of food with an eye toward better, healthier, sustainable living,” he says, describing a restaurant that boasts design DNA that Steve Jobs would approve of. Café ArtScience’s white interior includes a shelf displaying Le Laboratoire products for sale. Overhead hang futuristic hexagonal panels of shimmering green glass; they echo the towering walls of the Honeycomb, a partitioned rotunda used for private events and a biweekly seminar series covering breakthroughs in art, food, medicine, and technology.
Yet when it comes to the cuisine served in the airy dining room, Café ArtScience trades Silicon Valley for the Loire Valley. The kitchen is helmed by Patrick Campbell, who spent nearly a decade at Barbara Lynch’s iconic No. 9 Park before passing through the Kenmore Square brasserie Eastern Standard. He smartly manifests Café ArtScience’s innovative spirit with an oft-changing menu that marries refined, classic French dishes and hints of American ingenuity. Sci-fi shtick this is not.
In one dish, the pastry of a delicate mille-feuille is layered with house-smoked salmon and a light, luscious crème fraîche; it’s dotted with caviar and accompanied by roast beet. For another, a tender veal loin crepinette is wrapped in pancetta and plated with roasted cabbage and gnocchi Parisienne, crispy dumplings that yield delightful dough with a bite. A plate of beef carpaccio receives Burgundy truffle, medallions of juicy lobster meat, and a little drizzle of XO, a spicy Chinese seafood sauce that is one of the few Eastern nods on the menu.
Back at the bar, Maul continuously toys with his tipples. “There’s no other trade that doesn’t embrace technology to move itself forward,” he says. “Progress isn’t about saying, ‘This is how they used to do it.’ It’s about asking, ‘How can I do this better?’” We’ll drink to that. 650 Kendall St., Cambridge, 857-999-2193