by victoria abbott riccardi photography by andy ryan | May 14, 2013 | Food & Drink
The Hudson Valley Duck Board features sliced breast meat, grilled duck sausage, and smoked duck pastrami.
Try lusty fare like Catalanstyle garlic soup with pimentón croutons and a soft-boiled egg.
The space may be small but the flavors are big at Sycamore.
David Punch, co-chef and co-owner of Sycamore in Newton Centre, has a knack for producing big things from small spaces. We’re talking food, of course. The Natick native has been cranking out immensely flavorful fare from teensy kitchens all over the city—at Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain, then as co-owner of Ten Tables in Cambridge, and now at Sycamore. This 48-seat American bistro with a seasonal menu, in the former space of John Dewar & Co., joins a burgeoning list of restaurants offering downtown-quality cuisine in suburbia.
“I’d been looking for a place in Newton Centre for a long time because so many guests at Ten Tables, in both Jamaica Plain and Cambridge, were coming from Newton and Wellesley,” Punch says. “I was tired of the rat race in Cambridge and felt the city was becoming saturated with restaurants. Plus, I knew people [in Newton] were dying for a place that was hip, cool, and good.”
Indeed. Sycamore has drawn crowds almost every night since it opened last December, including folks from Boston. Young professionals, older couples, and downtown hipsters flock to the bar for artisanal cocktails, local beers, and wines by the glass or carafe off a list peppered with bottles from small producers. Candles glow against the brick walls, creating a cozy atmosphere for enjoying Punch’s insanely delicious food, whether it’s the crock of garlicky octopus cuddling fat white beans that he served shortly after opening; the slab of salt-cured foie gras he often puts on the menu paired with grilled bread and quince paste; or entrées like juicy boudin blanc and lusty seafood stew. His roast chicken? Yum. His steak frites with marrow butter? Double yum.
“I’ve always written menus based on what I like to eat,” says Punch, who’s quick to give culinary credit to his co-chef, Lydia Reichert, who was previously Tony Maws’s sous chef at Craigie on Main. “We use the same ingredients as No. 9 Park and Craigie on Main, apply the same cooking techniques, but our food is heartier and more rustic.”
Yet the menu is anything but dumbed down. “Initially I wondered: Should we offer more pasta? More chicken? But no,” Punch says. “Lydia and I decided to cook the kind of food we’re trained to cook.” Right now that means green garlic semolina soup cradling a gooey soft-boiled egg and wilted pea tendrils, succulent slow-roasted salmon with sauce gribiche, and those screamingly delicious cutting boards for two. One week it could be the Hudson Valley Duck Board, holding rare sliced breast meat, grilled duck sausage, and toasts heaped with smoked duck pastrami; another week the spring lamb board, laden with crispy grilled lamb leg, rosy roasted loin, and lamb belly. Meals end with simple offerings, like a plate of ripe local cheese and house-made fruit jam or chocolate pot de crème with crunchy peanut brittle and banana chantilly.
“You know, I don’t do this to make a ton of money,” says Punch, acknowledging that he can count on one hand the days off he’s had since opening. “But I love what I do. I love the intensity of the job, meeting different people, and making people happy with good food.” 755 Beacon St., Newton, 617-244-4445; sycamorenewton.com