It was a snowy Sunday, but I felt cozy as a clam as I sat amid new friends in Cambridge’s Bondir Restaurant, perfectly at home amid the farm house decor and roaring fire, nibbling fresh biscuits and drinking coffee out of delicate white china cups. We whiled away an afternoon chatting about everything from jury duty to Korean fried chicken, while Chef Jason Bond showcased his talents with local food.
I hadn’t been to Bondir, but they piqued my curiosity at lamb jam last week, where I got to try their lamb terrine and noticed their very cool logo. Fortunately, the restaurant and their food lived up to my (brief) first impression.
Bondir opened last November, and is Bond’s first solo foray. More dedicated to using fresh, local ingredients than adhering to the tenants of a particular cuisine, influences are French and distinctly American, with possibilities for Asian and Latin. The small size (28 seats) gives Bond the flexibility to change his menu daily, according to what’s fresh and in season. One week, he might be getting a pig from a nearby farm, the next day it might be locally harvested scallops. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive: Devra First was a big fan, Jen from Tiny Urban Kitchen recently documented her charming experience, and even the usually snarky Yelp has nice things to say.Several people were already there when I arrived. Maggie Batista of Eat Boutique, who organized the event. (Thanks, Maggie!) Rob and Laura of The Two Palavers. Lilly, of Consuming Lilly. Shelby of Lady Gouda. And Erin of Erin Cooks. Rachael of Fork it Over Boston. We gathered in Bondir’s lovely waiting area, a cozy space bordered by cushioned benches and highlighted by a generous sized hearth that we took turns warming ourselves in front of. Clementines and turnips were paired with old cake stands and bowls to create a charming decor.After being joined by Kim of Lighter and Local, Heather of Food for Thought, Katie of Katy Elliott, David of Eat Drink RI, we headed to our tables. I loved the intimate seating at Bondir. Old church pews line the walls, and a bunch of smaller tables are pushed together, giving the tiny restaurant the ability to move them to accommodate parties large and small.
Drink orders were taken and then the food started coming. We whetted our appetites with fresh biscuits, which were dainty rounds, perfectly browned and flaky. I’m a huge biscuit fan, and I’d love to get my hands on Bond’s recipe. Flounder and saffron risotto soon arrived, bright yellow and fragrant. The dish was studded with arugula, which added a nice bite in contrast to the sweetness of the rest of the dish. Next up was a yellowtail flounder (landed in Scituate) with a spiced milk sauce. Having filleted whole flounder before, I appreciated this dish immensely. The fillets were perfect pockets of meat (no easy feat), while the roe sac that accompanied them remained intact, looking almost like a carrot in disguise. The sauce was delicate, complimenting, rather than overpowering the fish, while the roe offered a creaminess in contrast to the flakiness of the fish.
Our main course was a brined Tamworth ham, with collards, roasted parsnips and roast potatoes. This was the perfect Sunday meal for a cold day, with the bitterness of the greens cutting the saltiness of the pork. The potatoes, roasted in goose fat, were finished with some fresh pigs blood that had come in that morning, and were surprisingly wonderful. I wished I had a spicy mustard so I could make myself an impromptu ham sandwich using those lovely biscuits.
Bond came to greet us midway through the meal, introducing himself and asking what we enjoyed. He was extremely affable, and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say… I would love to have had the opportunity to speak with him longer, though he is understandably consumed with his restaurant. I imagine that locally sourcing foods and coming up with a new menu everyday takes an immense effort and can be exhausting, both mentally and physically.
Our desserts were equally as heady: wine poached pears with an almond cream, and a pear tarte tatin, rich with caramelized sugar, and ample vermouth-spiked creme fraiche on the side. Service was impeccable, very polite and attentive, but friendly and informative at the same time. Our server told us in minute detail what we were eating down to where the fish was landed and the name of the farm the pig from our ham came from.
The thing that makes Bondir is the overall attention to detail. The coffee was delicious and fresh brewed. The decor was as wonderful as the food, and even the restroom had a lot of thought put into it. Obviously designed by a woman, it featured three soaps to choose from, and a small table covered in various scented lotions. It was like going into your best friend’s bathroom and getting to try all her products.
Bondir is located at 279 Broadway in Cambridge. The are open 5 to 10 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays.