This trendy neighborhood destination, centered between Harvard and Porter Square on Mass Ave., is a personal favorite. And that’s not just because it’s around the corner so I can still wear heels. It has great flair-always busy and hopping-and the food is predictably good. And, certain dishes are predictably excellent.
Surprisingly, Temple Bar offers one of the best crab cakes I have ever had, and I have had more than my fair share. Large chunks of fresh crabmeat dominate the minimal amount of breadcrumbs in this appetizer. Though an order only comes with one cake on a bed of frisee, it’s worth sharing just to get a little taste of it. Equally good appetizers are the cheese fondue ($14) and the crispy fried calamari with banana peppers and adobo dipping sauce ($10).
As a frequent patron, I have narrowed my selection to two dishes, depending on whether I am in the mood to be decadent or only partially excessive. The rustic flat-bread pizza is hard to beat. Similar to Cambridge One in Harvard Square (Temple Bar is owned by the same people), this locale offers its standard pepperoni ($10), and a seasonal variation such as apples and gorgonzola in the fall or Spanish olives, piquillo peppers, pesto and manchego cheese ($11) in the summer. Great choice if you want to be economical.
But, Temple Bar’s limelight really belongs to the Wild Mushroom Risotto ($18). Did I mention decadence? The risotto is blended with aged Gouda and truffle oil, topped with crisp, lightly fried portobella mushrooms and baby arugula. Every bite is better than the last, though I haven’t yet plowed my way through an entire bowl.
Another great option is the Japanese seafood cioppino ($22). In addition to the fresh udon noodles in a light but flavorful tomato seafood broth, the bowl is laden with mussels, clams, fish and best of all, tempura shrimp.
Another crowd pleaser is the crispy fried pork chop “tonkatsu,” which is a perfect dish to enjoy this fall. Served on a bed of braised red cabbage, the meat is topped with Fuji apple chutney and hot mustard. The blend of savory and sweet flavors in the sauce makes this hearty meal complete.
If you are in the market for a little change of pace and the view from the other side of Cambridge Commons, Temple Bar is worth the effort.
1688 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138