Happy New Year, readers!
It has been kind of a hot sec since I’ve been on here! I’ve been fairly active on the Instagram (give me a follow, @critiquingcarnivore!) especially with the start of my own little stories series “Wife Me”. I started it on my personal instagram and my friends loved it so I’m starting to transfer all the content over to the blog now! It’s a good laugh, be sure to check it out!
Back to today’s blog post…as I said it’s the new year which means I’m home with the fam in Boston and since I’m an avid Bon Appétit follower I had a new list of places I had to check out from BA highlights. One of these places is over in Cambridge with piping hot matzo ball soup and beautifully cured meats. We’re trekking out to Mamaleh’s!
I don’t know if it’s solely because it was on BA’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants of 2017 or because watching the new season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” had me craving Jewish classics, but either way I was really looking forward to some traditional Jewish dishes from Mamaleh’s.
When walking in, it looks like a fancier version of your neighborhood deli. They have a full bar, something a little extra, but they have a walk up counter with bagels and lox galore, and a sit down dining area all of which surrounds the kitchen located in the back. We were able to be seated right away, we went on a Friday for lunch, and while it wasn’t packed it was still popping. I could see how this would be a favorite lunch spot among Cambridge folks working in the area.
When we sat down our waiter got right to it. We maybe looked at the menu for two minutes (let’s be real, I’ve been looking at the menu for the last month) asking us for our drink orders. I didn’t even have a chance to comprehend half of the options let alone figure out what questions I had. I didn’t know what an egg cream was, or whether I wanted one of their fancy sodas. But with that aside, the team effort among the wait staff was admirable. Everyone came by checking on us, taking our food orders throughout our dining experience.
As I said I’ve been looking at this food menu for a while and pretty much a clear idea of what I wanted to try. First thing that was a must was the matzo ball soup. If you’re unfamiliar with what matzo balls are it’s a Jewish dumpling made from matzo meal. This was my first time having it and I was definitely curious about the texture, since I know some people aren’t big fans of it. I enjoyed the soup, it was essentially just a chicken soup base with the matzo balls. It was very rich in flavor and not too salty and the matzo balls had an even texture and form to them.
The next item I knew we had to get was the latkes. The traditional Hanukkah dish is just grated potatoes fried in a fat of some kind. They are a delicious crispy potato pancake and are traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream. Mamaleh’s latkes did not disappoint. They were so crispy; they weren’t overly salty and the fat they were fried in gave them a flavor kick the potatoes wanted. They were packed tightly and had a nice height to them! On top of that the presentation of everything was visually pleasing, so much so I got a plate to bring home.
This next menu item my handy dandy helper (dad) picked out. A tradition knish is a Jewish snack food that is usually a baked or fried potato filled dough. At Mamaleh’s they have both plain potato as well as a meat filled one. We opted for the meat knish which is the savory pastry filled with potatoes and onions along with their corned beef and pastrami. The knish was baked exquisitely, when you cut into it it cut clearly without the flakiness crumbling. The potato filling was so light and fluffy it was like eating clouds. It was yet another dish proving that the kitchen understands how to season just enough, the meat adding saltiness without being overpowering. It was a dish I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did. It surpassed the simple matzo ball soup in my book.
Now for the star standout entree. Pastrami and corned beef are both Jewish deli favorites and I wanted the chance to have both. Mamaleh’s well thought-out menu fulfilled my needs with the 50/50 hand sliced sandwich. Half corned beef, half pastrami served on seeded rye bread with deli mustard. Thank you deli sandwich angels. When this sandwich was placed on our table my eyes lit up. From the color of the bread, to the height of the sandwich, to the very simple and straightforward plating I couldn’t wait to get this sandwich in my stomach.
The bread was so springy and had wonderful structure to it, a nice bite and flavor. The mustard was your classic Dijon type with a nice tangy kick. The hand sliced meats melded together gracefully, the brine coming through and the hints of spices tingling your taste buds. It made for a crisp clean chew that was oh so satisfactory. And don’t forget about the height of the sandwich, layers and layers of the juicy brined meats.
While all this food left us full we had just enough space to manage a slice of chocolate babka. It shouldn’t need explaining, the pictures can speak for themselves, but the dense and thick slice was everything you wish a chocolate croissant was. Packed with chocolate, the sweet yeasted dough had lovely pockets of air that made the density less of a highlight. The bake on the outside was almost crunchy in the best bakery way possible.
Mamaleh’s made me feel like a character out of Mrs. Maisel. I just wanted to become family with the staff, learn to make all these homemade meals, and yell Yiddish to everyone. The biggest takeaway for me was just how perfectly seasoned everything was. I was secretly prepared for everything to be so salty I’d loose all taste, but they proved me wrong. It all could’ve leaned that way, with cured meats and chicken soup sodium can make itself the star ingredient, but the kitchen magicians at Mamaleh’s let everything else stand out. Everything came out super fast and the waitstaff kept things moving for us. Coffee cups were never left even the slightest bit empty.
If you’re in Boston you should make the walk (yes, walk!) to Cambridge and make a stop here. I certainly see why they ended up on BA’s Top 50 list and I’m sure you’ll end up verklempt with nachas. 😉
*please be kind at my attempt to use Yiddish words…Mamaleh’s website has a fun dictionary of words to check out!*