This week I went to Carmen in the North End with some friends. Okay, I was with four other women who all have January birthdays. When will this birthday thing ever end!! Anyway, Carmen is a really great little restaurant in North Square right next door to Paul Revere’s house. As it turned out, three of the women who work at Carmen also have January birthdays. What an astrological coincidence! The fact that I know this though, does say something about the very friendly and personable staff.
The bright red door will grab your attention from the street and the really well prepared and delicious food and attentive service will grab your attention once inside. This tiny one room restaurant has a very cozy and romantic atmosphere. The decor couldn’t be more simple- brick walls, racks of wine and nine tables with white table clothes and brown paper toppers, but the effect is extremely warm and inviting. The Chef/owner Jeff Malloy was there on Thursday night and I bet he is there most evenings. He came out to answer questions about the menu and give suggestions. When I asked about the vegetables on the menu, he immediately said he would bring us a tasting dish of all of his vegetables. This included…
marinated olives with hot peppers and orange
marinated mushrooms with smoked bacon and sherry vinegar
roasted sweet peppers with homemade mozzarella and basil
roasted beets with red onions, ricotta salata, orange and mint
grilled eggplant and zucchini with pine nuts, balsamic and mint
roasted cipollini onions in agrodolce
Also, there were brussel sprouts which we all loved, but I don’t see them on the menu, so I am not sure how they were prepared.
Anyway, Yummmmm! Having so many different types of vegetables made it much more interesting than any one vegetable dish would have been- what a great combination of flavors! I especially liked the mushrooms and the contrast of the sweet peppers with the homemade mozzarella.
Next, we all bounced our main dish choices off Jeff and either everything is really good at Carmen, or we happened to pick the four best things on the menu because he was very enthusiastic about all of our choices. Two of us tried the spice crusted tuna served rare with celery root puree, sugar snap peas, portabella mushrooms and aged balsamic. This is served with mashed potatoes and I really enjoyed it. It was a great combination of textures and flavors. and the bright green/dark green of the vegetable and sauce contrasted nicely with the color of the rare tuna.
The other dishes that we tried were..
Seared Sea Scallops with sweet corn, pancetta, shrimp risotto and carrot puree; this was delicious! I think this was the best thing that I tasted. The texture of the risotto was perfect and flavors were terrific. This dish was also very pretty on the plate.
Linguine with clams with roasted garlic, basil and fra diavolo sauce. I didn’t taste this one, but I heard that it was good.
Baked penne with tiny apulian style meatballs, fresh mozzarella and roasted tomato sauce. This is wrapped in parchment paper which gave it a dramatic effect -delicious and very filling!
While the menu is not terribly long, there were many other things that I would like to try… check out their menu at http://www.carmenboston.com.
Carmen, like some other tiny restaurants in the North End does not serve coffee or dessert because they need to turn over their tables, but dessert is easy to find nearby if you are still hungry. When we go to the North End as a family, we always stop at Mike’s Pastries for some serious, pack on the pounds, desserts. You have probably been there, but if not, here is their website …www.mikespastry.com. I notice that you can actually order a “Mike’s Pastry Cannoli Kit” online so you can make and eat Mike’s cannoli from the comfort of your own home. Wow!