Location: Watertown, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
This place is an enigma. A beautiful enigma. It’s also one of the most unique dining experiences you will have around Boston.
How do you manage to order at a restaurant that can be described by the following attributes?
- The name is Strip T’s, and the spot is located in a homely corner of Watertown.
- For 25 years, they were a friendly neighborhood shop serving a lunch menu of salads, sandwiches, and soups. Think Greek Salads, Po’Boys, etc.
- Recently the owner’s son returned from his gig as Chef de Cuisine at the one-and-only David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar in NYC to take over the menu.
- The dinner has been revamped and includes an incredibly eclectic array of upscale Asian influences, down-home Amuuurican fare, and New England favorites. Now think things like haute burgers, fried chicken, banh mi, oxtail, maitake mushrooms, etc.
- An emphasis is now placed on locally-sourced ingredients – think chalkboard list of suppliers, fish caught by spear (seriously), farms incorporated into menu item descriptions.
As someone who usually makes a beeline to a singular menu item that sings straight to my foie-gras clogged heart, I was more stumped with my selection at Strip T’s than anywhere else in recent memory.
I mean – do I go with the traditional grub like a burger, thinking that the son added a little Momofuku magic dust to a classic dish?
Or, do I swing East, thinking that our new chef wields a Shun well and shuns the old Strip T’s food in favor of inventive Asian cooking?
Or, do I try something zany and not particularly in line with either of these lines of thinking – like smoked trout with corn, 5 minute egg, rye, and chanterelles; or creole boudin “etouffee” with shrimp, scallops, and root vegetables?
Really – it all sounded good.
- First: Grilled romaine with succulent braised oxtail, perfectly poached egg, and a zingy chili ‘vin’ (which is apparently a cool way to say dressing). This dish really had a little bit of all the flavors and textures I most appreciate: meaty, smoky, charred, rich, spicy, complex, juicy, and crispy. Best dish of the night.
- Second: After much, much agonizing I settled on the creole boudin, which was an incredibly tender sausage stuffed with creole rice and split down the center with plump little scallops and shrimp perched atop. The sausage wonder was swimming in a light stew with finely julienned root veggies, and man did it all have a nice flavorful “kick” to it. In the end, I loved this deconstructed slice of Nawlins.
- Second (part deux): No, I did not gluttonously eat two mains. My dining chum ordered the much more dainty and Eastern-influenced roasted tautag, which was a spear-caught mild white fish in a bowl with kohlrabi “noodles,” lightly fried clams, eggplant and pistachio. Though a much different mouth-feel (yes I’m a fouchebag) than the boudin, it was sophisticated and well-executed (yes I watch too much Food Network).
- Third: We were treated to some sort of special ice cream with coconut cake and sweet cream topped with cacao nibs. Felt nice and cooling on my tongue after the whirlwind of flavors hitting my buds all night.
And you know, now that I mention it, there was a veritable whirlwind of flavors being served up at Strip T’s. Chef Tim appears to have the rare ability to magically transport his diners through the rustbelt, the deep south, and the Asian subcontinent while still weaving in a lil’ bit of Watertown, MA.
Is this the beginning of a new trend in the restaurant biz? Has the pop-up been replaced by the all-out takeover? Will our local Greek gyro joints, college pizza shops, and fried-rice-slinging Chinese buffets be reinvented by inspired chefs who add a bit of their own influence while staying true to the roots of the kitchen space they have now inhabited?
What should we call it? Burgers and macquisitions? Muncher capital? Perma Pop-Ups? Private Chef-quity?