TRADE Restaurant in Boston Boasts Flavorful Menu

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Posted May 14, 2014 by Heather Kapplow in Eat & Drink
Local burrata with quince jam and candied walnuts

It’s a calm and cool night when I venture out to TRADE Restaurant in Downtown Boston, and the trade winds are definitely blowing up the channel in my direction when I arrive at its door. Before I even enter the restaurant, I am grateful to the person on TRADE’s staff who has opened the door for me when I’m halfway up the front steps.

In fact, everyone who works at TRADE is deeply warm and welcoming. The dining room is cavernously large and nearing the edgy side of modern, but I am not intimidated because everyone is so genuinely friendly.

Crafty Libations

I luck out with the famous Valentine’s Day drink special, cleverly proposed on a pink paper heart with rhinestones. Playful details like this seem in sharp contrast with the physical space, but it works somehow—the two aesthetics balance each other out.

The special is a red wine flight featuring 2-ounce pours of Italian, Spanish, and Californian wines. Each is better than the one before, and they are all great, complex wines that I’ve not seen anywhere else.

Sweater Season cocktail

Sweater Season cocktail. Photo Credit: Heather Kapplow

The two cocktails that my dining partner and I try are very festive—one is seasonal, while the other is ironically unseasonal. But both are fun, and get special credit for their creative use of fresh cranberries. On the “trust your bartender” drink, which was a rum-based number called a Hawaiian Shirt, three pert cranberries are nested like blood red eggs within a reversed lime rind. In the rye-based Sweater Season cocktail, the same small cranberries float in a pond of autumn-spiced cranberry juice like ruby ducks.

Down-to-Earth Dishes

The food is a little less creative in terms of its originality and presentation, but everything is cooked perfectly and flavored nicely.

We try two items from the small-plates menu and a flatbread.

The first to arrive is the local burrata with quince jam and candied walnuts. This loose but tasty cheese is served with a smattering of arugula and not quite enough bread to sop up the cheese. But the cheese is lovely—velvety, mild, and fresh.

The quince jam is really nice, too. It isn’t too sweet, has a crunchy-honey texture to it, and its “quince-ness” is well captured. I’m a huge fan of quince in almost any form, so I am immediately pleased that it’s on the plate at all. Though many make the mistake of covering its unique tartness with too much sugar, that mistake is not made here. However, the candied walnuts are not spectacular. They were probably made fresh, but they taste store-bought.

On the heels of the burrata came the lamb sausage flatbread. The flatbread is very fluffy but sturdy enough to hold fairly heavy toppings. I had assumed the sausage would be merguez-style, but it is not. It’s something juicier and plumper—definitely house-made—but not quite as flavorful as expected. The eggplant, garlic yogurt, and Manchego cheese complement each other and the sausage nicely, and though the pepper reads closer to tomato than pepper, it lends just enough sweetness to the dish to keep it from tasting like pizza. A touch of mint hidden somewhere among the flatbread toppings also aids in this effort.

Just as we finish the flatbread, the curry cauliflower appears. It’s unspectacular. The presentation is lumpy curry with a lot of unannounced yogurt on top. It tastes fine—sweet, savory, and spicy—but its texture is unexciting and uninteresting. The dominant flavor is the yogurt and turmeric. The highlight is a hidden handful of extra large, warm golden raisins scattered throughout.

Conclusions

For dessert, we order the baked Alaska. This is unusually extra tall—a Marie Antoinette-height meringue surrounding what is described as Mandarin orange sorbet. All of this lives atop a nutty sugar cookie. The cookie is delicious, as is the meringue. The sorbet tastes good, but it is indistinguishable from other orange sorbets that I’ve had. It was no more Mandarin than your average Creamsicle. Overall, the whimsy of the piece makes it work for me, though. I didn’t really need the orange to be Mandarin.

Despite my description of the food as not the most exciting I’ve encountered, I enjoyed my experience at TRADE. I loved the space and the service, and felt extremely comfortable. The clientele felt like regulars, whether they were or not, and I could easily imagine becoming a regular myself.

On a second visit, which I fully expect to make, I’ll be sure to try an entrée. It seems important to note here that I didn’t try any of these and that they looked and smelled delicious when they arrived at the table next to mine.

Everything that I ordered seemed like an extremely fair deal—and the menu has a nice mix of North African, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean influences. There is enough flavor variety here to come back often and taste something significantly different each time.

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