Words and Photos by Amanda DeJesus
Often, when we are trying a new restaurant in Boston, we look for something foreign and exotic. But Townsman, located downtown just outside of the theatre district, has taken a step back and looked at traditional New England cuisine. They celebrate the Northeastern United States with thoughtful seasonal menus, locally sourced ingredients, and dishes that will recall your childhood.
Townsman is warm and welcoming. The dining room is spacious and features huge spherical light fixtures on the ceiling and iconic red metal chairs at the tables. An open, well-lit kitchen illuminates the front of the room. My Mom and I sat in the back, by floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of a lovely courtyard garden.
Our waiter quickly brought us a serving of Boston brown bread, baked the traditional way: in a maple syrup can. The can was repurposed as a butter dish, topped with seasoned salt, for spreading on the bread, which was soft and sweet.
The menu was hard to narrow down, but we eventually decided on a few dishes from each section: first, a snapper crudo with jicama and pear puree, which was light and refreshing. The pear flavor was delicate, but complemented the snapper well.
For hors d’oeuvres, we got the crispy brussels sprouts with harissa, garlic croutons, and malt vinegar aioli, and the fried dumplings with onion, horseradish, and cultured cream. The brussels sprouts were indeed crispy, and the aioli was tangy and brought the dish together (even convincing a mayo-hater like me that it was necessary). The dumplings were a real treat: they were rich and almost pierogi-like.
Next up were appetizers: wax beans a la plancha and Sparrow Arc Farm carrots. I rarely see wax beans used in anything other than three bean salad, so it was interesting to see them highlighted here. They were, of course, delicious, served with tahini vinaigrette, dilly green beans, and grapes. The carrots were tender and sweet, with an extra zing from the za’atar and crunch from the walnut mostarda.
For an entree, we split the braised pork shank. It was gorgeously plated on top of savory oatmeal, with pears and golden raisin jus. The pork was incredibly tender and rich and the sweet golden raisin jus brought out the sweetness in the meat.
Somehow we managed to save room for dessert, and we were so glad we did. My Mom’s Grandma used to always eat a slice of cheddar cheese with her apple pie, so we decided to honor her by ordering the apple-almond cobbler with cheddar ice cream and caramel. It was phenomenal. The cobbler was soft and perfectly spiced. The cheddar flavor in the ice cream was delicate, but balanced the sweetness of the apples well. This was, by far, the best part of our meal.
When I think of New England food (as someone who did not grow up here), I think of the basics: lobster, blueberries, Boston cream pie. Townsman really opened my eyes as to what else this region has to offer, and how we can really expand on those traditional dishes. I will be returning soon, and not just for the apple cobbler.
120 Kingston St.
Boston, MA 02111