Dining Out: Craigie on Main

With “going out” and “getting away” feeling like relics of a more carefree era, today’s homeowners are creating all-inclusive retreats within their own four walls.

Other uses of new flavors and technology are less successful. Poaching sweetbreads in yogurt to tenderize them does provide both a milky sweetness and some tang, but also a texture I found too soft. And everything on the plate fell into a blur, even if I did get why each component was there: cashews for crunch, tangerines and dried plums for acid and chew, pioppini mushrooms and a reduction sauce of Barolo chinato (a bittersweet digestif) for depth.

Maws is on a new quest, one that this dish fully illustrates: He’s in love with umami, the so-called “fifth taste,” a flavor best described as savory and tongue-coating. Thus he spikes a squid ink, anchovy, and garlic sauce with umami-rich dried miso powder in an appetizer of perfectly deep-fried Nova Scotia smelts ($14). He also throws miso into a beef jus–red wine reduction under thin slices of nicely pan-roasted hanger steak, shiitakes, and (terrific) confited and crisped dice of smoked beef tongue ($36). The sauce is thickened with, get ready, puréed foie gras and walnuts, the steak topped with deep-fried shallots and bone marrow. Whew! You need several bites just to figure out everything going on—it’s umami overload.

Dessert settles into more of a comfort zone, with the fruit crisps and bread pudding variations from the Bistrot and a few surprises, like the rum-spiked chocolate pooling over the profiteroles filled with roasted banana–muscovado ice cream ($10).

I’d say that Maws has his own brand of umami, even without all the miso and the new flavor concentrations. His careful choice and manipulation of ingredients and outright cooking talent already do the flavor-concentrating work for him—as the economy-defying Craigie on Main keeps proving every packed-full night.

Critic Corby Kummer—an editor at The Atlantic and author of The Pleasures of Slow Food—has been reviewing Greater Boston’s top restaurants in our pages since 1997.