Restaurant Review: Evoo in Cambridge
The location may have changed, but chef Peter McCarthy’s cuisine still keeps diners on their toes.
Of the regular offerings, the best starters showcase McCarthy’s frying prowess, especially three spring rolls ($10.50) with two dipping sauces, and cornmeal-crusted fried oysters ($11) that are so good they don’t even need the goat cheese fondue with which they’re served (though I see the point of the tart, salty apple-bacon salsa that also comes with the dish). In addition to that stellar tenderloin, ever-present mains include “Duck, Duck, Goose,” a signature trio of very nice roasted goose breast, decent (if unmemorable) duck foie gras, and an undercrisped duck confit in a sherry-ginger sauce ($28).
With the seasonal dishes, it’s somewhat luck of the draw. Fish is particularly chancy. Bass one night was undercooked, making it seem fatty and textureless, and was paired with an overspiced shredded-carrot salad and a dull, chewy whole-grain farro ($25). It brought back bad memories of earnest but awful 1970s gourmet health food. When I later asked the chef (neutrally) about the dish over the phone, he laughed. “Oh, we changed that,” he said.
But McCarthy’s big-flavor approach can work in surprising places, like a sweet potato croquette entrée ($25): a huge fried brick topped with cheddar and served with homemade dill pickles. The croquette was substantial, while the texture was light and a bit grainy, something like Lebanese kibbe; the flavor was nicely oniony and complemented by root vegetables braised with peppery adobo. And the kitchen excels at pickles — another area in which Evoo has always been ahead of the pack, preserving the season’s bounty and not shying from hot peppers and strong flavors.
McCarthy was also putting offal and charcuterie on the menu long before they got trendy, but the results are mixed. A crisp pig’s-head terrine ($10), with pork from Round the Bend Farm in South Dartmouth, featured well-shredded meat but was unnecessarily breaded, deep-fried, and leaden; a bright pea greens salad from the next farm over, the renowned Eva’s Garden, couldn’t counteract it. More Round the Bend Farm pork was shown, also not at its finest, in a dish of adobo-braised shoulder (the best part of the dish), cilantro-jalapeño grilled chop, and slices of too-heavily spiced, too-pink loin ($25), all of it served over mayo-drenched coleslaw and potato salad. It was a gucky plate. Desserts, too, lack focus, like tarragon-infused golden beet–orange sorbet with fennel sugar cookies ($9). It’s best to play it safe with a warm chocolate truffle cake ($9), presented in a seductively blowtorch-browned pool of marshmallow cream.