Restaurant Review: Kitchen in the South End

Scott Herritt’s new South End restaurant is a welcome glimpse into the past.

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Mushrooms “under glass,” $15 (Photos by Anthony Tieuli)

Anybody who enjoys poring over our regional culinary history to understand how people once ate—or, really, anyone who just enjoys reading cookbooks—will be excited by Kitchen, Scott Herritt’s eccentric, lovable new restaurant in the South End. For food-history buffs, it’s a dream restaurant, one that answers the question, How did those foods I’ve only read about actually taste? Herritt uses recipes from a wide variety of sources—Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery, the original 1931 edition of The Joy of Cooking, the writings of James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher—to present a kind of cavalcade of American cuisine: western pork and beans; high-style dishes a Vanderbilt would have ordered at Delmonico’s, in New York; the sole meunière that changed Julia Child’s life.

But even if none of that interests you, even if all you’re after is a great meal, you should still eat at Kitchen, located in a semi-basement that has housed successive independent restaurants, most recently Pops. Herritt is producing food that’s both thought-provoking and very good.

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“Mock turtle” soup, $12

You don’t have to care about the provenance of the food served here (though each dish is dated on the menu, usually from when it first became popular) to enjoy it. It’s certainly interesting, for example, that the mussel soup Billi Bi was invented at Maxim’s, in Paris, and named for the American customer William B. Leeds, but all you need to know is that Herritt’s rendition is a superior mussel stew ($14) with a touch of saffron and a beautifully smooth, not-too-creamy broth. You don’t have to concern yourself with the fact that the scallops wrapped in bacon ($14) are inspired by the original Joy of Cooking (which suggests cooking fish on a plank), or that here the wood flavor comes from pork belly braised with actual wood chips, and scallops that at the last minute are heated on a wooden plate. All you need to know? They’re good, fresh scallops wrapped in good, not-too-strong applewood-smoked bacon.

Two other reasons to go are dishes that can appear off-putting as they’re presented on the menu but are excellent nonetheless. The first is the least greasy and possibly most satisfying take on buffalo wings you’ll ever have—tender and lean frogs’ legs ($12) dipped in coarse bread crumbs, fried a mahogany brown, and served with a cayenne-heavy homemade hot sauce, carrot slaw, and, of course, chunks of blue cheese. The second is a great beef “mock turtle” soup ($12) with a deep-flavored, thick broth good enough to be a gravy, shards of fall-off-the-bone-soft meat, and a medley of carrots, potatoes, and peas.