Restaurant Review: Strip-T’s in Watertown

This Watertown diner is now serving the most exciting food around.

restaurant review: strip-t's in watertownGrilled sweet peas with sea salt and Aleppo, $6. (Photos by Anthony Tieuli)

The most unexpectedly dazzling food I’ve had in years is at a place that’s a diner by day. If you’re a follower of the local restaurant scene, you know exactly where I’m talking about. For the uninitiated, it’s Strip-T’s, named for a cut of steak that’s no longer served there.

It’s a heartwarming story: Father opens sandwich shop after finding his time at fancy restaurants like the Ritz unsatisfactory. Son, meanwhile, develops ambitions to be a serious cook, goes to culinary school, lands high-­profile jobs with a very hot chef in New York, then comes home to transform Dad’s humble shop into a destination dining spot by night. Word spreads, and soon local hipsters and bronzed Belmont families on their way to ­Edgartown are driving up to a small, ­unassuming storefront a few blocks from the Arsenal Mall in Watertown. It sounds implausible.

Yet Strip-T’s really is serving a lot of ­extraordinary, reasonably priced fare in plain surroundings. Tim Maslow has brought to Boston the flavors he developed as chef de cuisine at David Chang’s cult New York restaurant ­Momofuku Ssäm Bar, making for vibrant, complex fare that doesn’t announce itself on the deceptively simple menu: burgers and fries, wings, a killer caesar, and fat homemade sausage. And because Maslow, like Chang, ­incorporates Asian sauces and flavors into everything he makes, the dishes are unexpectedly potent. It’s umami central.