For years, French was just another word for fancy: elaborate, rich, unpronounceable, unaffordable. In short, a Big Night Out. The 1970s brought a welcome update at places like Hamersley’s Bistro with less butter in the sauces and less starch in the service. These bistros emphasized simpler preparations that let the ingredients shine in a notably more casual atmosphere. The food would be recognizable to Parisians, what they’d expect at a great neighborhood spot, with one exception: These American versions of French bistros were rarely in your neighborhood.
All of which makes the opening of Sycamore in Newton Centre so welcome. Chef-owner David Punch, formerly of Ten Tables Cambridge, joined by Lydia Reichert, most recently a sous chef at Craigie on Main, make wonderfully creative use of fresh ingredients in deceptively simple preparations. Yet for all of its excellence, the restaurant is casual, unfussy, and friendly. It’s the best kind of neighborhood spot.