West Bridge in Kendall Square is still less than a year old, but its chef and co-owner Matthew Gaudet is already turning heads. This month, Food & Wine magazine named the 41-year-old Gaudet one of America’s best new chefs, placing the Aquitaine alum in esteemed company with some of his neighbors. “Getting this award, it puts Kendall Square again in sort of the forefront,” Gaudet says. “Tony [Maws of Craigie on Main] is only a few blocks away and he won the same award in ’05. Barry [Maiden of Hungry Mother] won it [in 2009] and [Michael] Leviton [of Area Four] won it [in 2000] as well, plus the James Beard Award for [Ana Sortun at] Oleana. The neighborhood itself is great. I think it’s become a dining powerhouse for not just Boston, but the country. Cambridge is cool. The Harvest guy [Brian Mercury] just won [Food & Wine’s] people’s choice for pastry chef. We like it here.”
Q. This accolade could bring in a new crowd. Suggest a menu from drinks through dinner for first-time diners.
A. I think it’s necessary if you’re a cocktail drinker, you’ve got to go for one of [bar manager Josh Taylor’s] drinks. They’re changing constantly, but they’re always good. Some of them are definitely leaning toward real cocktail nerds but he’s smart in the way that he applies a few toward the crowd, if you’re a newcomer. They’re all freakin’ awesome. I call him the wizard. Then you sit down, and I would say for a couple, you should get four or five smaller-format dishes and then get the lamb neck. If you’re not into that, the chicken is good and the beef is good. But if you’re more traditional, there are a lot of options up front. All the entrees and larger-format dishes, they’re all new, I just started them two weeks ago, and they’re all really good. I love the duck dish. I just had it last night. As far as the small things go, I’d get the egg in a jar, but the carrot dish is cool. There’s a peas and leeks dish right now with quinoa and sweetbreads and mascarpone that I think is really good. The [seafood] potage is ridiculous and the beet salad is a pretty good beet salad for people who don’t want to venture too far. The asparagus with the smoked oysters is pretty good too.
Q. You mentioned the egg in a jar, which is kind of your claim to fame. Where did that idea come from?
A. My wife made it up in all actuality. I always like egg dishes and I was working on it back at Aquitaine and it was more about having a coddled egg without that sort of weird skin on top of it. So we cooked it in the jar and vapor-locked it, so to speak. It would get a cleaner texture, it would be more like a poached egg amassed in whatever condiments you put on it. I started with pork belly and I’ve done different versions, but the one we do now is duck egg and it seems to be the one that works.
Q. You’re approaching your one-year anniversary next month. Tell me about your regulars.
A. There’s a lot of repeats already. That’s one of the reasons why we change the menu so much, both the cocktails and the food. With some of the returning guests, if we build a relationship with them, we get to try stuff out on them. We’ll try new wines, pair this with different foods, I’ll try something off the tasting menu or off the cuff, something I’ve been working on. They’re like our guinea pigs, so to speak.
Q. Is there anything on the menu that those regulars wouldn’t let you remove?
A. The egg is untouchable right now and I think the kale salad is somewhat untouchable. People love kale. It’s crazy, but it’s good. I’m surprised every time I eat it, though I shouldn’t be. I have to remind myself how simple some things can be and how good they are. I think the regulars are over the egg, they’ve had it and they’re like, “OK. I’ll get it once, I’ll get it twice, but third time, I’m OK. There are other things to get.” There’s a few people that come here regularly for the chicken, another guy that is from out of town that flies in and gets the venison. It’s pretty funny. But they’re open for changes most of the time.