Mansfield may not be known as a culinary destination, but suburban restaurant-goers will be happy to note two up-and-coming establishments that are within walking distance of each other on Route 106 but serve dishes that are worlds apart.
Late one afternoon, feeling adventurously ravenous before a Patriots game, my friend and I decided to stop at Kyoto Japanese Steak House. Our excitement initially turned to skepticism when we realized it was located in a strip mall, flanked by dry cleaners and a convenience store. But once we got inside the restaurant, we were immediately relieved — and impressed.
“Looks can be deceiving,” whispered my companion, and we nodded in agreement as we looked around at the ultra-modern décor. Classical music filled the air. Decorative panels on the ceiling featured cut out silhouettes of leaves, and the tables were bordered by these funky, glowing peach-colored rocks. Purple lights gleamed warmly from beneath the long, shiny granite-topped bar.
There were plenty of choices for seating in the spacious restaurant: Two adults and a child were eating at one table, but besides that, the place was empty.
If you want to introduce someone to Japanese cuisine, Kyoto is a good place to do it. The menu was written in plain English and easy to understand. Dishes with raw fish were clearly marked with asterisks. There was grilled steak, chicken, and seafood; rice and noodle dishes, and vegetarian sushi rolls. Kyoto also has a kids’ menu.
My companion usually orders her steaks rare, and the meat almost always ends up being cooked more than she prefers. This was not the case at Kyoto. Her filet mignon ($20) arrived at the table, and when she cut into it, the meat was reddish and pink — in fact, portions were a little undercooked for her liking. But the pea pods that accompanied the meat were fresh and delightfully crisp, the carrots perfectly crunchy.
I tried two examples of the sushi: a tasty sweet potato roll ($4.25) followed by the Patriot Roll ($14), which was made of shrimp tempura and asparagus topped with lobster salad, avocado, and tobiko. It was an impressive presentation. And it was huge.
Still, we left Kyoto slightly hungry and craving some familiar comfort food. As we walked to our car, another restaurant caught our eye: Cibo Matto, which in Italian means “crazy food.”
The restaurant décor was enticing, each table set with wine glasses and white cloth napkins. Toward the front of the restaurant is a cozy corner bar area that faces an outdoor patio. The space was bright and sunny — a welcome contrast to Kyoto’s dimly lit, dinnertime atmosphere.
Cibo Matto prides itself on serving Italian comfort food: pizza, pasta, and panini. But the menu goes far beyond that, and features 10 different types of salads and plenty of specialty dishes with home-grown ingredients, such as Scituate steamers ($10), Nantucket Bay scallops ($12), Duxbury mussels in roasted garlic broth with grilled rustic bread ($12); pan-roasted local cod with sautéed veggies and miso vinaigrette ($25), and rack-roasted Berkshire pork chop with spicy peach and corn salsa and parmesan polenta fries ($24).
There are 15 different styles of pizzas, which come in exotic flavors like roasted apple (taleggio cheese, caramelized onion, apple wood smoked bacon and fresh mozzarella) and steak and cheese (sliced sirloin, chive-garlic cream, asiago and romano cheeses).
Vegetarians are provided an array of options at Cibo Matto, including a local vegetable sandwich ($11) that comes with spinach and creamy brie on seven-grain bread, and handmade vegan pasta ($18/$13) that has veggies that come from local farms, served with white beans and garlic olive oil infusion.
Having already eaten one meal that evening, we kept it simple. The house salad ($6) consisted of fresh mixed greens, shaved carrots, cucumber slices, and radish smothered in almost too generous an amount of zesty dressing. We also tried the 10-ounce charbroiled angus burger ($11), which was served with lettuce, tomato, and red onion on a toasted bun. Like all of the sandwiches at Cibo Matto, it came with our choice of French fries, cole slaw, or potato salad on the side.
The delicious mac and cheese ($12) was made with pasta shells covered in three cheese sauce and topped with wonderfully flaky breadcrumbs. We walked out of Cibo Matto completely satisfied after two meals.
Whether you’re in the mood for Japanese or Italian cuisine, foodies can stop at either one of these restaurants on Route 106 and not be disappointed.Emily Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.