Following a full renovation and total re-imagining of the Jamaica Plain space that formerly housed Fazenda Cafe, chefs Phil Kruta and Jeremy Kean officially unveiled Brassica Kitchen + Cafe this month. It's a milestone in several years' worth of work. We checked in to learn more about the tasty homecoming that is Brassica.
3710 Washington St., Jamaica Plain; 617-477-4519
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Brassica is the brainchild of chefs and co-owners Phil Kruta and Jeremy Kean, two of our former 30 Under 30 honorees, for their work as the culinary duo Whisk. Opening shop in Jamaica Plain is a full-circle move for the twosome, who first launched as a pop-up at the neighborhood's Fiore's Bakery back in 2012. Whisk later became the inaugural concept to take temporary residency in the "culinary incubator" that is the South End's Wink & Nod, but last summer Kruta and Kean returned to JP to purchase the Fazenda Cafe space and slowly transform it into a full-fledged neighborhood restaurant. On June 1, Brassica Kitchen + Cafe was officially launched, and the team couldn't be happier to be back in the Forest Hills-side stomping grounds where they first made their name. "We love Jamaica Plain. This is where it started, and we have a lot of support in this neighborhood," says Kean.
The 49-seat space entertains guests all day long. Mornings see gourmet coffee drinks and baked treats by pastry chef Arthur Haynes (alum of Bouchon Bakery and Daniel), while afternoon crowds line up for artisanal cafe sandwiches. But as Brassica the space now hosts a full supper service, emphasizing a $65 six-course tasting menu (available in omnivore, pescetarian and vegetarian formats) but offering all dishes à la carte as well. It all goes down in a rustic-industrial dining room outfitted in wood counters, tabletops and other furnishings that Kruta hand-built himself from antique chestnut re-purposed from an old farmhouse. Front of house is also where you'll find co-owner and general manager Rebecca Kean, chef Jeremy's sister.
The menu skews French-American, but there's plenty of Whisk's signature eclecticism. (And as always, the duo focuses on reflecting locally sourced, in-season ingredients.) There are variations on some signature Whisk dishes, like the seaweed tagliatelle: pasta of Maine coast kelp and dehydrated kale with cauliflower, a tomato-miso sauce and charred octopus. "It's the same concept we've always had – really casual service with fare that strives to be at the top of our creative process," says Kean.
Although the chefs' approach remains the same, Kean says longtime fans will still find plenty of pleasant surprises. "It's been a progression," says Kean. "I think if you used to find us at Fiore's Bakery and you visited us now, you would find that the food is even more honest, refined and mature. You might be like, 'those guys grew up!'" For adults only: this peekytoe crab salad, tossed with brown butter-braised mustard seed, apple and roasted kohlrabi on toast brushed with sea urchin-miso butter and topped with fresh avocado.
One of Kean's favorite new creations is the duck hamburger, a patty of duck prosciutto topped with spring onion salsa verde, fontina-jalapeño cheese and cilantro on a house-baked bun.
For the duck a l'orange, the bird is rubbed with three year-fermented barley-miso and red wine, wrapped in cheesecloth and dry-aged for three weeks. It's topped with candied anchovies and accompanied by pomme purée and grilled kale.
The elevated take on fried chicken (or as Kean humorously calls it, "our pretentious fried chicken") is a chicken dinner winner. The Georgia-style, buttermilk-brined bird sits on a bed of fresh herb-tossed cabbage, which collects all the oil from the chicken for the ultimate flavor bomb, says Kean. It's topped with maple umeboshi the team makes by combining year-pickled local plums with sweet syrup.
Brassica has a full liquor license, so, besides local craft beers and intriguing wines, you'll find a nice selection of aperitifs and craft cocktails created by beverage manager Thea Price-Eckles (veteran of star restaurateur Barbara Lynch's top-notch Fort Point tipple joint Drink).