Newtonians do not need to venture into Boston for a contemporary take on French comfort food, as Sycamore provides a unique, upscale menu in a homey bistro setting right in the heart of Newton Centre.
Customers filled every seat in the house on a Tuesday at 8 p.m., further proving the hype behind what has been labeled Newton’s best.
David Punch, Sycamore’s owner and chef, opened the neighborhood favorite in 2012. With its sparkling reputation in Newton, customers might expect a formal atmosphere, but Punch created a friendly ambience inside the upscale restaurant.
Dark bricks line the restaurant’s walls, creating a rustic and casual feel that complements the elegance of the black booths and chairs. The bar has a sleek look with light wooden shelves holding an assortment of colorful bottles. The dining room is tucked away behind a wall, making the dining experience feel more intimate.
The atmosphere is not the only aspect of Sycamore that is welcoming, as Executive Chef Simon Armen said that Punch has created a family-like culture for his employees.
“David, the owner—and the owner of the other few restaurants—has become a really close friend and mentor of mine over the last eight years,” Armen said. “I’m closer with him than I am my own father in a lot of ways … and also I just got really close with the community of Newton and the people that come in here.”
Armen has cooked around the world. Before starting as executive chef, he served as the sous chef at Sycamore for six years. He also has experience cooking in the Middle East and France.
The daily changes to the menu at Sycamore mean there will always be a unique range of options to choose from.
The roasted cauliflower with green garlic tzatziki is a can’t-miss starter. The tzatziki is outstanding, the strong presence of garlic and acidic tones giving the sauce a tang that perfectly complements the rich, caramelized cauliflower. The zatar, a spice mixture synonymous with Middle Eastern cooking, adds another layer of flavor to the dish that puts it over the top.
According to one waiter, the artichoke ravioli has been in high demand recently. The pasta lies on a bed of green garlic butter and is filled with ricotta salata and topped with pink peppercorn, dill, and fried artichokes. The chefs cook the ravioli flawlessly, giving the pasta a delightful bite. The sharpness of the cheese on top and the richness of the butter underneath complement the creamy, but slightly acidic, filling.
The restaurant’s European roots shine through in the porcini spaetzle. Spaetzle is a small egg noodle essential to German cuisine. The crispy spaetzle pairs well with the earthy mushrooms and parsnips, while the tender asparagus adds a nice crunch and color to the plate. The jammy yolk of the poached egg adds creaminess to the dish and couples well with the smooth parsnip puree on top.
The menu is always changing to keep up with the demand of customers and the seasons.
“A lot of things I don’t change, and some things are really successful.” Armen said. “So I’ll keep them on for a while, but the menu kind of changes basically day to day, and a lot of stuff is in based on amount of availability.”
One mainstay of the menu is the beignets. The pillowy pockets of fried dough are wonderfully crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The powdered sugar on top makes the beignets the perfect sweet treat without being overbearing. The milk jam sauce—a browned, thick milk sauce—added a pleasant silkiness to the beignets without being too sweet.
Armen said that there are some things about Sycamore that he could never change because they are staples of the restaurant’s foundations.
“When I took over I didn’t want to make this a new restaurant, and I love working here,” he said. “I kind of tried to stay as true to it as I can.”
Sycamore is open at 755 Beacon Street Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Images by Natalie Arndt / Heights Editor