Pop-up restaurants have been an international culinary trend for years, but like the Beantown food truck explosion of late, they’re relatively new to the Boston dining scene. The concept? Ambitious young chefs take over underused kitchen facilities to experiment with culinary ideas and dishes in the hopes of gaining attention and attracting investors, without the cost of starting their own restaurant.
When Chef Philip Kruta started running the kitchen at a little over a year ago, he knew the 30-seat bakery, which sits unused in the evenings, would make a great spot for his lofty culinary ambitions. “I founded my specialty cake company last year, which is also called Whisk, but I've always wanted a restaurant of my own, and that’s always been the end goal,” says Kruta, whose culinary background includes a stint at the prestigious Back Bay eatery , where he worked as a pastry assistant under nationally acclaimed pastry chef Jiho Kim.
With the support of Fiore’s owner Charlie Fiore, Kruta uses the bakery’s kitchen afterhours, where he serves an innovative tasting menu on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with two seatings only at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Unlike most pop-ups, which typically take over a kitchen for just a few days at a time, Whisk did its first seating in December of last year and has stayed on, in large part due to the positive feedback from the JP community.
“We’re in the initial stages of our business plan, and we’ve started looking for a new space and investors,” says Kruta. “We’d love to find a place in JP, and we’ve really enjoyed working our way into the JP community. There’s a lot of adventurous diners here and they’ve responded really well to us,” he adds. Kruta shares the kitchen with fellow Whisk chefs Corey Isgur and Jeremy Kean.
Whenever possible, Whisk’s seven-course tasting menu focuses on locally grown, seasonal ingredients. An amuse bouche may include fish roe tartar or a tuber gratin, and the first course typically presents a fish sampling—seared striped bass with lentil and foie gras appeared on a recent menu, as did a crisped halibut with heirloom potatoes and a 4-hour egg yolk (the latter being cooked in a thermal circulator for four hours at 68 degrees, creating a thickened, rich yolk with a pleasing pudding-like consistency.)
Creative salads courses match cinnamon potatoes with green garlic velouté over allium, or roasted eggplant, raddichio and crisp garlic chips with pepper jelly. Pork belly iterations make appearances on many recent menus—find them glazed with pomegranate and fennel, alongside roasted Brussels sprouts or served with southern-style grits and cheddar biscuits. A hearty rabbit ragout is served over pillows of fresh gnocchi, while a quail egg crowns an oxtail ragout atop a mixed pepper salad.
“We’re sourcing extremely locally now, when we can, and we want to establish relationships with local farmers,” says Kruta. “We shop for whatever is the best and the freshest that day and if something comes up that is better than we planned, it makes for an even better product.”
Chef Kruta’s high-brow pastry background is evidenced through his ambitious and contemporary dessert presentations. Recent sweet courses include buttermilk panna cotta, cardamom crème anglais with pearls of honey “caviar”, and ginger mousse with honeydew melon granite and tart tangerine gel. A decadent chocolate mousse is served with Meyer lemon curd, salted caramelized white chocolate and lemon powder, while the brioche beignet is plated with raspberry, salted caramel, bittersweet ganache and pistachio.
Bread is baked just moments before the dinner seating—Chef Kruta’s sour dough bread is the stuff of legend—and is served with quenelles of honey truffle whipped butter. It’s completely possible to polish off the entire bread plate before the first course arrives. Easily. A cheese course currently concludes the menu. Of note is the European cheese plate with apple bread, bittersweet chocolate crumble, dried papaya crisps and a papaya gelée.
While reservations are required for Whisk’s seven-course tasting menu ($45/person), they also offer an abbreviated three-course menu ($25/person) which allows walk-in diners to choose three dishes from the larger daily menu. There’s also a three-course dessert menu ($25/person) featuring the daily dessert specials. Whisk expects to be running in its current location for a few more months.
“I want to give people a dining experience they've never had before, and evoke memories and emotions they didn’t necessary know they had,” says Kruta. “If someone gives me two hours of their time, and can trust me without having a menu to choose from, I want to expand —with aromas and textures —their perception of what eating at a restaurant can be.”
Only two hours, chef? Most Whisk diners will likely wish for a longer stay.
Whisk is located at 55 South Street. Seatings are at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are required for the seven-course tasting menu ($45). Whisk also serves a three-course prix fixe menus and dessert-only three-course menu (both $25) for walk-in diners. BYOB.
Reservations: Online or 617-820-8722