The Automat, in Kendall Square, Cambridge, opened in November, but I’d never heard of it before looking for a place to eat on Saturday before going to see and hear Cécile McLorin Salvant at a jazz club in Boston.
The Automat is the perfect restaurant for this town, what with good bowls of chili, chicken wings, mussels in broth, slices of ham, and grilled, hot peppers. Nothing memorable about it, but it is a refined diner and, bonus, the portions are small and well-priced, and you can share the food.
It’s a lot like another restaurant, Night Market, which is even better and is memorable. This is the kind of low-key izakaya you find in Shinjuku or East Village. Delicious, pan-Asian dishes, a really positive vibe, and good digs. The one thing missing is beer on tap and cocktails, but liquor licenses in Boston are notoriously pricey and sparse, which is another reason why the dining scene in this town is so dismal.
But there’s hope, and these two places are an indication that while lunch around here is second to none, dinners might catch up, though it’s very doubtful.