May's Can't-Miss Dish

Cataplana at Row 34 Cambridge
Credit: Chris McIntosh
By Ellen Bhang · 05/01/2023

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 


Cataplana at Row 34 Cambridge


On the plate: Cataplana  

Where to find it: When you step inside the brand-new Row 34 in Cambridge, don’t be surprised if you experience a bit of déjà vu. Like its sister locations in Boston’s Fort Point, Burlington, and Portsmouth, N.H., the ambiance at this Row is relaxed, accented by industrial-chic features like steel dome pendant lights, sleek granite countertops, and letter boards proclaiming the day’s featured beers. And like the other outposts, the clientele here reflects the neighborhood. On a recent weekday night, the place—just steps away from the Kendall/MIT T-stop—is abuzz with a confluence of biotech workers, post-docs, and innovation-economy execs, all tucking into oyster sliders and raw bar favorites.  

Chef-owner Jeremy Sewall is delighted that he and business partner Shore Gregory could establish this fourth Row in a gleaming new building on Main Street. “I think at the core we’re always going to be Row 34 and honor what we’ve always done,” Sewall says, “but to have a Row 34 fit in into Kendall—and really try to acclimate to the community—feels like great timing for us.” 

Notes on the nosh: The timing is also excellent to dive into Cataplana, a new dish that is quickly becoming a highlight of the Cambridge menu. Shell-on mussels and clams join quick-poached haddock and shrimp in a spicy broth made with ‘nduja, the unctuous salumi famous for being spreadable like butter. The entree arrives on the table adorned with ribbons of shaved fennel and the vegetable’s bright green fronds, plus thick slices of grilled baguette slathered with garlic-and-saffron rouille. 

If you’re new to Cataplana, think of it as bouillabaisse’s spicy Portuguese cousin. It is, in fact, named for a clam-shaped vessel used to simmer seafood in the Iberian country’s south. Chef de cuisine Jason Smith, who developed this version for Row 34 Cambridge, doesn’t use the traditional copper pot in the kitchen, but has in other ways captured the spirit of the dish. At the same time, Smith isn’t shy about adding his own cheffy touches, like using kombu—the robust seaweed used to make Japanese dashi—to boost the umami profile of the zesty broth. 

Sip alongside: Row 34 is widely known for its impressive selection of craft beers, under the guidance of beer director Suzanne Hays. But don’t sleep on the wine. Wine director Laura Staley has curated a lovely selection of by-the-glass options that pair winningly with seafood. One in particular, crafted by Adegas Morgadío and called “Legado del Conde,” is made from the albariño grape. The white wine hails from the Spanish region of Galicia, Portugal’s neighbor to the north. Offering lemon blossoms on the nose and saline-kissed stone fruit on the palate, this ripe yet lively pour is exactly what you want with Cataplana. The wine’s cool, oyster-shell-like freshness echoes the briny shellfish in your bowl.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up for our weekly newsletters for curated guides, can't-miss dishes, restaurant recommendations, and more.

Enter Email