The owners of Café du Pays didn’t do any globetrotting to find inspiration for their cozy-but-elegant Kendall Square restaurant. They simply looked to our northern neighbors, and the warm traditions of co-owner Heather Mojer’s French-Canadian family.
At a time when you can find sumac and gochujang on most menus in town, the Quebecois-by-way-of New-England cuisine here feels almost exotic. According to co-owner John Kessen, menu items like cretons (pork rillettes) and Tourtière (delightfully rich, slightly gamey pork-and-venison pie with a flaky melt-in-your-mouth pastry) represent a welcome change. “They’re dishes that you generally don’t see in restaurants,” he says. “They’re things you have at home.” (If yours is one of the many northern New England families with French-Canadian roots, that is.)
Canadian or not, you’ll find the cold-weather comfort food you’re looking for, including a perfect Poutine: crisp fries, savory gravy, and springy cheese curds (and yes, you’ll have room for more). Not only do the eaux de vie and expertly crafted cocktails like the toe-tingling Lumberjack Rabbit with apple brandy, mezcal, maple, lemon, and bitters cut straight through the richness—there’s more on the menu than heavy hunter cuisine. Try some sparkling oysters or a beautifully butterflied trout with celery root remoulade. And do not leave without tasting the Pea Soup, an unexpectedly light, brothy bowl with a hint of smoked pork and sweet carrots. Chef Dan Amighi deploys creative license and New England produce to foil the deeply satisfying dishes.
Now that we’ve debunked the myth that Café du Pays serves only rib-sticking food, here’s another surprise: The restaurant recently converted the front room to a salon with comfortable couches and nooks where you can sip a glass of something French (or a Labatt Blue, because authenticity). Snack on olives, charcuterie, a perfectly ripe cheese plate, or sweet-and-smoky Arrowhead cabbage wedges with caraway brown butter. Of course, the sourdough plate with butter and radishes—despite any frugal New Englander aversions to paying for bread—is very worth it. Also worth it? Desserts like classic Sugar Pie with maple whipped cream or the rich flourless Chocolate Cake. So you maybe you want to pace yourself with that poutine and luscious Foie Terrine? Or maybe just order a digestif and sink into the sofa a little longer.
Come for a snack or a full meal by 6 p.m. and Café staff will pick up your $9 movie tickets and bring them to your table.
Arrive early to snag a sofa in the cozy salon and enjoy a drink and nibbles (like the pork and prune brochette special we can’t stop thinking about).
Good bread is worth the extra dough. Yes, the sourdough plate will set you back a few bucks, but the chewy, flavorful slices with butter and radishes are a real treat.
Seeds for the Café du Pays concept were planted early. Co-owner Heather Mojer—whose heritage was the inspiration for the French-Canadian menu—spent her childhood playing behind the bar at her family’s restaurant.