You may have no issues with the occasional cavernous steakhouse visit, nor are you above the infrequent pass through a chain restaurant should the alignment of circumstances be right (usually involving money, famine, and proximity to said chain). Hell, you’ll even relish diving into a pile of Taco Bell when the junk food urge howls from within.
But finding the proper conditions for basking in the wares of an independently owned, tucked-away hamlet of fusion ethnic grub requires no preconditions. It just requires finding a really good one.
Or just going to Comedor, the Newton Center newcomer steps from the walkway to the Green Line stop, bringing energetic American-Chilean small plates as only an American-Chilean husband and wife culinary team can. In this case, that team consists of Jakob and Fernanda White, who both cut their teeth in the local food scene (Waban Kitchen in Cambridge and Ana Sartoun’s Sarma in Somerville, respectively).
Subway tile, artwork involving kaleidoscopic-hued sharks (naturally), and a stretch of 18 seats lining the butcher block-topped chef’s table and bar greet you when you enter the sleek but unpretentious modular space, as does a bustling hum. The sounds (and smells) pouring from the open kitchen filter through the gregarious echo of clanking plateware and house chatter, which tends to fluctuate between sudden swells of conversation and grunting approvals about how great the savory rabbit empanadas ($14) are, or just stuffed-mouth mutterings of “These roasted corn tamales ($9) are killer.” And they are. Maybe it’s because the meat used in them, as well as the hot pickled duck meatballs ($9) and Chilean spiced pork ribs with sweet and sour mustard sauce ($11), are sourced from the local dynastic meat slingers at Savenor’s. Or maybe it’s just because they’re delicious. Probably both.
The papas fritas ($6) alone are worth the visit, with scallion salsa and a light dusting of crumbled cotija cheese. The team spent a full weekend perfecting the balance after choosing among 57 cuts of potatoes and selecting the right balance of light and crispy. They fritas are finished with smoked merken, an indigenous chili pepper spice shipped up from Fernanda’s parents’ house in Santiago, Chile (nothing gives food a really authentic feel like the specter of consuming smuggled culinary spices from the motherland). It’s something of a “house spice” at Comedor, and it’s used in everything from the October squash a la chilena ($7) to the aforementioned ribs.
For now, Comedor is only open for dinner service, but in the coming weeks it will be offering a late-night menu too, which bodes well for those hour-of-the-wolf, “I could really go for some Chilean tapas” cravings.
Or just when you want to down a lot of french fries before bed.