By Nikki Goldstein
August 10, 2012

Take it from a regular visitor: Boston’s dining scene is having quite the moment. And while the South End has long been my go-to nabe for quality fare, Cambridge is ready to steal back the spotlight. Just off MIT’s campus, Kendall Square has become the sudden hotspot for chefs with lofty ambitions. If you must choose among all the newcomers to the area, book your table at West Bridge, where chef Matthew Gaudet has hit the ground running.

Ignore any billing that calls the menu French: this is regional New England cuisine, thoughtfully made and with strokes of French technique. We shouldn’t be too surprised: aside from manning the stove at Boston favorite, Aquitane, Gaudet has put in time at Eleven Madison Park and Jean Georges in New York City. The result? Rustic wooden trays loaded up with fresh-baked bread and salted Vermont butter. Mini mason jars filled with hen of the woods mushrooms, pomme puree, duck cracklings, and a poached egg. East coast calamari, shaved to look like noodles and served with cockles in a delicate tomato sauce. And of course, there’s lobster, here done with a subtle apple cider glaze to amplify its natural sweetness.

Serious cooking aside, this is a relatively casual place, as is clear from the nautical-meets-industrial vibe—so it’s only fitting that the cocktails are just as much a draw as the food. Try the Conant’s Island, an eccentric blend of cucumber vodka, rice vinegar, and green tabasco that’s curiously refreshing, or the Cloister, with gin, yellow chartreuse, grapefruit, and lemon. They’re all made by talented bar manager Josh Taylor, who had a loyal following at Eastern Standard before arriving at West Bridge—there’s hardly any question that this bar will be packed with locals as word catches on.

And don’t skip dessert: you’d be remiss to skip the chef’s inventive take on s’mores, with chocolate panna cotta, homemade marshmallow fluff, and chocolate cookie crumbles layered into a highball glass.

Nikki Goldstein is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.