Everything you need to know about Cafe ArtScience is right there in the name. The mingling of the two fields is evident as soon as you walk into the Kendall Square space, which is something like a mix between a loft art gallery and a chemistry lab. The brainchild of Harvard's David Edwards of Le Laboratoire Cambridge, part of a group of ArtScience Labs started in Paris, it brings architecture, design and, more importantly, the culinary arts together in one package.
Most interesting for our purposes here is the art, and science, being done behind the bar. Todd Maul, previously of Clio, where he brought a scientist's rigor to experimental cocktail excursion, has carried over some of his better known techniques, using a centrifuge and a rotovap to extract and isolate flavors that play off of each other in unexpected, but ultimately intuitive ways.
The Whaftiki, for example, takes Appleton 12 year rum, Cockspur rum and clarified lime run through a centrifuge to break down the molecules of the lime, burnt cinnamon, almond and pineapple flavored ice and a Cachaca garnish. The Whaf device turns alcohol into a sort of dense vapor, general manager Tom Mastricola explains. “You're getting three different drinks as you do it, different sensorial experiences. You're getting to inhale something, and you're tasting a really beautiful tiki drink.” Plus, as the ice cubes melt it changes the drink itself, too. “There are three to four stages of a cocktail, which is pretty cool. Usually they're just one and done. This thing is a different drink half way through.”
That applies to many of the others as well, including Mary’s Liquor Cabinet, done with Tanqueray gin, Cocchi Americano, Gran Classico, Wormwood and a Lillet paint which is used to coat the inside of the glass. Interesting infusions also come into play, like in a Negroni made with cocoa nibs, smoked and infused into Carpano Antica, and mixed with Beefeater and Campari.
Others are more straightforward, simply utilizing a grill behind the bar, like one made with Ardbeg, a smoky scotch, an oloroso sherry and Swedish Punsch, then served in a glass coated with smoked Hungarian oak .
You could spend a lot of time trying to figure out what's going on in your cocktails here, or, you could simply relish the flavors. It's just as important for the drinks to be palatable and enjoyable by the average customer, he stresses.
“First and foremost we are a bar and a restaurant,” Mastricola says. “Todd gets to play a little with the science side, but the science of it, we're not molecular gastronomy, we're not mixologists, we're bartenders and chefs.”
If you go
650 Kendall St., Cambridge