Little Donkey is the best new restaurant I have been to in years. It was so good that after dinner there on Thursday night, I went back on Saturday for brunch. The dinner out-shined the brunch, but both were really delicious. The food is complimented by an incredible bar program that includes two rotating cocktails, one served in a grapefruit and the other served in a flask. Little Donkey opened last summer and if you haven’t been there yet, it’s time to give it a try.
Dinner lead off with two items of the Raw Menu. The first was a Mexican shrimp cocktail. It’s served in a spicy cocktail sauce with avocado and cilantro alongside some Saltines. Unfortunately, they forgot to take off one of the shrimp tails, but otherwise this was a solid dish. Even better was the spicy-sweet Hamachi crudo, with lime, coconut, and jalapeño. This is one I would certainly get again.
The charred avocado with pepitas, yogurt, and pomegranate molasses was my least favorite dish. On the other hand, the wagyu steak tartare with black pepper popovers was excellent. Rarely are popovers not served right out of the oven. They tend to deflate and lose their texture, but these were delicious at room temperate topped with the cold raw beef.
Manti, an Istanbul meat ravioli with beef and lamb, was incredible, gently cooked and lightly topped with garlic sour cream and red pepper. One of these might not be enough. If you are sharing get two you will need them. The octopus a la plancha was perfectly tender alongside fingerling potatoes and the jerk chicken wings packed real heat. Don’t try to stay neat while eating them though. They come with a wet towelette and you will need it.
As good as the food is, the bar program might be even better. The first is “the one in the grapefruit” which sounds like it might just be a clever name and a cute idea, but in reality was delicious. They change up the drink but always serve it in a hollowed out grapefruit. The night I was there they were making a play on an Italian greyhound with house-infused orange-spice vodka, grapefruit juice, punt de mes, and a splash of soda. The other rotating cocktail is the K.O.’D which is served in a flask. There’s no real reason for this, but I don’t have a lot of opportunities to drink out of a flask in the middle of a restaurant. On the night I was there, they were serving a bijou, a blend of gin, vermouth, and chartreuse. Not something you often find in a flask but strong yet balanced.
Sticking with drinks, the adult chocolate milk on the brunch cocktail list should not be missed. It’s a simple mix of rum, chocolate, milk, and cinnamon. You don’t have to stick to Little Donkey’s creations either. They did a great job with both a Hemingway daiquiri, my favorite breakfast drink, and a Paloma. Admittedly they both contain grapefruit so I suspect they might have so advanced knowledge of both.
As I said, dinner was a little better than brunch. The dinner portions were smaller which left room to try more plates. The chilaquiles was very good but huge. The tortilla chips were heavily spiced and topped with two perfectly cooked eggs over easy, cotija cheese, and avocado. Little Donkey likes avocado. The best thing they do with it is avocado toast. It’s an improvement on traditional avocado toast with picked carrots, feta, and cilantro. Cilantro is another Little Donkey favorite so if you are one of those people who doesn’t like it, hmmm, tell them you are allergic.
What is breakfast without bacon? You have two types to choose from lamb and pork. I went with the lamb. It’s fatty and rich and there is a lot of it. Admittedly I couldn’t eat it all, delicious though it was. I want to try the pork on my next visit. My favorite brunch item was the torta, with sausage, egg, cheddar, and harissa. This was as messy as the wings with runny egg yolk everywhere. The bread was delicious as was the sausage. You can imagine at this point I was getting pretty full. One last bite was the chorizo tacos with scrambled eggs and salsa verde. They were good, but I was too full to really enjoy them.
Little Donkey is located on Mass Ave in Cambridge near Central Square. The space is industrial with an exposed kitchen. It is loud with some high-tops as well as some traditional banquette tables. These are really close together making it hard to get out once you get in. The waitstaff is excellent, particularly Alex who was my server for dinner and thankfully highly recommended the crudo. The music at brunch was terrible love songs from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I loved it. I give Little Donkey my highest recommendation and I’ll be back again soon.