Little Donkey

505 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

A few weeks ago, Joyce joined me on a food adventure to Little Donkey, the hot new small plates restaurant in Central Square. Reservations are elusive, and every time I walk past the place around dinner time, the restaurant is packed. Thankfully, we squeezed in a reservation to see what the hype was all about (though, “see” should be used loosely given how dimly lit the place was).

The menu is an insane fusion of a variety cuisines, and it’s separated into sections: charcuterie, hors d’oeuvres, pastas and grains, vegetables and salads, and meat and fish, along with a separate raw bar menu.

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We started off with the Uni (pronounced oo-nee), which is the edible part of a sea urchin. With a few light garnishes on top, the creamy, slightly sweet paste was hidden inside the sea urchin shell. There were only a few mini spoonfuls of uni within the shell, and so it served very much as an appetizer, and I certainly question whether it was worth $10.

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Next up, we have the Manti (Istanbul Meat Ravioli) with garlic sour cream (on the side), and red pepper butter on top. This was my first time trying manti, and they reminded me of what the child of a Chinese dumpling and Italian ravioli might be. With thick skin and a gamey, savory filling, the manti were enjoyable, but did not stand out as extraordinary.

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We also enjoyed the Moroccan Tripe Stew, which came with lamb, tripe, and garnishes of yogurt and mint. I wish there had been rice or bread to soak up the deliciously savory stew that bathed the tender lamb, but we still enjoyed the dish nonetheless.

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Lastly, we had the recommended Matzo Ball Ramen, which came in a chicken broth with burnt onion, schmaltz tare, corn, spicy chicken, and of course, ramen. The bowl was enough to share between the two of us, and it was certainly the most filling out of the four dishes we tried. The matzo ball, which (if you remember from my post about Mamaleh’s) I can best describe as having the consistency of moist, crumbly dough, soaked up the traditionally Asian flavors of the ramen broth. The combination is strange, but it works well in this instance.

“Of the dishes we tried, they were generally successes, but I imagine greatly helped by the copious amounts of oil accompanying each dish,” Joyce commented. “All dishes were rather small, which is pleasing for people like myself who enjoy trying lots of different items but disappointing for the budget-conscientious, and the matzo ramen bowl was lauded to be their largest dish – the size was about equivalent to that of a normal restaurant-size bowl.”

I’d give Little Donkey a try if you haven’t done so already. The menu hops around the globe, so there’s bound to be at least one item that catches your eye. Beware of the varying portion sizes though, and make sure you ask your server if you’ve ordered sufficiently for you and your fellow diners!