There’s a semi-hidden wine bar in the back of Bisq in Inman Square that feels like the center of a Russian nesting doll. You don’t have to walk through a phone booth or know how many suction cups are on the bottom of a full-grown octopus to get in, it’s just a little hard to see and often empty. Maybe that’s because Inman Square itself is kind of hidden, a place that doesn’t have a T stop and can’t decide if it’s in Cambridge or Somerville.
But go find Inman, then find Bisq, and then find the wine bar in the back. Because unlike most of Boston’s best small plates places where you need to book so far in advance that it’s unclear whether civilization will still exist by the time you get a table, you can almost always walk into Bisq. You’ll find that it’s just as good as the places packed with tourists and the children of B-list celebrities who go to school here, and (probably because they’re not here) it’s a much more relaxing place to hang out.
Bisq is a small plates place. And, yes, you will see things like chicken liver mousse, pork belly, ceviche, octopus, and hummus on the menu. But not only are all of these dishes really well done here, they’re done in ways you don’t see at a typical spot where every item on the menu assures you that it’s “housemade.” At Bisq, the black-eyed pea hummus comes with crisped pieces of chicken skin instead of crackers. The mousse gets Vidalia onion churros. And the ceviche is topped with crunchy quinoa. It’s stuff that makes otherwise familiar food a little more interesting, and it works well on a menu that also includes even more unusual things, like fried green strawberries and roasted beef heart.
These plates are so good you’d enjoy them in even the worst atmosphere - a highway rest stop, a toddler birthday party, a car with someone who frequently starts sentences with, “Well, actually...” But that’s not a concern at Bisq, where the space is cool and casual, but not so much that there’s a TV with the game on. If you go to the wine bar (and, again, you should) you’ll find yourself in a little room with dark red walls, a wood ceiling, and wine bottle light fixtures that will start giving you ideas for redecorating the basement you don’t have. If you’re in the main room, you’ll peek into the open kitchen and feel free to linger with another glass of red because there’s no crowd of people clustered around the door waiting for your table.
There are plenty of places where you can go to pretend to find things, like escape rooms, speakeasies, and dating apps. To find the maitake mushrooms at Bisq, all you need to do is download Lyft, and that’s a lot easier than developing a working knowledge of marine life anatomy.
We don’t care that it might not technically be hummus because it’s not made with chickpeas, we just want to be able to eat more dips with pieces of crispy fried chicken.
It’s served with Vidalia onion churros, with turns out to be a great way to eat both Vidalia onions and churros.
The crunchy quinoa makes the dish.
A lot of people don’t like mushrooms. If you know any of them, take them to Bisq, so you can have them all to yourself - they come with spinach and a cured egg yolk, and they’re incredible.
The mixture of charred onions, broccoli, and mint it’s served with should be used on all sorts of other things - pizza, hot dogs, frozen bananas - it would work with pretty much anything.
It’s a tall, cheesy one. Fried shallots will burst from the bun like coins out of a slot machine when you bite into it, but it’s worth the mess.
Is it true that if you eat beef heart you assume the soul of a cow? That you forever lose the rich and complex range of emotions that accompany the human condition? That the ability to love or to complain about paying taxes forever escapes you, replaced only with the primitive desire to, um, eat grass? Yes, actually, it is. But you’ve had a good run, so eat this.