PARK

Bread: Homemade cracker bread was served with 2 kinds of house cheese infused with thyme. This wasn’t your typical bread basket, which I liked. The thin and crispy cracker bread isn’t as filling as standard rolls or slices, which I was happy about as we had 2 apps and our meal coming!
IMG_5265Menu: Starters, consisting of salads, appetizers, chowder, seafood etc; Tasting of Toast; Bacon 3-Way; Entrees, including burgers, fish, chicken, different types of meats, and a pasta option; Sides, ranging from potatoes to greens to farro.

Food / Presentation:
Tasting of Toast (from top to bottom):

  • Fig, ricotta, honey & pine nuts
  • Salmon rilletes & pickled mustard
  • Duck pastrami, stone ground mustard, arugula
    For $10 you’re served 2 each of the above crostini, not bad considering some restaurants will give you 1 slice for $6+.  My favorite was definitely the fig spread dolloped with a soft, fluffy mound of ricotta. The duck pastrami was good, and the salmon wasn’t bad but I think the mustard left a somewhat odd taste in my mouth.
    IMG_5267

Lobster & Crab Dip served with seasoned pita chips
A small cast iron pot came piping hot filled with cheesy lobster & crab dip. The pita chips were extra crunchy which I loved. I noticed a few small chunks of seafood, but not many. This didn’t really bother me though, as the flavor was there and the gooey & stringy cheese paired great with the crunchy pita.
IMG_5268IMG_5269

Chickpea-Lentil Burger: celery root-apple slaw & Harissa served with mixed greens
The chickpea-lentil burger was topped with thinly sliced slaw, and the toasted bun was smeared with Harissa (similar to chipotle mayo). The burger was soft in consistency which I credit to the chickpeas, and was scattered with whole lentils. It was actually perfect to cut up and eat with the lightly dressed greens, which I did. And while I didn’t eat the whole bun I was psyched that it was perfectly toasted!
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Restroom: Terrible photo, but the wooden stalls were painted a dark green, and the walls were lined with white brick tiles. 3 stalls, 2 sinks.
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Service: Our server was attentive and did his job well. The glass bottle of water left at our table was immediately replaced as soon as he noticed it was empty, each course came out at appropriate times, and he made a point to tell us that he had “checked on the entrees and they should be out momentarily”. We were well taken care of.

Overall: I hadn’t heard much about PARK but for whatever reason it was on my list, and the online menu looked great so we made a reservation. I’m really glad we did because I would definitely go back in a heartbeat. It may not be the best summer spot as it’s located underground and has somewhat of a speakeasy feel with its vintage decor. There are 4 different sections of the restaurant: The Dining Room, The Classroom, The Den, and The Back Room.  I’m assuming we were sitting in The Den, which consisted of a bar and a few low tables with plush old-school leather chairs, which may just be the most comfortable restaurant chairs ever. The food was great and the menu is diverse enough that I could take basically anyone to PARK (parents, friends on a budget, vegetarians) and they wouldn’t be disappointed. The prices are reasonable which is another plus; the veggie burger was $11 and the Lobster & Crab Dip was $12. Most cocktails are $10 while my Lavender Moon (gin, st. germain, lavender rose honey syrup, lemon juice) was $11, typical cocktail prices. It’s a unique spot, as you don’t really feel like you’re in a restaurant, at least not where we were sitting. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. I think a must try in Harvard Square!
IMG_5275The Perfect Bite: Toss up between the chickpea-lentil burger with mixed greens and Harissa, and the fig/ricotta/honey/pine nut crostini!

http://parkcambridge.com

dante

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, click here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

My fourth of five RW dinners was last night at dante in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge.

Bread: A small metal bowl came with 6 slices of white bread and a bottle of EVOO. The bread itself was pretty good but a few pieces were a bit too airy and I didn’t love the crust.

Menu: Dante’s Restaurant Week menu had a variety of options. From looking at the online menu it seemed as though you could choose between a salad and pasta for the 1st course, then choose a fish or meat for your 2nd course. However our server informed us that if we were craving pasta we’d be able to start with a salad and choose a pasta dish as an entrée. This threw me for a loop at first but I ultimately went with my original decision. Click below to see dante’s full restaurant week dinner menu:
http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/dante/

Food/Presentation:
Semplice: simple greens, gorgonzola, grilled peach, almonds, red wine vinaigrette
This salad came topped with shaved almonds, peach chunks on the side along with 2 crostini with a smear of gorgonzola cheese. The lettuce was barely dressed and I wish the cheese was actually crumbled over the salad. The peaches were also not grilled as much as I had hoped. Not a terrible salad, but definitely a bit disappointing.


Lombo: stuffed pork loin “involtini”, smoked prosciutto, sage, polenta
The pork came rolled and stuffed with prosciutto in a bed of polenta and topped with apple slices. When I think of prosciutto I imagine thinly sliced and slightly salty meat. Whatever was curled up in the pork loin tasted more like overly salted ham, which I dislike. I ate most of it but eventually picked out and discarded the “prosciutto” pieces. The apples were a nice touch but the polenta wasn’t up to par with others I’ve had recently (see Henrietta’s Table). While I do enjoy creamy polenta this lacked flavor and texture.

Torta: chocolate hazelnut mousse cake, spiked chocolate sauce, anglaise, caramelized hazelnuts
This chocolate hazelnut cake was topped with chocolate sauce and caramelized hazelnuts. Once I cut into it I saw that it was layered: cake, mousse, cake, mousse. It was moist, decadent, and chocolately!

Service: We were originally seated at a table outside with a beautiful view of the Charles River. It was perfect for the 15 minutes we were out there, but swarms of tiny bugs soon took over our table so we asked to be moved inside. Not only did the wait staff try to thwart off the gnats with a pan of rosemary oil (apparently that delicious smell is suppose to repel them?!), but we also received a complimentary Arancini dish once we were seated indoors. The bugs were by no means the fault of the restaurant but they made it a point to give us a little something extra for the trouble.

Overall: We had a fun night surrounded by good friends, great wine, and a nice dim & relaxed atmosphere, but overall I think we were a bit disappointed with the food. The 2 true Italian dishes I tried (Arancini and my friend’s Chitarra Carbonara entrée) were really excellent. I’m glad I tried the pork, which was good minus the salty pig product, but if and when I return to dante I’ll probably stick to the pastas!

Chitarra Carbonara

Chitarra Carbonara

The Perfect Bite: Arancini drizzled with truffle honey.

www.restaurantdante.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston or find me on Twitter and Instagram!

 

Henrietta’s Table

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, click here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

My second of five RW dinners was last night at Henrietta’s Table in the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square.

Bread: Three types of bread were served with a circle of butter, 2 of which were dry but the cranberry walnut slices were excellent.

Menu: Henrietta’s Table offered their full menu for Restaurant Week which included a side, and you could even choose a starter from the Specials menu (for an additional $10 you could choose a Special entrée as well). The menu differed slightly from the RW menu I found online, but this is typical for restaurants that use fresh & local ingredients. Click below to get an idea of what Henrietta’s Table is offering:
http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/henriettas-table-at-charles-hotel/

Food/Presentation:
Heirloom Tomatoes with Arugula Pesto & Balsamic Reduction
It was between this Special Starter and another special, Tomato & Summer Vegetable Soup. I love tomatoes and as summer is inevitably winding down I decided to take advantage while this fruit is still in season and you can eat it fresh & raw. A light and tasty way to start the meal!

Swordfish with Herbed Polenta and Peppers & Onions
A small rectangular piece of swordfish was served over the herbed polenta and topped with sautéed peppers & onions. Before ordering I asked our server how the polenta was prepared (I prefer a creamy polenta over a polenta cake) and she described it perfectly as being stiff enough to hold up the fish but still soft enough to have that gritty texture. It was really excellent, a different preparation of polenta that I’ve never had and truly enjoyed.

Campfire Taza Chocolate S’mores Skillet
I was really intrigued by the Warm Blueberry Upside Down Cake but earlier in the evening I saw the S’mores Skillet walking by and just couldn’t resist! Served in a warm cast iron skillet with a mound of melting chocolate, toasted marshmallow, 2 cinnamon graham crackers, and scoop of vanilla ice cream, this dessert was heaven. My only issue is that after devouring evening you see in the photo I was left with a large piece of chocolate that didn’t quite melt; some may see this as a perk but I’m not a fan of just a plain chunk of chocolate.

Service: This service on this particular evening was a little spotty; I had to ask for bread which I hate doing, it took quite a while for our waitress to even approach our table, and the courses were served rather swiftly, which I don’t mind but I felt like we were being rushed at times. 

Overall: Henrietta’s Table is a great spot to try for Restaurant Week as it offers its full menu and then some. Along with our 3 courses we were also able to choose a side dish; I went with the Spicy Squash & Zucchini while Matt had the Mashed Potatoes – both were excellent. The sangria however (consisting of Pinot Grigio, Bacardi Rum, Creme de Cassis, sparkling wine, cranberry juice, fresh squeezed orange juice, sugar, mixed berries) tasted like a fruity alcoholic drink gone wrong – way too sweet, extremely disappointing. We sat outside on their patio (on a perfect summer evening) so I didn’t fully experience the dining room. We did walk through the restaurant and it’s quite casual, you almost feel as though you’re having dinner at someone’s kitchen table. A relaxed and rustic setting for a low-key date night or a family dinner.

Spicy Squash & Zucchini, Mashed Potatoes

Spicy Squash & Zucchini, Mashed Potatoes

Sangria

Sangria

The Perfect Bite: Graham cracker dipped in melted chocolate with a scoop of toasted marshmallow.

http://www.henriettastable.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston
Or follow me on Instagram and Twitter! Search ThePerfectBiteBoston…

 

Bambara

My favorite time of year is here… Restaurant Week! This program allows for customers to enjoy a 3-course meal for $33.12 at all participating restaurants. Some also feature a 2-course lunch for $15.12 and/or a 3-course lunch for $20.12. I tend to make reservations at restaurants that are known for their expensive menus, that way I can really get my money’s worth!  To explore the Boston area restaurant’s participating in Restaurant Week, you can find the full list here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/

 

My first of 4 RW dinners was last night at Bambara in Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge.

Bread: Four rustic rolls were served with softened salted butter. The couple we dined with arrived before us and received the bread before we sat; my roll was a little hard and not warm, but perhaps it was when it was served? It was still good and I of course ate the entire thing.

Menu: It seemed as though Bambara was offering their full menu for Restaurant Week as there were many options for each course. For the 1st course you could choose between the Salad and Appetizer section which complicated my decision making, in a good way. See Bambara’s full Restaurant Week menu here: www.restaurantweekboston.com/restaurant/bambara-at-hotel-marlowe/

Food/Presentation:
Spicy Tuna Tartare: avocado puree, waffled potato crisps
A square of tuna came topped with a dollop of avocado puree and a bowl full of salty waffle chips. The “spicy” component came from the sliver of red (maybe sriracha) sauce in the center. The chips were unfortunately too thin to pick up the tuna on their own and kept breaking! Otherwise this was a great start to the meal.

Summer Vegetable Fricassee: heirloom tomatoes, Verrill Farm sweet corn, local mild chilies, roasted zucchini, baby leeks, crispy polenta, herbs
This dish was so scrumptious! The “crispy polenta” was actually warm and soft underneath all of the vegetables, almost like a potato cake. The corn was crisp and fresh, and leeks were so flavorful, and the sauce has a great consistency without being too creamy. Great veggie entrée!

Bread Pudding: caramelized bananas, creme anglaise, caramel
This was not your typical bread pudding. I was initially slightly disappointed at the sight of it, but after one bite I immediately changed my mind. The dessert was more of a pound cake/banana bread type, topped with sugary banana slices and drizzled with caramel. I wouldn’t call it bread pudding, but whatever it was, it was delicious.

Bathroom: This restroom wasn’t part of Bambara, as the restaurant is in the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge. The restroom is in the hotel’s lobby and therefore did not reflect the character or style of Bambara. However I did love the shutter stall doors and automatic soap dispenser and sinks.

Service: Our server was present when he needed to be and helped my friend choose the Salmon which was the “Catch of the Week” over the Pan Roasted Cod. Our water glasses were filled regularly and he checked on us throughout the meal. 

Overall: Restaurant Week wise, I recommend Bambara based on the wide variety of options and excellent quality of food. The portions were appropriate for a 3-course meal; some may say the desserts were small but after a full app & entrée I was delighted by the medium slice of banana “bread pudding” and multiple-bite sized Caramel Date Cake. Another plus, we parked in the Cambridge Side Galleria for $3.99! You won’t find that pricing in a Boston lot/garage.

The Perfect Bite: Soft polenta, crisp corn, baby leek… and any other veggie I can fit on the fork!

www.bambara-cambridge.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

 

Grafton Street

Last night I was able to have a brief but quite satisfying meal at Grafton Street in Harvard Square. I had been once before many years ago and while I didn’t remember much about it besides it’s location, I was happy to return.

Bread: I was under certain circumstances that required me to order my meal before everyone else and leave dinner a bit early, therefore I didn’t try the bread. One friend said it was cold and not the best, but the butter was soft and easy to spread. Another said he enjoyed the bread! You can decide on your next visit…

Menu: Salads & Apps, Rustic Pizzas, Entrees, Grafton Classics, Sandwiches, and Sides. The menu has great variety and the prices were quite reasonable. I do however wish the sides had more options, something maybe on the healthier, greener side? I was tempted to order 2 apps for my meal (short rib arancini and the roasted beet salad) but how can you pass up a $9 Chickpea Burger?

Food/Presentation:
Toasted Chickpea Burger with yogurt cucumber sauce on grilled naan bread
I forgot was naan bread was when ordering this “burger” and was pleasantly surprised when it came in a “pita pocket”. The cucumber sauce was spread on the bottom and topped with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and the burger. This sandwich was really great; both the burger and bread were soft and filling.

Service: Our waitress was helpful & accommodating as Matt & I had to order before everyone else and get our own separate check as we had a wedding appointment to run to. She apologized when the drinks took a bit too long to deliver, and offered to let me have 1/2 fries & 1/2 mixed greens with my sandwich when I was being indecisive.

Overall: Grafton Street is so much more than a “pub & grill” as its name declares. The food is great, the atmosphere is casual yet contemporary, prices are manageable, and their white sangria with peaches, strawberries, and grapes wasn’t bad! They have a nice outdoor patio and the interior has comfy booths, banquettes, and free standing tables throughout. Harvard Square is scattered with excellent restaurants and some of my favorites (Rialto, Henrietta’s Table) but if you’re looking for a good meal in the area that won’t break the bank, I suggest you try Grafton Street Pub & Grill.

The Perfect Bite: As I only ate one thing, I’ll say the Chickpea Burger 😉

http://www.graftonstreetcambridge.com/

Rialto

Finally! 10,000 Open Table points and $100 to any participating restaurant. After much deliberation Matt & I decided on Rialto, Jody Adams’ restaurant in the Charles Hotel. Mixing Sicilian inspired dishes with New England’s local ingredients, Adams’ menu offers seasonal bites, pasta dishes, veggie options, and enough meat to please every carnivore.

Bread: A metal basket with peach paper held three types of bread and came with a side dish of herb infused EVOO and a small pile of course salt. The quality of bread was excellent; the roll was hearty and filling, the focaccia herbed and flavorful, and the fennel bread sticks tasted like my dad’s tarralli, yum!

Menu: First, Second, Third, Sides. The first two sections offered appetizer sized plates of salad, soups, fish, meats etc. I appreciate the Second category offering a half or whole size of pasta dishes. Often when menus have a Sides section, especially in a fine-dining establishment, it means the entrées come without any accompaniments. Thankfully that wasn’t the case here because the polenta that came with the Pork entrée was driving my decision.

Food/Presentation:
Pumpkin Soup – truffle honey, lemon-thyme, parmesan cream
I could have had an entire pot of this soup! It was light, silky, and smooth without being watery or oily. The cream on the edge of the bowl added great flavor to each bite. Not much else I can say except that it was fantastic.

Grilled Pork Rack – milk braised belly, buckwheat polenta, mushrooms, black kale, capers
I do love pork but the polenta was the real reason I ordered this entrée. The pork itself was well cooked, juicy and not dry, but the sides really stole the show. I’ve never had buckwheat polenta and I wish to never have regular polenta again as this was so much better – creamy but hearty consistency and great wheat flavor. I dug right in to the circular item without remembering what it was, but didn’t care after the first bite even though I knew it’d end up being something creepy. Fried to a thin crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, I ate about ½ before the waiter informed me it was pork belly. Creepy and delicious.

Bathroom: I can’t fully judge the restroom as it is part of the Charles Hotel and not exclusive to Rialto diners, but I love the warm earth tones, shutter stall doors, and automatic soap and water dispensers.

Service: Our waiter was a pro, was able to answer all questions, and knew the menu inside and out. Everything was served on time, without being rushed. I made a note in the OpenTable reservation that we were celebrating our birthdays, and since we were too full to order a dessert, we received a couple snowball cookies with a Happy Birthday note!

Overall: When experiencing a fine-dining restaurant – which isn’t too often fo rme – I expect a unique atmosphere, great service, and exquisite food. Rialto exceeded my expectations as it was classy without being to stuffy; I felt like I belonged even though normally I couldn’t afford to even look at the menu. Starters run $13-$18, and entrees $25-$43, most of which are in the $30+ range. It’s a pricey commitment but totally worth it.

The Perfect Bite: It’s between the pumpkin soup and pork belly with buckwheat polenta – don’t make me choose!

http://www.rialto-restaurant.com

EVOO

 Fourth and final stop for Summer Restaurant Week 2011, tear. Much like Harvest, I heard this Cambridge eatery was a must-try so I crossed the river yet again to see if it was worth the drive…

Bread: The iron bread basket came with small slices of white along with herb bread sticks. On the side was a small square dish of pesto EVOO with grated parmesan. I always prefer EVOO to butter, and it’s even better with a cheesy twist.

bread

bread

Menu: EVOO regularly has a 3-course pre-fixe menu that changes daily, as well as a few staples that remain consistent on the menu. The Restaurant Week menu was in fact their standard daily pre-fixe (but for $33 instead of $42) so we had about 6-8 options per course. For Starters I was stuck because there were too many temptations to choose from (salad with nutty granola crunch & creamy yogurt dressing.. gazpacho with all the fixings.. smoked rabbit.. the list goes on!). Deciding on an Entrée wasn’t any easier…

Food/Presentation:
Pate with Jam, Pickled Fiddleheads, Dijon Mustard, and Crostini
I’ve had pate once or twice and it was when I was in Italy last year. I think there needs to be a general food rule that whatever you eat in Italy is going to be 10 times better than its counterpart in the US. Nothing against EVOO, but the pate I’ve had in the past was a smooth creamy spread, and this was more like a minced meat medley. It wasn’t bad, especially after I spread in on the bread with all the accompaniments. Glad I tried a fiddlehead though!

pate

pate

Braised Lamb Croquette with Roasted Eggplant Puree, Purslane, Pickled Cauliflower, Kalamata Olives, Mint and Lemon Cream
Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture, but it wouldn’t have done it justice anyways. The lamb was flash fried, crispy on the outside but more importantly tender on the inside. I wish there was more eggplant puree but I think that was more of a garnish. This dish definitely made up for my faulty appetizer order.

Chocolate-Banana Bread Pudding with Warm Buttermilk Caramel
Oh wow. The bread pudding was sitting in a shallow pool of warm caramel (my dream come true!) and topped with powdered sugar. Heavy and so rich, I could only eat about ¼ of it. But really amazing.

choc-banana bread pudding

choc-banana bread pudding

Blueberry-Peach Crisp with Almond-Oat Topping and Sour Cream Ice Cream
Thank God mom got this b/c I was torn between the bread pudding and this dessert. I love anything “crisp” and this wasn’t any different. The warm fruit was covered with the almond-oat crisp and topped off with cool ice cream. I love fruit but the crisp can make or break the dessert and this was really excellent.

blueberry-peach crisp

blueberry-peach crisp

Nectarine-Basil Sorbet with Randy’s Lime Sugar Cookies
Dad opted for the sorbet which was 3 scoops in an old-fashioned ice cream soda glass. I love when they have interesting flavors (ahem, pay attention Aragosta!) and basil fro yo/sorbet happens to be a favorite of mine. I enjoyed it, but the other 2 were more up my alley.

nectarine-basil sorbet

nectarine-basil sorbet

Bathroom: Cool tones with blue tiled walls and dark grey countertop. There were 3 or 4 stalls that weren’t pretty enough to take a picture of. Nothing super fancy but I liked the mirrors!

bathroom

bathroom

Service: Our waiter was essentially the encyclopedia of EVOO. I knew it was a “farm-to-table” restaurant but he was able to describe each meal from soup to nuts: how/where the meat was raised, how it was cooked, how it was prepared etc etc etc. Very impressive and knowledgeable. Mom thought he was slightly impatient with her hundreds of questions – the menu had a lot of uncommon terms/foods – but I think he handled it just fine!

Overall: After my first visit I can confirm that EVOO is known for their exotic meats and the way they’re prepared (and the pickling of any vegetable!). It’s definitely a popular spot – the bar/lounge area was packed by 6pm. I’d tell you to check the menu before making a trip to Cambridge only because it’s not a typical chicken/beef/white fish kind of place. But if you’re adventurous with your food choices then EVOO is a must!

The Perfect Bite: I’ve never had lamb prepared that way before. Topped with some eggplant puree, really excellent! But I do need to say that the 1st two desserts mentioned were to die for.

www.evoorestaurant.com