If you wanted to treat us to a celebratory dinner--because, let's say, we were about to pull down a summa in classics--here are some restaurants...
If you wanted to treat us to a celebratory dinner--because, let's say, we were about to pull down a summa in classics--here are some restaurants you might take us to. For fancy establishments near Harvard Square, look to Up Stairs at the Pudding, Harvest, and Rialto.
Up Stairs at the Pudding (617-864-1933) would be our first choice because of its unique, warm, and colorful décor. The forest-green walls of the high-ceilinged dining room are plastered with posters for old Hasty Pudding theatricals. You wipe your chin with pink napery. You know you're not in Kansas. This is a place ideal for people who like to make a meal of starters. At last look--before a performance of The Jewel of Denial (see page 75)--there were 13 hors d'oeuvres on offer, plus three salads. One could begin with smoked salmon tartare--a mince of salmon, cucumbers, chives, ginger, and shallots, topped with crème fraîche and caviar--and follow that with seared foie gras in a port sauce, accompanied by warm mango-raspberry relish and a small salad of frisée, walnuts, and blue cheese. The entrées, too, are numerous and dependably delicious. One may delight in these things in a rooftop garden when the weather is cooperative.
If food in considerable quantity is desired, Harvest (868-2255) may be counted on to load your plate with chow to a level not everyone finds appetizing. But maybe you can't get enough planked salmon with horseradish mashed potatoes, beet essence, and pea tendrils, or grilled veal chops with asparagus-leek bread pudding. A reincarnation of a restaurant by the same name that came upon hard times and closed, the new Harvest is clubbier in atmosphere than the old one, whose nostalgic patrons rejoice in the return of a familiar name to a familiar space. The look within is of light-colored wood and taupe-toned walls, and one may dine outdoors here, too.
Rialto (661-5050) in the Charles Hotel is a cleanly designed, formal, high-energy space with a lot of window. Many of the patrons, one suspects, are on expense accounts, and they dress better than the rest of us. Chef Jody Adams's Italian-French-Spanish-eclectic fare usually puts Rialto on lists of the top 10 restaurants in Greater Boston.
At the summit of that list must be L'Espalier (262-3023), presenting superb New French food graciously served in a beautiful Back Bay townhouse for a ton of money--appropriately enough for a world-class restaurant. Also among the exalted in Boston is Aujourd'hui (351-2071), where for fifteen-sixteenths of a ton one may obtain rave New American nourishment, served perfectly in a regal setting at the Four Seasons Hotel overlooking the Public Garden.
If you can't get in to either of these Boston treasures, or can't afford to get out of them, try Julien (451-1900) in Le Meridien Hotel. It is almost as expensive and admirably good, in a New French mode. In an elegant, quiet, formal room, one sits in sybaritic state in a wing chair while attended by a captain and team schooled in these matters by Europeans. A piano tinkles in the distance. Your evening is supremely soothing.
If you wish to keep your restaurant patronage in the Harvard family, think of Maison Robert (227-3370). Opened in 1972 by Lucien Robert and his wife, Ann, A.M. '56, this classic offers formality in the handsome main dining room on the first floor of the Old City Hall building, a lively café below, and an agreeable terrace outdoors. Chef Jacky Robert recently introduced an indulgent, eight-course tasting menu, available nightly except Saturday for a $95 fixed price, to go along with the usual à la carte items on the dining room menu. This version of the good life begins with ossetra caviar on a blini with onion mousse. Midway one has a choice of three entrées, among them John Dory poached in lobster broth; a John Dory, not often seen in these waters, is a bizarre-looking flat fish with a large, spiny head, but very delicate on the tongue.
If all of this is too much, and what you'd prefer is a friendly neighborhood bistro with first-class food and perhaps visible ductwork, we can suggest three in Cambridge. Salts (876-8444), near Central Square, features New American food with an eastern European spin; thus, pierogi--Slavic dumplings--stuffed with sage, farmer's cheese, caramelized onions, and cabbage in a sauce combining creamed butternut squash and reduced cider. Chez Henri (354-8980), just north of the Law School, has a French bias and a Latin accent; thus, relleno of crab and plantain with cilantro and spinach vinaigrette. Aspasia (864-4745), about a mile from the Square off Concord Avenue and just round the corner from the estimable Jeana's Dirty Dog Salon, is new, tiny, and worthy of close attention. Chef Christos Tsardounis makes a marvelous beef Wellington and a fine rack of lamb with pistachio moussaka and pomegranates. Aspasia, you recall, was the mistress of Pericles, known for her political influence, beauty, and brains.