Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sandrine's Bistro for Dinner

Over the weekend, my Saturday evening dinner plans were canceled as someone was ill. So, a bit at the last minute, I wanted to make plans elsewhere. It can be difficult on Saturday morning to try to make plans for later that evening. I had a craving for French food and was able to get a reservation at Sandrine's Bistro in Harvard Square.

I have discussed and reviewed Sandrine's Bistro before. But it always seemed that I had been there for lunch or weekend brunch. Never for dinner. I had very much enjoyed my meals there and felt that dinner would be just as good.

The restaurant has a very comfortable ambiance with a touch of elegance. There was an eclectic crowd, from college students to older couples. It was busy though not overly crowded, but then it also was the night before Mother's Day. I suspect this place gets very busy on most weekends. They even have a bar where you can sit, have a drink and a bite to eat.

The dinner menu has Appetizers (about $12-22), Soups ($10), Salads ($9-16) and Entrees ($19-36). There were also several specials available. We decided to go with the Chef's Degustation Menu, a five-course tasting menu for $65 per person. This menu changes frequently. We declined the wine accompaniement (an extra $35 per person) as we were going to order a bottle ourselves.

I ordered a bottle of the 2005 Domaine Chanson Pere et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin ($74). Most of the French Burgundy on their list was from the excellent 2005 vintage. This wine generally sells around $55 retail so the restaurant has a very low mark-up on this wine. And it was quite a delicious wine, typical Burgundy style with delicious subtle fruit, a touch of spice and a very long finish. It also paired quite well with most of our dinner.

I do have to note though that our server recommended the 2005 Aloxe Corton, Domaine Tollot-Beaut ($85). He stated it was a new addition to the list. This happened to be the most expensive Burgundy on the list. And our server knew nothing about what type of wine we were considering ordering, or what price range with which we were comfortable. I don't like unsolicited recommendations when it happens to be the most expensive item on a list. It seems to be much like blatant upselling.

Prior to our first course arriving, we received a basket of bread including warm baguette slices and some raisen bread. Both breads were very good and this made for a nice beginning to our dinner.

Our first course was a Foie Gras Terrine atop Brioche with fruit. The Terrine was very tasty, spreading nicely over the Brioche toast. There were some berries, apricot and possibly some mincemeat accompanying it.

The next course was one of their appetizer specials, Avocado with Lobster. This was a half an avocado, with a bit scooped out, and filled with lobster pieces and topped by a citrus sauce. There were plenty of lobster meat and the citrus sauce was very interesting. I enjoyed the filling but am not an avocado fan. My wife though thought the avocadoes were delicious.

For our entree, we had the Smoked Paprika & Curry Dusted Rack of Lamb. This is in a roasted garlic-plum tomato reduction and is accompanied by roasted long stem artichokes and fingerling potatoes. I am a big fan of lamb and this dish certainly delighted me. The lamb was very meaty and tender. It had a nice spicy flavor from the curry. The potatoes were tiny and very good as well. This entree is on the regular menu and I would highly recommend it.

Next up, a cheese plate. There were three different cheeses on the plate, an ash-covered goat cheese with honey, a potato and cheese ball, and a Muenster-like cheese with fruit compote. I did not get the exact names of these cheeses. They were served with a basket of assorted breads. And the cheeses were exceptional. Creamy, flavorful, unusual. So very very good. I loved every one of them and left not a crumb. The goat cheese with the honey was especially delicious. The cheese plate is on their dessert menu and I would also highly recommend that choice too.

Yet dessert was still coming. And we were already starting to feel rather full. For dessert, we could choose anything from the menu. Though it was tempting to order the cheese dish again, I went for the Chocolate Kugelhoff (which is probably not the correct name but it is close enough). This was a large, moist chocolate cake, topped by caramel coulis and vanilla ice cream. A decadent delight that I could not entirely finish. But I enjoyed every bite I was able to eat. My wife had the Ginger-Bread Pudding though they made a mistake and brought her creme brulee instead. We sent the brulee back, though that meant my wife had to wait a bit for her dessert.

Service was generally good though with the couple issues that I mentioned above. The food was delicious and the Degustation Menu was a good choice. You certainly get plenty of food and it is an excellent way to get to try several different dishes. I have previously recommended Sandrine's Bistro for lunch and brunch. Now I do so for dinner as well.

Sandrine's Bistro
8 Holyoke St.
Cambridge, MA
Phone: 617-947-5300

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