To say The Elephant Walk's co-founder Kenthao de Monteiro had an extremely exciting life before opening up the eatery is putting it a bit mildly. The French-educated politician was once an important diplomat in Cambodia, working as the minister of education and vice president of the Cambodian National Assembly and then serving as the Cambodian ambassador to Taiwan.
According to the New York Times, he was working as the ambassador when the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh in 1975. He and his wife, Longteine de Monteiro, lost everything and spent the ensuing years in Taiwan and France, where they opened a restaurant that displayed Longteine's cooking skills. They eventually made their way over to America in the early '90s and opened another restaurant, The Elephant Walk.
The Elephant Walk now serves up traditional Cambodian entrees, such as the cubed beef tenderloin in black-pepper sauce and lemongrass chicken breast, as well as classic French dishes, such as steak in red-wine beef jus. The menu also caters to vegans, vegetarians, and those with gluten allergies. For those who want to learn how to re-create the dishes at home to impress family, friends, and judgmental cats, The Elephant Walk offers cooking classes led by Longteine, her daughter, Nadsa, and French chef G?rard Lopez.
Leaning on more than 35 years of experience championing French cuisine, Sandrine's Bistro's co-owner and chef, Raymond Ost, brings the same blend of classic and contemporary flavors to Cambridge that earned him knighthood from the French government. According to the Boston Globe, Chef Ost began his culinary career at 13 with an apprenticeship in Alsace, France. Today, many of Sandrine's menu items hail from and are inspired by the region, such as traditional tarte flambées made with crispy flatbread and nutmeg-scented fromage blanc. A fireplace flickers off the zinc bar where mixologists craft specialty cocktails, pour wine, and blend liquors from an extensive bar menu. The decor is elegant, with white-draped tables popping against deep-burgundy pillars and sage walls. Chandelier light enlivens an avant-garde mirror divided into geometric shapes, and sumptuous draperies remind diners to pick their togas up from the dry cleaner.
Inside Chez Henri, owner and chef Paul O’Connell draws on his training at Johnson & Wales University to add Caribbean flourishes to classic French fare, earning his restaurant press accolades and seven Best of Boston awards. Appetizers include braised wild-boar sausage served over cabbage escabeche, and the pan-seared flounder entree arrives with house-made chorizo and West Indian spices. Wash down international flavors with signature cocktails and spirits or a pitcher of fruity sangria from the full bar.
Inside Chez Henri’s simply decorated dining room, handblown glass lighting illuminates warmly colored walls, and huge windows proffer views of the bustling streets between Harvard and Porter Squares. Paul and his staff also transport their delicate fare to catered events of up to 400 people, such as weddings, graduations, or the shared birthday of an NFL team made by cloning Joe Montana.
It’s impossible to predict what will come out of Bondir’s kitchen at any given time. Chef Jason Bond makes sure of that. Growing up in Wyoming and Kansas, Jason was exposed to a “root-cellar” style of cooking that he still practices now—meaning that his menu relies entirely on whatever his local farmers have for him each day. So though you might see dishes such as Alaskan Ivory King salmon and stone-ground blue corn grits on one evening's menu, what you'll see the following evening really depends on the season and the veggies, fish, and meats that Jason’s network of producers has reaped that morning. That's not to say he has no part in the process, of course—he personally collaborates with the purveyors to sustainably raise unique vegetables and rare breeds of livestock to keep Bondir’s cuisine interesting. The approach has definitely garnered attention, earning countless press accolades from the likes of Zagat and The Boston Phoenix, along with an invitation for Jason to team up with Harvard to create recipes for its Science and Cooking curriculum.
You might think a James Beard-nominated chef would be a control freak about his menu, and in a sense Tony Maw is: he insists all his dishes reflect his locavore principles. But beyond that, local farmers have almost as much input as Maw does—it’s they who supply the fresh produce, seafood, and meats the chef uses to design the evening’s slate of rustic French-inspired cuisine.