The Merry Table exudes a homey charm firmly anchored in its French roots. Chefs forge their signature crepes on the hot griddle before filling them with sweet or savory investments, such as Nutella, housemade pesto, or grilled chicken. The heartier selections of beef bourguignon and bouillabaisse rely on the same French influences for their rustic flavors. On select Thursday evenings, the bistro hosts French-themed events where, according to the Portland Press Herald, people gather casually to "eat crepes, sip wine, listen to French music and practice the language." Diners can mingle in the intimately sized bistro, whose yellow-brick walls sport vintage-inspired French posters that advertise cognac and the Louvre's famous snack bar.
Maurice André had always been one for a show. He insisted on wearing stark white gloves to carve Chateaubriand for his regular patrons during the decadent New Year’s Eve feasts he held at his namesake restaurant. The Paris native had always loved hosting parties, and in 1975 he bought a 200-year-old clapboard house with ample space to stock his wine cellar and serve the traditional French fare he had grown up chewing.
Today, the rustic space still resonates with Maurice’s jovial spirit and passion for fine dining–artwork covers the walls and linens cover tables and the occasional face during post-meal rounds of peek-a-boo. Though Corey Sumner–the current chef–exercises his culinary creativity with dishes such as the Cajun-spiced Scallops New Orleans, he pays homage to Maurice’s vision with plates of authentically prepared duck and fish.
No matter what country her family was living in at the time, Longteine ?Nyep? De Monteiro?the wife of a Cambodian diplomat?always heard the same thing when she served dinner at one of her lavish parties: ?This is so good! You should open a restaurant!? It wasn't until the rise of the Khmer Rouge forced Longteine and her family to relocate to America that she began to seriously entertain the idea. Longteine finally opened The Elephant Walk in 1991, where she filled the menu with a m?lange of her favorite Cambodian and French recipes.
Since then, Longteine?s daughter Nasda and her son-in-law Gerard Lopez helped her expand The Elephant Walk to three locations. All three Elephant Walks separate their kitchens into French and Cambodian preparation lines, each staffed with chefs adept at both traditional and contemporary dishes. Each dish makes meticulous use of flavorful, wholesome ingredients such as ripe plum tomatoes, fresh tuna, Vermont goat cheese, and organic tofu. The Elephant Walk also serves up a host of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free variants.
The Elephant Walk loves to feed the mind as much as the mouth. During its regularly scheduled Cafe Science series, Brandeis professors deliver compelling lectures on a variety of topics from the Large Hadron Collider to explaining why science alone cannot turn water into chocolate milk. The restaurant has since given upwards of $200,000 to local, national, and international nonprofit organizations fighting poverty.
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.