Rafiki Bistro’s chef Jeff Burgess brings the culinary prowess he gleaned training in France, Italy, and New York to a new menu of Provençal country fare, using only fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Upon arrival, servers brandish fresh baguettes and a pureed chick pea dip, beckoning descending diners into the Prince Edward Island mussels’ fragrant lochs of white wine, charred spanish onion, and fresh jalapeño broth ($10). Shaved cheese and marinated tomatoes pepper a crispy eggplant starter ($11), priming palates for entrees that include seared scallops escorted by grapefruit salad and leeks melted by fire-breathing sous chefs ($22). Crafted by hand, gnocchi spheres ensconce tender dollops of goat cheese ($17), and red-currant sauce envelops a pan-seared duck breast fringed by potato croquet.
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.
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.
Praise doesn’t come easily from the restaurant tastemakers at Gayot. But, when faced with the delicate preparations of Pierrot Bistrot Francais, they not only awarded the restaurant a spot on their list of the Top 10 French Restaurants in Boston, but also praised the eatery as “a French bistro in the truest sense of the term.” Secluded from the exposed brick and coral tones of the dining room, chefs toil in the kitchen to bring that authenticity to dishes. From dry-aged beef sirloin to jumbo sea scallops and veal scaloppini, his locally sourced menu items find their mates in a large wine list.
A common scene at The Wine Cellar: servers toting percolating pots of gruyere, emmental, or gorgonzola to diners, who in turn dip skewers of bread or potatoes into the steel cauldrons of melted cheese. This celebrated practice of submerging things into other, more scalding things isn't the only European tradition The Wine Cellar draws upon; its menu culls culinary influences from around the great continent, including France and Switzerland. In addition to sizzling up pots of oil or vegetable broth in which guests can cook their own beef, tiger shrimp, or rabbit, the chefs forge a spread of signature dishes, including tartifletes and roblochonnades, and pierrades made at the table in front of guests. They accompany this transatlantic fare with an international wine list, which sports hearty reds and delicate whites from vineyards and grocery-store aisles around the world.
Although the menu remains firmly rooted in the Old World, the dining room evokes classical American aesthetics. Exposed brickwork and wrought-iron lanterns surround the tables, and one wall sports a hand-painted mural of a Boston streetscape.
La Voile serves up authentic, stylish French cuisine in a cozy, elegant atmosphere. The restaurant’s extensive menu of flavorful fare is guarded by its duo of extensively trained chefs, both of whom have experience at restaurants such as Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse and graduated from culinary schools in France, where food was invented. Start with an appetizer of mussels in curry sauce ($12) before moving on to the meatier horizons of a pork chop served in its own juices with juniper berries on a bed of sauerkraut ($22). Mediterranean sea bass comes simply roasted with a beurre blanc sauce ($33), while crispy breast of duck is served a l’orange with a cinnamon glaze alongside fingerling potatoes and spinach ($26). The dessert menu’s warm pear tart ($9) and crème brûlée ($8) are available to complement taste buds’ post-prandial high-fives. Daychewers can also stop by for a midday munch from the lunch menu, including gnocchi “Caprese” ($12), a handful of hand-friendly sandwiches ($10.50–$13.50), and roasted organic chicken with potato purée ($17.50).