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 mélange 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.
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.
Pigalle's casts a romantic spell inside the unassuming brick building, with cream and earth tones, columns, and classic white-linen table settings. Inside the soothing confines, unfold a menu, fold it into a paper crane, then unfold it again to discover a savory appetizer such as duck-liver mousse with toasted brioche, cornichons, and caper berries ($15). Experience the classic and unknown simultaneously with Chef Orfaly's adventurous entree creations, such as the shrimp scampi with house-made tomato fettucini and cherry-tomato herb-butter sauce ($25) or the crispy half duck with turnip succotash, potato puree, and sweet and sour oranges ($32). Lighten a meal with a fresh mango and avocado salad (crumbled goat cheese, grapefruit vinaigrette, and basil oil, $16), or grab the roasted sirloin, mushroom, and foie gras strudel, with red-wine sauce and creamed broccoli ($35), to become as full as a cartoon cat attached to an air hose.