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.
Lumière's menu features cleanly executed, creative French cuisine crafted from local and sustainable ingredients by world-class chef Michael Leviton. First-course favorites include the Verrill Farm corn fritters ($14) and sea scallops wearing a caramelized coat and accessorized by locally grown beets, orange, ginger, and chervil ($16). Tickle tongue bumps while calming your conscience with a bite of humanely raised, succulent veal loin reclining on a luxurious bed of braised greens, kalamata olives, and tzatziki ($30). Or, catch Skippy's mustard-crusted Chatham bluefish, swimming through monotonous mealtimes with a retinue of Verrill Farm zucchini, buoyant spring onions, potatoes, and salsa verde ($26). A $35 prix fixe menu grants guests two choices for three courses, including the dessert decision between a decadent dark chocolate and peanut butter mousse parfait doused in caramel sauce, Chantilly cream, and candied peanuts, and a lightly sweet watermelon sorbet.
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.