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. As part of the restaurant's mission to make a positive impact in the community, owner Bob Perry designated the Waltham location as The Elephant Walk’s Benefit Restaurant in September 2009. The restaurant has since given upwards of $200,000 to local, national, and international nonprofit organizations fighting poverty.
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.
Petit Robert Bistro channels the relaxed ambiance of an authentic French bistro where common folk can gather for comforting, affordable fare. Blackboards bearing daily specials preside over the intimate eatery where renowned chef Jacky Robert prepares a menu of homestyle French favorites. Cape Cod oysters, sautéed scallops, and Bay-caught seafood spread across plates, and meat aficionados can fix fangs into chicken dishes or the beef short-rib bourguignon or branch out to cakes fashioned from vegan quinoa. Junior foodies peruse a kids' menu laden with pintsize French favorites, including a parisian hot dog and a 5-ounce skirt steak, with all proceeds going to chef Jacky's charity committed to feeding underprivileged children in the Philippines.
Francophiles, oenophiles and jazz lovers adore Les Zygomates, a French wine bar/bistro in the Leather District that offers something for each kind of fan. The name of the restaurant roughly translates to “the muscles in the face that make you smile,” which it aims to inspire with its French cuisine, award-winning wine list and live jazz and blues performances offered most nights. The dinner prix-fixe three-course menu is a popular option, as are bistro standards like French onion soup, escargot with garlic butter and steak frites. The restaurant also has a popular raw bar with a changing roster of fresh seafood. One of the best deals is a dish composed of half a dozen oysters and clams, four shrimp and two crab claws. It is perfect for matching with a glass of wine or a creative cocktail like the Dead Can Dance.
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.
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).