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Jan 29, 2002 02:56 PM

Dinner in Cambridge

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We are looking for a nice fun relaxed place with wonderful food for dinner next week in Cambridge- I have never been there. What do you all recommed? It's after a long hard day so I don't want anything stuffy but we could really use a treat!

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    Peter Pancetta (aka Hugh DeMann in a former life)

    OK, theres a slew of places: Jae's Cafe at Inman Square and East Coast Grill just a few doors down. Jaes is Asian Fusion and can be noisy and crowded on weekend nights. It is more relaxed if you go early-ish. Same for East Coast Grill which is akin to gourmet barbeque with excellent side dishes and lots of spice and style. Some don't care for it; I went there after a big case went my way - I love it. Cafe Bombay in Harvard Sq. is also nice and very relaxed if you go for Indian chow. Helmand in E. Cambridge is Afghani food and quite interesting and very laid back. There is the UPSCALE Rialto in the Charles River Hotel - exquisite food and always cutting edge and you pay for it big time.

    1. If you want somthing that is upscale but not overly formal I would recommend the following: Rialto in the Charles Hotel; Harvest (excellent for sunday brunch); Flora (actually in Arlington but close to Cambridge line); Dali (nice Spanish place with great atmosphere and good food);Sandrine (Alsatian French)

      Enjoy and if you want somthing in Boston try Mistral on Columbus. Very good food, great "in spot" and if you get there early just get a place at the bar and eat and drink all night. Great bar scene

      1. I think the place you're looking for is OLEANA. It's a little upscale but certainly not stuffy. VERY good Turkish/Mediterrenaean/Moroccan/New America food done expertly by a wonderful cehf and her staff. I have NEVER been disappointed there. SO many interesting flavors so perfectly combined. Also, desserts are outrageous, most of them built creatively around an assortment of homemade icecreams.


        4 Replies
          1. re: Simon

            Thanks! the other link is great too. I am really looking forward to the trip now!

          2. re: Simon

            I must disagree. I've been there twice and have been very disappointed both times. While I can appreciate what she is trying to do she just didn't pull it off. The flavors were ok on the duck but the duck itself was way over done. Thought I would try it the second time, same result.I will admit the desserts were good. Honestly if I'd go back it would be in the summer just to enjoy the outside patio. Also the waitstaff bordered on dumb and slow. Absolutley no knowledge of the wine list.

            Try Salts or Dali but be prepared to wait for a table at the latter.

            1. re: Simon

              I second your recommendation. This is a truly special spot. Atmosphere is fancy, somewhat romantic - yet, laid back enough in that you might bring a well-behaved baby. The food is inventive without being abrasive; in fact, the subtle palette-push is quite comforting.

            2. I second the recommendation of Dali. It is definitely NOT stuffy!

              You don't say on what day you're looking to dine out, but depending on the day/time of the evening you go, be prepared for a wait. They might tell you an hour or 1.5 hour wait, but invariably, it is usually much less than that. Grab a pitcher of sangria, and enjoy the atmosphere. Or get a seat at the bar (if you can) and stay there all night - they have a full menu at the bar.


              7 Replies
              1. re: Linda W.

       I crazy to try to bring a group there? I'm thinking about asking a lot of friends there for tapas and drinks for my birthday. It's midweek, so many won't make it, but I'm figuring on a head count of 6-12. What are the chances that they can accommodate us on a Wednesday? They don't take reservations, do they?

                1. re: C. Fox

                  I've gone to the one on Newbury St, (tapeo) with a group of 7 or 8 for a b'day, but I can't remember if we had a reservation....It was a weekday, and I only remember waiting long enough for one sherry at the bar. Call 'em and see. BTW, despite their reputation for sangria, Tapeo, and probably Dali too, have the BEST selection of sherry by the glass in the area...Pages!! Ask the bartender, they love to tell you about them, and make recs...

                  1. re: C. Fox

                    Depending on the night and availability, sometimes they will take reservations for larger groups. You should call and ask as soon as you figure out what night you might want to go. I think you might be in luck with a Wednesday night.

                    1. re: C. Fox

                      C. Fox - Yes, there's a very good chance of them accommodating you on a Wednesday with a large group if you give them enough advance notice.

                      Their website information page says "We normally do not reserve tables, however, during the week (Sunday - Wednesday), we will hold a table until 6:30 for 6 persons or more or take 'preferred seating'. The party needs to be complete before being seated. Call (617)661-3254, Fax (617)661-2813; Ask for Cesar or Mary Anne for more information."

                      I've been there on a Friday or Saturday evening and have watched groups of 10-15 go through the bar to the back room - even at 8pm or after. Those groups most likely put their name in at the hostess station earlier in the evening (usually people do so at 6pm or so) and left to go next door to the bar next door (the name of which escapes me right now).

                      Have fun if you go, and enjoy the tapas and sangria, ports and sherries!

                      1. re: C. Fox

                        I can't imagine a most magical place to celebrate a birthday! The last time we were there someone had a birthday party, and it was MOST festive, with much singing and flashing of lights. The whole place got into it!

                        1. re: C. Fox

                          One of the most enjoyable dining experiences I've had in my life was a birthday dinner at Dali with a party of around 15. Go for it.

                          1. re: C. Fox

                            Thanks for the encouragement, everybody! I'll definitely call them and make arrangements.

                        2. I'd recommend the B-Side Lounge on Hampshire St. for tasty food in a very relaxed atmosphere (it's essentially a bar with very good food).

                          Also Elephant Walk in Porter Square has delicious food and a nice atmosphere.

                          I also like Henrietta's table in the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square.

                          In Central Square there's Centro, which is very good gourmet italian in a romantic small atmosphere.

                          Finally, Aspasia in Huron Village has gotten great reviews by chowhounds.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: karen

                            Aspasia is very good and really, really intimate. The duck I had there this fall almost made me fall off my chair it was so good. Another example of a husband / wife team making a great resto.