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Dionysos, Radisson Hotel (!) on Memorial Drive, Cambridge

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Dionysos is a Greek storefront, white paint and agean-poster-covered in-the-middle-of-urban-chaotic-nowhere kind of taverna-aspiring small restaurant trapped in a plushy deep carpetted hotel.

The existence of a place like this felt totally paradoxical, and the cognitive dissonance drove me a little nuts.

The last time I ate at a hotel restaurant was at Jester's in the Hotel Argent in SF when they had an Portugese promotion that offered decent food but was way overpriced. Almost a year later, I'm still trying to shrug off that experience. (Yes -- Portugese food is *that* rare in SF.)

This time, I did better. Dionysos is not going to rock your world, but it does have a homey and honest sense of place. There is a palpable sense that the food is put together with human hands, and that feeling was most evident in the platter of dips. The melazisalata (sp?) was actually stunningly good for an eggplant puree. It wasn't pulp, but still retained some of the native soft eggplant texture in with nearly intangible chunkiness, the soft articulated between the softer interstices. There's an invisible sweetness in the ripe eggplant flavor and in the sharp crunchy raw red onions bits (blissfully without any of the the sulphuric harshness of raw onions). A curious sprinkle of what seemed to be scallions actually worked nicely. It was well lubricated with olive oil and served as the height of the meal.

The lowest point was the taramasalata, which was thick and creamy but weak in the flavor department. More fish eggs plaease.

Other dips on the platter were quite good. A dill fragrant tzatizki with a good soft and creamy texture and a nice strong undercurrent of garlic. A mild feta concoction (not mentioned on the menu -- I was expecting 3 not 4 dips) was also competently made.

The flat bread was served warm (good) but an occasional piece felt stiff (bad).

Saganaki, a cheese fritter zested up with a squeeze of lemon, turn out somewhat above average. The solid batter wasn't soggy and held the ok molten cheese within fairly well.

I was fairly happy with the broiled octopus. These eight-legged devils aren't exactly the easiest thing to cook, and the kitchen aquitted itself well -- the thick tenacles came out fairly moist and firm without any chewiness; I loved the caramelized surfaces. The menu advertised a lemon and olive oil flavoring, but there were dark pools suspended in the lagoon of olive oil that suggested vinegar to me. Straightforward and simple and good to eat.

The rice pudding dessert was somewhat pedestrian, gelled into a bowl. Cinnamon and white sugar dominated, the rice pudding a merely vehicle for the two. I would have prefered a moister rice pudding with a tiny bit of complexity in the rice flavor.

On whole a decent meal ($38ish for above and a serving of stirring ouzo, not counting tip). I'm not rushing to go back, mainly because the hotel ambiance confuses me, but if I ever craved that eggplant dip, I'd head for Dionysos.

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  1. Limster -- sincere thanks for reviewing a place I've never been, never considered going, and probably never will go to. This is food voyeurism at it's height and I love it. Now you should try Greek Corner in North Cambridge (2366 Mass Avenue) to compare... I think the dinner plates, especially the roast lamb plate, are great -- they have all the apps and sides, and while it sounds like the atmosphere couldn't be more different, you could do a speedy food-based comparison while Dionysos is fresh in your mind. If you wanted to...

    7 Replies
    1. re: yumyum

      Thanks for the rec! I was scheming to try Agean in Watertown because I had read it here (I think) but North Cambridge sounds easier to get to.

      1. re: Limster

        Hey, didya see the blurb about Aegean Restaurant, on Arsenal St, in Watertown, in the Globe today? Also a place I've been meaning to try for the last year or so...

        I have to say tho, the day I pay $38 for a Greek meal, I wannah be dancing on that table and yelling "Opa!!!", after I cheer the waiter with my flaming saganaki! (g)

        1. re: galleygirl

          OK, so when are we going to Ithaki? And let's make it a big group -- I want witnesses!

          1. re: C. Fox

            Depends, is their grilled fish as good as Kebab Cafe? (g)

            And do they have grilled octopus?

            1. re: galleygirl

              Sorry, NOBODY does grilled fish like Ali...but I have to say that, as far as fish entrees go, they're in there swinging. As for grilled octopus, it's on their menu, but I haven't gotten around to it yet so can't vouch for it. Can and will vouch for the bread spreads and the mantinia.

              Link: http://www.ithakicuisine.com/dinner.htm

          2. re: galleygirl

            Haven't seen the papers on Aegean yet.....was thinking of stopping there when I visit my sister. Do they have fried smelts?

            1. re: galleygirl
              d
              David "Zeb" Cook

              Sounds like you better head for Diana's II in Chicago. That (or something pretty damn close to it) I have seen happen there.

              David "Zeb" Cook