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Small Plates in Cambridge/Harvard Sq. -- Wow!

After much contemplating (and, as a New Yorker, complaining) about where 20 people could have a birthday dinner (w/reservations), I settled on a new place at 56 JFK called "Small Plates." It's an international tapas restaurant, and I am usually pretty wary of traditional spanish tapas since I find them uninteresting and uninventive.

So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I walked into a cozy space off the main road -- well decorated (think Jane in the West Village) and not a basement (hallelujah) -- and was greeted by the pleasant and eager-to-please co-owner, Stephanie (her husband runs the back of the house).

But now on to the food...Rachelle, our very nice and able server, brought out some yummy soft bread and pepper-infused olive oil, which was very, very good. We also had the hot apple cider (again, excellent, if a bit sweet) to warm us up as we arrived. We started with the "Warm" platter, shared between two (or more), which was pieces of melted/warm brie, toasted french bread thins, pears and kumquat jam, and nicely grilled polenta. Great start.

On to some small plates: we had the tapas portion of the Black & White Salmon (very good), the grilled shrimp and jalapeƱo on corn (very good), and the chicken roulade with blue cheese (not as good as the others). We also tried people's dishes: the steak was yummy, as was the vegetarian blue cheese raclette. For dessert, since it was my girlfriend's birthday, they brought out their ginger and peach bread pudding (amazing, and not known to us at the time, complimentary), and we also ordered the decadent flourless chocolate cake (rich and very good). We also tried other people's desserts, namely the almond tart with cranberries (very sweet but good).

As I will be moving to Cambridge soon from Manhattan, I am excited that there is a warm, cozy, friendly, reliable place like Small Plates at which to dine at. IMHO, Harvard Square doesn't have many places like it, and it'll be nice to return again and again.

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  1. Thanks for the good review, it all sounds great. I'll have to get there. Glad that you had a good time.

    1. I remember reading they were having trouble getting a liquor license...have they gotten one yet? Thanks for the great review - we're looking forward to trying Small Plates.

      1. Hey, I was the first to suggest Small Plates for your group! I'm glad you liked it. I wrote about my nice experience in another thread, and I also thought it was a great addition to the Harvard Square scene.

        They do have their liquor license. Currently, they serve beer and wines by the glass. Wines by the bottle will follow.

        Young-Ho

        6 Replies
        1. re: youngho

          Thank you Young-Ho, it was great. Now, find me a decent brunch spot (Grafton tasted like Hyatt Hotel food, but it wasn't terrible) and a great delivery option (non-ethnic, non-foodler/internet, fee-based service) and I'll really owe you!

          1. re: tennisboy

            us New Yorkers really just want the simple things in life!

            1. re: gramercyfoodie

              Whew! That's tough. I don't think you'll find the following to be particularly helpful.

              For a rather fancy Sunday brunch in Harvard Square, it might be reasonable to try brunch at Upstairs on the Square, although I haven't been there yet (I did once have brunch at Upstairs at the Pudding when I was an impoverished research tech). A friend of mine went and said it was quite good, although this was after an extremely long wedding celebration that went all night into the morning. If you try it, perhaps you can tell me what you think? Henrietta's Table has a rather pricey Sunday buffet that I usually justify by consuming a gargantuan quantity of cocktail shrimp and as many crispy yet fluffy Belgian waffles as I want, though not at the same time. We go once a year, usually for something like the birthday of one of my parents. Some of the other places mentioned in your original query's thread also serve Sunday brunch (Red House, a cluster of places like Forest Cafe et al on Mass Ave on the way to Porter), but I've never tried them for brunch.

              For more of a diner experience, you could walk up Mass Ave a bit to Zoe's, which I think is decent, although to be honest, I liked Johnny's better, which used to be there. Cheaper still would be Brookline Lunch in Central Square, but I don't think this is the kind of experience you're looking for. For a New Yorker, I would recommend driving to the South End and eating at a place like Metropolis. If you'd like a more alternative-y Sunday brunch, I would strongly consider East Coast Grill or perhaps Tremont 647.

              These days, when I feel like brunch, I go to Whole Foods and pick up Iggy's brioche bread (makes a fantastic French toast) and Niman Ranch bacon, as well as some eggs. For other breakfast foods, I like going to Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe in the South End for their great home fries (along with eggs and bacon) and pancakes, Mike's City Diner also in the South Endfor their corned beef hash, and Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakery in Union Square for their cream of wheat and one of the breakfast specials.

              I'm sorry, but non-ethnic (is Italian ethnic?) delivery options are beyond my ken. I don't think there is a great option with your restrictions in the Harvard Square area.

              Young-Ho

              1. re: youngho

                You're telling me that I should actually *go to Whole Foods and MAKE brunch* ?? Perish the thought! =) (kidding)

                Thanks for the advice. I won't be restricted to H-sq next year, but it's really a shame that the area isn't a truly awesome college town, full of yummy, genuine, inexpensive (or non-rip off) options a la Berkeley/UC Berkeley, Montreal/McGill, or, say, Columbia/Missouri.

                But, alas, I'll survive.

                1. re: tennisboy

                  I think you'll find that when you get outside of Harvard Square, the yummy, genuine, inexpensive options are in abundance in places like Allston, Chinatown, East Boston, Dorchester and other neighborhoods!

                2. re: youngho

                  I second Metropolis Cafe for great food and a West Village feel. We love it.

          2. I'm adding my 2 cents here. MrLit and I hit Small Plates last night and LOVED it. The space is so cute, the service was friendly, and the food was great. We had 4 tapas and a dessert, and it was the perfect amount of food for 2. With those dishes plus two glasses of wine we came in around $70. Well worth it.

            The food:
            The squash "fettucini" consisted of fettucini-sized strips of zukes and yellow squash, with snappy garlic on top, and all placed on a bed of tomato and nut romesco sauce -- the whole thing was very fresh, very flavorful, nice and light. Next we had the organic wild mushrooms with basil oil and poached garlic, the whole thing was dressed in plenty of butter: delicious. And it's a large amount of mushrooms on that small plate -- quite satisfying and a nice complement to the other dishes we ordered. Next were the spicy grilled prawns (2) with a roasted jalapeno and a smoked corn salad. The corn was great, and the prawns were nicely grilled, though I wish they had a bit more seasoning unto themselves. The lamb chops (tapas sized: 2 frenched chops) were exellent -- perfectly cooked and seasoned, placed on a bed of Israeli couscous and lamb demiglace. Dessert was the peach ginger bread pudding with a nicely boozy wild turkey sauce. It too was terrific. The whole meal was well priced, well proportioned, and well executed.

            And, bonus, they have a small but cute little bar (6 seats?) where one can have a glass of wine or beer. It's a great addition to H-Square. Last night we dropped in sans reservation at about 7:45. They were full, but not packed, and we got a seat right away. I so want these folks to do well, so check them out!

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            Small Plates
            56 Jfk St, Cambridge, MA 02138