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Oct 31, 2008 08:37 AM

Small Plates in Cambridge

Has anyone eaten at Small Plates recently? We are looking to go out as a group of 6 next Friday and thought this would be good to try. Curious about atmosphere and range of food - there is one picky person amongst us who will be looking to find fault!

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  1. I'm a big fan. You can check the menu on the website. I'm not sure what kind of picky person you have; I wouldn't take someone there who didn't have an open food mind, cuz it's not american style meat and potatoes. The atmosphere is relaxed fine dining. I've enjoyed the mushrooms, lamb chops, and a number of other dishes that I cant' think of. Everything is well dressed and composed, with an interesting range of flavors. Good thoughtful inexpensive wine list.

    1. My boyfriend and I went about 6 months ago and were totally dissapointed. It took forever to get drinks, never mind multiple rounds. The food was OK at best. The paella was totally disapointing.Full of rice... and like 6 shrimp.. for $30??? However, the owner who was seating people, really tried to find a great table for us which I appreciated. But his servers stink.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Stellar D

        I thought that paella was full of rice kind of by definition. Were there no other ingredients, such as chicken, sausage, or anything along with the shrimp?

        1. re: Allstonian

          Paella is primarily a rice dish with other "stuff" in it. The Paella at Small Plates had shrimp, mussels, chorizo sausage, chicken, and snails in it, and it is $21.00 for two, not $30.00. I didn't mind paying $11.00 for a Paella entree.

      2. I went with a friend over the summer. I was totally disappointed. The food was not worth the money. The service was not so good. The drinks were terrible. I'd recommend a different restaurant.

        If you are into tapas, Toro in the south end is good. If you want to stay in Harvard Square, I've eaten at Casablanca and the food was outstanding. I ate in the bar area and I thought the atmosphere in the bar was better than the dining room.


        1. Thanks for the feedback, all. We did end up going last Friday night (party of 5) with a little trepidation and were pleasantly surprised, particularly after reading the disappointed reviews. We ordered two tapas platters (one hot, one cold) which had a nice mix of items, including a brie with poached fruit on the warm platter, and several spiced dips (hummous, goat cheese) on the cold platter. We had three tapas as well: pissaladiere, duck, japanese eggplant - all were well-spiced and worked well together. For the main courses, two had paella (has to be ordered by two), one had the petit filet, and two had the sun and sea: scallops with black sticky rice and baby lamb chops with demi-glace. Everyone was happy with their food - it was well-prepared, cooked as requested and very good quality. Desserts were also very good: pear frangipane tart, creme caramel, and coconut rice pudding. They were probably the weakest link in the evening.

          Our server was very good and informed, though she had an amusing habit of mispronouncing things she clearly had never heard of before she worked there - pissaladiere was "pizza-ladiere", for example. The restaurant was lively (read noisy), which is heightened by the fact its a converted house with smallish rooms. I wouldn't go with more than 6 people on a busy night. However, the noise wasn't overwhelming and just gave the restaurant a good energy. As for the menu in general, there were enough choices that we all could find something that made us happy. I will note that the food options and menu were a little bit confused, as if the owners didn't quite know which culinary tradition they were trying to reflect. So the afore-mentioned pissaladiere, a traditional french tart with olives, tomatoes and anchovies, had blue cheese, proscuitto and various other things that had nothing to do with the original. They offer things "a partager", but then have tapas...and to get the American feel in there, they offer mini-burgers. The mixed metaphors and multiple food personalities, however, did not detract from a surprisingly excellent meal. I would go back, as would all of my foodie tablemates - even the picky one!

          3 Replies
          1. re: lesliewh

            leslie, thanks for that post. i have been waiting for someone to say something good about it so we could try it. Hope some other CHs will have your positive experience as well, and post about it.

            1. re: lesliewh

              I went to small plates over the summer too and had a really good experience. This is a nice, modest place and I was happy with the food, especially the blue cheese raclette and the soba noodles. The service was very sufficient and the the entire staff, including the owner, struck me as very kind. I thought it was a nice change of pace from the other Harvard Square options, most of which are either more expensive and fancier or more downscale.

              1. re: lesliewh

                Interesting. I think the conclusion to draw from this is that Small Plates is a quirky place, and it isn't necesarily predictable whether or not these quirks will make you think the place is quirky but charming, or clunky and not so great. Count me closer into the latter camp -- I thought the food was decent, but not particularly good value for the money.

              2. Bumping this -- I ended up at Small Plates last night, wanting to try something new (to me) in the Square. I really liked it. As someone else had posted, it was nice to be in a bright airy dining room instead of a basement in Harvard Square. Our server was sweet. They are running a "happy hour" special where they offer selections of their small plates for $5 before 6 p.m. My friend and I ordered 5 tapas and were satisfied with the amount of food. Standouts include a japanese eggplant with panko and pine nuts, jerk chicken with apple and red pepper salsa, garlicky mushrooms. Good pours of wine for the money. Nice noise level but no bar to speak of. I don't think it's a hound "destination" but is definitely up there on my list of places in the Square for a drink and a bite.

                Small Plates
                56 Jfk St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                1 Reply
                1. re: yumyum

                  I've been twice or three times since it opened, always for a late weekend lunch. It has been lovely all around. Perhaps going at an off hour is the key? The food was delicious, and the small sizes are perfect for supporting a lovely glass of wine or two.