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Thoughts on dante?

I have been put in charge of finding a restaurant to celebrate my Mom's 60th birthday next weekend. We are a little late in the planning (6 people) and I no longer live in Boston, but I've been doing my research.

Has anyone tried dante in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge? The Zagats review sounded good and the menu looks nice. How is the food and ambiance? My parents are both foodies but we don't want a place too over the top in terms of price and it would be good to be able to hear our dining companions speak. But of course the food much be delicious and the atmosphere celebratory.

Thanks for your advice.

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  1. I have only eaten there once about a year ago. The room is lovely and the service is very nice. The menu looked enticing and interesting. The food did not live up to the way it was described on the menu. I really thought the food was going to be much better than it was. For what we paid I thought the food lacked flavor. I had a lobster spaghetti dish that sounded fabulous but was quite plain and boring. If you plan on spending that kind of money I would rather go to Mistral which is where we celebrated my dad's big birthday dinner. The dover sole was really something special.

    1. I have been there twice: dinner during restaurant week last summer, and more recently, brunch on Father's Day. There were a few little things, but overall, we were quite pleased. Weather hasn't been on our side, as both times, our intent was to dine outdoors and enjoy the view, but thunderstorms and the recent June weather prevented that both times. We had no complaints about the food; we liked everything we had, except during RW, my husband had a baked ziti type main course that was not hot enough. He sent it back, and the waiter acted like that had never happened before. When it came back, it still wasn't hot enough, but he ate it anyway. On Father's Day, we went for brunch around 2. The prix fixe menu had a lot of items that appealed to us, including a somewhat finicky teen, who loved her food. The bread basket was nice as well. The service was very good. One of our pet peeves is that while the place was nearly empty, they seated us next to a party of 5 or 6 that was very loud. I don't have a problem with people enjoying themselves, but it was obviously for Dante's convenience, as we didn't have to be right on top of them. And they were louder than usual. But aside from those little things, I like the atmosphere, food, and service. The atmosphere is modern, a little bit of a casual feel, not overly so- I guess I just mean it's not stuffy. Parking isn't difficult- it's the Sonesta garage, for which you have to pay, unless you feel like hunting for a space on the street.

      1. I had a similar experience to Macadamianut; either the food didn't quite taste as good as it sounded like it would, or there was another element in the dish that put me off that wasn't in the description (that dish was a calamari & chickpea dish that had a bitter orange sauce added).

        I loved loved loved the desserts, though, and the dishes that worked did work well.

        The outdoor space is nice, and is along the Charles, and in good weather, I think could be quite celebratory. The atmosphere is not my style at all, very hotel restaurant--too big and seemingly aimed to be inoffensive rather than have any particular flavor.

        If you go, just park in the lot across the street at the Galleria mall. It's very very cheap, like under $5.

        1. I've eaten there half a dozen times and it has been more good than not, but there have been some misses - boring dishes, not awful. I second the bread basket and desserts. Beyond dessert, my most positive reactions have been to the salads (still salads, but fresh and interesting) and to fish dishes. Cocktails have been so-so - a few delicious, but most eh, so now I stick to the basics.

          I think the decor is fine and it hasn't been too loud when we've gone - but I've never been there when it was completely packed.

          1. I'll echo similar sentiments - I thought it was good (decent) but not great. I wouldn't make a point to prioritize this over other places, and I found it on the expensive side for what it did offer. The only thing that wow'ed me was their fried dough ball dessert (can't remember the more elegant name they give it).

            1 Reply
            1. I went Friday night with a party of 3. We had a res for 8:30 but asked to sit outside so had to wait another 20 minutes, which was fine with us. The patio is really nice. We all had the prix fixe. I had the squid to start and others had the sea urchin linguine, and they seemed to love it ($6 upcharge). For mains I had the pancetta wrapped trout and others had the hanger steak. We were all really happy with our meals.

              We were celebrating my birthday, and to my chagrin, my husband told the waiter as much. To my surprise and delight, he brought us glasses of champagne (well probably actually prosecco, but either way, I'll take bubbles over cake any day).

              Service was great, if a little slow. Not good if you're in a hurry, but if you are celebrating and want to take you time, it was great. It wasn't the greatest place in Boston/Cambridge but I would go back here for a special occasion to sit on the patio. (The dining room also looked gorgeous, by the way).

              1. I like it a lot. It does end up being expensive, but I've never minded because it was so good. The small bites ("Sfizi") are a real highlight, but the mains are very good too. Very good interesting cocktails, and a very good wine list. Arrange to sit outside if the weather is good, the riverview is really nice.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jajjguy

                  Just went today for the lunch special. The seating outside is lovely and the view is really nice. The drinks were good. Arancini are really good, nice flavor to them. I can't decide if I like them in honey or not. I am leaning towards not, but it makes an interesting swipe with a chunk of bread upon completion. I had the gnocchi and I thought they were very tasty. My husband had the Lobster BLT. Ehhh. Not so great. Mediocre at best. Salads were nothing spectacular. IMO, I think the bar snacks and the drinks are the best way to go with Dante's. Other than that, I'd choose elsewhere for lunch/dinner

                  We are headed to their new restaurant in Belmont next week, I am curious to see how they compare.

                2. Two of us went there this past Sunday evening to sit outdoors on their patio. We were seated right away (it was about 6:45 or 7 on a warm Sunday evening). They have an extensive drink menu and a nice wine list. We started with two cocktails- a Nacional and a Mojito. Nothing wrong with either, although it took over fifteen minutes for them to arrive, a sign of things to come.

                  There seemed to be something going on behind the scenes the night we were there in terms of the service. From start to finish, there were all kinds of mistakes and everything was slow. We started with one waitress and then another appeared with no explanation regarding the transfer. Our bread arrived just before the meal was served with an apology for being late. When the drinks finally did arrive, the man carrying them out was in such a rush he was spilling them both onto the menu he was using as a tray. And my side order was forgotten until I reminded them about it.

                  Sloppiness aside, we enjoyed most of the food and the setting can't be beat for watching the evening come to an end in East Cambridge. I would definitely bring my own parents (who are 80) as it is quiet and pretty. Some of the places I like for celebrations are too noisy or overpriced for my parents' tastes. We ordered a la carte, which was, in hindsight, challenging if you want to know the prices ahead of time, as the menu is presented as a prix fixe. We were pleasantly surprised by the insalata, prepared with a variety of tomatoes and nice sized hunk of fresh mozzarella, with a delicious vinaigrette. At $4.00, that was a wicked bargain. The other bargain was the gnocchi, served in an entree sized portion for $8.00. It had a sweet corn sauce and my DC ate up every bite, reserving only one for me to sample.

                  Less economical was the side order of steamed spinach with parmesan. It was a tiny portion and for $7.00 it was really not worth it. I make this dish at home, and it is easy to do with just two or three simple- and inexpensive- ingredients.

                  I ordered the risotto for my entree and this was the most striking in terms of expense. It was $24 and was really just a tiny bowl of risotto and vegetables. The gnocchi plate was twice the size. It was good, but nothing special and at that price, I felt like it should have had lobster or truffles or some gold nuggets served along with it.

                  We were not impressed with our bread basket. Crusty. cold white bread with little flavor, served with a olive oil.

                  Inconsistency seems to have been the word for us on our evening at Dante. I wish they had their menu presented in a way that had the prices listed individually and their service really needs some fine tuning. But I will be back. Next time, I plan on having just drinks and appetizers. I'll make my own risotto.

                  1. I went to Dante with my husband and an out of town friend on Saturday. We had had a really great experience for his graduation with a large group, and wanted to take our friend somewhere with a nice outside table. This time, our experience was more hit or miss. The atmosphere was great and the service was truly excellent throughout a somewhat rocky meal. We all did the prix fixe- my friend's tomato with mozz salad seemed a little undeserving of the $4 supplement it cost- I'm wondering if the poster who mentioned the salad as a wicked bargain was charged only the supplement? My octopus was rather fishy- nothing like the creamy goodness I've come to expect after having the octopus at Craigie several times. My husband's lamb was a really excellent dish-herb crusted, delicate flavor.

                    For entrees, I ordered a pork shoulder Milanese. I was expecting soft, succulent meat. It was an extremely thin, flavorless cutlet- think bad cafeteria style chicken parm. There was no discernable seasoning and the bread crumbs along the edges were notably charred. I was contemplating it, probably with a frown on my face, when our waiter came by and said he'd noted I did not look happy- he very graciously took it back and asked if I wanted something different or to have it redone. Even without the blackened edges, it had not struck me as a dish worth eating so I asked to switch to the chicken. In an incredibly short amount of time (really- like 90 seconds) I had a plate of chicken which was entirely unremarkable- dry white meat, flabby skin, but at least was not burnt. It came with artichokes, which were overcooked and stuffed with something gummy.

                    My friend's risotto, was as mentioned above, a very small portion. My husband's trout wrapped in bacon was good, but not great.

                    Desserts- I love the rhubarb panna cotta. This is a perfect summer dessert, light, good acidity level. My friend had the torta which is an enormous pastry with nuts, chocolate and gelatto. Very decadent.

                    In all, the service and atomosphere were fantastic but unlike my prior meal here there were some very definite shortcomings from the kitchen. Stick to drinks & apps, and then get a dessert? Or go with the hangar steak which seems to be somewhat of a constant menu item and is really a nice piece of meat.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Parsnipity

                      I still have the receipt and yes, we were only charged $4 for the salad. So if it was added on to the prix fixe as an additional charge for Parsnipity, maybe someone did their math wrong for us?

                    2. I went to Dante for the first this past Tuesday, to celebrate a birthday. We got free prosecco for the occasion. A rainy day so we didn't get to enjoy the patio. I am not a big fan of not listing the prices on the menu, apart from the prix fixe.
                      We were 4 girls. Decided to take 2 prix fixes and order 2 entrees. Had the gnocchi (very tasty) and the raw fish special (scallops. good but not amazing) as appetizers. 2 of us got the chicken (very juicy. i liked it). 1 got the trout (it was fresh from the bite i got). 1 got the risotto ( i tasted it. I didn't like it.) , I agree the panacotta was really good. The fried dough (fritelle?) was really good too. The black dahlia as a cocktail was good too. Overall, the food was good. But without the patio view, I am not sure I would go back.

                      1. Bumping this to note I had a stellar white gazpacho at Dante today. Garnished with grapes and lemon oil, it was the perfect summertime lunch. The view from the patio isn't too shabby either.