Small Plates: big problems
My first time at this Cambridge spot, and I was quite disappointed. The place is pretty and seems promising when you enter, but the highly eclectic menu was a red flag for me from the get-go, as places that try to cover every possible cuisine tend to fail at most of them, and that's how I felt about Small Plates. The service was problematic as well.
It took more than five minutes after being seated before the server greeted us to take drink orders and tell us about the specials, and the place wasn't crowded. We ordered drinks, and they came promptly, but beers and white wines arrived at a warm room temperature. I sent my wine back requesting that it be properly chilled (or substituted with a different white wine that was already chilled). It came back about ten minutes later, in a chilled glass, but tasting the exact same temperature. I decided to just drink it and shut up. The beer drinkers decided to live with their warm beers (second rounds of beer were also warm, despite the waiter's having been informed of the problem during the first round).
The first plate to arrive was the "warm" mixed appetizer plate (from the "a partager" section of the menu), which was also luke warm or cold, basically a kind of dolled-up cheese platter, which was not at all what it sounded like on the menu. The polenta wedge didn't even taste like polenta to us, and the muhamarra was pretty bland. The plate was rounded out by some kind-of-warm brie and cold fruit. Very odd and altogether unremarkable, and overpriced at $14.
Next came a series of mostly mediocre offerings: japanese eggplant prepared italian style was soft and bland; steamed mussels were overcooked, in a not very tasty broth, with two hunks of clumpy, soggy bread soaking in the pot; a pissaladiere (braised greens, leeks, and tomatoes atop puff pastry) was small, soggy/greasy, and not very tasty---also, pissaladiere is traditionally served on a pizza-like crust rather than puff pastry.
A main-course sized paella arrived next, and I could tell by looking at it that it was wrong. The rice was mushy to the point of baby food, and there was hardly any of the advertised chicken, sausage, and mussels within the mass of mushy rice. It was bland and laughable. Have these people never tasted real paella?
The ony two good dishes, and they weren't at all great, were the beef satay and the mini-burgers. The burgers were tasty and had nice condiments (sambal, red cabbage slaw, mustard), but the meat itself was a bit dry. We also ordered a skate wing that, we found out about half an hour later, the kitchen was out of. I'm sure we didn't miss much.
We skipped dessert and headed to Herrell's instead, which offered some redemption. Not planning to return if I can help it.