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once yearly dinner for two, for less than $100?

l
little.tiger Dec 20, 2010 06:41 AM

My parents will be coming to visit for Christmas, and they usually offer to babysit one evening so DH and I can eat out alone. We'll probably get a night out alone between Christmas and New Year's, and are willing to spend up to about $100 on dinner (we won't be drinking). I'll be picking up my DH from his work, which is in the Kendall Sq area. Where would you suggest we go? For the past two years we have gone to Oleana. The year before that, we went to Sabur, which we found disappointing (nothing was glaringly bad, but nothing "sang" either IYKWIM). Of course we could go back to Oleana (we haven't been disappointed yet), but I'd love some other ideas. It doesn't have to be in Cambridge or the Kendall area, but shouldn't be too far out since we don't want to waste too much time driving. Thanks for your ideas.

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Sabur Restaurant
212 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144

Oleana
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

  1. s
    scotty27 Dec 30, 2010 05:50 AM

    Oleana for less than $100? Wow, how'd you do that with desserts there from $12-14?
    Anyhow, for under a hundred, CK's Shanghai is a great choice, which I second, as long as you order in advance and ask them to prepare a menu for you. Rendezvous is great. If you order very, very, very carefully, Craigie on Main is your best bet. Rocca, Scampo, and Tamarind Bay are all very good.
    www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

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    Tamarind Bay
    75 Winthrop St, Cambridge, MA 02138

    Scampo
    215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

    Oleana
    134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

    Craigie on Main
    853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

    7 Replies
    1. re: scotty27
      c
      cambridgedoctpr Dec 30, 2010 06:16 AM

      Scotty is right about CK Shanghai though you have to be sure that he will there. I always request
      CK's choice and get some fo the best food in the Boston area. I have asked CK for names of the dishes but he says that they do not have any. To do Craigie for less than 50 per person, eat a big salad first.

      1. re: cambridgedoctpr
        s
        scotty27 Dec 30, 2010 06:25 AM

        I was thinking of the bar at Craigie, but I hear ya. I should have specified: Bar.

        I've interviewed CK many times for public radio and he'll tell me about his steamed fish with ginger; the scallion beef pancake dish; the mock goose; etc. He's got a good kitchen crew nowadays. "Mike," his GM who was a Brandeis librarian, is very reliable if CK or Kitty or Perry (his son) are out.
        www.shtrinkinthekitchen.com

      2. re: scotty27
        l
        little.tiger Dec 30, 2010 07:38 AM

        Oleana for less than $100 was doable without booze, ordering tapas style, and only ordering one dessert (but that was 2009). I realize that's not how everyone likes to eat, but we enjoy it, and that's how we've always eaten there (we used to live in that area). I agree if you order wine, an appetizer, entree, and dessert per person, there's no way to get out of Oleana on $100 for two people. Also, my DH and I aren't big people (5'5" and 5'3"), so it doesn't take a lot of food for us to feel satisfied.

        CK Shanghai sounds tasty! Maybe next year...

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        Oleana
        134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

        1. re: little.tiger
          c
          cambridgedoctpr Dec 30, 2010 08:08 AM

          CK Shanghai is a schizophrenic restaurant; the chef CK Sau is one of the best in Boston - well regarded by the other big time chefs; i saw Julia Child, Japser, other chefs at the old New Shanghai when CK was the chef. Now, his menu is mostly oriented for Chinese American suburban cooking, and the kitchen is too small for great cooking. But, if you come in when the place is not busy and ask CK to make something great specifying say, fish, eel, etc, he can come up with some of the best food in Boston. I have been frustrated that he never gives me the name of some of these dishes as they are really outstanding.

          My NY partners eat at Bernadin, Corton, Jean-Georges, Marea, Esca in NYC and demand CK on the rare trips to Boston.

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          New Shanghai Restaurant
          21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

          1. re: cambridgedoctpr
            s
            scotty27 Dec 30, 2010 02:07 PM

            I agree re CK: If you order in advance, discuss the menu with "Mike" (GM) or Perry (son), you'll be delighted. That's how it's done in China, anyway.
            Yo, cd: Your partners must die eating here if that's their NYC list. That's my list, too, though I'd substitute Nougatine for JG. Take them to Market or Bistro du Midi; Sisca is at the latter and ran Le Bernadin as Eric was never there.
            www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

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            Bistro du Midi
            272 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

            1. re: scotty27
              c
              cambridgedoctpr Jan 2, 2011 01:39 PM

              there seems to be some disconnect between what i get at CK's and what everyone else - save Scotty - gets. My suggestion is to go in on a quiet day and ask to speak to CK and explain that you want great authentic chinese food. See what happens. Of course, given that the place is open 7 days per week; he may not be in the house.

              1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                s
                scotty27 Jan 2, 2011 01:45 PM

                I only go there once a year and maybe because I've put him on the radio three times, helped get him out of Chinatown, and written him up nationally, he's busting a move.

                For $100 and under, I'd go to Rendezvous.

                www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

      3. l
        little.tiger Dec 30, 2010 05:37 AM

        Just wanted to update that we did in fact go to Instabul'lu and it was excellent. I didn't get much cooking done with all the visiting relatives around, so I used half my fun money to get takeout Golden Garden for my parents and the chowpups before picking up DH and heading to Istanbu'lu.

        We shared the 6 appetizer combo ("little bit of this, little bit of that") and the Sultan's delight and ended with a rice pudding. Everything was perfectly executed and incredibly, addictively tasty. A perfect dinner experience for the price. I highly recommend it!

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        Golden Garden
        63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

        1 Reply
        1. re: little.tiger
          yumyum Dec 30, 2010 02:31 PM

          I'm so glad you enjoyed it and reported back. Thank you! I think he's doing some of the homiest yummiest cooking around town.

        2. p
          professor shorthair Dec 22, 2010 11:23 AM

          I suggest in no particular order :
          Blue Room in Kendall SQ,
          Bistro 5 in Medford,
          Rendezvous in Central SQ,
          As Oleana is a favorite of mine I think you will like any of these.

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          Bistro 5
          5 Playstead Road, Medford, MA 02155

          Oleana
          134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

          Blue Room
          1 Kendall Sq Ste B2001, Cambridge, MA 02139

          1. t
            taterjane Dec 21, 2010 01:13 PM

            I've been to Istanbu'lu once and the food was great. However, it felt more like a casual, snacky kind of place (most of the dishes were dip-like and we ate them with bits of bread) and it definitely is a place you could bring kids. If getting out with only your spouse is an incredibly rare opportunity for you, maybe a more adult place like Bergamot (which I also greatly enjoyed) would be more special?? Just not sure what you're looking for.

            1 Reply
            1. re: taterjane
              l
              little.tiger Dec 22, 2010 05:32 AM

              My DS1 has multiple food allergies, and while it certainly sounds like the sort of place we could bring our kids, we wouldn't bring them here (I spoke to someone there about catering...a lot of the menu contains things he can't eat, so we're sticking with Indian takeout as planned). It's tough to be a child and excluded from things other people are obviously enjoying, especially when that happens at every single birthday'class/whatever party (only my DS1 has allergies, the other kids are fine). He definitely doesn't need it in our family excursions as well.

              Yeah, it's casual and probably not what most people have in mind for an "adult" night out. But it fits nicely in the budget with room to spare, and any extra can be rolled back into our fun money fund (food or otherwise). So I'm not discounting it. I'm totally intrigued actually...the reviews were so uniformly positive.

            2. t
              teezeetoo Dec 21, 2010 06:29 AM

              i like Istanbu-lu very much but if you are an oyster and/or fish lover, I suggest Cognac Bistro. They still have their $1.00 an oyster special, a very nice bar, a homey feel, and excellent fish. We were there again last night and dinner, with drinks and oysters, came to about $40.00 a person.

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              Cognac Bistro
              455 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

              1. digga Dec 20, 2010 04:32 PM

                Salts (I've never been, but it seems to seems to have special occasion all over it)? Rendezvous, which is wonderful, might also be an option.

                Istanbu'lu sounds great, too, but I feel like you could potentially take your kids there (i.e., it seems casual enough for kids but I've not eaten there yet). I guess I'd want to go someplace where I couldn't bring the kids along.

                1. m
                  Madrid Dec 20, 2010 07:25 AM

                  EVOO, which is now in the Kendall Square area. Lots of folks here love Hungry Mother, also in the area; as a native Southerner, I'm not that impressed. Istanbul'lu is lovely.

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                  EVOO Restaurant
                  350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02143

                  Hungry Mother
                  Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                  1. c
                    cambridgedoctpr Dec 20, 2010 06:47 AM

                    how about a chinese meal at say, Mulon, Golden Garden, CK Shanghai?

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                    Golden Garden
                    63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                      justbeingpolite Dec 20, 2010 07:16 AM

                      2nd Bergamot. Also look at East by Northeast, Rendezvous

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                      East by Northeast
                      1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                        l
                        little.tiger Dec 20, 2010 08:29 AM

                        Thanks, doc. Mulan and GG are already regulars in this house ;) Dh's work often caters from Mulan (sometimes we get lucky and he brings home leftovers) and my kids love GG dumplings, which I get every month or so.

                      2. e
                        emannths Dec 20, 2010 06:47 AM

                        Bergamot.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: emannths
                          yumyum Dec 20, 2010 07:14 AM

                          Strong second to Bergamot, but if you're in an Oleana / Sabur mood, you could eat like kings at Istanbu-lu, which isn't a long drive from Kendall Square. Super cozy, great food, and very welcoming folks. You wouldn't be disappointed.

                          1. re: yumyum
                            l
                            little.tiger Dec 20, 2010 08:26 AM

                            Bergamot looks very tempting, but I think Istanbu-lu is now the front runner. I looked at the menu, and if we eat there, we'd have enough left to go see a movie after. It looks like just the sort of "hole in wall, but really good food" place we enjoy. Is it right next to the House of Tibet? I think there was a coffee shop/bubble tea place there before? It's been a while since we ate in that area.

                            1. re: little.tiger
                              yumyum Dec 20, 2010 09:00 AM

                              little.tiger -- it's right next to PJ Ryans in Teele Square, and isn't as much of a hole in the wall as you may think. Nicely decorated, smells like fresh bread when you walk in, all the lamb dishes are superb. Head back down the street to the Somerville theater for your movie and you''ve got a great date night.

                              I hope you go!

                              -----
                              PJ Ryan's
                              239 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144

                              1. re: yumyum
                                l
                                little.tiger Dec 20, 2010 01:58 PM

                                Oh, we are definitely going in some fashion. I've been salivating over reviews all afternoon (boy that sounds pathetic!), and was pleased to discover this is the same chef as the Anadolu cafe that used to be by MGH which we loved back when it was around. In fact, I'm even sort of considering getting takeout from here for Christmas dinner with all the relatives instead of the Indian takeout we had planned. I left a message on their machine...here's hoping they call me back, and are not closed the whole time my family is visiting!

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