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Disappointment at Chez Henri

v
VivreManger May 4, 2011 10:21 PM

When I am in Cambridge Chez Henri is one of the better restos close to where I stay. Over the years it has been a reliable local GoTo, so I was particularly displeased by the meal I had there on a quiet Tuesday night. My displeasure has been increased by the need to spend the two remaining Groupons I had bought a few months ago.

A friend and I met there for dinner. He had pea soup, and the scallop special. I had the grilled octopus and squid salad followed by the bouillabaisse. Only one of the four was worth ordering again. We also had two glasses of the Chateau Garsac Bourdeau and one of the Rioja.

His pea soup was good, but his scallops only fair. I tasted neither but looked at both. The pea soup was a sprightly vivid appealing color, but the scallops were uneven in size, decidedly unplump. Since the scallops were an off-menu special they ought to have been better.

I adore grilled squid and octopus. I often get the grilled squid salad from Russo's. A few months ago I had a superb version of grilled octopus that I could have eaten for ever (at the moment where I had the dish escapes me, but I will add it to the thread eventually, when that memory returns. It might have been at a tapas place in Montreal?). Chez Henri's version completely undermined the delights of grilled protein. One of the signal appeals of Russo's grilled squid is that the smokey flavor and a hint of the grilled crunch is preserved in the salad. The squid is not soggy. Chez Henri's version destroyed all that is good about grilled seafood. It was overwhelmed by dripping greens and other veggies, with no aftertaste of smoke or crunch of the grill. The vinaigrette and the salad ruined the crustaceans. What a waste!

As for the bouillabaisse, have you ever heard of a safran-free bouillabaisse? The single piece of toast was covered not with a rich garlicy red-peppered roux, but with dull mayonaise topped with scallions. In its defense the fish was reasonably fresh, excepting of course for the shrimps which are almost everywhere a farm-raised travesty perpetutally on the edge of emerging from an ammonia bath. The choice of fish was not distinguished, insufficient shell-fish, clams, mussels, too much salmon, but it was adequate. What can you expect for 28 benighted US dollars (not Euros), thousands of miles from Marseilles? All of that could be forgiven, if only the stock had been saffron-rich, perhaps with a touch of tomato. In retrospect, I should have left Chez Henri to fetch that five dollar bag of frozen ciopinno from the freezer at home, and asked the chef to add it to his dish. That would have improved the bouillabaisse dramatically, but we had limited time for dinner and I did not want to embarass my scallop-eating buddy.

I did tell the waitress that the dish was a disappointment. She lamely claimed that it was a traditional bouillabaise! I don't believe she knows that tradition. I should have made more of a fuss and sent the dish back to the kitchen for some saffron and roux, but time was limited and my friend is not as much of a food-fanatic as I.

Of course there still remains the problem of two more Groupons to spend there. Even I admit that the Trader Joe's ciopinno solution is not realistic. Forty bucks could easily be spent on the bar menu when a drink or two could be added to a Cubano and salad, but with the Mass ABC-enforced bait and switch I may have to add a creme brulee to go, on top of the mojito for which I pay full-price, not the bargan I was hoping for.

How have the rest of you spent your Chez Henri Groupons?

PS. I don't think that the groupon had anything to do with the inferior meal. It did not come up until I paid the bill.

PPS Mass ABC is the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Commission, one of the many enduring and annoying consequences of the Volstead Act, even after its repeal,

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Chez Henri
1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

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  1. opinionatedchef RE: VivreManger May 4, 2011 11:46 PM

    When that Mass ABC thing came about, Groupon sent out a 'because of this new ABC ruling,you can opt out of your purchase at ___ if you want .' (I was lucky and took advantage of that to refund our Tremont 647 coupons after no CH responded w/ any positives for us about Tr647).

    Try emailing them and tell them you want to refund your remaining ChHenri coupons because of the ABC thing.

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    Tremont 647
    647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118

    1. Berheenia RE: VivreManger May 5, 2011 03:41 AM

      I emailed Groupon for a refund which they cheerfully gave me.

      1. C. Hamster RE: VivreManger May 5, 2011 05:58 AM

        I can't recall the last time I ate in the restaurant. The bar is just too good.

        We have a Groupon we need to use but since there are 2 of us and maybe 3 we still plan to spend it on bar food.

        Sorry your experience was so lame.

        5 Replies
        1. re: C. Hamster
          b
          bear RE: C. Hamster May 5, 2011 06:08 AM

          I have a groupon and look forward to using it for cubanos at the bar. I agree, no need to refund the groupons when you can use them in the bar. A couple of apps and cubanos should use up the $50 pretty handily.

          1. re: bear
            v
            VivreManger RE: bear May 5, 2011 06:33 AM

            My groupon is $40. I assume you made a simple slip at the keyboard.

            I am amused that the responses have focussed on the framing groupon aside, rather than the substance of the food. Does that suggest that no one has had a recent positive experience at Chez Henri to counter mine?

            1. re: VivreManger
              b
              bear RE: VivreManger May 5, 2011 06:46 AM

              Oops, I just double-checked and my groupon is indeed for $40.

              I haven't eaten at the restaurant, only at the bar, that's why I didn't comment on the food. It seems from reading the board posts recently that experience has been pretty mixed.

              1. re: bear
                j
                jackal RE: bear May 6, 2011 12:34 PM

                A cubano at the bar is the way to go at Chez Henri. I was unimpressed by the dining room fare.

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                Chez Henri
                1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

              2. re: VivreManger
                Bob Dobalina RE: VivreManger May 5, 2011 08:20 AM

                I can weigh in - had the grilled squid a couple of weeks ago - thought it was fine - no problem with the greens. Yummy, sort of standard.
                Had an even better special of cherrystones in a broth with some sort of sausage and fennel - was really fine.
                I think the ceviche there is a joke - you get a thimble full and it never has much flavor to me.

          2. r
            Reuniteonice RE: VivreManger May 5, 2011 10:06 AM

            There is no roux in a traditional bouillabaise. Perhaps you are confusing roux with aioli.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Reuniteonice
              yumyum RE: Reuniteonice May 5, 2011 10:45 AM

              Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with rouille.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rouille

              1. re: yumyum
                t
                teezeetoo RE: yumyum May 5, 2011 04:32 PM

                Rouille is not roux.

                1. re: teezeetoo
                  C. Hamster RE: teezeetoo May 6, 2011 07:26 AM

                  Yes, OP misspelled rouille. And would have no doubt been even more upset had they been served roux on toast.

                  1. re: C. Hamster
                    opinionatedchef RE: C. Hamster May 6, 2011 07:16 PM

                    hmmm,home-ec memories of chipped beef on toast, aka sh....t on a shingle.Sorry, but YOU brought it up ;-)

            2. s
              Splendid Spatula RE: VivreManger May 6, 2011 11:38 AM

              Spent my groupons there long ago, but about three weeks ago had a terrific meal of oysters to start, and duck to follow. Duck so perfectly cooked, rare but not mushy. Ice cream to follow was nothing to write home about but man that duck was good. Have to say that other than the occasional service slowness, and one too-cool cassoulet, have never had a bad meal at CH.

              1. braineater RE: VivreManger May 7, 2011 11:10 AM

                Squid isn't a crustacean.

                1. threedogs RE: VivreManger May 8, 2011 11:11 AM

                  Never dined at Chez Henri (although I hope to try their Cubano), but I do purchase Groupon coupons. I had one that I couldn't use (since I moved out of the area) & they gave me a credit for it. No problem for me, since there's always something interesting that pops up now & then.

                  -----
                  Chez Henri
                  1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: threedogs
                    v
                    VivreManger RE: threedogs May 15, 2011 03:13 PM

                    I stand corrected on crustaceans and rouille.

                    Thanks.

                  2. l
                    lescaret RE: VivreManger Jan 3, 2012 10:10 AM

                    It makes me sad to write this because Chez Henri has always been one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area. I have fond memories of celebratory repasts there over the years. However ..... the last two times my DC and I have gone there we've been thoroughly disappointed (both times within the last 8 months).

                    The food has been indifferent. My steak frites, while admittedly not the most creative dish to begin with, was little more than a well-grilled piece of steak and a mountain of uninteresting french fries (pre-cut, prepackaged?).

                    A bigger complaint, however, has been the service. Each of the last two visits we've had unskilled, indifferent waiters; the kind of waiter who would be more at ease in a Bertucci's or an Olive Garden. We asked about a particular dish but the waiter had nothing informative to say about it. The cocktail we asked about, he was unfamiliar with. The 1st bad waiter experience was the kind where we spent an inordinate amount of time throughout dinner looking for him in vain; we ended up flagging down a busboy and the hostess.

                    The 2nd bad waiter experience was more of the same. He apparently hadn't tried anything on the menu and had nothing beyond the blanket "it's good" when we asked about a specific dish (I forget which one). When we ordered our entries (me, the aforementioned steak), I asked that he bring me a glass of cotes du rhone when he brought my steak. He didn't. Then he disappeared and I was halfway through my meal before the wine appeared. Very disappointing.

                    So something seems to have happened there. After the most recent disappointing dinner (December, 2011) my DC and I resigned ourselves to confining Chez Henri to the category of "Once Beloved Restaurants That No Longer Deliver."

                    Has anyone else noticed how amateur and lackluster the staff has become there?

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