Algiers Coffee House: Revolutionary it isn't...
I went to Algiers on a suggestion from my sister, who lived in Cambridge. At first blush, Algiers seems like it's going to be a great restaurant. Not from the outside, but when you get into the place and can admire the authentic Arab decor that makes you feel like you're in southern Spain or the Maghreb rather than in Cambridge. Disappointment follows, however, when you get the food and the bill. Prices at Algiers are rather steep when you consider that you get bland, basic food, weak coffee and rushed, inattentive service. The place is packed and very densely populated with tables, which obviously makes it difficult for the few waitresses to do their jobs quickly. However, the real let-down is the food, as the incredible decor makes you think that it will be authentic; better to head down the street to Middle East if that's what you're looking for.
Favorite Dish: I don't remember exactly what I had at Algiers, but it was essentially a bed of pita cut up in triangles with some dried spices and a yoghurt dip. The coffee was standard brewed coffee. I've heard that the desserts are much better - if you do want to frequent Algiers, you might be better off with some baklava.
- Food and Dining
Middle East: Don't let the sleaze fool you
I went to the Middle East Café because I was starving and couldn't wait much longer to eat. I thought that it would be a standard student dive that would be worth the ambience but not the food. The ambience is much like other places in Cambridge - exotic décor married to preppy upper-middle class students in beach wear. The menu has American favourites but also has a good selection of real Middle Eastern fast foods. I think that the chef is Palestinian, and the place is certainly owned by Palestinians, despite the wait staff's punk-rock appearance. The food, without a doubt, is beyond authentic. The Arab dishes are large, perfectly spiced and contain enough food to fill you for a good 6 hours at least. The number of dishes that are true Middle Eastern dishes is quite limited, but very much worth the money you'll pay for them.
Favorite Dish: I had the kofta kebabs (kofta is ground beef or lamb, mixed with spices and then grilled like shish kebab). The meat comes with a hefty serving of sautéed vegetables, spiced couscous, harissa (hot sauce) and hummus. It was absolutely delicious and very filling. The meat was not over done and wasn't at all fatty or greasy.
- Food and Dining
Asmara: Break-away cuisine
I decided to go to Asmara because I was rather intrigued by what the difference would be between Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. I had read an article in the NYT Magazine about Eritrea and it seemed to me like there would be more fish and a bit of a heavier Italian influence. Asmara, however, appears to have capitalized on the popularity of Ethiopian food and overcome the bitterness of the long Eritrean struggle to sell the cuisine to Bostonians. The menu was largely indistinguishable from one at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, although there was a larger selection of dishes - perhaps just the stews were Ethiopian and the rest was Eritrean. This restaurant, like all other restaurants in the Cambridge core, is popular with students, and the decor is standard for all Horn of Africa restaurants: low straw tables with rims, straw chairs, dozens of posters of smiling people and the coffee ceremony. The staff was friendly if a bit inattentive, and the food came quickly.
Favorite Dish: I had sharo watt, which is a stew made from chick peas. The stew was quite good, the injera was fresh and, unlike other restaurants, the salad was not soggy. Everything was incredibly spicy, but nothing was overly memorable in terms of the taste or the quality of the meat.
- Food and Dining
The Similans: Great Thai Food!
I have to admit that the reason I came to the Similans was because I didn't get into Herat*, the Afghan restaurant a few doors down that is extremely popular. It's not that this restaurant didn't look inviting or that the food was expensive or mundane, but it's just that Thai restaurants are a ubiquitous in North America and I wanted to really have the opportunity to try something new. In any case, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Similans. The restaurant is popular with the University crowd, but as a "fine dining" type of establishment, not as a student diner. The food is reasonably priced, all the more so given that you are likely to black out from over consumption if you order an appetizer and a main course. The portions, as in many American restaurants, are large, but the quality of the meat and vegetables does not suffer, and the sauces are far from store-bought. The wait staff, while quick and efficient, are still friendly and helpful, having found the right moment between when you've just finished your meal and when you start to want your next course or the bill, to come to your table.
Favorite Dish: I had the hot and sour soup as an appetizer and basil chicken as a main. Given that I frequently get this combination at other Thai restaurants, I can confidently claim that this was one of the best Thai meals I've ever had. The food was delicious and hot, and best of all the chicken was entirely white meat with no skin or grisle.
- Food and Dining
Sarku Japan: Good sushi in mall surroundings
Good eateries are usually far and between in typical American malls. The best bets for me have been sushi restaurants, as the food is fresh and there is no fat to speak of -- compared to other stalls deep frying everything, and having probably one third of fat in total.
Most of the times, mall sushi restaurants are ok, despite the sorry environment. Sometimes, they are downright awful, and other times, rarely, they are better than you would expect. Sarku Japan in CambridgeSide mall happens to be on the last category.
We enjoyed a fast dinner there, and the sushi was good; fresh and tasteful. It partially avoided the fusion syndrome, i.e. stuffing mayo to most of the entrees. The price was decent as well. The surroundings remind of any and all fast food chains, but you can always go outside to the small park with a pond -- if the weather allows.
California Pizza Kitchen: Hearty pizzas and okay pastas
When travelling with children, one starts to appreciate restaurants that provide easy and tasty food, fast service, and some small items for the younger ones to kill the waiting time. California Pizza Kitchen, a chain of pizza restaurants around the United States, provides all that -- and with decent prices.
As name implies, the focus is on pizzas. And they are not the usual fatty fare found in every corner, but imaginative and delicious combinations of usual and not so usual ingredients. They serve also other Italian style food -- Americanised, of course, but still quite good -- such as pastas, salads, soups, and sandwiches.
- Family Travel
Upstairs on the Square: The Cutest Restaurant on Earth!
Located in a Harvard University clubhouse, this has got to be the cutest place I've ever had dinner. Walls are painted in different hues of pink, gold, red and bright green with carpets and floors both covered with animal prints. And, at the right time of the year like now, there's a gorgeous Christmas tree in The Monday Club room covered in pink and green lights. Just so pretty!
We ate in the Zebra Room which is a converted patio where the walls are a raspberry pink color. We had a view of the Christmas tree and were seated by a window. After dinner, we took a peek at the upstairs Soiree Room. It was beautiful in shades of a lighter pink and gold, but so quiet. The Monday Club/Zebra Room downstairs is the place to be in my opinion.
Favorite Dish: Here's the good news. Not only is the restaurant beautiful but the food was terrific! We went on New Year's Eve so there was a three course menu with 4 choices of each to choose from, plus an Amuse Bouche and a salad. The courses were just the right size so that we felt full but not stuffed, afterwards.
I had Cauliflower Soup with Caviar Cream, Half Grilled Lobster with Pasta Ravioli Buttons of Parsnip & Celeriac – Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Eggnog Custard with Nutmeg Shortbread Cookie & Whipped Cream for dessert. Everything was beautifully presented and delicious.
I highly recommend Upstairs on the Square for any special occasion or just for a great night out - especially if you love colors!
- Food and Dining
- Wine Tasting
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Mu Lan Taiwanese Restaurant: Best Taiwanese
Best Taiwanese restaurant. My experience is of July, 2008.
It could be very crowded even on a weekday evening, packed with people (99% Asian looking).
It is not a big restaurant, but very good food.
I had read reviews and people's recommendation before heading to the restaurant. It has an extensive menu with 153 dishes for the dinner (see photos)!
Tue - Thur & Sun: 11:00-21:30
Fri & Sat: 11:00 - 22:30
Favorite Dish: I had
-House Special Fish (N.60 on the menu): $14.95
The fish slices were stewed in hot and spicy broth with ginger and scallions.
Very tasty, fresh (you can tell from the fish flesh texture), and tender (many restaurants tend to overcook fish). I am not a fan of extremely hot and spicy food, but I can enjoy this dish well.
-Chinese Squash with Mountian Nagaimo and Bamboo (N. 141): $10.95
This is a vegetarian delight. The name may not reflect the ingredients correctly (see info at the bottom). It basically is a lightly stir fried dish with mainly green luffa squash, cream color net bearing dictyophora mushroom, white Japanese Nagaimo root slice (Chinese call it 'shan1 yao4 - mountain medicine), also with light brown straw mushroom and orange color carriots. Colorful, isn't it? It is all Chinese food about: taste, color/presentation, and aroma! A dish has to be appeal to one's eyes before to one's stomach!
I chatted with a couple next to my table, and we exchanged the dishes each had, so I also tasted Shredded Pork with Preserved Napa (No.76), which is a typical north-eastern Chinese dish. My next table neighbor was from north-eastern, he said was authentic, so you got the idea. The only difference I could tell was the dish I had from back in China was using a kind of wider/fatter bean noodle, but Mu Lan restaurant used vermicelli, a very thin kind. The tast was similar, except the texture.
Background info for certain ingredient:
Net bearing Dictyophora: http://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/two-gasteromycetes.html
Nagaimo root: htp://www.geocities.com/davidschow/foto2002/nagaimo.htm
Some of you may have seen the luffa sponge from beauty store. That was the old/dried luffa squash. When the squash is young and tender, one can make delicious dishes with it, stir fry, blanch then make salad, soup, stews etc etc.
Pu Pu Hot Pot: Interesting Menu
I only walked by this restaurant, did not have time to try.
The menu posted on the wall sounds interesting. I.e., it does not have only sweet and sour (then you pick pork, beef, or shrimp kind of thing).
See photos of menu.
The Legal Seafood Kendall Square: One of the top 10 seafood restaurants in USA
It was a great experience!
The deco is very interesting, with high ceilings. Very friendly and knowledged staff.
Food was fantastic!
The paper placemat displays the history of this great restaurant, also you can learn them on line. Best meal I had during my 05June week long stay in Boston/Cambridge.
Favorite Dish: Everything on the menu sounds very interesting and great! You would wish that you could come back every day for all the missed dishes.
I had the Maryland crabcake combo ($23.95), and its award wining clam chowdA ($3.95)! :D The chowdA was served at every presidential inauguration sine 1981.
The crabcake combo cames with a big crabcake of lump meat, several grilled shrimp and scallop, with mixed green plus pine nuts. Delicious and appeal to the eyes!
Every penny is worth of it! Sample menu on its website.
Lega's New England Clam Chowder (Bowl) $5.95
This time it was not as great, the potato cubes were not even cooked through, clams were hard to chew, and the chowder tasted plain. Maybe I just had too high an expectation from last experience.
Lega's Signature Crab Cake appetizer $13.95
[Jumbo lump crab, mustard sauce, seasonal salad]
This is NOT the usual crabcake with lot of other stuff, it is CRAB cake, which is a pile of lump crab meat, not even necessarily form a cake shape which did not bother me a bit: it came with mixed green with toasted pine nuts. Delicious! If they ever want to play again, they could try some other interesting sauce instead of mustard.
Ponzu Glazed Black Cod appetizer $10.95
[Pickled shiitakes, red cabbage and wasabi cream]
The chef tried to have an Asian fusion thing with layers of flavors: Japanese wasabi, and soya sauce, but still nothing unusual. It was NOT that it did not taste good, it was just nothing unusual from a restaurant like Legal. You can tell it tried to get it artisitically presented, with green wasabi and red cabage, but the fish pieces themselves need to have more work.
Oleana: Locally Grown Food with a Middle Eastern Flair
It took us longer than it should have to make our first trip to Oleana, but now that we've started, we just can't stop!
The building is unassuming and really kind of blends in with all of the residential buildings around it. I have no doubt that we drove by it dozens of times without even noticing prior to our first visit. And even now, we have to really be alert to not miss it. The ambiance is bustling with tables really pretty packed in and wait staff buzzing around.
And, the food is absolutely fantastic! In the growing season, most of the produce, which tends to be quite unusual, comes from the chef's husband's farms. The recipes have a subtle Middle Eastern flair which is exotic with out taking away from the the high quality ingredients. I think it's safe to say that we haven't had a dish that we didn't enjoy, if not love!
Favorite Dish: Although we loved everything, our favorite dish on our recent trip was the spinach falafel appetizer. While it might sound ordinary, it was anything but! The falafel, which was incredibly moist, was served was a delicious sauce. The only problem was that we found ourselves bickering over who could have the last bite!
Leo's Place: Good Eats
This is a decent hole in the wall breakfast spot in the middle of Corp Amr. Its a remnant of the old 50's and 60's five and dime-sit at the counter diner. You will get that as soon as you walk in the door. For over twenty years its been owned and operated by a couple Armenian brothers, Raffi and Richie. Richie does all the cooking. Its mainly a breakfast deal but open for lunch and seems to be very popular with the local populace, cops and such. The food is quick, good and not over priced. These guys get many famous musicians and Hollywood types when there in town. The walls sport many photos to that fact. These guys love their old time rock, blues, and crooner tunes too. Sanatra to Springsteen. Just watch these fella's as they go about their work. Allot of swaying, bee bopping going on in here. Whether on a budget or not, I'm telling you, you can get a good deal on eats here.
Favorite Dish: There's not really a favorite dish I can pin point for you. Go a couple times and experiment. The menu is not a 'pick a number from the selection below' deal. Get what's there, mix-match or ask. I would not be suprised if Leo's ends up on Guy Fieri's Food Network shows.
Hi-Rise Bread Co.: Great place for lunch!
Hi-Rise Bread Co. is located on Brattle St., a short walk away from Harvard Square. We happened to walk passed it on our way to the Longfellow National Historic Site and decided to go back there for lunch. This little cafe is located in the Dexter Pratt House, also known as the Blacksmith House since it was immortalized as such by Longfellow in his poem "The Village Blacksmith". It is first and foremost a bakery, but on top of all the delicious baked goods you'll also find an interesting lunch menu. There's a wide selection of sandwiches, all made on freshly baked bread, and salads. You can eat inside or outside - inside offers a nice, 19th century school type of atmosphere, while outside there is a large sunny patio with just the right amount of shade. A great option if you're looking for a fresh, healthy lunch!
Favorite Dish: I ordered the chicken curry salad and it was delicious! It came to about $10 with my drink, which I thought at first was a bit much for a cafe, but it was so good and I was so stuffed when I finished it that it truly was worth the price.
Forest Cafe: Cheap, Tasty Tex-Mex
We have tried a number of Tex-Mex places in the Cambridge/Somerville, and Forest Cafe is one of our favorites. It has a varied menu, a good beer selection, and some fabulous margaritas. The best thing about Forest Cafe, too, is that the lines are much more manageable than at the more college-kid-oriented Border Cafe in Harvard Square. The food is better, too: all the usual suspects are available on the menu, but the sauces all seem to have an extra tang.
Favorite Dish: We've tried straight-up Tex-Mex fare, and been impressed by their enchiladas et al, but they also do some excellent mole sauces, and more fish than is usual in Mexican places in this area (the quality is good, too).
But really, before we ever opened a dinner menu, we were sold by the margaritas!
Cambridge Brewing Company: Food and Beer down MIT way
You may notice a trend with our restaurant suggestions...as a general rule, we seem to stray towards brew pubs. This is no exception, but still a wonderful place to stop for a pint and a bite to eat.
The Cambridge Brewing Company (or the CBC) is down in the One Kendall Square development, an effort to bring some entertainment to this otherwise very dull corner of Cambridge: Harvard has the Square and all that entails, but MIT lives up to its techie reputation with the thin array of places to go after dark. Given the location, however, the CBC can be surprisingly lively on a Saturday night: it's not a natural stop-off unless you're in the area, or unless, like us, you go for the beer!
It is certainly the place to be if you want some decent beer: the brewmaster has more experiments going than your average MIT professor, and he only serves up the ones that result in something special. For groups, we particularly enjoy the tall beer towers, from which customers could then serve themselves by means of a small tap at the bottom.
Favorite Dish: The sesame seared salmon was extremely tasty: lighter than a lot of menu items, and attractively presented.
Be sure to try a beer from the rotating menu, usually posted to the right of the bar. The permanent selections are quite good, but we tend to prefer the rotating options which usually contain some interesting choices...nice for variety.
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