In all the years that we lived in Somerville, we never ventured out to eat at Chez Henri in Cambridge. I guess I had always pictured it as one of those restaurants that you would go to for a very special occasion, plus I have to admit that being a French restaurant with a Cuban twist kind of threw me off in terms of possible food allergy issues (read: I didn’t want to be a nightmare customer asking a million questions about the menu items). So we finally decided to try it out a couple of weeks ago for what I think is a rather special occasion (although he will completely disagree with me and would prefer to ignore the day): to celebrate my husband’s birthday this year. It was a week and half before the actual date but it was a good reason to go nonetheless.
After asking a couple of questions about ingredients I decided to order the Panko breaded cotelettes of Quebec veal over an escarole salad of marinated summer mushrooms and artichokes with roasted baby yukon gold potatoes. I very rarely order or eat veal so I don’t have many experiences to compare it to, but I will say that it tasted good. I don’t think the breading was very well done on this dish because it sort of slipped right off the cutlets, and wasn’t very crispy at all. The salad was tasty though, and I liked the large pieces of mushrooms in it.
Tony had the red snapper filet steamed in a banana leaf with coconut rice and shrimp-mango escabeche and said that it was good. I didn’t dare try any of his since there were bell peppers all over it, but I have to say presentation wise that his dish was musch prettier and colorful than mine. The fish was tender and moist from being cooked in the banana leaf.
And finally, to really celebrate the occasion, we decided to share the double chocolate espresso cake with whipped walnut crème dessert. They brought it out with a little candle on top and I could just see the irritation in my husband’s face (sorry honey!). It was quite delicious and quickly disappeared from the plate.
One quick note of thanks to our waiter that evening – they had a tres leches dessert on the menu that I originally wanted to order (I love tres leches cake but you rarely see it on a menu). But after I asked if it came with anything like raspberries or strawberries on top or as a garnish, he wanted to check with the kitchen. He came back to say that they weren’t sure if there was anything like pineapple juice in the dessert because they occasionally make it with it, and that the owner was unreachable on his cell phone in order for them to verify if this batch had it or not. I totally appreciated the fact that he tried to call the owner to ask him that at all (if he would’ve just told me that they were unsure that would’ve been enough reason for us to get the chocolate cake!), and that he was super cautious and concerned about my allergy problem.
Overall our dining experience at Chez Henri was nice, nothing spectacular. The decor could use a little bit of updating so we were glad to hear our waiter say that the restaurant plans to close for a week or so to do a bunch of renovations and repairs in the very near future. The dining room area is bigger than what it seems like from the outside so I could picture a small group of people fitting in comfortably. I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to take really small children or babies as some of the seating is the Paris-esque style of elbow-to-elbow (nearly, a little more space in between tables).
1 Shephard Street