Every once in a while Jerry and I torture ourselves and drive into Cambridge on a Friday night. Tonight was one of those nights but when you are rewarded with a meal like the one we experienced tonight, it makes the trek worth while!
Tonight we ventured into Harvard Square to Les Sablons a French restaurant located on Bennet Street across from the Charles Hotel in the old Conductor’s Building. No valet parking but there are a couple of parking garages near by. The building itself was constructed by The BERy (Boston Elevated Railroad) to serve as the headquarters for its 7th division. It is a narrow two-story brick building – 144 feet long by just 20 feet wide.
You will have to look hard for the restaurant itself – the signage is discreet to say the least (but now that you know it is an old skinny building you should be able to pick it out). You enter the building on the first floor, home to its wine bar. The maître d’ station was on this floor with several people ready to help us. We were 20 minutes late for our reservation but the staff didn’t bat an eye, they must be used to people fighting the traffic. After taking our coats, we were escorted upstairs to the main dining room where our table was waiting. As you can imagine, from the dimensions mentioned above, the diningroom was long and narrow. The bar situated on the right was made of marble. Both levels of the restaurant used smart dropped panels to lower the ceiling giving a more intimate feel. The subtle lighting complimented that feeling. As we walked in, we noticed a lovely pastel wall at the far end, as we got closer, the wall revealed itself as a display of different colored play-dough containers that formed a large frame around a picture of David Bowie. The dining room palette was clean and modern as was the background music.
Water – sparkling or still – were brought to the table, no extra charge for the bubbles. Hearty wheat rolls with essence of citrus were also brought to the table with a whipped butter made with goat’s milk. If you like goat’s cheese you will like this butter but if you are not a fan of goat’s milk this will not be your thing.
We started our meal with the Salmon Lox appetizer. This was served with deviled eggs – made more like a sauce than something you would pick up and eat- caviar, cress (an edible herb related to cressnut) and finely diced pickled red onion. The lox was sliced oh so thin. It was served with croutons that were light as air. The combination created a party in your mouth – light in textures but full of flavors.
For our main course I got the Persillade Cod served with du puy lentils (Du Puy lentils are the small, blue-green marbled lentil grown in the volcanic soil of the southwest of France) parsnip and lobster. The cod was cooked well and was moist and tasty. The bountiful lentils were delicious. This was served with lobster – a small scattering of mostly knuckles. This was a really tasty combination but left wanting a bit more lobster to accompany my lentils.
Jerry opted for the Braised Rabbit Ragout. I think he felt compelled to compare this to the other french restaurant we visited this month, Bastille. This rabbit was served with chanterelle mushrooms a slippery oyster type mushroom and quail egg raviolo; hint the quail egg is inside the raviolo. It was also accompanied by celeriac which is basically celery root cut into cubes. I tried Jerry’s rabbit in both restaurants and this one blew away Bastille. The other was somewhat mushy and needed the other things on the plate to complete the flavor but this rabbit could stand alone being moist, tender and full of flavor.
The service here was superior – attentive but not intruding. My water-glass never went empty, we never had to pick up the wine bottle to refill our glasses. More importantly, they didn’t clear the plates until we were both done. We never felt rushed.
For dessert we tried the Salted Honey Tart topped with fresh figs and coffee ice-cream. This was a delightful dessert with a perfect contrast of sweet from honey and figs and salty from sea salt. There was also something crunchy on this dessert but not sure what, perhaps hazel nuts? Whatever it was it was really good.
The wine menu was well stocked with varietals of all price ranges. This is a French restaurant so if you are drinking wine, be prepared to drink a French wine, they stayed true to their them.
Seating was pretty tight together and waiters had to be quite strategic in order to clear the table next to us without out giving us a faceful of butt! It would have been nice to have just a bit more space but I’ve experienced worse.
If you go here, give yourself extra time to walk the neighborhood. Harvard Square has lots of fun shops to go to and across the street from the restaurant in the Charles Hotel was a cool little wine bar called Noir that looked and sounded like it was bumping!
All in all a great night. The review Jerry read stated that if Julia Child was still alive, this is the place she would eat. I believe him! I would give Les Sablons 4 1/2 cheers!