Last night my husband, my parents and I went out for dinner at Sandrine’s – a French restaurant in Harvard Square. I haven’t seen my parents in a little while and the food was pretty good – it was as good a place as any to catch up with them but somehow I was left with not much to say about the actual restaurant. Do you ever go out to a nice place and think the food tastes good but somehow nothing is memorable? This was the case with my experience at Sandrine’s – as I was going back and forth about whether I should even write a review, I was trying to figure out what was missing. I think at the end it came down to the atmosphere and the service, something I’m sure the chef would hate to hear!
I was perfectly hungry for the meal (not starving to the point where I wanted to chew my arm off yet very much ready to eat!) so when the bread arrived, I dug right in.
It was a very crusty sliced baguette. Very crusty. It was sliced thick so it was hard to get to the soft middle. I felt my teeth were at jeopardy so I waited for our appetizer to arrive instead of fighting with the bread.
We ordered 3 different appetizers to share. This was a nice restaurant so Adam and I finally decided to try foie gras, and luckily there was a sampler on the menu. Perfect!
From left to right: foie gras mousse, foie gras terrine brulee, pate perigourdine with truffles – served with seckel pear gewurztraminer gelee & brandied cherries
I thought the quality of the fois gras was very good. It was rich, buttery, delicate and quite delicious. I’m glad we got to sample it in 3 different ways! Both Adam and I decided, however, that we will not be ordering it again. The inhumane treatment of the animals (due to the force-feeding to enlarge the liver) is something that just doesn’t sit well with me and I don’t think it’s even worth it (taste-wise, as a splurge). There are so many other delicious appetizers that I could enjoy without the high price tag or taxation on my conscience.
Moving on… traditional baked Alsatian escargots
The only time I’ve ever had escargot was at a Chinese restaurant where we actually had to pick the snails out of their shells. This was much more “user friendly,” served in a butter/garlic sauce. My parents have had escargot served in this fashion, and said this wouldn’t rank highly compared to other restaurants’. I found them to be a bit too salty and greasy but overall enjoyed the taste.
For our final appetizer selection, we chose the moules au saffran – mussels steamed in a saffron broth
The mussels originally came out with onions and we quickly had to send it back. I guess there was a misunderstanding about this issue. Normally not a big deal, but I felt that the waitress should have been more apologetic. Everyone at the table heard me say that none of the food should have onions, scallion or shallots (she thought I just meant my entree). I felt very high maintenance at this point, and I don’t like feeling like that (and btw, I don’t think I asked for much!).
Once the onion-free version arrived, this was my favorite appetizer! Light yet flavorful. The previously hard bread was perfect for dipping in the broth. Delicious! 😀
For my entree I chose the terre et mer – pan seared Long Island duck breast with mashed potatoes, spicy blue water prawns on a chiffonade of spinach and pomegranate raspberry vinegar reduction
The duck was perfectly cooked – so tender!
The sauce on the side was very flavorful and brought the dish to life!
Duck smothered in pomegranate reduction…
The prawns, however, were raw on the inside!! I have never seen uncooked prawns served anywhere. The texture was squishy and not pleasing and I wasn’t even sure if it was safe to eat. Unfortunately our waitress did not check up on us at all during the duration of this course, so I sat there waiting for her to address this until it was basically too late. She came back to pick up our plates. I asked her about the undercooked shrimp; she noted that the chef cooks them very lightly and that the shrimp is previously marinaded in lemon so it was safe to eat… then she took away my plate. I wasn’t happy that she didn’t offer to do something about it or at least gave me the chance to eat it after all, since I now knew I wasn’t going to get food poisoning. I wasn’t very impressed with her and the service staff in general (they were polite but not particularly attentive).
Luckily dessert was flawless. You guys know dessert is usually my favorite part of the meal so I was happy to at least end dinner on a positive note. I ordered, what else, a warm chocolate cake with ice cream – specifically the chocolate kougelhopf with caramel coulis, vanilla ice cream and chocolate ganache.
Perfection! Amazingly chocolaty, warm and dense, paired nicely with the cool ice cream. This was a large portion (yeah!) so Adam and I shared it. I was finally a happy camper 😀
I also tried a bite of my mom’s profiteroles with hazelnut ice cream and chocolate ganache and really liked it!
I may now have to make hazelnut ice cream with my new toy 😉
This dinner for four at Sandrine’s was over $300 with tip (my dad still tipped very generously) and I think I would have rather spent that money elsewhere. Thanks mom and dad for taking us out!! There were a few highlights and I’m glad we tried some new things 😀
Do little mishaps while dining out bother you or do you let them slide? I expect perfection and get disappointed when that’s not the case. A really good server or a particularly fun atmosphere sometimes helps me get over it 😀
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