Sandrine’s in Cambridge – restaurant review

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The duck was perfectly cooked – so tender!

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The sauce on the side was very flavorful and brought the dish to life!

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Duck smothered in pomegranate reduction…

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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.

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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!

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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 😀

Check out my Restaurant Reviews page for other reviews :mrgreen:

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12 comments to Sandrine’s in Cambridge – restaurant review

  • At least dessert was great!!

  • Tiffany

    So disappointing. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy such a decadent meal to it’s greatest potential.

    Fortunately there are no shortages of great meals to be had in this city! :)

  • Carly

    I typically let the mishaps slide, as long as they aren’t TOO big. My husband is a restaurant chef, and I have served for years. (Teacher with summers off = still have to work and stay busy). However, there are definitely times that I’m not forgiving. The other night we went out and I think we saw our server about 2 times, and the manager and hostess were actually the ones taking better care of us. So, completely unlike our usually tipping, we gave her about 10% (we are 25-30% tippers), and we gave the hostess about 10% as well since she kept our table nice and clean. We also mentioned to the manager that we didn’t appreciate her lack of attention to us.

    On a positive note, at least your dessert was FABULOUS!!! But its hard to go wrong with chocolate and ice cream – at least no onions can slip in there :)

  • Poo poo on them not making your order the way you asked. If I go out for fine dining, then I expect things to be done right, not so much at a regular joint.

    I received my stevia from the giveaway! I’m excited to try the stuff out. Thanks again!

  • I think for me it depends on the mishaps- but generally they annoy me. I am a very nice tipper, and I like to be treated accordingly (not that they necessarily know what I am going to tip haha). Thanks for the review though, I go to Cambridge a lot so it’s good to know about new restaurants there…

  • Wow, that is quite a decadent looking feast! But if it didn’t knock your socks off, sometimes it’s the fact that you can’t taste the “love” in the food.
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  • I think that if you paid $300 + for dinner, you should have totally said something to the waiter or at least asked to talk to a manager because they are making money so they should at least make the food and evening enjoyable!!

  • aaww Im sorry it wasn’t totally up to par. It stinks when you are expecting awesomness esp. from a very upscale looking restaurant and it fails to deliver. Its good you spoke up though, although its sad the server didn’t help out in any way. Great review though btw, I love your attention to detail.

  • Too bad about the prawns…the restaurant looks like it had so much potential for an excellent dining experience! Bummer. The duck really does look good.
    Wow, your first experience with snails sounds authentic! You are very brave…I’ve never tried them!

  • I totally feel like the atmosphere and service are the majority of the experience. Not great food can totally make it bad but if the service isn’t good then that just makes it terrible!

  • Elina

    Carly – what a great idea to tip the hostess! She clearly was the only one who deserved a tip. I used to wait tables as well, so I know how important tips are and what mishaps are the server’s responsibility to fix and what is completely out of their control (and thus should not impact their tip). My dad still tipped over 20%. I wouldn’t have.

    Lindsay – it wasn’t “that bad” – I don’t think it really deserved a talk with the manager (the waitress wasn’t rude or anything), but of course I write here my honest opinion about the restaurant and the whole experience overall, and clearly it wasn’t stellar.

    Chrysta – thanks! Check out my Restaurant Reviews page if you want to read more reviews 😀 I’m still updating it but it should keep you busy for a while 😆

    Lara – hehe, yeah – pretty authentic. They were yummy!

  • I would be afraid to complain about a $300 dinner! I can’t imagine spending that much on one meal.

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