Last night, Adam and I continued to celebrate a wonderful Valentine’s day weekend with a dinner at Chez Henri. According to the Company’s website, Chez Henri is a modern French bistro with a Cuban twist. The restaurant is on many of Boston’s “most romantic” lists. We were going to originally go to L’Espalier (have been dying to try the restaurant and this seemed like a special enough occasion) but their special Valentine’s day pre-fixe was nearly $185/person. Nevermind…
I am telling you this, because upon arrival at Chez Henri we were surprised (and annoyed) to find out that they also had a special Valentine’s day menu. And you guessed it, it was more expensive!! I saw Adam started to sweat a little after that. Way to screw unsuspecting guys trying to impress their dates on this day of love, Chez Henri! I told him I don’t mind if we just pay for the dinner out of our joint account. He calmed down a bit after that. I saw a couple next to us that went through a similar shock upon being seated (there is no mention of the regular menu being unavailable on Valentine’s day on the restaurant’s website) and they clearly struggled with these price tags. Not cool, not cool. This is why we usually stay in on Valentine’s day and cook a special meal together (wasn’t an option this year, but we’ll resume this tradition in 2011). All right, so enough about this unpleasant unexpected twist. Let’s get to the atmosphere, the food, the service, and the whole experience after that.
This was our first time at Chez Henri. I think it’s hard to define “romantic” because everyone I am sure has a different idea of what that is. To me, the restaurant must have dim lighting, be small (i.e. cozy) with maybe some candles as part of the decor. The lights were definitely dim at Chez Henri but it didn’t scream romantic to me. The lights were really colorful (trying to be fun with that Cuban twist?) and that is not my idea of romantic. I wish I took a picture of it so you don’t think I’m a crazy person but the dim lights in fact do not lend themselves to good photos.
Despite a special Valentine’s Day menu, everything sounded delicious. Adam missed out on the french onion soup but the arugula salad caught his eye. It caught my eye as well, but since we always try to order different things so we can try each others’, I attempted to order the tuna tartar (nope – onions in the mix), then the mushroom soup (also had onions)… In fact, everything except for the arugula salad had onions!! It seemed to me that because it was Valentine’s day the chef was also going to be somewhat inflexible. Our waitress was extremely sweet but she pretty much gave me one option for a starter. There was no: “We can take onions out of this or that”… nope, I was “forced” to get the arugula salad. Good thing it sounded good to me already 😀
Before our starters arrived, we were served some warm and hearty multi-grain bread with butter. It was really good – very nutty. Adam and I both loved it. I had one slice.
We also ordered a bottle of Cotturi Sandocino cabernet. It was a little too sweet for my taste but I still enjoyed it with the meal. I probably had about 2 glasses.
Arugula salad with duck confit, shaved beets, peppered anjou pear and cabrales cheese
The salad was great! It was really well balanced – I love arugula with citrusy dressings and it paired well with the roasted beets, sweet pear wedges and the duck. I don’t like blue cheese so I took that off my plate right away and the radicchio was way too bitter. Regardless, Adam and I both got the salad and thought it was a great starter – nothing too out of the box or extraordinary but well executed.
For my main course I went with the tuna au poivre, syrah reduction, creamer potatoes with smoke braised pork belly tossed with kale. The waitress highly recommended this dish (and the lobster pasta) and said it was one of the lighter options. Still a good amount of oil/butter on it but it didn’t seem greasy.
This dish was once again really well executed. The tuna was perfectly cooked, the potatoes were delicious, the kale was the best! I really could taste the pork belly “juices.” I wish there was more kale! 😀
I enjoyed my entree, but once again thought it was nothing special compared to other meals I’ve had in other restaurants. It was very traditional – I was looking for the advertised Cuban twist. Not so much. Adam’s wood grilled filet mignon with potato gratin dish was out of this world though! Incredible, in fact!! There were copious amounts of butter but it was all worth it. That is a meal we would come back for, even at Valentine’s day prices.
No worries, there was one more course (my favorite) to wow us. I needed a chocolate cake. Yes, needed. 😉
Boca negra with cava macerated strawberries
This was a small but very dense flourless chocolate cake. It was amazing. Super rich and perfectly balanced by the fresh (cava syrup sweetened) strawberries. The cacao nibs added a welcomed crunch and a tiny bit of bitterness. Very, very good. I love finishing meals on such a happy high note.
All in all, Adam and I enjoyed our Valentine’s Day dinner at Chez Henri. I wished the menu was a little more inspired but perhaps majority of customers crave more traditional fare on Valentine’s Day. The only real downside was the inflated prices but some wine, yummy food and love in the air helped us get over it. I would say this should be a a big no-no for restaurants, though (a warming should suffice so customers know what they’re getting themselves into)! We may be back to Chez Henri for a taste of their famous cuban sandwiches.