Thursday, August 16, 2007

Julia's Henrietta's

Our second installment of restaurant week outings brings us to lunch at Henrietta's Table, which was one of Julia Childs' favorite restaurants. After all, she only lived a few blocks away. The hold on her was perhaps all of the fresh, local artisan foods and ingredients used, right down to the cheese and butter. It was interesting that this was the second stop as it was almost the complete opposite of OM. From the moment you cross the threshold you get the feeling of bounty, a country estate, a fruitful harvest and the food is amazing. It is no wonder so many celebrities, including former President Bill Clinton, always choose to stay at the Charles Hotel, tucked neatly beside the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, when visiting Boston.

The ambiance here is casual, neither pretentious nor artsy and there's not a designer label in the place being shown off. Here it is all about the food. The space is large and airy with outside dining available although we chose to eat indoors. The Boston Foodie has never been a real fan of outdoor restaurant dining-one too many flies have ruined a meal. One of the great things I also want to add is that during restaurant week many eateries choose to offer a prix fixe meal on a set menu. Some people feel it is sort of a pared down, cheaper version of the usual fare and in some spots I am sure that is a valid point. At Henrietta's Table, however, there is none of that. You order your three courses of the regular menu, just like all the time. The only difference is that during Restaurant Week you pay the special price of $20.07 for lunch and $30.07 for dinner. That makes it one of the best values available during Restaurant Week (now actually two weeks) in Boston.

Our first course was the melon gazpacho, which was dazzling. Incredibly light without being watery, sweet but in no way artificially so, to say that this was an ambrosia unlike anything I've ever had before would not be a misstatement. It was heaven in a bowl. I have never had a more satisfying soup, chilled or warm, in my entire life. What a thrilling introduction. Absolutely fantastic, refreshing take on a gazpacho and perfect for Summer.

Our next course was the grilled chicken salad, a hearty wooden bowl of chopped, grilled chicken with creamy dressing, grapes and walnuts served on a bed of fresh greens. The ingredients were ultra fresh, the grapes perfectly sweet, the dressing well made but the chicken itself was surprisingly dull. I was expecting much more of a burst of chicken flavor that just wasn't there. Perhaps it would have been better served with warm chicken, hot off the grill, and more of a vinaigrette than a creamy dressing. The way it was, however, the meat could have been turkey for all I knew.

For dessert it was chocolate bread pudding with carmelized banana and vanilla bean ice cream. Generous and rich is the only way to describe it with a dense chocolate intensity cut beautifully by the ice cream, the fresh banana in a perfect caramel sauce only taking it to a higher level.

The service was very attentive and professional. The restaurant was not crowded for lunch, mostly with business diners, and it is the height of vacation season. Overall it was a beautiful lunch for a spectacular Summer afternoon

Henrietta's Table
One Bennet Street
Cambridge, MA

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