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Boston Area Cambridge

Upstairs on the Square, Harvard Sq, Cambridge (long)

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Upstairs on the Square, Harvard Sq, Cambridge (long)

Limster | Dec 10, 2002 11:56 PM

Upstairs, they seem to take hospitality very seriously, right from the proprietor's warm greeting at the door (courteously opened by a doorman), to the gracious queries from the proprietress as she inquires about how dinner went during her rounds in the Soiree Dining room, and finally, to their farewells at the door. In between, professional and friendly waiters came by to ensure that things were fine, to warn of slight delays and to soothe with extra pouring of wine on the house when the delay is significant (I met with long waits for entree and dessert).

The other significant delight at the whimiscally pretty-in-the-pink Soiree Dining Room (the pricier, high end spot of Upstairs) was the cheese cart, an uncommon sight in the dining rooms of this country, even though they're ubiquitous in France. The selection was modest (a dozen or so cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen) compared to the grand dining rooms of France, but it is well chosen, to the credit of one of the knowledgable senior waiters who is responsible for the cart. (He said that he had the same role previously at No. 9 Park.)

The cart rolled up tableside right after the entree. The epoisses wasn't ripe enough, and so the waiter steered me toward two fabulous cheeses. First, a runny goat cheese from the pyrenees, slightly nutty with a moderate barnyard pungence, a creamy liquid pleasure. Then a salty firmer cow's milk cheese that reminded me ever so slightly of salted preserved fish or anchovies. I also selected a mildly nutty triple cream cow's milk cheese (so happens it's from outside of Paris) with an appropriately luxurious mouthfeel.

The rest of the meal was faultless and enjoyable. Stewed oysters had their pleasant briniess rounded by a milky soup to which biscuity contrast could be added with peppered crackers served on the side. But the best part of this appetizer was the tiny fresh water chestnut-like crunch from a generous sprinkle of chives, each bite a bit of springtime that brighteneds up this wintry dish.

The livery squab breast still betrayed a juicy blush, while a lighter chirpier succulence was found in the thighs, all dressed with an arc of dark reduction sauce. In the accompanying stuffing were chestnuts; but they weren't as prominent or as soft as I would have liked. I did like the potatoes, cut into tiny dice and slightly crisp on the outside.

A flight of three petite creams for dessert. A satisfying vanilla creme brulee, a smooth lightly gelatined coffee pot de creme spiced lovingly with cardamom, and a cold chocolate mousse of some sort that balanced sharp chill with velvet. Simple shortbread for textural accompaniment.

Besides wine by the glass, they also serve wines by the taste (3oz), an opportunity for sampling. A sparkling brut from somewhere in MA(!) -- can't remember where -- was surprisingly friendly with delicate bubbles. A musky tannic barolo did fine with the squab but only opened truly and sweetly during the cheese course.

It was a good albetit expensive meal. Appetizers hovered slightly above $10, while entrees weight in around mid-$20s to $30. The cheese indulgence was $13 (and worthwhile -- compare this with the borderline decent $14 cheese plate from Mantra). Dessert was $9, satisfying for a something rather work intensive.

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