There are a few occasions every year that have me bursting with joy: my birthday, the Super Bowl and Restaurant Week. Yesterday officially began the winter 2011 cycle of Restaurant Week in Boston and tonight I had my first reservation (of the four I have planned).
Each cycle of Restaurant Week, for the last six cycles, I have had dinner with two girlfriends. We wear our pearls and head to a place none of us have tried before. Tonight we selected Temple Bar on Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge, just beyond Porter Square. I have walked past Temple Bar literally hundreds of times and I have always wanted to go in and check it out.
The first thing I noticed about Temple Bar was its sign for free, off street parking behind the restaurant! Jackpot! I got the very last space in the narrow lot, saving me from circling around and around Mass Ave looking for a metered spot.
I opened the door to the restaurant and immediately fell in love. The exposed brick walls, the beautiful light fixtures, the huge wood framed mirrors, the long, beautiful bar and the intimate leather booths created quite an atmosphere.
The front of the restaurant boasts floor to ceiling windows with great views of the street.
The beer and wine specials are scribbled in chalk on a huge blackboard that hangs at the front of the restaurant. I ordered a glass of the Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorites.
We were handed menus which included a special insert for Restaurant Week and a vegetarian prix fixe menu! I have never seen such a thing! I would go back just to try that!
Though one of the girls ordered the three course Restaurant Week option, the rest of us decided to order off the traditional menu. The options were so superb we had to stray from the special!
While we waited for our appetizers our waitress brought a basket of bread with three different kinds of bread. Nothing to write home about.
To start, we had the bistro salad which included frisee, radicchio, asparagus and a red wine poached egg.
We also ordered the vegetarian charcuterie. Please pause to process what I just said. A normal charcuterie includes several kinds of meats and a few cheeses. I have never seen a vegetarian one! Rejoice! This platter was incredibly delicious, especially the meyer lemon edamame, the pequillo pepper hummus and the polenta. Oh, the polenta.
For dinner we sampled the black pepper tagliatelle with caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, braised swiss chard and black truffle sauce. The dish got a rave review, minus the bitter tasting swiss chard.
We also tested out the seared chicken breast which came over a bed of sweet potato gnocchi and was garnished with swiss chard. They really seem to like swiss chard.
I ordered the white truffle pizza. Not because I love truffle, but because it came topped with avocado. In fact, the pizza was topped with avocado, red and yellow tomatoes, arugula and the sweetest aged balsamic. It was super delicious and I was able to take more than half home for lunch tomorrow!
Finally, the dessert course! We tried the fudge brownie with peanutbutter and milk chocolate ganache, which also came with peanut brittle and white chocolate liquor whipped cream. The brownie was so dense! Not even the world's biggest sweet tooth could have finished that brownie.
We also ordered the white chocolate cherry cheesecake. It came in a very non-traditional presentation. The cheesecake was light, had a buttery, graham cracker crust and was packed with cherries! Yum yum yum!
There are so many things to love about Temple Bar: free parking, a beautiful restaurant and fantastic food. However, our service tonight was less than ideal. We waited an hour and a half for our entrees to arrive at the table. A table could come and go in the amount of time it took for us to see our plates. Additionally, all around us, people who were seated after us were receiving their food before we did. Our waitress was not at all apologetic. She didn't provide any explanation or apologize for the delay.
Given all the positives, I would still return to Temple Bar. I'd just be sure to ask for the manager should the wait time start to approach the hour mark again.