Friday, May 28, 2010

mes amies, chez henri

The service in the bar at Chez Henri tonight was really off, which is a massive letdown. Yes, today was Commencement, but unless one has a particularly progressive parental relationship, the bar at Chez Henri is not where one celebrates such an event, so it wasn't due to excessive celebratory crowds. On a Thursday night, though, there's no reason there should have been only one bartender in charge of the bar and the tables, particularly when every seat was filled and they were three-deep at the bar; we waited long enough for someone to take our cards that Godot could have shown up first and we'd have been less surprised. That said, I'm still glad that I dragged my girlfriends there for our first girls' night out of Reunion weekend. They all lived in the Quad but never went to CH in college; I, on the other hand, found every excuse I could to eat in the bar there both during school and after, when I lived right up the street.

And on that front, Chez Henri did not disappoint. The Rhum Cocktail Marilene, 8 Year Old Haitian Rum, Muddled Lime & Angostura Bitters Shaken & Served on Ice (all cocktails $9) is new since I was last there (in...2006? 2007? Eep) and a fantastic way to start the evening (especially since yesterday's CF of a workday and nine-hour drive did not end with a drink). The Periodista, Triple Sec, Apricot Brandy, Rum, Lime Juice, Shaken and Served with a Twist of Lime also stood the test of time. After that, the girls and I moved to a bottle of rosé on special, and were more than well served. (In fact, one of our foursome arrived late, having had to wait for her babysitter (read: husband) to get home, and when her water didn't arrive in a timely fashion, was comped her glass of wine, totally unnecessarily -- it was a grand gesture.)

We also managed to sample the Chicken Empanadas ($7) and Vegetable Pinchos ($8) to start. The pinchos were skewers of grilled okra, red onion, red bell pepper, mushroom, and squash, with a dressing halfway between crema and tzatziki -- and were delicious (thank goodness for the okra, which I love). The empanadas are three small, but perfectly executed, examples to a plate, with a mango-black bean salsa and a salsa fresca to accompany. I had to have my truly beloved Duck Tamale on Spinach Salad, Warm Bacon and Mustard Dressing ($11). This is one of my favorite dishes of all time -- actually the first dish I ate when I last returned from France, because nothing else would bridge the gap from the food in Paris to back home in Portland, ME, at the time. Big chunks of crispy/fatty bacon and a spicy dressing set off the confit of duck packed into the soft masa ... OK, I kind of want to go back and have it again tomorrow. The Grilled Homemade Chorizo over scallion mashed potato ($8) was another star of the evening. I'm kind of just sad we didn't make it to the conch fritters.

Yes, we were crammed into the door corner all night long and the service was ridiculously off-kilter (we easily would have gotten another round if anyone had asked instead of just dropping our check after clearing our plates, and we had to ask several times for forks for our main course rounds after the first ones were cleared with the apps), but I will come back to Chez Henri for their drinks and that freaking amazing duck tamale as long as I'm able to visit Harvard Square ... and I hope that will be for a good, long time.

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