Chez Henri Review

Jane Seo

"I'm too busy" is never a good excuse to skimp on exciting and delicious food escapades. In this new series, explore the culinary scene of Boston and Cambridge with Jane, your Crimson foodie who may be picky, but will still try anything on the plate at least once (except maybe chicken feet).

You would be immediately censured as shallow if you judged people based on their looks. But when it comes to food, looks matter. Prettier food just tastes better.

One such restaurant that focuses on the quality of presentation as well as the taste is Chez Henri, which offers a dynamic fusion of French and Cuban cuisine. Since it opened its doors in 1994, Chez Henri has received wide acclaim in the culinary world, having won several Best of Boston awards like "Best French Restaurant," "Best First Date Restaurant," and "Best Fusion."

Upon entering the restaurant, my dining partner and I were greeted by a hostess who seated us at a candle-lit table. Other than the dim lighting that made it hard for me to read the menu, the ambiance radiated warmth and comfort.

We were munching on slices of French bread when the waiter brought our entrees. Despite my aversion to cheese, I decided to get the Seared Ricotta & Semolina Dumplings ($24) because I was craving the chewy texture of dough. What surprised me the most about the dish was its stunning presentation. About a cup of gnocchi in the shape of mini marshmallows was placed on the center of a white rectangular plate over a purplish red puree of roasted beet and carrot. A sautéed medley of glazed broccoli, cauliflowers, summer squash, and carrots was served on the side to satisfy one of my daily servings of vegetables. The lightly seared ricotta sprinkled on top added light crispiness to the doughy dumplings.

My friend's entrée, Pan Roasted Long Island Duck Breast ($28), didn’t disappoint either. On top of the rhubarb ginger gastrique, or caramelized sugar sauce deglazed with vinegar, laid pre-cut slices of medium rare duck breast that were juicy without being too tough. A bed of citrus salad on the side with poached pear offered a little crunch from the arugula, while the mashed sweet potato found a perfect medium in texture between runny and coarse.

The presentation of food matters, but the food at Chez Henri would have tasted great even if I had been blindfolded.

Located on Shepard Street near the Quad, Chez Henri is open for dinner seven days a week and for Sunday brunch.