Alsace is a small region in northeastern France adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the region itself changed hands between France and Germany four times within a 75-year period. It stayed with France until World War II, when Germany again annexed the region. It wasn’t until after the war that France got it back.
As a natural result, Alsace is dominated by a mix of German and French influences, which makes for an interesting cuisine as well.
Sandrine’s Bistro in Harvard Square is the only Alsatian restaurant of which I am aware in the Boston area. They serve several types of traditional Alsatian dishes, such as the classic tarte flambée (flammekueche) and the choucroute garnie (dressed sauerkraut). It had been three years since we had last visited the place, so we thought it might be a good idea to visit again.
I was tickled to find out (after the fact) that we had ordered almost the exact same dishes three years ago. I guess sometimes people just don’t change. Here’s an updated summary of our second experience there (this time with photos!).
Tarte Flambée (Flammekueche)
Mushroom Gratinee – caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese ($12)
The traditional tarte flambée is made with creme fraiche, onions, and lardons. Of course, you can get many different variations, such as the one we got, which had mushrooms and Swiss cheese. I really enjoyed this light, thin-crust “pizza.” The crust is so thin it’s almost like eating off of a cracker. The flavors of the toppings were nice and overall it was a very enjoyable appetizer.
Apple and Gorgonzola Salade
mesclun greens, spicy cashews, Port wine vinaigrette – $12
This salad was solid with the nice classic combination of spinach, gorgonzola, and apple slices. Though it was pretty good, I like the version at Emma’s (Fling Salad) better.
Maine Lobster Risotto mushroom & peas, cognac lobster sauce $29
This rich lobster risotto is arguably an Italian dish, but it came highly recommended so I decided to order it. It’s quite rich and the amount of lobster that they give you is generous. There was a particular spice in the dish that I did not like, but I cannot pick it out. Bryan really liked it.
Thyme & Rosemary Marinated Rack of Lamb
roasted fingerling potatoes, ratatouille, au jus $27
Bryan’s rack of lamb was overcooked the first time he received it (the picture above shows what he got when he ordered his meat “rare”). He sent the dish back and the second one we got was perfect.
The service was excellent despite the kitchen mistake on the lamb. The waiter gave us some complimentary sorbet to make up for the lamb dish. We actually loved the sorbets (mango, raspberry, and pineapple). Each one had bright and very real fruit flavors. What a great way to end the meal.
I like how the owners of Sandrine’s really try to express their regional roots in the menu. It’s not everyday you get to try authentic Alsatian food right in the middle of New England. The food here is interesting and pretty good. Definitely try a Tarte Flambée (Flammekueche) – they’re kind of fun.
The ambiance is warm and inviting and the service is excellent. It’s not a bad place to go if you are in the neighborhood.
If you do come, though, I would come to experience it for its unique cuisine, not necessarily for its amazing French food. The food is fine, but for the prices that you’ll pay, you may find better French food elsewhere.
8 Holyoke St
Cambridge, MA 02138
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