Last week I had the opportunity to dine at Nubar, a new restaurant located inside the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Harvard Square. My friend Hannah was in town for a day and I was excited to have her try out a new restaurant with me. Hannah is a fellow foodie as well as former farmer. Hannah, I have to mention, also has celiac disease, and the staff could not have more attentive in informing us about the ingredients in each dish.
Hannah began with the spring dug parsnip soup with garlic chips, which was rich and velvety. Spring dug parsnips are sweeter and less earthy-tasting than the more common winter-harvested roots. They are left in the ground through the winter and many of the starches break down into sugars. The soup was sweet, and fragrant from the garlic and spices.
I chose two starters: the first being the meze plate with grilled flatbread, herbed ricotta, eggplant salsa, lentil and bulgur dip, olive salad, and pickled peppers. I was most drawn to this dish by the ricotta and the lentil and bulgur dip. Each meze was set between strips of soft and chewy flatbread with a charred outside. The ricotta was creamy and not at all grainy. It was heavily seasoned with a mix of lemony and floral herbs. The lentil and bulgur dip was hearty and rich tasting. I liked the pickled peppers more than I thought I would. The tangy, crunchy mixture played nicely against the richer and creamier meze.
I was most excited about my second appetizer: asparagus, golden beet and goat cheese salad with watercress, toasted walnuts, pickled ramps and vin cotto. This dish resembled a foraged spring harvest on a plate. It was a tangle of dark, crunchy greens and tangy ramps punctuated by walnuts and tender beets. The goat cheese and vin cotto added a rich finishing touch.
Hannah ordered the Mediterranean vegetable gratin with porcini broth and thyme. I’m usually not a fan of gratins, but after trying this one I wished I’d ordered it my self. It was not swimming in cheese and cream like a gratin often is. It had thin, tender slices of squash, potatoes, red pepper, eggplant and more, baked with just a thin layer of cheese on top. The porcini broth provided a flavorful sauce, an alternative to loads of cheese, and a pile sunflower sprouts were a light and crunchy finish.
Served with a side of truffle fries.
I ordered the black olive, herbed ricotta topped flatbread with dressed arugula, once again, because of the ricotta. While it ended up having much less ricotta than I hoped, it had far more arugula, which was a pleasant surprise. The flatbread was crispy on the edges and thicker and chewier towards the middle. A thick layer of chopped kalamata olives coated the crust. The heap of vinegar-y greens was luscious against the salty olives and crispy flatbread.
Of course, we performed the rightful duty of conquering the dessert menu.
The great thing was that three out of the four desserts just happen to be gluten-free. We decided to split the Flourless Chocolate Espresso Torta. I almost didn’t get this because flourless chocolate cakes rarely thrill me, but I am so glad I did. It was fluffy and and almost pudding-like, not dense. The touch of espresso flavor was delightful, just enough to brighten the intense chocolatey-ness.
Hannah ordered the lemon panna cotta with rhubarb compote and almond cornmeal cookies. Our server kindly brought the cookies on a separate plate since they were the one component that did contain gluten. The flavors in this were unparalleled. The panna cotta was silky and had a bright lemon flavor without being acidic. It paired beautifully with the tart and juicy rhubarb compote. I chose the mixed berry trifle. Of the three desserts, this was my least favorite. The stewed berries, of which there were a lot, with the whipped cream were delicious and would have been sufficient on their own. The cake (or bread?) that was layered in between the berries became too soggy from the berry juices and I ended up pushing it aside.
The atmosphere inside Nubar tends toward lounge-y, yet comfortable, with low lighting and big, cushy chairs. The menu offered a good amount of variety without being overwhelming. Some of my favorites were the dishes that featured spring produce: parsnips, ramps, rhubarb. The most notable part of the evening, aside from the food, was the service. Our server, Addy, was patient and more than happy to check with the kitchen multiple times when it came time to sorting out which dishes were gluten-free. Overall a lovely dining experience and I look forward to seeing more seasonal additions to the menu come summertime.
16 Garden Street