Date Night at Russell House Tavern
Last night I went out on a first date. We met online and only met in person last night, but it felt like we’ve known each other for months. We talked for hours, shared food, laughed a lot. Dinner was so fun, and I’m glad I chose the perfect restaurant.
I wanted a place with a comfy, cool, laid-back vibe – but not so laid back that it’s sloppy, and not so chic that it’s intimidating. So I suggested one of my very favorite places in Harvard Square, Russell House Tavern. I go here pretty regularly, it’s a good spot for after-work or after-class drinks, a good date night place or casual dinner, and I even spent New Year’s Eve here with Beth the Sailing Foodie and some other close friends (which was supremely fun, by the way). I really like the food and the cocktails bar scene, and everyone here just seems so… friendly. Plus I tweeted about it so if my date turns out to be pyscho and kills me (hi, Craiglist killer) it’ll be easy to track me down.
The dinner date turned out to be wonderful. And actually it wasn’t even a romantic date (heehee). It was a fellow blogger meet-up with one of my favorite chicks, Rachel from Healthy Chicks! Sorry friends but a real first date won’t get blogged about immediately ;)
Russell House Tavern is headed by Executive Chef Michael Scelfo and offers local, seasonal American food. It’s a gastropub, straddling the burger-or-pork-belly line between bar and restaurant, casual and high end, classic and modern. And while it fulfills all those labels, to me it is a classic neighborhood bistro – with its warm lighting, convenient location (literally just steps away from the Harvard Square T stop), and plenty of small plates and creative items conducive to sharing.
My number one go-to item on the menu is the Crispy Soft Poached Chip-In Farm Egg. (That, and the Torched Tuna appetizer, and I’ll call it a night.) If you will only learn one thing from this blog post, please remember this egg dish. Poached egg, crispy coating (not sure how they do it, maybe magic?), on top of a toasted brioche square and slivers of salad greens and onion, with house made pancetta and pecorino aioli. Yes, oh yes.
Did I really just use the word “magic” twice to describe a poached egg?
There’s something about the soft gooey yolk and its crispy exterior, and the toasted bread, salty pancetta crumbles, and the creamy, cheesy Pecorino aioli that makes me very satiated. I savor each salty bite slowly, enjoying the contrasting textures. I don’t even mind whispers of onion (I used to notoriously request “no onions” on everything but I’m slowly learning to appreciate it). It is a delightful dish, I tell you.
And it was even more delightful last night because our server, Bryce, actually just brought it out while we were taking our time deciding what to order and informed us it was on the house! It was such a sweet gesture and a pleasant surprise. We were also able to try one of the night’s specials on the house, the foie gras terrine:
For my entree, I ordered something I hardly ever get at any restaurant: steak frites. While I LOVE steak, I don’t eat it regularly and usually save it for special occasions, so when I do eat it, I like to splurge and go for the richest cut: the rib eye. Steak frites usually don’t appeal to me because it’s a tougher cut and has a tendency to be too chewy. However last night, I really wanted something meat-y and protein-y so I decided to go for it, and requested medium rare.
I enjoyed this lean cut of steak. It’s a 10-oz serving which is two thick slices, enough meat for two servings (a good non-splurge portion size would be around 4 oz, about palm-size). Between all the talking and after our appetizers, I barely made a dent (so guess what I’m having for lunch today…)
Since Rachel and I were on a date and date night always call for dessert (yes, it’s in the dating rule book), we ended the night with this little beauty:
The flourless chocolate cake was very fudgy, and the ice cream was very cinammon-y, and after the first bite I said, “it’s very good, but I don’t taste the spice…” and then suddenly, there was a little tiny kick of spice! It was a very interesting dessert, and Rachel and I agreed that the spice flavor made us want to keep tasting it. Fudgy chocolate, then sweet cinnamon, then boom! chili kick.
I had such a nice time last night and I’m so happy to finally meet Rachel for a dinner date*. She is as friendly and fabulous as she appears in her blog, and we had a great connection. We even talked about running a half-marathon together!
Have you been to Russell House Tavern? Do you have a regular date place?
(*Mom, I promise I won’t take food pictures on a real first date.)