Where to Shepard, the new restaurant in the Cambridge space that was Chez Henri for nearly 20 years.
What for Friendly fine dining from two longtime local talents. Behind Shepard are Hi-Rise Bread Co. owner Rene Becker and Susan Regis, who has cooked at Biba, UpStairs on the Square, and more.
The scene Alan Dershowitz look-alikes and women with frizzy black hair and black outfits share tables. Young baking acolytes discuss Becker with reverence. At the bar, a woman eats an ice cream-topped doughnut with a fork and knife beside a couple sipping matching glasses of elegant pink potion. The room is open, clean, and bright, with an ink drawing of a felled tree stretching horizontally across one wall and a bright green swirl of a sculpture adorning another. At the rear, Regis and crew are visible in the kitchen, backed by a Julia Child-esque pegboard filled with cookware. Flames dance in the grill. When you return home later, your hair will smell faintly of wood smoke.
What you’re eating Simple, elegant small plates: chamomile ricotta with rye crackers and honey; charred turnips with black garlic bagna cauda; tender, almost stretchy gnocchi with morels and peas. Larger portions of lamb leg with Swiss chard gratin or striped bass with green tomatoes, succotash, and bacon. One nightly platter for sharing — perhaps a lobster from Scituate with buttered potatoes. For dessert, rhubarb galette, utterly unsweet and laced with thyme, served with buttermilk ice cream.
Care for a drink? The cocktails are classic: Aviations, gimlets, old fashioneds. The wines are largely French. The beer list leans light and refreshing for summer.
Overheard Talk of art, bread and butter, and bad dates. “Are you having a doughnut for dinner?” someone asks a diner at the bar. “It’s a grilled doughnut!” she exclaims with a big smile. “She keeps doing this unavailable guy thing, and I’m like stop stop stop,” one friend tells another, spreading cultured butter on bread. “There’s a sudden scourge of not enough butter,” his companion mutters, attempting to scrape a bit more from the empty plate. “What would you like to do tonight? Sit around and not talk to other people,” a fellow tells his friend jovially. “I have a limited amount of time to socialize with other human beings.” A staff member discusses the green wall sculpture with customers. “It’s interpretive,” she says. “It’s a Rorschach.” A man and woman finish dinner. “Just down the middle, please, “ he tells a server. “Down the middle?” the woman asks. Then silence. A few tables over, choices are being examined: “If my younger self had said, ‘You’re going to be 35 and not have a dog,’ I’d be like, what did you do with your life?”
1 Shepard St., between Harvard and Porter squares, Cambridge, 617-714-5295, www.shepardcooks.com.