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Loosen Your Belts:

So you’re new to Boston and you’ve already exhausted all the restaurant options in Harvard Square. You’re sick of the pasta station in Spangler and unfortunately you’re no Emril Lagassi in the kitchen. Or perhaps you’re a second year and in between all those cases last year, you didn’t get the chance to check out what the Boston dining scene has to offer.

In order to address this issue, we have decided to come to the rescue with our new restaurant review column. The two of us met for the first time this summer in Madrid, Spain where we ironically bonded over some wonderful sangria and Spanish food at Bot¡n, an authentic Castillan restaurant founded in 1725, and sited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world. When I told Tiffani about the idea for this column, she too thought it would be a valuable addition to the Harbus and the Harvard community.

So for the next two years, we will not only venture out to review and expose fine dining options, but we will also share with you those great hole-in-the wall dives that will go soft on your student wallets.

Our first destination, 33, is a trendy new restaurant and lounge that opened this past May in downtown Boston. Two weeks ago I rounded up about fifteen friends to celebrate yet another year in life. The first thing that sticks in your mind is the name is 33. The number symbolizes, the age of the two co-owners, the address of the venue (33 Stanhope), and the ongoing symmetrical theme of the restaurant. This symmetry is carried out not only through the d‚cor, but also through the menu, of which half is French and half is Italian.

For those of you who are New Yorkers, you’ll feel quite at home. The first thing you notice upon entering the non-conservative Boston-like trendy d‚cor is an elongated bar that splits the restaurant’s two sections. We were seated on the right side, which was sectioned off, giving us a bit of a private atmosphere.

We began the evening by ordering a few bottles of wine from their selection of 165 different types. Forty percent of their wines are exclusive to the restaurant (i.e. you can’t find them anywhere else in Massachusetts). Bottles start at $25 and go up to $1800!

We were offered a selection of four different breads as we waited for our appetizers. The menu boasts a nice selection of seafood, meats, and a very limited amount of vegetarian options. I tried my friend Sherry Jhawar’s (NC), Bisque d’homard ($10, French Menu), aka Lobster bisque with chervil crŠme fraŒche, which was quite delicious. Even more appetizing and tantalizing were the Coquilles Saint-Jacques ($24, French Menu), whole baked roe scallops with black truffle duxelles. For my entr‚e, I ventured into the Italian side of the menu and ordered the Ravioli con noci ($20), ravioli stuffed with herbs, ricotta and a basil pesto with walnuts. My friend, Anupam Mishra (NB), ordered this delicious Filet mignon au poivre vert ($38, French Menu), prime tenderloin with a green peppercorn and thyme sauce. After stealing a few pomme de frits from him, my love for potatoes made me break down and order a plate of their delicious fries.

While the food was great, you definitely pay extra for the ambience. Most of my friends thought it was nice but a bit pricey for the value. As for the service, our first impressions were not the best. Although I had made reservations, a rude hostess was not willing to be accommodating with our request for two corner tables (the restaurant was fairly empty when we got there at 8:15pm) until we brought in the manager to address the situation. Using our brilliant reasoning and negotiating skills, we convinced the hostess that it didn’t matter which two tables we used in the restaurant. Other than that minor episode, the rest of the wait staff was very friendly and tolerant of our jovial behavior.

Afterwards, we headed downstairs to the bar/lounge area, which is guaranteed to impress. While the design of the bar is unique and memorable, the layout made it difficult to accommodate traffic flow. All things considered, it’s a great place to relax and meet friends any night of the week, as the bar stays open until 2am. Better still, 33 serves an affordable, late-night menu for all you bargain hunters and midnight snackers. If you order after the kitchen closes (up to an hour afterwards – Mon-Wed 11pm-midnight, Thurs. 11:30-12:30am, Fri.-Sat. midnight-1am), you can take advantage of the reduced menu that includes appetizers.

After visiting 33, I spoke with Greg Den Herder, one of two owners. He told me about the origins of 33. He met his co-owner, Igor Blatnik, while attending boarding school in Switzerland. After leaving Switzerland, Greg started over 13 restaurants in Morocco and Tahiti. Blatnik had been involved with public relations work in Boston during most of this time. Herder and Blatnik had formed the idea for 33 several years ago and were waiting to find the ‘right’ location. Things fell into place when they found the space at 33 Stanhope St. (on the boarder of Back Bay and the South End). I was quite impressed when I found out that they built the entire restaurant in only twelve weeks. They soon hired the Executive Chef, Charles Draghi, formerly from Limbo and Marcuccio’s and now have a new Chef de Cuisine, Joshua Botsford.

Herder’s favorite appetizer is the Aragosta ($18, Italian menu), lobster with fresh tomato and parsley salad with coral vinaigrette. For the main course, he recommended the Magret et confit de canard ($26, French menu), saut‚ed duck breast and confit leg with red wine and lavender jus. When I asked Herder about his future restaurant plans, he told me that once 33 was off the ground he would look at creating new dining options for the Boston community.

Well, get ready to loosen your belt as Tiffani and I report straight from the kitchen on new dining experiences in subsequent weeks. If you would like to share any suggestions, please feel free to email either of us at mshaw@mba2004.hbs.edu or tlott@mba2004.hbs.edu.

September 30, 2002
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