Nubar At The Commander

Do you ever have "date night"? Jeff always laughs at me when I take a night that we have plans to go out to dinner -- just the two of us -- and start calling it date night. For me, I think it makes the night sound really special, and I just love that we get to spend some time together that doesn't involve both of us parked on our respective couches, with me crazily typing away on my laptop and him glued to some sports game.

On our most recent date night, we decided to check out Nubar, a new restaurant in the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Harvard Square. Nubar, while a subterranean bar and restaurant, doesn't make you feel like you're in the hotel basement -- it has large windows and lots of wide open space. It's somewhat swankily decorated with white leather and a faux fireplace on one wall. We found the atmosphere inviting.

Now I know that hotel restaurants can get a bad rap, but in the Boston area, we tend to have a lot of noteworthy hotel restaurants like Rialto and Henrietta's Table, City Table, The Bristol Lounge, and so on. Would Nubar join the ranks of these restaurants? We were going to find out.

We were seated in the quiet-for-a-Friday-night dining room at a cozy two-top, and our waitress came right along to ask our water preference and take our drink orders.

Jeff went with a glass of riesling, but I was all about the cocktails that night and started with the Elder Cosmo.

Elder Cosmo -- Grey Goose Citron, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
I absolutely loved this cocktail. It was sweet with a strong, zippy grapefruit flavor.

Soon after she brought our drinks, our waitress dropped off an assortment of bread.

The bread was warm, and the butter soft -- always a good sign. My favorite of the breads was filled with sunflower seeds and hinted with salt.

We decided to share the duck confit flatbread for an appetizer, and I also ordered the crab cake because I really wanted to try it after reading the description.

The flatbread comes topped with duck confit, mushrooms, and manchego cheese. We asked for the mushrooms on just half of the pizza because Jeff doesn't care for them. We both liked the flatbread, but I ended up sprinkling a little salt on it to enhance the flavor.

The crab cake is made from Maine peekytoe crab, which I found a little stringier than the lump crab meat typically used for crab cakes.

 It is served on a puddle of flavorful lemon-basil aioli with a side salad of tomatoes and bacon.

I liked both components of the dish, but I felt as though I were judging plates on Top Chef when I caught myself thinking that the components should be incorporated and that I shouldn't have to put them together myself. The bites of crab tasted best with a scoop of the tomatoes.

For our main courses, Jeff decided to try the swordfish, and I was attracted to the pappardelle with braised lamb. I'm pretty much always attracted to pappardelle.

The swordfish was nicely plated in a pool of green olive and preserved lemon vinaigrette. Jeff found the sauce slightly too vinegary, but we were both impressed with how the swordfish was cooked to perfection. He's had some bad luck with overcooked swordfish lately. This one seemed to break the streak.

The parpardelle featured tender, fall-apart braised lamb shoulder with sundried tomatoes, and I thought the homemade noodles really made the dish. It's almost a little heavy for summer, but I noticed it's not on the menu now, so maybe I had it toward the end of its time on the menu.

As we were working through our entrees, I ordered another cocktail, the Nubar Bossa Nova.

Nubar Bossa Nova -- Germana Cachaca, Simple Syrup, Passion Fruit Puree, Fresh Lemon, Splash Cava
The passion fruit puree was so good! I loved the Elder Cosmo because, as you know, I love St. Germain, but I think I liked this second cocktail even more.

As much as I was enjoying my cocktail, I couldn't even consider passing up dessert, especially not with panna cotta, one of my favorites, on the menu.

The lemon panna cotta came out with a vibrant rhubarb compote on top of and around it and some almond cornmeal cookies on the side. The panna cotta had the perfect consistency, but the rhubarb compote was almost like candied rhubarb and slightly too sweet for my taste. The almond cornmeal cookies definitely had that grainy texture corn muffins are known for, and while they were interesting, I didn't need them with the panna cotta.

The flourless chocolate espresso torta was heavenly. There's something about espresso baked into chocolate that draws me in. I almost think it brings forth a more intense chocolate flavor. And I was really impressed with the presentation. I kind of wonder why I've never thought to do something like that.

Overall, we had a good meal at Nubar, but I wasn't particularly bowled over by anything besides the cocktails. I would definitely go back for cocktails, and maybe the gnocchi with summer veggies and piave cheese that is on the current menu.

Also, one strange thing happened during our dinner -- the hotel's WiFi area is sort of inside the restaurant, and a man went on one of the computers there and was listening to some sort of video out loud. We could hear it during our dinner (I took this picture from my seat). I think it's bad placement for a public WiFi area and that the hotel should at least try to discourage people from having the volume on during dinner service.

Full disclosure: We were invited to dine at Nubar by All Heart PR, and our entire meal was complimentary. As always, my opinions are my own.

What is your favorite hotel restaurant?

Nubar on Urbanspoon