Upstairs for First Date Night of 2012

Date: Saturday, January 6, 2012
Date: Boyfriend
Restaurant: Upstairs on the Square, Cambridge, MA
Apperitif: Violette Royale
Entree: Pork chops (pictures unavailable due to poor lighting and I just plain forgot.)
Dessert: Vacherin from Formaggio with fig jam and whole, dry roasted hazelnuts
Wine: Inman Family Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir (2007)

Review: The wine was excellent. I know pinots are supposed to be easy, but the Inman was as friendly as friendly gets. Best pork chops I ever had, but I wish the chop had been larger. I mean, I wasn’t hoping or expecting a Texan sized slab but it was really too small to be called American. I really don’t think it was worth $30.

This is considering the ambiance. I am perfectly willing to pay more for great service and stellar ambiance. Someone told my boyfriend that the dining room was like being in a scene in Alice in Wonderland. I’m not sure to which scene they were referring–perhaps the tea party–but the expected gestures to the fantasy were not entirely unsuccessful.

The space was trying a bit too hard. A fine line divides magical and tacky and the decorator dipped his or her toe into the wrong side once too often. For instance, the mirror tiles on the ceiling made me think of heart shaped beds covered in red faux fur off the Vegas strip. Like the cocktail, it sounds more sexy and romantic than it actually is.

And the lighting was far too dim. Again, it made me think of Vegas, off strip: dimly lit cocktail lounges because you never really want to see the other person too clearly if you end up there. I could hardly see my food, which is rarely a good sign at a restaurant, and certainly not at a fine dining establishment. You want to see what you’re eating especially when you’re paying for the plating as well as the flavors.

I don’t think I’ll be going back to the Upstairs dining room. I would, however like to try the less formal, bistro style, mid-level dining area called the Zebra Room. I think the decorating effort there was a lot more successful. The jewel tone walls and gilded chairs are surprising and playful, just like the two-legged zebra in the Upstairs’ logo.

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