The Wine Cellar
30 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, Mass. 02115
Open Tuesday–Sunday 5:30–10:30 p.m.
School is finished, and the summer is upon us. Who wouldn’t want to visit the cheese capital of the world — beautiful France — with her rolling countryside and complex wines? Fortunately, Thierry Charles of The Wine Cellar, the fondue restaurant located conveniently across the Harvard Bridge, has brought France to Back Bay. With its exposed brick and wrought iron, The Wine Cellar is a very cozy place, perfect for intimate gatherings of close friends and family and even better for getting to know a new group of people. The cook-it-yourself fondue style fosters conversation and makes the meal feel more like a group activity than a simple dinner.
My date, Eric, and I arrived and were promptly greeted by several of the waiters and the owner himself, who enthusiastically professed his love for being at his restaurant every night.
We received numerous suggestions about which of the many menu offerings to try. The best suggestion of all? Don’t miss the authentic experience, which always includes the traditional cheese fondue, a bubbling mixture of gruyere and emmental cheeses with cracked pepper and a splash of kirsh in a garlic-rubbed pot. The second best suggestion? Cheese can be really filling; move slowly on the cheese fondue, so you can make it to the meat!
The fondue dinner is meant to be shared, so Eric and I ordered together. We decided to start with the Classic ($21 for two), the traditional cheese fondue, and the Savoyard Raclette ($21 for two), which is a classy, Brandy-enfused French version of the nacho complete with bread covered in miniature sweet pickles, creamy cheese, ham, and mushrooms. Both dishes were delicious, and I had trouble keeping myself from devouring the entire basket of bread and potatoes, cubed into bite-size pieces perfect for dipping into the cheese.
Fortunately, we were able to maintain a slow pace and make it to the meat course. Eric and I chose the traditional beef tenderloins ($28) and the more exotic Crazy French ($45), including marinated kangaroo, ostrich fillet, and rabbit loin. We had two types of fondue pots for cooking our meats; one was an oil-based pot and the other was a vegetable broth. The oil pot was extremely fast to cook with, taking under less than a minute, but the vegetable broth slow-cooked the meat to perfection. Though the traditional meats were very tasty, especially when dipped into the seven special sauces available, Eric and I best loved the kangaroo meat. I’d try to describe it, but none of the other meats I’ve tried come close. If you’re a meat-lover, I definitely recommend trying the Crazy French, as one of the few dishes in Boston I’ve seen with an exotic meat choice!
Finally, for dessert we had the Classic ($18), a dark chocolate fondue with a hint of the orange-flavored Grand Marnier liquor. This fondue came with a gorgeous arrangement of seasonal fruits, marshmallows, lady fingers, and mini-brownies, all for dipping into the sweet chocolate. We ate everything on the plate and were kindly offered more fruits and cookies to finish off all the extra chocolate. Though the description sounded somewhat plain, I’m convinced they put something special into the chocolate because the taste was wonderfully rich.
Though The Wine Cellar may seem a bit pricey from the description and I definitely enjoyed taking every excursion on the menu, do know that I would have been just as satiated having even half the amount of food. The portions were quite generous (meals for two could easily mean a meal for three or four!), and the waiters were always willing to bring more bread, potatoes, sauces, and cookies to help finish the last bit of the pot. Still, I’d recommend the place for special occasions. The cozy atmosphere lends itself very well to special events. Make sure to make a reservation though, because by 7 p.m., even on a Tuesday night, this popular dinner destination was full!