February 1, 2015

Scrolling Headlines:

UMass hangs on to top Saint Louis for the first time since 1995 -

Saturday, January 31, 2015

UMass hockey falls to No. 2 Boston University in high-scoring affair -

Saturday, January 31, 2015

UMass Dining places Super Bowl food bet with University of Washington -

Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Preview: New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks -

Friday, January 30, 2015

John McCutcheon reflects on his time at UMass, admits it’s time for change -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

UMass downs Dayton in bounce-back win -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon to take job at UCSB -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

UMass encourages responsible celebrating, modifies guest policy ahead of Super Bowl -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

UMass basketball returns home to Mullins Center with matchup against Dayton -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Microsoft introduces Windows 10, Codename Spartan and the HoloLens -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cheap gas, a speed bump for the planet -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Friday night a chance at redemption for UMass hockey -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Beautiful focuses on body image and loving oneself -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Minutewomen set to redeem themselves against the Bonnies -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

UMass basketball seeks more consistency out of its veterans -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

UMass hockey hopes to ride momentum into Friday’s matchup against Boston University -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tips for maintain and transitioning to a healthier lifestyle -

Thursday, January 29, 2015

MASSPIRG urges McDonalds to stop purchasing meat raised with antibiotics -

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to avoid, treat and prevent Computer Vision Syndrome as a college student -

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Obama and Modi strengthen ties between U.S. and India -

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Let them eat soup: French fare for the masses in Amherst

Perched atop North Pleasant Street in the center of Amherst is a veritable jewel of a restaurant. It is inconspicuous in its architecture, sandwiched between stores, allowing its prestige and clientele to speak for it. That restaurant is Chez Albert, a Parisian bistro in the middle of western Massachusetts.

On a chilly Friday evening, the staff was bustling and the place was packed. That’s not too hard for the location, which is smaller than a single in Sylvan and about as pricey. After getting a table, the server poured water and it was time to take a look at the menu.

For such haute cuisine, it was surprising to discover that there was, for one, a short and rather unimpressive wine list, and an apparent electricity moderation as well, with sparse lighting that comes off as Cretaceous rather than creative. Thus, this allowed very few options to imbibe while waiting for the food in the dark.

Deciding on the moderately priced French onion soup, $9, and the butternut squash soup, $8, was no challenge. However, the entrées went up from there. There is no prix fixe menu or middle ground, as the most economical entrée from thereon out is a paltry $23, which may be reasonable for dinner with parents, but college students can get a far better value elsewhere.

The bowls came out relatively quickly. The French onion soup was served in a rather rustic and simple style, in a classic soup crock with a small handle. It was warm and hearty, but unfortunately, those were its only merits. The onions, though plentiful, were stringy and tough, and soaked into the beef broth, imparting a flavor devoid of any other notes due to the intensity of the allium cepa. French onion soups usually include cream or cheese based toppings to cut the tang of the onion’s taste and mix in a different savory flavor. Nothing like that in this one, merely a bruschetta-sized baguette with more of a gruyere confetti than topping that quickly soaks up the soup, rendering it inedible.

The butternut squash soup fared for the better, with a multi-layered flavor from the crème fraiche and the pumpkin seeds. It was a delightful dance of spicy and sweet, indulgent and earthy, and large enough to serve two for a starting amuse bouche. If Chez Albert serves dishes to this level and depth, it’s no surprise that they’re so successful.

The dessert menu is dismally small. For such a creative array of main courses, it seems like the chef ran out of ideas while starting on pastries. Featured in the restaurant are desserts rehashed to retirement in stereotypical French cuisine – a plain crème brulee, tart tatin, what have you, but not necessarily representative of France itself. The crème brulee was fine, with a lovely but thick caramelization of sugar on top, requiring one to be more of a Charles Atlas than an Amélie when tapping it with a spoon to yield to the custard beneath. That being said, it’s a substantial portion, liberally dotted with vanilla bean seeds, and is a delicious, if uninventive finish to this small dinner.

Jess Watsky can be reached at jwatsky@student.umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “Let them eat soup: French fare for the masses in Amherst”
  1. Steven says:

    what a lovely review. thanks, jess!

  2. Larissa says:

    This is a fabulous review!

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