As the climate continues to go wacky, it’s hard to know what November will bring. Even so, it’s likely too late to have a meal on the terrace at Upstairs on the Square. Luckily, the rooms inside provide plenty of scenery.
The Soiree Room (on the top floor) is all pink and gilt, a cozy, romantic retreat. On the lower floor, the Monday Club Bar is a sexier space, with deep green walls and moody lighting. The bar has a porch section, in pink and gold like the top floor that overlooks the little park outside–a nice option, as the Monday Club is also open for lunch. Both floors have accents of animal prints that keep the effect from getting too formal. The two rooms have completely different menus, providing a wide range of possibilities. Prices in both rooms at dinner are roughly the same, in a range that makes this a special-occasion spot; lunch prices are more moderate, including a very reasonable three-course prix fixe.
Seated on the Monday Club Bar’s porch on an early Thursday evening, I chatted with the friendly staff (and, later, the equally friendly chef) over a glass of Delirium Tremens and prepared to sample their latest soups.
I started with Market Pumpkin Soup with foie gras croquettes and spiced crème fraiche, offered on the Soiree Room menu. The pale yellow, delicately flavored soup is dotted with bright green splashes of chive oil surrounding a tart dollop of crème fraiche, which contrasts nicely with the soup’s sweetness. The mahogany-brown croquettes are clever cylinders of potato mixed with foie gras, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They’re finished with a mixture of cocoa, vanilla sugar, and butter. It’s just as good as it sounds. (The soup is also available in a vegan version, minus the croquettes. In fact, the restaurant has a lot of options for vegan customers: the chef has been careful to prepare the dishes so they can be easily adapted to leave out meat and animal products.)
The Lobster and Corn Chowder, available on the Monday Club Bar menu, is heartier. When I worked as a waiter (many years ago, in Chicago) there was always one dish that we clamored for; according to my sources, this is that dish for the enthusiastic staff at Upstairs on the Square. A generous pile of lobster, potatoes, and fish (finnan haddie) swims in a traditional broth that is briny and creamy. Fresh corn kernels lend a note of crisp contrast to the tender lobster. As I get toward the bottom of the bowl, there’s a subtle burn from what is probably cayenne in the broth, leaving a comfortable warmth.
Upstairs on the Square has been a Harvard Square institution for almost 30 years. Besides its (two) adventurous menus, the restaurant hosts an array of food and cultural events that says a lot about the owners’ commitment, and it’s no surprise that Upstairs on the Square has been a success.