The Boston Phoenix
September 24 - October 1, 1998

[Food Reviews]

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Over the Moon

Café at Brew Moon

On the Cheap by Rob McKeown

The earth- and mineral-toned Café at Brew Moon is a much warmer, more architecturally fluid entity than its down-the-hall parent, the popular Harvard Square brewery-restaurant Brew Moon. Floor-to-ceiling oak-lined French doors make for primo people-watching, while dangling halogen lamps, high tables, and stools add to the sense of chill-out chic.

Wall blackboards stand in for menus; T-shirted servers spew scads of knowledge upon request. On the plates, three C's take center stage: Californian, concept, and comfort. Caesar salad ($4.75) gets high marks for lettuce freshness and balanced flavor, but loses points for overdressing. A Philly cheese steak adapts well to its new surroundings, its steak, cheese, mushroom, and onion fillings stuffed bountifully into a quesadilla ($6.50).

"User-friendly" is the café's mantra: most dishes are available in several sizes and come with a choice of sides. Skewers of seared shrimp ($4, $8, $12), bathed in a tamarind-boosted Asian marinade, are robustly flavored and juicy (though a cold, overcheesed pasta salad and a yogurty pile of apples and walnuts did only half-assed duty as plate mates). The mussels in a bowl of "Hong Kong mussels" ($6.75) were small, but the dish was prepared with both finesse and bravado -- the black-bean broth redolent of garlic and ginger, the bowl's bottom studded with flavor-soaked tomatoes. Alas, the seafood isn't always so good: the taste of the tuna plate ($7, $12) was obscured by a clingy, sickly-sweet sesame-orange dressing. One ironic glitch: beer won't be available until October, so till then it's fruit smoothies and Nantucket Nectars.

The Café at Brew Moon, located at 56 Church Street, in Cambridge, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call 499-BREW.

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