Part of the problem is the name. It sounds like the kind of restaurant were Dockers-clad Cambridge dot-commers take their Match-dot-com third dates, hoping their $29.95 membership fee pays off.
My other issue with Rendezvous -- "dishing haute cuisine to Central 'mental' Square since 2005" -- is its fickle menu. Is it French? Is it American? Is Italian? Or even North African? Embracing its previous life as a Burger King, you get it your way at Rendezvous. In this case, it's muddled and mixed.
It's not that the food was bad. My charcuterie plate -- a Kandinsky-esque palette of duck griette, cured pork belly, and chicken liver mousse bedazzled with cornichons and caper berries cut so they resembled the Llyods of London's building -- was a highlight. I had to fend my dining companions away from the griette -- basically a glorified terrine that packed so much duck fat into 15 cubic centimeters that NASA scientists should contact the chef to learn how to optimize its payloads.
Katie's gnocchi with morels, maitake, microscopic black truffles and piave cheese also impressed, if -- and only if -- you got a morel-filled bite. Otherwise, as Katie notes, it was umami overload.
Ada's cheese plate boasted a nice blue goat that had to be quadruple creamed, but Angela's cold octopus salad -- Greek or Sicilian? -- was on the bland side. I didn't notice the fennel, lovage or smoked paprika on the menu, but there was cilantro aplenty.
The entrees also batted around .300. The skate -- cooked on the the bone, if you know what I mean -- was a delicious ode to the Pacific Northwest, combining fiddlehead ferns, hazlenuts, sage, and a little too much brown butter. But its sauteed potatoes were a superfluous sacrifice to the tyrannical triumvirate of meat, starch and vegetables. The shrimp came overcooked and the roast chicken unremarkable, though I admittedly tried only a bite of each, and I urge my dining companions to prove me wrong.
The wine list -- exclusively old world and Californian -- included a number of wines under $30. We tried an excellent $24 Spanish wine, proving that the cheapest plunk on the list may be the one to get -- unless you're on your third Match.com date and looking to close the deal. It was a 2006 Vino Sin Ley made of a grape I had never heard of -- Montestrall. I might order a case, if I can find it. Over dinner we had an unremarkable -- and more expensive -- Cote du Rhone. It had a nice earthiness that complemented the brown butter, err skate, and I bet it would have gone well with the gnocchi, as well. But no one bothered noting the winery or vintage -- 'nuf said.
We split two deserts: a lovely chocolate cake with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream and, my favorite, an orange-spiked polenta cake topped with rosemary ice cream, strawberry and crunchy, tart rhubarb that reminded you of its kinship to celery. No complaints here.
So Rendezvous wasn't bad, but for $70, it wasn't fantastic, either. When Ada asked for her roast chicken wrapped to-go -- I see it reincarnated as a splendid sandwich -- it came back in a Chinese take out box. Next time I'm at Rendezvous, I'll order the Kung Pao escargot.