Chez Henri is a French-Cuban Bistro outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. It opened in 1996 and was named one of the country’s best new restaurants by Esquire Magazine. Most of the accolades could be attributed to the original chef, Corinna Mozo whose French Canadian – Cuban heritage inspired the menu’s theme. She also wrote the recipe for the Cuban sandwiches, which have been a mainstay on the bar menu ever since. Corinna moved on long ago, and the restaurant continues to putter along… the main dining room is often half empty but the bar is always packed.
The reason: the management will not allow customers to order the famous Cuban sandwiches in the dining room, only in the bar area. And most people dine at Chez Henri for the “cubanos.” Including me.
Now that you have a brief, albeit opinionated, history of the restaurant, let me tell you about the Cuban sandwich.
This version has all the features of the original, but pumped up. Like the classic, it combines pork and ham, but with a thick layer of each thinly sliced. The pork marinates in a sour orange mojo before its slow roasting; and the smoky ham is sweet and slightly salty. They slather the bread with mayonnaise spiked with chipotles and cilantro. And to pull in the French influence, the meat is topped with melted Gruyere cheese and a blend of cornichon pickles. Before grilling the sandwich over hardwood charcoal, they brush the bread with a blend of butter and whole grain mustard.
They also make a vegetarian version of the sandwich with slices of grilled peppers, eggplant and onions. I typically order two sandwiches, one of each, and share with a friend. With a side of plantain chips and a small green salad, this is definitely one of the top ten dishes in Boston!
I worked at Chez Henri back in their early days, and regularly fixed myself a sandwich before my shift began. Thirteen years later, I’m still loving it!