New restaurants around Harvard are kind of like pimples, in that they inevitably pop up, and when they do, they usually get noticed.
This year, rumor has it that Leverett Dining Hall has rebranded itself as “Bistro Lev” due to Cambridge zoning laws which currently classify it as an assembly/residence. While we can’t speak to the truth of this, we know for certain that Harvard’s food scene has irrevocably changed.
Despite being a “source of complaints for many poll respondents,” according to The Crimson’s 2012 House Rankings, Lev Dhall enticed this food critic to re-try the old classic with its new image.
After unsuccessfully searching all day for a phone number to call in order to reserve a table at Bistro Lev, I took a chance and showed up without any confidence I’d be able to get a seat at such a new venue. The place was abuzz with the warm cacophony of dishes and silverware clattering, young adults chatting and texting, and a card scanning machine friendlily beeping.
First: atmosphere. Fluorescent lights might save energy, but they definitely leave much to be desired. The sterile vibe they emit seemed to be fighting the warm light emanating from the ceiling chandeliers. Most of clientele at the this restaurant were young adults, who seemed unbothered by the ambience, and very brightly colored (saturated) painting of the Charles and Canadian geese.
For some inexplicable reason, the tables were arranged to encourage communal eating. If you are looking for an intimate, secret-sharing, candle-lit table for two, this is not the place for you. But, if you are looking for a quick bite, awkward eye-contact with people who look familiar, and an all-you-can-eat environment, there is no better place.
Oh, the food. Eating here everyday for months on end might be taxing on the body and the palate, but if you stop by every once in a while, Bistro Lev has a decadent variety and a menu that rotates daily. Last night, the stand out dish was the lentil chili.
Lentil chili, stand out?
I was as surprised as you. The flavors were bold and the texture was chunky, yet chewable. The best part was that it tasted like something that should be healthy.
Some dishes from dinner service last night left my palate confused. The homemade fish cakes, served in buffet garnished with lemon slices, evoked personal feelings of summer on the beach, but a summer that was a bit too “fishy.”
Dessert was special and singular. So many times, I have had chocolate frozen yogurt. But never had I tasted the smooth, decadent flavor Chocoluck Yogurt. Chocoluck seemed to be related to its more famous cousin, chocolate, yet brought a fullness of flavor and a strong bouquet. Although rich, it was not overwhelming. And when you thought it couldn’t get any better, yes, Chocoluck yogurt is fat-free.
The service at Bistro Lev is outstanding. Considering their main customer base of emerging socially awkward young “adults,” they are incredibly patient and handle dinner service with class and aplomb. Unfortunately, it closes at 7:15 p.m., making it an ideal spot for grandparents but perhaps not the young adults that it serves.
So overall, the décor was standard but not inspired, the chili was inspiring but not standard, the fish was fishy, the Chocoluck Yogurt made me feel lucky. Make sure to thank the staff at Bistro Lev. It’s worth the stop.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: Sept. 27, 2013
An earlier version of a photo caption accompanying this article as well as a statement in the story incorrectly stated that Leverett House dining hall has been recently classified as a restaurant while under renovation. In fact, it is currently classified as an assembly/residence.